Archive | October 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Daddy of Forty-Seven, Not My Daddy…

     I am spending my days reading newspapers from 1790-1960’s, and looking at the historical attitudes and happenings of the days in the areas of Massachusetts and North Carolina.  I came across this article and was kinda shocked at the number of children this man procreated.

25 March 1922
Charlotte Observer
Charlotte, North Carolina

NEW BERN, March 24-

A.S. Shields, a negro preacher who is the father of 47 children, celebrated his 72nd birthday today with a fair gathering of his children around him.  All but five of his children are living.  He married a second time 18 years ago and has had 17 children by this marriage.  Shields was a slave in a family of which representative Claude Kitchin and former Governor W.W. Kitchin are members.  He preaches his sermons  in a church he owns himself.

Sentimental Sunday: Charles Irving Peters


Charles Irving Peters
     I do not know much about my Grandfather Charles Irving Peters, but am in search of his daughter Millicent Peters Leggett.  

     I remember when my mother got the call that her father Charles died.  I was twelve years old at the time and never had the opportunity to meet him as my mother did not communicate with her father.  A couple days before my grandfather’s death, she shared with me that she had nightmares about her father, where he would come to her  while she was sleeping and he appeared to be tormented.  So when my mother got the call from her Aunt Glady’s that her father had died, she understood why she had those dreams.
     Call it strange, but even though my mother did not have a relationship with her father, I was intrigued by him nonetheless.  I wanted to know more about him.  
Charles Peters and daughter Betty Mae
1927 on top of Tar Beach, New York
      I stated that I am searching for Charles’ daughter Millicent Peters Leggett.  I spoke with her years ago and I believe that she was living in Detroit, MI or Chicago Illinois and was working for an attorney.  I found some court documents with a letter from Millicent and decided to call, as my mother did not want to have any personal relationship with her half-sister.  The difference between my mother and me is that I did.  Millicent and I spoke for awhile, and frankly I do not remember the conversation.  Since I was very young and we are no longer in possession of those court documents, I am having difficulty locating her.  
     I know I will need to order the probate files from the court, but I have not got around to it, and time is moving fast.   I am unsure as to Millicent’s age, but my mother would be 85 years this year.
Charles Irving Peters Death Certificate

     Charles Irving Peters was born on February 8, 1897 to Betty Mae Wilson and George Washington Peters in Martinsville, Henry County, Virginia.  He was one of seven children, of which two died before Charles was born.  Charles’ mother was Native American & White and his father was Black.  I have always been infatuated with Charles’ military photo, as I find him very handsome.

     Charles served in the Army for two years, but as of yet, I have not located any military records. (His records may have been destroyed in a fire).

     Charles had been married to my grandmother Agnes Mae Cully in the 1920’s in Brooklyn, NY.  I heard many stories about my grandfather but of course nothing beyond 1950.  My mother Betty Mae Peters was named after Charles’ mother.

     Charles had been a student at Virginia State University.  His major was mathematics, but due to the racial climate of the country and the economic structure, Charles dropped out of school and worked as a Porter for the railroad system.  He also was a gambler and a bootlegger, which allowed for good times and bad.  I heard rumors that he and a close friend owned a black hotel, but I have not seen any records of that.

    Charles died on December 23, 1980 (wow! Dec. 23 was the date my mother suffered a fatal stroke in 2004.)  According to his death certificate, the informant was Thornton Hopson.  I tried to locate Thornton as he was the attorney that handled Charles’ last affairs.  I discovered that Attorney Hopson died in 2000.  So frankly, the only way I think I can locate any living relatives is to get the probate documents that were written up 30 years ago.  Maybe there will be a clue.

     My Grandfather Charles Peters is buried in an umarked grave at Detroit Memorial Cemetery.  I hope to one day raise enough money to at least give him the honor of a engraved marker.

The Puzzle is Becoming Clearer: Henry Hodge

Henry Hodge
13 years old

     After I completed the other post Puzzling History, I went into Henry’s room and told him what I knew based on the 1930 Census.  I shared with him that John Wilson could not be the boy in the photo because he was 18 when Henry was born.  I also told him that John Wilson was the grandson of the Sam and Sarah Hodge, and that John Wilson, Sr. was the Son-in-law.

Henry’s brother (unk name for now) and Henry

      I said that the mother is not on the 1930 Census, and wanted to know if she had died.  When I shared with him what I knew he opened up and told me that  John Wilson Sr.’s wife was his mother and had seen her a few times and that she ran off with the man that was Henry’s father, and left him with his grandparents that raised him as their own son (they adopted him).  Mr. John Wilson was not his biological father and Mr. Sam Hodge would not ever say that he was Henry’s father or even give him that emotional support.  Apparently there were negative feelings towards the situation so the environment was not good for Henry’s upbringing.

     Months ago I asked Henry about Sam Hodge and he would say oh, that’s my dad.  He would not tell me anything more even though I tried.  He would tell me he was a man, and he was unemployed for many years, but he did not talk to him.  Of course this made me sad for his home situation when he was a child.

     Henry left St. Louis when he joined the military and only went back to bury each of his parents.  In due time, I will get more stories from Henry, but seeing that there are deep-rooted negative feelings that he has not dealt with, I will need to do a little at a time so I have a complete picture.

     So the boy in the photo above is Henry’s brother. Apparently she took his half-brother with her when she left St. Louis, MO.  I will get more info as time goes on.

Puzzling History: Henry Hodge

     I have known Henry Hodge since I could even remember.  I have been his care taker for about 6 or 7 years  now, and have called him Uncle since forever.  He was my father’s best friend and they had known each other for over 60 years.  Henry Hodge was born November 22, 1929 and will be 82 years old this year.  Henry has a good memory, but for some reason he is blocked when it comes to his family in St. Louis, Missouri.  
     The story I was told from my mother, is that he was left on the porch by his mother, and he was adopted by the Hodges.  Henry confirmed this to me, but whenever I ask him about the Hodges that raised him, he doesn’t want to talk about it, and everything is jumbled, and he just shuts down.  If I try to push him to talk about his life in St. Louis, he gets irritated if I bring up family.
     About a year ago, I found Henry’s scrapbook in the garage, and brought it into the house so he could identify the people for me.  Henry wrote on the back “Me and my brother.”  I asked him this morning was this his biological brother or his brother the Hodges had.  Henry stated that he had two older brothers that died before he was born and that he did not remember if the older boy in the photo was his biological brother but that he was his brother.
Poss. Henry’s Biological Brother & Henry Hodge
(l to r)

     I have seen the 1930 Census and Henry Hodge is listed as Norris Henry.  It is obvious that this is him, but he stated that he did not know why the name on the census had Norris.  “I was thinking that Norris may be his biological families surname. (of course I need to do further investigation)”

     I asked Henry what his brother’s name was and he could not remember at first and then he said I think John.  So looking at the 1930 Census below, I know that this could not be a photo of John Wilson as the Census states that John Wilson is the Hodge’s grandson and that the older John Wilson is their Son-in-law.  

     I believe that there is more to the story that I am being told and due to difficult feelings surrounding Henry’s birth and family life, I am going to have to slowly help him to remember.  Over the next few months, I will be looking at the Census reports of any Norris or even Henry families in the area.  I will also investigate the Wilson’s on other Census Reports and see what I can discover.

Update:  Go to this Blog The Picture is Becoming Clearer.

Document Day: Helen Bunn Thompson

Helen Bunn Thompson
August 16, 1903-November 6, 1989

(L to r) Rochelle Bunn and Helen Bunn Porter-Thompson

     About Photo:  Rochelle Bunn is my Grandmother’s niece; the daughter of her brother Robert Wesley Bunn, Jr.  This photo was taken at my Grandmother’s back house.  She had property in the front. This is the famous Ivy plant that ran from the back yard all the way to the front yard to the street.

     I spent every Summer in South Central, Los Angeles at my grandmother’s until I was 18 years old.  I have many memories of my grandmother Helen.  She was a church going woman and was a member of Ward AME Church in Los Angeles, where she took an active role until her illness.

     Last year, I drove up to Los Angeles to take pictures of Helen Bunn’s headstone and leave flowers.  The pictures did not come out as the headstone was of a mixed colored granite material and the print did not show up in the picture. I possibly will go back and try to capture it again, even though I have thought about replacing the headstone (which is a possibility).

     My father Walter James Porter was my grandmother’s only child.  She took pride in him and in everything he did. She migrated from the South and eventually to Los Angeles for greater opportunities for my father.  My grandmother had been married at least 5x.  I used to try to pry the information from her about her marriage to my dad’s father, but she didn’t say much except that she ran away from Louisiana to Arkansas to get away so that my dad would have a good education.  The migration of my grandmother was in various areas and she paved the way for many of the Bunn & Porter Clan to various cities and states. (another post to come)

According to my grandmother’s death certificate:

      Her name was Helen Thompson and she died November 6, 1989 at 2:10am.  “I remember when the phone rang at our house, at 2:20am in the morning…and I knew she died before my dad came in the room to tell me.  I had dreamed about my grandmother before the call…I believe she came to me to tell me that she loved me  and that she was going to be with Jesus as the song “Go Tell It On The Mountain” began to play in my head…one of the songs my grandmother sang as she sewed or just sang anytime during the day.

    Many primary documents are not accurate.  Helen’s Death certificate did not have complete information recorded.  Her father Robert W. Bunn was born in North Carolina and not South Carolina.  The name of her mother was unknown by the informant, but had they asked me, I could have told them.

     When I look at the cause of death, it is a reminder to me that one needs to exercise and eat healthy.  Yes, my grandmother lived to 86, but I would love to live to this age and beyond.  I also believe that black women from the south were stronger (at least what I saw of Helen) than women that never had to work the fields.
     Helen chewed tobacco and she would talk about her days in the cotton and tobacco fields as a child and young adult.  ( One day I asked, what is that you are eating, and she said try it, I put a piece of what she was chewing  in my mouth expecting something sweet.  My face contorted and I spit that tobacco out!  Ewww! I was like “What Is That!?!” It was a real piece of tobacco that had not been refined.

     My grandmother Helen told me stories that I never had a day to experience and I love her for sharing. (of course she kept some of her secrets to herself).

     One fine day I will see my Grandmother again, and maybe on the mountain.


Wordless Wednesday: Porter-Moore Family Portrait

I Love this portrait of my family…Times gone by…they are all grown up and my baby is 16 now.
Me and my children in 1996 taking photo with their grandparents

This was the first and last family portrait my children and I took with my parents (their grandparents)

(Front to Back and L to r)  Michael Moore, Walter & Betty Porter, Vanessa Moore, Me holding Victoria Porter and Keith Porter behind grandma.

Document Day: Alvaina Canady Cully Taylor

Alvania Canady Cully Taylor

     Alvania “Canady” Cully Taylor was born on March 1, 1873 to Allen Canady and Silvia Orum.  Alvania married George William Cully (1869-1919) and through their union a son was born, William Allen Cully (1895).

     At the time of Alvania’s death she was married to Charles Taylor.  She died of Valvular Heart Disease on February 27, 1925.   Alvania was buried at the Little Witness Cemetery, Havelock NC.

     Alvania’s first husband George W. Cully was my Great Grand Uncle.  His parents were William Henry Cully and Nancy Harkley, My Great Great Grandparents.

  [side note]

     Alvania’s son William A. and daughter in-law Catharine named their daughter (Alvania Cully b. 1927)

*Alvania’s name was misspelled in death certificate document

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