O is for Off On a Tangent

a-to-z-letters-oThis is my fifteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  I began with the intention of writing about my first cousin twice removed, Alma Otilla McCall Howard. I started by going to my Ancestry.com family tree page and pulling up her profile. I noted she was the 5th of 6 children and  that her wedding date was missing.  I opened my Reunion family tree software, hoping it was there. Her marriage date read 1911.   That couldn’t be right. Her husband’s son by his first wife wasn’t born until 1912. There was no date for that marriage either. In fact there wasn’t even a name for Otilla’s husband,  Joseph Howard’s, first wife.

otilla
Top row: Doorway to Otilla’s Chicago house. Siblings – Jeanette, Otilla, Roscoe, Annabelle, James.  2nd row: Students at Mississippi Industrial College(MIC) 1908; Otilla’s mother, Mary Allen McCall; postcard of the girls dorm at MIC; 1908 photo of MIC.  3rd row: Joseph, Jr. with drums and friends; Otilla’s apt house in Chicago; Otilla and her husband Joseph Howard about 1939.    4th row: MIC building now; my grandmother Fannie and friends in Holly Springs.

I searched on Ancestry.com. No luck. Tried Family Search, no luck. Then I remembered listening to an interview that my cousin Margaret McCall Ward did with Otilla’s step-son, Dr. Joseph H. Howard, JR, about his amazing drum collection. Maybe there was something there.  Looked for the interview in my itunes list and listened. Unfortunately, he speaks sort of quiet at the beginning when he is telling us his mother’s name and I can’t quite get it. I think he said “Evie” and then changed and spelled it out as “Dama”. Turned that off.

Joseph Jr.’s drum collection sounds interesting. Maybe there is something out there with biographical information. I google Dr. Joseph Howard drums. Several articles come up. I read them and learn the extent of his collection, his wife’s name and his two children’s name. And there are even photographs of him. Nothing about his mother.  Unfortunately, he isn’t even actually related to me and none of this is about Otilla.

I remember another interview that Margaret did with her Uncle Roscoe’s wife, Stella. Stella’s daughter and Joseph Jr. were both there and putting in comments. Maybe the information is there. It only takes a few minutes to find the transcript of the tape on my computer and open it up. Yay! That is what I was remembering. Right at the start of the interview, Margaret starts talking to Joseph and he tells where he was born and how his parents met in Guyana.  His mother lived there and his father was working on a ship. He gives his mother’s name and even spells her last name, Sempert.   I try looking for her using first name of first Evie and then Dama, hoping to find a death record. Nope.

About this time I decide to check in on facebook. I find that I was chosen by Family History Magazine as one of the Top 40 Genealogy Blogs! I was shocked and thrilled. I spent some time going to the Family History Magazine website, congratulating other bloggers I know who were on the list and thanking others for their congratulations.  But, eventually, I had to get back to the post.

Later in the transcript, Joseph talks about how his step mother, Otilla and his father, Joseph Howard met. She was teaching at Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs, MS.  Joseph Howard SR was a physician and I don’t know if he was practicing in Holly Springs or if he was in school.  Unfortunately, just as Margaret was getting ready to go deeper, she stopped herself and got back to her task of trying to find out where her grandfather was buried. I wondered what Mississippi Industrial College looked like? I googled and found a few photographs from 1908, a brief history, and a lot of information and photographs of how the beautiful, historic buildings are falling down before our eyes. There doesn’t seem to be any money to save them. An architect who worked on a rehabilitation project years ago writes about how he hated to stop when the funding ran out. Someone warns about walking up the steps of the auditorium and finding themselves looking two stories down to the basement.

Having read some articles about “ruin porn” while I was off on a tangent when writing a different post, I tore myself away from the wrecked buildings. Holly Springs? I remember a photograph of my grandmother and some of her friends that was taken in Holly Springs. I wonder if they were visiting Otilla? I find the photo and find nothing except place and names on the back.

I remembered an email exchange with my cousin, Ruth about her memories of Otilla and her large house in Chicago.  I go back and find the emails and re-read them for any interesting information. She talks about her parents bringing her home from the hosptial to that house and the other family members who lived there. It was a multi-unit dwelling. I found a photograph of the house on google maps when I was going to write Otilla and family up for the 1940 census. There was some confusion about whether the house I found was actually the house. I looked up the address on the 1940 census and googled it. I found several real estate descriptions and photographs of the house. I’m satisfied I found the right place.

At that point I started thinking about all the side roads I took and decided to write about that. I still owe Alma Otilla McCall Howard a post.  It shouldn’t be too difficult because there can’t be any other side roads to go down, right?

 

1940 Census – James and Margaret McCall and Family

4880 Parker now - from Google Maps.

In 1940 James McCall and his family lived at 4880 Parker Ave. on the east side of  Detroit. The house was worth $5,000.  He was 58 years old and had completed 4 years of college. He had worked 52 weeks in 1939, earning $1,600 managing a Printing Establishment.

James and Margaret McCall in the early 1940s.

His wife Margaret was 52 years old. She had completed 4 years of high school and was not working outside of the home. She was the informant. Everybody in the house was born in Alabama, had lived in the same house in 1935 and was identified as “W(hite)”.  I would guess that people are wrongfully identified as “white” because the enumerator would not ask race, they would assume they “knew” by looking.

Margaret and Victoria McCall - Palm Sunday 1941.

Oldest daughter, Victoria, was 24 years old, single and had completed 4 years of college. She had worked 40 weeks in 1939 as a public school teacher, where she earned $1,600. The youngest daughter, Margaret was 21 years old. She had worked 24 weeks in 1939 and earned $240 as a secretary of a Printing company.

The McCall’s owned their own printing company and published a newspaper “The Detroit Tribune”.  My aunt, Mary V. Graham, who was their cousin,  worked at the same printing establishment in the 1940 census. In the 1990’s she shared her memories of her work there. Mary V’s job was to read newspaper articles to  James McCall because he was blind.  From what she read to him, he would formulate his editorial articles.  He had a braille typewriter that he used to write the articles.  Mary V said she learned so much, reading to him and talking to him about various topics.  She remembered that he was a wealth of information and knew a lot about everything.

You can see the 1940 census sheet with the McCalls HERE.  Other posts featuring James McCall are Poems by James E. McCall and James McCall Poet and Publisher and “She was owned Before the War by the Late Colonel Edmund Harrison…”


View 1940 Detroit, Michigan – Where we lived in a larger map

Eliza’s Story Part 2

In 1992  Margaret wrote back with corrections to my tree.

Dearest Kristin,
I’ve had this buried on my desk too long.  So to expedite information transfer, I’ve added to your lineage chart, the corrections I am sure of.  I can help you in time with dates (birth and death)  I certainly would like to help identify photos and perhaps I could share or exchange some with you.  I’m quite happy to have help in unraveling some of the family secrets.  Your interest will encourage me to start digging and tracing the Allen’s line again.  Doc and Eliza died in Montgomery, Alabama and are buried in Oakwood Cemetery there.  I’ll stay in touch with you.  Let me know if and when you visit Detroit.  Sincerely yours,  Margaret

1998 – At this time we lived at the end of a dead-end dirt road in Idlewild, Michigan.  We had two large dogs that ran lose in the fenced yard so people did not just walk up on the porch.  I looked out of the window one day I noticed two confused looking woman standing in the road.  I figured they were looking for someone else and went to see if I could help.  One of them turned out to be a friend of my cousin Margaret bringing me a folder full of information from her with  a note:

Dear Kristin,  your letter asking for information on our mutual family history acted as a stimulant to get me going at research again.  I had put my search on hold for (I can’t believe it) almost ten years.  Your interest got me going again.  I did not write then because I had no further information, but I decided to go to the LDS in Salt Lake City to try to get more information on Edmund and Jane Harrison.  I have not been able to establish the connections we are looking for (namely the ownership of Eliza and Dock Allen before 1864.  I am enclosing Xerox copies of census records and marriage records on the Harrisons.  I’ll share what I can learn as I go along.  My hope is that between us we can come up with some answers.  I did not learn a lot in Salt Lake City.  But I’m on the search trail again.  Love, Margaret

P.S.  Marion is a long time friend of mine who has done extensive research on family histories.  I asked her to contact you and deliver this material since she is visiting Idlewild.

Included in the folder was a copy of the 1870 Census with Dock and Eliza’s household.  There was also a list of the large slave holders in Lowndes County in 1860 and a copy of the obituary of Edmund Harrison’s wife, Jane.   Wait a minute…. she died surrounded by her loving family?  I thought (according to my mother’s story) that she was childless?  And I saw they lived not in Virginia but in Alabama, Lowndes County.

Marion proved to be a big help to me, giving me advice and recommending sources of information.  One,  gave me the names and husbands of Edmund Harrison’s three daughters.  Something was off with my mother’s story.

Somewhere in here I got my first genealogical software – family tree maker for mac.
In May of 2000 long time family friend Leontine “Teen” Smith died in Detroit.  I attended the funeral and met Cousin Margaret face to face for the first time since I was a child.  We got together and made plans to do so again.  For the next 7 years we shared information, photographs and ideas.

On July 12, 2002 I joined Ancestry.com.  Whooo Hooo!!  I spent a lot of time at first finding information about Edmund Harrison.  I ran into some people researching because they were Harrisons and hoped they had found some slave records, some photos, something.  But no, they did not.  They had suggestions though.  One was to check and see if Jane Harrison had a will.  I didn’t think so since she was married.. Another suggestion was that I find the records from the church the Harrisons attended because some of them listed the slaves that attended.  I spent months online in 2002 and 2003 trying to find records that would give me proof that Annie and Eliza came from the Harrison’s plantation.  To no avail.  I also looked for Dock and Eliza Allen in the 1860 census in Montgomery.  They weren’t there.  I looked in Lowndes County because Edmund Harrison had a large plantation there.  I looked for  Annie and Eliza Harrison Could find none of them.

In 2003 I sent for and received death certificates for Dock and Eliza Allen, hoping to find the names of their father’s.  Nope. Their mother’s names were there but the space for father’s names were empty.  Margaret was certain that Edmund Harrison was not Eliza’s father.

Margaret sent me several tapes she made.  One was a tape done in 1985 with her uncle Roscoe’s wife, Stella McCall.  Roscoe was Aunt Mary’s son. Stella and Margaret discussed life in Montgomery at the turn of the last century….and Mary McCall, Eliza and the other sisters. Partial transcription below.

Margaret:   Now, did her mother and father live near where they lived?  Did Dock Allen and Eliza…?
Stella: Who?  Did who live?
Margaret: The Allens, Mary McCall’s mother and father.  Did you ever know them?
Stella: Now Miss McCall’s father was white.
Margaret:  Who?
Stella:  Miss McCall’s father was white and then her mother married this man that she had.  Oh yes he was white.  That must have happened way back in, I’d say, near the time of slavery days because she was quite old.  Quite old.
Margaret:  Who was quite old?
Stella;  Miss McCall.  Oh yes. I couldn’t guess her age. She was very quiet about it anyway.(laughs)

Margaret:  She never talked about her mother and father? And her real father.  She only acknowledged this one, the stepfather.  But Eliza was her own mother.?
Stella: Who?
Margaret:  Eliza Allen, that was her mother?
Stella: Eliza, yes Miss Allen.  You know there were five of those girls. Five of them.  Miss Willie and Abbie Allen and…
Margaret:  Jennie.
Stella: Jennie and … name another one.
Margaret:  Willie.
Stella: I named Miss Willie back here.  I get confused.  There was another…
Margaret:  There was Anna.
Stella: Oh, Anna was the one who first made the move to Chicago and when people weren’t even traveling to Chicago.  Oh it was a great thing anybody go to Chicago at that time.  Ohhh it was a big deal.  Well, this Anna, one that was in Chicago, she would come down one time a year and see her mother and they never heard from her because she didn’t write because she had a white husband up there and that’s the way they worked that, but that’s it. (note:  she doesn’t appear in Montgomery in the 1900 census)
Margaret:  Now you’re saying Mary the oldest one had a different father from the others?
Stella: Now yes, that’s what my mother told me.  She said.   Oh no, Miss McCall was the top of the bunch.  She was as blue eyed as she could be. She had blue eyes and no trace of any darkness.  So she was the first child.  The other’s now Aunt Jennie she had a different one. You could look at her and tell.  And Abbie, the same thing. Willie, oh yes, Miss Willie she had black hair.  She was more of an Indian type. I don’t know who her daddy was but they were all different.  Back in those days they paid no attention to difference (laughs) That’s right. No, they didn’t.  They really didn’t.
Margaret:  So you feel, you know, that Mary’s father, was white?
Stella: I don’t feel, I know it (laughs)
Margaret:  But you don’t know who?
Stella: I know the people that know about her… yes she’s white.  Looks to me like she’s all white.  (laughs)

Mary Allen McCall

About this time Margaret asked me to look for a connection between Milton Saffold, a lawyer and son of Rueben and Mary (Phillips) Saffold who had a big plantation (Belvoir) in Dallas County and Edmund Harrison.  She had received some information that Milton Saffold was her grandmother’s father.  Was there a way Saffold could have come in contact with and fathered Margaret’s grandmother Mary?

I started looking on Ancestry.com and the web to see if I could find anything that would tie them together.  I found earlier that Milton Saffold married Edmund Harrison’s daughter, Martha.  I found Martha with her parents in the 1850 census.  I found from the online marriage record that Milton Saffold married Martha in 1851.  Mary was born about 1856.  I looked for Saffold and Martha in the 1860 census but they were not together. I found Milton with several children and a new wife living with his sister and her family.   I couldn’t find Martha at all.  I found on Ancestry.com that Milton had married Georgia Whitting in 1857.  I assumed Martha was dead.

2003 – In October I received a letter from my sister Pearl. Janis and her mother Sayde Harris had come up to her at a book signing in Maryland and given her a chart showing connections between our family and theirs.  They were related, they said, to our cousins Margaret and Victoria through Milton Saffold.  I emailed Janis Mercer.