Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Four African American Men Lynched in Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Lynching Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Photo Courtesy: Ponchatoula, Louisiana Photo Collection
On September 21, 1900, on an oak tree on Beech Street in Ponchatoula, Louisiana., four African American men who were accused of robbing the family of Louis Hotfelter, were taken from the jail cells and lynched. They were charged with choking and beating the wife of Louis Hotfelder. It was alleged that Charles Elliot,  Isaiah Rollins, Nathaniel Bowman and  George Bickham were forced to confess to the robbery at the Hotfelter's home. 

It was reported that the wife of Hotfelter later identifies another man two days later. Nevertheless,  the angry mob wanted to make an example out of these men regardless if they were innocence or not. The mob was determined to send a loud message to the African American community concerning attacks on Anglo-Saxon people in the Ponchatoula community. 

14 African American men were picked up and detained. Sheriff  Frank P. Mix couldn't hold back the angry mob, they used axes to break down the door of the jail and forcibly to took Elliot, Rollins, Bowman, and Bickham to an oak tree in the African American community to be lynched. 

Dr. Kingsley Garrison recalls looking at the photograph as a boy around the age of seven. He knew James Elliot the brother of Charles Elliot. He said his mother had the picture looking at it and somehow he was able to see it. Although Dr. Garrison said that folks who talked about the lynchings is now deceased and not too many people are not talking about it anymore. 

Their bodies hung under the oak tree until the following morning when Mayor William Jackson ordered that their bodies be cut down. It was an unknown passenger who took the photograph. As I sit here thinking about the funeral I attend of Jermaine Carter of Greenville. Jermaine was lynched in Greenville, Mississippi in 2010. My mind started to go back to the lynching site of Raynard Johnson in 2000,  in Kokomo, Mississippi,  and the lynching of Roy Veal in April of 2004 in Woodville, Mississippi.

Most recently a little boy biracial in New Hampshire received injuries from an attempted lynching by a teenager. They called the little boy racial names and threw sticks and rocks at his legs. Now the teenage boy said it was an accident. 



Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Friday, September 1, 2017

CO."B" 805 Pioneer Inf. U.S. A., A. E. F. Phil Garrison

                      Phil Garrison served in WWII, he is the father of Dr. Kingsley B. Garrison.

Last Roll
 Phil Garrison Fourth man for the left

Eugene Edwards Was Rented Out By His Father For Eight Dollars A Week

Eugene Edward
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr. 
Eugene "Brother"  Edwards was born in 1923 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. At at the age of 93 years old he still plants his crops and harvest it himself.  He pulled himself up on his old tractor and got to work disking his rolls for planting. I wasn't there just to interview him, I wanted to watch him work, so I dare not stop him from his days work.  He use to plant  nearly twenty acres of land, nowadays, he's not planting near that much. He breaks for lunch and return in the evening. No matter how hot the summer days get, he'll be out there planting and working.  The cold days can't stop him when it comes to planting. It's his way of feed himself and making a few extra dollars for the month. He left and went up to Detroit and worked in the plant for a while. I guess you can take the boy out the country, but you can't take the country out the boy. Eugene returned back to the Deep South and never left again. 

Eugene still heats himself up in the winter with his old pot belly wood burning stove, while cooking a pot of fresh red beans and some fresh collard and mustard greens for dinner.  When visiting with him, it seems as though time stood still in his neck of the woods. The old wooden house 

He told me how his father rented him out to an old white man. The old white man furnished his room and board and paid the eight dollars to his father, Ben Edwards. According to his registration draft card, he lived with his father Ben Edwards at the age of twenty-three year old at RFD #1, Amite, La.; He was farming with his father. Eugene signed his name on the registration card.

His parents Ben and Annie Williams Edwards." His mother Annie died at a young age after falling off a horse and died from complications," said Sharonne Hall, a cousin to Eugene Edwards. This was the oral passed to Sharonne by her grandmother, Luella Butler Johnson Morris, a first cousin to Eugene."

Luella and Eugene was a couple of months apart in age. His father  later married a woman by the of name Careetha. His siblings were; Geneva, Estelle, James, Willie, Shadrack, Abednego, and Machae. His three brothers were after the men in the Bible.

Eugene Edwards
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black
Farming is in the DNA of Eugene, and he will plant and harvest until he just can no longer do what he love and enjoy doing. Eugene can recall the names and history of the people who make up the Parish of St. Helena.  He came from a long line of farmers and learning the art of farming from some of the best. And yes! He plants by the moon and stand by the Farmer's Almanac like most farmers. 

It has been a long time since I visit him last. I can see the hard work of farming has taken a toll on his body. He was walking bent over more than he was several years ago. His son moved next door, and his grandchildren help him harvest the crops. 

"Are there any lessons we can learn from Eugene," yes there are? If only we would take the time out to talk with him. There aren't that many people his age left that we can talk to about the era he came up in and what he experience and witness. I was delighted to introduce him to Eddie Ponds, owner of the African American Newspaper in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.  Eddie and I talked about his oral history project, and I thought Eugene's story would be a great story to write about. 

I wish I had more farmer that I can interview about planting, harvesting and storing what you grew. My grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr. was a farmer. He passed away when I was two years old. Although I learned some lessons of planting from his brother Palmer Harrell.  Their mother Emma Mead Harrell was a farmer. They lived on the place that Emma purchased in 1896 and 1902. She farmed about twenty acres. And she drove her mule and wagon to town to sale her produce. 

Eddie and I both was happy to see that he was still physically and mentally able to continue what he love. There always somebody visiting him and talking with him, The wisdom and his vast sense of humor keep the visitors coming. 

Eugene Edwards Registration Card

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A.M. Strange One of the Greatest Educational Leaders in Louisiana & Mississippi

A.M. Strange given name, Armstead Mitchell Strange was born on Oct 14,  1884, in Waterproof, LA.,  to Tillman Benjamin Strange and   Millie Hunter Strange.  His father Tillman was born in 1860 during slavery and died Jan 1927.  He was one of seventeen children some of his siblings in the 1900 U.S. census were: William, Ella, Bessie, Bula, Luther, Etta Lee, Gladys A, Mabel M, Leman L,  and Richelieu E. Strange. Armstead M. Strange was living in Collins Ward 6, in Covington, Mississippi on Bryan Avene. He was married to Henryene Strange. His occupation was teaching. He owned his own home in 1910.  A  young girl named Rosa Taylor and his sister Ella Strange were living in the house with  him and his wife. His brother Tillman ( Tilghman)  was born 1883. and moved to Chicago and became a physician. He died in 1920 at the age of 37 years old. He was buried in Lincoln Cemetery. One of his other brothers named Williams M. Strange, died in Chicago as well on Dec 1, 1932, by occupation he was a Postal worker.

Ten years later he and wife Henryene were living in Tupelo, Mississippi. On the 1930 and 1940 censuses, he was listed as mulatto. In 1930, they were still living in Tupelo, Mississippi, he had become the Superintendent of the school.  Living in the home with him and his wife: Lehman,  Riechilen, Truman and, Mabel Strange.

Prentiss Institute Rosenwald School, Prentiss, Jefferson Davis County
By 1940, Armstead and his wife were living in Chickasaw, Mississippi. He was teaching at Okolona Industrial School for the Colored. He had completed four years of college. Living in the house with him, where Majorie and Mary James Strange. A man named Frank Taylor was  79 years of age lived in the house as well.

He received his elementary education at Waterproof while his college studies were done at Alcorn College, where he finished in 1902. He was admitted as a freshman in the fall and completed his college work with the Bachelor of Science Degree. A.M. Strange came to Tangipahoa Parish via Collins, Miss.  He was one of the first of his family to earn an educational diploma, and he was instrumental in seeing to it that his brothers and sister did likewise. He is remembered as one with a very stern personality and believed in earning one's way. One family member recalled going to live with him in order to attend school and was greeted with, " Get a broom and start sweeping."

The school for blacks in Kentwood struggle along unto the fall of 1910. This is the year that Mr. Strange, who was principal at Collins, joined several local white businessmen, who donated money. Constructed Kentwood Industrial School for blacks. Mr. Strange raised the money, purchased the land, and erected the buildings, one of which was named for him.

The scholastic year 1911-12, marked the beginning of the County Training School Movement as far the Slater Fund is concerned. Professor A.M. Strange wrote to Dr. James H. Dillard, general agent for the John F. Slater Fund (a philanthropic fund for the advancement of Negro education), soliciting aid for a black school that would be located in Kentwood, Louisiana. Professor Strange established  Kentwood first County Training School for Negroes. After starting several such schools in both states, he labored for fifteen years at Tupelo, Mississippi.

He was elected to head the Coahoma County Agricultural High School in Clarkdale, Miss., which he did for one year.  In 1933 he was named the president of Okolona Industrial School, an American Church Institute School which he improved into a junior college. When he left to become president of the Ministerial Institute and College at West Point, Miss., where he built up a dilapidates school into a solid institution.

Several of my own family members attended the school. My uncle Jasper Harrell, Sr., and his brother Roosevelt Harrell, Sr. are two of my direct lineage that traveled from Amite to Kentwood to go to school. President A.M. Strange, who has served as president and principal of several Negro schools and colleges, died July 7th, at the age of 59. His funeral was held at Tupelo Baptist church with all the Negro ministers of the community officiating, assisted by Dr. Charles G. Hamilton of Aberdeen, his rector. President Strange was one of the great educational leaders of his people.  He started the first Rosenwald School in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi.

Professor Strange rendered distinguished service to Negro education. His legacy and service rendered should never be forgotten in the African American communities.  He left a monument in many institutions of learning and religion, but even more in the hearts of all who knew him.

I would like to thank my colleague Leonard Smith III for all the research he found on Professor Strange.  Leonard found his name and other records that were vital to this blog post.


Genealogist/Family Historian: Leonard Smith III

Death Notice, August 22, 1943

Souvenir Program " Tangipahoa Parish Training School Dillon Memorial High School, School Reunion 1911-1969


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Lettie Anderson Sewing Up Bloody Tangipahoa

Lettie Anderson, Gumbo Magazine
Lettie Andeson, nearly 90 years old, knows about Blood Tangipahoa,. She saw it every Saturday night. When the men got off of work at the lumber companies in Natalbany, they come down to Hammond for drinking, carousing and brawling in the streets. The blood flowed; Dr. Walter A. Reed and nurse Lettie sewed.

'We had plenty of patients, " she recalled. On Saturday nights, they'd start coming in. They'd come down from the mill in Natalabany, drunk and go to cutting on each other. We'd be up all night, sewing them up. We worked till time to go to Sunday School I'd want to  fall across the bed, by I say, "No, I'm going to go on to Sunday School." That's what I did. I bathed and went right on to Sunday School."

Dr. Reed, a native of Crystal Springs, Miss., who come to in the early 1900s and remained until his death in 1945, is believe to have been the first black doctor to settle here. Written histories of Tangipahoa Parish physicians list only white doctors, but those who remember him say he was well respected by his peers, Drs. Edwards, A.F. Gaters, and S.S. Anderson, which whom he had studied at Tulane.  Reed, usually dressed in hat and three-piece suit when he went on calls in his horse-pulled buggy or Model T, also had the respect of his patients, black and white. "My daddy's brother was S.S. Anderson, and I remember him talking about how Dr. Reed had helped him and what a wonderful doctor he was. Dr. Reed has taken advanced courses in the North, said Antoinette Yokum. " We had so many pneumonia cases, and my uncle talked about how Dr. Reed has helped save the lives of a lot of white people. He doctored on Dr. Gates when he had pneumonia."

But perhaps his most devoted supporter was Lettie, the gaunt hard-working and eager-to-learn young woman who began as his housemaid in 1918, became the nurse in his clinic and eventually nurse the doctor and his wife in their old age. 

She still lives at Reed's clinic, which he left to her, the small green Acadian-style house across the from First Guaranty Bank's main office. A large Bible rests on the table of her tidy, warm kitchen. Weeds and brush behind the house hide the old St. James Cemetery.  Where many of Hammond's first black settlers are buried. Anderson says she worked downtown on Thomas Street for more than 50 years, including about 25 years for the doctor and then 27 years for the South Central Bell Telephone Co. Nowadays, she can be seen walking along the street to pay a bill at Central Drugs or shop at the other downtown businesses. Her niece Fairy Dean Hannible teaches at Hammond Junior High, frequently visit and take her grocery shopping. 

Dr. Reed's oldest and only living child, W.A. Reed Jr., 87 lives in Meridian, Miss. and is a distinguished professor. He headed the black schools before integration and then Meridian Junior College. He lived with his father in Hammon for only two years. 

"My dad was the son of a prominent Baptist minister in the area of Crystal Spring, Miss.," he said.  He finished college at Jackson State and took medicine in New Orleans. It was different then; you worked with doctors. And he then he became efficient, he came to Hammond to practice medicine. I imagine somebody from the area influenced him to come to Hammond." 

Reed might also have been influenced by the fact that Hammond is about half between New Orleans and Bogue Chitto, Miss., the home of his first wife., the former Lillie Loving whom he had met at Jackson State. While he studied in New Orleans, his wife lived in Bogue Chitto and gave birth to their four children. W.A. Jr., Shellie, Edward, and Lillie. 

"I think I was in the fifth grade when I came to Hammond," the son said. "He was established and has a house on Coleman Avenue. My mother was ill, and she passed away that year. My father married another lady,  Ella Church from Crystal Springs,. She was an unusual woman; you don't see many stepmothers taking such an interest in another woman's children. I often wonder why she did. When she came to Hammond, she was not impressed with the schools. During that time, people seemingly had pretty good money, but their homes were poor; they spent their money having a good time. She didn't like that. She wanted me to leave Hammond and go to Mississippi. I had finished the seventh grade. She got onto my father about me, and finally, she got on the train and carried me up to Jackson Preparatory School (now Jackson State University). It was part of the college and I lived there on campus. 

"So I was not with my dad too long. When I was there, he was just getting started in his work. He had a pretty good load, and he didn't have too much time to spend at home. The doctor's two daughters died shortly afer they finished school. 

Major Biographical References

A Reprint from
Gumbo Magazine, Sunday Star November 19, 1989

Magazine Courtesty of Melody Ricketts

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bishop Willie K. Gordon, Sr. Talked About the Lynching He Saw in Amite, LA

Bishop Willie K. Gordon, Sr. and his wife
Alma "Mandy" Richardson Gordon
Bishop Gordon was that courthouse grounds when they hung five Italians who were charged with robbing the bank in Independence and shooting the president of the bank.  It was said that they hung all five because no one would confess the triggerman.

One day near what is now Pecora's Cleaners he saw two black men that had been lynched lying on the street on two pine boxes. 

One day I was walking east in Amite and crossed the path of another boy who was walking south he said. There were some cows on the sidewalk, and the other boy began to curse the cows in a loud manner. A white girl was offended and went and told a horse trader name Singleton about a nigger on the street and a white boy. 

When I got to the next block, several whites put me on their shoulders.  Got a rope and preparing to hang me until someone recognized me and told them who I was and they released me. My stepfather, Bass who fight white folks. Bass Wheat drove an ox wagon hauling logs from Montpellier to Roseland to the box factory. There wasn't  any other information mention in his interview.  I searched google to see if any other information was available on the lynchings. I found several names of men and one woman,  who was lynched in Tangipahoa Parish. Although, there are others who names weren't  recorded.

The two men that Bishop Gordon could have seen were Jerry Rout and Daniel Rout. Bishop Gordon was born in 1909, he would have been about 8 years old. I remember him telling me these same stories during an interview with him at his home. He was in his 90s at the time of the interview. 

Name of those lynched                              Location                                           

 Aps Ard                                                 Greensburg, Louisiana                                          
 Oct 1, 1909
Archie Joiner                                         Amite, Louisiana                                                    
 Jan 19, 1897
Charles Elliott                                       Ponchatoula, Louisiana                                        
Sept 21, 1900
Daniel Rout                                          Amite, Louisiana                                                  
July 29, 1917
Jerry Rout                                             Amite, Louisiana                                                  
July 29, 1917
Echo Brown                                         Amite, Louisiana                                              
August 9,  1899
Emma Hooper                                      Hammond, Louisiana                                        
 March 1, 1917
George Bickam                                    Ponchatoula, Louisiana                                      
April 17, 1907
Gus Johnson                                        Amite, Louisiana                                                  
 Jan 19, 1897
Gus Williams                                      Amite, Louisiana                                                    
 Jan 19, 1987
Isiah Rollin                                         Ponchatoula, Louisiana                                        
Sept 21, 1900 
Monsie Williams                                Tangiphaoa, Louisiana                                        
 Nov 16, 1905
Nathaniel Bowman                             Ponchatoula, Louisiana                                      
 Sept 21, 1900
William Bell`                                      Amite, Louisiana                                                
 April 2, 1898 


Reprint for the Grace Walker Collection, Amite Genealogy Library.