Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Story of Mrs. Julia King – Former Slave/Toledo Resident

During my research and due to my interest in black history, I discovered the Federal Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) slave narrative collection about 15 years ago.

During “The Great Depression” of the 1930s, President Roosevelt created the WPA in order to put educated Americans, especially in the arts, back into the workforce due to the extreme unemployment and economic conditions faced by Americans during this era.

Luckily, the WPA took an interest in recording the lives of black Americans who were former slaves.  The year 1935 marked seventy years since the end of the Civil War.  Those persons interviewed by WPA workers were primarily in their 80s and 90s.  Some were centenarians (aged 100 or above).   Two individuals who lived in Toledo and who attended Third Baptist Church were interviewed – Julia King and Hannah Davidson.  Both of their interviews provide a wealth of information about slavery, escaping slavery, and black history in Toledo.

Mrs. Julia King was approximately 80 years old when she was interviewed in 1937.  She was the wife of Toledo’s first black police officer – Albert King picture below.

Albert King

At the time of her interview, Mrs. King lived at 731 Oakwood Ave.  A search on googlemaps shows that her house has been demolished as an empty lot is now at that address.

She spoke of how both of her biological daughters died, one as an infant and one at 13 years of age.  Black children in Toledo had high mortality rates in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  During the time of the interview, Mrs. King lived with her adopted daughter Elizabeth KING KIMBREW (KIMBROUGH).

In her interview she spoke of how she was the first black “colored juvenile officer” in the city of Toledo.  She worked in this position for 20 years.  The first 3 years she did it on a volunteer basis and was not paid for her work.

Mrs. King’s maiden name was Julia WARD.  She was born in Louisville, Kentucky to Samuel and Matilda WARD.  She had a sister named Mary WARD who was about 1.5 years older than she was.  Her parents were slaves in Kentucky.  Her father ran away via the Underground Railroad to Canada and left her mother, herself, and her sister in Kentucky.

Later, Mrs. King’s mother also decided to run away and join Samuel in freedom.  Mrs. King spoke of how her mother was happy that on the day that she planned to run away, Matilda’s mistress decided not to take Mary to the market with her.  The mistress usually had Mary accompany her to the market.  Matilda was prepared to run away and leave Mary behind, but due to the mistresses decision, she took both Julia and Mary to freedom.

They made it all the way to Detroit via boat and then went up to Windsor to meet Mrs. King’s father, who had been working there as a cook. They eventually settled in Detroit and she spent her childhood there prior to moving to Toledo.

In her narrative, Mrs. King also relates lots of information about the conditions faced by slaves on their plantation and about a song her mother sang to her.  The WPA had a specific list of questions that they were supposed to ask their interviewees and one was to ask them to sing a song from their childhood.  During the 1930s there was a large interest in black folk music for anthropological study and the interviews reflect this interest.

Mrs. King mentioned that she was a member of Third Baptist church and was drawn to the church due to them having a requirement of an “immersing baptism.”  She also mentioned that she was involved with national colored women’s clubs and had met Booker T. Washington and his wife and had heard a reading of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poems in Toledo.  Dunbar lived in Toledo for about a year while he was ill with tuberculosis, an extremely common disease in the late 19th and early 20th century.  He would eventually succomb to the condition as did many of my own family members.

I loved Mrs. King’s interview.  Mostly due to the wealth information obtained from her recount of the escape from slavery, a topic which is now a heavy focus for historical research.  I also loved that she seemed to come alive to me, mostly due to my favorite quote from her interiew when she was asked about Frederick Douglass (as mentioned a man I thoroughly love)

“The only thing I had against Frederick Douglas was that he married a white woman.”  LOL!  I thought it hilarious that she exhibited the same feelings many people have about interracial marriages even today amongst older black women.

That said, Mrs. King seemed like a formidable woman.  She had been through a lot and it is amazing to me that she went to the same church that my family attended.  I had read Mrs. King’s interview prior to my step great-grandmother passing away and asked her if she knew Mrs. King and Mrs. Davidson, another former slave interviewed in Toledo.  She said she knew of them at church and had seen both but didn’t know them personally since they were older members and she was just a young woman during this time period.  It is fascinating to me that she knew actual slaves and I knew her.  She only recently died in 2008.  This goes to show that we are not as far removed from slavery as we think we are.

The Story of Mrs. Julia King – Toledo Ohio

GENEALOGICAL INFORMATION ABOUT JULIA WARD KING AND FAMILY

A review of records from www.familysearch.org showed the following in regards to Mrs. King’s listed family members from her narrative:

Mary WARD born appx 1856 in Kentucky, died in Detroit, MI in 1891 – listed parents were Samuel and Matilda WARD (Michigan Deaths 1800-1995)

Julia KING born appx 1856 in Kentucky, died in Toledo, OH in 1938 (one year after interviewed – they made it in time!) – listed parents were Samuel WARD and Matilda MACALVIN, listed spouse Albert KING (Ohio Deaths 1908-1953) buried at Forrest Cemetery

Albert McKinney KING born 1/21/1851 in Toronto, Canada, died in Toledo, OH 1934

Samuel WARD born appx 1830, died in Detroit, MI 1890 (Michigan Deaths 1867-1897)

Matilda WARD born 8/3/1844, died in Toledo, OH 1916 lived at 731 Oakwood Ave, buried at Forrest Cemetery (Ohio Deaths 1840-2001)

Marriage record of Betty(Elizabeth) KING KIMBROUGH (spelled KIMBREW in the narrative) married on 8/12/1935 to Samuel KIMBROUGH both were divorced at time of marriage and this was the second marriage for both parties

Marriage record of Elizabeth KING married on 9/14/1928 to John LYTLE.  This was the first marriage of both parties.  Elizabeth KING listed as 21 years of age at date of marriage.

Marriage record of Albert KING and Julia WARD married on 10/20/1875 in Toledo, Ohio

 

Early Black Churches in Toledo – Warren AME Church and Third Baptist

WARREN AME CHURCH

norwoodchurch

Warren AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church was the first all-black church in Toledo and Northwest Oho.

The picture at the top of this blog is actually a photo of some members of the congregation of Warren in the mid 20th century. My maternal (my mother’s family) ancestors have been members of this church for about 7 generations starting in the 1860s.

My great grandmother is in the photo on this blog. Those who are family members will recognize her. That photo, based on her appearance and my guess about her age, looks like it was taken in the mid 1930s or early 1940s. I took a picture of this photo with my cell phone at Warren in December 2014. It is hanging in one of the hallways of the church along with other historical information and photographs.

According to their website, Warren AME was first mentioned in the documents of the African Methodist Episcopal records in 1849. It began based upon the desire of early black Toledoans to have a place of worship to call their own. Local historians and church records show that the church began in 1847 in downtown Toledo. The church later moved to the location on Norwood Ave, in Toledo, which is where the photo mentioned above was taken. I loved the church on Norwood (photo of that building in within this post). As a child I saw it as a mystery and always wondered where all the steps and doors led and I enjoyed looking at all the stain glass. The church moved to its present day location at Collingwood and Indiana Avenue in the mid 1990s.

Warren was founded by free persons of color in Toledo. Blacks have been in Toledo, Ohio since the earliest beginnings of the city. My personal research and review of early microfilmed city directories show that in the first directory, black citizens were listed in various professions. They were primarily barbers, cooks, and laborers. These early residents are the persons who got together and formed Warren in the 1840s.

Due to the time period, it is evident that all were free persons of color. They may have been run away slaves or they may have been born free and just migrated to Northwest Ohio due to it being further away from slave states than southern Ohio. My earliest ancestors who came to Northwest Ohio were free persons of color from Pennsylvania.

THIRD BAPTIST CHURCH

third baptist

Third Baptist was the first all black Baptist church in Northwest Ohio. My paternal (father’s family) line attended Third Baptist and we have had members of our family attend this church for about six generations. Like Warren, I was always intrigued by Third Baptist’s building, located at the corner of Pinewood Ave and Division Street.

My step-great grandmother was a secretary of the church for many years and her family were one of the original founding families of Third Baptist. Her maiden name is on one of the stain glass windows and I always thought it was because it was her church (in my childhood mind, I thought she owned it) until I got older and discovered her family’s connection to the institution!

Third Baptist was founded in 1868. Persons who were former members of integrated First Baptist of Toledo wanted to start a “colored” Baptist church feeling they would be able to worship more freely with their own organization. Those who were members of First Baptist petitioned that church to dismiss them from membership and after a while First Baptist consented and Third Baptist was formed.

Third Baptist was founded after the end of the Civil War so was a combined effort made between former slaves and former free persons of color. My step-great grandmother’s family were free people prior to the Civil War for instance but many of those drawn to the new church were escaped slaves or formerly enslaved persons. They housed their church in the middle of what was then the “Negro Section” of Toledo.

Though Toledo in that period did not have define “colored” or “white” areas, most black people, like other ethnic groups in Toledo lived around each other. In this era, black Toledoans primarily lived in what was designated as the “Pinewood District.” That district included many streets which are no longer there due to the creation of public housing locations (Brand Whitlock, Albertuss Brown, and the Port Lawrence Homes) along with the federal highway system (interstate 75).

Part 2: Researching Black American Genealogy – Actively Researching

Free information you say! (I hear you state in your mind!)

Yes, free.

As stated earlier, I did start out on ancestry.com.  It is a wonderful site and  I never suggest people not utilize that site at all but there are a lot of free resources available that in my opinion are just as good as the pretty expensive ancestry.com service.

But before we delve into all that, the first step everyone should take when beginning to do genealogical research is to do what I did and badger your older relatives.

It doesn’t have to be annoying for them or invasive, as I’ve found older people don’t like to be bombarded with questions about who was “so and so’s” mom and dad or grandpa and what year they were born, etc.  If you can just get names and interesting stories out of your relatives about ancestors, that is a start.

I started out by asking my own grandmother and great grandmother if they knew their grandparents and what were their grandparents’ names and what sorts of things they did, churches they went to, best dishes they cooked, funny things my current relative remembered about them.  This is more respectful of your older relatives and more useful for your research in bringing your ancestors to life instead of just a name and dates of birth, marriage, and death.

Make a small family tree, hopefully back to at least your great grandparents and then go online to do more research based on the information you have compiled.

My favorite website for genealogical research is www.familysearch.org.

Family Search is a free online genealogical database.  They have much of the same data as ancestry.com but you don’t have to pay them for anything.  Everything is right at your fingertips.

If you want to use ancestry because they have great ads online and commercials then you should sign up for their free trial next.  I am one of those people who will set an alarm telling me to cancel before the deadline so that I am certain not to pay for anything.  If you chose to go the free trial way, be sure to do the same if you are not financially able to shell out hundreds of dollars a year for an online subscription.

If you want to use ancestry outside of the free trial or don’t want to do the free trial but still want to check them out then visit your local library.

Here in Toledo, I frequently visit our downtown/main branch.  The Local History Center is located on the 3rd floor and they have a WEALTH of information in that section of our library.  You also get free access to ancestry.com’s library edition along with other online genealogical databases like Heritage Quest.

If you don’t have a library card, get one.  Most libraries, including here in Toledo allow you to have free access at home to many of their genealogical databases!  Heritage Quest is free to use at home.  Familysearch.org many times won’t show actual images of census records, but Heritage Quest has all images and transcriptions of every Federal American census from 1790-1940.

I have actually come to a point in my research where most traditional online records are no longer useful for me.  Due to being black, there are very few records of our people prior to 1870 and the end of the Civil War.  There is information, but you have to really dig through a lot of online images and it can be VERY tedious as you cannot easily search by name many of the court records or newspaper records or even books that may have been written about the local area that feature your ancestors.

Since I am not utilizing as many online sources, I have branched out and become more of a library researcher.  I have been reviewing books about census records and recently had a great find that I will discuss on a later post while visiting a library in Chicago.  I am scourging through the microfilm newspapers at the Local History Center at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.  I have been contacting other libraries to request that they perform some research for me for a fee for distant ancestors who did not live in this area.

All that to say, research is a really fun hobby.  There is nothing like sitting at a standstill for months (and for me in some cases years) and then FINALLY finding a breakthrough that opens up more avenues of research.  For those starting out please be sure to view the “helpful links” and as long as you don’t ask me to create an entire tree for you, I’d even be willing to look up some local requests for ancestry research for you.

HELPFUL LINKS:

www.familysearch.org Family Search Website this site has been invaluable to me in regards to the wealth of information you can get from census data, marriage info, and death certificates from the State of Ohio.  There is a TON of great info on this site and it is completely free.

Toledo Lucas County Public Library Research Databases (this will get you to the page that shows all the biography and genealogical resources available from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.  You can use their databases – all except ancestry.com – for free with your library card at home)

Hertiage Quest Online Heritage Quest provides all census data.  Be sure to go through the link above from the Toledo library in order to log in with your card and PIN so you can get free access.

WGTE Channel 30 Documentary A documentary called “Cornerstones:  The African Americans” about the black American community of Toledo, Ohio.

 

Part 1: Researching Black American Genealogy – How I got started

Many black Americans today are interested in learning more about the history of their families, including those of us here in Toledo.

I always have been a self-proclaimed “history nerd.”  Black history has always been a passion.  I grew up here in Toledo and am a product of Toledo Public Schools.  I felt that I received an adequate, “All American” education in our public school system even though many people here gripe about the state of TPS.  I recently moved back here to my hometown and being away for over 15 years has showed me that all in all, we have pretty good schools and the curriculum here is much better than other larger cities, especially in the southeast where I lived during my time away.

That said, I didn’t learn a lot about black history in TPS.  Mostly just during “Black History Month.”  During February, we primarily learned about the same people every year – Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and various sports figures like Jackie Robinson.  Only the “firsts” it seems were important during Black History Month.  I learned nothing of local black history until I saw a special on our local PBS station – Channel 30.  I didn’t grow up in the Central City.  I have been told that the schools in that area did focus more on black history but the majority of my school years were spent in the Old South End schools of Westfield, Jones Jr. High, and Libbey where I graduated from high school in the late 1990s.

Luckily I was a voracious reader.  I read “Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave” when I was around 9 or 10 years old and it made me obsessed with black American history.  I’ll speak on my odd love affair with the great Mr. Douglas at another time, I’m sure but we’ll save that for later.

I read every “narrative” I could find at our wonderful library system here in Toledo after reading Douglass’ book.  I read all I could on slavery in general.  I read about black people in America and the system of indentured servitude.  Everything was and is still pretty fascinating.

My mother made me watch “Roots” every year on TV and when I was around 12 or 13, I finally paid attention to it and became intrigued and wondered if I could find out about my own family and trace us back to Africa.

Unfortunately, like the majority of black Americans, my family was not aware of any old African ancestors.  We had no passed down Mandika  words.  So I began my research by badgering my older relatives about our family history.  I know I particularly got on my grandmother’s nerves while helping her remodel her home in the Old West End when I was a teenager.  She finally told me that many of the answers to my questions were “none of my business.”  But she did give me a couple picture books that belonged to her mother of which I still have in my possession.  And she told me of her parents lives and her grandparents who she remembered and even a great grandparent who she said was an “Indian.”  (Us black folks always have an “Indian in the family.”  This will be discussed later as well).

Luckily I was born during the internet age.  We got “America Online” service in my home on a black Hewlett Packard that I thought was super “techy” in 1995 or 1996.  I found a site that listed Ohio death certificates and looked up all the last names I had gathered from my maternal grandmother and my paternal great grandmother.  I found the Social Security Death Index.  I found a lot of different people but could not 100% connect them to my own family.

I found ancestry.com back when it was free and developed my first family tree around 1999 when I was 20 years old.  I went all the way back to the 1870 census on multiple branches of my tree which today is even more simple to accomplish given the large amount of free information available online for us to peruse.

 

Black In Toledo – An Introduction

I began this blog due to an interest in black American genealogy and local history pertaining to the Toledo area of Northwest Ohio.

I anticipate posting various items regarding my own genealogical research, interesting historical finds regarding black Toledo, and current events that I find interesting in relation to our local history.

Though the focus will be on Toledo and Northwest Ohio, due to the transient nature of black Americans from the 1800s to the mid 1900s, other locales will also be discussed regarding my own genealogical finds.

Hopefully others with an interest in the black history of this area will find the posts insightful and it will encourage other black Toledoans and black Americans in general to discover more about our rich, cultural past.