Category Archives: Suffolk

Portsmouth, Virginia: Replacement headstones on the way!

Yesterday, I was able to visit ancestral ground, and mark the grave locations of three Civil War veterans, freedom fighters all, who’ll soon get new headstones. Our family was able to set aside the money necessary to install them. A great day!

Copyright Nadia K. Orton 2010

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December 9, 2010, Mount Olive Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Pvt. Washington Milbey, Company F, 10th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born ca. 1818, Nansemond County (City of Suffolk), Virginia. Enlisted November 25, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Mustered December 17, 1863, Fort Monroe, Virginia. Mustered out May 17, 1866, Galveston, Texas. Died January 22, 1894, Portsmouth, Virginia.

 

Copyright 2013 Nadia K. Orton

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, May 26, 2013. Mount Olive Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Sgt. James “Jim” Edwards, Company C, 2nd Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry. Born ca. 1840, Currituck County, North Carolina. Enlisted and mustered December 24, 1863, Fort Monroe, Virginia. Mustered out February 12, 1866, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Died September 15, 1901, Portsmouth, Virginia.

 

Copyright 2010 Nadia K. Orton

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 25, 2010. Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex)

 

Pvt. Samuel Dyes, Company G, 36th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born ca. 1835, Norfolk County (City of Chesapeake), Virginia. Enlisted December 9, 1863, Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered December 28, 1863, Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered out October 28, 1866, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Died July 25, 1925, Portsmouth, Virginia. ♥

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Filed under Civil War, Currituck County, Hampton, Norfolk, Norfolk County, North Carolina, Portsmouth, Slavery, Suffolk, Texas, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries, Virginia

Perquimans County, North Carolina: Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry, Belvidere

Pvt. Josephus Riddick Perquimans NC Copyright Nadia Orton 2017

Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry

A few days ago, our family visited the grave of Pvt. Josephus Riddick (1844-1925), of Company E, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. The concrete headstone stands about three feet tall, and contains the inscription, “husband of Mary Riddick,” perhaps carved by hand or pressed into the cement before it set. The marker is in very good condition considering its age, and was most likely made by someone skilled in working with the material. I wanted to take a picture of the gravestone without the vine obscuring the inscription, so we wet the stone face with a few bottles of water to loosen the vine’s roots, then carefully snipped it away. Due to the heat, it didn’t take long for the stone to dry. As a rule, we generally try to do as little as possible to a gravestone, but may return soon to remove the rest of the biological growth, as it contains acids that may further damage the stone.

Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1 USCC, with vine removed. Biological growth (i.e. lichen), remains.

In military records, Josephus is listed as “Joseph Redick.” He enlisted at the age of 21 on March 25, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia under Capt. Charles W. Emerson (d. December 17, 1905), formerly of the 3rd New York Cavalry. Josephus was born in Nansemond County (City of Suffolk), Virginia, and was described as five feet, six inches tall, with the occupation of “general laborer.” He mustered in at Camp Hamilton, in Hampton, Virginia. After a term of about two years, he mustered out on February 11, 1866 with the surviving members of his regiment at Brazos Santiago, Texas.

After returning to Perquimans County, North Carolina, Josephus married Harriett Ann Turner, daughter of Eliza Turner, on January 12, 1878. The ceremony took place at the home of Rev. Willis Whitehead. The young couple resided in Belvidere Township, where Josephus worked primarily as a farmer. According to census records, five children were born to Josephus and Harriett Ann, sons George, Henry, and James Herman, and daughters Josephine and Wincy.

Belvidere Perquimans Co. Sign - Copyright 2012 Nadia Orton

Belvidere Township sign, December 15, 2012. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

Harriett Ann Riddick passed away in 1914. Josephus later married Mary Riddick, daughter of Noah and (Harriett) Ann Riddick, on November 18, 1915, in Belvidere. Josephus died on October 15, 1925.

It’s exciting to discover and document a “new” U. S. Colored Troop, but I can’t take credit for finding his headstone; that honor goes to my father. He’d spotted it almost immediately. Josephus is a “Riddick,” and the surname is common on the paternal side of our family tree. Perhaps Josephus is another long-lost relative? Only time will tell…♥

 

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Filed under Civil War, Hampton, North Carolina, Perquimans County, Suffolk, Texas, Tombstone Tales, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries

Accomack County, Virginia: Documenting a historically African-American cemetery, Father’s Day, 2017

Documenting a historically African American cemetery on Father’s Day (June 18th), 2017, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. One of the oldest, inhabited areas of the state,  it’s become one of our favorite family destinations. The cemetery is just north of the birthplace of a family elder, who was a much beloved and respected teacher and educator of historic I. C. Norcom High School, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Unfortunately, most of the oldest sections of the cemetery were too overgrown for closer investigation, and my father warned of snakes and other dangers that may have been hidden by the overgrowth. We observed some areas that had been cleared by family members in order to reach their ancestors’ gravesites, perhaps in observance of Decoration Day, or Father’s Day. It was an encouraging thought; we’ll return soon in the hope of further exploration.  ♥

Accomack County African American cemetery copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Historical African American cemetery in Accomack County, Virginia

 

African American cemetery Accomack Virginia copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Historical African American cemetery in Accomack County, Virginia

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Filed under Accomack County, Civil War, In Memoriam, Portsmouth, Stories in Stone, Suffolk, Virginia

Edgecombe County, North Carolina: Historical marker dedication, State v. Will, 1834

State v Will marker Battleboro NC Copyrigh 2017 Nadia Orton

Historical Marker, State v Will, 1834. Battleboro, NC, June 10, 2017

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to join fellow members of the Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, for the dedication of the historical marker commemorating the landmark State v. Will Case of 1834. From the pamphlet distributed during the program:

The North Carolina Star, January 31, 1834

“On January 22, 1834, Will, a slave belonging to James Battle at his Edgecombe County plantation, Walnut Creek, killed a white man. The charges brought against Will at the time resulted in the State v. Will case, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court protected slaves from a charge of murder when acting in self-defense.

The day started with an argument between Will a slave foreman named Allen over the possession of a hoe that Will had made by hand. Tempers flared and Will broke the hoe before going to work at a nearby cotton mill. After learning of Will’s behavior, Richard Baxter, Battle’s overseer, set off on horseback with his gun. Allen followed with his whip. Confronted by Baxter, Will attempted to flee but was shot in the back. Wounded and running for his life, Will was overtaken. Armed with a knife, Will fought off Baxter. A deep knife wound to Baxter’s arm proved fatal.

Will was charged with murder, although a white man in the same circumstances would have been charged with manslaughter. After looking at the evidence Battle believed that Will acted in self-defense, and he hired two prominent attorneys, Bartholomew Figures Moore and George Washington Mordecai, to defend Will against the murder conviction.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that any slave under such provocation could only be charged with manslaughter. This challenged the 1829 State v. Mann decision which held that a master’s power over a slave was absolute and that the slave’s submission must be “perfect.”

Justice William Gaston, who wrote the opinion, said that the law required exceptions to the unconditional and absolute power over slaves as described in Justice Thomas Ruffin’s State v. Mann. Ina direct reference to Thomas Ruffin’s opinion in Mann, Moore had opened his argument with the point that “absolute power is irresponsible power, circumscribed by no limits save its own imbecility and selecting its own means with unfettered discretion.” Gaston reasoned that the act was “a brief fury” that left Will incapable of rational thought. Further humanizing Will he wrote that it was “instinctive to fly, human to struggle, and terror or resentment the strongest of passions, had given the struggle its fatal issue.”

It was Gaston’s conclusion that the law must treat slaves as any other human in such a case. He stated, “If the passions of the slave be excited into unlawful violence by the inhumanity of a master…is it a conclusion of law that such passion must spring from diabolical malice?” The decision was praised by abolitionists, covered by newspapers around the country, and cited as precedent in other legal cases. Will’s bold act of resistance served to humanize slaves in the eyes of the law.” (ncmarkers.com)

The dedication of the marker was held at the Dunbar Community Center in Battleboro, North Carolina. During the program, I learned that the director of the Dunbar Center and members of the Dunbar community had graciously allowed the center’s use for the program, and I once again appreciated the maintenance of ties between extant black communities and the preservation of African American history. The center was once a funeral home, donated to the community, and preserved and enlarged through several state and private grants. Others in attendance included representatives of the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Black Workers for Justice, and the Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union (CAAMWU)  . The Benediction and Grace was delivered by Deacon Linwood Armston of Holy Temple Holiness Church, Tarboro, North Carolina.

Dunbar Community Center Battleboro NC 2017 Copyright Nadia Orton

Dunbar Community Center, Battleboro, North Carolina

 

Dunbar Center North Carolina Copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Dunbar Community Center, June 10, 2017. Edgecombe County, North Carolina

 

Keynote Preservation State V Will Copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Keynote speaker, Dr. David Dennard, Director African and African American Studies, East Carolina University, and member of the North Carolina Historical Commission

State v. Will is an extremely interesting piece of history, and it must be placed within its appropriate historical context, occurring between the publication of David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831, in Southampton County, Virginia, and the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford case, or Dred Scott Decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that “a black man has no rights which a white man is bound to respect.” In 1834, Will, through his act of self-defense, had essentially asserted his own humanity. In the aftermath of the case, Will’s owner, James Smith Battle (1786-1854), sent Will to Mississippi, where he was later executed (by hanging) for the murder of another slave. As reported in an article by the News and Observer, Will’s wife,  “Aunt Rose,” was overheard saying “Will surely had hard luck.” On June 10th, the program held in commemoration of Will’s act of resistance provided some small measure of dignity to a man who was afforded so little in life. And in learning more of Will’s story, I came to fully  appreciate the symbolism inherent within the program’s location: in an early institution of the Dunbar community (former funeral home), preserved as a recreation and heritage center, and surrounded by living descendants of the enslaved on the Battle plantation.

State v. Will (1834), near Tarboro, NC, is the sixth historical marker sponsored by the Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Others include: African Americans Defend Washington (1863), Washington, NC; the Knights of Labor (1886-1890), Tarboro, NC; Congressman George H. White & Black Second District (1897-1901), Tarboro, NC:  Thelonious Monk (1917), Rocky Mount, NC; and Operation Dixie: Tobacco Leaf House Workers Organizing Campaign (1946), Rocky Mount, NC.

 

The Phoenix Historical Society of Edgecombe County, North Carolina

“To recover, record, and promote the unique history of Edgecombe County experienced by members of its African American community.”

State v Will Historical Marker Copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

State v Will Historical Marker. Battleboro, North Carolina, June 10, 2017

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Filed under Edgecombe County, Mississippi, North Carolina, Slavery, Southampton County, Suffolk, Virginia

Warren County, North Carolina – Earth Day, 2017: Trees, branches, and documenting family roots

IMG_20170422_154125283 - Copy (2)

Warren County, North Carolina

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April 22, 2017 · 9:45 pm

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

Protected: Richmond, Virginia: Thoughts on Shockoe Bottom

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Filed under Bertie County, Chesapeake, Civil War, Gates County, Hampton, Norfolk, North Carolina, Portsmouth, Richmond, Southampton County, Suffolk, Surry County, Tombstone Tales, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries, Virginia, Virginia Beach

The Descendants Corner: Update re: The Savage Family, Mt. Calvary Cemetery

Pvt. Alfred Savage replacement gravestone Portsmouth Va. Orton

Pvt. Alfred Savage (1837-1899), Company D, 2nd Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry.               Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth, Va.

The replacement gravestone for Pvt. Alfred Savage, of Co. D, 2nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry, recently installed in Mt. Calvary Cemetery. His descendants, whom we met last year, visited his gravesite over the weekend. I wrote a short article about finding Pvt. Savage in the cemetery, and his descendants, who have made significant contributions to the City of Portsmouth. We still have a long way to go…necessary mapping of gravesites (through ground-penetrating radar), drainage studies, and other issues are vital to the long-term preservation plan for the cemetery complex, where thousands of individuals, including our ancestors, lie. However, accomplishments such as these are always a great reminder of why “we do what we do.” For family, for preservation, and for history. Again, thanks so much to the Savage Family for allowing us to take part in this journey. ♥

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Filed under Civil War, Portsmouth, Stories in Stone, Suffolk, The Descendants Corner, Tombstone Files, Tombstone Tales, U. S. Colored Troops, USCT Diaries, Virginia

Protected: The Caretakers: William H. Elliott, Court Street Baptist Church, Portsmouth

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Portsmouth, VA: Cemetery Complex Gains Advocates, Lia Russell, The Virginian-Pilot

Four historic adjoining cemeteries – Mount Calvary, Fisher’s Hill, Mount Olive and a potter’s field – are in need of restoration and preservation. The African American Cemeteries of Portsmouth Foundation, a newly founded “friends” group, is hoping to spearhead the effort. (Photo: The Virginian-Pilot)

By Lia Russell

The long-neglected historic African American cemetery complex off Deep Creek Boulevard and Pulaski Street now has a dedicated advocacy group.

Brenda and Nadia Orton, a mother and daughter from Richmond who have at least 15 relatives buried in the cemeteries, have formed the African American Historic Cemeteries of Portsmouth Foundation, a “friends” group of volunteers.

The idea manifested as a result of a meeting earlier this month with representatives of the Chicora Foundation, which was hired to complete a restoration and preservation plan for the four conjoined cemeteries.  READ MORE

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Filed under Civil War, Norfolk County, Portsmouth, Richmond, Stories in Stone, Suffolk, The Descendants Corner, U. S. Colored Troops, Virginia