Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 19: Mount Hope cemetery, Logansport, Indiana.

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Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 3 November 1951.

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Logansport Press, 11 November 1951.

Fifty years after they married, Dock Simmons buried his beloved wife Fannie at Mount Hope cemetery at the northern edge of Logansport. The week after her death, her sisters joined him in publishing thanks to all who had expressed condolences for their loss. The notice is my last glimpse of Dock.

My first thought when I found the headstone above was: “How sad. There was no one left — no siblings, no children — to etch in Dock’s death date.” My second: “Wait. Is Dock even buried here?”

Curiously, I have not been able to find Dock’s death certificate. He does not appear to have died in Indiana, whose death certificates are available online through 2011. Where, then? Did he spend his last years with one of Fannie’s sisters? (The Simmonses had sheltered Fannie’s mother and brother.) Perhaps with her nieces or nephews? (He had only one, Harold.)

I sent an inquiry to Mount Hope and received an immediate response from its sexton: “I am sorry to say that there is no indication that Doc Simmons is here.”

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Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin

Family cemeteries, no. 18: Bassett cemetery, near Kokomo, Indiana.

BASSETT CEMETERY sometimes known as “Bassett Colored Baptist” or “Lower* Settlement Cemetery” is at south edge of SECTION 9 of T. 24-2-E and is in north central ERVIN TOWNSHIP of northwestern HOWARD COUNTY of northcentral Indiana. About midway between hamlets of Poplar Grove and Kappa, it is on north side of road formerly popularly known as “Nigger Pike” and in a farming-area formerly inhabited by numerous Negro families and then able to boast of having a colored Baptist Church and a school for colored children, as well as a blacksmith shop, store, etc. Like the Rush, or Upper Settlement farther east, this settlement is understood to have formed here before the Civil War, and under the sympathetic encouragement of the many Quakers who had settled nearby.

*The term [Lower] alludes to west-flowing Deer Creek’s south fork, which passes more than a mile to the north of cemetery.

This record of genealogically and historically important tombstone-information and a supplement thereto, were prepared for INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY and the STATE LIBRARY by the Pioneer Cemetery Committee of the L’Anguille Valley Historical & Memorial Association, Logansport, Indiana, which is in the adjoining county of Cass, of which committee Mrs. Audna M. Johnson of Logansport is chairman, Fieldwork (18 miles from that city) was done MARCH 29, 1948, the day after Easter Sunday, by committee-members Robert B. Whitsett, 500 Front St., Logansport, and Wm. R. Coder, also of Logansport. Work was done in honor and memory of these early settlers of African descent (who lie buried here in marked graves) and of their many contemporaries who likewise lie buried here but in unmarked graves, and to their numerous descendants and citizens of Logansport, Kokomo, and other communities. Information in Supplement was largely derived from Mr. Ernest Griggs (colored), aged 71, of 1208 West Wabash Avenue, Logansport, but partly from Mrs. Dock Simmons (col.) and Mr. George A. Harness (white) and Mrs. Harriet Shideler (white) and sister, all of Logansport.

SUPPLEMENT: Miscellaneous bits of hearsay information:

“Among person buried in the doubtless dozens of unmarked graves in the Bassett cemetery are Ernest W. Griggs [of Logansport’s] late nonagenarian father [the settlement’s widely known blacksmith] Reuben Griggs, from Tennessee, a former slave, who died about 1917, and who had maintained that he was 94 years of age; and Reuben’s wife Sarah Griggs (Ernest’s mother) who was a daughter of Thomas Artis and who died in about 1887 when Ernest [now — 1948 — 71] was about 10 or 11 years of age, and when she was only about 29; and Dock Simmons [of Logansport]’s late parents: Montraville Simmons, a Negro farmer from North Carolina; and wife Anna [or Annie] Simmons and one son of theirs [Dock’s brother] Montraville Simmons Jr.” … “Daniel Bassett married Dock Simmon’s sister Muncie Simmons.” …

——

The original founders of the Bassett settlement were free families of color from eastern North Carolina by way of Parke County, Indiana. The family who gave its name to the community was headed by Britton Bassett, who was born about 1784, probably in Greene County, North Carolina. (He appears there in the 1830 census.) The plat map below, drawn in 1877, shows the locations of Bassett community school and church and parcels owned by the African-American Bassett, Artis, Ellis, Griggs and Jones families.

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Montraville and Anna Simmons and their children immigrated to Howard County from Canada in the late 1880s. (I don’t know why, of all likely locations, they chose this one.) The Bassett community church had just closed, but they likely joined its successor, Second Baptist, led by Rev. Richard Bassett in Kokomo. Two of their daughters married Bassett brothers.

In 1900, Montraville, Anna and their unmarried children moved twenty or so miles north to Cass County. When Anna died near Logansport in 1906, Kroeger & Strain (still in business as Kroeger Funeral Home) handled her burial. The top half of Kroeger’s “particulars” sheet contains much of the same personal misinformation as Anna’s death certificate and is filled out in the same hand. It’s the rest that’s interesting. Anna was buried at 11:00 on a Tuesday morning at Free Union Baptist Church cemetery. (That name is largely forgotten, but it was the Bassett community congregation.) Her body was transported to Howard County by a team of horses, and the family reserved a carriage. According to the super-helpful lady at Kroeger, “blk. cl. oct. casket” indicated a black octagonal casket. (The “cl.” is a mystery.) The family provided Anna’s clothing, but purchased slippers for her feet. All in all, it seems no expense was spared.

A Simmons Kroeger

Bassett cemetery today contains less than two dozen marked graves. Small swales between stones, however, reveal many more. The Mrs. Dock Simmons who contributed to the L’Anguille Valley Historical & Memorial Association’s cemetery survey, above, was Fannie Gibson Simmons, who’d been married just five years when her mother-in-law Anna died. Ernest Griggs was the stepfather of Anna’s grandson Harold Simmons, son of Montraville Simmons Jr.

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Bassett cemetery today.

[Sidenote: Indiana county plat books, updated every year, are a genealogist’s dream. Land ownership can be identified at a glance, and every parcel is a nice subset of a square. Here’s the 2015 map of Ervin township, Howard County, showing roughly the same section as above, including the location of Bassett cemetery.]

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[Another sidenote, on “Nigger Pike”: There were two 19th-century African-American settlements in Kokomo. The road now known as West 400 North would take you to both of them. The Bassett Cemetery report, written in 1948, refers to the formerly popular name of the pike, indicating that general usage had died out by then. (But not otherwise commenting.) The United States has a long history of offensive or derogatory place names.]

Copies of L’Anguille Valley Historical & Memorial Association’s Bassett Cemetery report, Bassett-Ellis plat map, and 2015 plat map courtesy of the well-stocked and -staffed Genealogy & Local History Department, Kokomo-Howard County Public Library; copy of funeral receipt courtesy of Kroeger Funeral Home, Logansport; photograph of Bassett cemetery by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2016.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Paternal Kin

Indiana Chronicles, no. 2: To pay respects.

Ten A.M. After some nervous indecision, I’d parked in the driveway of a nearby farmhouse and was hustling up the road toward a tiny cemetery. The odor of cow dung was large. The crack of thunder at the horizon was larger. I arrived in Kokomo three days after catastrophic F3 tornadoes had ripped through, and I was not anxious to get caught out in the new storms racing across central Indiana. But I’d come 600 miles for this, and I wasn’t leaving before I got what I came for.

With his wife dead and nothing to hold them in Onslow County, North Carolina, James Henderson gathered up his children and pushed 60 miles northwest to Sampson County. There, James married Eliza Armwood and, about 1852, their first child was born. It does not take a great leap of imagination to picture my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis, oldest of James’ first bunch, cradling his baby sister Anna Jane in his arms or hoisting her to his shoulders in the years before his own children were born. Nor is it hard to conjecture his sense of loss when Anna left with her new husband Montraville Simmons to join his family in impossibly faraway Canada. She was the only one of James’ children to leave North Carolina, and she did so in a big way. The Simmonses eventually quit Ontario for Indiana, but, practically speaking, the Midwest was no closer to home. It’s not clear when Anna last saw any of her people, but it’s a sure bet that none ever visited Cass County, and not a one has ever visited her grave.

Thus, I found myself navigating the grid of backroads between Logansport and Kokomo, one eye on the western sky as bands of rain lashed my windshield. Properly speaking, I was not headed to Anna’s actual grave, for it is unmarked. But to stand in Bassett cemetery would be close enough.

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 17: Crown Point cemetery, Kokomo, Indiana.

Three of Montraville and Anna Henderson Simmons‘ children are buried in Crown Point, though only two have stones:

Plus, one of Edward’s wives, Belle Simmons:

Susie Simmons Bassett, who died in 1937, lies beside her sister in an unmarked grave. The graves lie in a broken line in section 221 of the cemetery.

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Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2016.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Maternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Family cemeteries, no. 16: Holmes-Clark.

No one knows where Joseph R. Holmes is buried. It stands to reason, though, that it might be here.

I owe this entire post to the inestimable Kathy Liston, a Charlotte County archaeologist who has immersed herself in the history of the area’s African-American families. She tracked down the location of Joseph’s small acreage near Antioch Church on Old Kings Highway near Keysville, Charlotte County,Virginia. And there, at edge of a clearing, now completely overgrown, is a small cemetery. Only four stones stand, but a number of unmarked or fieldstone-marked graves are visible:

Rev. Whitfield Clarke / Born July 15, 1840 / Died Aug. 21, 1916

In Memory of Our Beloved Son / Thomas C.C. Clark/ Born Sept 2, 1882 / Died Aug 27, 1907

William Jasper Almond / Virginia / Mess Attendant / 3 Class / USNRF / A[illegible] 2, 1934

Mary J. Barrett / May 16, 1903 / May 2, 1942 / Her Memory is Blessed

These folks are not Joseph’s family, per se. They are his wife’s and are evidence of the life she built after his assassination.

Joseph Holmes married Mary Clark toward the end of the Civil War. Their four children were Payton (1865), Louisa (1866), William (1867) and Joseph (1868). Mary was the daughter of Simon and Jina Clark, and Whitfield Clark was her brother. As detailed here, Joseph R. Holmes was shot down in front of the Charlotte County Courthouse on 3 May 1869.

When the censustaker arrived the following spring, Joseph and Mary’s children were listed in the household of a couple I believe to have been Joseph’s mother and stepfather: Wat Carter, 70, wife Nancy, 70, and children Mary, 23, Liza, 17, and Wat, 16; plus Payton, 4, Louisa, 3, and Joseph Homes, 2, and Fannie Clark, 60. (That Mary is possibly Mary Clark Holmes, but may also have been Mary Carter.)

On 3 January 1872, 24 year-old widow Mary Holmes married John Almond, a 35 year-old widower. In the 1880 census of Walton, Charlotte County, carpenter John Almond’s household includes wife Mary, 31, and children Payton, 14, Wirt H., 12, Ella M., 10, and Lemon Almond, 8. Payton, it appears, was in fact Joseph’s son Payton Holmes; Wirt and Ella were John’s children by his first wife; and Lemon was John and Mary’s son together. The family remained on the land that had been Joseph Holmes’.

The oldest marked grave in the little cemetery dates to 1907. It stands to reason, though, that Mary Holmes would have had her husband buried here, where she could watch over his grave and perhaps protect it from any who sought to punish him further. Who were the four whose stones still reveal their resting places? Thomas C.C. Clark was the son of Whitfield Clark and his second wife, Amanda. He appears in the 1900 census as a student at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. I’ve written a bit about Reverend Whitfield Clark here. William Jasper Almond (known as Jasper, which is interesting because that was the name of Joseph Holmes’ brother, my great-great-grandfather), born in 1896, was the son of Lemon Almond and his first wife, Rosa W. Fowlkes.  Mary J. Almond Barrett was Jasper’s half-sister, daughter of Lemon and Mary B. Scott Almond.

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Joseph R. Holmes’ land, near Keysville, Charlotte County, Virginia.

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Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2012. 

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Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Photographs

A terrible thought ….

I ran across this article in the 19 May 1933 edition of the Statesville Landmark detailing the tragic death of a boy playing in the Green Street (then Union Grove) cemetery.

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“… Five pieces of marble — two in the base, two parallel upright pieces, seven inches apart, and a horizontal top piece.”

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I been all through this cemetery. There are relatively few markers there. This, however, still stands. It is the double headstone of my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert and his wife Adeline Hampton Colvert. Though it is possible that there once were others, it is now the only one of its kind in Green Street. Was this the monument that killed Noisey Stevenson?

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

Roadtrip Chronicles, no. 1: Statesville cemeteries.

I made it to Statesville in good time Sunday and drove straight to the only place I really know there — South Green Street. My great-aunt, Louise Colvert Renwick, had lived there for decades, across from the street from the Green Street cemetery. As I approached her house, my eye caught a small memorial just off the curb.

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Funny what you see when you’re looking. (And look closely at the plaque. Committee member Natalie Renwick is my first cousin, once removed.)

It seems odd to me that, when we were all gathered at Aunt Louise’s for the first Colvert-McNeely reunion, no one mentioned that Colverts and McNeelys were buried across the street. (Or maybe my 14 year-old self just paid no attention?) I’ve only found three graves — those of John Colvert, his wife Addie Hampton Colvert, and their daughter Selma — but there are certainly many more. Lon W. Colvert, for one. (Or was it? His death certificate indicates “Union Grove,” but why would he have been buried up there?*) And his son John W. Colvert II. And Addie McNeely Smith and Elethea McNeely Weaver and Irving McNeely Weaver, who was brought home from New Jersey for burial.

The cemetery looks like this though:

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And not because it’s empty. Though closed to burials for 50 or more years, it is probably nearly full of graves either unmarked or with lost or destroyed markers. Here’s one that’s nicely marked, however, and that would I recall before 24 hours had passed:

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From Green Street, I headed across town to Belmont, Statesville’s newer black cemetery. I knew Aunt Louise, her husband and son Lewis C. Renwick Sr. and Jr. were buried in Belmont, and I was looking for several McNeelys whose death certificates noted their burials here. I found Ida Mae Colvert Stockton‘s daughter Lillie Stockton Ramseur (1911-1980) and her husband Samuel S. Ramseur (1912-1989). Then Golar Colvert Bradshaw‘s husband William Bradshaw (1894-1955) and son William Colvert Bradshaw (1921-1988). (William was buried with his second wife. Golar, who died in 1937, presumably was interred at Green Street.) No McNeelys though. I expected to find both Lizzie McNeely Long and Edward McNeely, who had a double funeral in 1950, but their graves seem to be unmarked.

I was also looking for my great-grandmother, Carrie McNeely Colvert Taylor. The whole business was turning into a big disappointment. At street’s edge, I turned to head back to my car. And gasped. There, at my feet, wedged at the base of a tree:

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What in the world? This is clearly not a gravesite. And, on the other side of the tree, there’s an identical stamped concrete marker for Lewis C. Renwick Sr., who died almost exactly a year after Carrie. What’s odd, though, is that he has a granite marker a couple hundred feet away in another section of the cemetery with his wife (Carrie’s daughter Louise) and oldest son. Is Grandma Carrie actually buried in the Renwicks’ family plot? Were her and Lewis Renwick’s makeshift stones pulled up to be replaced by better markers? If so, where is Grandma Carrie’s? And why were both dumped at the edge of the cemetery?

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Here’s an overview of Belmont cemetery. (1) is the approximate location of Carrie M.C. Taylor’s broken marker. (2) is the approximate location of the Renwick plot.

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I’ll pose those questions to Statesville’s cemetery department. If Grandma Carrie has no permanent stone, she’ll get one.

* After noticing that Irving Weaver’s obit also mentioned Union Grove cemetery, though the McNeelys had no ties to that township in northern Iredell County, I searched for clues in contemporary newspapers. Mystery cleared. Green Street cemetery is Union Grove cemetery:

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The Evening Mascot (Statesville), 3 April 1909.

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