Tag Archives: third baptist

Free Black Virginians to Ohio – Viney and Viers Family

Finally got some time to devote back to the blog. I’ve been ill and just crazy busy with kid stuff over the past 3-5 months but as usual, I’ve been doing some quick (or long) research in between my last post and today.

I have recently started digging into my great grandmother’s family – the McCowns.

As a kid, I noticed that her family surname was on one of the stain glass windows at Third Baptist Church and I always thought they must have had something to do with the early beginnings of the church. Recently I was surprised to find out that one of her grandfathers was an early pastor.

My great grandmother’s father was named Hillus McCown.  His mother was Hannah Rebecca Viney/Vina.  Her parents were Madison Viney and Mary Viers.

Madison (or Mattison) Viney was born in approximately 1820 (around 1823) in Giles County, Virginia. He was born into a family of free people of color in the state of Virginia who had an ancestry back to the early 1700s.

Via information obtain from the website “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware” I found information that showed that the Viney family (also spelled Vina/Vena/Veny/Venie/Venners/Veney, etc.) were the descendants of a white woman named Elizabeth Venners who had a “mullatto” child of mixed race named William Venners/Viney. William was born in approximately 1701 and had to sue for his freedom based on him being the child of a white (probably indentured servant) woman.

William’s granddaughter, Rachel Viney was registered as a “taxable” free negro multiple times throughout the 1800s. In 1825 she and her children were listed on a register of “free negroes” of Giles County, Virginia. The youngest person in the family listed on that register in 1825 was “Mattison Viney” who was listed as 2 years old in 1825.

Madison later moved to Ohio. Many free persons of color from Virginia migrated to both Kentucky and Ohio in the mid 1800s. The earliest record of Madison’s residency in Ohio was found via familysearch on the 1850 census.

1850 Viney Census

1850 Census of the “Vina” family 

Madison and his wife Mary were listed as living in Shelby County, Ohio in 1850. Upon seeing their residency, I researched to see if they had a marriage record on file in Ohio and found that they were married in Galia County, Ohio in 1839. His wife’s last name was listed as “Vires.”

Madison and Mary lived in the Shelby County area until 1880 when they showed up on census records living in Toledo, Ohio.  A history of Third Baptist Church showed that he was one of the early pastors of the church during its trying period in regards to finances and membership (“The Black Church – Third Baptist Church, Toledo, Ohio“).

The period between 1868 and 1891 was a Period of Struggle for the newly established Third Baptist Church, in leadership and finances. During this period, the record indicates there were nineteen pastors, several loans and two locations. The only names of pastors that can be recalled are Reverends Burch, Meadows, Mattison Viney, Thomas Frazier, Johnson and Dyer.

Madison and Mary had 14 children and I found various records regarding the marriages and deaths of their children throughout the US all the way to Texas and even one who was married in Canada.

Reverend Madison Viney died in 1897 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Mary Viers Viney was born in Virginia and moved with her family to Galia County, Ohio in the early 1820s. Information obtained from the website mentioned above (“Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware“) show that the Viers family was descended of a woman named Mary “Via” who had a mullatto child born in 1754 named Benjamin Viers.

Benjamin enlisted as a Private in the Revolutionary war in 1775 out of Henry County, Virginia. He subsequently came back to Virginia after the conclusion of the war but moved to Galia County, Ohio around 1823 with his family, including his then adult son, William Viers, the father of Mary Viers Viney.

Mary Viers Viney died in 1917 and was buried alongside her husband at Woodlawn Cemetery. Her death certificate confirmed that her father was William Viers along with listing her mother – Anna Douglas.

Viney Grave

Grave of Madison Viney and Mary Vires Viney – Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Some checking onto the google news archives rewarded me with a picture of her and some of her grandchildren/great grandchildren. I’m not certain who the children are but it was great find as I usually don’t turn up any pictures of this nature.

Mary Viney and Grandchildren

Mary Vires Viney aged approximately 85 and McCown grandchildren

Mary, of course is the grandmother in the middle.  This was a picture posted in the Toledo Blade on February 11, 1990 and it listed this family as Grandmother Viney with the McCown family from 1905.

I am unsure of who the children are.  The article of which this picture came cited the Mott Branch library here in Toledo in regards to having a picture depository of African American Toledoans.  I plan on visiting there in the upcoming week in order to see if I can get a better copy of the picture and to see if any other names were noted in regards to the children.

The Story of Mrs. Hannah Davidson – Former Slave/Toledo Resident

The second formerly enslaved person interviewed by the WPA (see The Story of Mrs. Julia King) was Mrs. Hannah Davidson. Mrs. Davidson was approximately 85 years old at the time of her interview in 1937. She was interviewed by a person identified as K. Osthimer.

At the time of her interview, Mrs. Davidson lived at 533 Woodland Ave. Below is a picture of her home obtained from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s “Images in Time” collection. This collection contains many pictures of homes, businesses, and neighborhoods in Toledo from the 1800s forward. Mrs. Davidson’s home was photographed between 1937 and 1965 and the photograph was a part of a tax assessor’s records.

Hannah Davidson House

UPDATE:  I recently found a picture of Mrs. Hannah Davidson at the google news archives website.  She is pictured with another woman who is labeled as the “oldest members” of an organization.  I am thinking they were the oldest members of Third Baptist Church:

Mrs. Davidson is on the right


In the narrative, it was shared that Mrs. Davidson lived off of a $23 a month “old age pension.”  She was a boarder and rented a room in her home.  Many black Toledoans rented rooms as boarders or rented out rooms in their home for extra income during this time period.

Mrs. Davidson stated that her maiden name was Hannah Merriwether and that she had four sisters and two brothers.  Her parents names were Isaac and Nancy Merriwether.  She was born in Ballard County, Kentucky in approximately 1852.  She and her family were the slaves of Emmett and Susan Merriwether.

Mrs. Davidson’s story is dramatically different from that of Mrs. Julia King’s being that Hannah Davidson’s family did not come to the Toledo area via the Underground Rail Road as runaway slaves.

Mrs. Davidson stated that her folks were sold so many times that she “lost track” of them.  She also mentioned that she and her sister  Mary were kept over twenty years after emancipation by their slave master as slaves because the master would not let them leave.  She spoke of how she desperately wanted to learn to read and go to school but that the one black man who came to her county to teach “colored” people was beaten and run out of town by whites.  Mrs. Davidson eventually learned to read by herself with the help of WPA programs in the 1930s.

Mrs. Davidson reiterated many times about how hard she had worked her whole life.  She spoke of how one time she was so tired that she hid under a house just to take a nap and go to sleep because she was exhausted.

She also mentioned that her mother was the last slave to try to leave the plantation.  Her mother tried to take Mrs. Davidson as well but their master would not let the mother take her children.  Her mother was kicked off the plantation and Mrs. Davidson never saw her again.  Later on in life Mrs. Davidson forced her own sister Mary to leave the plantation by threatening her with a rolling pin.

Mrs. Davidson mentioned that “terrible” things happened to herself and her sister Mary.  She did not go into detail but it is well documented that female slaves were highly likely to be sexually assaulted and abused.

When she was 31, Mrs. Davidson stated that she married her husband William L. Davidson.  She stated that at the time of the interview, she only had one grandchild still living – Willa May Reynolds who was a teacher in City Grove, Tennessee.

Mrs. Davidson was a member of Third Baptist Church in Toledo.

My favorite quote from Mrs. Davidson was “I believe we should all do good to everybody.”

The idea that she maintained such positivity throughout her lifetime is a testament to the human spirit and is indicative of black American culture in regards to strength in faith and hope for the future.

I was very saddened and inspired when initially reading Mrs. Davidson’s narrative.  It is also interesting to compare the two persons interviewed in Toledo – Mrs. Julia King and Mrs. Hannah Davidson.  Mrs. King’s family escaped slavery when she was a young girl and so Mrs. King did not have to live with the trials of this horrible institution like Mrs. Davidson.  Mrs. Davidson did not get the benefit of being educated and thus could not obtain employment such as that afforded by Mrs. King’s background and subsequent work for the local government.  Mrs. King owned her home while Mrs. Davidson rented a room in  her old age.  The contrasts between the two women really do show how oppression and forced servitude and a lack of freedom can drastically reduce the opportunity afforded to one in their life.

The Story of Mrs. Hannah Davidson


William DAVISON/DAVIDSON born 9/8/1865 died 3/10/1920 (familysearch.org – Ohio Deaths 1840-2001)

George DAVIDSON born 1898 in KY, lived in 1930 in Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census) son of Hannah DAVIDSON

Wanda DAVIDSON born 1915 in OH, lived in 1930 Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census) daughter of Hannah DAVIDSON

Hannah DAVIDSON born 1852 in KY, lived in 1930 Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census)

Helen DAVIDSON died 1/18/1928 in Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – Ohio deaths 1908-1953) wife of George Davidson



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


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 (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

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).