Land, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Uncle Lucian’s house.

My grandmother has been gone more than 13 years, and there are still days that I think, “Gahh! Mother Dear would be so tickled to hear this!” Yesterday was one of them.

After my Carter collateral kin post last week, my cousin C.J. posted the photos of the Carter brothers on her Facebook page. (Her great-grandfather was Milford Carter Sr.) Her grandfather’s first cousin D.C. responded, mentioning that he is a son of Johnnie Carter. I pounced. After a couple of email exchanges last week, I called D.C. yesterday. I clarified for him who my grandmother was and what her relationship was to Lucian Henderson. Not only did D.C. know who Uncle Lucian and Aunt Susie were, he was born in their house! Presumably the Carters moved in after Lucian’s death in 1934, but Johnnie and his wife Atha cared for both Lucian and Susie in their declining years. Susie died around 1940, and four years later the family sold the house and moved a few miles southeast to Clinton. The house eventually burned down, but was rebuilt in the same spot in essentially the same form. My grandmother had loved visiting her great-uncle Lucian’s house, and her warm memories of her time there inspired the name of this blog.

Several years ago, the late Mae Brewington Marks of Dudley sent me a photo of a house near the intersection of Sleepy Creek Road and Emmaus Church Road that she believed to have been Lucian Henderson’s. (Where is that picture???) She was right. I’d been a little skeptical because it looks too new to have been Lucian and Susie Henderson’s home. D.C.’s explanation and confirmation made my day.

Land, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The lots.

Said my grandmother:

And Johnnie [Aldridge], he called me, and I was working to the hospital. And he called me and told me, at least he called the hospital and wanted to speak to me: “Well, if you want to see your daddy – you said you ain’t never seen him before – come down here. He’s down here now. So, don’t let him know I told you.” [Laughs.] So, I went down – I said, well, I’m gon go down there and see Silas Cox ‘bout selling the lots where Grandma Mag’s house was on. So, I got off. So, I got Mr. Fisher to take me down there. I said, “Mm, I wanna see that man.”


My grandmother inherited two lots in Dudley from Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, her great-aunt and foster mother. (Because she had been informally adopted by Sarah and her husband Jesse Jacobs, my grandmother used the surname Jacobs until adulthood, when she reverted to Henderson.)

Mama had the lot where the house was, where Grandma Mag lived. Had that house built for her. The house they was staying in was up by the railroad, was just about to fall down. Somewhere down up there by where the Congregational Church is. And she built that house down there next to Babe Winn. I don’t think it was but one room. The porch, one room, and a little shed kitchen, a little, small, like a closet almost, and had the stove in it. Then had a stove in the room where she was, one of them round-bellied stoves where you take the top off and put wood in it. I remember that. And Sis Winn, her name was Annie, and she had a daughter, and she named her Annie after her. So they called the mother Sis, and they called the daughter Annie. And they were living in the house right next to her, Grandma Mag’s house. As I can remember. And after Grandma Mag died, the old preacher stayed in there and burnt it up.

I posted a query to my cousins:

Can someone tell me if the Dudley VFD was at its present location in the 1960s? I’m trying to figure out where two lots were on a 1967 plat. The plat mentions NC Secondary Road 1120 (which seems to run east-west), Simmons Street (abandoned) and Walnut Street (abandoned). James Newkirk and William Newkirk owned land on either side of where the fire station was on 1120. Thank you!

No luck.

Dudley Volunteer Fire Department is now on Highway 117 Alternate, south of its intersection with O’Berry Road.  A Google search revealed that O’Berry was formerly known as Secondary Road 1120, so I now know that the fire department has moved around the corner.  My father recalled that his mother’s lots were just west of the intersection, behind Silas Cox’s feed silos.

Here’s an aerial view of Dudley today: dudley intersection

Other than Road 1120/O’Berry Road at (4), there’s not much of anything that matches the plat. However, with the clue about the (1) feed or fertilizer silos, I’ve identified (2) as the approximate location of Grandma Mag’s house and the lots. (3) is Highway 117 Alternate.

My grandmother finally sold her lots in the late 1960s, ending more than 90 years of land ownership in Dudley by my line of Hendersons.


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

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Her story.

Bessie Henderson has died, and her children remain.

Mamie Lee was the first child, and my grandmother was the second. And the second Hattie Mae.  The first was Sarah Henderson Jacobs’ daughter.

That’s who they named me after.  I asked them why they named me Hattie after a dead person.  “What?  You don’t like Hattie?  Well, I just thought ’twas nice.”  And after I looked at her picture, I said, “Well, she was pretty.”  Since Jack knew her, and he wanted her picture, when I come up to Philadelphia, I give him the picture.  ‘Cause they grew up together.  And his children thought she was white, wanted to know what old white girl was that.  Mama never talked about her.  But A’nt Nina, she would tell everything.  Mama got mad with her, said, “You always bringing up something.  You don’t know what you talking ’bout.”  And she never did say – well, if she said, I wouldn’t have known him, but I never did ask her – who Hattie’s daddy was.  I figured he was white.  Because she looked — her hair and features, you know, white.

Jack Henderson told my grandmother that he remembered “when she was got,” that he was nearby when it was happening, that Tom had Bessie over a barrel, literally.  Bookish and soft, James Thomas Aldridge tended his mother and younger sisters and his ailing father’s dry goods store while dreaming of a bigger and better world faraway.  He would have been a nerd if they’d had them then.  Bessie’s pregnancy changed his life:

‘Cause his mama didn’t want her son to get married.  ‘Cause he wanted to be a doctor, and so she was gon help him be one.  And if he got married and started having children, he couldn’t be a doctor.  And down there in a little town like Dudley, you had to go away from there ‘cause it wont no more than ‘bout sixth, seventh grade.  And you had to go to a larger place if you wanted to go to school. 

So the pregnancy stirred him, thrust him out toward his reveries, away from Dudley and the grey-eyed baby whose mother was soon to die.  Tom, already 24 years old but claiming to be much younger, fled to Raleigh, where he entered Shaw University’s preparatory division and exited its college eight years later on his way to Meharry Medical School.  He would become a doctor, indeed, a big-time, money-making, Cadillac-driving Saint Louis doctor, elected president of the National Medical Association in 1961.  But it’s his daughter’s story we’re telling right now, the daughter who never got past sixth grade, who never met her father ‘til she was good and grown.

Let me back up.  Sometime around 1905, Mama Sarah and her husband, a good man named Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., moved 40 miles north of Dudley to Wilson, a tobacco market bursting with new golden-leaf millionaires.  Colored folks from all over coastal Carolina, drawn to the town’s bustling opportunity, built a vibrant community on the southeast side of the railroad that cleaved the town in two. Sarah took in washing and ironing, did seasonal work at tobacco factories, and reared Jesse’s brood, who turned out largely ungrateful.  Her own daughter died in 1908, aged 14, and nobody knows why.

Meanwhile, down in Dudley, Lewis and Mag Henderson faded in their iron bedstead with only their teenaged granddaughter Bessie to manage the household.  Lucian Henderson likely farmed his parents’ reduced acreage with his own, but it was left to Bessie to cook and clean and sew and launder and do all the other relentless drudgery that needed doing.  Her mother was long dead, and there were no other close relatives nearby upon whom to rely.  Did she resent her responsibilities?   Did she chafe under the grind of pot-stirring and water-fetching and skillet-scouring and jar-slopping?  What did she want?  She was a chancey girl, a risk-taker, one who took her pleasure where she found it, even when it clamped the lid tighter on her trap.  She was a beautiful girl, but nearly unmarriageable, as she dragged her heavy belly through the spring of 1910.

Bessie gave birth to my Hattie Mae on June 6, very likely attended by the child’s grandmother, a midwife named Louvicey Artis Aldridge.  Though Vicey had forbidden a marriage between this girl and her special boy Tom, she was not altogether unmoved by her grandbaby, who looked much more Aldridge than Henderson. Vicey and her daughters played small intermittent roles in my grandmother’s early life, but there is no doubt: Sarah Henderson Jacobs was the family’s matriarch and matrix, though no children of her own lived even to adulthood. She reared Bessie’s children and kept them clothed and fed and sheltered, if not exactly loved.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Religion

Church home, no. 1: First Congregational, Dudley NC.

“History of the First Congregational Church of Dudley, North Carolina, Given by Mr. General Washington Simmons, born December 22, 1856.”

In 1867, after Emancipation, came the first school for Dudley, taught four months by a white confederate soldier, John P. Casey, who was paid by the community families. The only textbook was the “blue-back speller.”

George Washington Simmons, father of General W. Simmons, corresponded with Mr. James O’Hara in Wilmington, Delaware, though whom the services of another white friend, Miss Jane Allen of Delaware, were secured for another two months’ session. She, too was paid by families.

From Oberlin College in 1868, came D.C. Granison, 23 or 24 years of age, the first Negro teacher, who remained for two years, residing in the home of George Washington Simmons. … His correspondence with the A.M.A. brought visitors in 1870, among whom were many to be remembered, especially Rev. D.D. Dodge, at that time pastor of the First Congregational Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. With his guidance our first Sunday School was organized. After several visits, he sent Rev. John Scott of Naugatuck, Connecticut, who began work in 1870. …

Just after Rev. Scott’s ordination, the First Congregational Church of Dudley was organized in what is known as the old “mission home.” … Charter members of the church were George Washington Simmons, James KingLevi Winn Sr., Levi Winn Jr., Henry Winn, George Winn, and members of their families. The first converts were Charity Faison and Sylvania Simmons. They were baptized in the “Yellow Marsh Pond” just north of the cemetery. …

Volume II [of the church records] summarizes the history from March 9, 1870. … The list of members, dating from 1870, is divided by male and female. It includes the names of Frank Cobb, William AldridgeBryant Simmons (Sr. and Jr.), John AldridgeLewis Henderson, Levi Wynn, Richard Brunt, Amos Bowden, Charles Boseman, M.A. Manuel, Solomon Jacobs, George Washington Simmons, …

From the souvenir bulletin of the 100th Anniversary, First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, 1870-1880.  Copy of bulletin in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.