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

Rev. Ernest Thomas Pugh of Amite, Louisiana

Rev. Ernest Thomas Pugh
Rev. Ernest T. Pugh was born in 1898 and died in 1979. He received his high school education at Pearl High School, Nashville, Tenn., and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee State University. He taught school in Tennessee and through hard work and dedication he was promoted to principal of several elementary and secondary schools in the state. He left Tennessee to take and elementary  principal position in Pastoral, Arkansas. He later moved to Amite, where he taught Science until his retirement from the Tangipahoa Parish school system.

Rev. Pugh began his ministry in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1936. His pastorial tenure included A.M.E. Zion Churches in Tennessee, Arkansas, New Orleans, and Amite, Louisiana. Rev. Pugh was also active in his community, having membership in the Ministerial Alliance of Amite, LA and the Tangipahoa Voters League.

Source: Gracie Walker "Legacies of Color Scrapbook" Amite Genealogy Library Archival Room

Please visit the: 
Tangipahoa African-American Online Newspaper at

Grant Chapel A.M.E. of Amite, Louisiana Church History

Photo Credit: Legacies of Color Scrapbook
Mrs. Gracie Perry
The history of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church revealed that the construction of its present place of worship began the early part of 1972 and was completed and dedicated on August 20, 1972. The was the culmination of sustained hard work, diligent planning, and anxious anticipation; it was a dream and the answer to many prayers.

The congregation became together to amass funds for the erection of this building under the pastorage of Rev. S.D. Addison and continued to collect during the tenure of Rev. John Smith, and Rev. L.L. Lucien. When Rev. B. Alex Gibson was appointed to this church, there was concerted effort to obtain enough for a down payment necessary for borrowing money for completing this building.

The building committee selected by the church was as follows: Mrs. Mamie Ruffins, Dr. Percy L. Walker, Messrs. Fred P. McCoy, Xavier Smith, Sr., Nataniel Hines, Sr. & the late Booker T. Lawson.
The trustees at the time was Messrs, Emile Muse, Xavier Smith., Xavier Smith., J.C. Burkhalter, Dr. Percy L. Walker & the late Booker T. Lawson.

The late Rev. Leo Hawkins was presiding elder when the building was dedicated and the late Rt. Rev. I.H. Bonner was presiding bishop. Other ministers who helped to stir to the mortgage burning were Presiding Elder J. B. Hitchens and former pastor Fred Chambers just prior to our present Presiding Elder Thomas C. Johnson, Pastor David Bowles, and Bishop Frank G. Cumming.

Associate ministers of Grant Chapel during the payment of this church were the late Evangelist Beatrice Gatlin, Rev. Alex A. Spears., Evangelist Dorothy Himes and Rev. Charles Holmes.

Top Photo: Seated left to right: Mrs. B. Walls, Ms. M.F. Williams and Mrs. Olivette Morris, Standing from left:  Messrs W. J. Lee, James Jackson, Nat Hines, Bernard Lawson, Arthur Harrell and Fred P. McCoy.

Bottom Photo: Left to Right: Mrs. W. B. Jackson, Xavier Smith, Sr., Emile Muse, Dr. Percy L. Walker

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

Tangipahoa African-American Online Newspaper

1845 St. Helena Parish Slaveholders

Peter a slave were beat in 1860 in Louisiana
St. Helena Parish Courthouse, Bin of Bonds & Oaths

We the undersigned slave holders of the parish of St. Helena deeming it necessary to adopt some regulations for the more strict government of the slaves of the parish do hereby prohibit all persons form purchasing any articles from our slaves without a written license specifying the articles purchased under the penalty of the law which we pledge ourselves to enforce.

And we also authorize any person finding one of our slaves in Greensburg without written pass to take such slave and inflict upon him or her a reasonable punishment not exceeding thirty lashes. It is understood that no person is to purchase of any slaves any articles without, and any us knowing of any infraction of the law upon this point will feel bound to complain of the same. It is further agreed that we will give no permission to one of our slaves to procure liquor for his own use. 4 Jan 1845.

Simpson Hutchinson                                                       B. ? Hart
John Hollaway                                                                John Boykins
W. D. Pearson                                                                 H. Kemp
Abram Womack                                                              Jacob Womack
Thomas H. Roddy                                                           Danl. ? Reemes
William Dennis, Jr.                                                         W. H. Kemp
W. K. Davis                                                                    Thomas Gorman
W.S. Gordon                                                                   Daniel Addison
E.H. Bates                                                                       N. ? George
J.J. Carruth                                                                      W.P. Deane
Walthall Burton                                                               Henry Leonard
John Houeye                                                                    N. Baylis "except the whipping of ...."
Merrit G. Kemp                                                               (last 4 or 5 words unreadable)
WM. G. Wright                                                                T. A. ?
Carter Thompson                                                             W.M. L. Hutchinson
Daniel Miller                                                                    Joseph Killian, Jr.
D.C. Kemp                                                                       Claibourne Newson
J. H. Wright                                                                      Wilford Kemp
John Corkern                                                                    B. Weil
Peter Hutchinson

Monday, November 18, 2013

Clotidle Aaron Zanders of Amite, LA

Clotidle Aaron Zander, one has to think in terms of memories. She was born in Amite, Louisiana, on December 27, 1912, to the late Mike and Maggie Bush Aaron. Clotidle was known for her love of house plants, beautiful yard, and dressing for church on Sunday. Her interest in plants was enhanced with a membership in the the Gladiola Garden Club.

She served the church as president of the usher board as well as the Willing Workers Club, Class leader of the Youth and later as Leader of Leaders. She was a gifted seamstress. She also fed many West Side students during her tenure as manager of the cafeteria for twenty seven years, finally retiring on June 2, 1978.

Her marriage on July 25, 1929, to her childhood sweetheart, Robert Zanders, lasted for 55 years, 8 month. From this union was born one daughter, Delores. She departed from this life on Tuesday morning, November 16, 2010 at her home.

She leaves to cherish her memories: one daughter, Mrs. Delores Z. Levy, Amite., A very special thanks to Mrs. Yvonne Collins for sharing the obituary of Mrs. Clotidle.

Mrs. Mamie Holmes Homemade Tea Cakes

My mother use to make homemade tea cakes when my brothers and I was growing up. Come to think of it, she hadn't  made any in over two decades. One day two summer ago, I met this nice little sweet lady in St. Helena, La by the name of Mamie Holmes. After I introduced myself, she invited me in to sit and talk with her. After our conversation about her family history and the history of Rocky Hill A.M.E Church in St. Helena, La., she invited me into her kitchen for a special treat-homemade tea cakes. What a treat I was in for!

Tea Cakes are cookies, these little treats were initially made by African slaves. They were made with very simple ingredients. Sometimes when the women would be quilting, someone would make tea cakes and a fresh pot of coffee or tea and they would sit for hours sewing, sipping coffee or tea and eating tea cakes.

Tea cakes were originally an Scottish or English afternoon treat. Tea cakes  didn't become a treat in the African American homes until after the Emancipation. Some of my mother's first cousins really enjoyed her freshly baked tea cakes. Mrs. Mamie had been up before sunrise making dozens of her famous tea cakes for her upcoming family reunion. She wanted to get started before it  would get to hot and the oven would heat up the house with heat that made you feel like you were in the Sahara Desert.

These precious little hands had made dozens of homemade teacakes.

Willie K. Gordon, Sr. Remembered the Day They Tried to Lynch Him in Amite, Louisiana

Willie Kiddes Gordon
He was born in St. Helena Parish on August 6, 1909.  At the time of this interview he was 91 years old and he were grateful to God that he was able to think clearly. His mother moved to Amite when he was four months old.  His daddy was Adam Gordon, Sr. Who lived in Houston, Texas and Willie was a grown man when he first laid eyes on his own father. His mother often said he was man at six years old. He supported his mother, sisters and brothers from an early age.

Our first public school was first at Ard Chapel. Gordon Chapel was named in honor of his family after he donated a 1/2 acre of land to build a church which also served as a school. Willie  taught night school and went on to receive a doctors of divinity degree, conferred on Nov 4, 1962 from Trinity Hall College and Seminary at York, Pennsylvania.

One of his first jobs was digging up trees to clear the land for farming. He dug trees for six dollars an acres.  Wllie dug  around the tree until the root was exposed, he climb the tree and shook it until it began to fall, jump down and quickly cut the root.

Mandy Jones Wheat
His mother was Mandy Wheat a very gracious lady who was a midwife to the community. All but one of Willie's seven children were delivered by his mother. Records from the old Health Unit support the fact that she was mid-wife to many families both black and white. Often times her personal breast milk-was fed to others rather than her own children.

Willie thank God for his memory, he could remember when there were only two stores in Amite; E. J. Kopfler and Sam Coe. Kopfler made deliveries, Horace Robinson was his delivery man. The Sheriff was John Ballard and the town Marshall was Balley Schilling. On the corner where eastside garage is today was a delivery stable owned by Jack Alford. He rented horses and buggies for pleasure rides. Later, he began renting cars. At the time the odometer was on the front wheels.

The Butler family named Butler town. Reid's Quarters was named after Judge Reid. Hyde's quarter's was named after Funny Hyde. Back in those days, very few people owned refrigerators. Amite had an ice plant, which was located where the Amite activity center is today. Three black brothers, Lonnie, George, and Sammy Wheat were the only men that delivered ice. The man that picked up all the supplies from the train depot and delivered to all stores was a black man named Guy Parker. There were two hotels, The Ritz and the Mixon Hotel.

Willie said he was at the 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 would confess to being the triggerman. One day near what is now Pecora's Cleaner he saw two black  men that had been lynched on the street lying in two pine boxes.

One day while walking east in Amite and he crossed the path of another boy who was walking south. There were some cows on the sidewalk and the sidewalk, 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 Singiton about a "nigger" on the street. When I got in the next block, several whites put me on their shoulders. Some got a rope and was preparing to hang me until someone recognized me and told them to release me. My stepfather, Bass Wheat was bad about fighting white folk. Bass Wheat drove and ox wagon hauling logs form Montpellier to Roseland to the box factory.

Willie and Alma Gordon
Willie met and married Alma Richardson. They lived together happily for 60 years. They held church services in their home when Willie started following Christ.  When their children became of school aged, the parish school bus didn't come out in their community to pick-up the school children. They would come so far and no further. Their children had to walk to the pick-up locations. Afterward, Willie purchased a vehicle and put insurance on it and started driving throughout the community to the bus stops picking up the children.

Louisiana power and light stopped their services short of coming into our community. I went to Zachary, Louisiana to request Demco to supply our community with electrical services. They came and installed lights. We were able to put away kerosene-coal oil lamps and flip on a switch for lights.

He also provided two large houses a few block from Southern University at Baton Rouge, La to help young men from his community to go on to higher education. It was very difficult for the black males to afford college during those days. I know another man in Baton Rouge, La that charges $25.00 a month for boys to stays in off campus housing. I charged $10.00 a month, as some of our boys were very poor. Today I can remember as many as 48 men who came from our communities that went on to finish college and are today holding positions of honor throughout our country.

He was a successful farmer. He raised strawberries, cotton and beans. He employed others who were in need of jobs. He worked at Hood Motor Company as a sale representative for many years. He was Amite's first black car salesperson.

Source:  Amite Genealogy Library-Photo Album of Mrs. Gracie Perry

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Legacy of Supt. Alexander Richardson of Amite, LA

Supt. Alexander Richardson and wife
Melissa Wheat Richardon
Alexander Richardson was born on October 25, 1907 to Thomas Alexander Richardson and Emma Vining in St. Helena Parish. In an effort to support his family, and also to teach his children that success comes with hard work. Alexander held several jobs prior to opening his own business.

He worked on federally funded W.P.A. He cut the right of way for the Montpelier to Greensburg Highway during the Depression Area; He sold Life Insurance and worked at Good Shepherd Funeral Home; He worked as a gas station attendant in Houston, Texas. He also built prefabricated houses at Galette's Manufacture site in Amite as a master painter.

With nothing more than an eight grade education and a strong supporting wife at his side Alex Richardson, Sr. decided in the late 1950s or early 1960s to open his own funeral home and insurance agency in Amite, LA. This accomplishment was made possible because of the "Grandfather Clause." This clause said that if you learned a trade and learned it well, then you were permitted to operate the in fields of your acquainted trade. He mastered his trade while working as a mortician and insurance agent at Britton's Funeral Home in Columbia, Ms of a period of five years. He was also employed at Good Shepherd Funeral Home in Amite, La.

Today, four funeral homes proves their dream of reality. Richardson Funeral Home, Inc., and Insurance Agencies was considered at that time to be top's in all of its service areas. The home office is still based in Amite, LA., with three branch offices existing in Kenner, Covington, and Hammond, La.

Amite, Louisiana First Black Veterinarian Percy L. Walker

Dr. Percy Walker
Photo Credit: Daily Star Photographer
George Anderson
Percy Leroy Walker was born on December 18, 1918 and died October 1995 in Amite, Louisiana. He was the son of Festus M. Walker and Corean Walker.  He graduated from Southern University in Agriculture Education and Tuskegee University in Veterinary medicine. He also graduated from officer training school and served in W.W.II and the Korean War as 1st Lieutenant. After his service years, he was substitute teacher, social worker and government meat inspector. He established the Amite Veterinary Clinic in 1953 and continued his practice until 1995. He considered this area a "veterinarian's paradise" and loved his work as well as the people.

On any afternoon he can be found vaccinating, dehorning and castrating animals. Vaccinations were for bangs disease, black leg and malignant edema. Dr. Walker said he vaccinated some 1,000 animals a year, primarily large ones. He is  buried in the Amite Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Amite, Louisiana.

The Legacy of Farming with Ernest Frazier of Amite, Louisiana.

“He was born to be a farmer. It was something that he was good at, something he knew well. He was a giver of life, an alchemist that worked in dirt, seed, and manure.” ― Tracy WinegarGood Ground

Ernest Fazier
Like his father who was passionate about tilling the soil and making things grow.  Ernest Frazier is just like his father Mr. Willie Charles Frazier known to everyone in the Amite community as Mr. W.C. Just like his father, Ernest spend a great deal of time working and tilling the soil. What I have learned about men and women who are like Ernest and his father, they have a natural connection to the soil! It is in their blood and they look forward to planting  crops every year. They are masters of agriculture, some people went to school to get a degree to study agriculture. For Ernest and his father it came natural and was passed down from generations. Black farmers in America dreamed of owning their own land. They worked hard to make that dream come true.  Many black farmers in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes wanted to operated independently from the white farmers or land owners. I heard many say that they wouldn't get the same price for their produce as white men and women in the community or markets.

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
The Census of Agriculture is now conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture every 5 years. The Federal agricultural schedules were taken beginning in 1840. The schedules provide information like the owner's name, acres improved and unimproved, value of the farm, farming machinery, crop and livestock production, and "home manufactures." 

Black farmers in America faced discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture loans for decades. Women both black and white faced a discrimination as well. It is good to see men like Ernest carry the family tradition of farming on today. My maternal grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr., and his mother Emma Mead Harrell were farmers.  Jasper's brother Palmer Harrell also farmed, I hold fond memories of farming with my great uncle Palmer. For the newly freed slaves, owning your own land meant freedom and a ticket to becoming independent and self-sufficient. One thing is for sure a farmer will never go hungry and they know what they are eating. Ernest enjoy watching the vegetable grow and certainly enjoy the fresh taste of squash, cucumbers, corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries and sweet potatoes. He is the kind of man that shares with his neighbors just like his father did. After all the planting and picking, his wife Jo-Ann, cans the vegetables and make some of the best tasting homemade jams you want to taste.

She learned how to can from the women who came before her. I was very happy to hear that she held on to the tradition. It isn't that many women who are still canning. When I was little girl, I remember my mother and grandmother canning. Although I have never canned any fresh fruits or vegetables. I am willing to learn because there is nothing to compare to the taste. 

Thank to both Ernest and his wife Jo-Ann for holding on to those value lessons of farming and canning. It would be good to see them both co-author a book on farming and canning and how the tradition was passed on to them by their ancestors.

The Legacy of the late Mr. W.C. Frazier of Amite, Louisiana

Willie Charles Frazier
On Sunday, November 11, 2012, Brother Willie Charlie Frazier, affectionately known as “W.C.” passed from earth to heaven’s reward. There will be no more sorrow, pain or suffering, it was God’s will that he should go.

Bro. W.C. was born on November 10, 1920 to the late  Thomas Frazier and the late Lena Green Frazier. He was united in holy matrimony to the late Lizzie Coleman Frazier and to that union eleven children were born.

He was a hard-working man who believed in providing for his family. He labored hard and long in the vineyard of life reaping many rewards. His passion was tilling the soil and making things grow; many people knew him because of his generosity with the fruits of his labor. W.C. was employed by the Town of Amite with the City Maintenance Department for many years. He was an industrious and loyal employee until his retirement.

Bro. W.C. was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He made sure that his wife, his children and his grandchildren were provided for. He and his wife had a very special and loving relationship, in later years he served as her caregiver during her illness. His concern was always for “Lizzie”. “Big Daddy” as he was known to the grandchildren would always be there when he was needed.

Bro. W.C. devoted his life to God and became a member of Gordon Chapel Church of God in Christ under the leadership of Supt. Alexander Richardson. He served as a devoted member under the leadership of both the late Supt. Samuel Richardson and Supt. Emmitt N. Richardson, Sr. and attended services until his health no longer allowed him do so. His devotion to God and his church never wavered; he continued to do all that he could in the service of the Lord.

The late Mr. Willie Charles Frazier
He leaves to cherish his memory five sons: Emmitt (Elaine) Frazier of Roseland, LA, Earnest (Jo-Ann) Frazier,  and John H. Frazier of Amite, LA, James (Audrey) Frazier of Livermore, California, and  Rogers (Connie) Frazier of Roseland, LA; five daughters:  Lillie (Robert) Warren of San Francisco, California, Catherine  (Carl) Galmon, W. Dolores Topps, Josie Dell Frazier, and  Joann (Calvin) Winfield, all of Amite, LA; a devoted niece/daughter: Mary Smith;  thirty (30) grandchildren, thirty-seven (37) great-grandchildren and two (2) great, great-grandchildren; sister-in-law: Bertha Coleman, brother-in-law: Wade Wilson, god daughters: Ella M. Hughes, Betty Franklin   and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and  Lena Green Frazier, a devoted step-mother: Celestine Ward Frazier,  his loving and devoted wife, Lizzie Coleman Frazier, one son, Willie C. Frazier, Jr.; three sisters: Velma Coleman, Rosa Caston and Ellen Frazier, three brothers: William Frazier, Ivory Frazier and Robert Frazier;  and grand daughter, Eulandra D. Frazier.

"Gone But Not Forgotten"

Special Thanks to Jo-Ann Frazier