Thursday, January 29, 2015

Big Zion Cemetery Headstones

While walking in Big Zion cemetery in Roseland, Louisiana., I took notice of the headstones. My friend Ilona Lyttle, my son Bernard, and I recorded the names and inscriptions of all the deceased in nine African-American cemeteries throughout St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parishes, Louisiana., well over ten years ago. I didn't pay very much attention to small details at that time. I was too busy recording the information on the headstone.

Its so important to place a headstone on the grave of your deceased loved one. Every genealogist and family historian at some point in their family research will travel to the cemeteries were their ancestors are buried. The headstones can provide information that's vital to your research.

The headstone of Alice McCoy tell me that she was born in 1855 and died in 1937. According to the 1930 United States Census, Alice was a widow living in Amite, Louisiana. Both of her parents was born in Louisiana.

She was living in the household with her daughter Alma Freeman and Alma's children; Gladys,
Ella McCoy Gordon, Martha McCoy Piedra
and Roberto Valdez Piedra
Alicie, Mary and Vera Freeman. In the 1920 United States Census, Alice was living in the household with her three children; Alina, Tom and Manila McCoy. In 1920 she was also a widow.

My maternal uncle Palmer Harrell married Manila McCoy. I know very little about the  McCoy family, I do know that they're a very large family. When I was growing up in Amite, Louisiana., I use to hear people talking about a man named Will McCoy. Will owned a black night club and a baseball park. On Sunday's when the different baseball teams played and crowds of people who come out to watch the game and eat Will's special barbecue. There are still a lot of people who carry the surname McCoy living in Amite and Roseland, Louisiana.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Big Zion A.M.E. Church Cornerstones

Big Zion A.M.E. Church in Roseland, LA 
In 1903, George Watson and his wife Winnie Smith Watson grant, Bargain and Sell, Assign, Convey, Set over and delivered unto Lemuel Irving, Rubin Brown, Jr., Jake Leonard, Sr., Lard and J.S. Callahan, Trustees of Big Zion School in Roseland, Louisiana.

A parcel of land comprising of six acres more or less and being all of Lot number sixty-three in plat of Roseland, Col only. Township three saith, Range from (7) east in Parish of Tangipahoa, State of Louisiana, except four (4) acres owned by Big Zion Church, the same having been acquired by this vendor from Mary E. Scott by act passed before me August 18, 1902 and recorded in the Records of Tangipahoa in Conveyance Book No 8 at the clerk's office in Amite, Louisiana.

Big Zion School was and all African American school. My mother and some of her siblings attended Big Zion. On the land sits the church, cemetery and school. I took a picture of the cornerstone and found the following;

"Big Zion A.M.E. Zion Church," Mother Zion Church in the LA. conference established 1860. The new church dedicated on March 16, 1980. Rev. C.O. Newton, M.Th, Pastor., Rev. Hollis Calahan, Pres. Elder., The Rev. Arthur Marshall, Jr.,  Bishop.


Leona Morris, Charlie Morris, Rosetta Garrett, Alvin Deamer, Fannie Johnson, Idella Dorsby, J.C. Pikens, Robert Solomon, Rev. C. O. Newton, Wilelmina Leonard, Secretary and Willie Andrews, Chairman., Laid August 10, 1980 by M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The History of the Irving Family of Roseland, Louisiana

Dora Curry Irving
When I was a child growing up in Amite, my mother used to take my three brothers and I to Big Zion cemetery in Roseland, Louisiana, to clean the graves of my grandparents. The two wooden building across the road from the cemetery caught my eye. All my life I wanted to know more about those two buildings.

So I decided to knock on somebody door to get some information about the two building. The door that I knocked on was a lady by the name of Sandra Watson Turner. I asked her could she tell me something about those two building. She said I grew up in the two story building and the little house next door was a packing house for produce. I felt like a kid in a toy store! I can't explain how excited I was to talk with someone who had first hand information.

The first thing she told me was about her "Papa Will." She said that her Papa Will and all his brothers were farmers. I searched for them on the census and found Wilbert, his wife and children in the 1940 United States census. Wilbert and Dora had six children; Ora Belle, Lois, Wilbert, Irene, Gloria, Leontine Irving.
Irene Irving Watson Turner

Wilbert parents Lemuel and Susie had eleven children; Wilbert, Alice, Ethel, Lucy, Alma, Ralph, Lemuel, Robert, Tom, Charles Edward & Roscoe Irving. Lemuel was born in 1854 and died on July 18, 1942 in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. Lemuel donated the land for Big Zion A.M.E. Church in Roseland, Louisiana.

Lorriane Lizana provided information about the occupations of Lemuel and Susie McKnight Irving descendants. Alice Irving Vernon was a farmer seamstress, Wilbert Irving, Sr., a carpenter, Roscoe was a carpenter, Lucy Irving Collier was a midwife, Alma Irving Wood Perry was a farmer and school teacher.  Lemuel Irving, Jr., a farmer and  factory worker, Ralph Irving, Sr., farmer, was a school bus driver. 

Sandra went on to tell me about her Cherokee grandmother Dora. Dora was a midwife and a natural healer. I asked Sandra if she had a picture of her grandparents, she said yes. I was delighted and anticipated looking at the photograph of the woman who delivered so many baby in the area. She came back with a picture of her grandmother Dora. Sandra recalled how her grandmother Dora healed her and her sibling when they were ill. I wish that someone would have record the knowledge and information Dora knew about natural healing. Irene Irving Watson Turner is Sandra's mother.

When I got home I went straight to "Family Search" to look at the census records to search for Dora's parents. Her parents Peter and Delilia had twelve children; Franklin, Victorine, Katie, Oscar, Soloman, Joe, Samuel, Annie, Richard, Clara, Dora, and Laurence Curry.  Peter was born in Mississippi and Delilia was born in Louisiana. According to the 1900 United States census, Peter was fifty-two and Delilia was thirty-three. Dora was born in 1896 and died in August of 1981 in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana., she is buried in Big Zion Cemetery.

Mt. Gillion Baptist Church in Arcola, Louisiana

Original Bell
One of the oldest church in Arcola, Louisiana, is Mt. Gillion Baptist Church.  It was organized on June 1,1895 by Rev. Robert Vernon and Deacons; W.M. Smith, S.E. Longs and Clerk; C. Lampkin. Anthony said that he could remember two men by the name of Mr. Tate and Mr. Lott ringing the church bell with someone passed away in the community.

I'm going to call Rev. Johnny Milton to see if I could get the history of the church. The history of the church can tell you a lot, especially if your family members attended a church in community. Its alway good to look to the church for your family history as well.
I very familiar with the Vernon history and now I would like to know about the deacons of the church. Anthony said that the bell is the original bell. Although no one rings the bell anymore.

Church cornerstones are important as well. The names of the organizers and founders can be found on them. In this case it list the name of the deacons. I can imagine before they bricked the church it was a wood building with wood pews and hardwood floors. "Who knows!" I maybe able to find a picture of the church before they bricked it. The earlier churches was wooden. I remember the church I attend a child was a wooden white church.

Mt. Gillion Baptist Church Cornerstone
I didn't see a cemetery behind the church at all. "Where did they buried their members?" Anthony said that his mother is buried in Big Zion cemetery, Roseland, Louisiana.  Come to think of it, it was the only church that I saw back off in that community. One day I hope that I can document the history of all the churches in Roseland, Amite, Fluker and Kentwood, Louisiana. Some of these churches serve as a one room school for the African American children in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some may even have records of the early years.

Its up to us to record and document our own history and heritage. Each one of these communities has such rich history that it would be terrible not to record and document it. I hope others will open up and share their family history, photographs and documents so that I can record and document it.

Old Milk Dairies in Arcola, Louisiana

Old Milk Dairy owned by Mook Tillman 
Today I decided to turn down a road off Hwy 51, in Arcola, Louisiana. My curiosity had got the best of me and I wanted to see if I could find any old buildings and talk with anyone who was sitting on their front porch on this beautiful sunny day.

As usual I just pull up and start talking to people as if I have been knowing them all my life. I saw this man walking to his house and I pulled into his driveway and introduce myself and then I asked him about the old building down the road from him. He thought I was talking about the old milk dairy. He said I'll get in my truck and follow you back there so you can show me which building you're talking about.

After he saw the building he decided to show me several old milk dairies in the area. One was owned by an old black man by the name of Moots Tillman. Mr. Tillman was married to Louise.  The Arcola community had many milk dairies, he could recall only one being owned by and African American man. As we drove around the area he pointed out some of the larger dairy farms and horse ranches. I found the land in Arcola to be beautiful and woody. It is somewhat hilly, with tall pine trees. Most of the people who live in the community is related and they're living on land that had been in the family for several generations.

Old Milk Dairy-Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell
"Some dairy farmers wasn't milking with machine at that time, they were milking by hand," said Anthony. He said that he remember some of the people who owned the dairies. "A lot of the old folks have die off and their descendants was living on the properties, "he said.

Anthony used to milked cows for a man named Bob Kirby. He said that after the cows were milked the dairy owners would set the milk containers out and the truck would come by and pick them up.  Milking cows wasn't the occupation for Anthony, so that job was short lived. I'm so happy that he shared what history he could recall about old dairy farms in Arcola. Like the history of sawmills and timber companies, milk dairies provided jobs for the local people who lived in the surrounding area. I was just as happy to see some of the old building still standing. Some of them are falling apart, but for the most part many of them are still standing.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Kimble Family of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana

Left: Maxine Kimble
Right: Frances Catherine Kimble-Miller
I was contacted by Evanjalyn El'luminatya Davis who has family ties in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana., She wanted to share a family photograph of her grandfather's sisters. His two sisters were Maxine Kimble Frances Catherine Kimble-Miller of Hammond and Independence, Louisiana. Their parents were Walter Kimble and Jane Battie Kimble. Walter's parents were Isaac and Nancy who lived in Tangipahoa Parish. Walter was married to Jane (Jennie), he was first married to a woman named Caroline.

Evanjalyn spoke of her eighty-years old uncle Joe's love for family history. Her uncle Joe discuss and shares the Kimble family history every at every opportunity he get. Like all families, some family members want to hear the history and to others, its not that important. But for her uncle Joe, he will continue to pass the family history to family members like Evanjalyn.

Allen Y. Kimble took the African Ancestry DNA test to find out where in Africa their family came from. Their paternal genetic African Ancestry matches with the Bubi people living in Bioko, Island.

Like most African American people that have the burning quest to learn more about their own family history, the Kimble family are still looking to reconnect with long lost family members. If you are a Kimble and are looking for your ancestors that has roots in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. Please email me at