Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Virginia

We got strayed apart.

I was thinking about Cousin Tilithia when I was a little girl.  She had a restaurant large enough to work in and serve patrons.  It wasn’t real big, but they were serving patrons, and Mama carried me up there, and we spent the night there.  And whenever she’d come to Wilson she’d stay with us.  

Tilithia Godbold, she lived in Norfolk, and she married this man.  That wasn’t her children’s daddy.  King was her children’s daddy.  Godbold was the man she married later. He lived over in Rocky Mount, and he worked in the roundhouse or something.  I think he fixed the train, but he wasn’t the one on the train.  And Godbold, Tilithia’s husband, he stayed there in Rocky Mount.  ‘Cause Tilithia lived in Norfolk.  Her and her five or six girls or whatever it was, and she was running what they call the Strand Café.  And it was down on the first floor, and they lived up over it.  Go out there, and it was a sleeping compartment.  I was over there one time, and I remember it.  I think I was about seven or eight years old.  Went with Mama over there.  We was just running all over the place.  She had us waiting tables.  I wanted to wait tables. I was wondering, I asked Mama, “Well, why come we couldn’t have a place like that?”  And all that food!  Look like whatever the food was – I didn’t even know what it was ‘cause we ain’t never had none.  It was a whole lot of stuff, look like they had, I didn’t want it, but then I know it looked good, and we ate down there in the café.  

And another time Mama took me over there on the train to see her.  And it was right down in South Philadelphia where we went to their house.  Where they was staying.  And when I moved up here, her sister, she was telling me ‘bout how the children were there in Norfolk, her sister and all them.  I said, well, I could remember some of them, but I don’t remember what –  and I asked where some of the girls was.  Some of them in Norfolk and some of ‘em, one’s dead.  [Inaudible] the family.  We got strayed apart. 

My grandmother reminisced fondly of “Ta-LIE-a-thy” and her cafe, but was not entirely sure how they were related. Not long into my research, I discovered that Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney was born 1878 to Joshua and Amelia Aldridge Brewington. She was, then, the first cousin of my grandmother’s father, J. Thomas Aldridge. Tilithia married Emanuel King in 1898 and, by 1910, the couple and their daughters Juanita, Elizabeth, Amelia, May Bell and Tilithia had settled in Norfolk, Virginia. Tilithia and Emanuel divorced and, by 1920, she was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold and running her cafe. Her marriage to Godbold did not last, and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.
This was about all I could locate on Cousin Tilithia until 2009, when I met — genealogically speaking — B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell (and my fourth cousin.)  Ours has been a most fecund collaboration, and it was she who discovered Tilithia’s obit and what had become of her daughters. My grandmother would have pleased to know that the branches of our family had found their way back from being “strayed apart.”

Image Virginian Pilot, 22 November 1965.

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