North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Treasures.

I’m in D.C. for work this week, and I was able to steal away from my conference to spend a few hours with O.H.D., my grandmother’s first cousin. Cousin O. has lived in the District since 1940 and in her Capitol Hill row house since 1945. Our conversation was wide-ranging, but I, of course, drew out stories of our family’s history. Cousin O. spoke of my grandmother Hattie, of my grandfather, of her grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge (from whom she received her middle name), of her uncles Johnny and Zebedee Aldridge, of C.E. “Uncle Columb” Artis, of her aunts Lula and Frances Aldridge, of Uncle Fred Randall, of Alberta Artis Cooper, of C.C. Coley (in whose restaurants she occasionally filled in as cashier and in whose convertible she rode during Howard University homecoming parades), of Lucian and Susie Henderson, and of many others. She knows me well and had set aside a tiny treasure she’d recently uncovered — a postage stamp-sized photo of her first cousin, James Earl Aldridge. Cousin Earl, born the year before Cousin O., was the son of John and Ora Mozingo Aldridge. He passed away in 1975. As always, love and thanks, Cousin O.

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James E. Aldridge Sr. (1919-1975).

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Cousin Dollie.

Said my grandmother:

The house where Dollie, Cousin Min’s sister, lived, well, they had gone to Goldsboro to live.  I think.  First they were living in Mount Olive, then Dudley.  She married Yancey Musgrave. He was a brown-skinned man. And Dollie used to visit, too.  She had asthma real bad.  And she used to come home and have to sit up.   You had to take a quilt and fold it up and put it up in the bed for her to sit up on.  ‘Cause she couldn’t lay down.  She couldn’t breathe. I don’t know what become of Dollie. Her and Cousin Min’s mama was Ann Elizabeth.  Mama Sarah’s sister.  They had a brother named Daniel.  Yeah.  Daniel.  Daniel, he lived, he come to Wilson and stayed with us a while, and then went back to Goldsboro.  Got married anyway and had a whole bunch of children.  And come up to …  I believe he come up to Baltimore.  And he had a whole lot of children.

I’ve written of Daniel Simmons and Minnie Simmons Budd here. With Annie C. “Dollie” Simmons Musgrave, they were the only children of Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons to live to adulthood. My grandmother’s “Mama” was their aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. Her mother Bessie was their first cousin.

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Annie C. “Dollie” Simmons Musgrave, perhaps in Norfolk.

Dollie Simmons Musgrave died in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1946 after a battle with cervical cancer. (She apparently had remarried to a Green — she and Yancey divorced? — but I do not know who, where or when. Her death certificate erroneously lists her mother as Annie Green, rather than Henderson.)

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Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

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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, Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

The last will and testament of Anna Henderson Simmons.

STATE OF INDIANA, CASS COUNTY, SS:

BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the 10th day of July, 1906, the following proceedings were had in the Cass Circuit of Indiana, in the matter of the Estate of Anna Simmons, deceased, as entered of record in Probate Order Book No. 31, page 589, which proceedings are in the words and figures as Follows, to-wit:

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF ANNA SIMMONS, DECEASED         PROBATE OF WILL, July 10, 1906.

Comes now on this 10th day of July 1906, John W. Markley, one of the subscribing witnesses and presents to the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, for probate the will of Anna Simmons, deceased, dated May 14th of May [sic] 1906, and shows by the affidavit of John W. Markley one of the subscribing witnesses to said will in proof thereof, that at the time of execution of said will the said Anna Simmons was a person over twenty one years of age, of sound disposing Mind and Memory and not under any coercion or restraint, and that said decedent departed this life testate in Cass County in the State of Indiana, on the 16th day of June, 1906. And thereupon said will is admitted to probate by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, And said will and the affidavit of John W. Markley in proof thereof are now spread of record by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, in the Will records of Cass County Indiana, as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, which will and affidavit in proof thereof are in these words

In the name of the benevolent Father of all

I Anna Simmons wife of Montraville Simmons being of sound and disposing mind and memory do hereby make and publish this as my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking and making void any and all wills by me at any time heretofore made.

First: I direct that all my just debts be paid out of the first moneys coming to the hands of my executor hereinafter named.

Second. I will devise and bequeath to my children, Moncy A. Bassett, Doctor T. Simmons, Susan Bassett, Montraville Simmons Jr. and Edward Simmons, a certain mortgage and debt secured thereby, which mortgage is executed by Montraville Simmons March 23rd 1903, to me to secure money advanced to said Montraville Simmons by me of funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate. Said mortgage is recorded in the Recorders office in Cass County Indiana in mortgage record No. 49 page 314, but the devisees aforesaid are not to compel a collection of said debt as long as the interest on said debt is paid by the said Montraville Simmons.

In the event that said Montraville Simmons becomes incapacitated for work and has no income so he is able to pay any interest on said mortgage & it becomes necessary to foreclose said mortgage to preserve the property and debt, it is my desire that the children above named look after the comfort of their father and to such end that they use such p[art of the prcoeeds said mortgage as is necessary to provide for his subsistence and comfort.

I hereby appoint Doctor T. Simmons my son to act as Executor of this my last will.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 14 day of May 1906.  Anna (X) Simmons

Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield

Subscribed by the testator in our presence as his last will and testament and at her request, subscribed by us in her presence and in the presence and in the presence of such other as witnesses to said last will.     John W. Markley, Benjamin D. Bradfield

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Beyond the gobsmackedness of finding that Anna Henderson Simmons had a will at all, there is this:

  • The will is dated just a month before Anna died on 16 June 1906. Her mind was sound, but she knew her body was failing.
  • All she left to her children was the mortgage she held on her husband Montraville Simmons’ property. She had secured the mortgage to ensure that Montraville repaid a loan she made him.
  • Incredibly, she cites as the source of the money lent “funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate.” Funds received from her father’s estate???? Anna’s father, James Henderson — my great-great-great-great-grandfather — died about 1890 in Wayne County, North Carolina. I have found no probate records for him there or anywhere.
  • Montraville executed the mortgage on 23 March 1903. According to a lawsuit Anna filed in December 1905 — which had the effect of stalling claims by Montraville’s many and exasperated creditors — Montraville was in debt to her for $3500. While some small portion of that may have been inherited from her father, it is hard to believe that James Henderson’s estate totaled $3500, much less that his estate remitted that amount to the one child (of his dozen or so then living children) that he had not seen in 30 years.
  • Even if their father defaulted on the mortgage — and despite his abuse of his family, about which more later — Anna wanted her children to care for him. She could not have known, of course, that her compassion would be wasted, as he would remarry within the year and set off a new wave of scandal.
  • To wit, from the 9 April 1907 Logansport Pharos-Tribune: “Married [to Emily Langford] March 11 and separated March 16, and in the meantime to have another darky come along and love his wife right in his presence is the ‘terrible’  experience which Montraville Simmons was ‘his’ during this short but eventful honeymoon.” Montraville (described as a “darky of large proportions”) claimed that Emily allowed William Wilson to “hug, kiss, caress and fondle” her in his presence and, when he protested tried to kill him with a flatiron. Montraville filed for divorce, but on 9 July 1907, the Pharos-Tribune reported that the Monticello, Indiana, paper had reported that Montraville “is gathering up the ragged remains of his matrimonial venture in our local colored colony” and had dropped the divorce action. This dysfunction roiled on into 1908, when the Logansport Daily Reporter alerted Cass County that Montraville had beaten Emily badly for breaking a mug and spilling his beer.
  • Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield was an Irish-born doctor who practiced for decades in Cass County. John W. Markley owned a title company.
  • Dock Simmons did not prove to be a worthy steward of his mother’s estate. (To be fair, the “more notoriety” label was probably more applicable to his father than to him.) From the 9 February 1909 edition of the Logansport Times:

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  • Anna’s legacy disappeared under a flurry of lawsuits. Later newspaper reports show that by 1909 Montraville and the children were under siege by various creditors holding judgments totaling hundreds of dollars. Montraville Jr. died in 1910 at the tender age of 28; his father followed two years later.
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Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

At rest in Indiana.

It pays to check back. Ancestry.com is continuously adding new databases, and I was alerted yesterday that Indiana death certificates are now available. I didn’t find any new Henderson-Simmonses, but was pleased to discover details of the lives and deaths of those I knew of.

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I’ve discussed the myriad inaccuracies in this death certificate before, but here’s a quick summary: (1) her name was Anna; (2) she was not white; (3) she was born circa 1852, not 1856; (4) her father was James Henderson, not Harrison; and (5) her mother’s maiden name was Eliza Armwood, not Henderson. The certifying physician, Benjamin D. Bradfield, is the same one who treated Anna’s son Dock Simmons for horrifying burns the previous August.

  • Montraville Simmons Jr. (1882-1910)

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Montraville? Montreville? Monteville? Which was it? Junior’s birth place was correctly listed as Canada, and his parents and their birth places were correctly stated. He died of diffuse tuberculosis and a lumbar abscess. (The certifying doctor lived in Young America, Indiana.) His sister Muncie Bassett was informant and reported that Montraville was single. In fact, he was divorced. As reported in the 10 February 1909 edition of the Logansport Daily Tribune, “Jessie Simmons was granted a divorce yesterday from Montraville Simmons, Jr., and was given custody of their one child. The defendant is permitted to visit the child once a week.”

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The irascible Montraville Simmons Sr. died of kidney disease. He was twice-widowed (his first wife, Victoria Brown, died within a few years of their marriage in Ontario, Canada) and once-divorced (from a third wife.) His father is correctly identified; his mother was Hepsie Dixon of Duplin County, North Carolina. Son Dock Simmons was informant.

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Edward Simmons also died of tuberculosis. His birth place is precisely identified as Dresden, Ontario, Canada. His mother’s middle initial is revealed to stand for “Jean,” though I think it much more likely that it was “Jane.” His wife, Cecilia Gilbreath Simmons, was his informant.

  • Susan Simmons Bassett (1878-1937)

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Susie Bassett died of a pulmonary embolism in Kokomo. Her death certificate reports that she was born in North Carolina, which is consistent with the 1881 census of Chatham, Kent, Ontario, Canada, in which she is listed as U.S.-born. (Though her brothers Doctor and Montreville were born in Canada.) She was married to Britton Bassett Jr., great-grandson of the founder (also named Britton) of the antebellum  Bassett settlement of North Carolina-born free people of color located in northwest Howard County.

  • Muncie Simmons Bassett Palmer (1873-1942)

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Muncie Palmer was apparently skipped over in the 1881 Canada census. She and Susie appear to have been born during a brief return by her parents to North Carolina from Canada in the mid-1870s. Muncie succumbed to the same disease that killed her father. Newton Palmer was her second husband. The first was Daniel Bassett, a brother of Susie’s husband Britton Jr.

  • Harold Simmons (1904-1963)

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Astonishingly, Harold Simmons seems to have been the ONLY grandchild of Montraville and Anna Henderson Simmons to reach adulthood. (And there seem only to have been three to begin with. Susan’s two died in childhood.) Harold never married and apparently had no children. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and he was reared in his stepfather Ernest Griggs’ household. At the time of his death, he was living in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana, southeast of Kokomo and Logansport.

All death certificates found at Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

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North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Get to know your people.

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Effenus Henderson (left) is an internationally known human resources and diversity thought leader. Wade Henderson (right) is president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. About 5 years ago, the two met at National Urban League conference. “You’re from North Carolina?,” asked Wade, “My father was from Wilson.” “You need to talk to Lisa,” said Effenus. Wade did. And last week there we all were, in Dudley, North Carolina — birthplace of our grandparents — at the Henderson Family Reunion.

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North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The Alex Henderson branch.

One of the highlights of my family reunion was reconnecting after many years with members of the Alex Henderson branch of the family. One of Alex’s granddaughters had displayed photos of members of this branch at the first reunion back in 1990, and I’ve been trying to get copies ever since. Many thanks to cousin E.B.H., who brought them to the meet-and-greet Friday evening and allowed me to make copies.

The 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina lists my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson, 52, carpenter, with his second wife Eliza, 25, and children Anna J., 8, Susan, 6, Hepsie, 4, and Alexander, 1. By the 1870 census, the family had moved about ten miles southeast to Faisons township, Duplin County: James Henderson, 52, farmer, wife Eliza and children Ann, 17, Susan, 16, Hepsey, 14, Aleck, 13, John H., 11, Nancy, 6, and Betty, 3, plus James’ son (by his first “wife”) James, 27, and boarders James Ammons and Thomas Cox.  In the 1880 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson, 62, wife Eliza, and children Alexander, John, Nancy, Julia, Edward, and Lewellen.

On 19 March 1884, Alex married Mary Odom in Faison, Duplin County. The marriage register lists him as a resident of Wayne County, a few miles north. Witnesses to the ceremony included Isham R. Smith, who had married Alex’s younger sister Nancy in 1881, and James Henderson. (His father or his brother?)

AH marr

Alex and Mary settled in Mount Olive, Wayne County, where they are found in the 1900 census: Alex Henderson, 39, farmer; wife Mary, 35; children Willie, 17, Mary J., 11, Theo., 9, and Connie, 6; a lodger and three boarders. However, Alex was set to become the only one of James Henderson’s sons to leave farming, and the 1906 Goldsboro city directory lists him and his oldest son Will Henderson as laborers living at 615 North George Street.

Will had married Susan “Sudie” or “Susie” Budd, daughter of John and Alice Budd, on 26 December 1903. His sister Mary Jane was the next of Alex’ children to marry, tying the knot with Robert Wooten of Lenoir County on 24 February 1906 at her father’s house. A “Holy preacher” performed the ceremony and her first cousin Oscar Smith, son of Nancy Henderson Smith, were witnesses. (Another witness, John H. Smith, may have been Nancy’s son Johnnie.)

By 1910, Alex and his three-generation family had settled into a house at 762 North James, just inside Goldsboro’s northern city limits. The census of that year shows Alex Henderson, 50, laborer on city streets;  wife Mary, 44; son William, 23, felt factory laborer; William’s wife Susie, 23, laundress; daughter Mary Jane Henderson, 21, and her husband Robert, 27, hostler, and son Percy, 3 [this family’s last name was actually Wooten]; William’s sons Johnnie, 5, and William, 2; Alex’ son Theodore, 18, laborer at Goldsboro Buggy Company), and daughter Carnie, 16, nurse for a private family), plus five male boarders. [Oddly, as shown in this image from the 191x Sanborn map of Goldsboro, 760 and 762 North James were located between 704 and 712 and across from 709. The house is no longer standing, and the area is now primarily light industrial. Saint Stephen Baptist Church, however, has moved a few blocks north and is still attended by Henderson family members.] Later that summer, Mary Jane and Robert’s unnamed six-day-old infant died of convulsions. Mary’s aunt Nancy’s husband Isham Smith, an undertaker, buried the baby.

1912 Sanborn

The 1911-12 Goldsboro city directory shows that Alexander, Connie, Theodore and William Henderson continued to share the house on North James Street, by then renumbered as 708.

In October 1911, Connie Henderson gave birth to her only child, Roland Alexander Smith. Just before Christmas, 1913, Connie married Roland’s father John A. Smith, 21, son of Jacob and Cora Smith, at the Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro. Reverend Clarence Dillard performed the ceremony, and one of the witnesses was Connie’s in-law James Guess, an undertaker who was married to her cousin Annie Smith Guess, daughter of Isham and Nancy Henderson Smith.

In February 1916, Alex’ younger son Theodore, 22, married Bettie Hargrove, 20. Four months later, on 13 June, Alex Henderson was dead. Nephew-in-law James Guess buried him in Elmwood, Goldsboro’s African-American cemetery.

In the 1920 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: at 710 James Street, widow Mary Henderson, 54; son-in-law Robert Wooten, 40; daughter Mary Wooten, 30; their children Leroy, 12, George, 7, and Joseph, 2; grandson Roland Smith, 8; and four roomers. Little Roland was listed again in the home of his parents John and Connie Smith at 346 Thompson Street. Will had finally moved his family out of the “home house,” and he, Susie, and children John, Willie and Mary Alice are found at 219 East Vine Street in Goldsboro. Theodore is not listed in the census that year.

Mary J. Odom Henderson died 7 September 1926 in a hospital in Goldsboro after undergoing surgery for a strangulated hernia. Her death certificate reports that she was 60 years old and born in “Simpson” County. Her son Will Henderson was informant, and her husband’s nephew-in-law James Guess buried her in Elmwood.

At some point before 1930, the Smith family cast off into the Great Migration, fetching up in New Britain, Connecticut. In the census that year, John A. Smith, 39, wife Constance (“Connie,” no longer), 34, and son Roland, 17, shared a home at 311 East Enoch Street with another family, paying $18 a month. John worked as a laborer in a garage. Back in Goldsboro, Robert Wooten, 42, wife Mary Jane, 39, and their children Leroy, 22, George R., 18, Joseph, 13, Harrell, 7, Cleveland, 4, Mary E., 5, and Ruth A., 11 months, shared their household with three boarders, one of whom was the peripatetic “Rowland” Smith, 19, Connie’s son. Theodore Henderson was living in Goldsboro at 210 Brazil Street with a wife named Sudie, rather than the Bettie he married in 1916. He worked in cotton storage. William’s family seems to have been passed over by enumerators in 1930.

Connie & Roland Smith

Connie H. Smith and son Roland A. Smith, n.d.

Theodore Henderson was the first of Will and Susie’s children to pass away. He died of knife wounds on 15 November 1936 at the age of 45. His death certificate states that he was born in Duplin County to Elex Henderson and Mary Odom, both of Wayne, and married to Bettie Henderson. Cousin James Guess buried him in Elmwood cemetery.

The 1940 census found Will and Susie Henderson and their daughter Margaret trying their fortunes further afield. They appear in Danville, Virginia, renting a house at 625 Upper Street. Will had found work cleaning machines at a mattress factory and reported to the enumerator that the family had been living in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1935. The Smiths remained in New Britain, Connecticut, one of a handful of African-American families on Oak Street. The family occupied a second-floor apartment at #55, and John worked as a molders helper at an electrical factory while Roland was a garage handyman and Constance tended to matters at home. Robert and Mary Jane Wooten were still in Goldsboro, living at 908 North Centre Street with their children Harold, Mary E., Cleveland, and Angeline.

Rev. William H. Henderson died 6 December 1959 at his home at 712 North John Street, Goldsboro, of cerebral apoplexy.  His death certificate notes that he was born 1 December 1878 to Alaxander Henderson and Mary Odom and was married to Susie B. Henderson. The informant was his daughter Margaret Brown of 826 North Center, Goldsboro. He was buried in Lightner cemetery, just south of Goldsboro in the Mar-Mac community. (James Guess had died two years earlier and thus ended his long years of service to his wife’s extended family.)

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Will Henderson, 1937.

Susie Budd Henderson died 20 November 1964 at her daughter Margaret’s home at 826 North Centre Street. Her death certificate reports that she was born 20 June 1891 to John Budd and Alice Jones. She was buried 22 November 1964 at Lightner cemetery.

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Susie Budd Henderson, 1937.

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R.W.B., only living grandchild of Alex and Mary Odom Henderson, July 2016.

Many thanks to Will and Susie Henderson’s granddaughter E.B.H. for copies of old photos of Alex’ descendants. I took the photo of Cousin R. last week at our family reunion. — LYH

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