Andrew Cotton, seaman.

Andrew Cotton applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate in May 1936. American seamen carried the document as proof of citizenship in foreign ports. Per his application, Cotton was born 19 June 1904 in Sharpsburg, North Carolina; resided at 207 West 137th Street, New York City; and had last worked on the S.S. Evangeline as a waiter. He was 5’8″ with dark brown skin, brown eyes and black hair and had no identifying marks.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Levy Edwards Road, Isaac Cotton, 44; wife Flonnie, 34; and children Coloneous, 18, Lucy, 16, Sidney, 13, Mary, 11, Isaac E., 8, Andrew, 6, Levy, 4, and Clarence, 1.

Passenger lists from 1938 to 1954 show Cotton shipping out of ports on both sides of the Atlantic, including New York, New York; Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Saint Georges and Hamilton, Bermuda; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Hamburg, Germany; Gourock, Scotland; Southampton, England; Cobh, Ireland; and Genoa, Italy.

U.S. Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940 [database on-line],; original document at Application for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940, Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group 41, National Archives, Washington, D.C; New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line],

Voyage to Havana.

On 20 August 1937, Camillus and Norma Duncan Darden boarded the S.S. Cuba at Havana, Cuba, for a one-day return to the United States arriving in Tampa, Florida, on the 21st. The Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company operated the Cuba.

U.S. Citizen Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Tampa, Florida, digitized at Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004 [database on-line],


A wreck on the first day at sea.


The Colonies and India (London, England), 9 April 1898.

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, his wife Adora Oden Smith, and their daughter Flossie took passage on the African Steamship Company steamer Dahomey, which sailed from Liverpool to his assignment as ambassador in Monrovia, Liberia, on 6 April 1898. Hours after leaving port, the ship struck rocks near Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales. Passengers and crew were safely evacuated, but the ship remained stranded for 14 days before it could be floated off and returned to Liverpool. The incident was investigated, and a magistrate held: “The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the stranding of and material damage to the said vessel were due to the improper navigation of the master, Mr. James G. Cawthorne, whose certificate, No. 34,575, the Court suspends for a period of six months from the date hereof.”


Passport applications for only two Wilson County African-Americans have surfaced in’s on-line database, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. One was Isaiah Prophet Thorne. The other — equally ecclesiastically named — was Evangelist James Freeman.

E.J. Freeman applied for a United States passport in September 1919, just a few days before his ship, the S.S. Mascotte, was to sail for Havana. He reported that he was born 10 June 1885 in Wilson, N.C, and that he lived in Pearson, Florida, and worked as a laborer.


Pearson was apparently “Pierson,” a tiny agricultural town in Volusia County about 20 miles inland from Daytona Beach. The men who swore to Freeman’s identity lived a ways north in Jacksonville and northwest in Lake City. That J.M. Rhodes had known Freeman for 15 years gives some idea of the length of time Freeman had been out of North Carolina.


Waiting in Key West, Freeman received his passport in time for departure to Cuba, but he did not stay long. On 14 December 1919, he appeared on the list of United States citizens sailing from Havana to Tampa aboard the S.S. Miami.


The steamships Mascotte and Miami belonged to the Peninsular & Occidental S.S. Company, which plied the waters between Tampa, Kay West and Havana.

Palm Beach Post 4 16 1918

Palm Beach Post, 16 April 1918.

Just a year before his voyage abroad, Evangelist Freeman registered for the World War I draft. He was living at the time in Yelvington, a crossroads across the Saint Johns River from Palatka, Florida. He listed his employment as “minister of the Gospel,” but, according to the 1920 census, his employer Will Tilton was a potato farmer.