Here’s a quick story of Thomas Lawlor. In November 1882 Ofc. Thomas Lawlor, an Irish immigrant, who lived on 4th St NW in Truxton Circle, was at work and fell ill. Then he went home, and died.
Thomas Lawlor lived at 1618 4th St NW with his wife Ellen, and their two children Daniel and Mary in 1880.
The 1880 census didn’t ask if people were owners or renters. I only discovered that Lawlor owned the property because I was searching for the newspaper announcement that he had died. In addition to finding his funeral arrangements, I found a mention of a real estate transfer.
For some reason Thomas Lawlor, the resident of 1618 4th St NW in 1880, sold/ transferred the property (0509E-0053) to James Lawlor in 1878. I don’t know if James is a relative.
It seems to be a very Irish thing, of that time, to have something at the home of the deceased. It appears they departed from 1618 and made their way to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. I wonder if the German George Glorius and his family, one block over, joined the procession? The Glorius family also attended Immaculate, which from personal experience, is a 15 minute brisk walk away from 1618.
There is very little of interest in his personnel file (see https://catalog.archives.gov/id/145835884). He seemed to have wandered into a grocery on North Capitol, where he wasn’t supposed to be, and was written up for it.
I was flipping through my computer files looking for something and came across a Washington Star clipping from 1878. It seems I was looking for articles mentioning George Glorius, Glorious George, of Sq. 519 in Truxton Circle. George plays a bit part in the article.
The article is about a case involving the death of a young woman who lived at 229 Q St. NW (another TC address that no longer exists) who died after getting an abortion. The article, titled “Poor Sophie Major. The mournful story of her seduction and death.” is just as click baity as mine. This was 1878, and the term yellow journalism had yet to be coined.
The red head, or ginger, in this story is John W. Hurley, a gas fitter and plumber who worked at 925 Massachusetts Ave NW….. another address that no longer exists. In the article he’s described as “tall, slender, red-haired young man, said to be somewhat “wild” in his habits….” He’s the guy who got Ms. Olivia Sophie Major pregnant. The unnamed newspaper author wrote, “Such as termination of the life of one fitted to adorn life and to be a useful member of society, seems very hard, especially when it is known that her seducer walked the streets of Washington last night unharmed by the avenging hand of retributive justice, unimpeded by the process of the law. There are crimes quite as foul as that murder, and in the eye of Heaven John W. Hurley’s soul is not free from a stain as deep of a hue of crimson.” They published his name, where he worked, his red hair, do you think the paper was trying to rile up a mob against him? He walked the street unharmed by retributive justice, as if calling to the reader to go out and harm Mr. Hurley in the name of justice. His crime? Knocking up Olivia Sophie Major (1859-1878) and not marrying her. There was another mention in the article hinting at a desire for violence against him.
Today’s African American Truxton Circle resident from the 1920 Census who owned their home is the widowed Susan E. Brown of 237 O St NW (Sq. 553, lot 58). This address no longer exists, and is currently an empty lot behind the Friendship-Armstrong Charter School. In 1920 she lived there with her son William J. Brown and her daughter Alethya’s family, the Williams.
In the Recorder of Deeds’ records Mrs. Brown was also Susan E. Berry (b. 1865). She died in 1927 and according to her will, left 237 and 239 O St NW to her married daughter Alethya H. Williams, who used the property to borrow money from the American Security and Trust Company in 1934 and 1949. In 1966, Alethya sold the property to the District of Columbia.
A little thing about the will. One of the witnesses was named Ethel Witkowska, a very Polish sounding name. She lived at 21 Tea (T) St NE. She appears in the 1930 census as a 24 year old bookkeeper. According to the Social Security Death Index Ethel Witkowska was born March 1905 and died in 1974, so she was just 20 when she witnessed the will in 1925. Her name just stood out.
Another little thing about her will, is that she may have owned property in her native South Carolina. The property was in Sumter county. Since no town was mentioned, I’ll assume it was rural land.
Anywho, Susan Brown only appears in the 1920 census at that address. Susan E. Berry appears at 237 O St NW in the 1900 Census, living with her husband Hilyard/ Hilliard, a hotel porter, their sons Hilyard Jr (aka James Hilliard) and William and daughter Althea. A faulty family tree (there are a few errors) claims her maiden name was Ruffin.
Since I’m looking at the census for 1920 and her family owned the neighboring lot, let’s look at 239 O St NW. It was lot 819 or old lot 11 on Sq. 553. Susan Berry’s will had named both Alethya and Hilliard Jr. as beneficiaries for 239 O St. NW. And it is Hilliard Berry and his wife Jessie Gordon Berry mentioned in the land records, not Alethya. They borrowed several times from the Washington Loan and Trust Company and individually named lenders, in 1929, 1930, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1950 and 1953. The widow Jessie Berry sold the property in 1965 to Sylvia H. Miller, who then turned around and sold the property in 1966 to the DC government.
The Clarkes and the Stewarts lived at 239 O Street as renters. In total there were 11 people living at 239. Like their landlords, they too were African-American. The head of the Clarke family was Henry who was listed as being an Assistant Engineer. I should note that William Berry or Brown’s occupation in 1920 was that of an Engineer. William’s brother, Hilliard, in the city directory is some sort of Engineer in the DC Public Schools. According to a WWII draft card, Hilliard worked at Dunbar High School. I wonder if Henry Clarke and the Berry/Brown brothers worked together?
Gee, his name may as well be John Smith. Last post was Fannie Moore and I discovered there were a bunch of ladies with that name. I suspect I’ll have to weed through several Harry Browns.
In the 1920 Census then renter Harry Brown lived at 240 R St NW with his wife Rosetta and their 5 year old, Madaline. By the 1930 Census they are owners. There was a Harry Franklin Brown at 224 R St NW who filled out the draft card for World War I in 1917/1918. Since they were both barbers, I will assume they are the same person. I did not find Harry Brown in the Recorder of Deed records, but I did find Rosa E. Brown.
The address is on Sq. 551, which has been completely redone, so none of the houses on that block remain. The Library of Congress Baist map is of little help since it does not show 240 as a house number. But I can guess that it was lot L or 837 as it was the last house facing R St after 222 R St NW. This means it could have just as well been 224 R St NW. The owner for that lot was solely Rosa E. Brown. Harry, her husband appears nowhere on the paperwork. When she sells the property in 1959 to George Basiliko and his wife, she is listed as an unmarried widow. Rosa and Rosetta are the same person. Rosa Brown appears in city directories as the wife of Harry F. Brown at 240 R St NW.
From a family tree on Ancestry we find a fuller picture of Mr. Brown. He was born on July 19, 1889 in Baltimore, MD. His father was Maltimore Brown (1856-1924) and Helen (nee Cooper) Brown (1858-??) and he had a dozen brothers and sisters. Not in the family tree is the marriage in DC to Rossetta Blackwell in 1911. But an interesting thing in the family tree which creates a mystery. One of his many siblings is his sister Mary A. (1879-1970), who around 1902 married James Boardley. In 1910 the couple lived with a then single Harry, their parents and several other siblings at 1417 3rd St NW. In the 1940 Census, Harry is living with the Boardleys. No Rosa in sight. But according to the family tree, Harry died in 1937, which makes it hard to be in the 1940 Census. Rosa Brown was living back at 240 R St NW with daughter Madeline S. Brown, widowed and working as a maid. Why were Mr. & Mrs. living several blocks apart, if he was alive at all?
I decided to make my life a little easier and just look at the 1920 census for African American home owners. That’s because the Recorder of Deeds starts around 1920/1921 and looking at 1900-1910 property and landowners is harder.
Fannie Moore is listed as living at 53 O St NW in the 1920 census. Sadly, for me, 53 O St NW does not exist anymore. Google map puts it at an alley. Looking at a Library of Congress Baist map from 1919, 53 O St NW is on Sq. 616 lot 58. However, I have to take that with a grain of salt, because sometimes these address matches are a little off. The Recorder of Deeds record #1938036439, the only record for lot 58, confirms Fannie L. Moore as the owner. In 1938, it appears she sold the land to the DC government for $3,750.
It may seem odd, but Fannie or Fanny Moore was a common enough name that several show up, living in Washington DC in the early 20th century. And it didn’t help that her birth year was inconsistent. In the 1920 and 1930 census her birth year is estimated to be 1882. But in the 1900 census, when she was a 23 year old laundress, living with her mother and siblings at 51 O St NW, her birth year was 1877. With the city directory her address jumps around. In 1928 she is at 54 O St NW and in 1906 at 51 O St NW. So I do believe I have the same woman. But around the same time period is a Mrs. Fannie L. Moore married to a Thomas A. Moore and another one married to a C.E. Moore. Our Fannie Moore was a single lady.
The O St Fannie Moore may have started her career as a laundress, a common occupation for Black women at the time, but later found work with the US government. In city directories, at least by 1906, she had found a job with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. At one point she was a shaker then moved up to become an operator, whatever those positions are.
Once she sells her property in 1938, she all but disappears. If I wanted to spend the money, as a federal employee I could research her personnel file. That would probably tell me when she departed this earth and if she ever retired or married (thus making it harder to find her). When she sold the property, she would have been around 61 years old.
My last post ran long and I felt I buried the lede. I’m just going to rehash it with a clique beatty title.
In 1905 the Miller ladies owned several lots on a city block in Washington DC. The square being Sq. 520, which sits between 3rd and 4th, R and Q Streets NW. The Miller ladies being Katharine Miller and her daughters Catherine, Agnes, and Anna. They were white women. According to the 1905-1906 General Assessment they owned under the names Katharine/ Katharina Miller, Catherine A. Miller, Anna B. Gaegler, and Agnes C. Sullivan lots 57-62, 65, 68, 74, 76-78, 86-88, 90-95, 102-106. Using the Library of Congress’ Baist map and Property Quest and trying to match addresses to lots with numbers that may or may not line up with current lot numbers, I think they owned 1603-1611 and 1629 4th, 1635 4th, 1641 4th, 1646 3rd, 1638-1642 3rd (empty lots), 1618-1622 3rd, 1602/4?? 3rd (empty lot 95), 1604-1614 3rd, and 304-312 R St NW.
A lot of houses in DC say they were built in 1900. They weren’t. Several of these were. The map to the right is a Hopkins map from 1892. There are structures at the corner of 4th and Q and 3rd and R Streets that pre-date 1900. When looking at the 1900 census for residents in these Miller owned properties, they are all African American renters. Those older homes, 1603-1611 4th St NW, were owned by Millers but rented by the Turners, the Smallwoods, Motens, Dotts and others. They were Black laborers and domestics. But they also owned newer housing that did not exist in 1892 but did in 1900. These newer homes were 1629, 1635, and 1641 4th St NW.
Thomas Jenkins, a porter born in 1850, lived at 1629 4th St NW with his wife, 4 sons and three daughters. He and his wife Rachael were both born in Maryland. Their children were born in the District. His adult son William was a porter like his father. The second son Charles was a teacher. The third, Harry, was a bellman. The youngest, Thomas, was 10. His daughters appear to have been at home, unemployed.
There were 3 households at 1635 4th St NW. The first was a widow woman Cornelia E Madden. She is listed with a 2 year old daughter and a 17 year old son. The second is Sandford Madden, a 23 year old waiter. I don’t know if he was related to Mrs. Cornelia Madden. He is listed with his wife and their infant son, They also had two ‘boarders’ ages 3 and 4 in their home. Lastly there was William Washington, another young waiter in his early 20s. He lived at 1635 with his wife and their two year old son. Today the house boasts of having about 1500 sq feet.
1641 4th St NW also had three households listed as residents. First, there was 65 year old widow Ann Bowie with her 40 year old daughter Ella. Then there was 50 year old widow Louisa Brooks, a servant, with her 16 year old son Adolphus, a porter. Balancing out the widow women was Benjamin Stiles, a day laborer, He lived with his wife, Sarah, a washer woman and their 3 year old daughter. They had a male boarder, Richard Neale, a hod carrier.
I would examine their White renters from 1910 to see if they were crammed in as much as their Black neighbors, but this post is long enough.
The Recorder of Deeds website was being unhelpful. So this is mostly from Ancestry and the Historic Washington Post. Genealogy is hard. I refuse to do my dad’s side of the family because most of it could be summed up in the phrase, “Grandpa James shoulda kept it in his pants.” There are two James, two Roberts and two Johns. Families seem to like to recycle names, which makes things confusing and I was, and probably still am, confused by the Kat Millers of Sq. 520.
I mentioned Kat Miller, as I will call them, in an earlier post, Rando thoughts ending in a music video. For 1905-1906, on Square 520, which is bounded by R St, 3rd and 4th Sts, and Q Street NW, I saw a lot of Kat Millers as the owner of many lots. Katharine Miller owned lots 57-59, 62, 76-78, 88-86, and 90-91. Katharina Miller owned lot 92. Catherine A. Miller owned lots 60, 93-94, and 102-106. There was another lady Miller, Agnes R. Miller who owned lots 61, 65 and 95.
Like my family, they reused the names. Katharina/ Katrina Elizabeth Nau Miller (1839-1916) was the mother. She was married to a John Miller and they used to live at 452 H St NW. They were members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. They had three daughters, Catherine Appollonia (1871-1944), Agnes Rose (1878-1930), and Anna Barbara (1876-1950).
The Recorder of Deeds site (when working) helped with something that is very hard when looking up women, married names. Apparently Katharina had a will. I haven’t seen it but I’ve seen evidence of it. But according to land records there was a will and Catherine Appollonia Miller became Catherine Ruppert. She and her husband John Anton Ruppert (1861-1939) were the executors of Katharina’s will. In her will she left property to the surviving children of Agnes Rose Sullivan (lots 57, 78, 88, and 90) along with lots on Sq. 509 (maybe 509E?). In the September 16, 1916 Washington Post (p. 3) she left property and money to Catherine Ruppert, Agnes’ kids, and Anna Barbara Gaegler. Mrs. Gaegler owned lots 68 and 74 in 1905.
I’m not sure who John F. Shea is, but he was the surviving trustee of Catherine Ruppert’s estate.
Okay. Let’s see who these ladies were landladies for. I’m ignoring all the lots owned by Sullivans, who could be relatives of Agnes Rose. So let’s look at lots 57-62, 65, 68, 74, 76-78, 86-88, 90-95, 102-106. Not all the old lot numbers line up with the current lot numbers, and the Baist addresses can be wrong, so bear with me. 1603-1611 and 1629 4th, 1635 4th, 1641 4th, 1646 3rd, 1638-1642 3rd (empty lots), 1618-1622 3rd, 1602/4?? 3rd (empty lot 95), 1604-1614 3rd, and 304-312 R St NW.
In 1900 the residents of 1603-1611 and 1629 4th St NW were all African American. Basically everyone on Square 520 in 1900 was Black and renting and on 4th St NW. Unless I have another hole in my data (and I probably do), these white ladies had black tenants in fairly, newish houses. I live on the even side of the 1600 block of 4th St NW and the houses on the odd side are way bigger than the even side. They have room for parking. We don’t, for most of us.
Moving to 1910, I see I probably have a hole in my 1900 data because, I see White people. In 1910 the Miller ladies rented to African American and White families. Fourth St remains African American, but the R Street and 3rd Street houses are rented to White families. I have one odd-ball I need to check. A White man named Anthony A. Ryles of 1646 3rd St NW claimed to own the property in the census. 1646 is currently Mt. Sinai’s education center and the original lot 74, Anna Barbara’s lot, no longer exists. People lie, he could have bought it, or there is another logical explanation.
Okay. That’s enough researching for now.
Redlining vs Urban Renewal
I’m seeing the term redlining popping up more and more. Some of my relatives mentioned it during our Christmas Zoom gathering. It seemed new to the Festivus-like list of grievances that get trotted out by particular relatives, and it seemed to be short-hand for something else. I’m going to go with the simple definition of redlining being the denial of government backed mortgages to non-whites based on geography. Yes, redlining was bad, but urban renewal was much worse.
I’m tacking this on the end of the Kat Miller post because, I see that the landladies were interested in green, as they rented to both Black and White. Poking around the property and census records I see loans get made and a lot of people rent. In cities, you’re more apt to rent than own.
Urban renewal impacts both homeowners and renters, more so renters. It it easier to level a quadrant like Southwest when the majority of landowners don’t live there. The Northwest and later the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area plans were to knock out whole blocks, which would have displaced thousands of residents. In the plan, I-395 was supposed to continue up and meet up with U St, destroying what was to become my house in the process. The homes destroyed to make the freeways, the public parks and the low-income housing aren’t coming back. The scars of urban renewal are forever on the landscape.
Sources: Must login to DC Library's various database accounts-
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There’s a hole in my Truxton Circle data. I discovered it with my Property Owners of Truxton Circle series. I was writing an article that I had hoped to publish based on the old data. But discovering this missing data means I have to take a break from that writing project.
It also means all the previous posts based on the data is a little off. It means the imagery based on the data is off. The TruxtonCircle.org website will still have incorrect data until I am sure I got everything.
I guess this means I will be doing a bunch of QC. On the plus side, I’ll blog my discoveries.
My first question with this was, is Carrie Walker a man or woman. I need to know because it makes the searching in Ancestry easier. The property records has Carrie G. Walker, the daughter getting the land from Carrie Walker. The 1920 census, sigh, has Carrie Walker as the female head and Carrie G. Walker as the wife.
This is a misstatement. A few fields over, the senior Carrie is listed as a widow and the junior Carrie as single. Looking at the 1900 and 1910 Census shows John Walker as the male head, Carrie senior as the wife and Carrie G. junior as the daughter. Okay, a reminder that the Census screws things up time to time.
Also from the census, I see the Walkers are African American resident owners (mullato/negro) living on R St NW. Later I could re-do this as Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle. They were at 216 R St NW in 1900 and Mr. Walker was the owner. In the later 1910 and 1920, the Walker family lived at 146 R St NW, square and lot 0551-0847. Did the address change or did they move? No idea.
The earliest land record I can see is from 1924 between Carrie G. Walker (the younger) and Needham C. Turnage to borrow $280.00 with 146 R NW as security. Then there are a series of loans she takes out using the property as collateral. So loan #1- 1924 Needham Turnage $280.00. Released (paid) 1938. #2-1926, Kahn and Coleman/ Leo Kahn & E. Coleman, $375.00. Released 1927. #3- 1936, James B. Evans & Claude W. Owen, $372.00. Released 1938. #4- 1938, Washington Loan and Trust Company, $800.00. Released 1950. In 1951, she sells the land to Lawrence C. and Rosa A. Diggs.
Side note, a Carrie E. Walker buys 112 Florida Avenue NW (SSI: 0551-0178) in April 1934 from William H. Coates and Mamie D. Coates. A search for Carrie E. Walker in Ancestry is not particularly fruitful. The name does not change for the brief moment Carrie E. owns it, as she sells it 2 months later in June to Mary E. Baker.
Let’s call this an SOP, standard operating procedure, for what I’m doing. And what am I doing? I’m doing some neighborhood history, but more along the lines of neighborhood historical fact gathering. History is about a story to be told. The problem is that I get another piece of information and it kinda throws a monkey wrench into the narrative. Here I gather the info, then try to tell a tale.