Thursday, December 12, 2013

Slaves on the Benjamin and Celia Bankston Richardson Plantation in St. Helena Parish

Hardy Richardson, Administrator of the will
Benjamin and Celia Bankston Richardson, 1852      
File R-4

Sept. 18, 1852. Inventory, Present were: Augustus W. Hart, James McCoy,  Robert W. Roberts, Alexander Courtney, Mrs. Celia Richardson, Stephen Richardson and major heirs Matthew, Stephen, and Francis E. Richardson. 640 acres on which the deceased last resided, bounded north by A. Courtney, east by bound Courtney, south by Davidson, west by Dennis including mills and gin--$4000; 23 slaves--$17,040; mill; horses; cattles; barouche--$100; 8 beds; etc. Total $24,178.

My great great grandfather Thomas Richardson, Jr., and his mother Carrie was part of this inventory. They appraised for $1100.00 dollars in 1853.  My maternal grandmother Josephine Richardson was the grand daughter of Thomas Richardson, Sr., and the great grand daughter of Carrie. Often times I find my mind drifting off on this period in the lives of my ancestors, but yet moving on to educate others in the family about our history in St. Helena Parish.

Thomas Richardson, Sr.
Rocky Hill Cemetery, St. Helena Parish
I knew all of my grandmother's sisters and brothers born to Thomas Richardson, Jr. and Emma Vining Richardson. I only wish that I spent more time talking with them about our history. My maternal  great uncle Alexander Richardson share some of our history with his son Emmitt N. Richardson, Sr.,  My grandmother and her siblings were the grandchildren of slaves. They were the griots that had the family history--when they passed away so did part of our history.

The first time I walked inside the St. Helena Parish Clerk Office vault to conduct genealogy research, I couldn't stop looking at the the vaults. I knew that one of the vaults held information about my ancestors who were slaves.  It was a day of joy and sadness at the same time. Happy and sad tears was streaming down my face as if someone turned on a water faucet. Here I am decades later looking for information on my family. Who owned them? What plantation did they work and live on? Where did they purchase them from? Who are the missing people in the family that we haven't  found. Most importantly, am I the only one who really cares? After locating their graves in Rocky Hill Church Cemetery and finding headstones on both Thomas Richardson, Sr., and his wife Amanda Breland Richardson, Thomas grave that clearly confirmed that Thomas Richardson, Sr., was born in slavery. I owe it to them to tell their story. It may not be important to anyone else, "it is important to me." I know that my ancestors would be rejoicing to know that I am telling their story to anyone who will listen.
From Right to Left
Alexander Richardson, Alma Richardson Gordon,
Josephine Richardson Harrell and Rosabell Richardson Moore

Mildred Ricard of Amite, Louisiana in 1968

This photograph was taken in 1968. Shelia, Mildred and Robert Lee wife was taken at my brother Andrew Williams funeral from Daisy, March 1968

Source: Leona Buckhalter 

Lallie Kemp Hospital in Independence, Louisiana

Visiting the Amite Genealogy Library is like going on a treasure hunt for me. There's lots of photographs, family histories, family books and family files on the shelves and inside the file cabinets. I found this picture of Lallie Kemp Hospital today and had to share it with everyone who read my blogs. My mother Isabell Harrell Cook was the last one born at home by a midwife. All of her sibling after her was born at this hospital.

Source: Amite Genealogy Library

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tangipahoa Parish First Black Medical Doctor "Dr. Walter A. Reed, MD"

Statue of Dr. Walter A. Reed
Hammond, LA
Dr. Reed, was born in 1879, a native of Crystal Springs, Miss., came to Hammond,LA
 in the early 1900s and remained until his death in 1954. Tangipahoa Parish's early physicians listed only white doctors. Dr. Reed dressed in his hat and three-piece suit when he made house calls to visit patients traveling by horse and buggy or his Model T car.

He had black and white patients that respected him as a medical doctor. When the outbreak of pneumonia happened, he worked hard to save the lives of so many people both black and white who were ill with pneumonia. He doctored on Dr. Gates when he had the pneumonia. Lettie Anderson who was his housemaid in 1918, became the nurse in his clinic and eventually nursed the doctor and his wife in their old age. Dr. Reed's oldest son Walter A. Reed Jr, was 87 years old when this interview took place. Walter, Jr, lived in Meridian, Miss. " I think I was in the fifth grade when I came to Hammond, " said Walter. My father established and had 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. My stepmother took notice of the impoverished condition around Hammond and surrounding areas, she saw people spending money on good timing while their homes were in poor conditions. She convinced my father that I had to leave Hammond, La., so we took a train and went up to Jackson Preparatory School (now Jackson State University. It was part of the college and I lived on campus.

Dr. Reed's  first wife the former Lillie Loving, whom he had met at Jackson State. While he studied in New Orleans, his wife lived at Bogue Chitto and gave birth to their four children, W.A. Jr., Shellie, Edward and Lillie.

Available of many years at Central Drug was " Dr. Reed's Cough Syrup" he helped heal many people.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homegoing Services for Lizzie Coleman Frazier

Mrs. Lizzie Coleman Frazier 
The angel of the Lord has visited again and has chosen from among us one of the best. On Wednesday, April 14, 2004 at 4:45 a.m., Sister Lizzie Coleman Frazier ("My Da") was called from earth to heaven's reward, Sister Lizzie was born on October 23, 1919, to the late Major Coleman and Maggie Spear Coleman. She was reared in a Christian home and united in fellowship at Gordon/Richardson Temple of Deliverance, the former Gordon Chapel C.O.G.I.C., at an early age.
she served faithfully in the church in many capacities such as deaconess, Church Mother, etc. She remained a loyal member until her death.

"My Da" was united in holy matrimony to Willie, C. Frazier, Sr. (W.C.) on Jun 24, 1939. To this union eleven children were born. She was a devoted wife and mother and did not seek employment until all of her children became of age. She was then employed in various positions, which included a position at Hood Memorial Hospital, from which she retired.

She leaves to treasure the memories of her life: her devoted husband, W.C. Frazier, five daughter; Lillie M. Warren of San Francisco, California, Catherine Galmon, Delores Topps, Josie D. Frazier, and JoAnn "Tiny" Winfied (Calvin) of Amite, LA; five sons; Emmitt (Elaine), and Roger (Connie), of Roseland, LA, Earnest (Jo-Ann), and John of Amite, LA, and James E. Frazier (Audrey, of Livermore, California; two sisters; Minnie Harrel of Amite, LA and Lillie Johnson of New Orleans, LA; on brother, Leroy Coleman of Amite, LA; one brother-in-law; Wade Wilson of Baton Rouge, LA, three sisters-in-law; Bertha Coleman, Rosa Caston and Ellen Frazier; thirty-three grandchildren; forty-five great grandchildren, a host of nieces and nephews, and many friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Major Coleman and Maggie Spears, her stepmother-Josephine Baker Coleman; four sister Edna Baker, Caretha Grazier, Mable Gilber and Mildred Wilson; one son, Willie C. Frazier, Jr., and one grand daughter, Eulandra D. Frazier.

Mr. Xavier Smith, Sr. of Amite, Louisiana

Xavier Smith, Sr. 
Since its inception as A.M.E. Church in 1886, Grant has literally hundreds of person join its ranks, but there has been none to equal the length of dedicated service that Mr. Xavier Smith, Sr. has attained. Converted and joined the congregation of Grant Chapel in 1916. Mr. Smith has been a constant, vibrant, dependable, vocal and dedicated member until the day he died--with specific interest in the temporal affairs of the church.

After 70 years of continued service, Mr. Smith can rightfully be considered the church's historian and father. His being strictly a family man, he has engineered his family members into good followers of Christ. His beloved wife, Daisy, was as dedicated as he, serving as a stewardess until her death; his daughter, Dorothy, is a local preacher; his daughter, Yvonne, and his son Xavier, Jr., are trustees; his granddaughter, Tewana, is a steward and Sunday School teacher, his son Glenn, was a deacon in the Baptist Church until his death. Yvonne and Tewana are both member of the gospel chorus. Yvonne is also a class leader. This a good indication that has begun a legacy that will last for years.

At 89 years, Mr. Smith shows no signs of deterioration, mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually, which gives him the right to be honored as grand patriarch of our church.

Celebration of a Life Well Live for Brother Leroy (Tip) Coleman

Leroy (Tip) Coleman, affectionally known by his sisters as "Brother", was born on March 25, 1929 to Major Coleman and Maggie Spears Coleman. He was the seventh of eight children. He departed this life on Friday, October 28, 2005.

On August 23, 1948, Tip was united in holy matrimony to Bertha Green. To this union, nine children were born. He was a devoted husband and father. Tip worked in many capacities as a laborer and retired at 62. After retirement, he chose to become a farmer and supply the community.

He leaves to cherish his memories his wife, Bertha Coleman, Amite, LA; four daughters; Linda Coleman, Amite, LA; Eva C. Jackson, Mandeville, LA; Debora Coleman, Greensburg, LA; Doretta C. Holiday, of Houston, TX; four sons, Roy R. Coleman, Greensburg, LA; Major Coleman, Donald Coleman, Gregory Coleman of Amite, LA; one sister, Minnie Harrell of Amite, LA; two brothers-in-law, Wade Wilson, Baton Rouge, LA; (W.C) Frazier, Amite, LA; two sisters-in-law, Lena Bruno and Becky Green, Amite, LA; 18 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents Major and Maggie Coleman, his stepmother, Josephine Coleman; six sister, Edna Baker, Caretha Frazier, Lizzie Frazier, Mable Gilbert, Mildred Wilson and Lillie Johnson; one son Jerry Lewis Coleman; one son-in-law Johnny L. Jackson.

Source: The Obituary of Leroy (Tip) Coleman

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

African American Physicians of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana

Before trained black physicians, surgeons, and medical education was open to black people in the United States, the black people in the community depend on the natural medicine healers, root doctors,  and midwives for healing. Few medical school would admit black students regardless of their academic excellence. 

Medical education for those seeking careers as physicians and surgeons was limited to a few black medical colleges including Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Walter Reed. MD
, and Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The first trained medical doctors in the Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana community was Dr. Walter Reed, MD., that some of the older folks in the community told me about. Two other African American physicians that grew up in Amite, Louisiana are Dr. Daphne L. Richardson, OD.,  and Dr. Dwan S. Mabry, MD., FACOG. 

Dr. Daphne L. Richardson, OD
Dr. Daphne L. Richardson, OD, Optometrist Eye and Vision Specialist and Dr. Dwan S. Mabry, MD, FACOG, is a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist serving Tangipahoa and surrounding parishes for the past 10 years. Dr. Daphne Richardson is the daughter of Joseph Richardson and Linda Robinson. She was raised in Amite, Louisiana. She received her elementary and high school education in Amite, Louisiana also.

Dr. Mabry, M.D., FACOG
Dr. Mabry received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1990. She completed her medical training at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans in 1994. Dr. Mabry then completed her residency at University Hospital and the Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans, La with the LSU School of Medicine in 1998, and received her Board Certification in 2000.

Dr. Richardson and Dr. Mabry ancestral lineage is deep rooted in Tangipahoa, Louisiana.  If you know of other African American physicians in Tangipahoa and St. Helena, please contact me by email at

Monday, December 2, 2013

Discover Your Family History with Nurturing Our Roots

Are you ready to discover your family history? Many people discover important information about their family. Compiling and gathering family documents, photographs, family papers, military records, obituaries, death records, vital records, land deeds and other important documents that is vital to your research.

If you have thought about researching your family history and don't know where to start. Join host Antoinette Harrell on Nurturing Our Roots for a journey for a life time researching your family history.

Come explore your family history right here on Nurturing Our Roots, "The Live Talk Show Where Family Matters." Where the past meet the present and the present meet the future.




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Alma Harrison Vernon a Woman Pioneers of Amite, Louisiana

Alma Harrison Vernon
There is one African-American woman in Amite, Louisiana that left a legacy for so many in her community. Her name is Alma Harrison Vernon. She was born on April 7, 1923, in Amite, LA., to the late Obie and Carrie Mcknight Harrison.

Mrs. Vernon spent her life educating, empowering and inspiring women throughout the Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes. Mrs. Vernon let her light shine in all that she did and touched. I will never forget the times that I would visit with her and how we spent time talking. She was also an archivist that clipped and saved important newspapers articles about the local black folks that made the news.  She kept very good and detailed records of the churches and community meetings.

Alma Harrison Vernon
Although I didn't have her as a teacher, I still learned so much just by watching and listening to her. She taught my brother Thomas in second grade at Amite Elementary School.  She taught so many of the children in the community.

Alma Harrison Vernon
She received her elementary and high school education in Tangipahoa Parish. She received a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from Grambling State University. Mrs. Alma H. Vernon was the wife of Rev. Willard Vernon, and she was the President of the Senior Women Auxiliary of the Little Bethel Baptist Church of Amite, Louisiana. She spoke at the National Baptist Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1975. It was the 95th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention. Her address to the Convention brought many favorable comments, including that of the National President of the Senior Women Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention of American.

While visiting her only daughter Glyniss Vernon Gordon, I had a chance to look through some of the many albums that Mrs. Vernon kept. It was like looking in an archive and I was happy and delighted but not the least surprised of the accomplishments of such an elegant woman whom help shape our community.

One of the awards that I had to make mention of in this blog is the "Certificate of Appreciation" that was presented to Mrs. Alma Vernon in recognition of an important contribution to the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America.

The name shown above will be added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama to provide inspiration to all those who choose to take a stand against hatred. The Certificate of Appreciation was signed by Morris Dees, Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Morris Dees co-founded the SPLC in 1971 following a successful business and law career. He won a series of groundbreaking civil rights cases that helped integrate government and public institutions. He also severed as finance director for former President Jimmy Carter's campaign in 1976 and for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972.

Westside High School Class of 1965

Westside High School in Amite, Louisiana was segregated in 1965. Several of my family members were in this class. My Uncle Herbert Harrell and cousin Oliver Jackson, Sr.,  I would like to thank Luther Tolliver for posting this photograph. Luther graduated with this class as well.

I am happy to see that many African Americans people through out the Tangipahoa & St. Helena parishes community have preserve a part of our history.

Source: Luther Tolliver

Mr. Louis A. Vernon, Architect " The Great Grandson of A Slave

Louis A. Vernon
Louis A.Vernon, architect, was the designer of this present structure. He finished his early training at Mt. Canaan Elementary School, he attended Dillion High School and Southern University. However, his course was interrupted when he was called to serve his country. He returned and finished his course at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

He later returned back to Louisiana as an architect and instructor of mathematic at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. From there he transferred to Wilburforce University in Ohio where he taught architecture until his death. This structure stands a monument to the memory of a brilliant young man who was the great grandson of Robert "Free Bob" Vernon. 

Robert was born in 1832 in Rankin County, Mississippi as a slave. He died July of 1915 in Tangipahoa Parish. He was the father of seventeen children: Willie, Riley, Georgia, Lula, Jim, Nancy, Isaac, John, Florence, Emma, Guy, Sam, Owen, Toby Stamp, Anna, Lettie, and Robert Vernon, III. 

Robert "Free Bob" Vernon
A Former Slave 
He watched as his first wife and sons were sold off as slaves on a plantation in Mississippi. Robert worked hard to purchase his freedom. He later moved to Louisiana where his father Robert Vernon lived. He built a cabin on one hundred and sixty acres; his father told him that if he worked hard to cultivate the land for five years, he could become the owner of the land. Robert took the challenges on and began working hard on two plots of land. 

Source: Booklet of Glyniss Vernon Gordon. The book didn't indicate what building and where it is located.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The History of Little Bethel Baptist Church of Amite, Louisiana

Little Bethel Baptist Church
Little Bethel Baptist Church begin with a few dedicated Christian followers in a small log cabin one mile West of its present site, some of the pioneer members were Sister Rosa Butler, Sister Frances Johnson, Sister Betsy Carpenter and, others, Rev. Guy Beck and Rev. Newton Johnson were the leaders.

In 1881 Rev. Riley Vernon officially organized this group into what was called the Little Bethel Baptist Church. He was the first official Pastor with the above named persons as charter members. He served faithfully for several years. During his administration he purchased the site where the church now stands for the amount f$10.00 and gave it to the church. The second pastor was Rev. C. Wright, he served faithfully for several years.

Rev. James R. Vernon became the fifth pastor and served faithfully for twenty-one years.
Rev. James R. Vernon
During his administration the church was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt and under his leadership the church made great progress spiritually and numerically. He purchased the site for the Activity Building under his administration. Some of the active members during his pastorate were Sister Rosa Butler, Sister Lucy Morris, Sister Lydia J. Richardson, Bro. Willie Watkins, Sister Katie Land, Bro. Frank James and George Pinkney were the Deacons.

Rev. James R. Vernon was released to accept a church in Bogalusa and Rev. Willie Porter was called to pastor. He served faithfully for six years, and passed on in death. After the death of Rev. Porter, Rev James R. Vernon was elected as pastor elected. The church has made great progress in all phases of service. The pulpit had been his "throne" and through a sustained program of dynamic preaching the members have been inspired to go forward. The church has grown spiritually, financially, and numerically. The membership have grown from one hundred to three hundred at present. 

The Character of Rev. James Robert Vernon

Rev. James Robert Vernon
On the evening of July 27, 1957 the angel of silence came into the home of Reverend James Robert Vernon and with chilly fingers sealed his lips, the loving husband of Pearley Briggs Vernon. His soul winged its flight from this world of sins, sorrow and pain, to a place of eternal rest.

There are some lives that disappoint us, some impressions of character which we have to revise in later years,  but the impression that was formed of Reverend James Robert Vernon when you first met him remained unchanged to the end of his life.

He became a Christian when he was quite a young man, and joined the Mount Canaan Baptist Church, and was baptized by his father, Robert Vernon and spent more than sixty-one years in the Master's service. He gave freely of his time, his counsel, and his money, and was always willing to do anything that he felt would help for good, in anyway.

Reverend James R. Vernon was not selfish, hence he felt that he needed someone to go by his side and enjoy whatever he might accumulate in life, so he married Pearley Gertrude Briggs. To this union eight children were born. To his family he was loving and faithful, and strove to make them comfortable and happy. He taught his children to be God loving and God fearing and that to be a Christians was one of the greatest things in life and to know his children.

Please join Glyniss Vernon Gordon on "Nurturing Our Roots Television Talk Show" as she talk about the history of her paternal family. Glyniss is the only daughter and child of Dr. Willard Vernon.

Source: The Obituary of Rev. James Robert Vernon

Please visit the Tangipahoa African-American Newspaper

Dr. Willard Vernon A Man With A Vision in Amite, Louisiana

Rev. Dr. Willard Vernon
Dr. Willard Vernon was born on August 5, 1918 in Roseland, Louisiana to the late Rev. and Mrs. James Robert Vernon and Pearlie G. Briggs Vernon. He was one of eight children, three girls and five boys.

“Bill”, as he was called then was educated in the elementary and high schools of Tangipahoa Parish. He received his B.S. Degree in Vocational Agriculture from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has done further study toward a Masters Degree in the same area of education at L.S. U. and U.S.L.

Rev. Vernon was also recognized as one of Southern University finest tennis players, which he also brought back with him and taught in the school system, where he was known for his great athletic abilities.

While serving in the United States Army, “Bill” was known for his beautiful tenor voice he used to sing and perform in the military Glee Club. Also while serving in the military and most important of all,  he was called by God to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. Dr. Vernon was the Pastor of three great churches, Little Bethel Baptist Church in Amite, La., New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Clifton, La and Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Mt. Hermon, LA.

With all three projects and programs and still found time to serve his community.  He served a as teacher in the public school systems for 24 years, President of the Parish Teacher’s Assoc. a Coach, FFA Leader, Chairman of the Christian Minister’s Relationship, Founder of the Good Samaritan Nursing Home, Franklinton, Louisiana.

Source: The Obituary of the late Dr. Willard Vernon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Robert Zander "A Gifted Musician" of Amite, La

Robert Lawerence Zanders
In writing the "Obituary of Robert Zanders, one had to think in terms of memories. He was born in Amite, Louisiana on December 28, 1910 to Robert and Beatrice Taylor Zanders. Robert was known throughout the Florida Parishes as a gifted musician and often played for various occasions throughout his lifetime. In 1974, he was converted during the pastorate of Rev. Francis Williams and brought his music into the church.

He served as pianist, President of the Senior Choir, member of the Steward Board and was given the name " Gabriel" by Bishop Arthur Marshall, Jr. due to the inspirational renditions he played on his saxophone. Robert was also a member of the Young Men's Social Club.

His marriage on July 25, 1929, to his childhood sweetheart Clotidle Aaron, lasted for 55 years, 8 month. For this union was one daughter Delores. He departed from this life on March 5, 1985.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Teaching Children Their History

Joelle and Connor reading history books
This cold and rainy day kept us all inside surrounding the fireplace and sipping on some hot peppermint tea with a twist of lemon. What a perfect time for storytelling and story sharing? My grandchildren picked up two civil rights books too look at the pictures in the book.  They had so many questions about the "Jim Crow" period, the colored water fountains and other historical events that took place in our society. To top the evening off one of my colleagues from New Orleans, Louisiana drove up to beat the African drums. My grandsons Connor and Chase joined in with Lloyd Lazard for a lesson on playing the African drums.

Because they were asking the questions meant they wanted answers. I am so happy to be the one to answer and teach them what I know just like my maternal grandmother taught me. I looked at each of them and a feeling of joy passed over me. My mind traveled twenty lite years away--I can hear them saying" my grandmother Antoinette Harrell taught me about "Jim Crow and the Civil Right" I felt that it is my duty to teach them about their history. They are excited about learning and want to learn.

West Side High School Graduating Class of 1958

Both of my parents graduated from West Side High School in Amite, Louisiana in 1958. While researching at the Amite Genealogy Library, I found the Commencement Exercise Program. I can't wait to show my mother the program. I can only imagine the memories it will bring back to her. This program is 55 years old and I am grateful to Mrs. Gracie Perry for preserving this history. My mother is Isabell Harrell Cook and my father is Walter Boykins. My cousin Samuel Richardson graduated in the same class.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Moses Sheridan of St. Helena, Louisiana

Moses Sheridan
Moses Sheridan born in St. Helena, Louisiana abt 1830 in St. Helena, Louisiana. According to the 1880 United States Federal census,  Moses was a widower. He was the father of Johnnie, Edward, Sarah, Celia, Anna, Virginia and Samuel Sheridan. Moses died in St. Helena Parish on August 9, 1918 at the age of 88 years old.

Moses Sheridan death record can be found at the Louisiana State Archives: Death Index 1900-1949/Certificate Number 12652: Volume 28. If any of the descendants of Moses know the name of his father and mother. Please share with us by email us at

Robert Temple, Sr. " The Vegetable Peddler" in Amite, Louisiana

Robert Temple, Sr.
Robert Temple, Sr., was born on May 11, 1909 to the union of Jim Temple and Othell Butler Temple. Robert Temple, Sr., was the happiest in his field and garden and was known by many as a "vegetable peddler' who sold his produce in the community and surrounding areas. He was known for his greens and potatoes. He was a faithful and dedicate member of Butler A.M.E. Zion Church. He assisted with building the church and was one of the financial supporters for the edifice that stand today. Mr. Temple served on the Trustee Board and was a avid Sunday school attendee until his health began to fail. He was a lifelong resident of Amite City.

Mandie Jones Wheat a Midwife in Amite, Louisiana

Mandy Jones Wheat
Mandie Jones Wheat was born in St. Helena Parish on December 15, 1892 to Joe Jones and Lizzie Banks. Mandie, a midwife delivered thousands of babies in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes. She delivered black, white and Italian babies throughout the community. People in the community also called her D'Mandie because she put the letter "D" before all of her words.

She was also known as a herbalist that helped heal many black folks during a time when black folks couldn't go to hospital and clinics because of segregation. Sometime the white physicians would call upon her services to make medicine for their patients.

She met and married a man named Bass Wheat,  according to the 1920 United States Census, there were five children: Willie Gordon, Cala Wheat, J.B. Wheat, Lizzie Wheat, Mary and Ruby Wheat.
The home of Mandy Jones Wheat

Her grandson Michael Daniel recalled the days  she would prepare to deliver babies and some of the natural herbs she would go out into the woods and gather to heal the sick. I remembered Mother Mandie from Gordon Chapel Church of God in Christ in Amite, LA., She would sit in a chair that was just for her in the front of the church.  I remember her wearing all white in church and using a walking cane. Boy! you better not get caught chewing gum in Church. One day I was chewing gum and I walked past her and she hooked me with that cane and gave me a good talking too. Mother Mandie was a very sweet and kind lady.

She was also a farmer who planted every vegetable and fruit you can imagine. She shared her vegetables from her farm with others in the community.

June 8, 1928 Diploma of Mandie Wheat
I know she cured my youngest brother Michael who use to have terrible asthma attacks as a child, my mother took him to see Mother Mandie for a natural cure. To this very day my brother doesn't suffer from those asthma attacks. I was delighted her grandson got in contact with me to share photographs and oral history with me about his grandmother. We should never forget pioneers like Mandie Wheat. Many people who were delivered by her are still alive today in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes.

One of her grandsons Eugene Edwards said that his grandmother would walk for miles in the cold when it time to deliver a baby when she didn't take the wagon and mule. Folks back didn't have money to pay her, so they paid her with laying hens, sacks of potatoes, and livestock just like they did the doctors during this time and era. Mandie also graduated as a hairdresser in 1928. The community of Amite, Louisiana should never forget the amazing African American woman.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hands That Picked the Cotton From Can't See to Can't See

Photo Credit: Shawn Escoffery
Cotton also known as the white gold shaped the antebellum U.S. history and the South.  Far as the eyes could see, many plantations and family farms were covered with white cotton. Cotton gins were in full operation from the late 1700s to the 20th century. When we think about cotton we often think about the Deep South. Many African Americans who were field slaves did hard manual labor in the fields of plantations. They worked in the cotton, rice, tobacco and sugarcane fields. They had to plant the cotton, remove seeds and then bale the cotton. This was by no mean easy work for those who worked the fields. Working from can’t see too can’t see.

By 1850 America was producing 3,000,000 bales of cotton and industry had become the lifeline of the South’s economic base. Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. He was born in 1765 in Westborough, Massachusetts and died in 1825 in New Haven, Connecticut.
Sharecroppers Cotton Picking Book 
I have talked with many African Americans who picked cotton throughout Mississippi andLouisiana. They all talked about the long sacks with the strap that went across their shoulders and how the cotton sack would be so heavy. They worked hard and long hours in the cotton fields. Working their fingers to the bones as they would say. The sharecroppers and tenant farmers used day books to record the amount of cotton that was being picked for that day. Some of the books can be found in museums, family records of the plantation owners archival records that has been donated to State Archives and other repositories.

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.

Yes, I picked cotton, “ said Ms. Lula Mae. “ I was born on a plantation in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi and I lived there all my life. I’ll never forget how we would work hard all day long in the cotton fields. We raised a lot of beans, corn, tomatoes, but we raised lots of cotton. I was the fastest cotton picker —no one could beat me.  Ms. Lula Mae was around eighty- five years old when I interviewed her over three years ago. She and all her children picked cotton in the Mississippi Delta. She talked about how hard this work was for her and the children. 

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black,Sr.
Cotton Museum in Memphis, TN
In 1869 Gullet cotton gin owned and operated by Benjamin David Gullett opened in Amite City and were located just on the edge of Amite corporate limits. According to a reprint from a 1910 newspaper in Tangipahoa Parish, the gin was located on the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad, having its own Railroad and Express office, called Gullets. The company was the largest producer of cotton gins in the south, employing over 250 people by the early 20th Century.

My maternal great grandmother Emma Mead Harrell grew cotton in Amite, Louisiana. It wasn't until recently that I learned a man named Walter Wren, Sr. owned his own cotton gin in Amite, Louisiana. I found some crop lien records at the St. Helena Parish Courthouse that indicated my great uncle Palmer took out a lien on his property for one cotton season. Walter knew if he was to keep all of his money, he had to be in control of all his crops and equipment to maintain independent. 

Amite City Democrat, Sept 4, 1875 " Black Man Murdered His Daughter"

James LaVace, a black man, was brought up to Amite City from Hammond by Deputy Sheriff Wilks and lodged in jail for the murder of his own child, a little girl of 7. He beat the child nearly to death with a board when the girl's mother said the girl had not given her 10 cents worth of crackers the man has brought for her. The man then bound the beaten child with a rope and dunked her head first into a deep well until she drowned. Allegedly, there were several witnesses to his horrific crime, but no one intervened. At inquest, it was learned that the child had indeed given the mother the crackers, and that the mother lied about it.

Source: Amite Genealogy Library
             Published by Yvonne Lewis Day

Black WPA Worker Robbed in Amite, Louisiana in 1938 by Four White Men

On Christmas eve night, four white men in Ward 5 forced a small, old type automobile in the ditch, entered the vehicle, and stabbed and cut the throat of an elderly black man named Eli, who was on his way to Amite after visiting relatives in Loranger. Earlier, he had cashed a WPA check at Loranger, and was apparently seen by the men. "Though badly slashed, he escaped into the woods and hid under some thick brush as the four men searched for him. They came so close to him at one point he could hear one say, "Well, he can't live--I'm sure he's cut to death." The men returned to the car and stripped it of the battery, tires, and anything else they could remove. The incident occurred not far from the spot where J. Holland, another black man was murdered a few years ago for the change in his pockets. He too, was followed by white men, but, in the attack, his head was totally severed. The latest victim had his wounds dressed in Amite by a doctor who said they were serious but not necessarily fatal. Arrest are expected in the case.

Source: New-Digest
Fri., Dec 30, 1938, Vol.7. No 30
Amite Genealogy Library
Published by Yvonne Lewis Day

Monore E. Williams a Black Man Lynched One Mile West of Tangipahoa in 1905

Another day spent at the Amite Genealogy Library in Amite, Louisiana. Today I spent my time reading the books published by Yvonne Lewis Day. I found newspapers on several lynchings and murders of black men.

Last Sunday evening around 6:30, Monore E. Williams was lynched one mile west of the town of Tangipahoa. He and Hopsey Knighton, another black, were recently charges with assault on Rhoda George, and aged lady living near that town. The two had been taken to New Orleans for safety, but Williams had been brought back to Amite for identification, and was lynch before he could be returned to New Orleans.

On January 19, 1897, three other black men were lynched in Amite, Louisiana at the same time.
Gus Williams, Archie Joiner, and Gus Johnson.

Source: Amite City Advocate
             Thurs, Nov. 30. 1905, Vol. 1. 26
             Yvonne Lewis Day Book " Newspaper Reprints"
             Amite Genealogy Library

Mt. Nebro Baptist Church Records 1813-1859

On July 4, 1841, ( P.117) Sunday doors open for members when Harriet Rutland received by experience, also a black boy Peter belonging to John Vernon ESq, repaired to the water were Bro. Balsam Thompson administered the ordinance of Baptism to them.

6th Jan, 1828, (Page 28) The door again opened, Molly a black woman belonging to W. Marbury Esq, and situated thru experience and was received in the hands of fellowship.

Mt. Nebo Baptist Church is a White church in Tangipahoa Parish. The records of Mount Nebo Baptist Church, in Tangipahoa Parish, date back over 146 years and are among the State's prized documents.

Source: Amite Genealogy Library-Mount Nebro Baptist Church Records 1813-1859

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Amelia Temple Williams the daughter of Jim Temple, Sr.

Amelia Temple Williams were the daughter of Jim and Margarette Amacker Temple. She was born in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. Little is known about this beautiful woman who is dressed so elegant. I myself would like to know more about her; Did she have children? What did she do as an occupation? What happened to her?

Her siblings were Charlie, John, Hollis, Walter, Robert, Bernard and Jim Temple, Jr., She has several sisters, Mary is the one that is known. Her sister Mary married a man named Tony Bush of Amite, LA.

Genealogy research on the Temple & Williams side of the family history just might reveal more information on Amelia. Because her surname is given here, this is a good lead.

Ameila's mother Margarette surname is Amacker, the Amacker's family history is deep rooted in St. Helena Parish. Many of the Amacker's up to this day, still lives in St. Helena Parish. Amelia married Chas Williams and she is buried in Temple Cemetery in Amite, Louisiana. There is a headstone on her grave. Her husband Chas is buried right on the side of her.

The Collins Family of Amite, Louisiana

Leo Collins
He was born May 5, 1920, Amite, Louisiana, to Abraham Lincoln Collins, Sr. and Ima Gene Washington Collins. He departures his life on May 27, 1996. Mr. Leo Collins was united in holy matrimony to Mrs. Edwina Baker on November 23, 1938. Their first born was Yvonne Collins on October 19, 1939 and their second born was Leo Collins, Jr., On September 13, 1940 both were born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

His first job was employment at Gullette Foundry in Amite, La. He proceeded to do custodial work at Amite High School in Tangipahoa Parish School System 1945.  Beside the custodial work he did office custodial work.

Under the leadership pastor of Reverend Nash, he became a born again Christian to Bulter African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Then is where he began to serve stewardess, usher, and here. He faithfully served as a member to the church from which he reared all his family. children and their children.  Brother Leo Collins was preceded in death by his father, mother and sisters: Atlee Collins, Mrs. Katie M. Collins Noonan, Mrs. Minnie Collins Berry, brothers; Woodrow Wilson Collins. Joseph Shelton Collins. William Collins,  one daughter law, Lucille Collins, grand daughter, Rimina Collins.
Yvonne Collins
Left-First lady with the lighter color dress

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Slave Balcony in the Sanctuary at Amite-Arcola Presbyterian Church

Amite-Arcola Presbyterian Church
I was at the Amite Genealogy Library as usual conducting African American genealogy research as usual. As always I am looking for any new family books or other genealogy material related to the history and people from Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes. While sitting at the table scanning photographs from the scrapbook that Mrs. Gracie Walker donated to the library I glanced across the table and found this history book about Amite-Arcola Presbyterian Church. Like every genealogist and family historian, you leave no stone unturned and you have the eye of a detective and the smell of a hound dog hunting for a rabbit.

Most African-American people in the Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes are descendants of former slaves. Many or just two generations from slavery. My mother's grandfather Alexander Harrell was born a slave in 1859. Researching slavery history is a hunt that can stand alone. There is no way you can research your family history without researching the slaveholders family.

While reading the description of the church I came across the following information. The more than a century-old Arcola Church is small having a total area of 2675 sq. feet, 1500 sq. feet being the original sanctuary, and 1175 sq. feet an add-on built in 1954 for Christian education and fellowship. Antebellum style, it is constructed of choice pine lumber and set firmly on brick pillars the height of which accommodate the gradual slop of the hill. the exterior is finished with drop siding and is painted white- the last painting in 1973. The original octogan-shaped belfry was replaced by a square one. A 6x9 ' landing area . A bell bangs in the belfry was replaced by a landing area with approaching steps from each side to replace the original single doorsteps entrance was added. A Mr. Lauds reportedly said to be the builder. He also built a parsonage on the sixty-acres plot across the street front the church property.

National Register of Historic Places
The interior with its tall lofty ceiling is finished with four inch ceiling boards and painted gray. Small
rooms flank each side of the four foot entry. Old wooden benches have been replaced by mahogany pews given by the Davis family as a memorial to Ernest Davis, Jr. who lost life while in service of his county. A red velvet carpet and four cathedral glass windows add contrast to other antebellum architectural trends.

Unusually interesting is a slave balcony in the rear of the sanctuary to accommodate slaves who accompanied their master's family to church. The stairway leading to it had been removed to provide more floor space.  An air-conditioning unit has been installed in the balcony to cool the building.

The large gilt pipes of an organ used for many years are recessed in the wall behind the pulpit. Since this church has served Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian Congregations in its long history, a communion rail stand in the front of the church, slightly altered to accommodate to the form of
worship of each congregation.

Willie James McCoy the Barbecue Man of Amite, Louisiana.

I grew listening to the grown folks in Amite, Louisiana talking about "Will McCoy" barbecue, Beside my own cousin W.K. Gordon, Jr., there wasn't anyone that could come close to out cooking these men who specialized in barbecuing, especially barbecue goat.

Willie James McCoy was born October 24, 1907 to Joseph and Julie Hart McCoy in Amite, Louisiana. He was the third child of eleven children. Mr. Will as everyone called him was  hard working man. As a very young man he and his brother went on the only job he ever had in Texasarkanana, Texas. At the age of 17 years old, he met and married Sadie Ricks, Sadie was the daughter of Annie Hutton and Claune Ricks. Mr. Will farmed. He raised strawberries and Mrs. Sadie would walk all through Amite to sell them. She was also a seamstress. She seed for whites and black. People came from all over to get her to sew for them.

In the 1940s they build a two room bar and kitchen. Mr. Will was known for his barbecue. People couldn't wait to get their hands and mouth around those delicious barbecue goat sandwich. On the weekend, people would travel from the surrounding area to buy his barbecue goat.

Although Mrs. Sadie was running the kitchen, she still made time to sew. She raised her two oldest children in the kitchen. They were little infants, so she would have them in a bread box or clothes basket, while cooking and taking care of them.

Mr. Will organized a male baseball team. He sponsored baseball games every Sunday. He was known for having everyone 's children in the neighborhood on the back of his pickup truck. The truck never did leave home without a truck load of children. He also loved to hunt and he owned numerous  Beagle dogs. He and his wife was the parents of five children. He taught his children how to barbecue and to make that famous BBQ sauce. When their oldest daughter Joyce Ann married, Mr. Will taught her husband the trade. Mr. Will died on December 19, 1973, his wife Sadie died April 9, 1997. They left their traded to all their children and they are still carrying their profession on to this very day.

Source: Reprint from Gracie Walker's Legacies of Color Scrapbook, Amite Genealogy Library Archival Room

Please contact Blogger Antoinette Harrell if you would like to share your family history

Please read the Tangipahoa-African-American Online Newspaper

The History of Big Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Roseland, LA.

Big Zion A.M.E. Church in Roseland, LA
Unique in the history of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, is the history of the founding of Big Zion Church in the Roseland Community in Tangipahoa Parish, in the State of Louisiana. This Church is the eldest of the so-called "Black Man's Churches" in the parish although the The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has never approved nor included in it's tenets and pelity any limitations to membership based on race. Unique also is the fact that Big Zion Church is older by at least three years that the conference of which she is a part.

The growth of the "A.M.E. Zion" Church, as demonstration in the South, and particular in the State of Louisiana, is credited largely to the effort made by Bishop Joseph who was consecrated a Bishop of the Church at the Eighth Session of the Church 's General Conference in 1864. This pioneering Bishop is credited with establishing a great number of "missions' in the South and Southwest than and other "Zion" Bishop.

In the year of 1863 there appeared in Louisiana one Rev. David Hill, and ordained Deacon in the ministerial ranks, and member of the North Carolina Conference. A great preaching evangelist, the Rev. Hill conducted ' pretreated" meeting in and around Arcola, Fluker, Kentwood and the Roseland Community, winning numerous of souls to the Cause of Christ.

A slave, on Solomon Johnson, prayed his "master" permission to build a 'brush-harber' on what was then the plantation. Own his own to accommodate the Evangelist Hill's meeting. This permission was granted. Another great evangelist campaign resulted. So impressed was the owner of the slave Johnson that gave the site of "brush-barber' as permanent meeting place for the worshipping spot for his slaves.

This was in 1863 to which documented evidence will attest, and which remain of records in the Courthouse at Amite City ( three miles from Roseland, Louisiana. This was the beginning of the church known today as the Big Zion Church, but which in the beginning was known simple as " The Roseland Methodist Church." In 1865 Bishop Clinton set apart the Louisiana Conference of the African Methodist Episocpal Church with three Churches namely, Big Zion, Butler Chapel ( another church which had been started by the Butler Family in Amite, LA., and Tasker Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Ponchatoula, LA.

Later, additional land was given to the little Church at Roseland, the whole being about four acres. A burial site was laid out which today is Big Zion Cemetery.  The original house of worship still stands. It's Founder sleeps in Big Zion's Cemetery.

An African American Farmer and Businessman Owned His Own Cotton Gin in Amite, LA

Walter Wren, Sr.
Walter Wren.Sr.,  was born to the late Sallie and Harry Wren on September 14 at Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center located in Independence, La., After being raised by his parents the later met and married  Ada Coleman Wren. Walter and his wife Ada had three children, Dorothy Wren Leonard, a native of New Orleans, LA., Walter Wren, Jr., a native of Amite, LA, and last, but not least the late Delores Wren who was also a native of Amite, LA.

Walter made a living for himself  and family by farming, that was considered more of a hobby rather than a living. During his farming his planting crops consisted of strawberries, watermelons, greens, snap bean, squash, sweet potatoes, peanuts, cucumbers, peppers, okra, and he also planted cotton that included a cotton gin, He was also known for raising animals which were cows, horses, and he owned one goat.

He owned a mule, which was used to do his plowing and planting of the crops back in the days, but as the years advanced he was able to purchase a tractor which eased his labor. During all the hard labor he performed he then took a stroke that would have  would have enabled him to perform his work and decreased his chances of every farming again, but nevertheless he didn't let the stroke interfere with what he loved and enjoying doing. He continue to plant until the Lord called him home. Indeed Walter Wren, Sr. was known as a noble man of farming and raising animals. He was a man like Mr. W.C. Frazier, Jasper Harrell, Sr., Cleveland Bennett, J.D. Atkins, Robert Temple, Walter Temple, Palmer Harrell and other black farmers who tilled the soil.

One of my relatives in New Orleans, La called me one afternoon and asked me to come by and look at a box of records that she taught I would like to see. I was so excited to get the call that I couldn't wait until the weekend to look in that box. After going through lots of photographs and old documents, I came across a receipt dated on September 27, 1949:

Amite, LA
September 27. 1949

The minutes of the report for the covering of the church. Brother Clifford Wheat and Bro. Walter Wren lent the church $50.00 each for the tin on the church, total one hundred dollars. We have planned to return the money on the 25 of October, we are asking each member for $2.50 for that date.

Elder E.C. Pounds, Pastor

West Side High Girls Basketball Team of Amite, Louisiana

West Side High Girls Basketball Team

Kneeling( Left to Right) Edna Jackson, Julia Siber, Ola Mae Fleming, Amanda Bush, Gracie Bean
Standing ( Left to Right) Norma Jean Ricard, Yvonne Collins, Ethel Bell Steward, Toni McGee Mason, Marsha Ann Johnson, Audrey Vinig, Augustine Perry.

Source: Reprint from Gracie Walker's Legacies of Color Scrapbook, Amite Genealogy Library Archival Room

                                                   Tangipahoa African-American Online Newspaper