West End of Alexandria, VA

Clara Shorts Adams

Prior to the 1920s, the West End of Alexandria, Virginia was at one time or another considered to be in Fairfax, VA or in Arlington, VA. By the 1920s, West End was considered Alexandria, VA. In celebrating Alexandria’s history, this blog is on the West End of Alexandria.

A tribute to Clara Shorts Adams and her husband, Robert Adams for contributing quarter-acre land to the Falls Church School District in Fairfax County for an African American School in 1898. The one room school building was built on the land that the Adams gave to the Fairfax School system.

Clara Shorts and Robert Adams married January 2, 1886 in Fairfax County, VA. Clara was the daughter of Harriet Stewart McKnight Shorts and Burr Shorts. Her husband’s parents were George and Ann (Annie) Adams. It is believed that Clara’s parents were enslaved prior to 1865, but Clara’s husband, Robert’s parents, were freed people of color prior to 1865 living in the City of Alexandria.

This small act of kindness by Clara and Robert is still remembered a hundred and seventeen years later by their descendants in the West End of Alexandria.

Fort Ward (part of the West End) area of Alexandria, Virginia has a rich history of early African Americans owning their land and building their community as part of Alexandria today. Although the one room school is no longer there, the contribution made by Clara and Robert is still remembered in the Fort Ward and Seminary communities. In celebration of the end of the Civil War, I salute the Adams’ family for their commitment to education!

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Update – James E. Piper

Mr. James E. Piper's death obit - Tuesday, December 20, 1898, p8 - Evening Star (Washington, DC)

Mr. James E. Piper’s death obit – Tuesday, December 20, 1898, p8 – Evening Star (Washington, DC)

On January 25, 2015, a descendant of the Piper family, Richard contacted me. He has been doing researching his family history for more than a decade.

Though James E. Piper reported in the Southern Claims Commission records that he lost everything he had, Richard said that James owned a lot of real estate up till the time of his death. James continued to operate his brickyard business beyond the Civil War, and expended the business to Leesburg and Loudon Counties in Virginia.

Also Richard provided the information on James’ death. James E. Piper died in Washington, DC on December 17, 1898, while visiting his daughter, Ann Cornelia Piper Gray.

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of James E. Piper, but I am glad to know that his descendant is planning on writing the Piper’s family history.

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James E Piper

James E Piper's 1878's Southern Claim Deposition

James E Piper’s 1878’s Southern Claim Deposition

The life of Mr. Piper and his losses during the Civil War interested me to the point, I had to tell his story.

James E. Piper (Ramsay) and his brother, William Henry Piper (Ramsay) were freed people of colored prior to the Civil War. They registered in Alexandria County in 1846. James was described as a mulatto man, about 26 years old and 5 feet 3 ½ inches tall. He was born free in 1820. His mother, Elizabeth Ann Piper Ramsay, a white woman, confirmed her son was born free.

William Henry Piper (Ramsay) was also registered in 1846. William was born in 1825 and he was a mulatto man, about 22 years old, 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall. His mother, Elizabeth Ann Piper Ramsay, a white woman, said her son was born free.

James and William and their wives lived in Alexandria, Virginia, but the two brothers leased one-hundred acre farm land from Edward Daingerfield and his wife in the West End, about four miles from Alexandria and a half mile from the Episcopal Seminary. They had leased the land for $75 a year and they had a brickyard and a farm. They had farmed the land for a couple of years prior to the Civil War.

Prior to the Union occupying Alexandria, Edward Daingerfield died. The Piper brothers continued their lease contract with Mrs. Daingerfield.

Around late July of 1861, Blenker’s Brigade camped near the farm after the battle at Bull Run. The Union soldiers seized the farm and ran off the Piper’s employee, James Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell was told by the Union’s soldiers that if he returned to the farm, they will shoot him.

The Piper brothers lost all of their crop, lumber, and animals during the Union’s occupation of the farm. Their property was estimated at $1,306.80. Their inventory of their losses were:

39 hogs
1 stack of hay
7 stacks of oats
30 bushels of rye
160 bushels of wheat
150 bushels of potatoes
1 acre of garden stuff
80 barrels of corn
1 horse wagon
Materials of a stable

James’ younger brother, William died in 1864. James and William’s wife, Sarah, put in a claim to the Federal government after the Civil War for the destruction of their property by Union’s soldiers. They estimated their losses to be $1,306.80. The government only reimbursed the Pipers $183.00. In spite of James’ losses, he swore in front of a government representative that he was faithful to the Union.

Through court cases, southern claims records, censuses, freedmen bureau records, vital statistic records, freedmen registrations, and newspaper articles, I have been able to examine the losses and the accomplishments of the Piper family.

James E. Piper (Ramsay) was married to Ann Elizabeth Brown. They had the following children William, Sarah, Anna, and Thomas.

William Henry Piper (Ramsay) was married to Sarah. They had the following children James H, Elizabeth, Alice G., George, and Frederick.

James E. Piper in 1876 lived at one of his properties at Pitt, corner of Oronoco Street. In 1888, James lived at his property at 427 North Pitt Street. By 1899, James was living at another one of his properties at 423 North Pitt Street. James owned more than three properties prior to 1900.

During James’ lifetime, he witnessed three relatives buried at the Freedmen Cemetery. The relatives were Abraham Lincoln Piper, James Piper, and William Piper. Also James was part of the Trustees of the African American schools prior and after the Civil War. He was an active Republican and he represented District 2 in Alexandria. He served as a juror in the in the late 1860s and in the 1870s.

James also experienced other losses. By 1880, his wife Ann had died. Prior to 1876, his sister-in-law, Sarah also died. In 1880, William’s children and their spouses, George N. Piper, Sarah E Piper Fletcher (Carter), and Alice Piper Landreth (William) sued James for their father’s estate.

On the 1880 census, James was 55 years old and was living alone. His official birth year was 1820. It appeared at that point that his children were no longer living in Alexandria. In 1883, the Alexandria Gazette’s article on Roberts Chapel (now Roberts Memorial Methodist Church) mentioned James’ leadership skills saying, “The choir of Roberts chapel is steadily making progress under the leadership of Mr. James Piper.”

James was not located on the 1900 census, and it is assumed that he might have died between 1883 and 1900.

James and his brother, William should have many descendants. Both of them had children and other Piper relatives that once lived in Alexandria. William’s daughter, Elizabeth married Carter Fletcher on May 1, 1879 at Alfred Street Baptist Church. The famous Reverend Samuel W. Madden officiated their wedding. After their marriage, they migrated to Baltimore, Maryland in the 6th Precinct. They lived on Robert Street. Carter and Elizabeth on 1900 census had four children, Harry, Chester, Alice, and Sarah.
James and his brother, William had experienced financial independence before the Civil War, but lost their farm and brickyard business during the Civil War. His brother died without having the chance to regain any of his property back. On the other hand, James witnessed the emancipation of all African Americans even though he lost his financial independence. By the time the Civil War ended, James was 45 years old. And by the time he settled his claim with the government in 1880, he was 60 years old. The lifestyle and financial freedom he once had was never going to be regained. At his age, he could not regain what he once had.

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Reverend George W. Parker

RevGeoWParker2

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA) Tuesday, November 22, 1870

In celebration of the end of the Civil War, this first blog will be on Reverend

George W. Parker. He was the first documented pastor of “Third Baptist Church” in Alexandria, Virginia.

Reverend George (Geo) W. Parker had many careers like many progressive African Americans in the 19th century in Alexandria, Virginia. Although the 1870 census stated he was born around 1842, no other documentation has been found at this time to confirm or disapprove his date of birth in 1842 or earlier. Based on the 1870 census, he was 38 years old, which would have correctly put his birthdate around 1842. His occupation was listed as clergyman. Three children were listed in his household: Abraham 15, Isaac 13, and Mary 13. Ann Quander 62 was also in the household, listed as a housekeeper and Oceola Richardson.

One of the earlier documents in the Freedmen Bureau stated that Reverend Geo W. Parker was one of the trustees and founders of “The First Select Colored School” in 1862 along with George Seaton, George W Simms, Charles Watson, Clem Robinson, Anthony S. Perpener, George W Bryant, Hannibal King, George P. Douglas, John Davis, J. McKinney Ware and James Pipe, all African Americans of Alexandria, Virginia. They were all freed people of color prior to the Civil War. Reverend Parker was not only a trustee of “The First Select Colored School” that was on the future site of Beulah Baptist Church, but he was also a teacher along with Reverend Clem Robinson and his wife and Miss Amanda Bowden (Borden). Reverend Parker with the other trustees were involved in several land deeds in 1865 – 1867 that resulted in land acquisition for the “Third Baptist Church”. He was a teacher and a minister for former slaves during the Civil War. The former slaves became the early members of “Third Baptist Church”. He became the pastor at “Third Baptist Church” from 1863 – 1875.

His list of multiple careers included Council member for the Jefferson Township, District 4 in Alexandria, Virginia. He was heavily involved with the Republican Party. Also he was the 1870 Assistant Deputy U.S. Marshal for the U.S. Census in Jefferson Township of Alexandria. The township had a population of 1,256 people.

Beyond Reverend Parker’s careers as a teacher, clergyman, trustee, and Council member, he became a hotel owner of the “Empire House” located on the North side of King Street between Fayette and Payne Streets in 1870. The Hotel was two square blocks from the Railroad depot, present day Alexandria Train Station. An article on November 22, 1870 stated, “The Parker House…Reverend George W. Parker, colored, Councilman from the Fourth Ward, repaired, refitted and refurnished, and under the name of the Parker House, opened for the reception of guests. A thorough inspection of the hotel reveals neatness, cleanliness and convenience in all its various departments, and with the table kept there no one can find fault.” Prior to Reverend Parker’s purchasing the “Empire House”, it was on the market for a decade because of two events, a young woman died in the hotel and because of the Civil War.

In 1875, Reverend George W. Parker died. In his life time, he impacted many people and he helped the disadvantaged African Americans and former slaves. Today, “Third Baptist Church” is located at 917 Princess Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Since 2001, Reverend James V. Jordan has been the minister at “Third Baptist Church”.

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