Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Religion

Reverend Silver’s circle.


  • This is the license for my great-great-great-uncle Joseph Aldridge‘s second marriage. I’ve written about Martha Carrie Hawkins Henderson Aldridge Silver here. What startled me was to see who performed the ceremony — Reverend Joseph Silver, whom Martha would marry almost 20 years later!
  • I still don’t know why the wedding was in Wilson, unless that’s where Martha lived. Reverend Silver lived near Enfield, so he was pretty far off his beaten path.
  • And how did Columbus “C.E.” Artis, brother of my great-great-grandmother Louvicey Artis Aldridge, get involved? Joseph was Vicey’s brother-in-law, but that hardly seems a reason for C.E. to apply for his and Martha’s license.


  • Reverend Joseph Silver, Sarah Henderson Jacobs‘ second husband, was prominent in North Carolina’s Holiness Church movement. Until recently, I’d been unable to find their marriage license, though I knew when and where they were married. When I tracked it down I realized that its illegibility probably has resulted in its being misindexed.
  • That’s Joseph Sliver at the top.
  • Barely legible, Sarah Jacobs and her parents Louis [sic] Henderson and Margaret Henderson.
  • I haven’t been able to find anything about Reverend J.H. Scott. I assume he was head of a Holiness congregation in Wilson. Sarah herself was very active in the domination as an evangelist.
  • I knew they’d married on Elba Street. My grandmother told me this: “When Mama got married there on Elba Street, there at the house.  Yeah.  He come up there …”  It’s so funny to imagine my four and not-quite seven year-old uncles with my grandmother, squeezed in a corner of that tiny front room, fidgeting as Mama Sarah took her vows.


  • Five years after Mama Sarah died, Reverend Silver married Martha Aldridge. Astonishingly, he lived almost a decade and a half longer.
  • A Justice of the Peace performed the ceremony? That’s odd for such a prominent Holiness preacher.
Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Your friend and great-aunt by marriage.

After Rev. Joseph Silver died, my grandmother received a letter from his widow:

MC SIlver to H Henderson 2 2 1958_Page_1

MC SIlver to H Henderson 2 2 1958_Page_2

Martha C. Silver is a bit of a mystery. She was born about 1873 in Halifax County to William Hilliard Hawkins (born 1833 to Ambrose and China Harwell Hawkins) and his wife Mary E. Hulin Hawkins (born 1840 to Hilliard and Tabitha Locklear Hulin), both born free. I have found her with her birth family in the 1880 census of Enfield, Halifax County. I lose sight of her, though, until 5 August 1912 when she is listed as Cary Hawkins Henderson in her father’s Halifax County will and then until 16 December 1925, when as “Martha C. Henderson” she married Joseph Aldridge (born 1869), my great-great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge‘s younger brother.  (I cannot find a marriage license for Martha and any Henderson (much less one related to me).) In the 1930 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, “Carry” Aldridge is listed with Joseph and his children by his deceased first wife, Louberta Manley. Joseph died in 1934, and I lose Martha again until 8 September 1943 when she married Joseph Silver in Wayne County. He was 86 (and widowed five years previously by the death of my great-great-great-aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver), and she was 70. Martha returned to Halifax County and remained there at least until Rev. Silver died in 1958. Past that, though, I know little, for I have not found her death certificate.


A few years ago, I obtained a copy of a photo of family group from someone who knew only that they were Aldridges. Last year, a cousin confirmed what I had suspected. Eight of the nine people pictured above are Joseph and Louberta M. Aldridge’s children. The ninth? Martha Cary Hawkins Henderson Aldridge Silver, with whom they remained close even after their father’s death. My cousin told me that Martha had children of her own when she married Joseph Aldridge and had gone to live with a son in Washington DC in her latter years. My cousin and her father, Joseph’s son George, visited her regularly until her death at age 100 or older. [Update: on 27 May 2014, Martha’s grandson contacted me and advised that, while she had a son named Charles who lived in New York, Martha had spent her final years with her daughter in DC.]

(By the way, the “Johnnie Aldridge of Dudley” referred to in the letter was Joseph’s nephew, and my great-great-uncle, John J. Aldridge. “Reka” was Reka Aldridge Ashford Morrisey, daughter of Joseph’s brother George W. Aldridge. Luke Morrisey was her husband.)

Hat tip to Patricia Aldridge Polack for her identification of William J.B. Aldridge, Milford Aldridge, Lillie Mae Aldridge, George Mitchell Aldridge and Joseph Leon Aldridge (top) and Daniel W. Aldridge, Allen Aldridge and Mary Eliza Aldridge Sawyer (below).

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Is Mama dead let me know at once.

Mama got sick after we come back from Greensboro.  She got sick.  At least, Mama, we never could tell when she was sick.  ‘Cause she put on so much.  If she wanted to go somewhere – go to New York, Norfolk, anywhere she could get, pack that bag, honey, and she’s gone.  And leave us home!  Leave us there.  She took me to New York with her, and she carried Mamie to Norfolk, carried me to Norfolk one time, then she carried Mamie there.  Oh, she was just always wanting to go.  And Papa didn’t have enough sense, but just wherever she said she was going, she was going, and he give her the money and she’d go. 

But Mama didn’t know she had a bad heart until two weeks before she died.  She was always sick, sick all the time.  She’d go to the doctor, and the doctor would tell her it was indigestion and for her not to eat no pork and different things she couldn’t eat.  ‘Cause Mama was fat.  She weighed 200.  She wasn’t too short.  She was just broad.  Well, she was five-feet-four, I think.  Something like that.  And so, but she loved pork, and she’d try to eat some anyhow ‘cause we always had a hog, growing up.  All the time.  So after they said she couldn’t, she tried not to eat no pork, much.  Fish and chicken, we eat it all the time.  But she was so tired of chicken until she didn’t know what to do.  And I was, too.  But Papa loved all pork, so he’d always get a whole half a shoulder or a ham or something and cook it, and she’d eat some.  But when she went to the doctor, and her pressure was up so high, and he told her, “By all means, don’t you eat no pork.  It’s dangerous to eat pork when your pressure is too high.”  And then that’s when she stopped eating pork.  Well, it didn’t help none, I don’t reckon. 

After that, when she was going to Mamie’s, she had that little bag.  A little basket.  A little, old basket ‘bout that tall with a handle on it.  She had all kinds of medicine in there to take.  And Mr. Silver told her, said, “Well, you just take your medicine bag.”  She’d been married to him a good while.  He said, “Well, you shouldn’t go up there by yourself.  Since I’m down here—”  See, she’d go up and stay with him a little while, and then he’d come back to Wilson and stay a while.  So he said, “You just take your little basket there with your medicine in it.”  So, he said, “Well, I’ll go with you up there and then I’ll come back on to Enfield.”  So he went with her down there to the station.  He was picking up the bags to go up there, told her to walk on up to the station and wait for the train.  

So, she went up there to the station and got on there, and went on and got on the train, and when she got off the train, in Selma —  ‘cause she’d done told me to send her insurance and everything to Greensboro, ‘cause she wont never coming back to Wilson no more.  Because she’d done seen, the Lord showed her if she stayed in Wilson, she wouldn’t live.  If she went ‘way from there, she could get well.  So she was going to Mamie’s.  And when she got off the train and went there – she’d just got to the station door.  And she collapsed right there.  And by happen they had a wheelchair, a luggage thing or something.  The guy out there, he got to her, and he called the coroner or somebody, but he was some time getting there.  But anyway, they picked her up and sat her in the wheelchair.  They didn’t want her to be out ‘cause everybody was out looking and carrying on, so they just pushed her ‘round there to the baggage room. 

And so when the coroner got there, he said, “This woman’s dead.”  So they called Albert Gay, and he was working for Artis then.  Undertaker Artis.  And Jimbo Barnes.  And called them and told them that she was dead.  So, Mr. Silver couldn’t even tell them who to notify. He had Mamie living in Thelma, North Carolina, on McCullough Street, but didn’t know what the number of the house was.  So he was so upset. So they had to call the police for the police to go find Mamie Holt.  On McCullough Street.  And her mother, they said, her mother died. Well, she did die.  But they said it was, I think, Thelma.  Not Selma, but Thelma.  “Well, where is Thelma?  It can’t be my mother. ‘Cause my mother don’t live in no Thelma.  I never heard of that place.  She live in Wilson.” But, see, it was Selma where she died. They got it wrong. 

So then Mamie went down to Smitty’s house and had Miss Smitty send a telegram to me.  On the phone.  Charge it to her bill, and she’d pay her: “IS MAMA DEAD LET ME KNOW AT ONCE”   She asked me if Mama was dead.  And I said, when I got that, Annie Miriam and all them, a bunch of kids was out there on the porch, and so at that time, Jimbo or one of ‘em come up.  And when I saw them, I knowed something.  I had just got the telegram.  Hadn’t even really got time to read it.  Had just read it.  And he said, “Well, you done got the news.”  And I said, “The news?  Well, I got a old, crazy telegram here from my sister, asking me is Mama dead, let her know at once.”  He said, “Yeah, we just, we brought her back from Selma.”  I said, “What in the – ”  Well, I went to crying.  And I don’t know.  Albert Gay or some of the children was ‘round there, and they was running.  Everybody in the whole street almost was out in the yard – the children got the news and gone!  That Mama had dropped dead in Selma.  So I said, well, by getting that telegram, I said, that’s what threw me, honey.  I wasn’t ready for that. I’d been saying I reckon Mamie’ll think Mama was a ghost when she come walking in there tonight.  Not knowing she was dead right at the same time. 


Remembering Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver on the 76th anniversary of her death.


Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Religion

When your pilgrimage is over.

… Self life that might hender and draw you to earthly thing it inpels you on in to Godlines Paul sed I die dailey to the things of this world yeal your life dailey and hold your life in submision to the will of God and live by his word that you may grow unto the fulles measure of the staturs of Chris the one that lives wright is the ones who will a bide bide with him the day of his coming and stand when he a …

… Come by your God like impression God will take care of you no matter where you are cax aside all fear and put your trust in God and you are save.  Then when your pulgrimage is over and you are call from labor to reward you will be greeted with that holy welcome that is delivered to all true missionaries come in the blessed of my father …

My grandmother had a large, dusty black Bible that had belonged to her “mama,” Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver.  (The Bible’s original owner was Carolina Vick, a midwife in east Wilson — her family’s birth and death dates are inscribed in its leaves.)  When I first thumbed through the Book in the early 1990s, I found two scraps of paper stuck deep in its chapters. Pencilled in a square, unsophisticated hand were these bits of Sarah’s sermons. She had left the Congregationalism of her upbringing and joined the Holiness movement sweeping the country in the early 1900s.  My grandmother was not impressed:

I was just thinking ‘bout that today, ‘bout how we used to do.  Mama’d make us go to Holiness Church and stay down there and run a revival two weeks.  And we’d go down there every night and lay back down there on the bench and go to sleep.  Then they’d get us up, and then we didn’t have sense enough to do nothing but go to sleep and get up. 

Mama’d go every night.  And they’d be shouting, holy and sanctified, jumping and shouting.  I don’t know, that put me out with the Holiness church.  And sanctified people.  I know Mama wont doing right.

Evangelist Sarah spent night after night jumping and shouting, leaving my adolescent grandmother to wash and iron the endless loads of laundry they took in from white customers. Sarah apparently met her second husband, Rev. Joseph Silver, founder of one of the earliest Holiness churches in eastern North Carolina, on the revival circuit. They married in 1933 and divided the five years before her death between Wilson and his home in Halifax County.


Sarah H. Jacobs and her Bible, with my uncle Lucian J. Henderson in the background, taken in Wilson NC circa 1930. (I have the Bible, but some time between when I first saw — and transcribed — the sermon scraps and when I took possession after my grandmother’s death in 2001, the pieces of paper were lost.)

Photo of Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.