Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: John Robinson

Going back to the 1920 Census our next Black American home owner is John Robinson, a 34 year old cook who lived at 1417 New Jersey Avenue NW.  He lived there with his wife Annie B., their 7 year old daughter Dorothy M., his brother Sam, and his widowed aunt-in-law Belle Pryor.

John W Robinson
Credit: JKROBIN3571 originally shared this on 30 Nov 2010 via

Because of the amazingness of, we have a photo of Mr. Robinson. This is a nice reminder that these people who I write about were real people who lived in Truxton Circle and who are our neighbors from the past.

On March 14, 1885 John Robinson was (probably) born in King William County, Virginia to John B. Robinson and Oney Smith. He was still in Virginia, as a school boy in 1900. By the 1910 census he appears in Washington, DC living as a lodger with J Walker Robinson at 1222 4th St NW and working as a cook in a cafe.

In 1911 Continue reading Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: John Robinson

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: The Garretts of 1408 3rd St NW ver.2.0

I posted before about the Garretts, but I wasn’t as familiar with the land records and Ancestry has improved a bit.

In my last post about the Garretts, I wrote:

John W. Garrett of 1408 3rd Street NW (SSL:W0553-0810) who was listed as a mulatto (African American)  Engineer and head of household. In 1920, Mr. Garrett was a 70 year old West Virginia native living with his 2 daughters Beatrice E. Garrett and Armetia M. Johnson and 7 year old granddaughter Marjorie Johnson. By the 1930 Census Mr. Garrett had died, Armeta/Armetia was listed as the head and her 1920 sister was now her partner? (head tilt) Both Beatrice and Armeta were dressmakers, probably self employed dressmakers. They could have been in business with each other. In 1940 the inhabitants of 1408 3rd are listed as renters, including Beatrice Jarrott, which sounds awfully like Beatrice Garrett. They could be the same person, but the ages don’t line up. She could have lied about her age, adding on 10 years in the 1940 census.

Looking at the land records there isn’t much. But I understand it. In the 1920 census the house was listed as being owned free and clear, and they kept it that way. Under the Garretts there are no trusts (mortgages). We don’t see anything until 1951 when the daughter Beatrice Garrett and granddaughter Marjorie Ellen Rand sell the house to Violet M. Barbour, who took out a loan for $4,500 at 6% interest.

photo of propertyNow back to John W. Garrett. He was impressive in the census. For the 1910 census he claimed to be a fireman Continue reading Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: The Garretts of 1408 3rd St NW ver.2.0

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Barbra Smith of 1430 3rd St NW

In the 1920 Census Barbra Smith was pretty old. She was born in Maryland around 1840, which made her 80 years old. Looking at past census records, she’d been at 1430 3rd St NW for a long while, as in been there since the 1880 census long while.Image not found

So lets go back to the 1880 census. In 1880 Henry Smith, an illiterate Black laborer, lived at 1430 3rd St NW with his also illiterate wife Barbra, a laundress, their literate children William and Frances, and baby Victoria. They also lived with his mother Deliah Bond, and adult step-relatives. He died in the Summer of 1915, leaving Barbra, William and Victoria as survivors.

I could not find a lot about the Smiths in the record. It doesn’t help that ‘Smith’, is a really popular name. Continue reading Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Barbra Smith of 1430 3rd St NW

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle- James W. Aiken

Looking at the 1920 Census our next African American Truxton Circle home owner is James W. Aiken. Aiken was a 25 year old waiter from North Carolina living at 1429 3rd St NW. He lived there with his wife Isabelle, daughter Mignon (like the filet), and son James W. Aiken Jr.

photo of property

The land records are confusing, as usual. The first record is from October 1925 and it is a trust, which means money was being borrowed, between J. Wills Aiken et ux and Baltz & Owens Trustees. It appears the Aikens borrowed $2,400.00. Then in November 1925, are two deeds between the Aikens and Wilber C. Wiley. The deeds are right after each other, Aikens transfer to Wiley then Wiley transfers it back to the Aikens, on the same day. I’m not sure what that was about.

Then there is another document, a release, which means whatever loan has been paid off or fulfilled,  also from 1925 where J. Wills Aikens pays off the debt of James R. Clarke and his wife Mary M. Clarke. Those names sounded familiar and they were Black TC home owners from an earlier post. James Clark/e was a waiter too. I’m not sure what that’s about either.

The Aikens borrow and pay off several loans from 1926 to 1946. But in 1949, Isabelle Aiken took out a loan for $4,500 with the Perpetual Building Association, alone. But that same day J. Wills and Isabelle transfer the property to Anna Pararas, who then transfers it back to Isabelle Aiken. In 1970, Isabelle pays off a loan, alone.

The genealogical record shows the Aikens lived at 1429 3rd Street NW for a good long while. But that’s not the most interesting thing. James Willis Aiken, or Wells J. Aiken, or J. Wills Aiken was born in Brevard, Transylvania, North Carolina April 17, 1891 to Mary Pardon Aiken and James P. Aiken. He had 1 or 2 half siblings and 13-16 full siblings one of whom was Loretta “Jackie Moms Mabley” Aiken , if the family tree is to be believed. If you are unfamiliar with Moms Mabley, you obviously didn’t watch the last season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Anyway here she is:

I wonder if she stopped by to see her brother when she was performing at the Howard Theater? Maybe not. My half sister didn’t even bother to say hi to me when she came up from Florida for Obama’s first inauguration.

Anyway, back to boring old James Aiken. Waiter. As I wrote, they were there for a while. A World War II draft card has James at 1429 3rd St NW as an unemployed waiter. In the 1930 Census James is, Wells J Aiken, hotel waiter and Isabelle a federal government employee.  In 1940 they were on 3rd St, living with their 24 year old son. James was back to being James W. Aiken and a waiter, and Isabelle a clerk at the Government Printing Office. James died in September of 1971. Isabelle died in December of 1974. Their children sold the house in the mid-1970s after their mother’s death.


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Julia Dobbins

Julia Dobbins appears in the 1920 Census as a home owner and a widow living with her adult daughters and a couple of boarders. She lived at 1413 3rd St NW, on square 553 lot 54. The daughters were Emma J., Gertrude V., and Ethel L. Dobbins.

In 1910, Julia was renting 1609 Cooksey Place. I believe this was on the block bounded by Florida Ave, R, 1st, Q and 3rd Streets NW, or square 551. She was a widow laundress living with her 3 daughters and her mother Mintie Smith. The 1911-1915 city directories have her on Cooksey.

The land records are sort of helpful. The earliest is from 1923 where Gertrude transferred her one third interest in the property to Julia Smith and Emma Taylor.

Is Julia Smith also Julia Dobbins?

There is a mortgage with the Perpetual Trust Building and Loan Association for 1926 and there are many names.

Julia A. Smith, aka Julia M. Smith; Emma J. Dobbins, aka Emma J. Taylor; Gertrude V. Dobbins, aka Gertrude V. Watson. None of the records say if Julia Smith is also Julia Dobbins.

Julia Smith Dobbins died January 19, 1929. So she did not make it to the 1930 census. After their mother’s death, Gertrude Watson and Ethel L. Herron transferred their interest in the property to Emma in 1930.  Between 1930 and 1931 Emma Jeannette Taylor used the property to borrow money from the Perpetual Building and Loan Assoc, as well as individual lenders for an amount over $2,000.  William Henry Smith, who may have been Julia’s grandson listed in the 1920 census,  transferred 1413 3rd St NW in 1946 to Leonard Taylor. This quit claim signed by Smith noted that Emma Taylor’s will left him an interest in the property. Leonard Taylor then sold the property that year to Newman Coxson.

I’m just going to assume Julia Smith and Julia Dobbins are the same person.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Susan E Berry

According to the 1920 census Susan E. Berry owned 237 O Street NW, an address that no longer exists. It does not exist because the Armstrong school ate it, then the second Dunbar building ate O Street. So I have to look at the old Baist map at the Library of Congress site to guess which lot was Mrs. Berry’s.

Image not found

According to land records she owned lot 3, or lot 11 or lot 58 on Square 553. Let’s just go with lot 58. I’m not sure how it’s lot 3. When I search for lot 3 I get records for Mrs. Schools, Mrs. Forrest, and Mrs. Berry’s son or late husband Hillard Berry. She could have owned another lot on Square 553 but this post will look at lot 58, or 237 O St NW.

To deal with the property history, we will have to look at the Berry family.  Susan E. Ruffin was born in South Carolina in 1865 and she married Hilliard J.C. Berry in 1884. This was the same year their son Hilliard or Hilyard Berry was born in South Carolina. In 1887 their 2nd son William Berry was born in the District of Columbia. Their youngest Alethya was born in DC in 1889.

In the 1900 census Hillard was a hotel porter and listed as the head of the family and the property owner of 237 O St NW. He lived there with Susan and their 3 school aged children. In the 1920 census, Susan was a widow living with her son William J, her daughter Athethya or Alethia Henrietta Williams, her son in law Alfonse Williams, and their son, her grandson, Berry Williams.

Just searching the name Susan E. Berry in the land records brings up lots 3, 11, and 58. So she sold lot 3 to the District of Columbia in 1922. Susan died in either 1925 or 1927 and in her will left lot 11/58 to Alethya. In 1934 Alethya borrowed $800 from trustees. She paid that date later that year. She borrowed again in 1949 from the American Security and Trust Company for $20,000. Alethya died in 1951 and her son Berry Williams (along with his wife Aretha) sold the property to the District of Columbia in 1966 for $10,400.00.

I should note that in Susan’s will she also left 239 O St NW to Hilliard Berry. It appears that he sold that property in 1937. She also left property in South Carolina, which was to be sold and divided amongst the two surviving children.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: George W. Timus

In the 1920 census George W. Timus at 221 O St NW was listed as the home owner. He lived there with his wife Bessie (nee Bessie F. Fraley) and their two daughters Josephine and Ethel. He was a messenger and his wife was a dressmaker.Image not found

In the 1910 census George Timus rented 221 O St NW. He lived in the house with Bessie and their daughters, along with his widowed mother Amanda and his sister Lola. He was an express man for his own business. The only other person with an occupation was the 28 year old Lola who was a laundress.

The earliest record of George Timus at 221 O Street NW comes from the 1906 city directory. It showed him as an express man. Because it was the name index it also showed other Timus family members at 221 O St NW. Robert J. Timus lived there, but no occupation was recorded. William H. Timus was a porter. An earlier city directory has the Timus family at 217 O St NW in 1900. Amanda was a washer woman, George a driver, and Robert a coachman. William H. Timus was living in another neighborhood entirely, as a clerk.

The first record in the land records for George Timus was a 1924 chattel mortgage, for a truck, a second hand GMC truck model 31-B lease. There are two deeds from March 1928. One was transferring Sq 553 lot 9 from the American Security and Trust Company. The second, also for lot 9, from George and Bessie Timus transferred it to Margaret G. Cahill.

When the 1930 census rolled around the Timus family moved over to 316 M Street NW over in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. By 1930, George moved from being a messenger to becoming an express man in the hauling business. Bessie, by this time a 47 year old woman, was no longer a dressmaker. They had 5 roomers in their home from Bessie’s home state of North Carolina.

The land records show Bessie and George were the owners of Square 524  lot 2, which later became lot 802. Those land records revealed that Bessie became a widow in the 1930s when her daughter Ethel V. Fane sold that lot to the American Oil Company in 1950.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Jessie and Edith Forrest

This time around I decided to have both spouses on the bill. Mainly because when I look at the few land records for 117 O St NW,  the wife’s name is right up there with her husband. But I may revert to just one owner, it’s simpler that way.

Like Christina Mack‘s property, this too goes with the old lot number and not a more precise lot number that would differentiate one part of lot 4, in this case, from another house on old lot four.

Portion of Sq. 553

There are just two land records, a release and a deed. Like Mrs. Mack and Mrs. Schools, the property was sold to the District of Columbia. It looks like I’ve stumbled upon the city buying up the properties to create Armstrong. In this case the city got the property in 1922.

The land records do not tell me how much the city paid for the property. If some one could point me to a source, I’d love to see it. I don’t know if the Forrests got a decent price. I suspect not. I located a 60 year old Jesse (no ‘i’) Forrest living at 116 Q St NW on a World War II draft card. He was not the owner of 116 Q St.

Edith, was Edith Green. Her mother, Roberta Green was living with the family in 1920. In 1900, little 8 year old Edith lived with her mother and father, George Green, as renters at 1520 3rd St NW. They were tenants of Richard Thornton, whose property ownership has already been reviewed.

I did a name search in the land records. After the property was transferred to the city, Mrs. Forrest bought a bunch of expensive furniture from the Julius Lansburgh Furniture Company, totaling $300 in October 1922. The furniture was to go to 117 O St NW. Was the city allowing them to stay in the property until they were ready to raze it for the school?

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle- Willie T. Schools

Portion of Sq. 553

The next owner in this series was just a few doors down from our last subject Mrs. Christina Mack at 113 O St NW.

The land records tell a very short story. The story was Sq. 553 old lot 3 (it looks like lot 802 on the image above), was sold or transferred in 1923 to the District of Columbia by Mrs. Willie T. Schools, a Black dressmaker. There are two documents, the one I mentioned and a release. The release doesn’t say how much she borrowed and she didn’t borrow from an institution.

Nor do the land records give the name of her late husband. She is called a widow in the release and an unmarried woman on the deed.

She was a home owner for a few years. Prior to O Street she was at 1332 2nd Street NW from at least 1899 to 1910. In the 1915 city directory they had her at 123 O St NW. The 1924 city directory had her at 113 O St NW.  I’m not going to guess what was going on there. I’ll assume the directory was wrong because 123 O St NW was old lot 4, not 3. And the land records actually had 113 O Street NW.

She disappears from the record after 1924.

Mrs. Schools had a son named William Schools, who listed her as his next of kin when he was a private in the Summer of 1918 and in 1919. He listed his mother’s address as 123 O St NW.

Once again, by looking at the son, I find an interesting history of the mother. William R. Schools has a family tree on Ancestry and that lead to a 1910 census  which has his mom Willie as Lillie. It also says that her maiden name was Willie T. Byrd. Unfortunately, there was another Willie Schools (what are the odds) in DC living at 444 Q St NW, the widow of Macon Schools, and some of her data gets mixed in with the O St Willie Schools. And that’s where I’m going to end it.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Christina A. Mack

Okay let’s get back to the blog’s usual material, church surveys and a quick look at African American home owners.

There are only a few records for 107 O St NW where Christina A. Mack lived. She was listed as a home owner in the 1920 census. The problem with the address is that it is one of those places in the TC that no longer exists and has been absorbed into another property. It is now part of Armstrong’s campus.

Portion of Sq. 553

So there are three records for 107 O St NW or Sq.553 lot 129. The first is a release, not a deed, from 1924 and it seems to transfer the property from Christina and Thomas W. Mack to Albert F. Fox a trustee. The other two documents were deeds, one for 1930 and the other for 1931 which transferred the property to the District of Columbia.

In the 1920 census Mr. Thomas Mack, her husband is missing. She is listed as married and the head of household. The only other Thomas W. Mack is her 12 year old son. But with the land record we know he exists.

Mrs. Mack seems to only appear in the 1920 census. I could not locate her in the 1930 census nor the 1910 census. There is a reason why I couldn’t find her in the 1930 census, she died June 1925. After going another route, I found her and her son and daughter, living with her brother Eli Brooks and his wife in 1910.

I was able to find out what happened to Christina by looking for her son Thomas W. Mack (Jr?). His World War II draft card showed him living at 801 N St NW with his sister Eunice Viola Rabb. I also noticed on his draft card the words “Deceased” written at the top.