Category Archives: South Carolina

On Memorial Day, Reflecting on African-American History – The National Trust for Historic Preservation

First Memorial Day plaque Charleston SC Copyright Nadia Orton 2015

Plaque honoring the first Memorial Day in the United States. Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 6, 2015

 

Every May, the nation marks Memorial Day, the longstanding tradition we use to recognize fallen veterans. The holiday has its origins in “Decoration Day,” originally held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, when thousands of former slaves, Union soldiers, and missionaries honored Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prison and were subsequently buried in a makeshift mass grave.

Historian David Blight recounts that after the soldiers’ proper burials, a massive parade followed. Participants decorated the graves with flowers, and clergy delivered speeches to commemorate the fallen.

My personal introduction to Decoration Day began with oral histories provided by my family’s elders. In rural Tidewater, Virginia, they told stories of Decoration Day commemorations stretching back to the 1880s. Parades began in African-American communities and ended at local black cemeteries. Families and friends honored their ancestors through song and praise, while their graves were cleaned and re-decorated.

They had good reason to pay homage: Many veterans had returned from the front lines of war to become leaders in their communities, forming masonic lodges, burial societies, schools, churches, and cemeteries. These institutions formed the foundations of post-Civil War African-American communities, giving their communities potential for the very type growth and development African-Americans had been denied in slavery. READ MORE…

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Filed under Charleston County, Civil War, Craven County, Mississippi, New Hanover County, New York, North Carolina, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Slavery, South Carolina, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries, Virginia

Memorials to United States Colored Troops, Pt. 3 – Atlanta, Georgia

Memorials to United States Colored Troops

A photo-essay series dedicated to the United States Colored Troops, and how they were remembered in contemporary news media

Pt. 3

Atlanta, Georgia

South-View Cemetery

Grave of Cpl George “Union” Wilder – Co. F, 137th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. The inscription includes his name, the symbol of three links, representing affiliation with the Order of Odd Fellows, his age, and “A soldier of the Civil War/was killed in the riot/ of Atlanta Sept. 26, 1906”

 

“One of the dead negroes killed in the Brownsville fight Monday night, and up to this time unknown, has been identified as George Wilder, 70 years old.” — Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 26, 1906

(Photo: Nadia K. Orton, February 15, 2012)

 

 

Grave of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner , Chaplain, 1st. U. S. Colored Infantry

 

“The funeral of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who died at Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Saturday, May 8, will take place at Big Bethel Church, this city, on Wednesday, May 19. The remains will lay in state the day preceding the funeral. Nearly all of the bishops of the church, the general offices and many ministers are expected to be in attendance.

Bishop Turner was born in South Carolina in July, 1833. He learned his alphabet when he was nine years of age and while working for a firm of lawyers at Abbeville, S. C., was taught to read. He studied under the tutelage of his employers, history, literature and other subjects. When quite a young man he was ordained a minister of the M. E. Church, South. He later joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was appointed to a charge in Baltimore by the late Bishop Daniel A. Payne. While in Baltimore he studied languages and the higher branches.

First Colored Army Chaplain

During part of the Civil War he was pastor of what is now known as Metropolitan Church, Washington. President Lincoln appointed him the first colored chaplain in the Negro troops enlisted during the war. When the colored troops were established after the war, President Johnson appointed him a chaplain in the regular army. He soon resigned, however, and organized the work of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia.

He was elected manager of the publication department of the church in 1876, serving until his elevation to the bishopric in 1880. He organized the work of the denomination in Africa, as well as annual conferences in this country. He had served as a member of the legislature in Georgia and of constitutional conventions in that state. He was considered one of the most forceful characters in his denomination.

Bishop Turner was married three times. His second wife was the late Mrs. Harriett Wayman, of Baltimore, widow of Bishop Alexander Wayman. His third wife, Mrs. Laura Lemon Turner, and two sons, Jonathan and David Turner, survive.” —The New York Age, May 13, 1915

 

Ledger grave of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

“TURNER – Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, February 1, 1834-May 9, 1915 – Grandson of an African Prince/Bishop Presiding Elder, Pastor/Chaplain (U.S. Army), State Senator (Georgia)/Organizer and Builder of the/African Methodist Episcopal Church/In Georgia, West and South Africa/Missiologist, Publisher, Activist Theologian/And Heroic Christian/

Noble and Indomitable Spirit/Rest In Peace/May God Bless

Erected by the Women’s Missionary Society/Sixth District — A.M.E. Church/June 1996/Rev. Augusta H. Hall, Jr. Archivist/Mrs. Edith W. Ming, Supervisor/Bishop Donald G. K. Ming, Presiding Prelate/

 

“VAST HOST PAY TRIBUTE TO LATE BISHOP TURNER – Seldom has a larger crowd witnessed a funeral here than the one that saw the sad last rites paid to Bishop Henry M. Turner at Big Bethel A. M. E. Church today.

Bishops of the church, general officers and visiting ministers were here to pay a last tribute of respect to the man that organized the work in Georgia, but whose influence is seen in the work being done by denomination in West and South Africa and in various sections of the United States.

The services were conducted by Bishop James S. Flipper, of this city. He paid a splendid tribute to the life of the deceased prelate. Others taking part in the services included: Bishops C. S. Smith, Levi J. Coppin, William D. Chappelle, Joshua H. Jones, H. B. Parks, B. F. Lee, C. T. Shaffer and J. M. Conner. The following bishops were unable to be present: Evans Tyree, who is presiding over the sessions of the Philadelphia Conference at Dover, Del.; J. Albert Johnson, who is in South Africa; W. H. Heard who is in West Africa, and John Hurst, who is visiting the work of the denomination in South America and the West Indies.

Telegrams of condolence and resolutions from various religious bodies eulogized the deceased bishop.

Many were the tribute paid by prominent whites here when they heard that the prelate was dead.

As was told THE AGE last week, Bishop Turner died in Windsor , Ont.; on May 8. He was born in South Carolina 83 years ago, and enjoyed the distinction of having been the first colored man appointed to a chaplaincy in the United States Army. He was elected a bishop in 1880 and had his funeral occurred one day later it would have been on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his elevation to the episcopacy.” — The New York Age, May 20, 1915

(Photos: Nadia K. Orton, February 15, 2012)

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Filed under Canada, Civil War, Georgia, In Memoriam, Memorials to Civil War Veterans, Obituary Files, Ontario, Slavery, South Carolina, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries, Virginia

A Personal Journey Through African-American Cemeteries – National Trust for Historic Preservation

Copyright Nadia Orton

At my great-great-great-grandfather Alexander Orton, 10th U. S. Colored Infantry, at Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Portsmouth, Virginia.

I’ll never forget the exciting moment when I found the gravesite of Alexander Orton, my paternal great-great-great-grandfather. Born in 1842 in Virginia, he was a Civil War veteran and member of the 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry.

Finding his last resting place was part of a genealogy project I’ve been pursuing for nine years now, keeping a long-standing promise made to an elder. Diagnosed with a serious chronic illness as a teenager, I needed a kidney transplant soon after college. My great-aunt gathered her entire church congregation to support my transplant fund, but held a lingering concern about our family legacy.

“Do not let our history die,” she told my father shortly before her passing in 2007. To honor her last wish, I vowed to make the most of my second chance and do my part in documenting our family history.

I’ve traced my father’s ancestry to 1630 in Virginia, and my mother’s to 1770 in North Carolina. Some of my ancestors were born free, while others were enslaved. Like Alexander, some enlisted in the Union Army to fight for freedom in the Civil War. They’d founded four African-American communities in Tidewater, Virginia, along with masonic lodges, banks, churches, and schools. They were oystermen, carpenters, farmers, teachers, Pullman porters, and teamsters at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. READ MORE

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Filed under Baltimore, Chesapeake, Civil War, Durham County, Florida, Franklin County, Gates County, Georgia, Hertford County, Isle of Wight County, Maryland, New Hanover County, Norfolk County, North Carolina, Pasquotank County, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Richmond, Slavery, South Carolina, Stories in Stone, Suffolk, Tombstone Tales, U. S. Colored Troops, Vance County, Virginia, Warren County, Wilmington

Beaufort National Cemetery, SC: United States Colored Troops

USCT Beaufort National Cemetery SC

United States Colored Troops, Section 29

 

Our family paid a visit to Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, South Carolina, in early December, 2014. While there, I snapped a photo of some of the United States Colored Troops. It was Wreaths Across America Day at the cemetery, and there were hundreds of people present, prepared to pay homage to the fallen by decorating each grave with a wreath. Recently, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History announced they were holding a photo contest of historic sites in the state. I thought “why not?,” and submitted this photo. Surprisingly, it was selected by staff as one of the ten finalists. I didn’t win, though. That honor went to an amazing photo of an old African American school. I’m still tickled my pic made it to the top ten. Thanks so much to the staff of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History! ♦

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June 10, 2015 · 10:26 pm

Protected: In Memoriam: Robert Smalls, Tabernacle Baptist Church Cemetery

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Filed under Civil War, In Memoriam, South Carolina