Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Virginia

Will my mother know me there?

On 4 September 1945, the “Colored News-Briefs” column of The Hopewell Times, included this brief passage:

GWhirley Obit

That Graham Whirley‘s death by gunshot was not reported salaciously says a lot about the regard in which he was held both inside and out of his community in Hopewell.

Three days later, the Colored News-Briefs column carried a detailed account of Graham’s funeral, held at New Vine Baptist Church in Charles City County the previous Tuesday:

GW funeral

“Will My Mother Know Me There?” — we’ll come back to that.

GWhirley Obit

This brief piece was published 14 September. I haven’t yet found follow-up articles that reveal details of Graham Whirley and Charles Williams’ fatal encounter or of the outcome of Williams’ trial. What I have found, however, are numerous examples of the esteem in which Hopewell’s working-class African-American community held this relatively young man.

The first mention, on 8 December 1936, was a sweet one — “Miss Susie Whirley of Richmond was in the city last week visiting her brother at his home in City Point.” Though Graham’s social life — party attendance and motor excursions — received remarks (especially when he was courting a woman called Miss Carrie B. Lightly,) his singing brought the most notice. Time after time, the colored news noted that he had “rendered” a beloved hymn at a Baptist church in or around Hopewell:

  • 17 September 1937, at the funeral of Sarah Washington at Harrison Grove Baptist Church, Prince George County, “I Know She Will Know Me”;
  • 24 November 1943, at the service for Leroy Claiborne at Harrison Grove, an unnamed solo;
  • 4 February 1944, at the homegoing of Mrs. Ada C. Jones at Mount Hope Baptist Church,  “When I Reach My Heavenly Home“;
  • 30 May 1944, at the funeral of Elijah Miller at First Baptist Church, Bermuda Hundred, “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere”;
  • 19 January 1945, at the service for Mrs. Maria Hutchinson at Harrison Grove, Graham’s favorite, “Will My Mother Know Me There?”;
  • 30 January 1945, at the service for Mrs. Lena Stith Jones at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, “I Shall Meet My Mother There”;
  • 13 April 1945, when Joe Myrick (stabbed to death by his wife) was funeralized at Union Baptist, again “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere”; and
  • just two weeks later, at Robert Cottrell’s homegoing, “He’ll Know Me There.”

In the middle of this, on 22 May 1944, the column announced that “Mr. and Mrs. Graham Whirley of City Point have returned after spending their honeymoon in Baltimore, Maryland.” That, of course, was where his half-brother John Whirley and sister Matilda Whirley Brinage lived. Just sixteen months after he remarried, Graham Whirley, taxi driver and sought-after soloist, was dead. Despite his move across the James River, he had never left his home church, and he is buried at New Vine.



Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Religion

Family cemeteries, no. 7: Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Church.


Rev. Jonah Williams once led the flock at Turner Swamp, and its cemetery is full of kin.

There’s Richard Artis (whose father Richard was Jonah’s — and my great-great-great-grandfather Adam Artis — brother) and his wife, Penny Coley Artis …


… Richard’s brother John Henry Artis (1896-1963) and sister Emma Artis Reid (1877-1964) …

… and several of Richard and Penny’s children, including Alfonza Artis (1908-1948), C. Columbus Artis (1910-1985), Louis D. Artis (1916-1983), Jonah Artis (1918-1966) and Jesse L. Artis (1919-1960) …

… and Magnolia Artis Reid (1871-1939), daughter of Richard and Jonah’s sister Loumiza Artis Artis (wife of  Thomas Artis, no kin);

… and descendants of Adam, Richard, Jonah and Loumiza’s sister Zilpha Artis Wilson, wife of John Wilson, including her daughter Elizabeth Wilson Reid‘s children Milton C. Reid (1890-1961) and Iantha Reid Braswell (1893-1955) …

Nora Artis Reid (1894-1965), who was married to her cousin Milton Reid and was the daughter of Adam Artis’ son Noah Artis, and …

… even Wade Ashley Locus (1897-1945), a distant Seaberry relative of Adam’s wife Frances Seaberry Artis.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.

Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Church home, no. 6: Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist, Eureka NC.

Church Directory “Fremont Items” – Rev. Jonah Williams of Wilson filled his regular appointment at Turners Swamp last Sunday.

The Blade, Wilson NC, 20 Nov 1897.

Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Church still meets in a small church north of Eureka, Wayne County. Jonah was a brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis, and descendants of several of their siblings are buried in the church cemetery.

Paternal Kin, Religion, Virginia

Church home, no. 3: New Vine Baptist Church, Charles City VA

“The New Vine Baptist Church was organized in July 1870.  It all began when a few families living at Westover Plantation were holding prayer services from house to house.  Then Mr. Major Drewery,* who was the plantation owner, offered the families living there a piece of land on which to build a church. Several families, including some from Elam Baptist Church (Ruthville) and First Baptist Church (Bermuda Hundred), accepted Mr. Drewery’s offer.  They picked a spot about 600 feet from the Herring Creek, built a church and gave it the name New De Vine Baptist Church.  As the years passed, the name New De Vine was dropped and the church was given the name New Vine Baptist Church.”  — from “About Us,”


I don’t know when the Allens first began worshiping at New Vine, but they may have been among its earliest members. Graham Allen was a preacher — was this his congregation? He is buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery behind the church. John Allen Sr. married Mary Agnes Holmes at New Vine in 1900, and his brother-in-law Stephen Whirley was a deacon there for 47 years before his death in 1949.

[*Sidenote:  During the Civil War, at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff in 1862, troops under the command of Augustus Harrison “A.H.” Drewry, stationed on his land high above the James River, held off the Union warships Monitor and Galena. After the war, Drewry moved across the river to Charles City County to Westover Plantation, built in the 1750s by William Byrd III.]