Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Virginia

Remembering John C. Allen Sr. on the 60th anniversary of his death.

They sat rather stiffly side by side, each with hands clasped in lap. The occasion was their 50th anniversary, and granddaughter Marion captured the moment in the only photograph I have seen of them together.

50th Anniversary

Three years later, family gathered again on the day after Christmas to pay respects to John and Mary Agnes Holmes Allen.  Papa Allen retired to bed after dinner and never woke again.

ALLEN -- JC Allen Obit Cropped

Norfolk Journal and Guide, 2 January 1954.

He was buried in Pleasant Shade cemetery in Hampton, Virginia, near the graves of his son John Jr. and daughter Marion. IMG_1275

Top photo taken by Marion Allen Christian, 1953, copy in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson; bottom photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2011.

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

Remembering Grandma Carrie.

McNEELY -- Carrie M Colvert with corsage

Me: In her pictures she always looked stern.

My mother: Grandma? 

Me: Carrie.

Ma: Grandma Carrie?  I know it.  But she was funny.  She was funny to me.  She could say some of the, she could say some funny stuff.  I know that’s where Mama gets it from.  The little sayings. 


Statesville Landmark, 20 December 1957.

My grandmother didn’t think much of Charles V. Taylor:

Course she met this guy and married him that she had known him when she was a child.  Taylor.  And went to New Jersey.  She came back home, and Mama had high blood pressure, you know.  But she kept, her doctors kept it in check.  But he hadn’t let her go to the doctor for two times, and she had a stroke and died.  Oooo.  I could have killed that man.  I was so mad with that man I didn’t know what to do.  And when we went down there, Mama just got worse and worse.  She went to the hospital, and they did everything they could at the hospital, and then they let her come home.  And I went down there to see her one time, while she was at home, you know, and she couldn’t talk.  She couldn’t talk, I mean.  And she would try her best to tell me something.  And I just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried. And I didn’t know what she was trying to tell me.  So my sister lived not far from her.  And she was a cafeteria manager, but she would come to see Mama between the meals.  You know, in the morning breakfast and lunch, and then after dinner she’d come.  She really did take care of Mama when she was living with that Thing.  And she went to the hospital and stayed awhile, and he wouldn’t pay the hospital bill.  And I took a note out at the bank, and Louise paid her doctor’s bill and everything, and when she died, he tried to make us pay all the burial expenses.  And his brother came over there and told us, said, “Don’t you pay a penny.  ‘Cause he’s got money, and he’s supposed to use it for that.”  And said, “Don’t you do it.  Don’t you give it to him.”  And that man and the undertaker got together and planned all that stuff against us, you know.  The three of us.  It was terrible.  And Mama had a lot of beautiful clothes, you know, because this man bought her things.  And they were all in there looking at them.  I said, “I don’t want a thing.  I don’t want not one thing.”  I think I got a coat.  It was just like a spring coat.  It was lined.  And I think Louise insisted that I take it, but that was the only thing that I took.


McNEELY -- Carrie Colvert thoughtful

Remembering Caroline Martha Mary Fisher Valentine McNeely Colvert Taylor, who died 56 years ago today.


Interviews of my mother and Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

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

Sarah McNeely Green.


There were three uncles, and some male cousins, but the McNeelys were basically a family of women.  My grandmother was the middle daughter of her mother’s three and grew up among six aunts who had many girls.

Janie McNeely, called “Dot,” was the youngest of Henry and Martha McNeely’s daughters.  Born in 1894, she worked as a laundress and reared her children in Statesville’s Rabbit Town section before migrating to Columbus, Ohio, in the 1940s.  Janie’s oldest child was Sarah Mae McNeely, born in 1911. She was followed by Frances V. McNeely (1913), Willa Louise McNeely (1918), Carl Graham Taylor (1923) and William Maurice McNeely (1925).

Sarah worked with her mother and sister at Statesville Laundry in the early 1930s. Soon after, she joined her grandmother, uncle John, aunt Emma and cousins in Bayonne, New Jersey, where she married a Mr. Green. (No one, including her obituary writer, seems to know his first name.)


Statesville Landmark, 3 May 1937.

A few days later, in the Statesville Record‘s “News of Our Colored People”:

Image Statesville Record, 7 May 1937.

[Was Sarah survived by Mr. Green or not? Who was her father? And who were the extra aunt and all those uncles?]


Photographs in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

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

Lon W. Colvert.


Lon W. Colvert was born 10 June 1875 to Harriet Nicholson and John W. Colvert. He possibly was their second child and certainly was the only one to reach adulthood. My grandmother emphatically stated that his middle name was Walter, but her sister Launie Mae thought “Walker” – after his grandfather – and that’s the name that appears on certain records. Lon’s paternal grandparents reared him, but he was extremely close to his mother as an adult.

Lon was probably in his late teens when he arrived in Statesville from his family’s farm in the northern reaches of Iredell County. He was an ambitious young man with an eye on the main chance and a penchant for the shady that followed him even into his respectable years. By time he was 30, he was well-established downtown as a first-class barber, and the local paper obliged him with recognition:

Image Statesville Landmark, 7 May 1907

Lon and his first wife, Josephine Dalton, had three children, Mattie (1895), Golar Augusta (1897) and John Walker II (1898). Soon after Josephine’s death, he married Caroline M.M.F.V. McNeely and fathered three more daughters, Mary Louise (1906), Margaret Beulah (1908) and Launie Mae (1910).

In the mid-1920s, Lon’s business successes were short-circuited when his health began to fail. He passed away 23 October 1930, 83 years ago today.

Lon Walker Colvert Dies in Wallacetown.

Lon Walker Colvert, colored, 55 years old, died this morning at 1 o’clock at the home of his daughter, Gola Bradshaw, in Wallacetown.  He was an old resident of Statesville, and for a number of years had a barbershop on South Center street, near the Southern station.

The funeral service will be Friday at 2:30, at Center Street A.M.E. Zion church, with interment in the local cemetery.

Surviving are his wife and six children; also one brother and one sister.

— Statesville Landmark, 23 Oct 1930.

Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Anna’s children succumb.


Kokomo Tribune, 13 April 1936.ImageKokomo Tribune, 13 September 1937. 


Kokomo Tribune, 7 August 1942.

Edward Simmons, Susan Simmons Bassett and Muncie Simmons Bassett Palmer were children of Montreville and Anna J. Henderson Simmons.  Susan’s age was seriously overstated. (She was about 60.)  And Muncie’s obit completely elides the years the family spent in Ontario.

[By the way, Second Missionary Baptist Church in Kokomo remains active.]

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Photographs

Finding J.T.

My grandmother’s favorite cousin was her Aunt Lethea’s son, “Jay” or “J.T.”:

My grandmother:  I had a cousin named Jay.  Aunt Lethea’s son.  She died and left three sons.  James –

Me:  Charles.

My grandmother:  Charles.  And Jay.

Me:  Okay.  J.T.

My grandmother:  Mm-hmm.  And Jay stayed with Aunt Min ‘cause Aunt Min reared him after Aunt Lethea died.  And he was at this same house with Aunt Minnie and Grandma.  Let’s see.  It was Aunt Min and Grandma and Uncle Luther and Jay and I.  We were all in the same house during the summer that I worked up there.  And Jay and I used to have a good time.  Oh, he was so nice.  He would, the first time I rode on a rollercoaster, he took me.  And we used to have a good time.  He was really nice.  He was a nice person.

McNEELY -- Jay McNeely in doorway

Jay had two brothers, William and Charles. In the 1910 census of Statesville, Iredell County, I found three boys, William, 5, James, 3, and Charlie McNeeley, 2, living in the household of Sam and Mary Steelman and described as their grandsons. I identified these children, correctly I believe, as Elethea McNeely‘s children.  I also guessed that Charlie Steelman, listed in the household, was their father.  If he was, he and Lethea never married. Instead, in 1920, she wed Archie Weaver, a man my grandmother spoke of with vitriol.

My grandmother: Jay’s daddy had TB, and he just gave it to them.  And his mother and Jay.  But he lived years and years and years after both of them died.

Me: The father did?  

My grandmother: [Inaudible] give them all this stuff.  Oh, I could not stand him. She was my special aunt because she had boys, and she didn’t have any girls.  And she just took me over her house, you know, and let me do things that girls did, you know. 

I was unable to find James McNeely, whom I believed to be “Jay,” in any other record. I knew Jay was reared by his aunt, Minnie McNeely, and died young of the same dread illness that killed his mother, but I was never able to find a trace of him. That changed last night, when I stumbled upon his death announcement in the 15 December 1933 issue of the Statesville Record & Landmark:


As Grandma Carrie so memorably said, “Well, I’ll be damn.”  Here was J.T., as last. Not James McNeely — much younger, in fact — but Irvin McNeely Weaver. (The same “mysterious” Irving McNeely listed in the 1930 census in Martha McNeely‘s Bayonne household. He was described as her nephew, rather than her grandson, and I jotted in my notes: “Who is this???”) My grandmother was married and living in Newport News, Virginia, at the time of his death, and is not among his named survivors. Ardeanur Smith was his cousin, not his aunt, and Charles McNeely was his brother. Mrs. John Long was his aunt Lizzie McNeely Long, and Mrs. Lewis Renwick was his cousin Louise Colvert Renwick.

McNEELY -- McNeely Cousins

The first photo is Jay as a boy, perhaps around the time he moved to Bayonne. The second, taken in Bayonne circa 1928, shows Jay with his first cousins Ardeanur Smith, Margaret Colvert and Wardenur Houser, and an unknown girl seated in front. The last is Jay, alone, perhaps not long before he died.

McNEELY -- Jay McNeely near pole


This is just one of many, many times that I’ve found something that one or the other of my grandmothers would have been “tickled” to see. They both lived good, long lives — to 90 and 101 — but I would have kept them with me always if I could.

Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Photos in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin, Photographs

In memoriam: Richard B. Aldridge (1939-2013).


Richard Bradley Aldridge, Sr., will be buried tomorrow just outside Washington DC. Born in Dudley, Wayne County, in 1939, he was the youngest child of John J. and Ora Bell Mozingo Aldridge.  Rick’s wife Carmen survives; their only child, Richard Jr., died in 1995. He is also survived by a brother, Edison Monzel Aldridge.

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

Death of a colored man.

“Death of Colored Man.”

John Colvert, aged 70 years, a respected colored man, died Thursday night at his home on Green Street.  Funeral arrangements have not been made as he has relatives in the west who will attend.

Statesville Landmark, 10 Oct 1921.

This, of course, is John Walker Colvert, son of Walker Colvert. But who in the world were the “relatives in the west”???  His mysterious sisters and their progeny? And what was “the west”?  Ohio? Missouri? California?


John Colvert was buried in Green Street cemetery, a square, three-acre concavity surprisingly devoid of markers in the heart of black Statesville. His and his wife Addie’s tombstones stand at the edge of South Elm Street, near that of his daughter Selma, and they are the only Colvert grave markers I have been able to locate.

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

Introducing Martha McNeely.

My grandmother had the sweetest memories of her mother’s mother, Martha Margaret Miller McNeely.Image

In the 1920s, Martha McNeely left Statesville for Bayonne, New Jersey, where her daughter Emma McNeely Houser had settled, followed by several siblings. She settled a few blocks in from the river at 87-A West Sixteenth Street, a 1920 duplex that is still occupied. Said my grandmother:

I went up there one summer from Hampton and worked, and she would let me help her in the kitchen and everything like that, and so I told her, I said, “I’ll cut the corn.”  And she said, “Baby, you can’t cut no corn.  You can’t cut my corn.”  And I said, “Yes, I can, too.”  She said, “I’m sure you can’t, but if you insist, let me see you cut it.”  So I cut the ear of corn like Mama had done, you know.  And she said, “Mmph.  Your mammy taught you.”  [Laughs.]  I didn’t ever forget that.  “Your mammy taught you.”  I said, “Yes, she did.”

And the same story, another time:

… She was so sweet and — I said, “Grandma, now, I can cut the corn.” And she liked to cook. She didn’t think anybody could cook but her. I said, “I can cut the corn for you.” She said, “Honey, you can’t cut no corn for me.” I said, “Yes, I can, too.” And so she said, “well, I’ll let you try it,” she said, “to get rid of you.” So I cut this corn down. She would split the grain, split the grain, and then you cut the top of the grain off, and you cut the second one off, and then you scrape it. And when I did this first ear, she said, “Hmph! Your mammy must have taught you!” “She did.”

When my great-great-grandmother died in 1934, two newspapers marked her passing.  On June 16th, the Bayonne Times announced:

“McNEELY – Martha, at her residence, 87A West Sixteenth street, on Saturday, June 16, 1934, beloved mother of Mrs. Emma Houser, Mrs. Carrie Colvert, Miss Minnie McNeely, John and Edward.  Notice of funeral later.”

Two weeks later, the New York Age informed readers that:

“Mrs. MARTHA McNEELY, one of the older residents of our city, died at her home on Saturday.  Her body was taken to Statesville, N.C. for burial.  Funeral service was preached by Rev. W. Atkinson at Wallace Temple.”

Photo of Martha M. McNeely in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.