Thursday, October 31, 2013

Steal Away, Steal Away, King Cotton is Coming!

My take on the PBS Special

The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross
Episode 2 : The Cotton Economy and Slavery

I have often wondered how my maternal and paternal families got to those places, according to the census, say they were from.

Did they come with the enslavers who ran from other states in order to keep their slaves?  Or did they slip away silently in the night’s light of the moon and the signs from the stars. 

After viewing Episode 2 of Many Rivers to Cross and scouring news articles from the papers during the era of 1800 – 1860, I started to wonder if any of my ancestors were among the runaways.

Looking at this article in The Texas Gazette was one of my ancestors a part of these Virginia ten who ended up lost on a Pennsylvania Ridge?  Why were their lives not important enough to the family that took them in, fed them and turned them over for a reward. (Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may die)

Were any of my ancestors in any of these groups trying to get to Canada? 
Were the weapons they took with them enough to protect them until they crossed over the Niagara (I got my shield and sword

Was George or John one of my ancestors?

In my family tree there are numerous George’s and John's. Did he by chance make his way to North Carolina? Was he captured and sent back into slavery like so many others.(Let my people go)

                                            Louisville Morning Courier July24,1844

Was Mary my ancestor?

No wonder she ran away; she had a whip mark under her eye and the back of her neck. I pray she made it to where she may have been set free, A place like like Canada. 
(Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around)

                                                  Ad found in The Daily Picayune July 13,1844

 Were any of those people part of the enslaved who worked the cotton fields in Harrison, Fayette and Grimes county Texas where my ancestors lived?

How much cotton did my gg-grandparents John Lewis and his wife Sallie Jefferson  Lewis have to pick in order to satisfy their slave owner in Grimes County Texas? 
Sallie was around 9 yrs old before she saw the end of bondage and John was going on 20 years. (But still I rise)

In Marshall, Harrison County, Texas how much cotton did my elusive Mariah have to pick before she was allowed to take her shackles off. 

According to Randolph Campbell’s book A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County Texas 1850-1880  on page 53 table 5, you can see that cotton is definitely King. 

This book happens to be in my top 3 likes for books mainly because it is all about my maternal ancestors home city of Marshall and Harrison County. 

Were any of these enslaved people named in this court case  Wheeler vs Coleman and Simms, filed in St Augustine Texas my ancestors? 

Otis Wheeler’s claim was that Abram Coleman and B Fleurnoy Simms were to pay his debt to a Thomas Barnett in exchange for a deed of trust that included twenty slaves and a plantation.

Wheeler stated that he delivered three slaves and forty bales of cotton to them to sell to settle the debt. He then claimed that the two did not sell the slaves but kept them for their own employment.

Among these slaves was a girl that just happened to be named Priscilla. (I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned)

St Augustine County Texas Court Records; Found in Race, Slavery and Free Blacks, series 11

This is the last bale of cotton that came from the Jonesville Gin situated in Jonesville Texas where my great grandfather Joseph P Taylor was born.

Stronger and Wiser

Friday, October 25, 2013

Many Rivers To Cross1: Rivers of Life Rolling On The River

Living in the Jonah’s of my imagination are the proud women and men who would rather die than be taken from their home leaving countless families alone weeping and crying.

I can hear them saying, "You tried to break me down here in this hell hole of a hull, thinking I would join my aunts and uncles on the bottom of the deep blue ocean." 

Some of our own from one Continent we know, huge and vast coming from the past.

How many I ask are the bones that lie in the deep are a reflection of 
me when they were in the flesh?   

After watching Many Rivers To Cross; the first episode on PBS, my mind 
wandered back and forth between my Texas counties and my ancestors
who may have taken the same route shown. So far I have no documented verification.
Everyone that knows me has been told that I am stuck in Texas with my
research and that I have a million billion trillion bricks and blocks
that have fallen in my way.

Okay I admit I am exagerating about those trillion or so bricks and blocks but I do have 1024 direct descendants who fit in there somewhere.

I am not going to call them walls because I do have human Walls that are in my shared DNA with names like Thelma, Steven and Crystal that I have come to love sight unseen.

This show bought home, that I have had very few rivers in my life to cross.

My Ancestors bore the brunt of that.

Just because I have not found Mr and Ms Elusive does not mean that I have to jump off the top of the roof of my house.

The front porch step will do just fine.

Does Texas have many rivers?  You bet she does; they are long, they are wide and they are wild.

With that being said, Mariah Taylor my elusive 3rd great grandmother
and her parents may have crossed the Sabine River which snakes all the way from the Gulf of  Mexico up to East Texas.

The Sabine River:

I have not gotten a handle yet on where Mariah was really born but her son
Joseph was born in Harrison County reportedly in Jonesville Texas.  Near
Jonesville there was Swanson’s landing. It was a port that was used
to deliver goods and slaves from New Orleans.

Did Mariah’s ancestors come that way?  

My paternal greats on my Daviss side could have gotten off somewhere 
around Galveston Texas, crossed over the Brazos River or the Navasota River not knowing that one day two of their offspring may meet up one day just like the mighty rivers that kiss the ocean.

The Brazos River

The Navasota River

What about Captain John Taylor who steered the Hannah Elizabeth in 1836 from Barbados. He brought a boat load of slaves to what was known as 
Brigs landing,  a port in Orange Texas. Some he left  and the rest he headed towards Galveston to sell.

Was Mariah’s family on that brig?  Were they shuffled off and transported
to Harrison County Texas? 

(excerpt found in the Gateway to Texas: The History of Orange and Orange County)

In order to stay off that front step, I tend to piddle and hope that my piddling 
will lead someone else to find their family with little nuggets and gems
one step at a time. 

I have no idea if this 34 year old man (they referred to him as a boy)
that was found on the north side of the Sabine was my ancestor; but he was someone's child husband or brother.  His name was George
            How many rivers does George have to cross to be called a man?

                               The Standard Clarksville Texas October 25, 1856 

In the 1870 Census in Albany New York , 27 year old Kate Rivers was listed as a servant. Ms Rivers was born in Africa.

How many Rivers Lord, How Many Rivers To Cross?

                                This is the excerpt of the 1870 census

I went looking for any Davis that I could find to tie into my Daviss.  Even though this particular Davis was not mine he was living in a levee camp in Missouri.

Since we are talking about rivers,  Davis’s next door neighbor
was a Teamster by the name of Red River. He and his parents were from Tennessee according to the 1910 census.

                 How many rivers did Red have to cross to work at the Levee?  

                      Here is a excerpt of  Red listed on the 1910 census

When I lived in Dallas Texas in the early 1970's I used to cross over the
Trinity River Bridge. The area I lived in was dry. You were not able to buy 
beer or liquor. The trip across the bridge was the only way we could secure a 
happy week-end with spirits especially during football season. 
Need I say more?

The Trinity River

Try crossing over this bridge

Yes, Yes, Yes, there are still waters!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Solomon and The Scoundrels: The Trial and the Tale

Several people that I know or have heard that went to see the movie "Twelve Years A Slave" stated that it was either to hard to watch and walked out or refused to stay because of the brute facts of the film.
Others just refuse to go just because of the stirrings that it may bring. 

In my mind, this blog may be a little easier to digest as you read the newspaper account of the examination of the two scoundrels who kidnapped and sold Solomon Northrup.

The Kidnapping:

Solomon Northrup along with both of his parent was born free. Solomon was born around 1808 and married around 1820. He and his wife and children lived in Saratoga Springs.

In 1841 he was employed by two men to drive a team south to New York for the sum of a dollar a day.
After reaching Washington, Solomon fell ill and got a room at the Gadsden Hotel to rest.
Two men came to his room with offers of medicine to help with the pain.

When Solomon awoke all hell broke loose. He was chained to the floor in Williams Slave Pen.

A slave dealer by the name of James Birch and another man named Ebenezer Radburn stripped him down, beat him and dared him to ever mention that he was a Free Man again.

The Kidnapping Trial as seen in the New York Herald July 1854 from the Saratoga Whig   (Click on all newspaper articles to read for better view)

In The Matter Of Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell:

These two men were arrested for enticing Solomon to Washington City under false pretense of work and selling him into slavery.
George Scott and Henry Northrup were the prosecutors of the case.  William Wait and John Brothereon represented the two prisoners.
Abel Meeker and David Maxwell were the Justice of the Peace and W. O. Odell was the District Attorney.

The trial or examination as it was called was held at the Balleston Spa on July 11th 1854.

Solomon Speaks:

Solomon was sworn in and stated he was now 47 years of age. At the time of the occurrence he was in contact with the two men who were now arrested and on trial for enslaving him.

Step by step Solomon related how he was told that he would be paid to drive a team of horses and also to play the fiddle at a circus for a dollar a day.
He told how after arriving in New York the prisoners wanted him to go on to Washington but that he was reluctant to go unless he had his free papers. Once the supposed free papers were obtained they ventured on their way.

They partied together drinking and smoking by day at the Gadsby Hotel.  That afternoon he was feeling sick and by evening, he was very ill and took to his bed.
 When he awoke he was tied to the floor in a slave pen and stripped of all his money and belongings.

Two men Birch and Radburn came in and accused Solomon of lying and being a runaway from Georgia.  They flogged and paddled him with Cat-of 9 tails until he was told to stop or else he would not be any good for sale.
After spending several more days in the slave pen he was sent from there by railroad then by steam boat to Virginia and from there to New Orleans where he was sold.

Solomon Northrop states he was kept in slavery for 12 years, released where he returned to his wife and kids.

Cross Examination:

Solomon stated that he had not been to any of those places before.  On cross he actually stated most of what he said previously except for naming another person by the name of St. John who then testified.

St John told on the stand that the appearance of the two prisoners had changed from long straggly hair to being well groomed. A gold watch and chain hung from Russell’s pocket and loose lips told that he sold the Negro Solomon.

Another witness testifies that he has known Solomon since 1826 or 1827 and that he remembers seeing the two men previously and talked to Solomon about his fear of him going with the two in this adventure.

Mr. Wait, the council for the defendant Russell, called no witnesses. Bail was set at $5,000 dollars each.

The punishment for kidnapping and selling into slavery is no less than 2 years or no longer than 10 years.

The Tale of the Heartless Tape:

Solomon Northrup sued the slavers but lost the fight based on the law that a black person could not testify against a white person.
Even though the slavers were remanded into custody they were eventually released for lack of Northrup’s testimony.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lucky Me, Lucky You, Lucky As Can Be!

I attended an event sponsored by the PBS Station in Arizona along with the Arizona Informant and others that showcased African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross soon to be released in a six part series October 22 2013. 

I was fortunate to win in a raffle the two discs set by the same name, and as soon as it is ready I will receive it in the mail.

I posted on Face book what a good time I had. One of the comments I got was from Selma, a genealogy friend of mine via AfriGeneas, the mother of all the African American Genealogy sites.   She said,” Lucky you Vicky." !

I do agree with Selma, mainly because the luck I have been having lately is making it to the little room down the hall in time and my past track feats kicked in at an older age.  I am blessed though that I am getting up each and every morning. Thanks to God that I am wide eyed the entire day.  

Selma got me to thinking about " Lucky You"; I don’t know any You’s or Youse’s  but I sure know some Lucky’s, Luckey’s and Luckie’s.

In Phoenix I knew Charles Luckie, Gloria Lucky, and David Luckey

I went to school and also worked with David at Western Electric. 

All three of these people may have known each other and all three surnames were spelled different from each other.

I even have some lucky numbers; 123….635….524 and on and on and on. I just wish they would get lucky one of these days on the Pick 3

I am lucky to have forged long time friendships, some sight unseen, like Selma who unselfishly gives her genealogy wisdom to others and to Valencia King Nelson who is the rock of AfriGeneas.  Not to mention Arthur Thomas and Angela Walton Raji who I have met, and did not run in the other direction when they saw me grinning.

For the jazz enthusiast back in the swing era days, Lucky and his Mills Blue Rhythm Band entertained all over Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He was the toast of clubs like The Cotton Club and the Savoy. Joining up with the likes of Ella the great Fitzgerald , Bill Doggett and Dizzy Gillespie and others.
He later moved towards what they called Rhythm and Blues.  A couple of his songs were Shorty's Got to Go, Sweet Slumber and Waiting Just for you.

Oh,  did I mention he was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1910 as Luscious Leroy Millander. 

Luscious and Lucky!  Now how lucky is that combination. Judging by his picture he was quite a good looking man. 

My thought triggered by Selma:

In my research I came across a Lucky Singleton who was from Marshall Texas and lived not that far from my Ancestors. Lucky had a son Major Singleton who lived here in Phoenix and who also had a son he surely named after his father.                                                                                                           Unfortunately Major’s son passed away at the age of 15.

Then there was a Lucky Singleton Jr who married a Roberta Choyce from Marshall Texas. 

                 here is the excerpt of  Lucky Jr and Roberta Singleton  

Lucky, the senior’s un - lucky trip:

Lucky, the Senior, wife  and a few of his family members and neighbors  heard about a plan to go to Liberia for a fee of ten dollars down for each person and the rest within six months after arriving.
 According to the Sunday Edition on February 8th 1880, The New York Daily Tribune had an article stating that a group of twenty one people arrived in New York.
 Among this group was lucky, his wife and two children, Augustus Singleton, Willie Daniels, Lemuel Manyweather, his wife and child, Lawson Silas, his wife and two children, and Thomas Larkins along with his wife and six children. 

Thomas Larkins actually got the idea of going to Liberia from his brother in law, a chap by the name of Mathews.  He had been in Liberia over two years and sent glowing reports home and suggested that they take the trip as well.  They were surprised when they got to New York that the person who was to have engineered the way from there was nowhere to be found. 

They ended up asking for assistance from the Charities of  Commissioners and Charities who sent them to the King County Alms House as paupers of the state.
They were very poorly nourished and without funds to take care of themselves.

 What terrible luck they were having:   
                                                                                                                       Larkins daughter was left in New Jersey because she had given birth and needed care. Larkins wife died of Pneumonia after they reached the Alms house. 

They were described as from the south, truthful but unsophisticated 

Harrison County Texas must have been a hot bed for emigrating to Liberia. Mathews has another brother who is very instrumental in recruiting people from there. Another group of thirty was supposed to leave from Marshall at   the end of February 1880 and another contingent in March of the same year.

Even though they told the reporter that they had no complaints from bad treatment from whites or lack of work, I find that hard to believe, especially in 1880.

They stated that Liberia was the Promised Land for them and others and wished for a new life in a new home.

After much ado and facts as the folks at the Alms House had given them, the party with much hesitation decided to return back to Marshall. The article does not say when lucky and his family returned to Marshall but they all were assured help getting back home instead of help to Liberia.

Lucky and his family made it back home to Texas where he and his family were seen listed in the 1900 census.

I can imagine for those who research and can’t find their families around this time, chances are, they may have been some of those who actually made it to what they called their promise land.

I would hope that Lucky, Mr Larkins and family found their true niche in Marshall Texas and perhaps they even knew my family.