Otillia McCall Howard

This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. All of the news items were found on Newspapers.com. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.


Alma Otillia McCall Howard was my grandmother Fannie’s first cousin. Their mother’s, Jennie and Mary, were sisters. James McCall, the editor and publisher of The Emancipator, was one of Otillia’s brothers.  In 2011 I used Otillia for my “O” entry. There were several mysteries I have since cleared up. And other questions opened. I will begin with my first post, then give the answers I found.

“Mrs. J. H. Howard, formerly Miss Otillia McCall of this city but now of Holly Springs, Miss., was called home by the death of her father. Mr. Edward McCall, who died Monday, Feb. 2nd.”

I began with the intention of writing about my first cousin twice removed, Alma Otillia 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 Otillia’s husband, Joseph Howard’s, first wife.

Top row: Doorway to Otillia’s Chicago house. Siblings – Jeanette, Otillia, Roscoe, Annabelle, James. 2nd row: Students at Mississippi Industrial College(MIC) 1908; Otillia’s mother, Mary Allen McCall; postcard of the girls dorm at MIC; 1908 photo of MIC. 3rd row: Joseph, Jr. with drums and friends; Otillia’s apt house in Chicago; Otillia 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 Otillia’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 Otillia.

I remembered 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.

Later in the transcript, Joseph talks about how his step mother, Otillia 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 teaching in the 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 Otillia? 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 Otillia 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 hospital 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 Otillia 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 Otillia McCall Howard a post.  It shouldn’t be too difficult because there can’t be any other side roads to go down, right?


Questions and Answers:

What were the dates of Otillia’s husband, Joseph Hannibal Howard’s marriages?

I found the marriage record for Alma Otillia McCall and Joseph H. Howard. They were married June 17, 1914 in Montgomery, Alabama, which was her home town. She was 22. He was 36. According to the 1940 census Otillia had three years of college. She died In 1974 in Chicago, Illinois.

I was still unable to find the date of Joseph Howard’s marriage to Evie Shumpert.  In the 1910 Census,  Evie Shumpert was single and living with her parents and siblings in Holly Springs, Mississippi and teaching in the public schools.

Evie’s and Joseph Howards son was born on July 12, 1912 in Holly Springs.  She died in September of the same year.  The inscription on her grave stone in Hill Crest Cemetery reads “Evie Shumpert/ wife of J. H. Howard/ Born Mar 11, 1884/Died Sept 17, 1913/In life beloved, In death (mourned?)” She was 29 years old.

One more thing I remember about Otillia and her house is the story of how her mother, Mary Allen McCall and Mary’s half sister, Mattie Saffold Harris met there one summer. That is another whole story and you can read about it here -> Finding Eliza part 3.


I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. Some information was from oral history gathered from email and taped interviews. The news items were found on Newspapers.com.

8 thoughts on “Otillia McCall Howard

  1. Wow, what an adventure going through all that history to find out about one person! It’s like when you take the scenic route to get someplace, filled with a mystery and beauty all its own.

  2. Revisiting old posts is a good idea. It always surprises me what new information has been found or how some little detail suddenly pops out and causes me to rethink.

  3. This is what I mean – all the side roads and delayed arrivals and dead ends and then finally getting to where you want. So much patience and hard work spanning years! I’m glad you put down the research process. Just wanted to record my serious admiration and appreciation.

    1. Thank you Nilanjana Bose. I enjoyed reading this one myself when I found it. I think I should write up more of my convoluted journeys.

  4. I enjoyed the description of your rabbit holes. Every post seems to involve so much research and checking. Even though we have written about people before there is still more to know and fact check.

  5. You did some good detective work, there! And the rabbit holes, though sometimes an irritating distraction, can usually be pretty fantastic in their own right.

Comments are closed.