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

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

25 March 1922
Charlotte Observer
Charlotte, North Carolina

NEW BERN, March 24-

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

Sentimental Sunday: Charles Irving Peters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Puzzle is Becoming Clearer: Henry Hodge

Henry Hodge
13 years old

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puzzling History: Henry Hodge

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

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

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

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

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

Research Material: First Fruits of Freedom by Lanette Thomas Greenwood

Actual scanned copy of Book Cover

     I am currently reading First Fruits of Freedom a historical narrative of the lives of African Americans  (former slaves) who migrated from the South to the North during and after the Civil War.

     This book will be a guide to my own research as it relates to my ancestors migration from New Bern, NC to Worcester, MA.

     Zara Cully Brown’s father along with their in-laws and close friends migrated during the 1870’s to 1900 from New Bern to Worcester.  In time many of the individuals and their decedents will be revealed in my book as they made contributions to various states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Washington, D.C., California.

For more information: First Fruits of Freedom by Lanette Thomas Greenwood