Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Sarah Holmes- 1615 New Jersey Ave NW- Dead End

So the goal of this exercise is to look up Truxton Circle African American home owners in the 1920 census and find out as much as I can, and share it with you. In this post I hit a dead end, but I was sent on a chase and I’m going to share that with you too.

The Black American I was going to look up was Sarah Holmes of 1615 New Jersey Ave NW. She was a 49 year old widowed charwoman living with her 3 daughters, son-in-law and son. It was unclear if she owned or not in the census.


I looked up her surname for Sq. E0509. I came up with a couple of Holmes. Of the female names that popped up were Nancy G. and Gertrude E. I eliminated Nancy because those records were from 1959-1960. This left me with Gertrude E. Holmes who had early 1920s records.

At times I have discovered women will change up their first names. Like myself, they may drop their first name for their middle name. They may go from Katerine to Catherine and so forth. I was hoping this was the cases, nope.

Gertrude E. Holmes was a white woman from Michigan married to Patrick Holmes and they lived at 1016 Douglas St. in DC. She and her husband owned several lots, on R St NW. So that’s a dead end.


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: George G. Harris- 1511 1st St NW

Currently, what is left of lot 230 on Square 615 is part of 85-89 P St NW’s backyard. So this is one of those addresses that no longer exist.

George G. Harris and his wife Roberta both of Virginia. He was born in Fairfax, she Prince William county. He was born in 1872 the son of a farmer Anthony Harris and Sarah Harris. She in 1874, the daughter of Manassas laborer, Charles, and housekeeper, Roberta Coleman.

In 1900 George was a school teacher, living with his parents and siblings in Centerville, VA. They were married in 1904 in Prince William, VA. At the time Roberta was a 30 year old widow with a son named Benjamin Chavers. By 1910 the family was at 32A O St NW as George worked for the Post Office. By the 1920 census, when they lived at 1511 1st St NW,  George’s stepson had taken on his surname as Benjamin Harris, a 27 year old young man working as a chauffeur. George was still working at the Post Office for both the 1920 and 1930 census. Roberta passed away December 27, 1933.

The online DC Recorder of Deeds records go back to 1921, and the earliest record for 1511 1st St NW is a 1924 release for a March 1919 debt to trustees with Washington Loan and Trust Co. This is followed by a 1924 trust (loan) with trustees, with names I’ve seen several times, Henry H. Bergmann and Chapin Brown, with the Oriental Building Association. It looks like the Harris borrowed $2400. There are several more trusts and releases between 1924 and 1935.

In 1937 there are two deeds. It looks like the purpose of the two deeds were to acknowledge the death of Roberta Harris and to add George’s new wife Beulah E. Harris (formerly the widow Beulah E. Jetter) to the deed. They married December 31, 1936. But  by 1940 she was living a few blocks away at 1719 2nd St NW with the Adams family (in-laws).

Not sure what was going on with this 2nd marriage. There is no mention of Beulah in the releases George paid off in 1947. But these were trusts that were signed before the marriage.

The Harris name last appears in 1970. Supposedly they sell the property to the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency. I say supposedly because the document isn’t there. The correct one is not the one shown, but the metadata says they sold it to RLA. Beulah could have signed the document as she didn’t die until 1984.


1957 Church Survey: John Wesley AME Church

This church is the one next to Le Diplomat.

Back in 1957 there was a survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, a precursor to the Shaw Urban Renewal Area, and John Wesley AME was one of the churches surveyed. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

photo of property

John Wesley AME is still at the corner of Corcoran and 14th St NW at 1615 14th St NW. It is still a Black church. However there has been a slight name change, they added Zion after AME. Their church history doesn’t tell when the name change came about.

In 1957, John Wesley AME was a big church claiming 4,000 members. With most of those members living in other parts of NW Washington, DC.

CS 24 John Wesley AME by Mm Inshaw


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Otho E Peters- 81 P St NW

In this case, not only was Otho Peters a Black home owner, he was also a doctor. If you consider pharmacists doctors. It’s 1920, so the rules may have been different.

Dr. E. Otho Peters would give health talks around town. That is what I could tell from looking him up in various publications. I discovered there was a publication called National Negro Health News. In the October-December 1946 edition of National Negro Health News, Dr. Peters is mentioned as heading Metropolitan Baptist Church’s health program. None of these publications cough up a photo of him and most are about the program his started at Metropolitan.

photo of property

He also had an office on the next block at 100 P St NW, as an optician. In 1920 he was a druggist. In 1922 (where I found the ad in the Howard yearbook) he was an optician. Maybe medicine wasn’t so hyper specialized back then or a Black doctor could wear all sorts of hats. I don’t know.

So in 1920 Dr. Peters was living with his wife, Clara (ne Clara R. Wilson) who hailed from Massachusetts. They were newlyweds having been married on March 8, 1919, it was at least his second marriage. Also in the house was his new mother in law, the widow, Mary A. Wilson.

Looking back for the wife he divorced, I went to the 1910 census. He was a 25 year old lodger living at 939 R St NW working as a porter for a drug store. But looking for his past was hard. He changed up his birth year. In the 1920 census his estimated birth year is 1888 in West Virginia. The 1910 census has him at 1885 in Virginia. Then there is a variation on his name that pops up, E Otho Peters Jr.’s WW2 draft registration has his birth place as Martinsburg, PA in 1893. The other Othos would have been far too young to father a child. His contact person is Mrs. C. Roma Peters at 3335 Sherman Ave NW. He was also unemployed at the time (1942). I did find an Evening Star (9/11/1942) that stated Mrs. Peters was an artist and a well known singer(?). Her background says she was a teacher before marrying. This guy (and his wife) seem hard to pin down so I’ll end the genealogical portion here.

Let’s see what the land records say. The Recorder of Deeds land records go back to 1921, and the earliest record there are two 1923 trusts. I’m getting the feeling, looking at the trusts, that the property was in Clara’s name and Otho was added. That’s the ‘feeling’ I’m getting. I could be wrong. Anywho in the two March 1923 trusts were for $3500 and $1200 borrowed from individually named trustees at 7% interest. One of those trustees, Walter R. Wilcox is named on both of the trusts.

A release from April 1923 paid a March 17, 1921 debt in both Otho and Clara’s names. There are several more trusts and releases for years 1923, 1924, and 1925.

The Peters sell their home in November 1925 to William W. McClaine, another African American.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: John C Weekly- 79 P St NW

I should make a tag for Black home owning food service workers of Truxton Circle. In 1920 one did not need to have a fancy job to own a home in Truxton Circle. There have been several waiters and the odd cook who owned reasonably decent homes in this DC neighborhood, and John C. Weekly, waiter, was no different.

photo of property

John Clauzell Weekly was born August 27, 1876 in northern Florida. It appears he and his older brother Charles, were raised by their grandparents William and Ellen Cole in Pensacola, FL. He married Mary Emma, who was born in Alabama, probably in Florida as that is where they lived in 1900 with their 3 year old son Gerner/ Garner. In 1910 the family was still in Florida where John was working as a bartender in a saloon. Around 1917/1918 they had moved to Truxton Circle but were living at 209 O St NW. After that, they moved to 79 P St NW.

It appears they were members of Ebenezer M.E. Church at 4th and D, SE. It was where funeral services for Mary Emma were held.

When I took a quick look at the DC Recorder of Deeds online records, which go as far back as 1921, I saw a trustees deed. When I see that, it tells me the homeowners defaulted on their loan and their creditors auction off the property to a new owner. I’ve seen this a couple of times. However, it appears the Weeklys were able to save their home.

In June 1924 the Weekys took on two mortgage like debts. One was in both John C. and Mary E. Weekly’s names with individual trustees for $250.00. The other was solely in Mary E. Weekly’s name with the Columbia Building Association, for $2,500.

In March 1927, the trustees (the Columbia Building Assoc. isn’t mentioned) advertised the auctioning of 79 P St NW in the Evening Star. It appears Mary E. Weekly had defaulted on the loan. The winner of the auction was John C. Weekly, who paid $4550 for the privilege of not losing his home.

In 1925, Mary died. There is a deed from February 1925 where Mary’s only surviving sister, Missie Ervin of Chambers County, AL deeded her interest to John.

John married Diamond F. Blair in 1925. In 1933, John died. His widow Diamond sold the property in late 1939.


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Charles A Clark and Rudolph Blake- 137 P St NW

I already did Clark’s neighbor in a previous post- Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Harry R. Adams- 135 P St NW over in the pinkish house. So take a look at that after reading this on another Black American home owner.

photo of property

So Charles A. Clark and his wife Harriet A. (nee Dixon) Clark were property owners. But I did not find proof they owned 137 P St NW. A name search in the land records database that goes back to 1921, has their names all over square 479, lot 15, which is in Shaw and no longer exists. Looking at the Library of Congress map, it looks like they owned 1419 6th St NW, where the Springfield Baptist Church currently sits. The Clarks were on 6th St for the 1930 census. And long story short, they lose that house in 1931 by defaulting on some large debts.

So who did own 137 P St NW? Rudolph Smoyer Blake and Ida Brown Blake.

They too were African American. During the 1920 census when the Clarks were living at 137 P, the newly married (12/29/1919 in NC) Blakes were living as lodgers at 310 F St NW. He was working a as mail clerk for the railway and she and assistant for a printer. By 1930, they were living at 137 P St NW with their 8 year old daughter Jeannette Brown Blake. Rudolph was still a clerk for the railway post office and Ida became a homemaker. During the 1940s, they remained at 137 P St NW. Rudolph died around or before 1946, leaving Ida a widow. She sold the home in 1948 to Thomas and his wife Willie B. Coleman. Ida passed away January 8, 1949, according to land records regarding other properties she owned.

A little side note about their daughter. Jeannette married Joseph Burton Moore in 1947. They divorced. Later, she married some fellow named Barbour. Third time was the charm, in December 1959 she married David Norwood Reed. She died in 2004 as Mrs. Reed.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: John R. Duffey- 71 P St NW

Bear with me in this post of Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle because this is a situation with the lot numbers that changed. The main owner John R. Duffey owned lots 807, 0025 and 0026 on Square 615. The house 71 P St NW is mainly on lot 0807, but it looks like the property lines don’t line up with the rowhouses.

What this means is I have to look at the lot now associated with the address, 807, and the two other lots that the house at 71 P also sit on.

photo of property

Let’s look at the history of lot 807. The on-line land records go back to 1921. The first record for 807 is a February 1933 trustees deed. Dang. Right out of the gate and game over. The Duffeys, John R. and Mattie A. Duffey defaulted on a debt, owing $4,200. The Washington Housing Corporation picked up the house and later sold it in December 1933.

Next let’s look at lot 25. There is another property owner mentioned and I will ignore them. The first for the Duffeys is a December 1921 trust for $325.00 and the legal description of the property is 0615/0026 and 0615/0025. June 1922, John and Mattie borrowed another $340.00 from the same trustees, with the same two lots mentioned. October 1922, they borrowed $125.00 from the same trustees. July 1925, the Duffeys borrow $2,500 through the Perpetual Building Association and the same month they got a release for all those tiny loans between 1921-1922. There were several more trusts and releases until the 1933 trustees deed. When looking at lot 26 there are a lot of the same documents for lot 25.

The seeds of the 1933 trustees deed began with a May 1927 trust where the Duffeys borrow $4000 from trustees George F. Hane and William K. Hill. It was the May 1927 debt that was mentioned in the 1933 trustees deed, and the debt had grown to $4200.

And that’s how the Duffeys lost their home.

But who were the Duffeys?

John Robert Duffey was born March 6, 1874 in Boyds, MD to John H. Duffey and Maria J. Hackett. John married Mamie/Mattie A. Warren in 1892. In 1900 the Duffeys were living in Clarksburg, MD with their 3 children, Arthur C., John M. and Rubie E. John was working as a farm laborer to support the family.

They had moved by the 1910 census to Washington, DC where John was a driver and Mattie was a laundress. They lived somewhere called Drapers Court. Around 1917/1918 they moved to P St but lived at 53 P St NW, not 71. John was then working as a porter for a business called Browning and Middleton.

In the 1930 census, Ruby Duffey, was the head of household working as a teacher. Her 59 year old father John, and 36 year old brother Arthur were not employed. Her mother Mattie worked as a servant for a private family. They had a 16 year old lodger living with the family.

By 1940, public school teacher Ruby Duffey (also Duffy), her parents, and her other brother John Maynard Duffey rented a home at 1924 17th St NW. At that point in John and Mattie’s lives they were retired. Their son John was working as a skilled laborer for the city post office. Despite the loss of their home in 1933, the Duffeys had moved on.

Lessons Learned from Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle- Don’t leave property to a bunch of people

Okay, I have a pet peeve and I want to get it off my chest. So I have been documenting the property transactions of African American home owners from the 1920 census who lived in this Washington, DC neighborhood of Truxton Circle. Do I understand the records I’m looking at? Not 100% but I can tell there is some problem when the home owner I am tracking leaves their home to more than one person.

I have a sense of what the owner might have been thinking if they left a will. Maybe they wanted to treat all their children equally. Maybe they wanted to leave something to all the people in their lives who meant something and the only thing of great value they had was their home. That’s sweet. But the problem is all their adult children don’t want to live together in the same house they grew up in.

What I see in the land records are papers where all the heirs have to sign off to let one family member have the property. Or all the heirs, and their spouses, sell the property.

Now let me dig and find something useful from my graduate education. I learned why pre-industrial and industrial England was more prosperous than France and it was because of primogeniture. Primogeniture was when the first born (usually male heir) get the main land, properties, and business interest of the deceased. Second plus sons and daughters were lucky to get an allowance, small plots of land or what have you, but not the main prize. This meant the farm was not broken up. Whereas in France, they broke up the farms and the lands into smaller portions, which meant they were less productive.

So back to Truxton Circle. One could theoretically divide a house if it were a two unit structure. So far I have not seen that.

What I have seen with other property owners of Truxton Circle, are requests to allow wives/widows to remain in the home until their death while the named heir holds the title.

In conclusion, the inheriting parties sell the property or transfer it to one of the heirs, who later sells the property.  So one may as well direct the sale of the property and have the proceeds divvied up equally by the heirs and save everyone the headache.

Because of another TC related side project the generational wealth that TC property gives is not in the property itself. It may be more the idea of having property and being a homeowner. My parents are still alive so I’m not getting their old ramshackle house any time soon. But they provided an example of the idea of owning one’s own home.

Examples of several heirs- Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Annie Brown 69 N St NW

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Wallace J. Broadas- 1607 New Jersey Ave NW

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Malinda Powell- 71 N St NW

1957 Church Survey: Holy Redeemer Catholic Church- Close to but not in Truxton Circle/Shaw

I would pass by Holy Redeemer when riding the 96 bus. It is just across the border from the Truxton Circle/ Shaw/ Mt. Vernon Sq. on the other side of New York Ave NW.

Front of Holy Redeemer Church in Washington DCIn 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area we’ll call Swampoodle. One of the churches was Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

According to Holy Redeemer’s own history, the church was dedicated in October 1922. It was and still is a primarily African American church.

CS 27 Holy Redeemer Catholic by Mm Inshaw

So let’s look at the survey for Holy Redeemer. The location hasn’t changed, it’s still at 206 New York Ave NW. It had three priests, a full time janitor, a full time housekeeper and a membership of 2,500 souls. A majority of the membership lived in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area and the rest (40%) lived in other parts of DC. Most of that 40% was living between Georgia Ave and 37th NW. Another majority in the church were white collar workers.


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Annie Brown- 69 N St NW

When we meet Annie Brown, owner of 69 N St NW, in the 1920 census, she is already a widow of the late Thomas Brown who died on December 27, 1917. She was a laundress, a common working class profession of Black women at that time.

photo of property

She did not remain a widow for long. In 1921 she married a much older Benjamin H. Harris, aka BH Harris. Annie was born around 1872 and BH around 1855.

In the 1920 census Annie lived alone. In the 1930 census she lived at 69 N St NW with her 75 year old husband BH, their 16 year old niece, Susie Vessels, and two roomers. She was still working as a laundress and he was a watchman for the post office. By 1931, both Annie and BH are dead.

Looking at the land records that go back to 1921, in July 1925 Annie Brown had a trust (borrowing money) with the Perpetual Building Association for $2,300. This is followed by a release in July 1925 of an August 1915 debt. She had another release from August 1925 which released a June 1913 debt and the document mentioned death of Thomas Brown. She has another trust (borrowing) from July 1929 with her new name of Annie Brown Harris. She borrowed $396.00 from trustees at 6%;  In a June 1930 trust Annie Brown Harris and BH Harris borrow $306.00 at 6%. We can surmise that she and BH have died by June 1931.

The June 1931 document had  Maria Hill, Molly L. Johnson, Ida King, Lucy J. King, Bessie Vessels, the wife of, William  L. Vessels in control of the property. This list of people were all of King & Queen County, VA  but at that time her property hadn’t cleared probate. They borrowed or took out a bond, I’m not sure, $3250 from the New York Title and Mortgage company. That same month they borrowed $1250 from trustees from the Percy H. Russell Co, Inc. In  October 1931 the heirs pay off (release) her May 1930, April 1929 and July 1925 debts. In June 1932, they sell to Inez J. and James C. Powell.