siblings

Studio shots, no. 194: the Battle siblings?

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous submitted this family portrait. The four women’s dark dress suggests a family in mourning.

Who were they? The only clue we have is a pencilled notation on the reverse: “Chandler/Battle.” I thought immediately of Nicholas R. Battle, who was born in Wilson County about 1862 to Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle and migrated to Chandler, Oklahoma, about 1900. His sister Ada G. Battle briefly lived in Chandler as well, and Nicholas and Ada had a sister, Chandler Battle Wright.

Could this be a portrait of Charles and Leah Battle’s children — most of them, anyway — taken around the time of Charles Battle’s death in 1910? (Leah Battle died in 1898.) Their known children were Nicholas R. (1863), with Lewis (1862), appear to have been Charles’ children by an earlier relationship; Susan (1869); Ada G. (1875); Geneva Battle Faver (1878); Virgil T. Battle (1880); Chandler (1883); CaledoniaDoane” Battle Williston (1887); and Charles T. Battle (1888). Lewis, Susan, and Virgil appear to have died young. The six remaining children included four girls and two boys, which is consistent with the photo. 

In 1910, the living children would have been Nicholas, 48; Ada, 35; Geneva, 32, Chandler, 27; Doane, 23; and Charles T., 22. The daughters’ ages are consistent with the woman depicted. The man at bottom left appears to be Charles T. Battle, the younger of the two sons, and closely resembles his son, Dr. C.T. Battle Jr. The man at bottom right looks younger than 48 years old, but that age is not out of the range of possibility, and this is likely Nicholas Battle.

If anyone can identify the family depicted here more accurately, I’d love to hear from you.

Pfc. Thomas writes his family.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 December 1918. 

Wilson Daily Times, 27 December 1918.

——

The Daily Times published a handful of letters from African-American soldiers written during World War I, including these from Elton Thomas and two from Arthur N. Darden.

Despite their hopes, Thomas and his buddies did not get home until March 1919. Dave Barnes suffered the effects of his gas attack the rest of his life. This history of Company H, 365th Infantry’s battles in France suggests that the date of injury was November 10, not the 18th.

This service card provides details of Thomas’ time in the Army.

North Carolina World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, www.ancestry.com

——

  • Elton Thomas

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Elton (c) lather h 616 E Green

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

In 1917, Elton Thomas registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1889 in Wilson; lived at 616 East Green Street; was single; and worked as lathing contractor for Kittrell & Wilkins. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.

In the 1927, 1929, 1930, 1934, and 1942 Newark, New Jersey, city directories, Elton H. Thomas is listed at several addresses, including 117 Summer Avenue, 105 Somerset Avenue, and 109 Sherman Avenue.

In 1942, Elton Henry Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1894 in Wilson; resided at 108 Sherman Road, Newark; his contact was Charles Thomas, 619 East Green Street, Wilson; and worked for Julius Rose, 327 Amherst Street, Orange, New Jersey. 

On 27 November 1947, Elton Thomas, 52, of Wilson, son of Charlie and Sarah Best Thomas, married Rebecca Williams, 44, of 804 East Vance Street, Wilson, daughter of Solomon and Lettie Kittrell in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister E.H. Cox performed the ceremony in the presence of Lillie J. Thomas, 715 East Green; Harold E. Gay, 623 East Green; and Louis Thomas Jr., 715 East Green.

Elton Thomas died 15 December 1970 in Goldsboro, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 July 1891 to Charlie Thomas and Sarah Best; was married to Rebecca Thomas; resided in Wilson; and had worked in lathing construction.

  • Miss Richardson
  • Rev. Coward — Bryant P. Coward, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

 

The apprenticeship of the Hagans siblings.

On 4 December 1869, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered 15 year-old Joseph Hagans, described as an orphan, to serve James S. Barnes until he was 21 years of age. Joseph’s siblings Penny, 13, Edwin, 11, George, and Sarah Hagans, 6, were placed under Barnes’ control the same day.

The Haganses were the children of Robert and Sarah Hagans. In the 1860 census of Fields district, Greene County: day laborer Robert Hagans, 31; wife Sarah, 30; and children Mary, 12, Joseph, 8, Penelope, 5, and Edwin, 1. Robert and Sarah Hagans apparently died between 1864 and 1869.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: siblings Joseph, 15, Penelope, 12, Edwin, 11, Sarah, 8, and George Hagans, 6, all described as “farmer’s apprentices.” Their household is listed next to James R. Barnes, a wealthy farmer who reported owning $18,000 in real property. (This is a different James Barnes from the one who apprenticed the Hagans children. James S. Barnes died in 1871. With the exception of Penny — see link above — I have not found the Hagans siblings after 1870.)

United States, Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at https://familysearch.org.

Musical blind children of Wilson County.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.30.38 PM

The Voice: An International Review of the Speaking and Singing Voice, vol. 7 (1885).

MUSICAL BLIND CHILDREN.

For several days past there has been a remarkable family of negroes in Atlanta. Their name is Williamson, and they came from Wilson county, North Carolina. There are three brothers and four sisters, all of whom have been totally blind from birth. They are the children of black parents who were slaves and ordinary field hands. Unto them were born fourteen children, seven of whom had sight, while seven were blind. The blind children were not only hardier and healthier, but their mental endowments are superior to those of their brothers and sisters who could see. They went to Raleigh to the state blind asylum and were there well educated. Every one of them developed a remarkable talent for music, and on leaving the asylum they organized themselves into a concert company and began to travel through the South. The oldest brother married a smart negro woman, who acts as guide and business manager of the party. They have been all over the South giving entertainments, which have paid them handsomely. They sing and play on various instruments with remarkable skill. All of them have good voices, which have been well trained.

Their most remarkable performances are the exhibitions of their powers of mimicry. They imitate a brass band so perfectly, that a person outside the hall in which they are humming would almost invariably be deceived. Their imitation of the organ is equally perfect. Each of the singers makes a peculiar noise and carries his or her own part of the performance, and the combined result is a deep music very like to the pealing of a grand organ. These are two of their many tricks. They are constantly adding to their repertoire, and perfecting themselves more and more in their curious arts.  They have educated the sense of touch to a remarkable degree. By feeling of a person’s face and head, they can give an accurate description of his or her appearance; and one of the sisters claims that she can tell the color of the hair by touching it. The seven will stand with joined hands and any object can be placed in the hands of the oldest brother at the end of the line; while he holds it, he claims that the magnetic current which passes through the entire line will enable any one of his brothers and sisters to tell what he has in his hand. At any rate, some remarkable guesses of this kind are made.

The blind negroes have given a series of entertainments in various negro churches in the city, and have created a great sensation among the colored population. It is said they take great care of their aged parents, who still reside on the old homestead in North Carolina, in the same cabin where they lived as slaves, and where their fourteen children were born.The blind singers have bought the place and presented it to their parents. The brothers and the wife of the eldest manage the financial affairs of the combination so successfully that they accumulated a snug property. The oldest brother is about twenty-eight and the youngest sister about sixteen years old. Various efforts have been made by professional managers to secure the control of this remarkable family, but they prefer to take care of their own affairs. They are all  intelligent and remarkably well posted on matters in general.  — Atlanta Constitution.