Tag Archives: ame church

National Archives Research and New Information on WHITFIELD Family

Recently I visited Washington, DC and the National Archives.  I was looking into the pension files of US Colored Troops who were either members of my or my spouse’s family, or people of interest on my list of early black/colored Toledo families.

One of the family’s on my list is the WHITFIELD family.  When I first began this blog, I had found some information that lead me to believe that my earliest WHITFIELD ancestor, named Elias WHITFIELD born approximately 1862-1863 was from North Carolina.  I did some extensive research on the North Carolina WHITFIELD family and they did have a person with the same name and approximate same age who I believed had moved to NW Ohio and was a relative.

In my hobby of genealogical research, I often continue to research the same individuals over and over again.  I had a nagging feeling  that Elias may have been related to one of the earliest black families in Toledo also with the surname of WHITFIELD who were enumerated on the 1850 Census in the City of Toledo. I also discovered that the NC Elias WHITFIELD had moved to Washington, DC with his family and I later found a census record of him from the 20th century when my 3rd great grandfather Elias WHTIFIELD died in 1897.  Due to that discovery, I deleted all of the information I had on my NC WHITFIELD line and started from scratch back at Elias.  I did however, make a tentative link of him to the 1850 Toledo WHITFIELD family and decided to do some off-line research on this family so placed John WHITFIELD’s pension file at the top of my list of ones to request on my visit to the National Archives.

On the 1850 Toledo census the WHITFIELD family was headed by a man named John W. WHITFIELD Sr. and his suspected wife named Hannah.  Per the 1850 Census  – John  was born in approximately 1823 in Virginia.  His wife Hannah was born in Canada around the same year.  They had within their household five children in 1850 – John W Jr., Jacob and James (twins), daughter Ann, and baby Robert WHITFIELD.  All the children were born between 1840 and 1850.

While in DC, I reviewed the file of John W. WHITFIELD Jr. in regards to his pension.  Both he and his younger brother Jacob are known veterans of the Civil War and both fought in the US Colored Troops, 5th Ohio regiment.  They both enlisted here in Toledo for the regiment and went to Delaware County for training.  During their service, both experienced some medical issues/illnesses and John Jr.’s pension file centered on him having had a finger shot off during the war along with a cough where he spit up blood, which was labeled as a “lung disease.”  His younger brother  Jacob died in 1868 in the City of Toledo so did not recieve a pension, but John Jr. filed for one first in 1889 then again in 1892 after a law was passed where veterans didn’t have to prove a disability to receive a pension.  John Jr. had lived primarily in Toledo prior to and after the war but died in Cleveland, Ohio in 1905.

In his pension file, John Jr. had to create a statement and tell a bit of his life and service in the military, including any injuries he suffered.  In his statement, he stated that he was currently married but had been married before to a woman named Mary EDWARDS.  EDWARDS is another early black/colored Toledo family and I had them on a spreadsheet for future review.  Due to seeing Mary EDWARDS’ name, I decided to do some digging on her and her family to see if she had any children and if she and John Jr. could potentially be the parents of Elias WHITFIELD.

Reviewing the EDWARDS family showed that Mary EDWARDS and John WHITFIELD Jr. married in Toledo in 1887.  Also that Mary was born in 1851.  Due to the late marriage date and Mary’s year of birth, she could not have been the mother of Elias due to him being born between 1861-1863 and she was very young at that time.  It was possible but not likely for her to have a child so young and the marriage date didn’t make sense.  John Jr.’s pension file also included a note that he had not had any children so this made him not likely to be the father of Elias Whitfield.

However, I discovered that Mary EDWARDS had an aunt named Lavina EDWARDS born approximately 1840.  Lavina was the sister of Mary’s father – William EDWARDS Jr.  There was an entry in Toledo’s marriage records  via Family Search that showed that she married John WHITFIELD Sr. in 1859.  John WHITFIELD Sr. was no longer living in Toledo in 1860 and I had always wondered where he’d moved to or if he’d  passed away.  Doing a query with him and Lavina, showed that a John WHITFIELD was a saloon keeper living in Detroit in 1860 with a woman of the same age as Lavina, who was enumerated as Elvina.  I thought that that may have been a mis-spelling by the enumerator due to it being similar to Lavina  Within their household was also a Robert WHITFIELD who was the  youngest child of John Sr and Hannah in 1850 and it stated he was born in Ohio.  Also within that household were two other children – Samantha WHITFIELD born 1852 and a baby named Mary Ann who was born in 1860.  So I believe that the 1860 household was indeed John and Lavina Whitfield who had been married in Toledo in 1859.

I did some digging into Samantha WHITFIELD and it did show that her father’s name was John WHITFIELD on her death record.  She was also enumerated in the household of William EDWARDS Sr.  in 1870 in Toledo, Ohio.  William EDWARDS Sr., born approximately 1795-1803 was the father of Lavina EDWARDS, he was living with her in Toledo by 1880.  This further solidified a relationship between these two families.

Some digging into baby Mary Ann from the 1860 Census in the household of Elvina and John WHITFIELD Sr., a death certificate turned up showing that she was the daughter of Lavina EDWARDS and John WHITFIELD.

Another person also had a death certificate that showed she was the daughter of Lavina (this time THOMAS – Lavina married Montgomery THOMAS after the death of her second husband Arthur SPENCER) and John WHITFIELD.  This daughter was named Lulu and she was shown to have been born in approximatly 1863-1864.

A review of the 1870 Census looking for Lavina showed that there was a Lavina SPENCE living in Toledo in the household of Arthur SPENCE.  Within that household included a male named Eli SPENCE.  I concluded that John WHITFIELD must have died between 1860 and 1863 as Lavina re-married a man named Arthur SPENCER in 1863 in Toledo.  By 1880, Arthur also must have passed away because Lavina was listed as a widow and she later re-married a man named Montgomery THOMAS in 1884. Due to her having a male named Eli in her household, I thought maybe this Eli SPENCE(R) was more than likely Eli(as) WHITFIELD.  I’ve seen before in censuses where the surnames of family members were incorrect, mostly due to the re-marriages of their parents and them being given the name of the widowed mother or stepfather instead of their biological surname.  I also  never have seen an Eli or Elias Spencer listed in the city directory of Toledo, however starting in the 1880s Eli or Elias WHITFIELD was listed several times until his death in 1897 and later he was listed as the deceased husband of my 3rd great grandmother Martha JONES WHITFIELD.

Unfortunately Elias WHITFIELD died prior to the establishment of death certificates in the City of Toledo.  So his parents were not listed on the death register since that information was not collected prior to the 20th century in Toledo.  I have never found him on census records in Toledo as Elias WHITFIELD, only in the city directory starting in 1883.  Due to these connections discovered via information on the EDWARDS family as a result of reviewing John WHITFIELD Jr.’s pension file, I am 95% sure that Eli SPENCER may be Elias (also labeled as Eli in directory information) WHITFIELD.  I base this on the fact that Eli would have been the middle or youngest child of John WHITFIELD Sr. and Lavina EDWARDS.  Mary Ann was born in 1860, Eli in 1862-63 and Lulu in 1863-64.  Both Mary Ann and Lulu lived until the 1920s so had a modern era death certificate that listed their parents as John and Lavina, so I feel safe concluding that my 3rd great grandfather Elias WHITFIELD was actually the son of John WHITFIELD Sr., and brother of John WHITFIELD Jr.

I am very excited to explore this connection further and the EDWARDS family, especially since William EDWARDS Sr.  would be a potential 5th great grandfather.  He was a Barber in Toledo and worked and/or lived in the same location as Barber William MERRITT who was a known black UGGR administrator in Toledo.

REFERENCES

1850 Census – Household of John Whitfield

Marriage Record of John Whitfield and Lavina Edwards 1859

1860 Census – Household of John Whitfield

1860 Census – Household of Willien(William Sr.) Edwards – includes Mary Edwards

Marriage Record of Lovinia Whitfield and Arthur Spencer 1863

1870 Census – Household of Arthur Spence 

1870 Census – Household of William Edwards

1880 Census – Household of Lavina Spencer

Death Record of Lulu WHITFIELD VENABLE

 

Black Culture Series – Education and Intellectualism

As was hinted upon in the second part of this series regarding The Black Family, education has always been a focus of the demographic.

Since the 1970s educational statistics for the black demographic have greatly increased regarding high school graduation rates and college entrance and matriculation.

Unfortunately these positive gains are many times overshadowed by pervasive, negative depictions of blacks in media which serve to show black Americans as a demographic that lacks a desire to lift itself via education and hard work. A historical, cultural view of education and intellectualism in black America, however, refutes this depiction as a false stereotype.

As has been shared in this series and in this blog, black Americans have lived in this country for centuries as a majority enslaved population and minority “free” status. Both enslaved and free blacks sought an education due to the understanding that knowledge is power and has the potential to create vast opportunities for the individual, family, and community at large.

Unfortunately for many centuries black Americans were denied the opportunity to be educated. Many are aware that it was against the law in southern states to teach slaves to read. This was due to the belief that it would make a slave unwilling and unsuited for life content to be held as property. Free blacks in many areas were also denied the right of an education. They were “free” in name only and even though they were forced to pay taxes, they were not allowed to participate in society as “free” men and women.

Many “free” and slave states had laws that stated that black children were not allowed to attend public schools. Those families who could afford to do so would hire teachers and tutors to educate their children. In many free communities, the families would also would bind together and raise money for land and buildings to create their own schools. Often these private schools for black children were held in the local black church if one was available.

Here in Toledo, the Warren AME church in the 1850s began a private school for black children.  Due to the low population of blacks in the area, they were unable to sustain the school.  Local blacks in Toledo, including father Garland WHITE paid for private tutors when they could afford to do so.

In 1870 Mr. WHITE filed suit against the City of Toledo due to them excluding his daughter from attending the school in the ward of his residence.  As shared in the post regarding the History of the Toledo Public School district, the city integrated its schools starting in the 1870s.  Per a newspaper article published on March 3, 1871 in the “Weekly Louisianian” a black newspaper published out of New Orleans, LA – Mr. WHITE filed suit against TPS because of its segregation policy that excluded his daughter from attending the school in his ward.  The article, shown below, stated he owned property valued at $10,00.00 yet his daughter, due to her race,  was denied the right to attend, even though  he paid property taxes that supported that school.  More research is required but it can be concluded that since TPS integrated in 1873 that Mr. WHITE won his case.  This occurrence in our local area is one of many similar stories that shows the historical dedication to educational opportunities that black families have consistently maintained.

Many are aware that slaves were not allowed to learn to read as shared above.  Because of it being taboo, many blacks who were enslaved in the south had a yearning for knowledge and a desire to be educated and to educate their children.  They were aware, following the Civil War that being uneducated was to be at a disadvantage.  They were much more likely to be victimized due to a lack of literacy.  Many of the North’s black teachers, schools, and social/community organizations, galvanized around providing educational opportunities for newly freed slaves.  Abolitionist societies also formed new goals of sending white, former anti-slavery activists to the south to educate the newly freed slaves.  The federal government, during the Reconstruction period, opened “Freedman’s Schools” for black people to attend.  These schools were filled with blacks seeking an education.

 

Due to the lack of public education in the south for poor white children, even they were allowed to attend those schools during the Reconstruction era.  By 1870 there were nearly 2000 Freedman’s Bureau Schools in the south. They served to educate both children and adults.  Information obtained during the Reconstruction era showed that the areas with Freedman’s schools had a literacy rate, ten years post Reconstruction, that was 6 points higher than areas that had not been fortunate enough to have a Freedman’s school in their community.   Examples of this dedication to acquiring knowledge can also be observed by studying the lives of more famous black  historical figures – two of which were recently in the media:  Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

One of my favorite black men in history is Frederick Douglass.  As many are aware, he was born a slave.  When he was young the wife of one of his masters taught him the alphabet until her husband told her that doing so would ruin him.  Fortunately, she had succeeded a bit and his thirst for knowledge was born.  Young Douglass tricked white boys into teaching him to read and he would later go on to escape slavery and become the most well known black abolitionist in America in his era and even today.  After his escape from slavery and the publishing of his widely read “Narrative,” many whites could not believe that he had written the text himself due to the belief that blacks could not learn to write as eloquently as Douglass.  The “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” was written only seven years after Douglass escaped slavery.  He was one of the first to prove that skin color and ethnic origins was not a factor in intelligence and the ability to learn – a desire for knowledge and a dedication to that desire was all that was needed for him to become one of the most famous black activists in American history.

Dr. William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B) DuBois is also a very well known black intellectual.  Dr. DuBois was born in 1868 to parents who had been free people of color.  He was the first black man to receive a PhD from Harvard University.  He also published one of the first historical studies on the role of blacks in a political era entitled “Black Reconstruction in America.”  His later work “The Philadelphia Negro” was the first sociological study of urban black Americans.  His longevity as a researcher, activist and writer is impressive and at its core he always exhibited the fact that black Americans, when not limited by intense race based prejudice and oppression, would have similar socio-economic successes in life as other American ethnicities.    Many who have heard of Dr. DuBois are usually aware of his views that are believed to have differed substantially from those of Booker T. Washington, in that he favored what was then called a “classical” education for black students instead of only an “industrial” education focused on specific trades.  This debate lives on in regards to both of these men and their educational philosophies and it is important to note that both Dr. DuBois and Washington believed that blacks were able to be educated in the same ways as whites and other Americans.  That if taught, blacks would learn, that racism and oppression were a factor not only in educational opportunities but also in economic and commercial opportunities.  And especially if knowledge was desired, it would be consumed.  Their differences primarily centered around politics, economics and opportunity, not a disagreement on the ability of black Americans to learn.

In summation, this modern era whereas more black Americans have completed an education than ever before, is a true testament to the cultural aspects of a dedication to education.  This attitude regarding education – that it is a means to an improvement in the condition of one’s life, has never faded in black America and is at an all time high.  Of course, like all socio-economic issues, education is an area that is still a subject of hot debate and where there are many ideas about ways to increase the quality of education in order to have more positive economic outcomes based on a particular type of education.  These debates harken back to those of Dr. DuBois and Washington mentioned above and are a lasting legacy of the culture’s focus on education within the black demographic.

James Madison BELL – “Bard of the Maumee” – Poet and Friend to John BROWN

James Madison Bell around 1900

Listed within the 1870 Census post was James Madison BELL who after more newspaper digging, I discovered was a well known abolitionist and poet who moved to the city of Toledo in 1865.  Mr. BELL is considered one of the most well known black poets of the 19th century and primarily focused his pieces on the abolitionist cause.

In 1870, Mr. BELL was living in Ward 8 in the City of Toledo. He was called Madison BELL and was listed with his wife Louisa and his 7 children, the youngest named George BELL was born in July of 1870.

James Madison BELL was purportedly born in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1826 which was the location of a large concentration of free people of color in Ohio.  However, on the 1850 Census, Mr. BELL indicated that he was born in Virginia.  A review of a previously mentioned site freeafricanamericans.com lists a free “BELL” family in Virginia and James Madison BELL may have been a descendant of this family and may have come to Ohio as a child.  As was shared in my VINEY-VIRES post many free Virginia blacks moved out of the state in the 1820s and 1830s.  BELL may also have been the child of escaped slaves.  Other than the 1850 Census every other document I located, stated that he was born in Ohio.

Mr. BELL moved from Gallipolis when he was a teenager to Cincinnati, Ohio where he trained as a “plasterer.” Plasterers created the old lathe and plaster walls that are still standing in many old Toledo homes and elsewhere across the country.   He also attended the Cincinnati High School for Colored People at night, which then was associated with Oberlin College.

James later married Louisana SANDERLIN in Cinncinnati.  In the 1850s he moved to the Chatham-Kent area of Ontario, similar to many of my own ancestors who eventually ended up in Toledo.  The emigrationist to Canada are the subject of a lot of my research of late.  There are many theories about why free blacks in the US moved to Canada but the most logical one that many historians agree upon is the fact that the 1840s and 1850s were very hostile to free black people in regards to many laws that were created that placed burdens on black families or that stripped them of their right to vote.  Another reason for the movement of many of these African Americans is that they may have been run away slaves from long before the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed.  This law required free states to assist in the capture of runaway slaves and many blacks who had run away and started new lived in “free states” feared they may be re-enslaved so went to Canada in order to be assured of their and their children’s freedom.

For those who were not runaways and whose family was either emancipated via Gradual Emancipation that took place in many northern states, or those who were descendants of indentured servants who were never enslaved, they still faced highly oppressive conditions in the US that contributed to their decision to leave this country.  Many states made free blacks pay a tax just to live in those states, yet would not allow them to sit on a jury, to file a complaint against a white man, or even own a weapon.  In some states,  educating black children was against the law as a result of these discriminatory laws even if they were free born.  States even passed laws stating that free blacks who left the state for 90 days could be legally enslaved upon re-entering the state, which caused a loud outcry from black activist during that era since many of them had family in other states and would face enslavement if they ever moved then needed to come back to visit or take care of relatives.  Many free people of color became fed up with the  discriminatory laws and instead left the states that were most hostile, including Indiana, Pennsylvania (due to the threat of kidnapping primarily), Maryland, and Delaware.  I’ve discovered that a large amount of free people of color moved to the Chatham-Kent area, called “Canada West” in order to be assured that their rights as free men would be protected.  Much of the historical research I attempt on the community of blacks in SE Ontario primarily leads me to sources that focus on escaped slaves and rarely mentions the issues that free blacks faced in the US and what drove them to resettle in Canada, but I’ve discovered that a large amount of the families in the Chatham-Kent area actually were free people prior to moving to that area and not recently escaped slaves.

James Madison BELL  and his family were amongst those who chose to leave Ohio and immigrate to SE Ontario.   During his time in Canada, he hosted John BROWN the famous abolitionist who, today is well know for his failed insurrection attempt at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859.  Prior to instigating the raid, John BROWN stayed at the home of James Madison BELL in Chatham while planning the attack on Harper’s Ferry.  Mr. BELL gave an interview to a journalist in 1889, thirty years after the failed raid occurred.  As is referenced in the article, Mr. BELL lived on Indiana Avenue, in the Pinewood District, currently called “Central City.”  Further information obtained from Census records show he lived at 559 Indiana, which is near the corner of Indiana and City Park Avenues.  He lived across the street from the site of the current Warren AME Church, of which he was a member.  A link to the entire interview is in the reference section of this post, but a snippet of the interview is below.  It was interesting to me to note that prior to beginning the interview, the journalist commented about how well Mr. BELL spoke, something that alluded to the past and continued stereotyping of black Americans via media.

 

 

JOHN BROWN’S RAID.

THE DELIBERATIONS AND PLANS LAID AT CHATHAM, ONT

An Interesting Reminiscence of the First Break Toward Freeing the American Slaves.

A correspondent of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, writing from Toledo, Ohio, says: Among the forty-five persons who attended the secret Convention, at which John Brown presented his famous Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, at Chatham. Ontario, May 8, 1859, was James Madison Bell, a colored man, and at that time a resident of Chatham. Mr. Bell was then a bright, energetic man of about 32 years, and was intimately connected with John Brown during his stay in Ontario, and, in daily intercourse with him, became quite familiar with all of his plans. Mr. Bell is now a resident of this city, and one of its most respected citizens. He resides on Indiana avenue, and conducts a large plastering business. A Globe-Democrat representative called upon Mr. Bell at his home, and found him ready and willing to tell nearly all he knew about John Brown. He is a good scholar, and an easy and interesting conversationalist, using the most correct language, of which he seems to have a perfect control

Only a few questions were needed to start Mr. Bell, and, his memory working as he went along, he seemed to take as much delight in telling as the reporter did in listening.

“I first saw Mr. Brown in the spring of 1859,” commenced Mr. Bell, leaning back in his large arm chair and closing his eves, as if to stimulate thought. “He came to my house at Chatham, Ont. — Canada West we called it then — and presented a letter from Wm. Howard Day, colored, a friend of mine, a graduate of Oberlin, and afterward for some years a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature. “The letter was dated at Toronto, a few days previous, and simply introduced the bearer as John Brown, asking me to do what I could for him during his stay in Canada.

After Brown’s raid, BELL moved to California and lived there until after the war concluded.  He then moved to Toledo and made Toledo his home for the remainder of his life.

After the Civil War, Mr. BELL was active in fighting for the Civil Rights of black Americans.  Contrary to what many people today believe, the  “Civil Rights Movement” started immediately after the Civil War, not in the 20th century.  Those who were ardent abolitionists prior to the war, became heavily active in the fight for civil rights of newly freedmen and women.  Mr. BELL was active at Warren AME Church here in Toledo.  He was the Sunday School Superintendent between 1870 and 1873.  He also traveled the country in the winter “off season” of his construction and plastering work.  He was known as a great orator and often read his poems while delivering speeches about the need for the acknowledgement of the rights of black people in America.   His wife is believed to have passed away in 1874 and Mr. BELL  was listed as a widower by the 1880 Census.  I have yet to find his wife’s death record but will continue to search.

The early pastor of Warren AME Church and subsequent Bishop – BW Arnett convinced Mr BELL  to write down his poems and publish a collection of 27 poems, which was published in 1901, titled “The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell.”  Mr. Bell died in 1902.   He was considered one of the main voices of black America during his lifetime and was one of the most well known black poets in the country.  He was called the “Bard of Maumee” due to his residence being in Toledo.

REFERENCE INFORMATION:

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 60, Number 126, 16 Jan 1889 accessed via California Digital Newspaper Connection on January 20, 2017

Life of James Madison Bell www.encyclopedia.com accessed on January 20, 2017

The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell www.archive.org accessed on January 20, 2017

1850 Census – Household of James Bell – Cincinnati, Ohio Ward 11

 

Maternal Genealogy – JONES/ROBINSON Families

Some of my earliest ancestors to move to Toledo arrived in Northwest Ohio between 1860 and 1870.

Nancy JONES was born in 1859 in Bainbridge, Ross County, Ohio. She was enumerated with her family on the 1860 United States Census when she was 8 months old.

Her parents were Mary JONES and John Wesley JONES who was listed as an “ME Minister” on the Census record. I believe that “ME” stood for “Methodist Episcopal. My maternal line have been members of Warren AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church for many generations.

Nancy was the youngest child listed for Mary and John JONES on the 1860 Census. She had two older siblings listed as well. Her older sister’s name was Martha JONES and her older brother’s name was John JONES Jr.

John W. JONES Jr. was the oldest child. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1852. Martha JONES was also born in Pennsylvania but in 1854. Nancy JONES was the first of the JONES children born in Ohio.

John W. JONES Sr. stated on the 1860 Census that he was born in Maryland. He was born in approximately 1805. Mary JONES stated that she was born in Pennsylvania in approximately 1823.

I found Mary JONES and her three children on the 1870 Census living in Washington Township, Lucas County Ohio.  Washington Township is now a part of the City of Toledo.   On the 1870 Census there was another JONES child listed who was a younger sister to Nancy JONES. The youngest JONES child was named Francis JONES and she was born in 1860. I believe that they moved to Northwest Ohio around 1866. The Toledo Lucas County Public Library has a death record for a John JONES in 1867 but I am not certain that this is “my” John JONES due to the common name. However, he is the only John JONES listed in the death records between 1860 and 1870 and I am 80% certain that this is “my” John JONES.

During my genealogical compilation for this family, I was faced with many odd, in my opinion, difficulties. When you start out doing genealogy, one should start from the most current generation and work their way back. Luckily, Nancy JONES did not die until 1950 so my grandmother and her sister (my great aunt, who is still alive) knew Nancy JONES and they were able to provide me with a decent genealogical link to her that was easily verified via the census record information contained within familysearch.org.

My grandmother remembered Nancy as Nancy BAKER. She stated that Nancy, her grandmother, had lived with them for a time when she was a child. So going by that information, I looked up Nancy BAKER and basically hit a wall on this family that lasted for about 10 years.

In 2010 the 1940 census was released. I was not actively researching during that time due to regular life’s busy-ness so it wasn’t until around 2012 that I searched again for genealogical information. I looked up my grandmother on the 1940 Census since she was born in 1936. I thought it would be cool to have such a close link to historical information. My grandmother died in 2004 and I still miss her dearly and I was thinking of her at the time when I looked her up in 2012.

That query did pull up my grandmother, her siblings, including my great aunt who is still alive and their parents. It also showed that a Nancy BACKER lived next door to them which finally gave me a true connection to Nancy BAKER.

Many times on Census records surnames and given names are horrendously mispelled. Finding a Nancy, who was listed as approximately 80 years old in 1940 was extremely exciting for me!

From there, I found that Nancy had been living with a man named Stephen BAKER on the 1930 Census. At that time she also lived near my great grandmother. A big tip for people using Census records for genealogy is to peruse the entire handwritten page for neighbor’s names. Many times, people lived near their relatives or with their relatives and with today’s technology, if you search for a specific name, it will only provide you a printed, transcribed version of exactly what you were looking for so it is up to you to do additional digging.

After much research, I found out that Nancy was not originally married to Stephen BAKER. I had been looking for my 2nd great grandmother under the last name of BAKER due to thinking that BAKER may have been her maiden name. Instead I found out that Nancy was originally married to a man named James Edward ROBINSON.  Stephen BAKER was her second husband.

I found the death certificate of my 2nd great grandmother on familysearch’s database for Ohio Deaths. She died in 1941 from kidney disease. On her death certificate her mother was listed as Nancy JONES and her father was listed as James ROBSON. As with BACKER on the Census, ROBSON was written incorrectly. She was actually a ROBINSON.

This discovery allowed me to pull up all of the information regarding James Edward ROBINSON and Nancy JONES ROBINSON on Census records all the way back to 1900.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a solid marriage certificate for them. Due to Nancy being in Lucas County, Ohio on the 1870 Census, I know that she lived in this area. Lucas County kept pretty good records for deaths, marriages, and births long before most states started to do this consistently. I did find a marriage record for a James E. ROBERTSON and Amanda JONES for November 11, 1874. I am somewhat sure that this is James and Nancy ROBINSON. Throughout the years ROBINSON has been spelled in many variations including the following: ROBINSON-ROBSON-ROBESON-ROBISON-ROBERTSON and another crazy variation that I will speak of below, which caused another brick wall for me that lasted until this year (2015).

James Edward ROBINSON showed up in the city directory for the City of Toledo in 1876.

He death certificate states that he was born in Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania.  His father’s name was listed as Frank ROBISON and his mother as “Becky” only.

Upon further review of ROBINSON’S in Pennsylvania on the 1860 and 1850 census records, I found a James E ROBINSON on the 1850 census listed with his father Franklin ROBINSON and mother Ellen ROBINSON.  Even though Ellen differed from what was listed on James’ death certificate as his mother (Becky), I am 100% sure that Ellen was James E ROBINSON’s mother.  Many times the informant who fills out a death certificate did not know the name of the person who passed away.  Information I have found lead me to believe that Ellen ROBINSON may have died or separated from her husband Franklin by the early 1860s.  On the 1860 census, Franklin ROBINSON is listed with his son but this time the name was listed a Edward James ROBINSON.  On various census records throughout the years, James Edward was listed as Edward James.  I am certain that he was the same person due to always being listed with his wife Nancy and their children as either James E, James Edward, Edward, or Ed.  The switching of the first and middle name is actually what made me know 100% that this family was the ROBINSON family I was looking for.

I have yet to find any death records for Franklin ROBINSON or Ellen ROBINSON.  I did find an exciting tidbit regarding Ellen in an online scholarly article about the effect of the Fugitive Slave Act on blacks in Harrisburgh, PA, but I will save that for another entry.

Due to census records not providing much detailed information prior to the 1850 census, I am temporarily at another road block for this family.  An interesting tidbit I am currently looking into is the fact that Franklin, Ellen, and James E ROBINSON lived with Thomas and Dinah WATKINS on the 1850 census.  I am going to attempt to connect the WATKINS families with the ROBINSON family and I am hoping that they are relatives of Ellen and/or Franklin.

After moving to Toledo, James Edward ROBINSON married Nancy JONES.  They eventually had seven children – Francis (1876-1932), Edna (1880-1929), Edward (1884-1951), Florence (1892-1941), Fred (1894-?), Naomi (1894-?), and William Alton (1898-1917).

Florence ROBINSON was my second great grandmother.

James Edward ROBINSON died in 1910.

As stated above, Nancy JONES ROBINSON BAKER did not die until 1950.  She was 90 years old when she passed away.

One of the best finds I discovered just this year was finally locating James Edward and Nancy ROBINSON on the 1880 Census.  After searching through both electronic records at the library via micro film, on family search and ancestry.com via census records and via hardcopy 1880 census indexes at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, I was unsuccessful in locating this couple in Toledo or in PA or anywhere really.

I had decided this past summer to make a visit to the Newberry Library in Chicago since we make frequent visits there to see family.  I was initially only looking up a specific family that also was an early settler in NW Ohio – the WHITFIELDS.  I will write another post about that research later.  After finding the information I was looking for on the WHITFIELDs, I decided to look up other holdings of the library and they had a book which was loosely titled (going off my memory here, will edit later with the correct title) Blacks in Ohio in 1880.  It basically was a book that contained a list of all the black or mullatto or other “colored” residents in the state of Ohio on the 1880 census.

Within that book, I found all of my Ohio lines and due to there not being many black people in Toledo itself in 1880, I also saw a entry which listed a Nancy and Ed “BOBISON” who had older children who matched the names of the older ROBINSON children mentioned above.

I wanted to scream at the library!!  It was soooo exciting for me to see them in this book!  I had almost given up on this line and just chalked it up to not having any other way to research them.

Upon reviewing the 1880 “BOBISON” family it showed that they lived in a house with a Mary JONES and her children, John and Francis JONES.  This was how I found an entire new generation of the JONES family detailed above.

I am currently trying to connect the ROBINSON and JONES families to see if they both lived in the Harrisburgh, PA area.  Hopefully it won’t take another 10 years to find a connection.

 

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).