Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina

The Boston branch.

I’ve written about Angeline McConnaughey Reeves and her family — particularly her daughter Carrie Reeves Williams. But what of her other children?

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A short notice appeared in the 14 March 1895 edition of the Charlotte Observer:

Frank Eccles and Ada Reeves, colored, were married Tuesday night. The groom is Farrior’s man “Friday.” He is a good citizen and deserves happiness and prosperity.

Five years later, the census taker trudging through Charlotte’s Fourth Ward knocked at the door of 413 Eighth Street. Forty-two year-old Angeline Reeves likely answered the door. In response to the enumerator’s queries, she identified her husband Fletcher as the head of household and detailed the three children remaining at home — 18 year-old Frank, 16 year-old Edna, and 12 year-old John. Daughter Ada, her husband Frank and 4 year-old son Harry were probably living in Charlotte, but seem to have given the enumerator the slip.

Frank married Kate Smith in Charlotte in 1902; their ill-fated story is told here. Edna was next to wed. In 1905, at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, William H. Kiner applied for a marriage license for himself, age 25, of Boston, Massachusetts, colored, son of Anderson and Agnes Kiner, and Edna Reeves, age 20, of Charlotte, colored, daughter of Fletcher Reeves and Angeline Reeves.  Robert B. Bruce, minister of the AME Zion Church, united them in matrimony on 5 April 1905 at the bride’s residence. According to Kiner family researcher Peggy Jorde, William Henry Kiner, actually a native of Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, had come to Charlotte to study theology at Biddle University.

William and Edna’s first son, Addison F., was born in Charlotte in 1906, but by the following summer, when son Carroll Milton arrived, the Kiners were permanent residents of Massachusetts. Carroll has two birth records, one listing his birth place as Oak Bluffs, and a second listing Cambridge. On the first, William’s occupation was described as theological student.

Edna Reeves Kiner was not the only one of Fletcher and Angeline’s children to pack up and move north to the Bay State. The 1910 census of Cambridge, Middlesex County, shows William H. Kiner, wife Edna E., children Addison F., 4, and Carroll M., 2, sister-in-law Ada Ecles, and brother-in-law John H. Reeves living at 8 Rockwell Street. William worked as a clothes presser in a tailor shop, Ada as a servant, and John as a hotel waiter. Ada’s husband Frank (and son Harry) are nowhere to be seen, but “Aida” Eccles appears a second time in Cambridge as a servant in the household of George W. Clapp, a self-employed chemist.

John Reeves’ stay in New England did not last long. In April of 1915, at the age of 26, he died of tuberculosis in a state hospital.

John H Reeves Death Cert

Meanwhile, it’s not clear that William Kiner was ever able to respond to his religious calling. When he registered for the World War I draft in 1918, he was working as a chipper in a foundry at Hunt-Spiller Corporation.

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Two years later, when the 1920 census of Cambridge was recorded, William was described as a chipper in a shipyard. His family, still at 8 Rockwell Street, included wife Edna E. and children Addison F., Carroll M., and Evelyn C. Kiner.  Ada Eccles and her 23 year-old son Harry Eccles, a laundry janitor, had found their own lodging and appear in the 7th Ward at 65 Grigg Street.

I have found no death certificate for William H. Kiner, but assume that he died between 1923, when he last appears in a Cambridge city directory, and 1930. In the latter year, the census taker listed his widow widow Edna M. Kiner, her children Addison F., Carrell M., and Evelyn C., plus aunt (sister, actually) Ada M. Eccles living on Essex Street in Cambridge in the household of Joseph S. Blackburn, a black Kentucky-born railroad porter, and his wife Cynthia, a beauty shop manicurist born in Maine.  Addison worked as a department store elevator operator and Carrell as a shoestore porter.

The Kiners emerged from the Great Depression decentralized. In 1940 census, Edna Kiner was over the river in Boston, Suffolk County, living in an apartment or shared house at 361 Massachusetts Avenue. Her son Carroll Kiner, a 32 year-old shoe store porter, lived in Cambridge with his Virginia-born wife Ella and three year-old daughter Caroline at 27 Pleasant Street. Addison Kiner was not captured in the census, but he seems to have remained in Massachusetts and was active in Cambridge’s small African-American social scene.

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The Afro-American, 20 June 1942.

Daughter Evelyn C. Kiner had completely escaped the Bay State orbit, however, having moved to New York City and begun work as a social worker with the Department of Welfare. She was living in the heart of Harlem at 172 West 127th Street, between Lenox Avenue and what was then Seventh Avenue. She quickly integrated into the Harlem world and over the next ten or years or so appears half-a-dozen times in the social columns of the New York Age. Evelyn’s primary social activities swirled around her membership in the National Urban League Guild, but she was also actively involved in civic outreach through the Church of the Master, a Presbyterian congregation at West 122nd and Morningside.

City directories show that Edna’s sons remained in the Boston area the remainder of their lives. She, however, moved to New York to live with Evelyn in her declining years and died there in August 1969. I don’t know exactly when Carroll died, but I’m a little haunted by how closely my path crossed with Addison and Evelyn. In the fall of 1986, I arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for my first semester of law school. My residence hall, a graceless, L-shaped brick hulk, was at the campus’ far northwest corner, at Massachusetts Avenue and Everett Street. (I lived on the fourth floor of Wyeth Hall that year. Michelle Robinson Obama lived in the suite one floor above.) Unbeknownst to me, if I had walked a mile straight up Mass Ave, turned left on Walden Street, and knocked at  No. 28, Addison Kiner would have answered the door. As far I can tell, he lived there for the three years that I was in Cambridge. He died 7 May 1990. After law school, I enrolled in graduate school at Columbia University. For the two years I was there, I lived in an apartment building on 121st Street, at the crest of the hill between Broadway and Amsterdam. Walking west down 121st led me to the edge of Morningside Park. Had I descended through it — and I didn’t in that era, which was crazy, crack-ravaged Manhattan at its nadir — I’d have landed on the plain of central Harlem just a block or two from Evelyn Kiner’s beloved Church of the Master. She died in February 2003, and the church was demolished six years later.

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

Angeline McConnaughey Reeves; or, Charlotte and beyond.

Angeline McConnaughey‘s mother Caroline may have lived long enough to breathe the sweet air of freedom, but not deeply. By 1870, she was gone, and her only child is listed in the census that year with Caroline’s mother, Margaret McConnaughey. By 1875, Angeline had left the Mount Ulla countryside for the town of Salisbury and in February of that year she married Fletcher Reeves, the 21 year-old son of Henry and Phrina (or Fina) Overman Reeves. With unusual candor, Angeline named her father on her marriage license. He was Robert L. McConnaughey of Morganton, white and a relative of Angeline’s former owner, James M. McConnaughey.

Angeline Reeves gave birth to her first two children, Caroline R. (1875) and M. Ada (1878), in Salisbury. The Reeves had plans bigger than that town could hold, however, and shortly after 1880 the family settled at 409 East Eighth Street in Charlotte’s First Ward, a racially integrated, largely working-class neighborhood in the city’s center. Fletcher Reeves went to work as a hostler for John W. Wadsworth, who climbed to millionaire status with his livery stables even as Charlotte’s first electric streetcars were poised to dramatically transform the city’s landscape. In short order, three more children — Frank Charles (1882), Edna (1884) and John Henry (1888) — joined the household, and Angeline took in washing to supplement the family’s income.

Fletcher and Angeline’s combined incomes created a comfortable cushion for their children. On 1 March 1894, in an article snarkily titled “A Fashionable Wedding in Colored High Life,” the Charlotte Observer identified Carrie Reeves, accompanied by Cowan Graham, as a bridal attendant at the marriage of Hattie L. Henderson and Richard C. Graham, “one of the best and most popular waiters at the Buford Hotel.” The ceremony was held at Seventh Street Presbyterian Church and “‘owing to the prominence of the contracting parties,’ a number of white people were present.” Carrie herself was a bride eight months later when she married James Rufus Williams. Her sister Ada’s nuptials, in March 1895, were announced in the March 14 edition of the Observer: “Frank Eccles and Ada Reeves, colored, were married Tuesday night. The groom is Farrior’s man ‘Friday.’ He is a good citizen and deserves happiness and prosperity.”

By 1900, the Reeveses were renting a house at 413 East Eighth. Fletcher continued his work as a “horseler,” but Angeline reported no occupation, apparently having withdrawn from public work. Eighteen year-old son Frank worked as a porter, and youngest children Edna (15) and John (11) were at school. On 21 August 1902, Frank made an ill-starred marriage to Kate Smith. Two and a half years later, his sister Edna married William H. Kiner of Boston, Massachusetts.

When the censustaker returned in 1910, he found Fletcher and Angeline still living in the 400 block of East Eighth. All of their children had left the nest, and in their place was 7 year-old grandson Wilbur Reeves, who was probably Frank and Kate Reeves’ child. If the boy found comfort and stability in his grandparents’ home, however, it was not to last. On 4 September 1910, Fletcher succumbed to kidney disease. He was buried in Pinewood Cemetery, and Angeline went to live with her oldest daughter’s family.

In the 1900 census, Rufus and Carrie Williams and sons Worth (5) and Hugh J. (2) shared a house at 419 Caldwell Street with Frank and Ada Eccles and their son Harry. Rufus, who owned the house, worked as a hotel waiter and Frank as a day laborer. In 1906, Carrie posted a series of ads in the Charlotte News seeking customers for her sewing business.

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Charlotte News, 5 September 1900.

Rufus seems to have spent his free team pitching for a top local baseball team:

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Charlotte News, 13 August 1900.

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Charlotte News, 4 September 1900.

In the 1910 census, the family is listed at 212 West First Street. Rufus worked as a porter at a club and Carrie as a seamstress. Sons Worth (14) and Jennings (12) were students. Ada Eccles, already a widow, had migrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is listed at 8 Rockwell Street with brother-in-law William H. Kiner, sister Edna E. and their children Addison F. (4) and Carroll M. (2), plus brother John H. Reeves. William worked as a clothes presser in a tailor shop, Ada as a servant, and John as a hotel waiter.  William was born in Virginia, all the others except Carroll in NC. (The Kiners also spent time in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard. Son Carroll Milton was born there in 1907; the birth register gave William’s occupation as theological student.) Frank is not found in the 1910, but the state of his marriage can be inferred from a newspaper article about his wife, passing for white in Hollywood.

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Charlotte News, 15 May 1910.

Hugh Jennings Williams died after a battle with tuberculosis in 1913, during his final year in Biddle University‘s preparatory division. (His older brother, Worth Armstead Williams, also attended Biddle for high school and college.) Jennings’ obituary paints a charming picture of the boy and makes clear his parents’ status in the eyes of white Charlotte. HJW obit

Charlotte News, 20 November 1913.

Just months later, more than 800 miles away in Cambridge, Jennings’ uncle John H. Reeves also contracted TB. He was dead by April 1915.

By 1920, the Williamses had moved a little ways out of the heart of the city to 826 South Church Street in the Ninth Ward. Widow Angeline Reeves was listed in the household with Rufus, Carrie, and 24 year-old Worth Williams.  Rufus was a porter at a club, Carrie was a dressmaker, and Worth a student at a dental college.  (Worth was only at home temporarily. He was enrolled at Howard University’s dental school.)Meanwhile, up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the censustaker found William H. Kiner (a chipper at a shipyard), wife Edna E., and children Addison F., Carroll M. and Evelyn C. living at 8 Rockwell Street, and Ada Eccles and her son Harry at 65 Grigg Street.

Charl Obs 3 4 1917 R Williams

Rufus Williams continued to enjoy the esteem of his employer and patrons at the Southern Manufacturers Club — at what personal cost unknown. Waiting on the cream of the Queen City’s burgeoning manufacturing magnates was a path to economic security, but that path was strewn with daily indignity, both casual and intentional. Rufus, and his father before him, were what some fondly called “white man’s niggers,” but to acknowledge this is not to indict them. In a 1924 news article, note that Rufus’ speech honoring his benefactor, John C. McNeill, also shines a light on the fruit of his years as a servant — his “son, W.A. Williams, who is a surgeon dentist at New Bern.”

rufus Wms deskCharlotte News, 1 June 1924.

James Rufus Williams died 24 May 1947 in Charlotte. Six years later, on 25 March 1953, his mother-in-law Angeline McConnaughey Reeves passed away at the age of 94. Her mother and husband gone, Carrie Reeves Williams lived just six months more and died 28 September 1953. I have not found record of Frank Reeves’ death. His sisters Edna Reeves Kiner died in New York City in 1969 and Ada Reeves Eccles in Cambridge in 1979.

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