Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sad, Sad Saturday - Death of Walter Davis

This won't be a long post. Right now, I don't even have enough words to express the jolt of sadness I'm feeling this morning after reading this very descriptive article about the death of my maternal great-grandfather, Walter Davis; but I must honor him right this minute, by sharing (what I know of) his story, here on my blog.

Walter Davis was born July 16, 1875, in Brunswick County, Virginia to parents Lewis Davis and Dolly Ann Crutchfield. He spent his childhood in Warren County, NC (which is the only place I'd known the family to live until recently discovering his tie to Virginia). In 1895, 20-year-old Walter married Minerva Brown, and by 1900, the couple (still residing in Littleton, Warren County) had given birth to two children, Samuel (1896) and my grandmother, Mary (1897). By 1910 the family was living in Norfolk, Virginia, where Lewis was a Foreman (Coal Trimmer)* at the coal piers, located in the same Lambert's Point section of the city where the family home stands to this day. Sadly, little Samuel is no longer with the family and is presumed to have passed away.

Just about a year ago, I obtained this photo of my great-grandfather, Walter, who I'd never seen a confirmed photo of, before that point.
Walter Davis
I'd been told by my mother and her siblings that their grandfather had died in a tragic accident at the coal piers where he worked, but I never knew the of the gory details that are included in the following article. At the time of this tragedy, my mother would have only been 15 months old. Her brother, Howell, was 3. Their sister, Jane, wasn't yet born. My great-grandparents, my grandparents, and my mother and uncle all shared a home in Lambert's Point, so this loss had to have hit the entire family very hard, although it gives me comfort to know that my great-grandmother, Minerva, was not alone during this horrible time. However, what makes this even more dismal is that, 12 years earlier, my grandmother, Mary, had lost her first husband in just as tragic an accident at the same location that had now claimed the life of her father. I wrote about that calamity in my post, "Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss".

Just looking at Walter Davis in this photo, I sense that he was a hard-working, very determined, and perhaps serious-minded man. I can't help but wonder if there is something more to this story. Didn't he hear the bell ringing? Did he not get off the tracks on purpose for some reason? Could someone have pushed him onto the tracks?

My heart is truly aching this morning after reading this article. (Click to enlarge.)


Walter Davis, I say your name. 
May you forever rest in peace.

Your great-granddaughter,

Thanks for reading.

* A coal trimmer or trimmer is a position within the engineering department of a coal-fired ship which involves all coal handling tasks starting with the loading of coal into the ship and ending with the delivery of the coal to the stoker. 

Coal trimmer definition  (

HOLD FINAL RITES FOR ACCIDENT VICTIM. (1935, Jul 06). New Journal and Guide (1916-2003) Retrieved from

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

H is for HAWKINS - #AtoZChallenge

I have fallen behind on the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I'm going to stick with it until I get it done. At this point, and will all I have on my plate right now, that will probably be sometime in May but I will get through the alphabet!

H is for HAWKINS

In my 20+ years of doing genealogy research I've discovered many family lines of which I had no prior knowledge. One of those - and perhaps the most surprising - was my European HAWKINS line, which began with the uniting of my 2x great grandparents, Anna Green and Nathaniel Hawkins. Here follows a research timeline of the life of my great-great grandfather, Nathaniel.

Timeline for Nathaniel Macon Hawkins
Created by Renate Sanders (gg-granddaughter)

1830  - Nathaniel is born to parents Philemon and Jacobina (Sherrod) Hawkins in Louisburg, Franklin County, NC.

1840 - Age 9 - At home with parents in Franklin County.

1850 - Age 20 - Nathaniel lives at home with his parents and 6 siblings; Arch (22), Madison (21), Lucy (19), Fanny (17), Mary (12), Benjamin (10). Nathaniel’s father, Philemon, is enumerated as “Hotel Keeper”. Nathaniel is a “farmer”. (None of his siblings are noted to have jobs, which is interesting. Also, I wonder where the farm was?) Others listed are most likely boarding in the hotel, and at least some of them appears to work there. They are:
Sidney Jeffries (Clerk), Samuel Perry (physician), Edward Lawrence (Surgeon Dentist), Lanu?z Wynn (17), Edward Ratley (table servant)

1856 - July 2nd - Nathaniel’s father, Philemon, dies.

1860 - Nathaniel lives in Louisburg with his now-widowed mother and 3 siblings, Fanny, Mary, and Benjamin. His occupation is given as “Negro Trader”. His mother, Jacobine, is now the Hotel Keeper.
Nathaniel owns real estate valued at$625, but has a personal estate valued at $8140. Jacobine’s property is valued at $12,050, and personal estate at $4000. Nathaniel’s brother, Madison (a farmer), and his wife, Truxilla, live on the next property.

The 1860 Slave Schedule shows Nathaniel as owning only one slave - a 15 year old female. (I presume this to be Anna Green who will become the mother of Nathaniel’s children.) The young woman is enumerated in Franklinton, and appears to reside on some type of property with slaves of other owners. (Perhaps a work-farm of some type?)

1863 - Emancipation Proclamation

1864 - John Wesley Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel. This is my great-grandfather.

1865 - Emancipation of Slaves

1868 - Elizabeth “Bettie” Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel

1870 - Nathaniel (enumerated as “Nat”), remains single and lives alone in a neighborhood surrounded by blacks. (Anna and the children are listed in a different household, several pages away.) His occupation is now listed as, “trader”. His real estate is now valued at $4850, and his personal estate at $1200. (Family lore says that Nathaniel “put Anna and the children up” in a nice two-story home, which his family kicked her out of after his death, so perhaps that house is a part of that real estate which is being accounted for here.)

1871 - Annie B Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel.

1873 - William Adam Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel.

*Confusion - Nov. 5, 1873 Bastardy bond implicates JJ Murphy as the father of Anna’s child. Nathaniel signs the document (presumably as a witness). On the same date, in the exact same language and handwriting, another bond implies that Nathaniel has fathered a child with Alpharetta Dent, and is signed also by JJ Murphy. Alpharetta Dent and her children live on the same land as JJ Murphy, who is single, and all of her children are mulatto, just as Anna’s are. (This researcher believes that the names were just inadvertently switched by the clerk who was filling out the paperwork. William Green named Nathaniel as his father on several documents, and all of Alpharetta Dent’s children named James Jasper Murphy as their father on marriage and death certificates.)l

1876 - Mary Helen “Pidgy” Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel

1879 - Esther Green is born to Anna and Nathaniel (Family says that Esther may not have been Nathaniel’s, because she was darker-skinned, but until proven otherwise, I will count her as his.)

Feb. 1879 - Nathaniel dies. Cause of death, as reported in newspaper obituary, was “a very severe attack of pneumonia”.
Evidentiary documents related to Nathaniel Hawkins: (Copies in my possession)

*Davis & Roads, January 4, 1865 - Promissory note to pay $585.00 for hire of negro man, Jess for the year. Signed by NM Hawkins, M. Hawkins, and PB Hawkins (Settled as part of estate on Oct. 28, 1881. Paid in full ($11.75)

*Nov. 1872 - Promissory note: Mr. Davis Spencer to Mr. Nat Hawkins for CJ Outlaw for carrying telegram at the death of Mr. Reid.

*1873 - “I CJ Outlaw paid Nat Hawkins $2.00 in money. The said Nat Hawkins was on his way to Raleigh and promised to credit my note with the same on his return.”

*1879 - 1882 - Statement of account with O.L. Ellis, M.D: Shows Nathaniel’s care and prescriptions in July 1878, and Feb. 1879. This shows 23 months interest and full payment of $9.65 by Nathaniel’s estate in 1882. On 2/24/1879, he was charged $5.00 for a consultation with Drs. Foster and Clifton. On that same date, he was billed $1.00 for “bleeding self”. (This is the same date as the charge for the burial suit. Nathaniel died that same day.

*Yarborough & Co. - Feb. 24, 1879 - Bill for burial suit ($23.50) - See below.

* Letter of Administration - Franklin County Probate Court, March 29, 1879: This document states that Nathaniel died intestate, and names Phil B. Hawkins as administrator of his estate. (This is Nathaniel’s cousin, Philemon, who married Nathaniel’s sister, Fanny.)

*Franklin County Superior Court (no date/year given) - PB Hawkins, admin of NM Hawkins against PB Hawkins and wife, Fanny Hawkins, Mary M Hawkins, BF Hawkins, Madison Hawkins and others, and BF Hawkins guardian ad litem for the infant defendants, Henry M. Hawkins, Nathaniel Williams, Hawkins Williams, and Mary G. Willaims. (This an answer to a complaint, apparently in an ongoing court case to settle Nathaniel’s estate. As yet, I’ve not located the original complaint.)

*Receipt for payment to Yarborough & Co. from estate of NM Hawkins (for burial suit) - Sept 22, 1889.

Undated Receipt: Received of PB Hawkins, admin for NM Hawkins, $5.00 in payment offer for appearing as attorney for the guardian ad litem for the infant Cris(?) Outlaw (?) in a proceeding to (??) real estate assets. BB Massenburg


Information for for this article was obtained by this researcher, Renate Y Sanders, using data from the 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870 Censuses on, and via personal visits to the following:
North Carolina State Archives 109 E. Jones St., Raleigh, N.C. 27601
Franklin County Register of Deeds 113 S. Main St., Louisburg, NC 27549
Franklin County Courthouse 102 S. Main St., Louisburg, NC 27549


Thursday, April 6, 2017

F is for FAITH and FOREVER: A Tribute To My Brother #AtoZChallenge

 This tribute was first written and posted in 2007, on the twenty-sixth anniversary of my brother's death. It's being updated and reposted as part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge on April 6, 2017.

Arthur Yarborough, Jr.

Twenty-six years Thirty-three years ago today, I lost my brother, Arthur.  We were only 17 months apart.  The two of us grew up together, almost like fraternal twins.  We did everything together, shared the same experiences, good and bad.  When Arthur died, he took all of the secrets of my youth with him, because he was the only person who knew and (in many cases), shared them.

 My mother, Mary Yarborough, poses with her newborn son, Arthur, Jr.

Arthur Yarborough, Jr. was born on August 23, 1960 in Bremerhaven, Germany, to our parents Arthur, Sr. and Mary Yarborough.  He was said to have been a very good-natured baby, with an even temperament and a quick and easy smile.  I remember hearing stories about how Arthur, as a baby, would always stop whatever he was doing when television commercials came on, and would watch and listen intently.  Once the commercials ended, he would resume his activity.  This was an interesting bit of family lore, since Arthur grew up to be a Mass-Media enthusiast and majored in it in college.
  Above:  Arthur as a toddler (Presumably, before I was born)
Below:  My dad, Arthur, Sr. and my brother, Arthur, Jr. in Louisburg, NC
circa 1968-69
As a boy, Arthur was involved in many community activities.  He was a Cub Scout, played Little League baseball, and enjoyed attending youth activities at our church.  In high school, Arthur was a triple-sport athlete, playing basketball, football, and baseball.  After two years at Bethel High School in our native Hampton, VA, he decided to go off to military school at Augusta Military Academy in Staunton, VA.  It was there that Arthur truly blossomed as an athlete, as well as as an ROTC officer.  He graduated from Augusta in 1978.
Arthur, the Little League's star pitcher

 Top left: Arthur's Junior picture @ AMA.  Right: QB Arthur (#10) and another player pose for their football picture at AMA.

Arthur returned home to Hampton to attend the alma mater of our mother, and our two oldest brothers, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University).  Known by the nickname, "Yang", he was very popular and well-loved by his fellow students. Arthur grew deeply involved in his major, Mass Media Arts, and became best known for his smooth jazz radio show, "Inspirations", on Hampton's radio station, WHOV.  In addition, he wrote for the school's newspaper, and anchored a 15-minute nightly broadcast on Hampton's "Newswatch 10" a weekday cable news program.  He also joined several social fraternities, including the oldest on Hampton's campus, Omega Sigma Chi.  Arthur graduated from Hampton in May, 1982, two months after discovering that he had cancer.

 Hampton Institute president, William R. Harvey, congratulates Arthur and hands him his diploma on Mother's Day, 1982

Though the news of my brother's illness was discouraging, he never let it stop him from working towards his goals.  What began as a mystery-illness, with symptoms of abdominal pain and blackouts, was first diagnosed as a hernia.  Plans were made to surgically remove the hernia while Arthur was on Spring Break during his senior year at Hampton.  However, what we thought was going to be the solution to his problems turned out to be just the beginning.  Once the hernia was removed, surgeons discovered a tumor on my brother's liver.  Primary liver cancer of unknown origin.  The fight began...

 Here, Arthur, wearing his fraternity tee-shirt, snaps a picture of himself in the mirror.  I kind of like the "halo" effect. :)
 For the next two years, my brother, with the support of my then-divorced parents, did everything he could to beat the odds.  Liver cancer was one of the toughest to beat, especially as the primary site.  Arthur tried traditional and experimental treatments.  He tried dietary changes and supplements.  He had good days and bad days.  Good weeks and bad weeks.  He underwent chemotherapy and radiation and was in and out of the hospital.  During this time, we remained in close contact, via phone and letters, but I was away in college and unable to be by his side as often as I wanted to.  Then, in June of 1982, while still living in Charlottesville, I gave birth to my first child, Natasha. and named Arthur her god-father, In the summer of 1983, decided we could stay away no longer.  I wanted my brother to know his niece, so I got a job as a teachers aide, and my daughter and I moved back to Hampton Roads, so that we could be near him and assist in his care. During that year, my brother got to know my daughter, and she, him. Though she was very young, the two of them developed a very close relationship, and she remembers him, to this day.  I praise God for my decision to move back to Hampton, because it was during that school year that my brother's health took a turn for the worse.
My brother, Arthur, with my daughter, Natasha, sometime in 1983.

Although Arthur was sick, he was determined to continue his quest to find employment in the media field, which he loved so much.  He completed an internship at our local CBS affiliate television station, and was being considered for an anchor position at the time of his death.  Additionally, he worked as a sports writer for the Daily Press, our local newspaper; and as a newscaster for WNIS, news/talk radio station. I give thanks to all of these companies who recognized his talent, and were willing to give him opportunities to do what he loved, despite the fact that he sometimes was too ill to work.

In March, 1984, Arthur took ill and was admitted to Riverside Hospital (now Riverside Regional Medical Center).  The doctors were pessimistic about his prognosis, and pretty much let my parents know that this was it.  But still, my brother stayed positive and hopeful.  He was in a coma for the first week or so, but once he became alert, he started talking about coming home and about wanting to get back out onto the golf course with my dad.  We were taking turns sitting with him - my mother, father, and I - and on my shifts we enjoyed reminiscing about when we were little, and he played with Natasha if she was with me.  A few times, when he was sleeping, he would seem to choke and stop breathing, but I would shake him and say, "Breathe, Arthur, breathe!", and he did.  At first, my parents and I were just quiet about the idea of him coming home, but he was so insistent, and he seemed to be doing so well, that finally the doctors agreed to let him go.  I believe the plan was for some level of in-home hospice care, although I didn't really understand what that meant at the time.  (I was only 22 years old, and I think the hospice concept was fairly new.)   My mother was so excited, and she worked hard to get his old room clean and ready for him, with a hospital bed on order, and plans to have nurses checking in.  Unfortunately, early on the morning of April 6th, the day before he was scheduled to come home, and with our father by his side, my brother, Arthur took his last breath.

Today marks the 26th  33rd year since the day my brother died.  Words can't explain how deeply the loss of my brother has affected me, and changed the course of my life.  Although I do have two other brothers, they are so much older than me, that they were both gone from home by the time I was seven years old.  So, it was just my parents, Arthur, and me for most of my life.  Arthur and I fought like any other siblings, but our love for each other was undeniable, and our paths (I'd thought), inseparable.  When he was in the hospital, I prayed and prayed, always asking God to help me to accept His Will, whatever that turned out to be.  My brother's death was, and has continued to be a lesson in FAITH for me.  I miss him so much, but I know that he is in a much better place, and that he is rejoicing now in heaven with our father, grandparents, and all of the ancestors that I'm working to learn about now. I will love and miss my brother FOREVER.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is my absolute most-favorite picture of my brother and me.  I think it says so much about us, without having to say anything at all! 

In closing, I'd like to share a poem that I wrote in 2007, on the anniversary of Arthur's death.  At that point, he'd been in heaven for as long as he was here on earth, and these are the words that came to my heart:

To Arthur
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
I know in my heart that you’re better off now,
As you rest in God’s heavenly home.
I’ll always remember the things that we shared,
The good, as well as the bad.
The ups and the downs, the smiles and the frowns,
And all of the secrets we had.
Without you, my brother,  life’s not been the same
But I’ll try not to dwell on the past.
God knew what was best when he took you with Him
To anchor on Heaven’s broadcast.
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
I’ll see you one day, when God chooses me
To rest in His heavenly home.  
                                                      With love, from Renate
                                                April, 2007

 One of those Easter Sundays.  I miss you, Arthur.

Thank you for reading.

The content and pictures included in this post are the property of Renate Y Sanders, and should not but used, copied, or embedded without the express permission of the owner.  Please contact me via email at  Thank you.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

E is for Elizabeth! #AtoZChallenge


I'll have to make this quick, if I'm to get it in before midnight!

E is for Elizabeth, better known as "Bettie" Green.  Bettie was my 1st cousin, 2x removed. She was the daughter of Annie Green and an unknown (to me) white mill owner in Franklin County, NC.  She was the granddaughter of Anna Green (mulatto) and Nathaniel Hawkins (white).  Therefore, Betty was what was referred to at that time as a "quadroon".

Betty was born in August of 1890, in North Carolina (most likely in Franklin County). She died in New York, where she lived passing as WHITE, and is buried in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, in that state.

Bettie worked as a "hairdresser for the rich folk", according to our now 97-year old cousin, Florine, who knew her well. She was, most notably, the personal hairdresser of Doris Duke for some period of time, and is said to have traveled with her "everywhere she went". Bettie married Reginald "Roy" Alonzo Miller, and lived a lavish lifestyle. However, if the story is true, the wife of her uncle William Green (who was also passing) discovered their truth and "outted" Betty, causing her to lose her clients, and most devastatingly, her position with Ms. Duke. (None of this has been proven via research.)

This photo of Bettie, where she appears to be relaxing on the deck of a boat, provides support for the stories of her traveling with Doris Duke.

Bettie and her dog on a NY rooftop
Roy Miller, Bettie's husband
Although all of my elder cousins who knew Bettie insist that she and our other relatives who left Louisburg to live and work in New York were living as white, the one census record I've found her in enumerates her as "negro". That was in 1930, and may have been after William's wife spilled the beans. At that time, 38 year old Elizabeth, her husband, Roy, and her younger sister, Ruby (who worked as a seamstress for the wealthy, until the "reveal") lived on Convenant Avenue in Manhattan. It's easy to see how this couple could have passed for white, isn't it?

Image may contain: 1 person
This photo shows Bettie (top left) with her mother, Annie (seated left with hat and glasses. I'm not sure enough about the identity of others in the photo to name them.(I believe the younger woman sitting on the curb to probably be Bettie's sister, Jessie.) I would really like to be able to identify the location of this photo. Does anyone recognize that monument?

Thanks for reading!


The pictures and content in this post are not to be used without the express permission of the poster, Renate Yarborough Sanders. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#AtoZChallenge - D is for DUNSTON

D is for DUNSTON!
Today is Day 4 of the A-Z Challenge, and I'm dedicating it to my DUNSTON ancestors, of Franklin County, NC. Everything I know about my Dunstons has come through my research; I've never met any of my relatives from this branch.

The Dunstons were free people of color, who are said to have descended from one Patience Dunston, who is mentioned in Paul Heinegg's book, Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. 

Because I am away from home, and from my regular computer, I'm going to cheat a little here by sharing an link to the page in Heinegg's book:

So, this is my line of descent from Patience DUNSTAN. I have done significant research on this line, but it mostly amounts to names and dates, with a few apprentice bonds, bastardy bonds, and military records here and there. I've met some other Dunston descendants from the area, but so far none of us are matching each other on DNA, and we have different names on our trees, so I guess not all Dunstons are connected, as we'd previously thought.

To make matters a bit confusing, I also descend from another line of Franklin County DUNSTONS! This is because my second great-grandfather, Wilson "Wills" Dunston, married another Dunston, Laura, who was the daughter of Simon Dunston and Susan REED. Here's that line:

The only photo I've ever seen of one of my direct Dunston ancestors is this one of my 3x ggrandmother, Laura Dunston. I've had it restored, but I don't have a copy of that with me (on vacation). I will update the photo on a later date. :)
Laura Dunston (June 17, 1846 - March 28, 1920)

From an article written by Maury York for the Tar River Roots publication, I have this excerpt:
As in other areas of eastern North Carolina, most free blacks in Franklin County worked on farms, but few owned land.
Farmers in 1850 included members of the Anderson, Dunce, Dunston, Fog and Mitchell families.
Quite a few craftsmen, however, contributed to the local economy.
These included carpenters Leonidas Anderson, Henry and James Dunston, and John Fog. John Mitchell built coaches, and several members of the Dunston family worked as blacksmiths.

I've also been told that Simon Dunston was responsible for a lot of the stonework found in the city of Raleigh, NC but I haven't further researched this.

I may add more to this post, but for now that's all, folks!


Source info: 
Heinegg, Paul. Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware from the Colonial Period to 1810. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000.

York, Maury Published in the Franklin Times newspaper, August 15, 2013.


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

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 this, 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!

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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
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!

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