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