Coming Home to Old Alexandria

Behind the scenes of the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s article on, “Coming Home to Old Alexandria”– dated July 25 – 31, 2019.

Sherrin’s mother, Helen L. Hamilton Bell

Many African Americans migrated from Alexandria, Virginia for different reasons. The Franklin family migrated early in the 19th century to New York and the District of Columbia; later they migrated to New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota and Philadelphia.

Sherrin Hamilton Bell, the 2nd great-granddaughter of Harry G. Franklin, who was born in Philadelphia was on a quest to find out about her 2nd great-grandfather. Harry left Alexandria over 100-years ago when he was buried at the Methodist Cemetery in 1901. Sherrin makes her visit to Alexandria after 118-years from the death of her 2nd great-grandfather.

When she came back home to Alexandria, she found that her family had a rich history that they left behind in Virginia. She was able to walk through the Cemetery where Harry G. Franklin and his grandparents were buried. She attended Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church where her ancestors attended in the 1800s. It was like she was walking back in time when she visited the Freedmen’s Cemetery that Harry’s great grandfather buried two of his family members in the 1860s. The Cemetery is located on Washington Street walking distant from the Church her family attended.

Coming home to Alexandria brought Sherrin a place of origin. A place that her family had talked about. A place that her family had been freed people of color as far back as the 1700s.

For more about Sherrin’s journey home, check out the article “Coming Home to Old Alexandria” July 25-31, 2019 in the Alexandria Gazette Packet on page 9 at
http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2019/072419/Alexandria.pdf.

Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead – First Female Preacher and Deaconess

Behind the scene of the Alexandria Gazette story on “The Life of Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead,” dated March 15, 2018.

Judy Coles Bailey

About seven years ago, I was contacted by Terry Coles and his sister, Judy Coles-Bailey that their great-grandmother, Rosa Harris-Jackson Armistead was from Alexandria and they believed that she was connected to the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery.

After researching Rosa Armistead, I confirmed that Rosa’s mother, Mary Nash-Harris buried a child at the Freedmen Cemetery, which will be discussed in an upcoming book on the Freedmen Cemetery.

Mary Nash-Harris and her children, Emma and Rosa migrated to Alexandria during the Civil War from Prince Williams County, Virginia. Mary Nash-Harris met Sandy Hodge in Alexandria and they got married. After a few years of marriage, they separated and late divorced. Mary’s daughter Emma Jean Harris married Daniel C. Richards in Alexandria. Emma and her husband moved to Philadelphia. Emma died in Philadelphia in 1957. On her death certificate, she was 99-years old; but, she was older than what the death certificate reported. Emma’s sister, Rosa married twice and Rosa died in Alexandria at the age of 97 in 1951. Her death certificate had her age as 79 but she was 97-years old.

Rosa had several children, one of her daughters was named after her, Rosa L. Armistead. Rosa married Jacob Lawrence, Sr., in New Jersey, they had a son named Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, Jr.

Jr. Jacob became a famous painter. He received national acclaim for his paintings. His paintings continued to be in great demand today. Jacob Lawrence, Jr., was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His mother, Rosa Armistead-Lawrence migrated from Alexandria to Atlantic City where she met her future husband, Jacob Lawrence Sr. Rosa, her husband and young son migrated from Atlantic City to Philadelphia. The family probably lived with a relative while they were in Philadelphia, possibly Rosa’s aunt Emma Harris-Richards. While in Philadelphia, Rosa had two more children. Later, Rosa and her family migrated to New York. New York gave the family more opportunities in housing and education, the young Jacob Lawrence was able to pursue his education interest in the arts.

Jacob’s paintings have been showed all over the world. His paintings depicted the life of

African Americans as he saw it. His paintings have been transformed into postcards, greeting cards, reproduction of his art on canvases and wearable garments.

Today New York City claims Jacob Lawrence Jr., as their own, but his roots are in Alexandria where his great-grandmother, Mary Nash-Harris and her children fled Prince Williams, Virginia to Alexandria during the Civil War.

Miss Laura Missouri Dorsey

Behind the Alexandria Gazette story on Laura Missouri Dorsey dated January 11 – 17, 2018.

Several years ago, I visited and interviewed Miss Laura Missouri Dorsey’s second cousin, Mrs. Fayrene Lyles-Richardson in Maryland. In talking with Fayrene, she shared many family pictures of the Lyles and Dorsey families. One particular picture was of two cars in the Lyles family in the early 20th century.

Very few people of colored (African Americans) owned automobiles at that time, but the

Lyles Family with their Vehicles

Lyles not only had one vehicle, they had two in the family. Also in Fayrene’s collection were many pictures about the family life style. There were summer homes up north, post cards from their vacations in the 1900s – 1950s. There were pictures of their homes in Alexandria, Virginia and in Prince William County, Virginia. In the collection were professional pictures of the Lyles’ brothers at a photographer’s studio and pictures of Laura and her sister, Mary and their mother, Hannah.

As Fayrene and I pored over the pictures, we went back in time to a period when the Lyles and Dorsey family flourished. The public records have documented the life style of the Lyles and Dorsey families in the censuses, tax records, newspaper articles, marriages, death records, church records and pre-civil war documents. Laura Missouri Dorsey and her uncle, Rosier Lyles were educators in the Alexandria Public school system. Laura’s grandfather, Reverend Richard H. Lyles was the pillar of Alexandria’s African American’s Society. He was born free in 1834. Reverend Lyles was a minister at Roberts Chapel in the 19th Century; he taught private school prior to the Civil War; he worked for the Federal Government at the Freedmen Bureau; he was active in Alexandria’s Republican Party; he was a caulker on ships; he owned a business on the wharf; and, he owned a number of properties in Alexandria. He afforded his family many pleasures of life that was found among the white middle class.

The heyday for the Lyles family started prior to the Civil War through the middle of the 20th Century. They regained all their property losses during the Civil War. The Lyles and the Dorsey families left a positive history that will make many Alexandrians eager to learn more about them. Read the article on “Laura Dorsey” in the Alexandria Gazette Packet for January 11 – 17, 2018. You can sign up for a digital copy of the paper at http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/subscribe.

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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