Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Photographs, Vocation

His name was Golar, and we called him “Doc.”

My grandmother:  He had a brother that was a barber. His name was Golar, and we called him “Doc.” Papa had him in there. Papa had a chair, and Doc had the second chair, and Walker had the third chair. 

Harvey Golar Tomlin was the only one of Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart‘s second set of children to see the twentieth century. Harriet and Abner Tomlin had as many as six children together, but I only know the names of three — Milas, Lena and Harvey Golar.

After Ab’s death about 1899, and perhaps Lena’s around that time, too, Harriet packed up her youngest son and took him to Charlotte, where they are found in the 1900 census living at 611 East Stonewall with Harriet’s half-brother William H. Nicholson. This photo may have been taken there:

NICHOLSON -- Doc Tomlin

They did not stay long. In 1902, Harriet gave birth to Bertha Mae Hart, whose father Alonzo she married in 1904. By 1910, Harvey Golar, called “Doc,” had left his mother and stepfather’s household and was living in the Wallacetown neighborhood of Statesville with his half-brother and family: Lon W. Colvert, a barber, wife Caroline, and children Mattie, Gola, Walker, Louise, and Margaret (my grandmother). He trained under Lon and went to work in his shop. In the photo below, which can be dated to 1917 by another taken at the same time and showing a calendar, Doc appears with Lon’s son Walker and a client.

COLVERT -- Barbershop 1

On 11 Jan 1917, H.G. Tomlin sold a parcel of land to L.W. Colvert and wife Carrie Colvert for $10.  In a deed filed at Iredell County Courthouse, the land was described as “Beginning at a stake at a post oak, Ramsour’s old corner, running North 88 W. 16 1/2 poles to a stake on road East of the track of the A.T. & O. R.R.; thence S. 8 W. 9 1/2 poles to a stake Pearson’s corner; thence S. 88 E. 16 1/2 poles to a stake; thence N. 8 E. 9 1/2 poles to the beginning, containing one acre more or less and being the identical lands conveyed by William Pearson and wife to Abb. Tomlin by deed, dated 19th day of June, 1891 and recorded in deed Book No. 17 at page 101 of the Records of Deeds of Iredell County.”  Doc apparently had inherited the property from his deceased father, though I’ve found no estate file.

Doc was possibly liquidating his assets as he pulled up stakes in Iredell County. Five months later, he registered for the World War I draft in Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky. (Middlesboro, Kentucky? What was the pull? The push?) Though he was prime age and had no infirmities, I have no evidence that he ever served in the military.


In any case, Doc seems not to have stayed gone for long. On 7 September 1918, Harvey Golar Tomlin applied for a marriage license for himself, of Iredell County, age 24, colored, son of Ab Tomlin (dead) and Hattie Hart (living), and Flossie M. Stockton of Iredell County, age 24, colored, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stockton, both dead.  L.W. Colvert witnessed the application, and W.O. Carrington, minister of the A.M.E. Zion Church, married the parties on 8 September 1918 before L.W. Colvert, N.S. Allison, and Eugene Stockton.  (Flossie was the sister of Dillard and Eugene Stockton, both of whom married Lon Colvert’s half-sister Ida Mae Colvert.)


The couple’s only child, Annie Lavaughn Tomlin, was born 9 August 1919 in Statesville. At least part of that year, however, Doc was in Louisville, Kentucky, as shown in the city’s 1919 directory:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.37.52 PM

The 1920 census shows the family in the north Statesville suburbs: Jessie Stockton, age 28; his sister Flossie Tomlin, age 25, a public school teacher; niece Anna L. Tomlin, 4 month; and brother-in-law Havey Tomlin, age 26, barber. Doc’s last-place listing in the household is telling. Was he really there? Or tacked on as an afterthought because, after all, he was Flossie’s husband?

There are clues. Both Flossie and Doc were enumerated twice in the 1920 census. On Garfield Street in Statesville, public schoolteacher Flossie Tomlin and her daughter Annie L. appear in the household of Flossie’s brother Eugene Stockton, his sister-in-law (technically, but in reality his common law wife) Ida M., and their four children. The enumerator recorded this household in January 6, 1920. Seven or eight days later, however, 200 miles away in Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky, another censustaker recorded 26 year-old North Carolina-born barber Harvie Tomlin as a roomer in the household of barbershop manager Alex R. Simpson and his wife, Lina. Then on March 3, Flossie and Annie were recorded in Jesse’s house, above. I’d bet money that Doc was actually in Kentucky.

I don’t know where Doc spent the 1920s, but it was more likely that he drifted around the Appalachian Plateau than returned to Statesville. There are glimpses.

For example, in the 1925 Dayton, Ohio, city directory:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 9.28.55 PM

And then the 1926 Portsmouth, Ohio, city directory:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 9.31.39 PM

Doc did not stay long at the Play House. On 19 May 1927, the barbershop ran an ad in an announcement of the grand re-opening of the Play House building and its businesses. Harvey G. Tomlin is not among the barbers listed:


The 1930 census found barber Harvey Tomlin in Carnegie, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, living at 205 Broadway in the household of Sabry Goldsmith, a 35 year-old Florida-born barbershop proprietor. He was described as single.

Perhaps he was.

The 1932 city directory of Cincinnati, Ohio, shows Doc living in a boarding house on Wade Street:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.35.59 PM

However, on 6 July 1933, in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky, Harvy G. Tomlin, 40, colored, divorced, born in North Carolina to Ab and Harriett Tomlin and a resident of “Cin. O.” married Lena R. Simpson, 49, colored, widowed, born in Kentucky to John and Elizabeth [no last name reported]. Thomas Hanly, J.P., performed the ceremony before Helen Peddiford and Helen Byers. The couple had applied for the license in neighboring Kenyon County, Kentucky. Lena Simpson, you may recall, was married to Doc’s employer and landlord at the time of the 1920 census.

The 1936 Cincinnati city directory shows Doc living in a house, presumably having found SROs unsuitable to married life:

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.37.14 PM

In the 1940 census of Cincinnati, Hamilton township, in a rented two-family house at 943 Monastery Road, the census taker encountered Harvey G. Tomlin, 48, and Lena R. Tomlin, 58. Harvey apparently had put down his barbering tools and worked as a butler for a private family. The couple are erroneously described as white, and their birthplaces are reversed. (Harvey’s is listed as Kentucky; Lena’s, as North Carolina.)

Two years later, despite a negligible chance of being called up, Harvey Golar Tomlin registered for the World War II draft in Cincinnati.


The back of the card noted that he was 5’4″ tall and weighed 198 pounds and that he had brown eyes, black hair and dark skin.

The following year, Doc returned to Statesville to obtain a so-called delayed birth certificate. It was filed on 31 July 1943, showing that Harvey Golar Tomlin was born 12 May 1894 in Statesville, that his birth was attended by Dr. Long, and that his parents were Abb Tomlin, colored, born 1852 in Iredell County, and Harriet Nicholson, colored, born 1862 in Iredell County NC.

I lose sight of Doc for more than a decade until the Statesville Record & Landmark posted a brief article on 8 June 1955 mentioning that Bertha Hart Murdock had left half-interests in a lot to her brother “Harry” G. Tomlin and niece LaVaughn Schuyler.

Lena Tomlin died 17 July 1959 in Cincinnati. Doc did not grieve long for he was back in Statesville getting married six months later. In another small-world, keep-it-in-the-family moment, Doc’s third wife, Mary Bell Frink, was the widow of William Luther McNeely, whose sister Caroline married Doc’s brother Lon Colvert.


It was a short-lived union. On 8 May 1961, Harvey G. Tomlin, son of Abbe Tomlin and Harriet last-name-unknown, died in Statesville of coronary thrombosis. He had been living at 229 Garfield Street (Ida Colvert Stockton lived at 214 Garfield) and working as a butler.

I’ve been able to find very little about Doc’s only child. Social Security records indicate that Lavaughn Tomlin married a Scruggs in about 1943 and a Schuyler about 1953. She lived in Jamestown, New York, in the 1940s and died 30 May 1997 in Salisbury, North Carolina. An abstract of her death certificate reveals that she had worked as a registered nurse. She was my grandmother’s first cousin. Did she know her at all?

[Follow-up, 5 August 2015: I just found this snippet in which my grandmother mentions Doc being in the Midwest:

My grandmother: And he [her brother Walker Colvert] got a girl pregnant, and Papa sent him to Kentucky rather – so that he wouldn’t have to marry that girl.

Me: Really?

Grandma: Yes, he did.

Me: What did he do in Kentucky?

Grandma: He was a barber out there.

Me: Oh, okay.

Grandma: And I had, I had an uncle. Uncle – I don’t know if you’ve seen Doc or not. … Doc was out there. In Louisville. And he sent for Walker. And Papa sent him out there ….]

Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Maternal Kin, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Vocation

Where we worked: barbers and hairdressers.

Lon W. Colvert, Statesville NC – owned and operated L.W. Colvert Barbershop, 1900s-1920s.

James N. Guess Sr., Goldsboro NC – owned and operated barber shop, 1900s-1950s; 114 Walnut East, circa 1906; 120 Walnut East, 1912.

H. Golar Tomlin, Statesville NC – barber in brother’s shop, 1910s.

Charles H. Henderson, Richmond VA – barber, 1910s-1920s.

Roderick Taylor Sr., Wilson NC – barber, 1910s-1947; Paragon Shaving Parlor, 1916; Tate & Hines Barbershop, New Briggs Hotel, Nash Street, 1917; Hines Barbershop, Nash Street.

Ernest Smith, Goldsboro NC – worked in uncle’s barber shop, circa 1917.

Golar Colvert Bradshaw, Statesville NC – Poro agent, 1920s.

John W. Colvert II, Statesville NC – barber, 1920s-1937.

Blanchard K. Aldridge, Fremont NC – barber, 1920s-1965.

Freeman Ennis, Wilson NC – bootblack, barber shop, circa 1930.

Julia Allen Maclin, Newport News VA – owned and operated hairdressing shop, 1940s-1970s.

Ardeanur Smith Hart, Columbus OH — hairdresser, 1940s?-1980s?


The third in an occasional series exploring the ways in which my kinfolk made their livings in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

POSTSCRIPT, 1/21/2014: This brief history focuses on an earlier period, but provides useful insight into the role of African-American barbers.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Photographs, Vocation

Lon Colvert: straight and shady.

If reports are to be believed, Lon Colvert had a bit of a shaky start. “Otho Turner”?


Statesville Landmark, 18 August 1898.


Statesville Carolina Mascot, 8 February 1900.

Lou Colvert was Lon’s uncle. No details on Lon packing. But he switched gears a bit.  To retailing, which specifically meant selling liquor — unauthorized.

Iredell County Superior Court —

Lon Colvert, retailing; guilty.  

— Statesville Landmark, 5 Nov 1901.

Another poor outcome.

“Cases Disposed of Since Monday — Some Recruits for the Chain Gang — A City Ordinance Held Invalid”

The following cases have been disposed of in the Superior Court since Monday:    …

Lon Colvert, convicted of retailing, was discharged on payment of the costs. 

— Statesville Landmark, 8 Nov 1901.

But somewhere along in here, he began to right his ship.

Notices of New Advertisements.

L.W. Colvert has moved his barber shop from Depot Hill to 109 east Broad street.

— Statesville Landmark, 23 Aug 1904.

It’s not clear when Lon first opened his barber shop, or how he got into the business, but it was a good move. Depot Hill was a few blocks south of downtown; the 100 block of East Broad was right at the heart of the business district. He had arrived.

Still, there were setbacks. (I read “liquor” in this “little pilgrimage,” but I could be wrong.)

“Played His Bondsman False and Will Spend his Holidays in Jail.”

Thursday afternoon a colored barber, Lon Colvert by name, braced Mr. J.P. Cathey for a horse and buggy with which to make a little pilgrimage that night, and Mr. Cathey refused.  Lon was just obliged to make that little run, so later he stated the case to Jo. Thomas.  Jo. is the colored individual who worked for Mr. Cathey then and who is now being boarded by the county.  Jo. slipped out with a horse and buggy.  Lon made his trip, came back, paid Jo. one plank, which he shoved down in his jeans, and then Jo. slept the sleep of the consciousless offender.

But the snow that fell during the interval between the exit and return of that buggy caused Jo’s little house of cards to tumble.  Next morning Mr. Cathey saw the tracks, asked Jo. who had got a buggy the night before, and Jo straightaway told the thing that was not.  So Mr. Cathey got off of Jo’s bond, which he had signed not long since, and now Jo. is behind bars.

— Statesville Landmark, 20 Dec 1904.

He pressed on.

Lon Colvert, colored, has recently equipped his barber shop on east Broad street with a handsome two-chair dressing case and has made other improvements in the shop.

— Statesville Landmark, 1 Jan 1907.

Occasionally, his friends let him down.


Statesville Landmark, 1 January 1907.

But he had a new wife and a new baby to add to his first three, and the straight and narrow was starting to win.


Statesville Landmark, 7 May 1907.


Statesville Landmark, 7 January 1910.

A momentary setback, no more. Lon moved his business back down Center Street toward the train depot and entered the golden age of his entrepreneurship, the period of my grandmother’s childhood.

Papa had a barber shop.  Well, of course, Papa did white customers. And, see, the trains came through Statesville going west to Kentucky and Tennessee and Asheville and all through there.  They came through, and they had, they would stop in Statesville to coal up and water up, you know.  There were people there to fill up that thing in the back where the coal was.  And there was another — it had great, big round things that they’d put in water.  And when those trains would stop for refueling, they would, there were a couple of men who would come. I can see Walker and my uncle and Papa standing, waiting for these men who were on the train to give them a shave and get back on the train in time.  And there wasn’t any need of anybody else coming in at that time ‘cause they couldn’t be waited on.  They were waiting for these conductors and maybe mailmen, but I know there would be at least three at a time.  And Papa would shave them.  And he made a lot of money.

Papa had a taxi, too. Walker drove it most of the time.  And then he would hire somebody to drive it other times.  And then when people had to go to Wilkesboro, Papa would take them.  Because Wilkesboro was a town north of Statesville. And there was no transportation out there.  No buses, no trains, or anything.  So when people would come on the train that were, what they call them, drummers, the salesmen, when they would come through, Papa would carry them up there. 

And he had this clean-and-press in the back of the barbershop. And, look, had on the window, on the store, ‘Press Your Clothes While You Wait.’  I can see those letters on there right now.  ‘Press Your Clothes While You Wait.’  And people would go in there, get their clothes pressed, you know.  And I know ‘barber shop’ was on the door….  ‘L.W. Colvert Barber Shop.’  ‘L.W.’ was on the side of this door, and ‘Colvert’ was on this side of the door.  They had a double door.

There were, of course, risks to doing business. Though I’m casting a side-eye at the carnie. (“H.G.” was Lon’s 21 year-old half-brother Golar, and I never knew he was a partner in the business.)

Damages for Scorching Suit — Court Cases.

Lon Colvert and H.G. Tomlin, doing a pressing club business under the name of Colvert & Tomlin, were before Justice Sloan Saturday in a case in which Chas. Moore, white, a member of the carnival, was asking $18 damage for them.  They pressed a suit for Moore and it was scorched, for which Moore asked damage.  The case was finally compromised by Colvert & Tomlin paying Moore $5 and $1.20 cost. 

— Statesville Landmark, 27 March 1917.

And there was the little matter of a charge of carrying a concealed weapon in 1919; a jury returned a not guilty verdict.  Still, a burglary at the shop was an omen. The good years were coming to an end. Lon was struck with encephalitis in the 1920s and was largely unable to work in his final years.


Statesville Landmark, 25 September 1925.

By this time, Golda had embarked upon a peripatetic life in the Ohio Valley, and  Walker was left to keep his father’s businesses running.  He exercised his best judgment.

Walker Colvert, driver of the Wilkesboro jitney Steve Herman, driver of the Charlotte jitney, and Henry Metlock, driver of the Taylorsville jitney were charged with delivering passengers to the depot rather than the jitney station.  It appearing that all the violations were emergency calls, the defendants were discharged.

Statesville Landmark, 1 Mar 1926.

Lon Colvert died 23 October 1930.  “He was an old resident of Statesville,” his obituary noted, “and for a number of years had a barbershop on South Center street, near the Southern station.”

COLVERT -- Barbershop 2 The barbershop, 1918, when it was at 101 South Center Street. Walker Colvert, center, and L.W. Colvert, right.


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Copy of photograph in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Lon W. Colvert.


Lon W. Colvert was born 10 June 1875 to Harriet Nicholson and John W. Colvert. He possibly was their second child and certainly was the only one to reach adulthood. My grandmother emphatically stated that his middle name was Walter, but her sister Launie Mae thought “Walker” – after his grandfather – and that’s the name that appears on certain records. Lon’s paternal grandparents reared him, but he was extremely close to his mother as an adult.

Lon was probably in his late teens when he arrived in Statesville from his family’s farm in the northern reaches of Iredell County. He was an ambitious young man with an eye on the main chance and a penchant for the shady that followed him even into his respectable years. By time he was 30, he was well-established downtown as a first-class barber, and the local paper obliged him with recognition:

Image Statesville Landmark, 7 May 1907

Lon and his first wife, Josephine Dalton, had three children, Mattie (1895), Golar Augusta (1897) and John Walker II (1898). Soon after Josephine’s death, he married Caroline M.M.F.V. McNeely and fathered three more daughters, Mary Louise (1906), Margaret Beulah (1908) and Launie Mae (1910).

In the mid-1920s, Lon’s business successes were short-circuited when his health began to fail. He passed away 23 October 1930, 83 years ago today.

Lon Walker Colvert Dies in Wallacetown.

Lon Walker Colvert, colored, 55 years old, died this morning at 1 o’clock at the home of his daughter, Gola Bradshaw, in Wallacetown.  He was an old resident of Statesville, and for a number of years had a barbershop on South Center street, near the Southern station.

The funeral service will be Friday at 2:30, at Center Street A.M.E. Zion church, with interment in the local cemetery.

Surviving are his wife and six children; also one brother and one sister.

— Statesville Landmark, 23 Oct 1930.