Meaningless Carter G. Woodson Post

So I was rooting around in my electronic files and found this. I’m still pecking away at the Black Home Owners of 1940 in Truxton Circle, but 9th Street NW is more Logan Circle, than our triangular section of Shaw. So, no surprise. Carter G. Woodson, noted African American historian was a home owner, tax payer on Square 365.

That’s all. Visit his house if you’re bored. Make the National Park Service’s investment in the place worth it. They are open Sunday, Thursday and Saturday.

Should Your Property Taxes Go Up 50%+ a Year? Because, Racism

1500 First Street.JPGOnce upon a time in DC parts of the city experienced gentrification. Homeowners who had lived in the city through the crack years, the control board, or got in before the house prices went to crazy town began to experience unpleasant surprises year after year. Say their home that they may have bought for $75K was being assessed at $100K one year, then about $300K the next when the owners did not do any improvements to their home. I remember neighbors who bought their home for something around $200K , later got an assessment of $500K. Of course, people freaked the hell out, because their property taxes kept jumping up and up, near 50%. Some going from several hundred one year to several thousand dollars a few years later. If you’re a lower or low middle income homeowner, this is a very good reason to freak the hell out.

A tool to stop the freaking out and accusations that the city was trying to push out long time homeowners with high property taxes was the 10% cap. A DC homeowner’s taxes cannot go higher than 10% each year, regardless of how much the city thinks their house is worth.

So the DC Policy Center is saying the 10% cap is wrong and possibly racist. It seems to defy logic. They attacked the homestead deduction and failed to show how these things directly related to racism.

There also is some misleading language. In DC there is a homestead deduction, in some other places such a thing is called a homestead exemption, usually it’s a discount off the full tax bill for resident homeowners. Exemption does not mean no taxes are paid, the report seems to hint that it is in not being clear. Another word, “elude” or “eludes”, which according the the dictionary means, “evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way; (of an idea or fact) fail to be grasped or remembered by (someone); (of an achievement, or something desired or pursued) fail to be attained by (someone).”. The claim, “Home ownership and the wealth associated with it eludes communities of color, ” irritated me. I totally acknowledge home ownership is challenging, but DC is frickin’ filled with opportunities for those who are first time home owners that other places don’t have, so much that it is worth another post to go through them.

United States Census – People Lie

One morning on the radio, NPR was doing a story on a question about citizenship to be included on the 2020 census. I understand the worry, as there is the thought that census data was used to help round up Japanese residents and their American born children and put them in internment camps in the desert. My first thought hearing the story is, people could just lie. Digging down into the data for my on-going, long term neighborhood history project I’m noticing this.

People lie about their age. People lie about being married. Some people may be flexible in the racial group they identify with (Lucky C. Young I’m looking at you), which could be interpreted by some as lying about their race.

I’m trying to clean up data for a the Truxton Circle neighborhood history project where I look at the US census for every resident of my neighborhood. In this clean up attempt, I’m encountering lies and things that look like untruths. Take for example my attempt to hunt down Spencer Heywood. According to the 1940 census Spencer Heywood, a 50 year old self employed barber from Georgia who lived at 1649 3rd St in DC with his wife Ethel Heywood, a 37 year old government maid from Arkansas. According to the census he was a home owner. Outside of the 1940 Census, I can’t find any other record of the man. Now Ethel on the other hand….. In 1930 the residents of 1649 3rd St were 41 year old rail road worker Saunders Thomas, and his 30 year old wife Ethel, who owned their home. According to property records, Ethel shows up as the owner in 1924. No mention of a husband. In later records, Ethel and Sanders appear as owners. But in a 1972, when the Redevelopment Land Agency buys her house to (I assume) bulldoze it, the record stated that Ethel Louise Heywood (formerly Ethel Louise Thomas) was the unmarried widow of Saunder Frank Thomas, who died in 1934. Soooooooo, who was that guy at her house in 1940?

Now, I’m just guessing here. She may have been shacked up with some guy named Spencer. Was that the US Federal government business if she did? She was incorrect about her age being 30 years old in 1930 but only 37 in 1940. One of those ages is wrong, but what is it to the government?

This is not a call for people to lie about their citizenship status or any other field on the census. No, please don’t do that. Leaving it blank is a perfectly good answer. Just recognizing that people do and will put in incorrect information in the US Census. And not just the census, other documents I use, like city directories, land records and newspaper articles probably contain misstatements, fictions, and errors. It’s frustrating when you are trying to hunt down someone in the record. I do understand reasons for misstatements for things where the respondent isn’t getting anything of value in return, because some questions are intrusive and probably none of my business, but I really want to know what someone made in 1940 and how much education they had.

I’m reminded of a professor’s whose name I’ve forgotten who wanted me to be more critical of primary documents. Most of the time, 99% of the time, I trust the primary documents. But as I encounter these things with conflicting information, or lies, depending on my mood at the time, my general faith in the documents goes from 99% to 75%. The professor wanted me to take into account the biases of the document creators, and how I shouldn’t just give the benefit of the doubt.

This is an edited reprint of a post published elsewhere.

Ancestry.com’s indexing is not perfect

Anyone want to help me, or maybe yourself, if you are into this sort of history? Here are two problems I’ve discovered with the Ancestry.com indexing, which is what I’ve used and depended on for the Truxton Circle history project I’ve been working on. Two problems are, names and streets. I hope that DC residents with an Ancestry.com account will correct the addresses. You can correct problems  even with a free account.

Bad Indexing- Names

Back in a previous post Black Homeowners of 1940: College Educated Women Part 1, the case of Clementine Plummer highlighted to a bad indexing. Someone, via Ancestry, said her name was Christine Plummer.  Seriously?! My indexers, my cousin and a former colleague Karen, helped index the 1940 census for me, so my records are from the days when the 1940 census first came out. This change to Christine is some later change, because I and the indexers used Ancestry’s earlier index.  See line 59, from page 10B, does that look like a Christine? Maybe? Look closer. It’s Clementine.

Bad Indexing- Addresses

I’ve also discovered bad addresses. I’ve found P Street as D Street, and Frista Street, for First street. Some pages it will be fine, and on other pages it’s just wrong. I’ve gone back and changed the street to the correct one, based on my knowledge of what streets exist in Truxton Circle, and if you live here too you know them too. But I just changed them for the heads of household.

If you use Ancestry.com you may already know how to do these suggested corrections. So please just take a look in Truxton Circle, if you want to know which pages to look at just contact me at mari at inshaw.com

 

Lincoln Congregational Temple Closes- Don’t blame gentrification

Churches close.

typesof1957churchesThere are dozens of churches that existed in general Shaw area in the 1950s that are no longer around. Some church congregations moved, some churches are closed by their denomination, there are a variety of reasons. The Lincoln Memorial Congregational Temple at 11th and R St NW, 2-3 blocks from the Shaw metro R Street exit had its last service this weekend.

The Washington Post made mention of gentrification in its article about the church’s last days. There isn’t a direct blaming of gentrification, but there is a lot of hinting. The church attempted to reach out to neighbors, added some programing but couldn’t get the membership numbers up after the Rev. Benjamin E. Lewis retired. Yes, parking pressures didn’t help. But looking back at the 1957 Church Survey (PDF), Lincoln UCC church members mostly lived outside of the Shaw neighborhood.

1957ChurchMapThe Church Survey from October 1957 looked at steeple, storefront and residential houses of worship from a block over from U St, Florida Ave, 14th St NW, Mass Ave and 2nd St NE. Lincoln UCC was one and in 1957, 74% of parishioners lived outside of the map in Brookland and Kenilworth. Those 25%  who did live in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area were reported to be elderly members, who should be more than dead right now. Don’t blame the demographic changes on the church’s decline.

When doing neighborhood history, I encounter many quaint fictions. Most of them are harmless. There is the belief that residents are home owners. And there’s the idea that church congregants lived in walking distance. Some do, many don’t.  Bible Way Church, which stopped the I-395 from destroying Shaw and going all the way through, only had 30% of its members in the Urban Renewal area. Mt. Sinai who will host tonight’s BACA meeting, had 96% of its members scattered elsewhere in the city. The upper and middle class Blacks who supported and were a part of these churches did not all live in the slum that was Shaw.

Slugg- A book Truxton Circle should read

I was only halfway through the book when I thought, everyone in Truxton Circle, at least those in the Hanover Area, should read. It’s a book those who are buying the Chapman Stables Condos should consider reading, so they can appreciate (maybe) what was there before.

I didn’t suggest Slugg: A boy’s life in the age of incarceration by Truxton resident Tony Lewis Jr. because the last book our book group made was not in audio or e-book format. So I wasn’t at the last gathering, but whoever from our Truxton Circle reading group made a good choice.

It gives a history of the unit block of Hanover Street NW in the southern region of Truxton Circle in the 1980s and 1990s. The whole neighborhood has transformed since those decades and the Hanover area is still transforming. If you think the area is rough, because of S.O.M.E. and other things over there, Mr. Lewis tells his story of the violence witnessed and maybe some of the ‘why’ that violence was there.

It is a very easy read. I read the first chapter quickly and saved the rest of the book for a time when I could sit. I have an energetic 1 year old. I finished the rest of the book in one day and there are a lot of points I’d like to explore more in other blog posts.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Heywood/ Thomas- Updated & Corrected

UPDATE #2- Okay the Haywood/ Heywood confusion was on me and my note taking. So it was Heywood as in Hey! Wood. She also sold the property in 1972 not 1975 as reported earlier. The other confusion is I noticed the date of her husband and it is reflected in the amended post.

I was working on a longer post when I came to a hiccup. People. People are complicated.

So I have a person in the 1940 census named Spencer Heywood, a black man born in Georgia possibly in 1890. He’s a barber. He owns his own shop according to what his wife Ethel Heywood reported to the census. Problem is, I can’t find Spencer Heywood outside of the 1940 DC census. The other problem is the Sanborn map says his house 1649 3rd Street NW does not exist, city directories says it does. If it did exist, it doesn’t exist anymore because there is a Northwest Co-op on that spot.

Sometime the indexing is crazy, maybe his name was misspelled in this or another census. I checked the 1940 census and that area was covered by someone who wrote in clear block letters. Then I checked the property records using that his name. Nada for that time period.

I moved on to the wife, maybe if I can find her, I might be able to locate him. Oh, I found her, but I did not find Spencer anywhere. Ethel appears in the land records for Square 551 (where Mt. Sinai, Florida Park and the Co-op sit) with two names between 1924 and 1972. Ethel Louise Heywood exists in the records between 1950 and 1972, Ethel Louise Thomas is named as the owner of lot H, later lot 0909, between 1924 and 1950. The April 1950 deed links Ethel Heywood and Thomas together naming her as the widow of Sanders Frank Thomas. Another deed from 1944 also calls her the widow of Sanders Thomas. She’s the main owner, but Mr. Thomas is only mentioned again in 1933 and 1937. The earliest record makes no mention of a husband, she acts as a singular entity regarding the business of the property.

So who the hell is Spencer? Could Sanders be Spencer?

In the 1930 census at 1649 3rd St NW, 30 year old nurse Ethel Thomas of Arkansas is living with her husband Sanders Thomas, a 41 year old waiter and DC native, with a lodger Ruth Sweeney, a 40 year old laundress. In 1940 the two residents of 1649 3rd St NW are Ethel Heywood of Arkansas, a maid for the federal government and her husband and head of household, Spencer Thomas Heywood, the barber from Georgia.

According to the 1972 paperwork, Sanders Thomas died in 1934, before the 1940 census, and Ethel did not remarry.

1972 Deed transferring Sq 551 lot 0909 to RLA

I don’t think Spencer and Sanders are the same guy. Okay, who the Hell is Spencer?

My spouse has a crazy theory. He thinks Ethel was upset, leaving Sanders she walked over to a dance club and ran into Spencer Heywood. They hatched a plan to bump off Sanders. Initially, he supposed she went to the Baker’s Dozen on 4th Street to dance her cares away, until I pointed out it didn’t open until 1944, after the 1940 census, and after Thomas’ death. Finally that damned plaque is good for something.

 

UPDATE- So it’s Heywood in the Census but Haywood in the record.

Black Home Owners of 1940: College Educated Women part 2

Please see Part 1 to read about 2 of the 5 women listed as college educated homeowners in Truxton Circle.

So in this post I’m going to try to find the story behind the remaining women; Miss. Eliza Matthews (60) of 1239 New Jersey Ave NW; Mrs. Blanch Lewis (60) of 1225 New Jersey Ave NW; and Mrs. Lucille Powell (46) of 69 Hanover Place NW.

Ms. Matthews bought 1239 NJ Ave NW in 1922 for what appears to be $9,000. I’ll have to admit, I’m not 100% sure about the various documents I’m looking at, but it looks as if this single black woman was able to get a loan to buy this house at 7% APR. And I can’t tell if she refinanced or got a second mortgage in 1932 from the Washington Loan and Trust Company (Riggs Bank?) for $4,000. In the Census record her name appears to be Elira Matthews, who at the time was living with her ‘sister’, also aged 60, Josephine Butts. Sometime around 1948 Ms. Matthews died and in a will Josephine E. Saunders (nee Thomas) became the owner of the property. Is this Josephine a different Josephine? Curious.

 

Blanch Lewis, or Blanche I. Lewis was listed as the owner in the 1940 Census, but when looking at other records it doesn’t look as if she really owned the place. In 1937 Edward Wellington Lewis buys 1225 NJ Ave NW from Czech or Serbian couple Ivan and Dorothy Mikalaski. Looking back at other earlier census records for a Blanche Lewis, I found her living in 1910 with her father Edward W. Lewis Sr. and sister Harriet. In 1940 she is still with her 55 year old sister Harriet who was working as a teacher. I’m guessing the Edward W. Lewis who really owned 1225 was a brother, as her father would have been extraordinarily old by 1937. To purchase the property, the loan Edward takes out with the Washington Loan and Trust Company is for $2,500. By 1954 EW Lewis is dead. His siblings William and Harriet E. Lewis are his only surviving relatives mentioned in the land records. It is possible Blanche was a widow and either married another Lewis or changed her surname back, but I think the Lewis sisters were probably spinsters.

Lastly, Mrs. Lucille Powell. I couldn’t find 69 Hanover on a map. I looked at the census page again. The last name isn’t clear, and page seems to be a mix of streets. The last two pages of this enumeration district appears to be a hodgepodge of different addresses. I decided to search for her by name, not location and found a record of a Lucille B. Powell, widow of James C. Powell on Square 617, lot 141 (71 N St NW) from 1944. Looking in a city directory for 1939, a Lucille Powell lived at 69 N Street NW.  Samuel M Powell lived at 71 N Street. Close enough. Regarding the property records, let’s just say it becomes confusing because it appears someone wanted to leave their property to 4+ family members and it just looks like a nightmare to figure out. Those family members include Mary B. Rhambeau (nee Powell), Gladys Powell Reid, Samuel M. Powell, Clara Willis (nee Reid), Miriam Reid Felder, and Lillian B. Branch. I quit. If I wanted to look up the history of a complicated family, I’d do my own.

Black Home Owners of 1940: College Educated Women, part 1

Here’s all 5 of them from the 1940 Census: Mrs. Bertha M. Clark (53) of 35 Q St NW; Mrs. Clementine Plummer (50) of 1500 1st St NW; DC Native Miss. Eliza Matthews (60) of 1239 New Jersey Ave NW; another DC native, Mrs. Blanch Lewis (60) of 1225 New Jersey Ave NW; and Mrs. Lucille Powell (46) of 69 Hanover Place NW. According to the census, these women had 4 or 5 years of college education. Lewis and Plummer were listed as married, and considering my experience with Annie Newsome, I’d have to investigate that to believe it true. Clark and Powell were widows and the only two of the 5, who were listed as employed. Mrs. Clark was a teacher and Mrs. Powell a government clerk.

All of these women were born after the Civil War, so it is fair to assume they were either educated at a Black college or a Northern college that allowed African American students. There is a chance that the two DC natives, Mrs. Lewis and Miss. Matthews attended Howard, or another local college, but not knowing their occupations, I have no idea where to start or look, and with Lewis there is that name change problem with married women.

Starting with Mrs. Bertha Clark, who was married to Ray A. Clark, bought the house together in 1922 for $2,800. The Clarks may have owned other properties in DC, as Mr. Clark was a real Estate businessman, but I’m just going to focus on their life in Truxton Circle, or as known at the time Census tract 46. Ray A. Clark died October 28, 1933, so he shows up in the 1930 census, but is gone by 1940. Like the McKinney’s the Clarks are a dual income (no kids as far as I can tell) household, as Mrs. Clark worked as a teacher. It appears she sells the house in 1947. So like Mrs. McKinney, I should add Mrs. Clark to the list of inquiries for the Charles Sumner School Archive.

Clementine Kay Plummer bought  1500 1st St NW (Sq.554, lot 175) in March 1940 for $2,500. Her marital status is not mentioned, but she is clearly acting as a single entity in the purchase. Her estate sold her house in 1964. Apparently she was declared incompetent by the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Mental Health No. 361-64 if anyone wants to look that up. I’d guess she was suffering from dementia, if you consider her age. These things happen.

Ms. Plummer has a doppleganger, maybe, an African American woman also named Clementine Kay Plummer, also from North Carolina. I cannot tell if these are the same or different women. The Truxton Plummer (age unknown) lived at 130 Thomas Street NW , in Bloomingdale, in 1930 with Marie (20), Owen (14) and John (8) Plummer, as renters from a school nurse named Martella York, who owned that home. When Truxton Plumber is on 1st St, she is just living with her son, John, aged 17, which is just about right. Also in 1930 there is record of a Clementine K. Plummer a 39 year old woman living with her husband Dr. John L. Plummer (49), and children Marie K. (21) an office clerk, Owen Y. (15), and John L.  (7) in Raleigh, NC. That’s….. way too much of a coincidence. The widow of John Owen Plummer Sr., Clementine Kay Plummer of Raleigh, NC died September 3, 1969 in Enfield County, NC of what looks like senility? The cause of death is handwritten on her death certificate, so I can’t really tell. That and the DC court finding Mrs. Plummer incompetent in 1964, makes me think, same person. Her date of birth was 2/21/1885, about five years off the reported age of 1940 Truxton Clementine Kay Plummer.

I mentioned this to my spouse, the Help (aka Weedwackerman) who is also in the history field. It brings into question the accuracy of the US Census and the necessity there is to use more than one source. There is probably more to the story of Clementine Kay Plummer, and should I ever decide to dive into the court records, maybe I’ll look that up.

I’ll explore the lives of the other ladies in a later post.

 

Black Home Owners of 1940: Annie Newsome

In my last post I started with Annie Newsome and could not find much on her so I moved on to Dr. Arthur McKinney.  There was another resource I could have tapped, but didn’t think it would have anything for me, the Recorder of Deeds. Because the Northwest Cooperative sits on the square where Ms. Newsome’s house sat, I was unsure the city would have those records. Well lo and behold, once I figured out the lot number, it was easy to find the Newsome house records.

In the 1940 census Ms. Newsome claimed to be a widowed woman of 53. Prior to that, in the 1930 census she claimed to be a married woman, who had been married for 24 years. Well according to the image below, she may have lied about that.

First page of deed transferring property to Annie Newsome, a Black woman

She bought the house as an unmarried woman in April 1925, from widow Francesca Garaci. So 5 years later for the 1930 census she’s been “married” for 25 years. I believed that she lied to the census taker, as she had two married families living in her home as lodgers, and probably did not want to lose respect in their eyes.

She also probably lied about her age. In the 1940 census she was 53 years old. In 1930, she reported being 47 years old. I’m not particularly good at math, but if she was correct in 1930, she should have been 57 years old, not 53. If she was telling the truth in 1940, then she should have been 43 in 1930.

Big deal you might say. Well, when trying to find someone in the records, the misinformation of birthyear and marital status can send a person barking up the wrong tree. Women, and I write this as a woman, can be difficult, especially when we move around, change our name because of marriage or divorce or remarriage, and lie about our ages. I’ve changed my name, moved around and got married. I’m vague about my age now. Enough about me, back to Ms. Newsome.

Annie Newsome, owned the house at 1616 First Street NW from 1925 to about 1943 when she sold it to the Embassy Dairy. Embassy Dairy was her “neighbor” of sorts on 1st St NW and it appeared they were expanding. From 1943 to 1950 Embassy Dairy Inc bought out her neighbors. That same year, Ms. Newsome’s next door neighbor Ophelia Hurd at 1618 1st St NW, sold her home to the dairy. She was listed as a widowed woman in both the 1930 and 1940 census. She probably bought her home prior to 1921, which is how far back the Recorder of Deeds resource goes.