Monday, April 25, 2016

Preserving and Sharing Our Records of Slave Ownership

 If you are looking for a challenge, try African American genealogy.  African Americans must collect all of the records for their own family members and then start collecting records of the employers and slave owners.  Those of us who are the descendants of slave owners need to do more to preserve and share those records.

Authors such as Edward Ball and Chris Tomlinson have modeled the way for the descendants of slave owners.   Each of these writers has traced the descendants of the slaves owned by their ancestors. Edward Ball published his epic book Slaves in the Family in 1999 and won a National Book Award for his efforts.  He traced his family back to the slave owners and then researched the descendants of their slaves.  To read the introduction to his book click here.  To read my article on the Tomlinson book click here.  Not everyone has the time or the resources to perform such  an exhaustive effort of preserving their families records of slavery but listen to these words from Edward Ball:

"When finally I chose to look into the slave past, I felt a remarkable calm, and the rest of the path seemed clear. To complete the legacy, I would try to find descendants of the slaves. The plantation heritage was not "ours," like a piece of family property, and not "theirs," belonging to black families, but a shared history. The progeny of slaves and the progeny of slave owners are forever linked. We have been in each other's lives. We have been in each other's dreams. We have been in each other's beds. As I prepared to go back to South Carolina, I thought we should meet, share our recollections, feelings, and dreams, and make the story whole."

 I recently received information from two of the members of the Bay Area Genealogical Society about slaves owned by their ancestors.  They were unsure of the best method to preserve and publish these slave records.  After reviewing the existing avenues for preserving slave records, I am still not sure which of these is the best long term preservation method.  Since I am still weighing the options for the best preservation methods, I will publish those records here so they will hopefully be indexed by Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Hopefully, this blog post will be the beginning of a dialogue on methods to preserve and share our records of slave ownership.

Current online methods for preserving the records of our families related to slave ownership include but are not limited to Rootsweb, US GenWeb, Digital Library on American Slavery, Afrigeneas, Sankofagen, Portal to Texas History, blogging, and society websites. Kudos to those that are preserving and sharing slave records at these websites.  This article is also a call to action on the part of all genealogists, societies, archives and libraries to make these records better preserved and more accessible.

Annette Bowen was the first to raise this issue with me.  Here is the information that she shared with me:

"Attached is my transcription of the slaves named in the divorce of John H. Crisp and Mary R. Bowles.  They married 3 Sept 1851 in Lafayette Co., Mississippi, and moved to Hardeman Co., Tennessee.  In Mississippi a married woman could own property but not in Tennessee.
She left Dr. Crisp and moved back to her plantation home in Mississippi in December 1854.  Mary sued Dr. Crisp to recover her dower in a law suit in Marshall County, Mississippi, referenced in the divorce.  Apparently Dr. Crisp transferred all the property which he had acquired by marriage to Mary's oldest son, James R. Bowles, and James immediately transferred it to his mother.  They agreed that neither would be responsible for the debts of the other.  
John Crisp moved to Colorado Co., Texas, and in 1859 filed for divorce from Mary.
The divorce was granted on 7 November 1861.  At some point Mary dropped the name Crisp and went back to calling herself Mary R. Bowles.  There is a biography, which does not include his marriage to Mary Bowles, and a photo of a painting of Dr. Crisp  at
Feel free to use these lists however you want.  His slaves likely were taken to Colorado Co., Texas. Hers stayed in Lafayette Co., Mississippi."
Slaves belonging to John H. Crisp at the time of his divorce from Mary R. Bowles, November 1861, Colorado County, Texas District Clerk, Volume C2 pp 323-327
Eda a negro woman born 1810 Daniel  Negro man born 1844 Lucinda 1817 Solomon 1844 Tamar 1810 Ephraim 1829 Susan 1828 Nathaniel 1844 Wiley 1830 Jenny 1844 Easter 1831 Robt. Son of R. 1845 America 1832 Louisa 1845 Betsy 1833 Jim Missouri 1845 John Man 1835 Dandridge 1820 Jane Woman 1836 Ellen Richard 1832 Pan 1837 Agnes 1845 Granderson 1820 Louisiana 1848 Charles J. 1813 George 1848 William 1821 Lavinia 1825 Eliza 1839 David son of G. 1845 Caswell 1839 Robt. Son of Peggy 1845 Sally S. 1806 Hiram 1846 Anderson 1836 Gilly 1846 Egbert 1840 Patience 1846 Isabella 1841 Sarah 1846 Jim C. 1841 Stephen 1846 Isaaih 1842 Susan Pugh 1846 Mary 1823 Temperance 1847 Minerva 1826 Frances 1847 Cary Ann 1825 Charles J. 1848 Betsy Pugh 1828 Dick 1848 Lavinia 1840 Judy 1848 Ellen Hemphill 1841 Sam Pugh 1848 Vini Tamar 1842 Sam Richard 1848 Rachel 1843 John Wiley 1848 Chloe 1833 Henry Smith 1826 Sandy 1835 Granderson Vincent 1826 Rose 1838 Nathan Pugh 1823 Mack 1840 Talbot 1823 Andrew 1842 Nancy Cannon 1849 Lucy 1843 David Ford 1823
( page 323)
Joseph Bull negro   born 1850 Cornelia  Negro born 1858 Henry 1850 Daphne 1858 Lewis 1850 Andrew Jackson 1858 Harriett 1850 Caressa 1858 Eda 1850 Prudence 1858 Allen 1850 Charity 1858 Kitty 1850 Eliza Jane 1858 Eliza Ann 1850 Franky 1858 Susan 1850 Andrew Gowan 1858 Nancy 1850 William Baird 1858 Ned 1851 Milly        Jany 24th 1857 Sally 1851 George June 10th 1857 Fabius 1829 Moses Sept 20th 1857 Charles Arkansas 1833 Susanna       Oct 6th  1857 Patience 1833 Cornelia       Jany 15th 1858 Jim 1850 Daphan      Jany 25th 1858 Caswell Smith 1827 Andrew      June 18th 1858 Mariah 1827 Clarissa      July 20th 1858 Florence 1847 Prudence     Augt 2nd 1858 Mary 1849 Charity      Sept 23rd 1858 John 1851 Eliza Jane     Sept 24th 1858 Ludretta 1852 Frankey     Oct 16th 1858 Fanny 1852 Andrew     Nov 2nd 1858Simon 1852 William     Jany 20th 1859 Frederick 1852 Wiley    March 28th 1859 Educia 1853 Patsy    April 1st 1859 Betsy 1853 Isam    July 11th 1859 Granville 1853 Julia    March 20th 1859 Harriett 1854 Henderson    August 14th 1859 Mary Ann 1854 Caesar    Augt 16th 1859 Bolivar 1854 Louisa    Jany 1860 Evalina 1854 Matilda   March 1860 Stephen 1854 Burton  Feby 1860 Willis 1854 Spencer  June 10th 1860 Manuel 1855 Pinkey    Augt 18th 1860 Sylva 1855 Adelaide Nov 1860 John Green 1855 Willis Feby 1st` 1861 Abel 1855 Amanda Feby 186 1Jane 1855 Bethunia “ 1861 Ben Bill 1855 America Augt 7th 1861 John Saml 1856 Jeff Davis  Augt 19th 1861 Bartly 1856 Henny Augt 31st 1861 Emily 1856 Patience 1856 Margaret 1856 Talbot 1857 George 1859 Texanna 1857 
 Making one hundred and forty-nine negros in all.
It is notable that many of  the names on this list appear to have surnames and full birth dates.  Dr. John H. Crisp went to Brazil after residing in Colorado County, Texas.  The biography at this link of a nephew mentions John H. Crisp moving to Brazil after the Civil War.  Is it possible that some of these slaves continued to live in Colorado County, Texas after the war?

A quick search of the 1870 census for African Americans named Crisp in Colorado County, Texas found what appears to be a potential match:

Name: Bolivar Crisp
Age in 1870: 16
Birth Year: abt 1854
Birthplace: Tennessee
Home in 1870: Precinct 1, Colorado, Texas
Race: Black
Gender: Male
Post Office: Columbus
Household Members: Name Age
Ephriam Crisp 32
Mary Crisp 35
Egbert Crisp 23
Frances Crisp 17
Emily Crisp 15
Jane Crisp 11
Alick Crisp 3
Bolivar Crisp 16
We see that the child named Bolivar born 1854 in the slave list matches with Bolivar Crisp born 1854 and residing in Colorado County, Texas in 1870.  He was the only young man named Bolivar in the 1870 census of Colorado County.

A fascinating bit of history on John H. Crisp was found online at the following address and is excerpted here:
Here is the link:
"Perhaps no plantation had more difficulty making the adjustment from slave to hired labor than that of John H. Crisp. On June 25, Crisp visited Nathaniel Axion, who had been his slave and his foreman for eighteen years, informed him that he had been freed, and asked him to stay and work for wages on the plantation. He also asked Axion to inform his other former slaves that they were free and to make them the same offer of employment. On July 4, 1865, Crisp held a barbecue on his plantation. In addition to his former slaves, many local people and two officers of the 23rd Iowa, including the commander, Major Leonard B. Houston, attended. At the barbecue, Crisp evidently urged the slaves to stay on his plantation as laborers until Christmas in return for food, clothing, and medical care. Some in attendance thought that the freedmen agreed to do so. But Axion and several other former slaves believed that they were to be paid as much as ten dollars a month. At the end of the year, Crisp refused to pay the freedmen anything other than the food, clothing, shelter, and medical care he had already provided. [Source Note 9]
Nonetheless, many if not most of the same freedmen agreed to work on the plantation again in 1866. This time, the terms of their employment were clear to everyone concerned: the freedmen would be compensated with 25% of the crop they produced. Crisp, however, had already begun looking for a way to continue the slave owning lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. At the end of the summer of 1865, he left for Brazil, where slavery was still legal, to evaluate the prospect of buying a plantation there and stocking it with slaves. He returned to Texas determined to relocate. Others considered following. On March 6, 1866, Crisp sold his plantation, complete with livestock and the 75% of the crop to which he was entitled to S. M. Baird, an attorney who had recently opened an office in Columbus, for $20,000. Baird was to pay Crisp on June 1, but evidently failed to do so. Crisp cast around for another buyer and finally found one, in Rufus King Gay and his wife, Bettie Munn Gay, who bought the plantation for $10,000 on April 15, 1867. On June 28, he sold his part of the growing crop, the livestock, and the farming implements to Thomas C. Hanford and Charles D. Willard for another $9165.[Source Note 10]."
Nathaniel born 1844 is found toward the top of the slave list.  No immediate results were found for him in the 1870 census.  A wildcard search was performed for all men with names beginning with "Nat" but nothing appeared to match to Nathaniel born 1844.

The source notes for the quoted history show that the library in Columbus has a fantastic historical archive: Barry A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus. This is an excellent example of local preservation. I forwarded a copy of this slave list to the director of the library to add to their archive.

This slave list could keep me busy for months trying to search all of the names and the descendants. Unfortunately this is about all I can do for now.  I would certainly be happy to accept inquiries and volunteers.  I will continue to publish these slave lists in future posts.  If you are interested in helping to uncover their stories, please contact me.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Black Elephant Saloon

 A strange confluence of events has occurred over the last week regarding the Black Elephant Saloon. I have blogged before about the "Mysterious Bob Sloan: His Journey from Slavery to Freedom and Beyond."  I used my research on Bob Sloan as the basis for a presentation on Saturday, April 9, 2016 to the Houston Chapter of the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society.  Newspaper research at the Portal to Texas History was one of the techniques discussed.  This 1892 advertisement from the Brenham Banner shows that Bob Sloan was the co-owner of the Black Elephant Saloon in Brenham, Texas.

Brenham Daily Banner. (Brenham, Tex.), Vol. 17, No. 229, Ed. 1 Sunday, December 25, 1892; ( : accessed April 18, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,
Later in the week, we watched the online full episode of  the TLC show "Who Do You Think You Are" featuring the ancestors of Aisha Tyler.   Her ancestor, Hugh B. Hancock owned a saloon in Austin, Texas called the "Black Elephant."  The name of the saloon has an obvious political overtone as most blacks were members of the "party of Lincoln" in the 19th century.

Aisha Tyler stands in front of the Hugh B. Hancock House in Austin, Texas
Social Historian, Christine Sismondo, revealed to Ms. Tyler that "politics happened in almost every saloon."  Segregated saloons served as a safe refuge for the discussion of current events.

The TLC show uses academic experts to reveal documents and facts about ancestors.

Aisha Tyler discovers that her ancestor owned the Black Elephant Saloon as shown here in the Austin City Directory.
Curiosity led me to wonder if there were any more saloons with the moniker "Black Elephant." Returning to the Portal to Texas History, a search of the exact phrase "Black Elephant Saloon" found 23 matches.  The first result was the application materials submitted to the Texas Historical Commission requesting a historic marker for the Hugh B. Hancock House, in Austin, Texas.  The materials include the inscription text of the marker, original application, narrative, and photographs. Ms. Tyler might find that document about her ancestor of interest.

As I scrolled down the list, there was newspaper evidence of Black Elephant saloons in Brenham, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, El Paso and Houston.  Even Fulda and Hunter had businesses with the name Black Elephant.  There were so many "Black Elephants" that it seemed that someone had developed a franchise for the "brand."

A Google search revealed that the material culture from these saloons are valuable and rare. The "Black Elephant" collectibles included an old bottle, a trade token and a letter.

Here are some of the articles and images that I found that referenced Black Elephant:

El Paso International Daily Times (El Paso, Tex.), Vol. 12, No. 291, Ed. 1 Wednesday, December 21, 1892,  ( : accessed April 18, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,

The Black Elephant saloon in Houston was on the corner of Milam and Preston streets.
The Galveston Daily News. (Galveston, Tex.), Vol. 44, No. 161, Ed. 1 Friday, October 2, 1885, Sequence: 3 | The Portal to Texas History

The Sunday Gazetteer. (Denison, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 38, Ed. 1 Sunday, January 13, 1884, Sequence: 1 | 
The Portal to Texas History

The San Antonio bartender opened fire with a derringer.
The Houston Post. (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 29, No. 327, Ed. 1 Wednesday, February 24, 1915, Sequence: 4 | 
The Portal to Texas History

The Black Elephant hotel in Fulda, Texas is mentioned here.
The Seymour News (Seymour, Tex.), Vol. 11, No. 24, Ed. 1 Friday, April 27, 1900, Sequence: 4 | 
The Portal to Texas History

This old bottle from the Black Elephant in San Antonio was described as a "picnic flask."
This token collector offered an extensive provenance with his Ft. Worth trade token.

Rusk Street in Fort Worth was the center of prostitution, gambling & saloons in Hell's Half Acre and the street was renamed Commerce Street in 1917 due to the bad reputation. 
"For foul filth, nothing in the Acre can compare with the Black Elephant." Ft Worth Record Dec 30, 1906 cited in Richard Selcer: "Legendary Watering Holes. The Saloons That Made Texas Famous," Page 281 note 13

The 1902-1904 City Directory of  Ft. Worth, Texas shows MONT DAVIS (c) running his Saloon at 1407 RUSK - Richard Burns (c) was his bartender in 1904 - Richard Burns had also been a Porter at the White Elephant Saloon in 1885. By 1902 he was a bartender at the Gray Mule Saloon run by Lucius R. Gillespie (c) at 110 E. 9th. ~ per John Byars

The (c) abbreviation in the early city directories identifies the African Americans (colored).

[ca. 1900] The right facade of the Black Elephant Saloon at theintersection of Flores and Nueva streets, San Antonio, Texas. Black and white. San Antonio Conservation Society

Letterhead from the "Black Elephant Saloon" in San Antonio, Texas. Dated October 26, 1893.

The letterhead shows P. Magadieu as Proprietor. Dealer in Wines, Liquors and Cigars; "Old Kentucky Bourbon Whisky a Specialty".  The saloon was located at 137 South Flores, corner West Nueva, one block south of Military Plaza. The letter is signed by Paul Magadieu, the Proprietor of the saloon. The letter is written in the French language which indicates that the proprietor of this saloon was white.  Did he cater to African Americans?

The auction site also listed the following:
Condition: Very Good
BIN Price $30.00
Time Left: Closed Sun Dec-19-2010
This User is Not Active Or Suspended

Here is another newspaper article that references the term "black elephant" as a metaphor for black suffrage and the black political office holders that resulted in Washington, D.C.

Negro suffrage is described in this 1874 U.S. Senate debate as a "curse."
The Galveston Daily News. (Galveston, Tex.), Vol. 34, No. 300, Ed. 1 Tuesday, December 22, 1874, Sequence: 2 | The Portal to Texas History

It would be interesting to find out if African American saloons in other states besides Texas used the name "Black Elephant."  The Oklahoma newspaper site shows the term used in several articles in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Guthrie Daily Leader. (Guthrie, Okla.), Vol. 15, No. 98, Ed. 1, Tuesday, March 27, 1900, Sequence: 8 |
The Gateway to Oklahoma History

The terminology in this article leads me to believe that there may have been a trade sign with an elephant symbol in front of the "Black Elephant" in Guthrie.  

The bottom line is that many businesses in at least two states were known as the "Black Elephant." The saloon in Fort Worth was established in 1885 by West Mayweather, a black saloon keeper. He opened the Black Elephant on the opposite end of Main Street from the White Elephant which was founded a year earlier. Richard Selcer on page 276 of his book "A History of Fort Worth in Black & White," states that "whites could patronize the Black Elephant but never vice versa."   Much more needs to be written about the history of these early businesses in the African American communities.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Heritage travel- Salt Lake City and beyond

Some of my fondest travel memories have been related to history and genealogy. Especially memorable were the family trips that we took with my parents to the gold mining towns in the California foothills.  Dad instilled me with a passion for stopping at every historical marker.  Our most fantastic heritage travel expedition to date was our trip to discover our roots in Ireland in 2008.  I am currently helping a client prepare for a trip to Genoa, Italy.

The Family History Library at dusk.

We are planning a trip to Salt Lake City which is known throughout the world as the "Mecca of Genealogy."  Alex Haley visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in the research process for his novel, "Roots" in the 1970's.  He probably did more than anyone else to popularize Salt Lake City on the genealogy road map.  The Family History Library has served as a magnet which has attracted a very large concentration of professional genealogists.  A quick search of the directory at the Association of Professional Genealogists shows 130 professionals that reside in Utah.

Home page of the Association of Professional Genealogists

We have been to Salt Lake City many times throughout the years.  Most of these visits have centered upon research at the Family History Library but we always enjoy the historic sites and museums in the surrounding area.  One of our favorites is Park City which got its start as a mining town. Many of the buildings on the main street are preserved historic structures that have been reused as retail and dining establishments. 

Park City, Utah
Park City became world famous as a venue for the 2002 Olympic games.  The Utah Olympic Park hosted the bobsled, skeleton, luge, ski jumping, and Nordic combined events. Last summer, we watched the ski jumpers practice by somersaulting and landing in a swimming pool.

Summer time ski jumpers at Utah Olympic Park

Our trip to Utah creates a unique opportunity for me to offer research to my clients in the largest collection of genealogy books and microfilm in the world.  It is also an opportunity for me as a genealogy professional to network with some of my peers.  And of course the blog topics will be virtually unlimited.

As defined by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, “Cultural heritage tourism is traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes cultural, historic, and natural resources.”  I would love to hear about your most memorable heritage travel.  If you do not have a story to tell yet, I would like to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

Please contact me for all of your genealogical research needs. If you will be in Salt Lake City area in early May, please let me know.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Courtroom Drama in My Life


These are the words that appeared on my summons for jury duty.  Courthouses have played a central role in my life, partly by choice and partly by happenstance. This jury summons has caused me to ponder and reflect on my personal and professional connections to courthouses.  Perhaps I am about to play a role in a courtroom drama.  There has certainly been plenty of drama that has played out in courthouses in my family history.

Washoe County Courthouse, Reno, Nevada has been the stage for many of the dramas in my family history.

When I became a genealogist in Reno, Nevada in 1989, it became immediately apparent that courthouses contained many documents that would illuminate the lives of my ancestors.  Land and probate documents continue to be my favorites. The idea that my ancestors had owned significant amounts of land has always intrigued me and made me wonder how land ownership in this country has changed throughout our history.  I have always enjoyed being able to place my ancestor's land on a current map and to walk on the same ground that my agrarian ancestors tilled and planted. Wills and probate documents have been particularly helpful in providing confirmation of family relationships.   Historically, courthouses have recorded many details of the lives of our ancestors.  Courthouses continue to be important places that record our lives today.

My first personal connection with courtroom drama was in 1970 when my parents were divorced.  I was the oldest child and I remember being interviewed by the judge during the subsequent child custody proceedings. It was an extremely difficult situation for me as a teenager to be placed in the middle of this conflict between my parents.  As my research into my family history progressed, it became clear that divorce is a multi-generational dysfunction that has affected at least five generations of my family.   Researching my family history has helped me to avoid repeating the mistakes of my ancestors.

Sacramento County Courthouse at 720 9th Street built in 1965.

Ironically, many of the marriages and the divorces in our family were processed in the Washoe County Courthouse in Reno, Nevada. My first job in Reno began in 1982.  I was the Energy Manager for the Washoe County Department of General Services.  One of my most memorable assignments was to perform an energy conservation design review for a courtroom remodel in the historic county courthouse on Virginia Street.  Reno became famous as a divorce mecca in the 1930's.  My maternal grandmother went to that same courthouse to process her divorce in 1937.

The historic California State Building is now known as the Earl Warren Building
in honor of the former California Governor and U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Perhaps the most dramatic judicial moment in my life was when I became the building manager for the California Supreme Court in San Francisco in 1998.  This courtroom drama was precipitated by a cataclysmic earthquake that was felt at our house in Reno in 1989. We were watching our beloved San Francisco Giants on television when the screen went black.  The epicenter was on the Loma Prieta fault in California.  The damage from this earthquake led to the eventual shutdown of the California State Building in San Francisco.

The Earl Warren Building was shrouded in scaffolding when I arrived as building manager in 1998.
Construction was well under way on this 1.2 million square foot office and courtroom complex by the time I arrived in January of 1998.  The building was shrouded in scaffolding and construction fencing but you could see that something great was in progress. I helped to organize a ceremony to mark the official opening of the newly renovated state building complex in the San Francisco Civic Center which was held on December 10, 1998.  The ceremony was the culmination of nine years of planning and construction by my predecessors and 12 months of effort by my operations, maintenance and security teams to commission the new buildings.

The San Francisco Civic Center plaza is in the foreground in this view of the Earl Warren Building as it appeared in a recent photo on Wikipedia.  
The State of California spent $246 million dollars to renovate and expand this complex that houses the headquarters of the California Supreme Court.  The San Francisco Civic Center complex is a showplace of art and architecture which also houses the headquarters for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Judicial Council, Department of Industrial Relations and regional offices for the Governor and Attorney General.  This was my duty and my domain for over a decade.

What courtroom drama awaits me now?  If I get picked for a jury, it will be a first for me.  My duties with the State of California included a period where I was responsible for the local courthouses in 16 Bay area and north coast counties.  I worked to provide the facility needs of court executives and judges in the Superior Courts from Monterey Bay to the Oregon border.  I spent a lot of my professional life in courtrooms and jury assembly rooms.   This will be my first time in a jury assembly room in Texas.  I look forward to the opportunity!


The jury assembly room in Galveston was filled with over 200 people.  At the end of the selection process, only 20 people remained in the room.  My name was never called!  I joked that it was time to buy a lottery ticket even if I am philosophically opposed to the idea.  I called in every night from Monday through Friday and was never called for jury duty.  I was only slightly disappointed that I managed to avoid more courtroom drama in my life.