Black Ripley

The History and Genealogy of African Americans in Ripley, TN and the Surrounding Areas


I married a Ripley, TN native and fell in love with the area. As I began doing genealogy I became even more interested in the families of Ripley, TN. I will use this site to post information that I find regarding African Americans from Ripley, TN and the surrounding areas.

The focus behind this blog is to collect and share information regarding African American life in West Tennessee. While visiting the local library I noticed that there were not many sources on African American life, so this blog is an effort to fill that void. African Americans have contributed greatly to the rich history of West Tennessee since its beginnings and its time to share their stories with the world.

I hope that you will join me on my journey to uncover stories that have long been forgotten.

72 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi! I am the author of the Black Nashville Genealogy and History Blog you have a link to – thx much! I am subscribing to your blog and look forward to reading additional posts. I have also added you to the TNGenWeb Social Media directory page at in the “Regional Interest” section. Great work!

  2. Hello, I have been searching for years for information about my ancestors who lived in Ripley, TN. I am so glad I found your blog.

      1. Hi Tiffany,
        I have been looking for information on Kit Johnson’s family and where they may be buried. Kit was born in 1822 in South Carolina and he and the family settled in Ripley. Eventually his son’s(Rome) children ended up in Peoria Illinois. Thank you so very much for your offer to help.

  3. Hi Tiffany,
    I am very excited to find the article you post below.

    On September 18, 1900 Henderson House was brought from the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, TN by train. He was transported by a closed carriage to Canfield Cemetery. While on the scaffold he professed to committing the crime stating that he realized he must die and did not want to go on with a lie on his lips. The execution took place at 11:00 am and the trap was sprung by Ira Barfield. He was pronounced dead by Dr. James Lackey, the county physician. Only 8 people attended the execution and none of them were relatives of Henderson House. At the request of House a Black preacher named Rome Johnson was present and delivered a short message and a prayer. House was buried near the place of execution.

    I have a Rome Johnson in my family tree. He was Kit’s son. Thank you so much for all that you are doing.

    1. Hi Kelly,
      While browsing the 1910 Census for Ripley, TN I came across an entry for someone listed simply as “Rev Johnson”. On this census he is listed as 55 years old. He is living as a boarder in the house of Will and Laura Gildon. Don’t know if this is your Rev. Rome Johnson, but its possible. Please let me know if you would like me to email you the exact census listing.

      1. Hi Tiffany,
        Happy New Year! I would very much appreciate it if you could send me that information. Thank you so much! – Kelly

  4. Hi Tiffany,

    I’m researching the surnames of Anderson, Eddits, Gilliam/Gillum in the Ripley area.
    I know that my uncle Robert T. Anderson ( now deceased) was born in Ripley in 1916. We were told that his mother was Pauline Eddits and his father was my maternal grandfather–whom I knew as “Sonny Stone”. We were told that Sonny’s birth surname was Anderson; and that he later took his stepfather’s surname of Stone ( on his SSN application, he lists “Willis Stone” as his father, but we were always told this was his stepfather). We think his first name might have originally been “Thurman”.

    We also know that he had some Gilliam/Gillum 1st cousins who migrated to Gary, Indiana–their names might have been “Sherman” and “Thurman” Gilliam/Gillum. I’ve found some “Gillums” in Census records for Dyer, TN; and in Gary, IN–but there are so many variations of spellings for the surnames that it is hard to be sure if I’ve found the right people.

    I’d love to get some input on how to find my ancestors from Ripley.

    1. Recently found a Social Security number application for my uncle Robert T. Anderson on from the 1940’s. He gives his father’s name as “Son T. Anderson” and his mother’s name as “Walene Edwards”–which is totally different than what is in his 1996 obit; which lists his mother’s name as “Pauline Eddits” I can’t find either name in any documents so far. The SSN application also listed his birth place as “Haywood” rather than Ripley, as in his obit.. I know Haywood is a county; I have a marriage index for my maternal grandmother’s grandparents–Eli Jackson and Mary Stott–being married in Haywood County in Oct. 1881–but had no idea of connections between Ripley and Haywood County. I’m wondering if my uncle had a birth certificate; and if the actual marriage certificate of my 2nd great grandparents would have more info, like parents’ names?

  5. Tiffany,
    I am looking for history on Lauderdale County Training School, key dates, principals, etc. as part of the Pioneer Schools segment of this year’s JEWEL Awards on Feb. 22 in Jackson, TN. The Jackson Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce will be highlighting 21 historic black schools in rural West Tennessee.
    Any help you can give in identifying someone who can tell me more about the school would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Florence,
      I would be happy to share with you what I know about Lauderdale County Training School. I may also be able to put you in touch with someone who knows more than me about it. I’ll send you an email. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Hi Tiffany,
    Love your blog…. my father’s family has a long history in Ripley and Lauderdale County…. I am researching the surnames of Halfacre and Norvell.

    1. Hi Sara. Thanks for commenting. I recently came across some information on some Halfacre’s and Norvell’s. There were quite a few Norvells and Halfacres who were active with Miles Chapel CME Church in Ripley. Here are some of the names Alex Norvell (church trustee and helped to found the church sometime around 1873. Church also deeded to him and other trustees), Randel Norvell, Adline Halfacre, Fanny Norvell, Caroline Norvellm Virgina Norvell, Robert Halfacre, Samuel Halfacre (all members) and Blance Halfacre (church secretary). I hope some of these are your people!

  7. Just came across your blog. My grandmother is from Ripley and I’ve been helping her for years to prove her birth. Successfully secured enough historical information to get her retirement benefits a decade after she qualified.
    She’s turning 80 this year and I would like to help her be ‘born’. I am also in love with the area having gone back with her to visit (especially the bluff!). I would love to keep in touch

  8. I’ve also been trying to locate a death record of my great grandmother Gladys Reed (nee Williams) who died days or months after childbirth on October 12, 1933. She was married to Leo Reed the prior year for $1250. I found their marriage record…but never a death record for her or birth certificate or announcement for her daughter (my grandmother) Orelia (10/12/1933). There may be no record of the birth due to it likely being a home birth but I find it strange they’d be proud enough to pay such high costs to record their marriage but not the baby’s birth.
    Any help/advice you have on searching. I truly appreciate

    1. Thanks for commenting. I did a quick search and did not find a death certificate for Gladys. However, I did find her listed in the 1940 US Census living with Leo Reed in Haywood County. I believe you can view the 1940 census for free on In the household it is just Leo and Gladys, no Orelia. If Gladys died during this time period she would have had to have a death certificate because it was the law. Maybe there was an entry written for her in the newspaper when she died? I’d also check city directories to find Black funeral homes. Maybe they have their records online somewhere? I am not completely sure that they had to pay 1250 to get married. That would have been a crazy amount of money back then. I can’t quite remember at the moment, but I believe the 1250 bond was some sort of an agreement, not an actual amount to be paid. There is no way Blacks back then could have come up with 1250 just to get married. I’ll do some more research on that and let you know.

  9. How kind of you, Tiffany. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you Leo remarried to another Gladys after the passing of my biological great grandmother.
    The second Gladys’ maiden name was Crews. She is not the same person but was a neighbor of theirs growing up. I believe G. Crews was briefly married to an older man and had a child that died very young prior to marrying Leo.

    Grandmother Orelia likely lived with her grandparents during the 1940 census. I found them in 1930 Dollie (male) and Bitha Reed/Chaney. They used both names at different times. I have not found them yet in the 1940 since it released. The census bureau staff also were not able to a few years ago. I did find other older records of them.

    This process has given me great stories and family secrets revealed. My grandmother has shared stories and old family secrets and I have been able to reveal some to her and fill in information.
    I hope to find some record of her birth in some way. I don’t know that church and primary school records survived several floods and fires in the area but I’m hopeful to uncover more as permits

  10. I’m from Ripley, Tn, and I’ve been tracing my roots for the last 18 years…it would be amazing and an honor to share info with you. I just stumbled onto this site! You can reach out to me via facebook or at 88.5 from 8am to 2pm. Would love to talk.

    1. Hi Aisha. Sure, I’d love to set up some time to talk. I actually had the opportunity to meet you and hear you speak at the Alex Haley Museum’s Writers/Authors Day this past April or May. I’ll send you a message via FB.

  11. I just stumbled upon this site and I’m so happy that I did. It’s terrific! I’m the last generation of my family born in Haywood County, but in doing some genealogical research, I suspect I may be related to William Bunch, AKA Peetie Wheatstraw the blues performer who was apparently born in Ripley. I scrolled through the archives here and didn’t see anything about him, but I wondered if in your own work you ran across anything about the Bunch family in Ripley and if you have any suggestions for searching? Here’s some of the advice I received about it here

    1. Thanks for commenting and congrats on getting your genealogy question answered on! They gave you some awesome advice in that article towards getting started. Definitely follow the steps they provided. The Bunch name does not ring a bell for me, but it does make me interested in learning more about the musical artists who once called Ripley their home. Take care! I hope your search goes well. If you find out more you should stop by again and tell us all about it.

  12. “He is living as a boarder in the house of Will and Laura Gildon.” The GILDONS are my 2nd Great Grandparents. I am related to the CARSON’s of Ripley Tennessee. My line went through at least one maybe two name changes. The one I know for sure was BRYN and possibly before that SMITH. My family name is on that deed to Miles Chapel and was on the original corner stone. One of my CARSON lines move to Paducah KY and started a Miles Chapel. Related to- Norvells, Halfacres, Clay, Nelsons etc…

    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I read about Miles Chapel in Paducah, KY on a genealogy website I believe. I think its a good story of how an institution started in Ripley was spread to another city.

  13. Hello! I just started tracing my ancestry. I have family from the RIpley area. I am looking for the original farm, my family lived on. Their surname is Friend. The family lived on this farm/plantation until the mid 1990s. Also, my paternal grandmother is the Friend surname. My father’s surname is Westbrook and my grandfather is from ‘just over the river’ in Arkansas. I would like to know the history but my family doesn’t like to discuss it still stating that its better up North. I’d appreciate any help you can give. And please feel free to contact me or point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance.

  14. Tiffany, thank you for your work on this blog. I grew up in Dyersburg and Newbern in the 1970’s/80’s and I always felt an absence of history around the African Americans I saw but didn’t really know. I heard whispers about a lynching in Dyersburg a few times but only recently decided to try to find out whatever details I could. I have found that there were at least 7 lynchings in Dyersburg and Newbern during the first two decades of the 20th century. The Lation Scott case was the last of those and it was truly horrific. It’s so hard to even think about but the crimes of the past will never be over until there is some kind of reckoning. I feel it is high time that more people knew about this.

  15. I am not black but enjoy scanning your website. It is very interesting and contains many pictures and information useful to all of us. Thanks!

  16. Hello! I am helping my sister do research for a Civil Rights seminar she is taking in Law School. She is trying to find vital records for a young man named Roosevelt Jones who was killed by police in 1940 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. He lived in Arkansas. The clinic takes these stories and tries to establish a historical record for the person. Any help or suggestions on where to look would be much appreciated!

  17. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’ve been researching my family connections in the Ripley area. One line of my (white) ancestors (Benjamin Jordan, Benjamin Franklin Jordan and his wife Elvira Byler, etc.) apparently owned hundreds of acres west of Ripley on the Mississippi (close to Ashport?) in the 1830s and 1840s. Property records and deeds list several slaves by name. I’ve been trying to find information about them and the kind of life they lived. Do you know of any good resources for local history of the pre-civil war era? Are there any Jordans — black or white — still around Ripley? My ancestors eventually moved to Arkansas so I don’t have any local connections.

  18. Glad I stumbled on your blog while looking for Sangsters in Henning. My maternal great-grandparents were from Henning. My great-great-great grandmother, Jane Fossie, was the town’s midwife. I have cousins, the Atkins from Henning. My great grandfather, was Orange Young. His dad once had a funeral home in Henning. I love history too. God bless you, Linda

  19. This is a wonderful site. I have been tracing ancestry for years and even took the dna test. I have found some amazing things out and I am the 4th great grand niece of Matt Gardner of the Matt Gardner Homestead, his sister was my 4th great grandmother. My last name “sloss” appears in haley’s “queen” and my father’s side was in the same area as Haley’s ancestors. I am assisting my mother and we just recently found out her grandmother is from Ripley TN. She had a funeral there in 1949 but do not know where to start looking for maybe a death notice. Her name was Bettie Lou Glenn and live in Lake Co, but her sister Alma or Elma owned a grocery store in Ripley TN. I believe Bettie died under the name “Atwaters”. I dna tested my mother and found a man who is a distant cousin, he is from Ripley TN and one of the surnames that stood out was Tyus or Tyas. I didn’t think any Glenn’s lived in Ripley. I believe Bettie’s father was George Glenn and I found Bettie and her siblings living as “inmates” off Lebanon pk in Nashville TN. Apparently that was a Black Masonic Lodge for Orphans and cannot find any other info but just an indexed name. It’s truly amazing putting the pieces of the past together, and having such deep roots in TN.

  20. Tyus is an “old” name in Ripley. There was a Reverend Tyus associated with the Miles Chapel C.M.E. church in the town of Ripley in which my distant grandparents (CARSON, BYRN ) along with other distant relatives, were listed as Trustees for the church in 1870. I hope you are successful in your research and the is a wonderful site indeed.

  21. This site was an accidental find but I am so happy it happened. I googled my great aunt as she just passed away. I found an article written by William Carson and he mentioned her and the connection to Paducah, Kentucky and I live near there. This is a great connection to my ancestors Nelsons, Halfacres, Wheelers and others. Thanks!!

  22. Oh no! I am so sorry for your loss. She was a wonderful sharp minded woman that opened many avenues for my research into our family. What a sad day it has suddenly become. My condolences.

    1. I thank God that he led me to her. I’ll never forget her. If you can please keep me in the loop about her funeral services.

  23. Hi I am looking for information on Ollie Tyus my great grandmother born around 1908.She is from Ripley and married a man with the last name Bond.

  24. Hello, I am looking for information on my family from Lauderdale county TN. The last names are Price and Friend. I was able to trace family members back to 1825 but it gets confusing and mysterious because they go back and forth from being referred to as mulatto and black.

    1. Do not get hung up on the mulatto and black status that you find in the census. These we designations were totally up to how the census taker “sees” your family members. I have a distant grandmother that was mulatto in one census while her kids were black, 10 years later she was black and her children mulatto! Some of the census takers weren’t the sharpest pencils in the desk.

  25. Hi Tiffany,

    I am searching for the surname Yanders. I have been researching for a few years. A large portion of my family is from Tipton county.
    Do you have any information about them.

    Thank you

  26. What a wonderful job you have done here! Love reading the clippings and your research. I live in Ripley and am always interested in our history. Great job!

  27. I was so pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon this website! Thank uou so much for all the work you’ve put in. I’ve been researching my grandfather’s family, as his father grew up in Ripley/Henning. My primary focus has been the Nelson and Carson families and I’m so delighted to have found all of this information.

  28. Hello, I am looking for the Walker family from Ripley Tennessee. My grandmother Eula Mae Walker and her parents James/Jim? Walker and Emma Walker (maiden name Comer or Coleman) all lived in Ripley Tennessee. Emma Comer’s mother was named Maudy Comer and she was born about 1840. I have found a lot of information (I think) on them from US Census but would like to confirm things and get more solid and concrete information if possible.

    My great grandfather James/Jim Walker was born about 1870 according to the US census and his parents were Toby Walker (father) and Milley Walker (mother) they are both from Georgia and were farm laborers according to the US census taken in 1880.

    I love researching genealogy, especially about my own family but just the history of where they lived as a whole is so interesting to me. I am creating a book to present to my aunt (the last living one) this June 2017 at her 80th birthday. Our family is HUGE and with there being so many of us it is a shame that we know very little about our history and were we come from. They said that my grandma never talked about her family much.

    If you have anything or can give me any information or leads on how to get more so that I can fill her book with things that this family will have to pass along from generation to generation that would be awesome and greatly appreciated.

    Of course I am keeping copies of everything myself 🙂

    Blessings to you and yours
    Nita Fisher

  29. I am looking for two families from Ripley, the Blackwell’s and the Halfacres. Family lore says that the Halfacres were Blackwell’s who rejected the master’s surname after slavery, and decided to pass for white. Please provide any suggestions or tips for how I might find more information about these two families.

    1. I have a few Halfacres in my line. What I can tell you is the Halfacres I’m related to were very light-skinned and very well could have moved away from Ripley and passed as white, however none did and remained in Lauderdale county. This info was provided to me by a cousin while on a research visit to Ripley.

  30. I am a descendant if Halfacres. My grandmother Sarah Halfacre was the daughter of George Halfacre. Both of them are described in census records as mulatto. George was a slave and the son of his owner Frederick Halfacre. George also served in the Civil War with the US Colored Troops. To answer your question my branch of Halfacres did not pass as white although we have a lot of European features .

  31. This blog is awesome, and Prince Glass is my great grandfather. I would love to chat with you about my roots if you have time.

    1. Peter, feel free to enter your family history please. Prince Glass born in approx 1922 is my 2nd cousin 2x removed. I for one would love to confirm my research with a direct family member. I descend directly from the CARSON line out of Ripley. With cousins the CHERRY, NORVELL, GLASS, GILDON/BATES AND HALFACRES

      1. Prince glass is my grandfather my father is robert glass his son. My mother Lela glass (nee) johnson is from henning

  32. Curious if you have encountered any reference to Black fife and drum band music in Lauderdale County. I am researching the history of this musical phenomenon in West Tennessee.

  33. Tiffany,

    I too have stumbled onto this blog while researching my ancestor, Henry Oval, who’s my 2nd great grandfather. Born about 1861 in Arkansas, he shows up in the 1880 census in district 4 of Lauderdale County. He marries Jennie Heistand one year later in Canadian, Arkansas on 18 Sep 1881. Oval seems like is a unique last name. It seems as though there would be more information, but I haven’t found anything.

  34. Is this still an active blog? My mother is from Lauderdale County and I have entered as much as I could from I am coming to Tennessee the end of the month to visit the State Archives in Nashville, County library in Ripley and visit areas where my ancestors lived. I am very surprised to see documents with their names prior to 1860 on the same locations where enslaved people of the same ages and gender are recorded. Can you explain this?

  35. Hello
    According to oral histories, my family, the Noel’s lived on the Henning Farm in the 1930’s. By chance do you have any information on any Noel Family members on the Henning Farm from 1890-1940’s timeframe? Thanks

  36. Hello Tiffany, my family’s surname is Oldham. I’ve traced them back to slaveowner Dr. Samuel Oldham. My 2nd great Grandfather Pete Oldham was listed in his will. If you find anything on any of my Oldham relatives, don’t be afraid to reach out!

  37. Hello, I am searching information on my Grandfather,Richard Martin,born in Ripley Tenn in the 1800’s after the Emancipation and later moved to Nashville.Any info that you could find would be greatly appreciated and shared with our family. Thank you

  38. Tiffany, have you ever come across any references to Black fife and drum bands in Lauderdale County? They tended to be associated with Benevolent Societies such as the one referenced in this post, and it seems likely that there would have been one or more in the Henning or Ripley area. These societies would sponsor picnics at which the fife and drum bands would play for entertainment and/or dancing. I am writing my masters’ thesis on this subject. Any help you could give would be appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: