Truxton Circle Residents with Wikipedia Pages

Most Truxton Circle residents of the past are regular Joes or Joannas. They lived, they worked, they moved away and eventually they died. Many were cooks, laborers, cops, teachers, and barbers. Some were doctors or ministers.

For the past couple of years, I have been writing up quickie bios of these regular people. I’ve searched genealogical sites, DC land records and sometimes a run of the mill Google search. It’s usually the Google search that reveals someone has a Wikipedia page.

Dr. Peter Marshall Murray

Peter Murray Portrait

Dr. Peter Murray doesn’t have much of a Wikipedia page. If you want to learn more about him and his life in DC (his career took off in New York City) wander over to my September 2021 post about Dr. Murray when he lived at 1645 New Jersey Ave NW.

Dr. Carrie H. Thomas

Dr. Carrie H. Thomas lived at 1629 New Jersey Ave NW and her Wikipedia page is in danger of being removed. I’m not sure what she did to warrant having a Wikipedia page. She was a teacher….. I got nothin’.

Eloyce Gist (Mayme E. King-Patrick-Gist-Wood-Savage)

Eloyce Gist, director, actress & co-director of Heaven-Bound Traveler.

It was the Google search that revealed who she was. I was looking for Mayme Gist, and got several Eloyce Gist hits and discovered this hair dresser was also a filmmaker. Not only does she have a Wikipedia page, she has an IMDB page, and two posts on this blog.

I did a post for her as a filmmaker and another post as a home owner, because that’s the point of the Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle series, to write about Black home owners. She lived at 134 R St NW, which no longer exists.

William Saunders

William Saunders

Like Ms. Mayme Eloyce, William Saunders lived on the block where almost nothing from that time period remains. He lived at 1603 3rd Street NW, sort of where Mt. Sinai Baptist Church sits. I found him by mistake and called the post a Happy Accident-1900 Home Owner- 1603 3rd St NW- William Saunders 1822-1900.

Mr. Saunders was a botanist among other things and played an important role in bringing the seedless naval orange to America. His Wikipedia page has a few of his highlights.

Pocahontas Kay Pope

Like Dr. Carrie H. Thomas there isn’t much of a Wikipedia page for Mrs. Pope. She does have a better Baha’i wiki page. The current Wikipedia page says her gravestone is lost because Black people’s gravestones were used to prevent erosion of the Potomac. That sounds a little off to me. The more fleshed out Baha’i site they wrote, “In 1960, the graves at Columbian Harmony Cemetery, including that of Pocahontas Pope, were relocated to the National Harmony Memorial Park in Maryland”.  She owned and lived at 1500 1st St NW and knew several other featured TC Black Homeowners.

Do you know of any other Truxton Circle residents from the past with Wikipedia pages?

Truxton Circle Filmmaker Eloyce Gist

I was doing research for my Black home owners of Truxton Circle series and ‘eventually’ stumbled on a filmmaker. I spent all day researching Mrs. Gist as a property owner and right before retiring for bed, on a lark, I Googled her name, and discovered she made a few short religious films. There is a lot to share about her as a woman and a pioneering African American filmmaker that I am giving her a separate post under the name Eloyce Gist.

Eloyce Gist, director, actress & co-director of Heaven-Bound Traveler.

She was born Mayme Eloyce King on October 21, 1892 in Galveston County, TX. Her parents were Josephine Beavers and Walter Louis King, and she was the eldest of their seven (plus?) children.

According to an online biography, she married Roscoe C. Patrick in 1911. In 1912 Homoiselle Vivian Patrick was born.  She relocated, alone it appears, to Washington, DC in the 1920s. She appeared as a roomer at 1325 or 1525 10th St NW, working as a hairdresser at a beauty shop. In 1923, she first appears in the DC city directory as Mamie Patrick, hairdresser on 134 R St NW. She divorced Patrick in 1930.

In the 1930 census, she is listed as the owner of 134 R St NW, working as a beautician. Her daughter, Homoiselle, then 16, is listed as her sister.

In June of 1932 she married evangelical (she and her daughter were Bahá’í ) Christian James Gist in Pennsylvania. But they made movies together prior to their marriage.

The earliest known film was Hellbound Train in 1930. She and James are credited as co-directors and co-writers.

Film restorer Dr. Samuel Waymon explains the film better than I can in this Youtube link.

Their second known work from 1933, Verdict Not Guilty is, um, interesting. She and James Gist co-directed it, but she is the sole writer and is listed in IMDB as its one star.

Their last surviving film is Heaven-Bound Traveler from 1935. Eloyce played the Wife. I look at it and wonder if they shot this in their own Truxton home or on Truxton Streets? Hellbound Train looks like it was shot in LeDroit Park.

James E. Gist died December 12, 1937. It doesn’t appear that she made anymore films after her directing partner passed. Modern write ups mention that she went around playing these religious themed silent movies around town. However, I could only find 2 mentions in the Evening Star of her exhibiting the film. One mention was in the December 16, 1939 edition of the Evening Star of Mrs. Eloyce Giste showing Not Guilty at Metropolitan Wesley AMEZ church.

She did not remain a widow long and married projector operator, Arthur Clifton Wood, a man 17 years her junior. Gist was younger than her too. Wood was 22 years old, she was 39. They married December 12, 1939 in Prince William County Virginia. In the 1940 census, Arthur is listed as Arthur Gist, head of household and owner of 134 R St NW. It isn’t clear when the Wood marriage ended.

She married John William Slaughter in 1952. They divorced in 1972, but according to their Albermarle County, VA divorce certificate they separated in 1956.

I will do another post for Mrs. Mayme Eloyce King Patrick-Gist-Wood-Slaughter in May, as a home owner.

Rando Shaw resident – S. Larnardo Acker- 614 S St NW

I was doing something else and there is nowhere to put this guy. But it is Black history month, and this fellow is Black.

I came across S. Larnardo Acker as I was working on another project and would have moved on, but I was trying to figure out if he was a Larnardo S. Acker and if I had the right person. One of the documents I came across was a marriage certificate and lo, I came across his marriage certificate listing his, and his bride’s (Ms. Bessie L. Hill) address as 614 S St NW.

Currently the New Community Church has 614 S St NW as its address. It might have been an apartment building. They both lived there, maybe they met there, running into each other at the end of the work day, exchanging pleasantries, discovering they both hailed from Mississippi, and a romance blossomed. Or they were shacking up and decided to make it legal. Or they were already married and the first one didn’t stick?

Who was Samuel Larnardo Acker? He was a Sargent in the US Army who served in World War II. He was born May 5, 1909 in Picayune, MS (or Hancock, MS depending which doc you go by). According to the 1910 census he was one of six children. In the 1930 census he was a student attending the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute, a Black college which no longer exists. Looking at the census it appears he and a long list of students were living with the school’s founders, Jonas Edward Johnson and Bertha LaBranche Johnson.

In the 1940 census he and his wife Bessy/Bessie (in NY records he married a Bessie Lisker in 1924) lived at 529 Florida Ave NW on the LeDroit Park side of Florida. The lived there with their 9 month old daughter Dorothy. He worked at the Library of Congress, as part of the WPA, as a Research Editor. A year later he worked as a Junior Clerk Typist for the War Department. He and Bessie later had a son, Larnardo Menelik Acker, in 1942. In the 1950s he was mustered into the US Marines (Co C 1St Engr Bn 1St Mar Div, Mri 6 Pearl ), I don’t understand how the military works so….. The Army record I could find makes it look like he was in the typing and secretarial group.

In 1954 the family was living at 1913 Frederick Place SE. But a few years later, in September 1956 Bessie, who was an undergraduate nurse at the Emergency Hospital (where’s that?), died. She is buried at Arlington with Samuel Larnardo, who later died in 1966. Their graves are next to each other.

It’s Black History Month- Thank Shaw’s Own Carter G. Woodson

It’s February so that means it’s Black History Month. I think I will make this an annual thing, where I look at the “Father of Black History” Carter G. Woodson. He picked a week in February for Black History Week, then that week turned into a month and ta-da we are in Black History Month.

Carter Godwin Woodson as a young man

Dr. Carter G. Woodson (PhD, Harvard, 1912) noticed there was a lack of history documenting and telling the story of Black Americans in America. So he saw a problem and then fixed it. Quoting the NPS biography of Dr. Woodson, “The public knew very little about the role of African Americans in American history, and schools were not including African American history in their curriculum. He worked tirelessly throughout his life to remedy this problem, becoming nationally recognized as “the Father of Black History.” ”

Dr. Woodson lived and worked at 1538 9th Street NW, which is in Shaw. This would explain the statue, if you missed it, at 9th and Rhode Island Avenue NW. And the National Park Service historic house.

To celebrate the month I had pondered the idea of looking at his 1912 book The History of the Negro Church, because last year I did a deep dive of his Mis-Education of the Negro. There are some problems. For one the first book I ordered had type so small I could not read it. When I did order a book these older eyes could read, I discovered the book was very boring. I have discovered that The History of the Negro Church is in the public domain (yay), on the Project Gutenberg site and may have the Kindle read it to me. I seriously looked at Fivver for audiobook narrators. On the other hand I could just wait for the next round of DC Humanities grants and have them chip in for an audiobook production of Woodson’s public domain works. Feel free to steal this idea.

Instead this year, I’ll do one chapter or more chapters (not the whole book) of The History of the Negro Church, a second review of Mis-Education, other Dr. Woodson related posts and a Truxton Circle related African American history book that was pretty good. I may do a few WSIC posts and one or two 1930 Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle.

WSIC- Property Owner of Sq. 552- William R. Riley

When looking at the General Assessment for 1902/1903 one of the biggest property owner for the block bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st and P St NW, Sq. 552, Wm. R. Riley, not the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC). WSIC’s time will come later.

William R. Riley owned lots 1-2, 4-6, and 29-32.

552-LC-1903

Who was William Robinson Smith Riley? He was born July 19, 1817 in Appomattox County, VA and died in DC on January 15, 1893.

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According to his obituary published in the Evening star. January 16, 1893, page 6:

William R. Riley Dead
A Well-Known Citizen Expires After a Short Illness

In the death of Mr. Wm. R. Riley this city loses one of its substantial citizens. His death occurred yesterday at his late residence, No. 7 Iowa Circle [Now Logan Circle]. Mr. Riley had reached the advanced age of seventy-five years. He was, however, a man of active habits, and while not exactly vigorous, yet he was seldom ill. His last sickness lasted only six days. On Monday just a week ago he was taken sick in his office in the Riley building, 9th and E streets. He was removed to his residence and by Thursday pneumonia developed which resulted in his death at 1 o’clock yesterday.
He had planned to leave for Florida today where his wife was staying. Mrs. Riley was at once informed of the illness of her husband and reached home Saturday morning. Mr. Riley had spent practically all his life in this city. He came here with his father from his birthplace in Accomac, Va., when only four years of age. When quite young he entered a dry-goods’ house as a clerk, and when still a young man he became the owner of the store in which he had started in life as a clerk.
The same business ability which marked his early career enabled him to amass a considerable fortune. He was identified with a number of the substantial business enterprises of the city.
He was the founder of the Arlington Fire Insurance Company, and a director in that company at the time of his death. For a number of years he was one of the directors of the Washington Gas Light Company. He established the West End Bank and until recently was the president.
He was a member of the old city council, was connected with Columbia Lodge of Odd Fellows, and was an active member of Ascension Church.
Six children survive him, two sons and four daughters.
The funeral services will be held at the Church of the Ascension Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock, and Rev. John H. Elliot will officiate. The interment will be in the family lot in Congressional cemetery. Continue reading WSIC- Property Owner of Sq. 552- William R. Riley

Mulatto vs Black in the 1920 Census

As you may know I am working with the 1920 census looking at and for Black home owners in Truxton Circle. I have noticed in the 1920 census African Americans are not called African Americans, that is a more ‘recent’ term. In 1920, we were described as either Black or Mulatto.

I have seen in the census where some members of the family are described as Black and others as mulatto. This confused me, but I tended to dismiss it because those descriptions went away in the 1930 census and I clumped Black and mulatto into one group for my research.

So one day I asked an expert if there were any studies about what made someone mulatto vs Black. As an undergrad I studied the country that is modern day Haiti and the term mulatto has a definition as well as other like terms (quadroon) recognized in law and culture. Outside of Louisiana, it is meaningless in the US if not offensive to those who take offense.

The expert pointed me to the Instructions to Enumerators.My mind was blown because I was under the impression that people were self identifying as mulatto or Black for the census. I was wrong, it was the enumerator who determined if someone was Black or mulatto. It was the enumerator’s subjective opinion that Morgan H. Dawkins was Black but his wife was mulatto.

Above I have an image of a snippet from the enumerator’s instruction book. It reads:

121. For census purposes the term “black” (B) includes all Negroes  of full blood, while the term mulatto (Mu) includes all Negroes having some proportion of white blood.

I believe the African American is a unique person who is of America. Made in America with a percentage of non-African heritage reflecting the diversity of America. With a little bit of Native American here, a little bit of European there, and a whole lot of West African everywhere. So most everyone would be mulatto. I know what they meant….

This makes me wonder if I should take a closer look at census enumerators. Then I remember I have the rest of 1920 to do and then 1930.

Rando Truxton History- Love & Marriage September 16, 1952

So I was looking for other bits of information an came across page 20 of the Evening Star for 9/16/1952 and found an article “Marriage License Applications” on some rando website. A safer website would be the Library of Congress’ site Chronicling America for the page.

There are two Truxton Circle addresses in there. And as part of my effort to research the bejezus out of the TC here they are-

Isiah Thompson 50, 3432 Warder St NW to Susan Craven, 45, of 1431 New Jersey Ave NW.

David Tyson, 18, 1618 4th St NW to Willie West, 17, 2022 4th St NW.

So I went digging. DC native, Willie Mae West Tyson (link only works if you are logged into AncestryLibrary) was the daughter of William Henry West and Grace Jenkins, born January 13, 1935. In the 1940 census her mother was listed as a widow seamstress working for the WPA project. They lived at 2022 4th St NW. According to her social security info, she was also known as Willie Mae Ebb. I couldn’t find anything on her husband David.

Nor could I find anything I felt worth noting about Susan Craven or Isiah Thompson.

1920 Asians of Truxton Circle

I was thinking of doing Asian Home Owners of Truxton Circle, but none of the six Asian residents were home owners in the 1920 census, which is where I’m pulling my data for the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle.

So let’s look at the residents, all men.

Tom Kee, b. 1851, China. Tom Kee lived at 1412 North Capitol St NW working as a laundryman. Almost all of the men in this post will be in the laundry and clothing cleaning business. He only shows up in this one census. I hunted him down in the 1919 city directory and found him via an address search. He was at 1422 North Cap. but that looks like a typo as it was between 1410 and 1414. I could not locate him under the Kees but found him under Tom, making me wonder if Tom is his surname. I switched the names around, but did not come up with any plausible leads.

Lee Bock Wing, b. 1873, California. Lee Bock Wing lived at 400 R St NW. Like Kee Tom, he too was in the laundry business. Interesting thing, in the 1940 census Lee Bock Wing shows up at 1412 North Capitol, Kee Tom’s 1920 home. Wing won’t show up as Chinese in the 1940 census because that field is unclear and Ancestry indexed him as White.

C.A. Suzuki, b. 1870. Pffft. I’m not going to find this guy. He was a roomer at 222 Florida Ave NW, the home of Wilson Lavender, an African American home repair man. Suzuki was the Lavender family’s only roomer. Suzuki being Japanese, was a manager, according to the census. In the 1919 city directory there were two Suzukis. One, CS Suzuki, was a butler, the other S Suzuki, was the manager of ladies furnishings. In the 1925 city directory there are three Suzukis, but I’m not sure if any of them are the same person who lived on Florida Avenue.

The Chen Brothers, Charlie b.1895 and John b. 1885- The Chen (maybe Chin) brothers lived at 1632 1st St NW, which no longer exists. Like many Chinese immigrants in DC, they were involved in the laundry business. In the 1920 census it was unclear if Charlie was the owner of the home. Checking the Recorder of Deeds, he was not. The search for Charlie was unfruitful. The search for John was confusing. The 1930 census lead me to two different Chens. One being Sam Chen who had the same estimated birthyear as John. Sam also lived at 1632 1st St NW. Is John Sam? Is Sam John? Moving on.

Frank Sing, b. 1870- He is listed as being White in the 1920 census. He and his parents were reportedly born in China, so I’m taking a leap and guessing he was Chinese. Mr. Sing lived at 1237 1st St NW as a roomer.  His landlord was an African American man, Herbert Johnson, who was also renting. Frank was one of two roomers. Today, he would probably considered a roommate.  Ancestry hints that his name could also be Frank Gury. It doesn’t matter, I can’t find him past the 1920 census. He was 50, and it’s 1920, so he could have died.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Peter M. Murray- 1645 New Jersey Ave NW

As part of this series, I pick the name of a Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle, and try to track their life in this DC neighborhood.  This is another sad story where someone loses their home.

Image not found

One little note, I have the man’s name as Philip M. Murray from the 1920 census. But other records have him down as Peter M. Murray.

Let’s hit the land records and take a look at what happened.

The DC Recorder of Deeds’ online records start around 1921. The first record for 1645 NJ Ave NW (E0509 0020) is a trust, which means money was borrowed, between Peter M. and his wife Charlotte M. Murray and trustees on June 10, 1925 for $5500. The debt was paid or released and recorded on May 28, 1931.

This was followed by a release, the next month on July 3, 1925. A release is usually a document to show the debt was paid. This release was for a debt taken out on January 21, 1921.

May 21, 1931 the Murrays were forwarded 30 shares from the Oriental Building Association which amounted to $6000. In November 1932 there was a trustees deed filed. It appears the Murrays defaulted on their loan. The Oriental Building Association ran a notice in the Evening Star and so the Murray’s lost their home.

So who were the Murrays? Peter Marshall Murray (must be logged into AncestryLibrary.com for link to work) was born in 1888 in Houma, Louisiana to John L and Lavinia Murray. Charlotte was born Charlotte M. Wallace in 1885 South Carolina. They married in Washington, DC July 2, 1917 when she was 32 years old.

In 1920 they lived at 1645 New Jersey Ave NW with Charlotte’s mother, her 23 year old sister, and a live in domestic servant.  Peter Murray was a physician, Charlotte and her sister Sametta were teachers. In July 1921, the Murrays had a son John Wallace/Walker Murray (d.2001).

According to the 1930 census the Murrays had departed DC and were living in a 7th Avenue apartment building in New York City. According to his World War II registration card Dr. Murray and his family lived at 2588 7th Ave Apartment 2P in central Harlem. So by the time they lost their DC house they were settled in New York.

One of the last records of him and Charlotte was a 1952 trip to the United Kingdom on the Queen Mary out of NYC to Southampton England. Dr. Murray died in December 1969 in New York. Charlotte died much later in 1982.

Charlotte Wallace Murray Dies - March 17, 1982

From Gerald D. Dorman, “Presentation of the Academy plaque to Peter M. Murray, MD.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 45, no. 8 (1969): 729.

There is more information about Dr. Murray after he and his family left DC.

New York Academy of Medicine First Black Fellow- https://nyamcenterforhistory.org/2021/02/23/nyams-first-black-fellow/

The Second Annual Post Graduate Seminar for Physicians Nov 3-5, 1941 held at the Howard University College of Medicine- listed as a presenter https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/forallthepeople/img/698.pdf

Peter Marshall Murray, M.D. 1888-1969- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2611885/

 

UPDATE 9/8/2021- I strongly suspect there is a portrait of Dr. Murray at the National Portrait Gallery- https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_S_NPG.67.21 painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau.

Look’s like I got my self a famous man-The American Medical Association  included him for Black History Month in a Facebook post.

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

The timeline on this one will be short, because the subject, Malinda Powell, a 66 year old Afro-American woman who lived at 71 N St NW during the 1920 census, died in 1925. But let’s explore what we can.

Normally, I pick the name of a Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle, and try to track their life in this DC neighborhood.  In the case of the Powells, I’ll be doing more of a mini-genealogy.
photo of property

Malinda Orange was born in 1855 in Petersburg, VA to Patrick Orange and Mary Cooley. She married David Powell May 10, 1881 in Alexandria, VA. She was listed as a widow but after searching Ancestry, I found an Alexandria county divorce. It appears David Powell sought the June 24, 1918 divorce and claimed ‘desertion’. I’m figuring that Mr. Powell was the one who left his wife, as Malinda Powell was at 71 N St in 1910, prior to the divorce. They were married 37 years and had 5 children.

In 1900 the Powell family rented a home at 223 3rd St NE. David J. Powell was a hotel porter. He lived in that house with Malinda and their 5 children, Mary B., Gladys H., James C., Samuel M., and Lillian B, along with his mother in law Mary Orange.

In 1910 the Powell family was living at 71 N St NW, as renters and without David J. as the head. James C. Powell was no longer living at home and understandably neither was Malinda’s mother. When we get to the 1920 census, James returned to living with his mother and his siblings had married. Mary became Mrs. Rhambeau, Gladys became Mrs. Jacob L. Reid and Samuel was married to Daisy, who was not living on N St. Their sister Lillian was not living at 71 N St either. Lillian B. Branch eventually lived in Tom’s River, NJ.

I want to note that Malinda is described as a widow in the 1920 census.  And to remind the reader, David her husband divorced her in 1918, two years before. Divorce, 100 years ago, was seen as a very shameful affair. It would have been reasonable, given her age (64 in 1920) to proclaim herself a widow.

There aren’t a lot of land records. The available online land records start around 1921 and the earliest for this address is a release from August 28, 1944.  Normally the releases are documents acknowledging the payment of a debt, but in this case it appears to be a transfer, between James C. Powell’s siblings and his widow Lucille B. Powell.

The next record is a January 27, 1959 deed. This is a genealogical info dump so forgive me. And it is proof that you should just name one person to inherit your property, not a slew of family members. So Samuel Powell, his wife Daisy W. Powell, Miss Clara Reid Willis (their niece I guess), Miriam Reid Felder (another niece?), and her husband Allie C. Felder Jr., who all were heirs of Malinda and James C. Powell, Gladys Powell Reid, Mary Powell Rhambeau and Lillian Powell Branch, sold the property to Arline M. Neal and Ruth Malone.