Who were the anonymous informants who “would rather live one year in North Carolina than to live to be as old as giants” in Indiana?
Not Joseph Ellis, whose testimony before Congress about Black migration from North Carolina to Indiana declared that he was “well pleased with [his] situation.” On the other hand, Green Ruffin, who testified on 16 February 1880, was adamant that he never going back to Indiana if he could get home. Peter Dew and Julia Daniels shared similar sentiments in letters to the editor of the Wilson Advance.
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Setta Whitfield, 37, domestic servant; Gross Conner, 18, a white news dealer; Tillman McGown, 35, farm laborer, wife Charity, 36, and children Amy, 17, Lucinda, 15, Aaron, 20, Ira, 5, Delia A., 7, Nathan, 3, and Courtney, 1.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Tilman McGown, 43, wife Charity, 49, and children Delia A., 18, Ira R., 15, and Nathan, 13.
In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 1021 South West Street, day laborer, William Hester, 55; wife Louisa, 53; daughter Clasia McGown, 23; son-in-law Nathan McGown, 25, poster on railroad car; and their children Harreld, 5, and Babe McGown, 2 months.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: train cook Ned McGowan, 36; wife Clara, 36; children Harold, 15, and Abbie, 11; William, 62, and Louisa Hester, 58.
A notice in the matter of P.B. Deans vs. Shade Jones et al. ran for a month in the summer of 1883. The matter was an action for the partition of land, land that apparently was part of the estate of Willis Jones. Willis and Sarah K. Jones‘ children included Josiah Jones, Charity Jones Taylor (ca. 1827-1891), Jacob Jones (ca. 1828), Shade Jones (ca. 1832), Henry Jones (ca. 1840), Alexander Jones (ca. 1841), Noel Jones (1843), Willis Kingsberry Jones (ca. 1847), Payton A. Jones (ca. 1849), and Bethany Jones Barnes (ca. 1852). Two of Willis Jones’ children resided out of state, and the court ordered the notice commanding them to answer the complaint in the case. Charity Jones Taylor and her husband, Kingsberry Taylor, were believed to be in Indiana; Josiah Jones, in South Carolina.
Wilson Advance, 13 July 1883.
In fact, by 1883, Charity Taylor had been living in western Michigan for decades.
Kingsberry Taylor married Charity Jones on 4 July 1846 in Nash County, North Carolina. Both were free people of color. Jones for certain and Taylor likely lived in a section of Nash County that became Wilson County in 1855.
The couple immediately migrated to Indiana. In the 1850 census of Madison township, Jefferson County, Indiana: laborer Kingsberry Taylor, 29, owner of $100 real estate, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 20, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 3, born in Indiana. All were classified as mulatto.
They did not stay long. Mid-decade, the family moved more than 300 miles due north in Allegan County, Michigan. Per the History of Allegan and Berry Counties, Michigan, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Men and Pioneers (1880), Kingsbury Taylor was one of ten men who bought land in Section 28 of Cheshire township between 1852 and 1858. “A considerable proportion of the population are of the colored race, who merit notice in a history of Cheshire [township]. As a class they stand well for both sobriety, and industry. Many of them have farms upon which comfortable houses are built, and the land of which is improved and well maintained. They also have two church organizations, to which a liberal support is accorded, and of which mention is made farther on. They are by no means the least influential of the citizens of the township, and have won much credit for the ambition they display in their farming pursuits and the good reputation they have established in all their social relations. The first colored men to settle in the township were C. Tomison and K. Taylor, who located on the southwest quarter of section 28. The land owned by the colored people was mostly bought of the Indians when they departed.”
In the 1860 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 35, farmer, owned $400/real property, $250/personal property, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 30, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 13, born in Indiana.
In the 1870 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 52, farmer, owned $2500/real estate, born in N.C.; wife Charity, 42, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A., 22, born in Indiana.
In the 1880 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: Kingsbury Taylor, 61, farmer, born in N.C.; wife Charrita, 48, born in N.C.; and daughter Sarah A. Brown, 33, divorced, born in Indiana.
On 17 September 1880, Foster H. Maxwell, 42, mason, of Manger, Michigan, born in Ross County, Ohio, married Sarah A.J. Taylor, 33, divorced, of Cheshire, Michigan, born in Jefferson County, Indiana, in Bloomingdale, Michigan. The marriage entry noted that they were black. [Maxwell was a Civil War veteran, having served in Co. D, 102nd United States Colored Infantry.]
Charity Taylor died 16 April 1891 in Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in N.C. to Wilis Jones and Sarah Jones; and was a farmer.
Illustrated Atlas of Allegan County, Michigan (1895). (Would that these types of plat maps existed everywhere.)
In the 1900 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan: widower Kinbury Taylor, 82, farmer, and granddaughter Nina Maxwell, 19.
In the 1900 census of Springfield, Clark County, Ohio: Sarah Maxwell, 52, and daughters Dayette, 18, and Christina, 14. All were classified as white. Sarah was married, and three of her five children were living.
On 5 June 1900, in Allegan County Circuit Court, Foster H. Maxwell, 59, was granted a divorce from Sarah A. Maxwell, 45, on the grounds of desertion.
Kingsbury Taylor died 3 November 1906 in Cheshire township, Allegan County, Michigan. Per his death certificate,
The Hartford Day Spring (Hartford, Michigan), 14 November 1906.
In the 1910 census of Cheshire township, Allegan County: Sarah A. Maxwell, 62, “own income,” and daughter Dayetta, 27.
In the 1920 census of Allegan, Allegan County: at 634 Academy, widow Sarah A. Maxwell, 72.
In the 1930 census of Allegan, Allegan County: at 634 Academy, owned and valued at $1000, widow Sarah A. Maxwell, 82, and granddaughter Betty A., 6.
Sarah Ann Maxwell died 11 September 1938 in Allegan, Michigan. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 August 1847 in Madison, Indiana, to Kingsburg Taylor and Charity Jones, both of Wilson, N.C.; was the widow of Foster Maxwell; lived at 634 Academy Street; and was buried in Lindsley Cemetery, Allegan. Dayette Maxwell was informant.
Kingsberry and Charity Jones Taylor were also buried in Lindsley Cemetery.
Christine Charity Maxwell Chandler (1885-1937), daughter of Foster H. and Sarah A. Taylor Maxwell.
Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user PatriciaPhillips212.
Indiana was an early destination for African-Americans leaving North Carolina for perceived greener pastures. Several hundred free people of color migrated to Indiana in the 1830s and 1840s, but only two families have been definitively linked to the area that is now Wilson County. Another large migration circa 1880 was the subject of a Congressional inquiry. During the Great Migration, Indianapolis was a popular focus of migration.
A suit alleging seduction claimed a tort action under the law. Here, Nathan Blackwell, acting in the place of deceased Edwin Blackwell, filed to recover damages for the seduction by Walter Kersey of his niece (or cousin?) Mary Ella Blackwell, a minor. (I do not know if their “relationship” was consensual or forced, but it likely resulted in a pregnancy.) Kersey, like the Blackwells, was a migrant to Indianapolis from Wilson County and was about twenty years Mary Ella’s senior.
A year later, Mary Ella married a man three times her age. On 27 January 1897, Mary Ella Blackwell, 17, born in North Carolina to Edwin and H. Blackwell, married Thomas Parsons, 50, born in North Carolina to Jefferson Parsons and Zilphia Burns, in Indianapolis.
But the relationship did not last: in the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: Hattie Blackwell, 43, widowed laundress, and children Mary, 29, divorced laundress, and John, 23, coal yards worker, single. All were born in North Carolina.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 42; wife Jane, 29; and children Georgiana, 14, Joshua, 12, William, 11, George H., 7, Andrew, 5, and Samuel, 2.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 52; wife Jane, 40; and children George H., 17, works in blacksmith shop, Andrew, 14, Samuel, 12, Anna Maria, 8, Paul, 6, Sarah Jane, 3, and Mary Cathren, 11 months.
On 15 August 1901, George Henry Washington, 38, of Wilson, son of Jerry and Jane Washington, married Cora Miller, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Cynthia Miller, at the bride’s residence on Green Street. A.M.E. Zion minister C.L. Alexander performed the service in the presence of Sallie M. Barbour and Alice F. Moore. [George Washington was the brother of Samuel H. Vick‘s wife, Annie Washington Vick. She is the “Anna Vicks” erroneously listed as George’s daughter in the obituary.]
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Marie Smith, 35, single, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George H. Washington, 50, widower, railroad company coach cleaner, born in North Carolina.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed cook Lou Miller; her daughter Cora Washington, 34, a widowed school teacher; her grandchildren Irene, 7, James, 4, and Cora Washington, 1; and two boarders, Mary Hadley, 20, cook, and Mary Pender, 60, widowed servant. [Obviously, neither George nor Cora Washington was, in fact, a widower. They had been either separated (most likely) or divorced since George H. Washington had taken up residence in Indiana in 1903.]
In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Emma Lilly, 49, widow, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George Washington, 30 [sic], married, railroad employee, born in North Carolina.
George H. Washington died 28 April 1936 in Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1856 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Jerry Washington; was the widower of Cora Washington; was a laborer; and lived at 802 1/2 Indiana Avenue.
The Netflix limited series Self Made is refocusing attention on Madam C.J. Walker, the millionaire entrepreneur and empowerer of women best known for her haircare empire. The series is honest about being more “inspired by” Madam Walker’s life than true to it. Chockablock with B-list black star power (plus Octavia Spencer), Self Made is entertaining if you don’t think about it too hard. Ultimately, however, its heavy-handed resort to tropes and types and its soap opera style do a disservice to her story. Anyone wanting a closer truth should turn to A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground, or my fave, Beverly Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker. Among other things, you’ll find an important part of Walker’s story completely omitted from Self-Made — her relationship with Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African-American physician born in Wilson about 1872.
When she first arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, Walker boarded with Joseph and Zella Locklear Ward and gave beauty culture demonstrations in their parlor.
Indianapolis Recorder, 12 February 1910.
Indianapolis Recorder, 5 March 1910.
Walker and her daughter Lelia Robinson grew close to the Wards, and Dr. Ward was Madam’s personal physician the remainder of her life. He was at her bedside when she died.
The Wards accompanied Madam Walker on a drive to Kansas City, Missouri, where she addressed the National Educational Congress on “How the Negro Woman May Success in Business.” Indianapolis Star, 13 July 1913.
On a drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, the automobile in which the Wards and Walker were traveling was jumped by a wild animal.Indianapolis Star, 28 September 1913.
Also in 1913, on the steps of the newly dedicated Y.M.C.A., Madam Walker with Booker T. Washington and, behind them, her lawyer Freeman Ransom and Dr. Joseph H. Ward.
From Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams:
“By Friday, Ward informs the household that Madame Walker cannot last longer than Sunday. On Saturday night, about midnight, she slips into unconsciousness. And her faithful friends and doctors and family gather around her bed; they are religious people who also believe in love and company, and that no one should pass from this life into the next alone. And so they wait, hushed, whispering, watching her, waiting.
“Sunday dawns warms and clear, and early rays of the sun crack through the drawn damask curtains and perhaps fall in splinters across the rose silk coverlet on Madame’s bed. At seven o’clock her people are still there, but no one feels her go and no one knows when she dies until Ward turns and says, ‘It’s over.’
“And if they weep it is with relief, for the end of her suffering. Her dying words, Ward later reports, were ‘I want to live to help my race.'”
Photo courtesy of Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.
Of course, we knew the story here and here and here and here and here, but for more about the project that lead to the erection of an historic marker to commemorate the life of Dr. Joseph H. Ward, see the February 2020 edition of The American Legion magazine.
Indiana History Blog published Nicole Poletika’s detailed look at Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s role in challenging segregation as the head of Tuskegee, Alabama’s Veterans Hospital No. 91 in the 1920s and ’30s.
Dr. Ward is on the front row, center (next to the nurse) in this 1933 photograph of Veterans Hospital staff. Photo courtesy of VA History Highlights, “First African American Hospital Director in VA History,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
For more on Dr. Ward, who was born in Wilson about 1869, see here and here and here and here and here.
[Sidenote: Dr. Ward was not born to “impoverished parents” per the article, though it is possible that he himself gave this gloss on his early life. Rather, his father was Napoleon Hagans, a prosperous freeborn farmer in nearby Wayne County, and his mother was Mittie Ward, a young freedwoman whose family moved into town after Emancipation from the plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward near Stantonsburg.]
Hat tip to Zella Palmer for pointing me to this article. She is Dr. Ward’s great-granddaughter, and they are my cousins.