Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sentimental Sunday - The ANCESTORS At Work in Tyrrell County!

I am posting this under the "Sentimental Sunday" prompt because today has been a very emotional one for me (for reasons I don't wish to discuss), and I needed something good to happen. And so it has, with a little (or a lot) of help from the Ancestors!

I haven't before written on this blog about my mother's paternal line, which hails from Tyrrell County, NC. This is a line I wasn't even aware of, until just a few years ago, due to the fact that my mother never knew her father, nor any of his family members, save a distant cousin of his who (apparently) lived in the Norfolk, Virginia community she grew up in. According to what I've been told, my grandfather, Daniel Webster HILL, abandoned my grandmother and their two children in 1938, when my mother was but 4 years old, and her brother, Howell, 7. My mother, who passed in 2013, had no memory of Daniel, at all; and my uncle's few memories of him are not pleasant. Once their father left, the family didn't hear from him, again, and it's only because of my research that I was able to inform my mother before she passed, that her father had actually died in Peterburg, Virginia in 1940 - just a couple of years after he'd left them.

My grandmother remarried in the same year of Daniel Hill's death, so I have to believe she did know of his circumstances; however, my mother maintained throughout her life that she didn't know anything about what happened to him, so I have to believe that. She would have only been 6 years old when her father passed, and she already had a new step-father, whom she loved dearly, and came to refer to as her father. I'll write more about that when I more fully introduce this line, but for now, here's a shot of my descent from Charn HILL and Grace BRYANT of Tyrrell County, North Carolina. Charn and Grace were Daniel Hill's great-grandparents.


Now, let me get to the point of this post:

Last month, I had the honor of presenting my talk, "Researching Ancestors of Color: It Takes a Village" to the Tyrrell County Genealogical and Historical Society. That visit was only my second to Tyrrell County, an area of North Carolina with which I had no familiarity before learning that I have ancestry from there. So, I went down early and did some exploring before my presentation, and when I returned home, I blogged about my visit. As a result of this post, I've received many messages from folks in Tyrrell County, offering support and encouragement with my research. One of the most exciting was a private message from Reverend Laurel Melton, Associate Minister of Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church, who reached out to me via Facebook. Rev. Melton took my number and agreed to call me soon since she'd read that many of my Hill (and Bryant) family members attended Chapel Hill, and are buried in the cemetery there.

Meanwhile, I posted, a few days ago, on the Tyrrell County Genealogy page on Facebook, a query about the location of my Hill ancestors' land, and a family cemetery that is named in some of their death certificates. There've been many comments, but in one, the poster asked if I'd read the "cemetery books" by Camille Everton. I had not, so the commenter suggested that I contact one Jimmy Fleming, who was said to be working to update the listings. So, I reached out to Jimmy, and he graciously offered to look for my Hills, and email me his findings. That he did, and upon receiving his email, today, I was happily surprised to see a listing for a HILL FAMILY CEMETERY in the Scuppernong district of the county, where much of my Hill family lived! Here's the listing:

Cemetery Name: Hill Family Cemetery
Town/Community: Albemarle Church Road
County & State: Tyrrell County, NC
Location: Family cemetery located about .2 miles in a field south of SR 1200 (Albemarle Church Rd) almost
directly across from the intersection of SR 1200 (Albemarle Church Rd) and SR 1203 (Albemarle Shore
Rd) in the Scuppernong community of Tyrrell County.
GPS Location: N35 55.626 W76 20.514


When I saw that, a Genealogy Happy Dance happened that I didn't even know I had in me!


Still dancing, I plugged the location of the cemetery into Google Earth, to see if I might get lucky enough to see the graves. I did narrow down the image and identified some potential graves, but it wasn't clear enough to be sure. I took a snapshot and made a mental note to get back to Tyrrell County as soon as possible. But ....
....the Ancestors weren't through with me yet! Guess what happened next? A private message popped up on my Facebook wall, and guess who it was????  Reverend Melton!!! Can you believe it? She was just letting me know that she hadn't forgotten me, and would be calling soon, but you KNOW I asked her about this cemetery, and guess what her response was? Well, just look for yourself!
It's. right. down. the. road. from. her!!!!!!!

Oh, my goodness!!!! I was in here dancing and screaming! Not only did Reverend Melton divulge that she knows and lives near the cemetery, but she went on to tell me that she knows the Hill family that maintains it, and that one of them is a high school classmate of hers (who she also mentioned I reminded her of). She is giving that person (my cousin?) my contact info and will encourage her to call me.  So, I'm going to "meet" one of my Tyrrell County HILL cousins!!!!
This is the area of the Hill Family Cemetery. I see something I think might be graves, but I'm not sure enough to claim them (yet). 


Oh, my gosh, I needed this today!!!!! It's been an emotional week, and a challenging day but what  I'm feeling right now on this Sentimental Sunday is pure GRATITUDE. So, thanks to the Ancestors, to God, and to all of the people who fell into place in the ultimate plan to lead me to this place at this time.



Thanks for reading!
Renate

 Permalink to this post: http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2017/03/sentimental-sunday-ancestors-at-work.html

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Road Trip - Tyrrell County, NC

One week ago, today, I traveled to Columbia, NC, to give a talk to the Tyrrell County Genealogical and Historical Society. I was honored to have been invited to speak to this organization, particularly since, through my research, I've uncovered a direct ancestral link to this county, through my mother's father. (My Tyrrell County surnames are HILL, BRYANT, and DAVENPORT.) Although I made an immediate post about my experience on Facebook, I also want to document it, here, on my blog.

The Ride
Tyrrell County North Carolina is located just over two hours away from my home in Newport News, Virginia. Prior to this excursion, I'd only visited the area once, and I was thinking that the drive had been longer than that. So, when I put the address for the Columbia Senior Citizens Center, where the meeting was to be held, into my GPS I was quite surprised to see that the distance was only 120 miles, and the length of the drive was estimated to only be 2 hours and 5 minutes. At that moment, I began to chastise myself for not having gone down, again, for research purposes (because I was thinking it was further). Now that I know, I'll be heading back to Tyrrell County "on the regular". :)

My talk was scheduled for 2:30, but I wanted to go down earlier, so that I could do a bit of exploring. Therefore, I left home at about 9:30 a.m., to head on down. The drive was lovely; it was a bright, sun-shiny day, and I was accompanied by the soothing sounds of gospel radio, followed by a little NPR, as I made my way out of Hampton Roads toward my destination.  My route provided a mostly uninterrupted rural scene all the way down 17S to 32 to 94, and then Highway 64 into Tyrrell County, and the quaint little town of Columbia.
These silos represent one of the few breaks in my beautifully monotonous drive .


Upon arriving in the county, I first went to scope out the meeting location, so I'd know how long it would take me to get there. Next, I went to the Tyrrell County Visitors Center, a very well-appointed rest area,with extremely clean bathrooms (yay!). As an added treat, this rest area is home to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Center. I didn't go in, but I can just imagine what a treat that would be, especially for people traveling with children. I did, however, follow the outdoor walkway around to the back of the (closed) Visitor Center, to take in the beautiful view of the Scuppernong River, the bridge into Columbia, and I took note of the walking trail and the nice setup of benches and rockers on the back porch of the facility. Next time I go back (in warmer weather), I definitely plan to go back and spend some time in this serene setting.
          
Wildlife Center

Visitors Center (not open until 1 p.m. on Sundays)
                               
Exploring Tyrrell County
With about two hours to spare, and no real agenda, I decided to first head to the one place I'd already been on my previous visit to Tyrrell County, and that was to Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, where many HILL and BRYANT family members are interred. These are two of the Tyrrell County families from which I descend, both being recorded as Free People of Color, as early as the late 1700's, and also both known to be of Native ancestry, before intermarrying and/or procreating with blacks. I headed towards the church, hoping that perhaps, since it was close to 12:00 noon, I might catch service in session, or perhaps wrapping up, and that maybe I could introduce myself to some folk, and encourage them to come to the meeting to hear me speak. However, when I got to the church, the parking lot was empty. It didn't appear that a service had been held there, that day.
I turned into the cemetery, which is directly across the street from the church. (There is another larger part right behind the church.)
Chapel Hill Missionary Bapist Church
I hadn't originally planned to get out, because I had photographed most of the graves on my first visit there; but it looked like maybe there were some that I'd missed, so I couldn't resist the urge, and out I went. (Of course.) I quickly walked through the graves, snapping photos of almost every one in the area I'd chosen, and trying to step carefully on the soft turf, so as not to dirty myself before my presentation. I'd almost made it without incident, until I decided to try to get to one of the furthest back graves. While trying get close enough to brush away some leaves, I took one step too close and down went my foot and part of my leg... into the mud! Well, that was enough of a sign to me that it was time to go. After all, in just a short time, I'd be standing in front of an audience. I needed to keep myself presentable!  Anyway, I took the long way (lol) around to get back to my car, still snapping pictures as I went. Once in the car, I was grateful for my handy-dandy pack of wet wipes, which I used to clean off my leg and shoe, before I headed off to explore some more of Tyrrell County.

After leaving the cemetery, I decided to just explore a little of the area around it, so I headed back down Chapel Hill Rd., and turned right onto Travis Rd. After driving about 4 miles down that road, and seeing nothing (save a house or two and a little bit of industry), I turned around and headed back to the town of Columbia to check out some of the neighborhoods. First, on the same side of town as the Visitors Center, I found a neighborhood which was (very sadly) filled with deteriorated, falling-down homes. Upon stopping to chat with a kind young man, who was parked in front of one house, I learned that this had been (or still was) a black neighborhood, but that many of the original owners had passed and/or moved away, and that the children/grandchildren, etc. had no interest in living there, so the homes were just abandoned. As I shared with this young man, I see this often in my travels in more rural areas, but this was the first time I'd seen an actual neighborhood, in which so many homes were in that condition right next to each other. The example in this picture is located facing Rowson Street. This saddened me so, but I love how this home seems to be fighting against the inevitable; it seems to almost be saying, "But, still I stand."


                                         
This photo doesn't fully capture the degree to which
this house is leaning back.
                                 
I asked the young man about churches in the area, and he pointed me to the end of the road, saying that the church there should be about to let out. I followed the road to it's end, and sure enough, the congregants of what appeared to be a black church were just getting into their cars. I stopped in the middle of the road to greet two ladies who were chatting, and invited them to come to the meeting at 2:30. I was pleasantly surprised when one responded that she'd "read about that in the paper", and was planning to be there! I introduced myself as the speaker, told her I was a Hill-Bryant descendant, and asked her if she knew where those families might have lived. She pointed me in the direction of "Alligator", and told me how to get there. I thanked her and bid her farewell (until the meeting), and off I went.

With just a little over an hour to go before I needed to be at the Center, I decided to ride off down Highway 64 in the direction of Alligator. I drove for miles and miles and miles, seeing nothing but a pattern of fields, then trees (in swamps). Finally, I arrived in the general area of Alligator. I rode all around this mostly unspoiled area, passing field after field, and seeing only the occasional home and a couple of small churches. The area was beautiful, though, and filled with so much of nature's goodness. I felt a true peacefulness, as I traveled the unknown roads. I honestly can't tell you where I turned or how I got to where I ended up, but I'll just show you a few photos.
When I first passed this log, there were about 6 or 7 turtles sunning on it, but when I stopped my car and backed up to take this picture, the smaller ones just into the water.

This Methodist Church sits along
Dock Landing Rd., in Alligator.



Fields, fields, and more fields... That's what Tyrrell County
 seems made of!                                                
The Meeting
With it being after 1:30, I knew I had to head back to town,  so I did. On my way back in, I snapped a few photos. (Unfortunately, my iPad case got a little in the way.)
Tyrrell County Courthouse
Main Street - Columbia


Cooper House
  
Winery
I wondered if this was the original school house. It is on the high school property.

When I arrived at the Senior Citizens Center, I was greeted by Cathy Roberts, President of the TCGHS, and Lamb Basnight, the gentleman who'd originally contacted me about speaking. Lamb, was dressed in period costume, which kind of threw me off, at first; but I soon learned that he volunteers Several other members, and a few guests arrived, including author of Somerset Homecoming, Dorothy "Dot" Spruill Redford (which really took me by surprise)! After a short wait outside, we all proceeded in and prepared for the  start of the meeting, which had a great turn out, indeed. :)

It was so nice to meet Lamb Basnight. He is so cool! :)
I was honored to meet Dorothy Spruill Redford!
Following the business meeting, came my time to speak. My presentation, "Researching Ancestors of Color - It Takes a Village" is one that I've prepared to not only discuss first steps and resources for researching ancestors of color (whether free or formerly enslaved), but also to share with descendants of white, slave-owning (or not) ancestors how they can help to further the research of those who descend from ancestors of color.
The talk ran about an hour, and was very well received. Audience members were quite complimentary, and seemed genuinely moved and interested in looking back into their families' records and artifacts, to see if they might have any information related to connections of their ancestors with people of color. (This is the goal of the workshop!) One participant has actually already emailed me with information about an ancestor's "body servant" (from the Civil War), whom she has been seeking more information about, the details of which she'd like to share with the larger community!

The meeting was followed by close to an hour of chatting with attendees - answering questions and sharing information. As an added bonus, I met two people who are (apparently) my cousins! One was a Bryant descendant (pictured), and the other (who was camera shy) was a Hill-Bryant descendant, just like me! That was so exciting! I look forward to communicating with these two, to confirm our connections and share information!
This is Otis. His (known) cousin has confirmed our BRYANT connection via DNA.
Since he lives locally, he came out to hear my talk and to meet me! That's my cousin, ya'll! :)

Finally, at about 5:00, it was time to say my last goodbyes, and get on the road to head home. I had such a fulfilling day in Tyrrell County, and I can't wait to go back!


This picture doesn't do it justice, but on the way I passed this beautiful field of windmills, near Elizabeth City, NC.
They went on for at least 7-8 miles. Amazing!


Permalink to this post: http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2017/03/road-trip-speaking-in-tyrrell-county-nc.html


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Road Trip - Fun in North Carolina!

I don’t know why I never thought of this, before, but since magical things seem to happen every time I go to North Carolina, I am going to start a little series that I’ll just call, “Road Trip”. (Hee hee) J I’ve just returned home from an 11-hour day of travel to NC and back, and I’d like to share some of my experiences.

TARBORO
My first destination was to Tarboro, NC to meet my 89 year-old cousin, Jessie YARBOROUGH Clemmons and her son, Rev. Samuel Clemmons, Jr. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sam’s wife, Rosa. The purpose of this visit was not only for me to meet my cousins, but also to obtain a saliva sample from Cousin Jessie to be sent off to FTDNA for autosomal testing.  I was so glad that Jessie seemed to understand what I was asking of her, and she willingly allowed her son to do the first cheek scraping, and me to do the second!


My beautiful cousin, Jessie YARBOROUGH Clemmons
Sam gets the first swab

In addition to the success of obtaining the DNA sample, I’d also brought along a photo album, which had belonged to my aunt, Susie YARBOROUGH Hawkins (1920-2013), of Louisburg. The album is filled with photos of family members, but several have subjects I haven’t been able to identify. Before Sam and Rosa arrived, I’d already shown Jessie a few of the pictures. She recognized my dad (Arthur), his sister, Susie, and brother, Calvin III and also our cousin, Geral YARBORO Sargent. All of these were Jessie’s first cousins, and I knew them all. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to recognize any of the “unknown” people, even the one that I thought may have been her, when she was younger. But, when Sam and his wife came, they were actually able to identify the folks in many of the photos, and, without me saying anything at all, Sam exclaimed that the photo I’d suspected may have been Jessie was her!
As soon as Cousin Sam saw this photo, exclaimed, "That looks like my mama!" And after looking at it, again, he added, "She looks just like my sister, Eunice!" 

Sam and Rosa identified several of the other photos as being pictures of Jessie’s siblings, so now I’ve been able to label those, and decrease the number of “mystery photos” in this album!
Before I knew it,  my visit was approaching the two-hour mark, and it was time for me to head to my next destination – Louisburg – where I had an appointment with a contractor. The timing was good though, because Cousin Jessie was getting hungry, and the dining room (where we were) at her facility was beginning to fill with residents ready for lunch. We said our goodbyes, and off I went to my next destination, which was exactly one hour away. I loved meeting my cousins! :)

LOUISBURG
As most of my readers know, I now own our ancestral home in Louisburg, North Carolina. Some months ago, I had some work done on the property, and I was not satisfied with the workmanship, at all. I’ve been trying to get the contractor to revisit his work, and complete it, according to contract, as well as to put a more professional touch on the work that he did do. Although I’ve sent photos and emails, expressing my concerns, this contractor, Freddie White, insisted that I come and meet with him, in person, to discuss it. So, that is why I went to Louisburg, today.  There is no need to dwell on this part of my trip, but suffice it to say that I did not leave this meeting satisfied, and will never use Mr. White’s services, nor recommend him to anyone, again. He tried to deny that he’d even done some of the work, and refused to take responsibility to the shabby job he did do. He was defensive and argumentative, and was being totally unreasonable.  I have seen his work, elsewhere, and know he could have and should have done a better job than what he did for me, but I chose not to stand in the cold and argue with him for longer than the 30 minutes already wasted, so that was that.


On the upside, though, my visit to Louisburg was not in vain! First of all, while at the house, before the contractor came, I was (of course) continuing my work of going ever-so-carefully through the things left behind from all who’ve lived there. Today, I went back to a particular bookshelf I’ve been working on, which is filled mostly with church-related papers, magazines, bulletins, and books. It is my habit to flip through the pages of every single thing, because I learned, early on, that there could be treasures found between the leaves. I pick up every item, flip through it two or three times, and examine anything that’s found between the leaves. Well, today I didn’t find anything of sentimental value inside of anything, but I DID find great treasure, in the form of a manila envelope, stuck between a set of Sunday School booklets from the 1980s.  Here’s what I saw on the outside of the envelope.
This list served as an exact "table of contents" for what was in the envelope!  Check out this video: 

Well, that was exciting (at least for me)! And, now, I have a new mystery on my hands. Who was "Aunt Rose"?  You KNOW I'm going to find out! :)

Anyway, I actually found the envelope just before the arrival of the contractor, but before that, I'd realized something. I'm a dues-paying member of the Heritage Society of Franklin County, but because they meet on Thursdays at 1:00 (when I'm usually at work), I've never attended a meeting, except for the one where I was their featured speaker in July of 2014. What I realized was that I was actually in Louisburg on the day and at the time of the Society's monthly meeting! Therefore, the second I was finished with the contractor fiasco, I rushed right over to Johnny Bull's to try to catch the end of the meeting, and that I did!

It was so great to see my Heritage Society friends, and they seemed to be happy to see me, also!  I was fortunate to arrive in time to hear Diane Taylor Torrent finishing up a talk about the Louisburg Dispensary. She also shared a newspaper article (from the Charlotte, NC newspaper) about a huge fire that took place in Louisburg in the early 1900's, which started at the C.B. Cheatham Tobacco Warehouse, and burned all the way down to the Edgerton home on "Happy Hill".

Diane Taylor Torrent presenting at the meeting

Here's an article from the Franklin Times about the fire:
                             

Found on Newspapers.com powered by Newspapers.com

After a few minutes of fellowship, it was time for me to get on the road to head back to Virginia. It was so great to end my visit to Louisburg this way. Even though I am not a local person, this group has accepted me with open arms, and I feel a true bond with them. Oh! And, I even got to meet a new online friend (and possible Hawkins kin), Jackie McNamara! That just put the icing on the cake!

So, until my next (genealogy related) road trip.... 

Permalink to this post: http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2017/02/road-trip-fun-in-north-carolina.html

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The "Jim Crow Bible" - Did you know?

While reading this post, please click on each of the articles to enlarge and isolate them. All articles are sourced by hovering over the title bar at the top of each one.

Last night, I participated (via live feed), as an audience member, in a wonderful talk, given by author Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns) at the University of Richmond. During her engaging lecture, Ms. Wilkerson mentioned something that I'd never heard of - the "Jim Crow Bible". Curious, I decided to look up the term, to learn more about it. The closest thing to an actual definition I found was in this somewhat satirical little snippet posted in The Albuquerque Journal, in 1903.



Found on Newspapers.com


As was shared during the talk, the Jim Crow Bible was a term used to describe the separate bible that was used to swear in blacks, in a court of law, during the Jim Crow years - roughly 1877 to the beginning of the 1950s, when the Civil Rights era began.1
In my quest to learn more about this oddity, I discovered several newspaper articles, most of which made reference to the same (apparently) monumental event which occurred in Raleigh, NC in 1906.

First there was this, from The Raleigh Times, in March 1906.


Found on Newspapers.com


By August of that same year, apparently folks were still talking about this judge's horrible mistake, only now, as often happens when stories are passed down and around over time, the tale has grown to include a bible-tainting kiss. Read about it from the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle. No worries though. A new (replacement) bible could be purchased for just fifty cents.


Found on Newspapers.com


Now, before you go thinking that the whole kissing the bible thing was an embellishment, take a look at this article from a November, 1947 edition of The Pittsburg Courier.5  Yes, that's right. I said 1947. 



Found on Newspapers.com

Well, folks, I think you get the picture. I have to say that I've been educated, yet again. Little did I know that Jim Crow stretched its racist, segregationist hand even to the touching (or kissing) of the Holy Book. What baffles me most about this is that those same black hands that weren't supposed to grace the same bibles, were holding, loving, raising the children, preparing the food, washing the clothes, and even changing the very sheets of the folks who dared not place a hand on this sacred implement during a seconds-long courthouse ritual.

Go figure...

Image result for hands on bible


1 Melvin I. Urofsky https://www.britannica.com/event/Jim-Crow-law

Permalink: http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-jim-crow-bible-did-you-know.html

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Louisburg Parade Threatened By KKK

As we all know, our country has a horrible history of racism. That history, which began with the introduction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Americas, is still being written, today.

Louisburg, North Carolina, one of my ancestral home places, is located just 29 miles from Raleigh, the state capital. The area was a Confederate stronghold, and to this day boasts many a proud descendant of the Gray. Indeed, just north of the town center, there is erected a monument to the original Confederate Flag (not the battle flag), which stands in the midst of the road on what is part of Louisburg College's campus. And, being a southern city, it shouldn't be surprising to learn of the presence of one of our country's best-known, overtly racist organizations - the Ku Klux Klan - in Louisburg's story. That said, realizing the depth of activity that was taking place in the town, while I, as a toddler, was living there (with my grandmother), still gave me pause.
Confederate Monument - North Main Street, Louisburg, North Carolina
Erected May, 1914

I recently found the following newspaper clippings while cleaning out my family home in Louisburg. They are about threats that were made by the KKK to the 1964 Christmas Parade. They were located at the bottom of a box of other artifacts from the 50's and 60's, along with several family letters. I've decided to share them on my blog for a couple of reasons: my family members would have been affected by these events, and, as already stated, I was actually living in Louisburg when these things took place.

I will let these articles speak for themselves, but I do want to mention one thing. There must be something about the date December 6th, and Louisburg. As I was preparing this post, I realized that the first article about the Christmas Parade, of which these articles speak, was publis on that date - the same date as another fateful event in this town. Sadly, December 6th (2013) was the date of the removal and burning of historical documents from the Franklin County Courthouse (in Louisburg). If you aren't aware of that sad story, dear reader, click here.

Here follow the clippings I found. Click on each article to enlarge it.


Article 1:

Source: News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, December 6, 1964   


Article 2 (3 pieces - I believe this to be from The Franklin Times, Louisburg, NC)


      
                    
 Article 3 (Appears to be an editorial: author and date unknown)

Sometimes, reading the ugly truth of our times (then and now) can be disturbing. That's why I'm so glad that my grandmother, or whoever clipped these, included this closing article. I agree with the sentiment of its writer, and reading it gave me a sense of hope and peace.


Source unknown

As always, comments are welcome. If you happen to have been a resident of Louisburg at this time, and you have personal memories of this event, I'd love to hear from you. :)

Renate

Permalink to this post: http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2016/10/louisburg-parade-threatened-by-kkk.html





Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reblog: Coming to the Table by Teresa Vega

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how I can make "Into the LIGHT" helpful and appealing to a wider range of people. One thing I've decided is that I need to show more of my research process on the blog, rather than just sharing stories and the results of the work I'm doing. Therefore, dear readers (and hopefully new ones), you'll be seeing more of that, in the future!

This morning, I opened my feed to the perfect example of such a post, written by my gen-friend, Teresa Vega, author of the blog, "Radiant Roots, Boricua Branches". Not only does Teresa's post epitomize excellent research, but it is also a telling example of the extensive work and collaboration that is necessarily done when researching the formerly-enslaved, a topic I discuss in my presentation, "Researching Formerly-Enslaved Ancestors - It Takes A Village!" (I'm available for future speaking engagements, too!) :)

I'm so pleased with Teresa's post, I've asked her permission to reblog it, here, on Into the LIGHT. Thank you, Teresa, for this outstanding body of work. I know what went into it, and applaud you and your extended family for working together to bring this information forth!

Renate


Coming to the Table In Honor of Jack Husted by Teresa Vega


This blogpost is dedicated to Chris, Julie, and Charles. They are three of my Lyon cousins who have welcomed our family with open arms into the extended Lyon family. Today, we are unlocking  the doors of our hidden shared family history together.  This blogpost is an example of how “Coming to the Table” can benefit everyone. I would also like to thank Anne Young, a Greenwich historian, who has aided my research immensely.

Who Is Jack Husted?

Jack Husted is my 4th great-uncle, the 2nd son of my 4th great-grandmother Peg Green. Peg was a Lyon before she became a Merritt and later a Green. Peg was born around 1770 in Greenwich, CT and was raised in the household of Daniel Lyon (son of James, John, John and Thomas). Through our AncestryDNA Lyon cousin matches, we are connected to the Daniel Lyon line as well as other Lyon family lines. Peg was mulatto and it is highly likely that she was Daniel’s daughter by a slave. During slavery, it was quite common for slave owners to keep the children they had fathered with slaves around as house servants. Her actual relationship with her father may not have been publicly spoken about or acknowledged due to the nature of slavery. But, DNA doesn’t lie and there is an undisputed genetic link between our family and the family of Daniel Lyon. Peg was 5-10 years older than his other 4 daughters (Hannah, Lavinia, Elizabeth, and Loretta) and worked as a servant slave in his household. In 1790, Daniel sold Peg to Nathan Merritt, Jr. While she was in Nathan Merritt, Jr.’s household, she gave birth to Charles in 1791 and Jack in 1793. We know via our DNA cousins that Charles was fathered by a Merritt and we can assume the same now for Jack.

Peg’s 1790 Bill of Sale from Daniel Lyon to Nathan Merritt, Jr./Rye Historical Society

Jack’s birth record with name misspelled

On Peg’s Return to the Lyon Family

Peg returned to the Lyon family around 1794 and was living with Benjamin Woolsey Lyon in the James Lyon House  near the Lyon Cemetery. Benjamin Woolsey Lyon was Daniel Lyon’s brother. In his household, she gave birth to Anthony Jr. in 1795 and Platt in 1798. These two sons were fathered by my 4th great-grandfather Anthony Green. Peg definitely met Anthony while she was in the Merritt household as Nathan Merritt, Jr.’s first cousin was John Green, Anthony’s slave owner. Peg and Anthony went on to have 3 additional sons together after she was emancipated in 1800 by Benjamin Woolsey Lyon. Their 5th son Allen, who was born in 1804, is my 3rd great-grandfather and he named one of his sons Benjamin Woolsey Green after him.

Birth records of Anthony, Jr. And Platt
Regarding Anthony, Jr., we know that he was mentioned in Benjamin Woolsey Lyon’s 1810 will. He was to stay in the care of Phebe Lyon, Benjamin Woolsey’s wife, until she died. If she died before his term was completed, then Anthony was to be set free. We know that Phebe lived until 1855 so Anthony was freed automatically under the 1784 Gradual Emancipation Act in 1820. We don’t know what happened to Platt as he is not listed in his will. We can only assume that he may have been sold and completed his gradual emancipation term with someone else.
In an 1894 Port Chester Journal article, John Brooks, the grandson of Daniel Lyon and son of Lavinia Lyon Brooks, who married Henry S. Brooks one of the founders of Brooks Brothers, mentioned Peg. He stated that Peg had grown a “little fresh” and so his grandfather gave her her freedom. This is factually incorrect as we know that Daniel’s brother Benjamin Woolsey Lyon is the one who emancipated her.

From the Lyon Memorial Book 3


Port Chester Article, May 17,1894

That being said, John Brooks may have given a reason though as to why she was sold.  Was it to teach her a lesson? Had she forgotten her “place” in the family?  Did the fact that she had given birth twice, probably as a result of a sexual assault by a Merritt male, make her Lyon family reclaim her? Did they regret selling her? Did they assume that she would have been well-taken care of in the Merritt household as they had taken good care of her?  Who knows, but anything is plausible. Both Charles and Jack would have remained with Nathan Merritt, Jr., when she returned to her Lyon family, as they were considered his property until they were 25 years old. Under the 1784 Gradual Emancipation Act, they would be automatically freed after their terms were completed.
What I find interesting is that, in a Port Chester Journal article two years earlier, John remembered that his mother left him with Peg at his grandfather’s house when he was 3 years old. John was born in 1813 so that would mean that Peg was back with Daniel Lyon and was again working as his servant. We do know that in 1812, when the War of 1812 was going on, Peg and Anthony’s son Henry became a ward of the Town of Greenwich as his parents couldn’t take care of him. I often wonder what was going on that had such an impact on Peg and Anthony’s ability to take care of Henry. Did the War of 1812 have anything to do with it? Was it a bad year for farming? So many questions. In both articles, we see that Peg’s relationship with her Lyon relatives was long lasting and endured after she was emancipated. John mentions that when Peg visited NYC, she always stopped to visit his mother Lavinia and his family. The impact that Peg and Anthony clearly had on John is evident, as decades after their deaths, he still had fond memories of them and their family. I am also honored to be able to read about my Green-Merritt ancestors through the eyes of someone who actually knew them.

Port Chester Journal, March 17, 1892

 

The Sale of Jack at the Age of Three In 1796

 
Jack’s Bill of Sale/Greenwich Historical Society            

I first saw Jack’s 1796 bill of sale last December at the Greenwich Historical Society. I had no words upon seeing his bill of sale. A slave at the age of three? My first thought was how much work could a toddler do? Tears. Who would be taking care of him in the absence of his mother? That he was born on Valentine’s Day only added another layer to my distress. It also made me wonder about Charles. Two brothers now separated from each other and their mother. No words. Right then and there, I was a silent witness to the bitter legacy of slavery that was all too real. My 4th great-uncle was sold for 15 pounds of New York money at the age of three.
After Anthony died in 1836, I came across an 1837 land sale record that listed all of his sons with the exception of Henry. Jack Husted and Charles Merritt were listed as his sons. It confirmed that Anthony had adopted Peg’s two oldest sons as his own. Jack married his wife Helen and was the father of 4 daughters — Jane Anne, Sarah, Nancy, and Lucinda. His wife Helen and daughter Jane Anne passed away in 1851 and are buried in Lot 23 in Union Cemetery in Greenwich. I was able to trace Jack up until the 1860 census when he is listed as being 67 years old and was still working as a gardener. He passed away sometime before 1870.

When Cousins Come to the Table From Both Sides of the Color Line, Historical Truth Reveals Itself

I met my distant cousin Julie Pollack a month ago upon first learning about the desecration of the Byram African-American Cemetery. Thanks to Jo Conboy of the Greenwich Preservation Trust, I was put in contact with several distant Lyon cousins who had been sent my blogpost about my Green-Merritt ancestors. Julie’s grandmother, Julia Lyon Saunders, was the last private owner of The Thomas Lyon House before the house was donated to the town as a museum in 1925. Julie was also one of my cousins who, along with other members of the Greenwich Preservation Trust, stood up for The Byram African-American Cemetery in 2014. This was a year before I even discovered our ancestors’ names. In our family’s 2-year absence regarding the whole cemetery issue, we are grateful to Julie and all our Lyon cousins for taking up the cause on behalf of our family’s ancestors — some who were also their cousins.
 
 
Julie, like me, is a family historian and genealogist. We are indeed kindred spirits and true kinfolk. I should add here that my Lyon line (Daniel, James, John, John, Thomas) included slave owners. Julie’s Lyon line were not slave owners, but did include abolitionists whom I will mention later. After Julie read my blogpost mentioning Peg, Anthony, and their seven sons, she made the connection to Jack whose bill of sale she had inherited. Simeon Lyon was the older brother of her 3rd great-grandfather Abraham Lyon. Julie told me that Simeon and his wife Mary Mills Lyon were childless and may have purchased Jack as a “proxy child” to take care of them as they age. Simeon passed away in 1807 and Julie had lost track of what happened to Jack. After she read my blogpost, she was happy to see that Jack went on to be reunited with his family and that he had a lived a productive life.
 
 
 
My Cousin Julie Pollock’s Family Tree
 
 
 
Julie was able to provide additional tidbits about Jack that gave me some sort of indication of the time he spent as a youth. In addition to giving me a copy of his 1796 bill of sale, she sent me a ledger page from Simeon’s book that showed what was spent on Jack in 1807. Jack was 14 years old and had been hired out, probably as a farmhand, which was quite common. I know from looking at my other Green-Merritt ancestors that boys, between the ages of 12-18, were often hired out as farmhands. Girls, at the same ages, worked as domestic servants. From the ledger page, we know that he was well-clothed, received some cash  payments, and tobacco.
 
Simeon Lyon’s 1807 Ledger Page on Jack 
 

Jack’s Actual 1796 Bill of Sale

Jack’s Gap Years (1807-1820) and the Surname Husted

Julie and I both wondered what happened to Jack after Simeon’s death in 1807. We couldn’t locate Simeon or Mary’s will.  Unlike me, she didn’t know until recently that he had taken the surname Husted as his last name. I recently went back to census records and looked for a Husted who owned a slave in 1810. Jack had to serve his 25 year gradual emancipation term until 1818 so he would have still been a slave in 1810. I was so happy to see that there was only ONE Husted who owned a slave and had one free black living with him. That man was Drake Husted. Looking at the 1820 census, Drake had two free blacks living with him and we can assume that the slave in 1810 was now free. That slave was no doubt our Jack Husted.

Jack Husted as a slave in 1810 


Upon further analysis, I found that Drake was married to a Nancy Marvin Lyon who turns out to be the daughter of Daniel and  Benjamin Woolsey Lyon’s brother James. After Simeon passed away, Jack was given to Nancy and Drake to complete his term. Did they buy him? I haven’t found a bill of sale yet, but he did end up with them for sure. This meant that Jack ended growing up in the household of a cousin of his. Peg and Anthony would have certainly been able to see him often as well.


Children of James Lyon (son of John, John, Thomas)


Nancy Marvin Lyon and Drake Husted

Julie and I have also been wondering where Simeon lived. In Benjamin Woolsey Lyon’s 1810 will, his homestead, which was the James Lyon House near the Lyon Cemetery, was listed. In addition, there were 8 other properties mentioned. Mary Mills, Simeon’s widow, is listed as living in one of his properties. Where Simeon’s house was probably the house that Benjamin Woosley Lyon’s son James occupied in 1830 near the Byram Bridge which was close to the Thomas Lyon House. It also appears that the wooden house may have burnt down between 1880-1900.

Mary Mills Lyon’s House In 1810

Benjamin Woolsey Lyon’s children were all underage when he died. In his will, he mentioned that they could not inherit the land until they became of age which would have been around the early 1820s. This meant that someone would have acted on their behalf until then. In his will, his wife Phebe was listed as his executrix, however, she declined and James Lyon, Benjamin Woolsey’s brother, and W.H. Husted were appointed as executers. Joshua Lyon, Benjamin’s cousin, was listed as being the person who appraised his estate inventory in his will. As stated before, James’s daughter Nancy took in my 4th great-uncle Jack when he was 14 years old.
Seth Lyon, Simeon’s nephew, bought Simeon’s home from Joshua Lyon, Jr., his first cousin, in 1823. This Joshua would be the son of Joshua Lyon, Sr. who appraised Benjamin Woolsey’s estate in 1810. Seth had a long, close relationship with both Simeon and Mary that lasted until her death. According to Anne Young, a Greenwich historian, Mary isn’t listed on the 1830 census at that location, but James Lyon, Benjamin Woolsey Lyon’s son is. This definitely points to a close relationship between all the Lyon cousins who lived in the Byram area. It must be also noted that there were multiple generations who lived at the Thomas Lyon House at one time.

From History of Rye (1660-1870) book by Charles Baird


Abolitionists in the Lyon Family: Seth and Gilbert Lyon

When Lyon cousins come to the table, so to speak, a wealth of collective family information is transferred. In the early 1800s, Seth and his brothers Fitch and Elias ran a family farm to market business. By the 1820s, they branched out to include owning the sloop William, named after Seth’s oldest son, that enabled them to sell their products (e.g., produce and apple cider) by taking advantage of new markets along the Hudson River as well as NYC. Later in the 1830s, they would transport Byram Blue Point granite stone from the quarries of Port Chester and Greenwich down to NYC. This stone ended up being used in the construction of the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Julie refers to these three Lyon brothers as being “farmer-mariners.” Gilbert Lyon was Seth, Fitch and Elias’s first cousin and the son of was Joshua Lyon, Sr. Like his cousins, Gilbert was also a “farmer-mariner” who owned three sloops —  the Caroline, Jackson and New York. He also owned a lime kiln and vinegar business. Gilbert lived in “Lyon’s Point” which was a little over a mile down river from the Thomas Lyon House and the Byram Bridge. All four Lyon cousins would have required extra sets of hands to help them out with their farms and businesses.
 

 

Portrait of Seth Lyon


 

Captain Gilbert Lyon

 

  

Ad taken out by Seth Lyon/Stamford Advocate

The sloop “New York” owned by Gilbert Lyon/Stamford Afvocate

Ad placed by Gilbert Lyon/Stamford Advocate

Ad placed by Gilbert Lyon’s sons/Stamford Advocate

One of those hands was Peter John Lee also know as Henry. From 1830-1836, Seth Lyon employed Peter John to help him at home and with his family business. There is also some indication that he may have also been employed by Gilbert Lyon. Peter John Lee was a fugitive slave from Virginia who managed to escape to Connecticut as a young man between the ages of 16-24. In the six years he spent Lyon family, he married and had two sons. On November 26, 1836, he left the Thomas Lyon House, at the behest of a black acquaintance who was enticed by a $1.50 payment, and crossed over the Byram Bridge where he was apprehended by a group of slave catchers. His arrest was covered widely in the press at the time. Seth Lyon, who was also a Justice of the Peace, appealed to the Mayor of New York to no avail. But, it was Gilbert Lyon who first sounded the alarm about what happened to Peter John Lee just 2 days after his kidnapping when he walked into the office of The New York Sun, a conservative New York newspaper, and gave an account of what happened.

The NY Sun Article from November 28, 1836 

Anti-Slavery Almanac 1836

Peter John was then taken back to Virginia where he was re-enslaved. Seven years later, he escaped again and made his way back to NYC before he eventually ended up in Canada with the help of the New York Committee of Vigilance under the leadership of David Ruggles, a noted black Abolitionist and Underground Railroad Station master. We don’t know what became of Peter John Lee after he arrived in Canada or if his family were able to reunite with him. Given the fact that he was previously caught, he may have even changed his name when he arrived in there. In 2014, the Thomas Lyon House was placed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail due to the abolitionist activities of our ancestor Seth Lyon.

Map showing Byram Bridge, the Thomas Lyon House and the James Lyon House where Simeon, Mary, and Jack lived.
  
Julie was so kind to send me a photo of a table, called “The Slave Table,” that Peter John, his wife and two sons no doubt used during their time with Seth’s family. There is also the possibility that Jack used this table as well since he would have grown up with Seth. Julie and I both wonder if Jack had any influence on Seth’s future abolitionist ideals since they grew up together. Seth would have known Peg and Anthony who were well-regarded in the community as well.
 
 
 
Table used by Peter John Lee and Family

Close-up of “Slave Table”


I also wonder about how my free black Byram ancestors lived in such a precarious state. What did their closeness to the Byram Bridge mean to them? Was the Byram Bridge a place to be feared as a result of the Lee kidnapping? Did they themselves fear being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South? I am sure they knew Peter John Lee and his family. They were also literate so they would have been able to read the newspaper accounts of his capture. The fear of being kidnapped was REAL for both free and enslaved people and the Peter John Lee case only magnified that fear.

The Lyon Circumstantial Case For A More Active Involvement in Anti-Slavery Activities Than Previously Thought

 
I visited the Thomas Lyon House a week ago for the first time and had a tour. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin Pat, Jo Conboy and Eric Brower, both of the Greenwich Preservation Trust. It was great being in a space that I knew my ancestors occupied. Both Jo and Eric were kind enough to explain the details of the house to us. The former location of the old James Lyon House, where Simeon, Mary and Jack lived, was pointed out to me. It was directly across the street from where the Byram Bridge still stands today.
 
 
My cousin Pat, me, and Jo Conboy

Byram Bridge in 2016       

As I stood outside the Thomas Lyon House, my mind kept going back to Seth and Gilbert Lyon. There had to be a lot more to their story other than harboring a fugitive slave. I have many black abolitionists in my family from Newark, NJ. One of them was an Underground Railroad station master named Jacob D. King, who built his UGRR houses in Newark in 1830, so my gut reaction was that there had to be more info out there about the Lyon cousins. Were they just “farmer-mariners” who were benevolent to employ someone  like Peter John Lee or were they more involved in the anti-slavery movement than previously known? Did the Lyon family’s Quaker origins have an influence on them? My inquiring mind wanted to know. I asked both Jo and Julie if they knew anything else about Seth and Gilbert and they said they didn’t know anything else about them. I also began wondering if they were involved in the transportation of fugitive slaves. They did have sloops, didn’t they?
What else could I dig up on the Lyon cousins? In order to understand the Lyon cousins, we need to look at the larger socioeconomic and historic context in which they lived. What follows below is just the beginning of my research on my distant Lyon cousins. I immediately asked my cousins Julie and Chris about where their Lyon ancestors went to church. Julie said she had no idea, but Chris immediately told me that her Lyon and Husted ancestors went to Second Congregational Church. So, that is where I decided to start looking.

In Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in the Town of Greenwich, Jeffrey B. Mead mentioned that there were no anti-slavery societies in Greenwich and that the abolitionism was to be found in The Second Congregational Church, the Stanwich Congregational Church, and the North Greenwich Congregational Church.  Abolitionists were actively involved in anti-slavery and Underground Railroad activities in and around Greenwich, CT in the early 1800s. One of these abolitionists was Deacon Silas H. Mead who was a deacon at the North Greenwich Congregational Church and who routinely spoke out against slavery. Another abolitionist was Shubral Brush of the Stanwich Congregational Church who likewise took up the abolitionist call. Then there was Deacon Jonas Mead of the Second Congregational Church. Deacon Mead was a well-known Greenwich abolitionist and Underground Railroad station master who routinely hosted prominent abolitionists in his home. He was also the Vice-President of the Fairfield Anti-Slavery Society and lived in Byram. [ I should add here that, in 1829, Rev. Lyman Beecher, father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, an ardent abolitionist in his own right, preached at Second Congregational Church.] Clearly, this church believed in the anti-slavery cause.  Regarding Second Congregational Church, this is the church of my Green-Merritt ancestors as well as many members of the Lyon family, including Gilbert Lyon, Drake and Nancy Lyon Husted, and others.

Knowing that the Lyons, especially Gilbert Lyon, went to this particular church made me wonder if sitting in the very pews of this church had a larger impact on the Lyon family. Did being exposed to abolitionist/anti-slavery sermons and lectures in church make them more likely to take up the cause of a fugitive slave? Did Gilbert march into the NY Sun office two days after the Lee kidnapping because he himself believed in the anti-slavery cause or was he just advocating on behalf of his cousin Seth to get his employee back? And what about our Jack and other black Byram ancestors who also sat in the very same church? Did they take up the abolitionist cause? Did they aid their Lyon cousins in their anti-slavery activities? Maybe. What we do know is that Second Congregational Church was indeed a beacon of light for those who stood against the evils of slavery. It was within the walls of this church that people found support for their anti-slavery positions.
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Deacon Jonas Mead/Fold3
One of the things that I was amazed to discover was just how close Gilbert Lyon lived to the abolitionist Deacon Jonas Mead. Gilbert lived directly across the Byram River from Deacon Mead. There is no doubt in my mind now that Gilbert would have been intimately acquainted with Deacon Mead and his beliefs both in and outside of church. Deacon Mead also hosted noted abolitionists like  Dr. Erasmus Hudson who was a member of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society and an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society, at his home. For Jonas Mead to host him in his home meant that he had a ready anti-slavery audience waiting to receive updates on anti-slavery activities at both the state and national level. Gilbert and Seth may have known about and attended Deacon Mead’s anti-slavery meetings.


Map showing Thomas Lyon House, Gilbert Lyon, and Deacon Jonas Mead

Another discovery I made was that Seth, Gilbert, Gilbert’s son Alvah, and Thomas Lyon were members of the Whig Party. This is important because Northeastern Whig Party members were known to be businessmen who opposed slavery unlike their Southern counterparts. That the Lyon cousins were actively involved in Whig politics definitely posits them on the right side of history. Without a doubt, I believe that this is additional evidence that they did hold anti-slavery views and that they sounded the alarm about what happened to Peter John Lee because they were fundamentally opposed to the institution of slavery.

Hartford Times, April 15,1837


Hudson River Chronicle, August 14, 1838

Hudson River Chronicle, October 22, 1839 
I should note that the Whig Party also included men like Deacon Silas H. Mead of the Stanwich Congregational Church— a man who was also a Greenwich Board of Selectman serving with Julie’s great-grandfather, Underhill Lyon. We can assume that Deacon Silas H. Mead also knew the Lyon family well because of their ties to the Whig Party. In addition, Greenwich was still a small community and most people knew each other. That both Seth and Gilbert Lyon were prominent members in their community makes this especially likely.

Hartford Daily Courant, September 9, 1840

The Whig Party fell apart in 1852 over the issue of the expansion of slavery in the newly acquired West Coast territories as well as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 — a law that did not have the support of Northeast Whigs.  After the collapse of the Whig Party, Northeastern Whig Party members became Republicans —the Party of Lincoln.

Now What About Our Greens?

Another research trail I am pursuing, which may or may not link to our distant Lyon cousins, is of a second Underground Railroad House in our extended family. This house was owned by Hawley Green, a cousin of my 2nd great-grandfather George E. Green. Hawley and his wife Harriet owned an Underground Railroad House at 1112 Main Street in Peekskill, NY. He bought this house from John Brownthe abolitionist who conducted the raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859.


From Freedom Journeys: Black Civil War Soldiers and The Hills Community, Westchester County, New York by Edythe Ann Quinn, p. 27.


Hawley Green’s Underground Railroad House in Peekskill, NY Photo by John J. Curran in his book Peekskill’s African-American History: A Hudson Valley Community’s Untold Story
Mary Butler presented an affadavit in support of my 2nd great-grandmother in her Civil War Widow’s Pension Application. Mary offered sworn testimony that she had known my 2nd great-grandparents for 39 years and that they met at a church function in Sing Sing (now Ossining, NY). My 2nd great-grandmother, Laura Thompson Green, was accompanied by her family members at the time and that is how she met my 2nd great-grandfather.  Mary and George Butler also ended up living in Newark, NJ in the late 1800s near Laura. The Peekskill Green connection is interesting. Hawley Green (1810-1880) was the same age as Anthony’s children. There is some disagreement as to where he was born which was either in New York or Virginia. A direct descendant of Hawley told me that his father’s name was William.  We are searching for a link to a possible brother of my 4th great-grandfather Anthony Green. There is a William Hallet Green that we are now investigating. By the way, Hawley’s son Hallet Green lived in Sherman, Fairfield County, CT and is buried in the East Fairfield Cemetery.
We are also looking into Harriet’s background as her maiden name was Petersen which we also have in our extended Green family. Thomas Green, son of Allen, married Emeline Peterson whose father was William Peterson. William could have been a sibling of Harriet Peterson Green. We believe their father may have been a Jacob Peterson.

Mary Butler’s 1900 Civil War Pension Affidavit
In 1860, George E. Green was living in Yorktown, NY, one town over from Peekskill, NY with a Solomon and Diana Heady We have every reason to believe that there is a family relationship to the Headys because they were later buried in Union Cemetety as well. We believed that Diana may be a niece of our 4th great-grandmother Peg as she was born in Connecticut and was almost 20 years younger than Solomon. There is no record of Peg ever having given birth to a daughter. Solomon Heady was definitely a descendant of one of the first free African-American families in Westchester County, NY. The Headys were the mixed-race descendants of Thomas Hadden (1691-1761), a white slave owner from Scarsdale, NY who had a mulatto family whom he recognized in his will.


The Headys (Solomon, Lazarus,and Jacob) in the 1840 New Castle, NY census


Solomon Heady in 1840 New Castle, NY Census


1860 Yorktown, NY Census with Solomon Heady and George E. Green (son of Allen)

1850 Yorktown, NY Census with Lazarus Jeady and John Green (son of Thomas)


Death records, years unknown, of Solomon and Dinah/Union Cemetery, Greenwich, CT

To reiterate, slave ancestor research is very difficult as documentation is hard to come by before 1800. In the 1790, 1800 and 1810 census records for Greenwich, CT, African-Americans all had the surname “Negro.” Most African-Americans were first listed as people starting with the 1870 US census. My free black ancestors were listed as people way before that and I am grateful for that. And yet, the lack of surnames is a still a brutal reminder of the property status my ancestors had and I am left with a constant craving to find those who came before my oldest ancestors. That longing will never go away.
Below are two maps of Westchester County, NY and one includes Greenwich. The circles around the towns indicate where our Green-Merritt ancestors resided in the 1800s. African-Americans in Greenwich routinely traveled across the NY state border and took up residence in these towns. During slavery, they moved with their slave owners and, when freedom came,  they moved on their own and set up residence across Westchester County. In her book, Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and The Hills Community, Westchester County, New York, Edythe Ann Quinn discusses The Hills, an area where Harrison, North Castle and White Plains meet. In doing so, she had to also discuss Greenwich, CT as African-Americans in Greenwich shared ties with the USCT soldiers from the Hills. John C. Curran’s book Peekskill’s African-American History: A Hudson Valley Community’s Untold Story likewise discusses the African-American presence, not only in Peekskill, but also in Ossining, Yorktown, Cortlandt, and other Westchester towns.

Map of Westchester County, NY
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Map of Westchester County, NY and Greenwich, CT

Returning to Hawley Green, we see that he interacted with both black and white abolitionists at the time, including Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and a radical abolitionist in his own right, and Harriet Tubman. Fugitive slaves, who found their way to his house, were sent on to Canada in the 1830s. Hawley and Harriet Green sold their home to William Sands, another abolitionist and Quaker, in 1839 who no doubt continued their Underground Railroad activities. 
I find my Greenwich Green link to their Peekskill Green cousins fascinating because there may just be more to this story that links back to Greenwich. I also ponder what other anti-slavery activities my distant Lyon cousins were doing at the time to help other fugitive slaves. What other abolitionists did my Lyon cousins know? After the Lee kidnapping, did Greenwich become a place to avoid on The Underground Railroad? Or, did Greenwich’s anti-slavery advocates and Underground Railroad station masters adapt other means of shepherding fugitive slaves northward? Is it at all possible that Lyon sloops were used to transport fugitive slaves up the Hudson River? Were there African-Americans in Greenwich who helped on The Underground Railroad? Were their free blacks in Greenwich who took part in anti-slavery societies? Were their black abolitionists in Greenwich who worked in tandem with their white abolitionist counterparts? These questions and others are definitely valid research questions to pursue. I have a strong feeling that there is so much more documentation out there just waiting to be found.

Stay Tuned…..