Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Photographs

Rest in peace, Melroy Houser Sr.

My grandmother’s mother’s family often sought the warmth of other suns, and by 1940 all of her aunts and uncles had left North Carolina. In consequence, I did not grow up knowing my McNeely kin, but I often heard wonderful stories of them. My grandmother treasured all her aunts, but had a special regard for Emma McNeely Houser, who migrated to Bayonne, New Jersey, around the time my grandmother was born. All three of Emma’s children have long passed away, and she had only a handful of grandchildren. Just over a year ago, I traveled to Augusta, Georgia, to meet her son Henry‘s middle son Melroy Houser. I wrote here of my visit, which was filled with reminiscing and easy laughter.

I received word from one of his sons that Cousin Melroy passed this morning. I wish that I had gotten to know him better, but will always cherish those hours on a warm May afternoon. My deepest condolences to his children, who, like me, carry a legacy as McNeely great-grandchildren.


Maternal Kin

Mini McNeely reunion.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a delightful Friday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia, getting to know my cousin M.H. and his wife C.H. M.’s grandmother was Emma McNeely Houser, beloved and much-admired aunt of my grandmother Margaret Colvert Allen. M. and C. were every bit as warm and friendly as I’d expected, and the whole time we laughed and swapped stories. I wish he’d been able to meet my grandmother.

Here’s me and M.:


And here’s my great-grandmother Carrie McNeely Colvert Taylor, Aunt Emma holding a grandchild, Aunt Minnie McNeely Hargrove, and Uncle John McNeely, sometime in the early 1940s in Jersey City, New Jersey:

McNEELY -- McNeely Siblings

Maternal Kin, Migration

Where we lived: Constable Hook, Bayonne, New Jersey.

My grandmother said that her aunt Emma was the first of the McNeelys to move to Bayonne, New Jersey. She and her husband, Irving Houser, who had a job with Standard Oil, settled there around 1910. Over the next 15-20 years, most of the McNeelys followed. The family settled in an area a few blocks square, not far from the refinery that dominated Bayonne life:


(1) 87-A West 16th Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — The “home house,” as they say. This was Minnie McNeely‘s house, I believe, though her mother Martha Miller McNeely was the nominal head. Luther McNeely and his wife lived here for a stretch, as did Irving “Jay” McNeely when he moved North after his mother’s death. Margaret Colvert Allen stayed in this house during the summers she spent in New Jersey, and it is likely that Sarah McNeely Green also spent time here. Louise Colvert Renwick and Launie Mae Colvert Jones finished high school in Bayonne, and they probably lived on West 16th, too.

(2) 79 West 19th Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — John McNeely, wife Laura and stepdaughter Marie lived here.

(3) 88 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — another of John McNeely’s addresses.

(4) 92 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — the home of Emma and Irving Houser and children.

(5) 95 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — another of the Housers’ addresses.

(6) 392 Avenue C (corner of 17th) — Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, location of funerals of Martha M. McNeely, Wardenur Houser Jones, Henry A. Houser.

(7) 421 Avenue C (between Andrew Street and 18th) — another of the Housers’ addresses.

(8) 454 Avenue C (between 19th and 20th) — the home of Edward McNeely at the time of his death.

(9) 41 West 20th Street (between Avenue C and Broadway) — Friendship Baptist Church, location of John McNeely’s funeral.

(10) 73 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — perhaps the first of the Housers’ addresses.

Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History, Photographs

Emma McNeely Houser.


Aunt Emma was so pretty.  And I never heard her raise her voice.  Not ever.  And she was she was so sedate and so pretty.  We’d go to her house, and we’d eat, and everybody would get up and start – “Oh, goodness!  Leave the dishes alone,” she’d say, and we’d all go in the living room and sit down, and then she finally would let us get up and go clean up the kitchen. 


Photograph of Emma M. Houser in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson; interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Vocation

Irving Houser gets a McNeely Girl.

Me:  Okay, and Emma, she was up in Bayonne.

My grandmother:  This man went up there in his young years. I think he had an eye on her. People used to say that the men —  all of Mama and her sisters were supposed to have been catches, you know. They were good-looking women and everything, and they just said the men said it didn’t matter which one it was so long as they got one of them.

Me:  One of the McNeely girls?

My grandmother: McNeelys. Mm-hmm.

Me:  So he came back and married Aunt Emma and carried her to New Jersey. To Bayonne — oh! Irving Houser, Sr.


Irving L. Houser was born in 1885 in Iredell County to Alexander “Dan” and Lucy Houser. He and Emma McNeely were married 6 September 1910 in Statesville. The couple migrated to Bayonne, New Jersey, and settled on Andrew Street.

McNEELY -- Ervin Hauser & Emmer McNeely Marr Lic

Six years later, in a span of three days, Irving appeared twice in New York City newspapers. First:


Standard Oil Co. Tells Them They May Come Back, But Without Increase of Wages.


Says She Will Consult a Lawyer and Won’t Be Barred — Federal Conciliators at Work.

The Standard Oil Company refused yesterday to grant the wage increases demanded by employees whose strike has tied up practically every big Plant in the Constable Hook section of Bayonne, N.J. for more than a week, but offered to take the strikers back at the old wage scale whenever the men wanted to resume work.  The Committee of Ten, which learned these terms from George B. Hennessey, General Superintendent of the Bayonne plant, endeavored to report to the body of strikers.  The police prevented them because no police permit to hold a mass meeting had been requested, but one was issued for a meeting this morning, at which the strikers will decide whether to accept or decline the terms.


Pending today’s meeting, the strikers were quiet yesterday.  Early in the morning there had been some disorder at Avenue E and Twenty-fourth Street, bringing a squad of policemen, who fired as many more.  They caught Irving Houser of 92 Andrew Street, an employee of the Edible Products Company, which plant is near the Tidewater Oil Company, and locked him when they found a revolver in his pocket.

New York Times, 18 Oct 1916.


Bayonne, N.J.

Miss Viola Houser, of Orange, N.J., visited her brother and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Irving Houser, Andrew Street, on Sunday, October 10.

New York Age, 21 Oct 1916.

Amid social unrest and social calls, Irving and Emma had three children: Mildred Wardenur (1913), Henry A. (1915) and Irving L. Houser Jr.  (1920).  For many years, Irving worked in various jobs in an oil refinery, but by time he registered for the “Old Man’s Draft” of 1942, he was employed at Bayonne City Hall.  By then, he had purchased a house at 421 Avenue C, a site now occupied by Bayonne Giant Laundromat.  Irving Houser Sr. died in 1962.