Maternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 8: the McNeelys.

My great-great-grandfather Henry W. McNeely taught for a few years after Freedom and surely could read and write. His wife Martha, despite her transparent assertions otherwise, could not. Their children received educations that they had been denied, and when Henry’s brother Julius died without direct heirs about 1913, all signed off on the distribution of his estate. (All except Addie McNeely Weaver, who had recently passed.)

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Several of Henry’s grandsons’ signatures appear on World War II draft registration forms, including Luther’s son Robert H.; Edward’s son Quincy; and Addie’s son James.

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North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Signature Saturday, no. 7: John Henry Henderson’s sons and grandsons.

John Henry Henderson (1861-1924) was the youngest of James Henderson‘s sons to reach adulthood. He married Sarah Simmons, daughter of Bryant and Elizabeth Wynn Simmons, in 1886 near Dudley, Wayne County. Census records suggest that Sarah gave birth to as many as twelve children, but only three survived — Frances “Frankie,” Charles Henry and John Henry. I have found no record of John H. Henderson’s signature, but here are those of his sons and grandsons.

John & Sarah Henderson Colorized

John and Sarah Simmons Henderson, perhaps the 1910s.

Charles H. Henderson, born about 1893, is something of a mystery. In 1900, he appears as “Charley” in the census of Dudley, Wayne County, with father John, mother Sarah and sister Frankie. There’s some uncertainty about the children’s identification, but this is a photo John and Sarah circa 1895. My best guess is that the image depicts Frankie and Charley.

John Sarah Henderson family

Charles was not living in his parents’ home in 1910, however. Nor can I find him elsewhere. In 1917, however, he registered for the World War I draft in Richmond, Virginia. He reported that he was born 21 July 1893 in Dudley; resided at 114 E. Leigh Street, Richmond; and worked as a self-employed barber. He was of medium height with a slender build, brown hair and eyes and was slightly bald. (His signature is from this draft card.) In the 1920 census of Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, at 614 Baker Street, in Lee Ward, Charles H. Henderson, 32, and wife Maria R., 32, with Maria’s parents Henry and Mary B. Stockes, sharing a household headed by Eddie Seigel.  Charles worked as a barber and was recorded as being born in Virginia. (This and his age — he was actually about 27 — are erroneous.) It’s the last record I have for Charles Henderson.

Charles H Henderson Sig

Eight years after Charles was born, Sarah Simmons Henderson gave birth to her last child, son Henry Lee (1901-1942). Henry married Christine Lenora Aldridge while both were still in their teens. I’ve written of their sons here, and samples of their signatures (all from World War II draft cards) are shown below Henry’s.

Henry Henderson

Henry Lee Henderson, perhaps the very early 1940s.

Henry L Henderson Sig

Horace B Henderson Sig

Aaron Henderson Sig

Johnnie D Henderson Sig

On Christmas Day 1911, Frances Ann “Frankie” Henderson (1891-1985) married her first cousin, Israel Henderson Wynn (1890-1967), son of Washington “Frank” and Hepsey Henderson Wynn. I have no sample of Frankie’s handwriting, and Israel was unable to read or write. (At least, as a young man.) He signed his World War I draft registration card with an X.

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Frankie and Israel (called “H”) had at least 11 children, including sons John Franklin (1915-1981), George Roosevelt (1918-1986), Henderson B. (1924-1981), and Lawrence (1925-??), whose World War II draft card marks or signatures are shown:

John F. Wynn DRaft

Roosevelt Wynn

HB Wynn

Lawrence Wynn

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Education, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 6: James Henry’s Hendersons.

For decades, men (and the rare women) who apprenticed free children of color in North Carolina were required to teach them to read and do basic math. However, in the crackdown on free colored people that followed the Nat Turner Rebellion, this mandate was first ignored and then done away with altogether. It is not a surprise then that census records generally report that my great-great-great-great-uncle James Henry Henderson was illiterate.

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James H. Henderson (1838-1920).

What of his children though? Was he able to send them to school long enough to gain at least the rudiments of literacy? His first five children were daughters. I have not found Mary Ella, Elizabeth or Nancy Henderson in census records as adults, but Amelia Henderson Braswell‘s entries indicate that she could neither read nor write. The evidence is mixed for James’ “outside” daughter Carrie M. Faison Solice, whose mother was Keziah “Kizzie” Faison. The 1900 and 1930 censuses say no, she could not; the 1910 and 1920 say yes, she could. As for James’ sons and youngest daughter and some of their offspring, here’s what I’ve found:

Elias Lewis Henderson (1880-1953) was James and Frances Sauls Henderson’s oldest son. He was a farmer and founder of Saint Mark Church of Christ, near Fremont, Wayne County. I am fairly certain that he could read, but have found no sample of his handwriting.

Elias L Henderson Text

David John Henderson (1901-1960) was E.L. and Ella Moore Henderson’s oldest son.

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Their second son was James Henry Henderson (1906-1947).

James Henry Henderson Sig

And Ira Junior Henderson (1911-1984) was their third.

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Jazell Westly Henderson (1924-2004) was Elias’ son with his second wife, Sarah Edmundson Henderson.

Jazell W Henderson Sig

James Ira Henderson (1881-1946) was James and Frances Henderson’s second son. He signed his World War I draft card with an X.

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Here’s the signature of Ira’s son, William Henry Henderson (1902-1974).

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James’ son Lewis Henderson (1885-1932) was named after his uncle, my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson (1836-1912).

Lewis Henderson Sig

Lewis had ten daughters and one son, James Ivory Henderson (1922-1986).

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Georgetta Henderson Elliot (1889-1972), called Etta, was James and Frances Henderson’s youngest daughter. This signature appears on her daughter Mackie Bee‘s marriage license, but there is a possibility that it was inscribed by the officiating minister, rather than Etta herself.

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Georgetta Henderson 001 Text

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North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 5: Napoleon Hagans and family.

Napoleon Hagans, self-made man, could neither read nor write. His wife, Appie Ward Hagans, born into slavery, picked up the rudiments of an education at some point in her life and was able to scratch out a shaky signature, as shown in this 1888 deed. By time his sons were born, Napoleon had begun his ascent into Wayne County’s African-American elite, recognized by both blacks and whites as a savvy and successful cotton farmer. Thanks to his wealth, the children he reared, Henry and William Hagans, would lead lives very different from their father’s, starting with their educations at local schools and then Howard and Shaw Universities.Napoleon Hagans X Appie Hagans SigHenry E. Hagans spent much of his life as a teacher and principal, and his small, firm hand reflects his pedagogical life. He likely met his wife, Julia B. Morton of Danville, Virginia, at Howard. This sample of their signatures is on a deed dated 1899.
HE Hagans & Julia Hagans SigWilliam Hagans’ signature was bolder and more architectural than his brother’s, as shown on the 1916 deed below. Though not a teacher, his early career as secretary (read: assistant or even chief of staff, if there was additional staff) to United States Congressman George H. White and as businessman/farmer provided ample opportunity for him to display his conjoined signature. (William M. Artis, son of Adam T. and Frances Seaberry Artis, was William Hagans’ first cousin, and Hannah E. Forte Artis was the wife of William Artis’ brother, Walter S. Artis. William likely did not attend school beyond eighth grade, but his penmanship is lovely. Hannah, too, clearly benefitted from several years of schooling. I wish I knew more about late 19th century rural African-American schools in Wayne County.)
WS Hagans WM Artis Hannah Artis Sig

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Education, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Signature Saturday, no. 4: Harriet Hart’s men.

Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart was not an educated woman. She did not lack for ambition, though, and made sure that both her sons received schooling.

The bold, instantly recognizable signature of Lon W. Colvert (1876-1930), on a marriage license:

LW Colvert Sig

The somewhat shakier signature of his half-brother Harvey Golar Tomlin (1894-1961):

HG Tomlin Sig

Her last husband, Thomas Lonzo Hart (1866-1929), may have been trained as a lawyer, and his business acumen was recognized throughout his community. He had the practiced hand of a literate man and, in fact, taught Harriet how to read and write:

TL Hart Sig

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Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 3: Aldridge.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Aldridge (1864-??), John William Aldridge (1853-1910), and Joseph Aldridge (1869-1934):

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Robert Aldridge Jr.

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John J. Aldridge (1885-1964), son of John W. Aldridge.

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James Thomas Aldridge (1886-1968), son of John W. Aldridge.

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Prince Albert Aldridge (1888-1953), son of George W. Aldridge.

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Blancher K. Aldridge (1894-1965), son of George W. Aldridge.

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Education, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 2: Lewis Henderson’s progeny.

Lewis and Margaret Henderson were surely unlettered, and I suspect that most of their children were, too. I have only been able to find handwriting samples for two.

Caswell C. Henderson was the most worldly of the siblings, having migrated to New York City in his mid 20s, engaged in local politics, and secured a patronage job at the United Customs House while in his 30s. From his 1893 marriage certificate to Emma D. Bentley:

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And from a letter he wrote in 1926 to his sister Sarah:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 5.28.33 PMSarah Henderson Jacobs Silver was also literate, though her handwriting and grammar reveal the limits of her schooling. This signature appeared on the marriage license of her niece, Minnie Simmons Budd.

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Most families grow exponentially, but Lewis and Mag’s descendants underwent a bit of a bottleneck in the third generation. Of their nine children, only two — Ann Elizabeth and Loudie — had children that survived to adulthood. Those two produced five children (barely, as one died at age 19) who reached majority. Of the five, I have only found the signature of one. Jesse “Jack” Henderson, Loudie’s son, affixed his name to his Social Security application in 1936:

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