Business, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia, Vocation

Home-cooking a specialty.

I’ve written of Cousin Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney here and here. Her restaurant in Norfolk, the Strand Cafe, made a deep impression on my grandmother, who laughingly recalled waiting tables there on childhood visits and being dazzled by Cousin Tilithia’s menu offerings.

Thanks to B.J., great-granddaughter of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell, who found these Norfolk Journal & Guide articles, we now know more about the cafe:

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12 March 1921.

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9 December 1922.

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28 May 1927.

Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Virginia

Never too late.

As I’ve written about here, visits to Norfolk, Virginia, to spend time with cousin Tilithia at her cafe were highlights of my grandmother’s childhood. They later lost contact, however, and it was not until I connected with B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell, that I learned that Tilithia lived until 1965. I wish Mother Dear had known that.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that Tilithia was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold during the years after World War I that my grandmother visited. “Her marriage to Godbold did not last,” I noted, “and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.”’s Virginia Divorce Records database shed some light on this fractured set-up:


Yes. Apparently, Tilithia and Walter — married in 1921 and separated in early 1926 — stayed married for nearly 40 more years. Only in 1963 did Tilithia receive the divorce she finally filed for (and Walter contested.) Grounds: desertion. Walter was not new to that game, though he turned the tables in his go-round with Tilithia. Here’s the divorce record noting the dissolution of a previous marriage to a woman from his hometown, granted seven months before he married Tilithia:


And what could have led an 84 year-old woman to seek a divorce from a man she probably had not seen in decades? A third shot at love. Less than a month after her marriage to Godbold was dissolved, Tilithia married John Carter Dabney, a retiree nearly twenty years her junior.


This union, if happy, did not last long. A year and-a-half later, on 21 November 1965, Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney passed away. Her heart failed, but presumably did not break.

TBKG Dabney Death Cert


Births Deaths Marriages, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

The most talked-about wedding.

Pittsburgh Courier 6 20 1936 Clara Braswell wedding

Pittsburgh Courier, 20 June 1936.

Socialite Clara B. Braswell‘s mother, Mattie Amelia Brewington Braswell, was a daughter of Joshua L. and Amelia Aldridge Brewington. Just after 1900, Mattie migrated to Norfolk, Virginia, where she married her husband, who was also a Wayne County native.  Several of her siblings also made the move, including Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney, much-beloved by my grandmother. Among the out-of-town guests noted at Clara’s nuptials were Mattie Braswell’s first cousin and his wife, Zebedee and Jennie Ridley Aldridge, with three of their children. The son of John W. and Louvicey Artis Aldridge, Zebedee had also migrated from Dudley, Wayne County, to rural Brunswick County, Virginia, in the first decade of the 20th century. Zebedee and Jenny traveled a hundred miles from their farm to attend his cousin’s gala wedding, touching evidence of enduring ties among Robert and Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge‘s descendants.

Zebedee & Jennie Aldridge

Zebedee and Jennie Aldridge, probably 1940s.

Photo courtesy of L.D. Hutchinson. Hat tip to B. Jones for the article.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents

I did the best I could.

North Carolina } In the Superior Court October Term 1897

Sampson County }

Hardy A. Brewington, Joshua Brewington, Simon Brewington, Nathan Brewington, Nancy Goodman and her husband J.B. Goodman, Lucy Strickland and her husband J.S. Strickland, Eliza Manuel and her husband Alvin Manuel, Bashaby Brewington, Mary Wheeler, Lulu Brewington and Luther Brewington heirs at law of Raiford Brewington Jr. and Allen B. Brewington by his guardian Hardy A. Brewington, Plaintiffs

Jno. R. Jacobs, Rocia Lee Brewington and her husband J.A. Brewington, Lillie B. Brewington and her husband M.L. Brewington, and Jno. R. Jacobs, guardian ad litem of Della Jacobs and Lavinia Jacobs, Defendants

The plaintiffs complain of the defendants and allege:

I. That on the 20th day of Nov. A.D. 1890 Raiford Brewington & his wife Bashaby Brewington executed a deed to John R. Jacobs and his wife Polly Ann Jacobs for the following described tract of land to wit: Situate in Sampson County State of North Carolina and adjoining the lands of Nathan Brewington, James M. Parker and others and bounded as follows; Beginning at a stake on the lane and runs about S 550 yards to a stake at an old post oak stump the line of Jas. M. Parker & W. Royal thence west about 750 yards to a stake on the west wide of Beaver Dam swamp, thence up the edge of the swamp to a shortleaf pine at the ditch, thence East 750 yards to the beginning containing 75 acres more or less.

II. That the deed aforesaid is duly recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Sampson County Book 76 p 193 a copy of which deed is marked “Exhibit A” and hereto attached and made a part of this complaint, which deed does not convey the said lands in fee simple but upon certain stipulations and conditions in words as follows: — The said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington excepts their life time estate in said lands and the said John R. Jacobs and Polly Ann Jacobs and their heirs are to support the said Raiford Brewington and wife Bashaby Brewington and their son Allen B. Brewington during their natural life time and furnish them with good comfortable cloths. When the said John R. Jacobs and wife Polly Ann and their heirs fails to comply with the above obligations then their right and title to the aforesaid land shall be void and a further condition in said deed is that the said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashy shall have the use of said property during their life time but shall not sell any of said property not land unless it is agreeable with J.R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann. Neither the said J.R. Jacobs and Polly Ann shall sell any of said property nor land unless it is agreeable with Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby.

III. That upon the execution & delivery of said deed to wit on Nov 20th 1890 the said Jno. R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann Jacobs went into possession of the lands described in said deed and exercised possession and full control of same until 1893 when Polly Ann Jacobs died, but during this period they did not fully comply with the conditions of said deed and Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby were required to work and furnish their own support. After the death of Polly Ann Jacobs, her husband Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs continued to live on the premises & exercise possession & full control of same until about Jan 1st 1896 when they quit the premises & furnished no further food or support in any way since to Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington of their son Allen Brewington nor did the said Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs comply with the conditions in said deed before they deserted the premises but instead wasted & used the provisions made & provided by the said Raiford Brewington & wife with whom the said Jno. R. Jacobs & family loved.

IV. That Polly Ann Jacobs is one of the children and heirs of Raiford Brewington & Bashaby Brewington and has been fully provided for by them before said deed was executed to them. That Allen Brewington one of the children is an idiot and the only heir not provided for by Raiford Brewington, and the lands conveyed to Jno. R. Jacobs & Polly Ann Jacobs in the deed set out above was the sahe of the Raiford Brewington estate that he intended for his son Allen Brewington and for himself and wife Bashaby Brewington as long as they should live.

V. That in January 1896 Raiford Brewington died leaving his wife Bashaby Brewington & son Allen Brewington with no one to support them, as Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly An Jacobs had broken the conditions in said deed by leaving the premises & refusing to provide them any support.

VI. That if said deed shall remain in full force & effect, it would be in violation of the conditions in said deed, and contrary to the will and intent, and the express declaration of the grantors therein & would leave them without any means of support.

VII. That if said deed shall remain in full force and effect Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs would thereby receive a double share of the estate of Raiford Brewington to wit: the share of Allen Brewington and the share of Polly Ann Jacobs which latter share had been allotted to her before the execution of said deed.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray:

I. That the deed referred to in Article I of this Complaint be declared null and void and that a suitable person be appointed by the court to take the title of said land and hold the same in trust for Bashaby Brewington and her son Allen Brewington and the rents and profits therefrom be applied to the feeding, clothing & support of them as long as they both shall live and the remainder to the heirs at law of Raiford Brewington.

II. For cost and general relief – Lee & Butler attys for the plaintiffs.

Hardy A. Brewington being duly sworn according to law says that he has read the foregoing complaint or heard it read and that he knows the contents thereof to be true except such matters and things as are set out on information and belief and those he believes to be true.

Subscribed & sworn to before me this the 29 day of October 1897 /s/ H.A. Brewington


The file also contains notes from trial testimony:

Hardy Brewington — am son of Raiford Brewington – he had twelve children – Polly Ann Jacobs is my sister – My father gave her Polly Ann $300 in money & $100 in other property – My father never gave Allen Brewington anything – He is an idiot – 48 yrs old never did any work – My mother is living is 86 or 87 yrs old – not able to work – Allen lives with her – Jacobs & wife came into possession at date of deed They lived on the land with my mother 5 yrs – Polly Ann died about ’93 – Jacobs lived there 2 ½ yrs after death of wife – Jacobs went to Dudley in Wayne Co & has lived there ever since – My father was then living on the land – he died at 85 yrs – Jacobs provided very poorly for the old man wife & son provisions were poor & not plenty of it. Jacobs was liable to drink & will go off & leave them unprovided for in food & fuel. Land tolerably good when Jacobs took possession, pretty poor when he left He always had plenty to eat & good clothes – The Heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs left the old people neglected – Jacobs could have remained on the land & made them more comfortable – He cut timber & carried to Wilmington – and wasted the money – Myself & son have supported the old people since Jacobs my married defnts daughter – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Have heard old man complain of being hungry – cold &c. – Raiford Brewington & wife did not consent to the mortgage didn’t know of it until six or eight months after – He said Jacobs had given a mortgage & he didn’t know what wd become of him – My father died in ’96 – My mother & Idiot have no means of support except this land – Whitney Royal wrote the deed – Jacobs moved from Dudley down on this land – Jacobs married 2nd time after about 1 ½ yr after wife’s death – Jacobs got money from Parker $30 & my father said he would see it paid. – Note given about 12 mos before mortgage

Jim Strickland — Live 2 ½ miles from place – I married Raiford Brewington’s daughter – He gave her $200 – Jacobs didn’t give them enough to eat – at all times – his clothes were common – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Place was better when he came than when he left – Land not worth much now – Brother Hardy & son Arthur have been supporting them since Jacobs left

Arthur Brewington – Am son of Hardy Brewington Jacobs staid on the land about 5 years – The food was pretty poor like the most of us meat & bread – Before Jacobs went there could get as good a meal as anywhere – he wd leave land neglected – Drank every week – Raiford put me there after Jacobs left – Me & my father have been supporting the old people – They complained of want of food & fuel – I did the best I could under the circumstances – Jacobs could have done better than he did.

J.R. Jacobs – Am one of Defn’ts – When I went there but little provisions – fence gone down pretty much – I made a crop next I put 2000 [illegible] the spring I went there & clean out ditches I did the best I could – all eat at same table – He complained some like old people will do – Neither of them suffered for food or fuel I cut timber & carried to Wilmington – no profit – My wife lived about 4 yrs after I went there – I did the best I could – Arthur seemed to be their choice – We bargained for Arthur to go there & take my obligation with consent of old people – I was in debt in Clinton – I went to Parker to get the money – Old man helped to get up money – Old Man was present – gave boundaries &c — $35 note was to pay for guano – I owed Vann $25 for corn – I carried it home he carried it [illegible] – All of it was for money used on the place & for mule worked on place. Raiford [knew] all about it – I gave a lien on crop that year – The $35 mortgage was included in the $125 mortgage Raiford Brewington only once came here – The $125 mortgage was made on the plantation & he knew about it, and was willing to it – Judgmt agst me for Parker – 40 acres of cleared land on the place – Raiford Brewington asked me to cancel the deed I told him I didn’t [think] it right to do so. This was after my wife died.

J.L. Brewington – Raiford Brewington was my father – Hard to please he wanted something to drink He had a heap to feed – people & stock – Jacobs did the best he could The old man grumbled all the time – but had plenty to eat –

Jonathan Goodman – Live about ½ miles from the place – I saw the old man frequently – He lived as good as most any farmer – While Jacobs lived there – he lived as well as common run of people that had no more – Jacobs drank some – It seemed as if Jacobs wished to please him – he was off at times –

Mary Eliza Brewington – Raiford was my husbd father – I lived ½ mile from him I heard Raiford say it was a just debt as far as he [illegible] and he wanted Parker paid – The old people got along as well as one could expect

J.R. Parker – The $35 mortgage Raiford & Jacobs came to me & wanted to borrow some money – Raiford proposed to meet him in Clinton & make up the papers – which we did – I let Jacobs have some corn & bacon – This was cancelled to make up the $125 mortgage – The cash that I gave Jacobs – and the note for $35 with the money due me makes up the $125 – I know that Raiford knew of the $125 note & mortgage — $35 was all money – how much more I don’t know – over half of it – There was an indictment agst Jacobs for passing counterfeit money. Raiford came to me & didn’t say he would or wouldn’t sign the $125 –

Marshal Newman – Was J.P. – at time mortgage was made – Parker & Jacobs got me to write this mortgage – it was made at Nathan Brewington’s house Raiford was not present, and never said anything to me about it. Nathan Brewington’s was convenient to Jacobs –

Hardy Brewington (re-called) – We knew nothing about $125


Judgment for Hardy Brewington et al. The judge found that John and Polly Ann Jacobs had not complied fully with the terms of the deed and ordered that (1) the deed from the Brewingtons to the Jacobses be declared null and void; (2) Hardy Brewington be appointed trustee of the land for the sole use and benefit of Bashaby and Allen Brewington during their lifetimes; (3) after the deaths of Bashaby and Allen, Hardy was discharged from his trusteeship, and (4) John Jacobs and the Parkers were to pay court costs.


I’m not a Brewington or a Jacobs and have no direct link to any of the players in this sad intrafamily squabble over Polly Ann Brewington Jacobs’ estate. Nonetheless, as was the rule among free families of color in and around Dudley, Wayne County, there was multi-strand intertwining between these folks and my extended family:

  • Joshua L. Brewington, the J.L. who testified on behalf of John R. Jacobs, married Amelia Aldridge, sister of my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge.
  • John R. Jacobs was the older brother of “Papa,” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., who married Sarah D. Henderson (my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson’s sister) and reared my grandmother.
  • John Jacobs’ sister Frances married Marshall Carter of Sampson County. Frances’ son Milford E. Carter married Beulah M. Aldridge, John W. Aldridge’s daughter. Another son, John W. Carter, cared for Lucian Henderson (brother of Sarah) and his wife in their old age and inherited their small farm.
  • Milford E. Carter Jr. married Jessie Bell Brewington, granddaughter of Hardy A. Brewington.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s son, Alonzo Manuel, married Sallie Wynn, daughter of Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn. Susan H. Wynn was the sister of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s daughter Celestial married Hillary B. Simmons after the death of his first wife, Ann Elizabeth Henderson, who was a sister of Sarah, Loudie and Lucian Henderson.
  • Raiford Brewington’s wife Bashaby was the daughter of Shadrach and Zilpha Hardin Manuel. Her kinship to Michael Manuel is not entirely clear to me, but research by others suggests that they were cousins.

From the file of Polly Ann Jacobs, Sampson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, Original, North Carolina State Archives.

Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Virginia

We got strayed apart.

I was thinking about Cousin Tilithia when I was a little girl.  She had a restaurant large enough to work in and serve patrons.  It wasn’t real big, but they were serving patrons, and Mama carried me up there, and we spent the night there.  And whenever she’d come to Wilson she’d stay with us.  

Tilithia Godbold, she lived in Norfolk, and she married this man.  That wasn’t her children’s daddy.  King was her children’s daddy.  Godbold was the man she married later. He lived over in Rocky Mount, and he worked in the roundhouse or something.  I think he fixed the train, but he wasn’t the one on the train.  And Godbold, Tilithia’s husband, he stayed there in Rocky Mount.  ‘Cause Tilithia lived in Norfolk.  Her and her five or six girls or whatever it was, and she was running what they call the Strand Café.  And it was down on the first floor, and they lived up over it.  Go out there, and it was a sleeping compartment.  I was over there one time, and I remember it.  I think I was about seven or eight years old.  Went with Mama over there.  We was just running all over the place.  She had us waiting tables.  I wanted to wait tables. I was wondering, I asked Mama, “Well, why come we couldn’t have a place like that?”  And all that food!  Look like whatever the food was – I didn’t even know what it was ‘cause we ain’t never had none.  It was a whole lot of stuff, look like they had, I didn’t want it, but then I know it looked good, and we ate down there in the café.  

And another time Mama took me over there on the train to see her.  And it was right down in South Philadelphia where we went to their house.  Where they was staying.  And when I moved up here, her sister, she was telling me ‘bout how the children were there in Norfolk, her sister and all them.  I said, well, I could remember some of them, but I don’t remember what –  and I asked where some of the girls was.  Some of them in Norfolk and some of ‘em, one’s dead.  [Inaudible] the family.  We got strayed apart. 

My grandmother reminisced fondly of “Ta-LIE-a-thy” and her cafe, but was not entirely sure how they were related. Not long into my research, I discovered that Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney was born 1878 to Joshua and Amelia Aldridge Brewington. She was, then, the first cousin of my grandmother’s father, J. Thomas Aldridge. Tilithia married Emanuel King in 1898 and, by 1910, the couple and their daughters Juanita, Elizabeth, Amelia, May Bell and Tilithia had settled in Norfolk, Virginia. Tilithia and Emanuel divorced and, by 1920, she was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold and running her cafe. Her marriage to Godbold did not last, and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.
This was about all I could locate on Cousin Tilithia until 2009, when I met — genealogically speaking — B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell (and my fourth cousin.)  Ours has been a most fecund collaboration, and it was she who discovered Tilithia’s obit and what had become of her daughters. My grandmother would have pleased to know that the branches of our family had found their way back from being “strayed apart.”

Image Virginian Pilot, 22 November 1965.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Joshua & Amelia Aldridge Brewington.



Joshua Brewington, son of Raiford Brewington and Bathsheba Manuel Brewington, was born in 1846 in Sampson County and died in 1931 in Wayne County.  His wife, Amelia Aldridge Brewington, daughter of Robert Aldridge and Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge was born in 1855 in Sampson County and died in 1895 in Wayne County. Their children were: Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney (1878-1965), Bashua M. Brewington (1879-1899), Hattie Bell Brewington Davis (1880-1981), Mattie Amelia Brewington Braswell (1883-1952), Elijah Coleman Brewington (1886), Amelia Brewington (1888),  Lundy Brewington (1891-1914), Toney Cemore Brewington (1894-1973), and Murine Brewington (1895).

Joshua and Amelia Brewington are buried in the cemetery of the First Congregational Church, Dudley, North Carolina.

“Sleep on and take thy rest.”


Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2010.