Tag Archives: toledo lucas county public library

Early Black Toledo Families – TILTON

One of the earliest found commercial establishment of Toledo’s black community was a restaurant/saloon established by John B. TILTON who was mentioned as a restaurateur in the city directory in 1868.  Mr. TILTON had been a resident of Northwest Ohio since at least 1860 and prior to opening his own restaurant, he was listed as a farmer in Swanton.  John TILTON seemingly moved to Toledo after 1860 as in the 1864 Toledo directory, there was a “cold” John TILTON listed as a Porter employed by the Oliver House.

TILTON was labeled as associated with the  restaurant business on the 1870 Census. Occupations of “restaurant” or “restaurant keeper” were shown on the document.  TILTON had real estate valued between $4000 and $12000 and a personal estate of between $1000 and $3000.  Based on real and personal estate figures, he was one of the wealthiest black men in Toledo in 1870 and the only black saloon/restaurant keeper in the city at the time.

Per the 1860 census and every census afterwards John B TILTON was born in the state of Delaware in approximately 1820.  In 1860 he was a farmer in Swanton and in his household was Sarah TILTON, presumably his wife and two black residents named John INGRAHAM and Woodson DERINGER.  Both were labeled as black farm laborers.

The TILTON restaurant was also labeled in the city directory as a “distiller” and a saloon, basically a club and drinking establishment.  Due to there being so few black/colored residents in 1868, TILTON was required to serve a diverse crowd in his establishment.  It can be assumed that John TILTON took advantage of the many economic advantages of a diverse, integrated society that Toledo was in the mid 1800s.  His restaurant/saloon was located near the corner of Monroe and St. Clair Street near the present day “Hensville” outdoor venue arena, Fifth/Third Field, and the SeaGate Convention Center.  It was a part of a community of establishments that took advantage of what was then known as Toledo’s “Times Square” in the 19th century.  St. Clair Street was the location of a variety of theaters and commercial establishments for many years, and luckily the area is seeing a resurgence in being the center of similar activities today.

John TILTON’s business was called the Opera House Restaurant in the 1878 Toledo directory ad that was placed for the establishment.  It was across the street from the Wheeler Opera House, which was one of the most popular entertainment venues in Toledo at the time.  Per the ad below he was “Open at all Hours” and even had a separate area for women’s entertainment with a “Ladies Dining Hall, Up Stairs.”  Associating his business with the opera house and being so near it would encourage crowds going to or leaving shows to also visit his establishment for drinks and food in association with the shows and visitors to the Wheeler.  The ad also showed that diners would be treated to all sorts of “game” that was always in season

 

1878 City of Toledo Director – Opera House Restaurant – John. B. TILTON proprietor

Many today, due to seeing depictions of saloons in old Western movies, associate them with prostitution.  Though it is true that many of them did provide venues of “vice” it should be noted that a majority of saloons were not houses of prostitution.  Most served as restaurants and nightclubs.  Many, per the source linked below regarding Toledo’s saloon culture, also served as hotels, especially those ran by women who rented out rooms as a way to make a living after being widowed.  On the 1880 Census half of the persons enumerated at TILTON’s establishment were labeled as “borders” meaning they were renting rooms at his saloon.

I found no evidence that the TILTON establishment was involved in any illegal activities after a review of Toledo newspapers.  In 1880 the Census takers seemingly counted all the workers who were employed by TILTON.  All of them were black community members of Toledo.  His employees included Joseph GARRETT who was mentioned as being the father in law of Toledo’s first black photographer George FIELDS.  Both men were also listed as some of the early trustees of Warren AME Church.  The occupations listed for TILTON’s employees ranged from “cook” to “porter” to “dishwasher.”  All of his workers in 1880 were labeled as black or mullato while all the borders were white, showing that he primarily hired black workers yet served a majority white customer base.  He and other black business owners assisted the small black community due to their hiring trends based on the fact that in the City of Toledo, employment opportunities for black/colored Americans in the 19th century were severely limited due to the prevalence of race prejudiced against all people with any known negro ancestry.

A further review of the history of Warren AME Chruch showed that John B. Tilton was also listed as one of the trustees of the church who bought the first church home for the young congregation.  The deed information shown below, listed as Trustees various persons who I am currently researching in early Toledo’s black community as are shown in bold:

Know all men be these present that we Calvin Barker and Mary Barker, his wife, in consideration of dollars to us paid by Joseph Garrett, David Gatsel, William Mills, John B. Tilton, David Philips, Simon Roady and George Field, Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the City of Toledo, State of Ohio, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey to said Trustees and their successors for the uses and purposes of said African Methodist Episcopal Church their successors and assigns forever all the piece or parcel of land known and described as follows:

 

I could not find out much about TILTON’s life prior to him moving to Northwest Ohio.  Due to him consistently being labeled as being born in the state of Delaware, I did a search of Delawareans with the surname TILTON.  I did find a free black family with the surname TILTON on the 1850 Census in Kent County, Delaware, but no one named John TILTON.    I also discovered a white TILTON family who were slave owners in Delaware.  One of the members of this family – Dr. James TILTON moved to Madison, Indiana in the late 1820s.  He was a Revolutionary War veteran and when in Dupont, Indiana, it was noted in the work “Free Boy:  A True Story of Slave and Master” that Dr. TILTON  apprenticed a young black boy named John SMITH to train as a farmer soon after moving to Indiana in 1827-1828.  The age of this young John SMITH does approximately match that of John TILTON but there is no solid evidence that John TILTON was associated with the white TILTON family from Delaware.  If additional information shows up, this post will be updated in the future.

I also have been unable to locate a death record for either John TILTON or his wife Sarah.  John was labeled as a “widower” on the 1880 census so it can be assumed that his wife Sarah passed away by that year.  TILTON was consistently listed in the city directory until 1883 when he no longer had an entry showing.  Unfortunately many of my own relatives who died in Toledo between 1880 and 1900 have spotty and some, non-existent death records and it seems that TILTON may have also fell into this category of poor death record keeping for those decades.  However, I did locate some index entries for Ohio Death records between 1890 and 1900 where there were 2 John TILTON’s listed has having died in the City of Toledo.  I will review information at the TLCPL and/or the county vital statistics office to see if there are any additional entries for those deaths since only a name and date of death was provided online.

 

REFERENCES:

Hawkins, Arnette.  “Raising our Glass: Saloon Culture in Toledo, Ohio” 2010

History Footnotes – Warren AME Church History

US Census 1860 – Household of John B. TILTON

US Census 1870 – Household of John TILDON

US Census 1880 – Household of John B TILTON (restaurant)

City of Toledo Directory 1864-1883 – accessed 4/24/2017-6/25/2017 ancestry.com

 

Death Records for Genealogy Research – What you might not be looking at! (Part 2)

As stated, I felt that Obituaries should have a separate entry being that they can provide additional information and details that can easily lead to more research opportunities.
In the Toledo area we are very fortunate that our Local History Department at the Main Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library will provide electronic copies of Obituaries published in the Toledo Blade for free. The Toledo Blade Obituary Index is provided via the Ancestry.Com site along with FamilySearch.org but you can also just go to their site directly, which I personally prefer and look up the person you are searching for. I prefer to go to the site because there is an option once you get a “hit” to request that they email you a copy of the obituary within two weeks. The library asks that you only make 3 requests per week. I make sure to follow those guidelines as I feel it is such a great service that they provide to us for no cost. Many other libraries around the country charge a minimum of $5-$25 for them to do this sort of research for you. So I am very appreciative of that.

This past year, I have probably put in a request for over 50 obituaries! The obits published in the Blade vary from just the list of deaths that are still published in the paper for public notices, to short write-ups to very extensive, in-depth obituaries. Some examples of obits are below:

Here is the obituary of Robert TRAYNUM Sr. He was the first of my TRAYNUM line to come to Toledo via the Great Migration from South Carolina. He died in 1933 and his address and cause of death was contained in his death notice. I found via using Google Maps that he lived a block from where I grew up in South Toledo! I also discovered that other TRAYNUM relatives actually lived across the street from where I grew up 70 years before and I never knew! His house is now a parking lot that I used to ride my bike in as a girl.

The earliest full Obituary that I’ve been sent is of James Edward ROBINSON, published in the blade in December of 1910 who I discovered had the nickname of “Bones.” The obit stated that Bones was one of the “one of the most well known negros” in the City due to his affiliation with an organization called the Toledo Cadets for about 40 years. Using information from his obituary caused me to look up the Toledo Cadets to learn about them. I found a book and purchased it about the history of the organization and was shocked that it included a copy of his picture! It is 120 years old and was published in 1896 and I feel very lucky to have found such a distant image of my 3rd great grandfather!

Interestingly the book also had a picture of William A Jones, the father of basketball legend William McNeill JONES written about in a previous post (Bill Jones – Basketball Pioneer). William JONES’ nickname was “Inky” and he also had an impressive obituary written up, which is below.

One of my favorite obituaries is of a 4th great uncle names Francis/Frank BURTON. Frank was born in Charlevoix County, Michigan, which is north of Saginaw and near the Petoskey area. Due to his obit mentioning that he worked for the WPA project on the Toledo Zoo Aquarium and Ampitheater, I think of him when I take the kids to the zoo. I loved that it spoke of what a hard working man he was and was surprised that it said he was a Potawatomi Indian. I have yet to see any other documentation of any native ancestry, but the area they lived in was a place where this tribe lived/resided at the time of Frank’s birth.

 

Other obituaries outside of Toledo I’ve found were primarily in the Ypsilanti, Michigan area whereas there is another blog similar to this one on the black history of Ypsilanti called South Adams Street 1900.  Mary ENOS SNIVELY only had a death notice shown below. Her husband Jeremiah SNIVELY was a veteran of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and fought in the Civil War. He and three of his brothers, who were all living in Canada at the time, came back to the United States in order to serve to help free the slaves in America. Jeremiah died on the same day as another “colored veteran” also named Jeremiah as noted in his obituary. Since Jeremiah SNIVELY was stated to have been a GAR member I am hoping to do some digging into Michigan GAR records to see if a picture can be found for him. Jeremiah SNIVELY’s obit also says he was a Mason, as did William A JONES’ above. I’m unsure if the Mason’s keep records but I plan on finding out from my relatives who are still members of the organization here in Toledo to see if I can learn more information about those ancestors who were involved in that group.

 

So make sure to thoroughly review obituaries, even death records.  I personally like looking up the homes where my ancestors lived via Google Maps.  Many of them are still standing and in the case of my TRAYNUM ancestor it was interesting to know I played where his home once stood.  The organizations that your ancestors were involved in, many of them kept historical records on members or they issued “Resolutions” that were read at the funeral and placed into safekeeping by that organization and many times you can request a copy.  You may be fortunate enough like I was to find a 120 year old picture of a relative as well.

It is also important to take note that all the information contained in obituaries may not be true so to not rely 100% on that information.  The reference to being a Native American in Frank Burton’s obituary, though interesting, I never believe these references to be true unless I find evidence to substantiate that claim.  Many people white and black claim to be “Indian” when they really don’t have any Native American ancestry and it is just a family myth.

 

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

picture1

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

GENEALOGICAL INFORMATION REGARDING MRS. HANNAH MERIWETHER DAVIDSON AND FAMILY

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

 

 

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.