Statesville Sentinel, 1 April 1915.
My great-grandfather Lon Colvert? Actually, no, LOU Colvert, Lon’s uncle.
Robert Henry McNeely‘s bad luck on the job continued:
Statesville Record & Landmark, 7 June 1937.
Green Street cemetery is a three-acre square smack in the middle of Statesville’s African-American southside. My great-aunt’s house faced the graveyard, but I don’t recall anyone ever talking about family members being buried there. Nonetheless, several years ago, I found three: my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert, his wife Adaline Hampton Colvert (the double stone below) and their daughter Selma Eugenia Colvert, who is buried nearby. I suspect that others rest there, including John Colvert’s parents, his son Lon W. Colvert, Lon’s first wife Josephine Dalton Colvert, and his children Walker Colvert and Golar C. Bradshaw.
The bird’s-eye view map of Statesville, North Carolina, drawn in 1907, reveals a number of features in Lon W. Colvert‘s landscape (click for a closer look):
At #1: near the intersection of Centre Street, 109 East Broad Street, early site of Colvert’s barbershop. At #2: Center Street AME Zion Church. At #3: Southern Railway station, built in 1906. Colvert had an earlier shop in the Depot Hill area near the depot. At #4: the railroad. The Colverts’ house was adjacent to the railroad in Wallacetown, southeast of the station, as was that of his in-laws, Henry and Martha McNeely.
Below, the current tenant at 109 East Broad:
Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.
But there was Aunt Minnie, and then after Aunt Lethea died, Aunt Lethea told her to take care of me, and she just took me on, you know. And she was always crazy about me. The first percale sheets that I ever had Aunt Minnie sent them to me, and I never bought anything but percale sheets. Boy, they were just so luxurious and so nice and everything.
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.
Ardeanur. And she had a brother named James. And their mother died when they were little children, and Min reared them. Reared the children.
Aunt Minnie, who had no children of her own, reared everyone’s. When her sister Addie McNeely Smith died in 1917, Minnie took responsibility for her children, Ardeanur and James. When sister Elethea McNeely Weaver died five years later, Minnie stepped in to care for her youngest boy, 11 year-old Irving “Jay” Weaver, and promised to keep an eye on Lethea’s favorite niece, my grandmother.
Aunt Min shared a home with her mother Martha Miller McNeely in Bayonne, New Jersey, and after her mother’s death, she and Ardeanur moved to Columbus, Ohio, to live near another sister, Janie McNeely Taylor. She was in her fifties when she defied her disapproving family and married John Hargrove. He did not live long to plague her, though, and in a reversal of roles, she spent her last years with Ardeanur. Minnie Beulah McNeely Hargrove died 2 December 1982 in Columbus. She was 93 years old.
Minnie in Bayonne, perhaps the late 1920s.
Minnie in later years, Columbus, Ohio.
Aunt Min marries John Hargrove, Columbus, early 1950s.
Minnie McNeely Hargrove at the 1980 Colvert-McNeely family reunion, Newport News, Virginia. I was not there. At the time, I was too callow to know what I was missing. Today, I kick myself. I never met her.
Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.
My grandmother: She was a great Methodist. And she would come down occasionally to go to church, you know. Have on all them taffeta skirts, and they were shirtwaisted skirts, you know. And she was pretty, honey. Have you ever seen any of her pictures?
And another time:
Where did they have that funeral? They must have brought her down and had her in, at the Methodist Church in Statesville. She belonged there. She would come Saturday, get up Sunday morning, honey, and put on those taffeta skirts with those pretty blouses and lace all down the front and ‘round there.
I had not planned to go to Sunday School. I was on my way home for Christmas and stopped in Statesville just to look for Harriet Nicholson Hart‘s church. I suspected that Center Street AME Zion Church was the same as Mount Pleasant AMEZ, which still meets, but my internet search was inconclusive.
The morning was dreary and chilly when I pulled into a space across from the church. I had snapped a couple of shots with my phone when I saw a woman step from an SUV in the parking lot. “Excuse me,” I called. “I’m looking for Center Street AMEZ.” She tilted her head toward the church behind me. “This is it,” she said. “It’s called Mount Pleasant now.” I explained that my family had been members of the church a hundred years before and my great-great-grandmother had been funeralized there in 1924. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and after asking if I might peek inside, I followed her through a side door — straight into Sunday School.
A junior pastor was addressing a small gathering of adults, and I — acutely conscious of my jeans and hoodie — took a seat just inside the door. As he spoke on the necessity to reach out to youth, I discreetly glanced around. In the nave, dully gleaming brass organ pipes stretched nearly wall-to-wall. At the back of the sanctuary, a large arched tripartite stained glass window brightened the pews. At an opportune time, I introduced myself and expressed my joy at joining in a service at a church that had been so important to my family at one time. “What were their names?” “Nicholson and Colvert and Hart,” I said, “and other family lived in the neighborhood. My great-aunt was Louise Colvert Renwick.” There were nods of familiarity and expressions of welcome.
I slipped out before too long and paused again as I reached my car to gaze back at the building. A woman hurried around the side of the church, calling out for me to wait. She was the pastor’s wife and she had a small gift — a card and a CD of hymns. “Thank you for visiting,” she said. “We’re so glad you found us.”
Center Street AMEZ Church, Sanborn map of Statesville, 1918.
Interviews of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.
Me: And where was the area that was called Wallacetown?
My grandmother: Mm-hmm. That was just out near where we lived. We lived out there. And then there was like a stream or a branch or something where you crossed that thing, that was called Rabbittown.
Grandma: We lived in Wallacetown.
From the 1916 city directory of Statesville, North Carolina:
Popular Branch — a colored settlement southeast of Wallacetown [actually, it was “Poplar” Branch]
Rabbittown — a colored settlement southeast of Wallacetown
Wallacetown — a colored settlement southeast of the railway station
Rankinsville — a colored settlement to the right of the north end of Centre Street