Archive | November, 2013

A Free African American Male in Lauderdale County in 1840?

21 Nov

I was scanning the 1840 census while I was working on a soon to be published story for the blog and noticed that a free, African American male makes an appearance on the 1840 US Census for Lauderdale County, TN.

This male was between 24 – 36 years in age and was living in the household of PG Davenport. What really stood out to me was that this male was marked as a free person, not a slave, when the census provided columns for the slaves to be marked.

PG Davenport 1840 US Census

PG Davenport 1840 US Census

I checked and this male does not make an appearance on the 1850 census in the household of PG Davenport. I checked the 1850 Slave Schedule and PG Davenport is listed with 1 male slave age 32. It is possible that it could be the same male from the 1840 census, but why is he now counted among the enslaved? Was it just a mistake that he was marked as a free male?

In trying to figure out the identity of the free African American male found on the 1840 census I decided to look into PG Davenport’s background. He was born Pleasant G. Davenport to his father Thomas Davenport (1759 – 1816) a Revolutionary War soldier and his mother Sarah Partlow (1772 – 1849) around 1808 in Laurens, South Carolina. He migrated to Lauderdale County, TN with his brother Samuel Davenport around the 1830s. His father Thomas died in 1816, but did not leave any slaves to Pleasant, so there goes my theory that maybe this male was left to Pleasant by his father.

By 1860 Pleasant is living in Bird, Jackson County, Arkansas where he dies in November of 1863. On the 1860 Slave Schedule he is listed as having 9 slaves, but none around the 44 – 56 year old age range that it would take for them to match the free male on the 1840 US Census.

Doing some research on Pleasant I found a series of journals called The Stream of History compiled by the Jackson County, Arkansas historical society. I did find a small paragraph written about Pleasant that indicated that he migrated to the area by steamboat and because there were no banks he packed his gold in boxes, so he apparently was very wealthy. This wealth really made me think that he had to have had a will.

Well, I went to FamilySearch.org (a great resource for probate records) and Pleasant actually died without a will. According to probate records when he died his estate was estimated to be worth 25,000. His probate record is more than 50 pages long and it was not settled until 1869 or later. I read through about fifty pages of records and there were no mentions of any slaves he might have owned. So much for my hope to find a will written by him so I could determine if he had any special affection for any of his slaves.

Back to the free African American male…

I’m not really sure who this gentleman was to Pleasant. He may have very well just been a slave who was marked incorrectly on the census. I have seen instances were slaveholders kept their mixed race siblings enslaved or in their household, so I thought maybe this could be the case, but it doesn’t appear to be at least from what I can tell. The identity of this male has more than likely been lost to history or may exist in private family records. When I saw that free African American male listed on the census I knew I had to immediately try to figure out who he was because that was a rarity for 1840s Tennessee. For now I will think of other ways he might be able to be identified.

 

– Tiffany

Sources: 1840 US Census for Lauderdale County, TN, 1850 Slave Schedule for Lauderdale County, TN, 1860 US Census for Jackson County, Arkansas, 1860 Slave Schedule for Jackson County, Arkansas, The Stream of History July 1964 Vol 2, Issue 3, Jackson County, Arkansas Probate Records provided by FamilySearch.Org

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home – Follow Up

20 Nov

As part of the Lost Ripley series I wrote about the Clay Funeral Home owned by Lauderdale County native Alex Clay. Clay Funeral Home was located at 168 College Street. A descendant of the Clay Family, William Carson, was kind enough to share his photos of the funeral home with us.

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Using Mr. Carson’s photos and Sanborn Maps I am able to locate the position of the funeral home on College Street. It also helps that this Sanborn Map has the street number of “168” in front of the structure.

Clay Funeral Home on 1927-1942 Sanborn Map

Clay Funeral Home on 1927-1942 Sanborn Map

Isabelle Court is known today as Mays Avenue and Ripley Grammer School has since been replaced by duplex housing.

Clay Funeral Home is no longer standing, but it once stood in Ripley as a testament to the African American business community.

The original article on the Clay Funeral Home can be found here -> https://blackripley.com/2013/04/17/lost-ripley-clay-funeral-home-on-college-street/#comments

 

Thank you,

Tiffany

Sources: 1927-1942 Sanborn Map for Lauderdale County (Map/Sheet 7)

Image Source: William Carson’s personal collection

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley – Follow Up to #4

5 Nov

The 4th entry in the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley series told the story of Eleanor Roosevelt being thrown into the conversation regarding African American soldiers being killed in Ripley.

Let me refresh your memory…

#4 Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States, spoke out against the killing of an African American soldier in Ripley, TN.

You can read the original posting here: https://blackripley.com/2013/09/17/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-black-life-in-ripley-tn-2/

If you recall the missing information such as the soldier’s identity lay in old issues of The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper of Memphis, TN, particularly the January 27, 1944 and January 29, 1944 issues. Further research also revealed that the January 1, 2013 issue held clues as well.

Here are the missing pieces.

The soldier was killed December 29, 1943 in Ripley, TN. He had come into Ripley from the Dyersburg Air Force Base. According to reports, he was drunk when he was fatally wounded by the Lauderdale County Sheriff, only after he had shot the sheriff. His name was Private Joseph L. Burrell of Co A of the 449th Signal Construction Battalion. Apparently a group of African American soldiers, estimated to be about 50 or 60 left Dyersburg and in the words of the sheriff “descended upon Ripley with the apparent intention of taking the town apart” (Jan 27, 1944 issue). This incident occured in what was described as the “negro quarters” in Ripley. The result of this skirmish is that soldiers from the Dyersburg Air Force Base were banned temporarily from entering Ripley.

Commercial Appeal January 1, 1944

Commercial Appeal January 1, 1944

Commercial Appeal Jan 28, 1944

Commercial Appeal Jan 28, 1944

Private Joseph L. Burrell was born July 11, 1913 in Denbigh, Warrick County, Virginia. He enlisted in the military in Richmond, VA on August 12, 1942. At the time of his death he was 30 years old and was married, but seperated, to Lucille Burrell. According to his death certificate he died due to gunshot wounds of the liver, stomach, pancreas, intestines, lungs, and heart. His death was listed as an accident. Prior to his death and army enlistment he had been employed as a laborer at the Navy Yard in Yorktown. Virginia.

He was buried at the Colossian Baptist Church Cemetery in Denbigh, VA in an unmarked grave. His mother, Florence Burrell, was granted a military headstone for his grave on July 14, 1944.

Joseph L. Burrell

Joseph L. Burrell

On US Census records  for 1920 and 1940 Joseph is listed as Lawrence. He is living with his mother Florence (b. 1896 Virginia), his father Joseph (b. 1890 VIrginia) and his siblings Claris (b. 1916), Noretha (b. 1918), James (b. 1920), and Mary (b. 1922).

At this point I am not sure that the true story behind his murder will ever be revealed. What troubles me is the reason why the Sheriff was called to what was described as the “Negro” side of town in the first place. Were the soldiers being drunk and disorderly? At this point of time in America soldiers were returning from overseas. Overseas African American soldiers had been treated considerably better than they were treated in the US. When they returned to the US they were basically told to go back to their subserviant roles. Historical accounts from across the United States discuss the murder of African American soldiers, some even lynched in their uniforms. White supremacists did not like the fact that African Americans returned to the US in uniform believing that they were equals and this spawned a surge of racial violence. Could this be what happened to Joseph Burrell? What caused him to pull his gun and shoot the Sheriff? Whatever the case may be Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was right in her assessment that the South was responsible for instances such as this due to its treatment of African Americans.

Commercial Appeal January 27, 1944

Commercial Appeal January 27, 1944

Commercial Appeal January 29, 1944

Commercial Appeal January 29, 1944

– Tiffany

– Image Source: Joseph L. Burrell headstone (FindAGrave.com)

– Sources: Tennessee Deaths and Burial Index 1874 – 1955, Tennessee Death Records 1908 – 1958, US Headstone Applications for Military Veterans 1925 – 1963, FindAGrave.com Newport News, VA Colossian Baptist Church Cemetery Listing, US WW2 Army Enlistment Records, 1938 – 1946, The Commercial Appeal January 1, 1944 issue, The Commercial Appeal January 27, 1944 issue, The Commercial Appeal January 29, 1944 issue, US Census Records 1920 and 1940 for Denbigh, VA,

Who was Lation (Ligon) Scott? – Dyersburg, TN

1 Nov

While looking through the search terms that lead people to this site I noticed recently that there have been quite a few searches for “Ligon Scott Dyersburg”

Lation (or Ligon) Scott was murdered in Dyersburg, Tennessee December 2, 1917 after ten days on the run. He was tortured and then burned at the stake. His charge was that he had attacked the white woman that he worked for.

When I read of Mr. Scott’s torture and subsequent death it gave me chills. What I also think about is how people participated in the acts as if there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. According to the NAACP’s investigation of his death he was poked and prodded with fire pokers. He had his eyes burned with a fire poker, he was castrated, his flesh was branded and burned. Next, they lit a fire and watched him burn to death. Mr. Scott’s lynching was turned into a spectacle with many of Dyersburg citizens attending. There were descriptions of children leaving Sunday School to attend the lynching. One of the citizens was quoted as saying “The best part about it was the burning. This hanging kills too quick”.

You can read the NAACP Report in The Crisis here : http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4ETAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA179&ots=ziyk_UG9ei&dq=ligon%20scott%20dyersburg&pg=PA183#v=onepage&q=ligon%20scott%20dyersburg&f=false

I wanted to find out who Lation (or Ligon) Scott was. I searched through US Census Records for Dyer County for 1900 and 1910 and found no record of him. I also searched for a death certificate and found no record of him there either. The article in The Crisis mentioned that Ligon was a preacher with the Holy Roller Church. It also mentions that he was included in the selective draft, so I searched for his World War I draft card and finally found him.

Lation Scott was born December 25, 1893 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He had a 3 year old child and was living apart from his wife. He listed himself as a self employed farmer. He was living on what appears to say RFD #2 in Dyersburg. His draft registration card was completed June 5, 1917.

Using details in The Crisis article I decided to see if I could locate the area where the lynching took place. The article in The Crisis states the location as “a near by vacant lot, the corner of which adjoins the public square, and which is within a stone’s throw of two churches and the residences of several ministers as well as of the Mayor of the town. It is the property, jointly, of several sisters, prominent women of Dyersburg. The court house and the post office, attractive new buildings, are in sight of the spot” (p. 181)

I then turned to the Sanborn Maps for Dyer County and discovered that maps were available for 1914. Sanborn Maps were not published again until 1929, so I decided to stick with the 1914 maps. As you know, Sanborn Maps show structures so it would be easy to identify a vacant lot. Do I know that the lot was still vacant in December of 1917? I do not, but at least I can find a starting point for further research using the 1914 maps.

Here is Court Square in 1914 with all lots adjoining Court Square outlined in red. (Sanborn Maps 1914 Index Key Sheet 1)

Court Square 1914

Court Square 1914

Using different sheets of the Sanborn Maps gives us a closer view of Court Square. The image below is Sanborn Maps 2 and 3 combined to give us a better view of Court Square including the buildings and vacant lots.

Court Square SB 2 and 3

Court Square SB 2 and 3

Combining the two maps lets me see that the only vacant lot near Court Square was at the corner of Mill Avenue and West Court indicated by the red dot on the map. Using the description in The Crisis we can see that (1) the corner of this lot does adjoin the public square, (2) it is near two churches (one of them shown) and (3) the court house and post office are in sight.

So if this in indeed the lot where this horrible crime took place then the address of that lot is 107 N. Mill Avenue.

So what is left?

Using the information on the WWI draft card a search for Mr. Scott on the US census should be tried again in an effort to locate his family members. I did a preliminary search for an African American male born in 1893 living in Holly Springs, MS with the surname Scott and there were a few hits, however none had the first name  Lation or Ligon. Perhaps he also had another name that he went by as a child. Also, newspaper accounts of this incident should be viewed to locate any clues such as the name of the family he worked for and those he associated with in Dyersburg.

Hopefully more can be done to discover Mr. Scott’s background, the family he belonged to, the identity of his wife and child, and where he might be buried.

– Tiffany

– Sources: The Crisis by NAACP Volumes 15 – 18, Sanborn Maps Dyersburg, TN 1914 (Index Key Map 1, Map 2, and Map 3), US Census Records for Dyersburg, TN 1900 and 1910, Tennessee State Deaths and Burials Index 1874-1955, US World War I Draft Registration Cards, Google Maps for 107 North Mill Avenue.