Princeville, NC – Wordless Wednesday Follow-up

Yesterday in my Wordless Wednesday post, I put up a picture of the historical marker of Freedom Hill, North Carolina.  Freedom Hill was an all African-American community established in Edgecombe County, North Carolina in 1865 by freed slaves. It is the oldest incorporated black town in the US, getting incorporated in 1885 as Princeville.  The community was named after Turner Richard Prince (1843-1912) who was a carpenter in the community.  In 1999, Princeville received nationwide attention after Hurricane Floyd hit the coast of NC as many of the town’s residents were displaced and there was extensive flood damage.

I first learned of Princeville when I purchased an Arcadia Publishing book on Edgecombe County last year.  At that time, I had no one in my family tree that I knew of that had any connections to Princeville, though my maternal grandmother’s McNair line started (as we know of) in Edgecombe County. When the Ancestry database of NC death certificates came out, one of the many discoveries I made was that there is indeed a connection.

My earliest known McNair ancestor, Rufus McNair (1823-1910) and his wife Mariah Wimberly (abt. 1843-1903) had at least 15 kids (in one census record, it is reported she had 22) that lived to adulthood. Two of their youngest, Susan & Sophia, both married a gentleman name Arthur Wooten.  Arthur married Susan first and together they had at least 8 children. Then, I believe Susan must have died and he then married her sister Sophia. With Sophia, he had at least 3 children.  Arthur Wooten Jr’s (son of Sophia) daughter Violet married George Mays and they for several years lived in Princeville.  Arthur & Susie were in Princeville in the 1910 census.

I discovered this after my mother, in going through some of her mother’s papers, found a double obituary for Violet and her husband George.  Since Princeville at that time was only a community of several hundred, I wonder if they knew Turner Prince? Possibly! Again, more flavor to add to the background context should I ever decide to do a formal write-up of my McNair ancestry.

Wordless Wednesday June 4, 2008 Follow-Up

This picture is one my mother recently sent me of her uncle Fred and Curtis – both brothers of my grandmother. This was taken in the 1940s-early 50s most likely. The reason I posted this picture is because of the tanks in the background. My mother was always telling me how close their building in Cooper Park Projects in Brooklyn, New York was to these tanks and this picture really shows that. Here is another picture that shows it too – my mother’s brother Calvin behind their building.

These tanks were a very vital part of my mother’s childhood landscape. She told me that the first time she ever experienced the feeling of nostalgia was when these tanks were destroyed. They were demolished in July 2001. They were the largest gas holders in the world at 400ft high and an ever-present part of the landscape for decades. They were apparently visible from all 5 boroughs.

Here is an article from the New York Times about them.

Wordless Wednesday – May 28th, 2008 Follow-up

Back in early April, the topic of the Carnival of Genealogy was http://creativegene.blogspot.com/2008/04/carnival-of-genealogy-45th-edition.html”>Cars as the Stars of Our Family History. At the time it was going, I was not able to get a post together in order to participate, but I did find the topic interesting and it prompted me to ask my parents about their first car. It was a very entertaining process!

So, this is a picture of what my father’s first car looked like – he had a Volvo 164 that was from the 1960s. The color was as shown in the picture and my mother informs me that her friend and my father used to argue about it – he used to say that it was silver and she used to say that it was funeral grey. :-)

My father got the car from his father and had it when he lived in NY. My father tells me that people were interested in the car because it was foreign and they never could remember what kind of car it was as there were not many foreign cars. The car was decked out too – had a cassette player (which at the time, 8 tracks were most common), had air conditioning, leather seats. With a 6 cylinder engine, it was very good on gas too – also, apparently not so common at the time when everyone had big cars. Then came the gas crisis in the 70s and people started downsizing. Sound familiar?

My father would eventually sell this car to his cousin who took it back to North Carolina. Before talking to my father about it, you know what I knew about this car? That he used it as a pick-up line on my mother when they met. He told her, “I have a car.” She said – “So what. In NYC you don’t need a car.” Well, the pick-up line worked anyway. :-)

Mommy’s First Car


My mother would get her first car after my parents moved us all to North Carolina. Hers was a blue Pontiac Lemans. Not sure what year, but perhaps it looked something like the above. She remembers that she paid less than $100 for it and when she was looking, her co-workers at Ciba-Geigy where she worked would joke with her about what to look for in the car – like a steering wheel, tires, etc.! The car had been in an accident so the front bumper was turned to the side. After keeping the car for a few weeks, they sold it and bought another big car that they called “Big Blue Marble.”

Can Kalonji get his Sons of Confederacy Membership? Maybe DNA can help!

I’ve never participated in a Carnival of Genealogy before, but I could not pass up the topic of this next round because it was extremely apropos.

The question: Do you have a family mystery that might be solved by DNA

The answer: yes, i think so! but, I’m not sure. I have some theories to test.

My husband want his Sons of the Confederacy membership. He is a McClellan from Talladega, Alabama. Here are the facts:

The Black McClellans

  • There is an oral history that his black McClellan family bears resemblance to the white McClellan families in the area. I need to double-check this with his paternal grandmother Frances, but that is what he tells me.
  • His great-grandfather is named Champ McClellan and was born about 1887 or so in Talladega, Alabama. Champ is Frances’ father.
  • Champ’s mother’s name was Fannie McClellan. Though the 1930 census says she is widowed, her death certificate shows that her mother’s name was Rebecca McClellan. Fannie married later in life after having two children, but the last names of both her children, Champ and his brother, was also McClellan, so this leads me to believe she either married an unknown McClellan, or she had her children out of wed-lock.
  • Champ was very light-skinned and his death certificate does not list his father. Census records list him as mulatto. Mama Frances says he was “bright” and very near white. She said her older sisters, his first two children, were also very “bright.” She said he never talked about his father, but she too wondered if his father was white.
  • I cannot say CONCLUSIVELY that I’ve found Fannie in any census prior to 1900, but my best guess based on Champ’s age is that she was born somewhere around 1860-1865. Her death certificate when she passed in 1953 says she was 77, but that would make her only 11 years older than Champ (who’s age is more accounted for than hers).
  • I did find a Fanny McClellan in the 1870 census, mulatto, listed as being 25 years old, thus born around 1855. Her age is not quite on par with what I think is Champ’s mother age, but I can’t rule her out either.
  • I have not found a Rebecca McClellan that even looks like a close match to be Champ’s grandmother.  Update on 11/3 – see the last bullet point in the White McClellan’s section.

The White McClellans

  • The white McClellan family in the area are the family and descendants of General William Blount McClellan.
  • General McClellan was a large slaveholder – in 1860 he had 15 slave houses and real estate value of $15,000.
  • General McClellan served during the Civil War and was a Confederate soldier.
  • General William Blount McClellan had sixteen children, including a son named Augustus R. McClellan, born in 1842, did in 1875.
  • Augustus R. McClellan lives next to the above mentioned Fanny from the 1870 census – she lives right next door.
  • Augusts McClellan’s census record for 1870 shows a 2 year old son named Champness (thus born about 1868). I have so far found no further information about Champness McClellan.
  • With the assistance of a lady whose husband is also a McClellan descendant, she pointed me towards this 1880 census of the General William B. McClellan household in which there is a 45 year old black woman named Rebecca with a 14 year old daughter named  Fanny. Also, in the house is an 8 year old black boy named Chap (could be a mistake for Champ).  Could this be Kalonji’s Fanny & Rebecca? Is that Chap a brother of Fanny’s?

All this combined really leads me to believe that I have a plausible theory, that Kalonji’s great-grandfather Champ was fathered by one of these white McClellan men.  Kalonji occasionally grows red hairs (as does his father) and the white McClellan’s are of Scottish descent. Of course, this may not be the case, but our first set of DNA tests that we will do will be to try and solve this.

With help from above-mentioned researcher, I am constructing the white McClellan family tree.  If I can find a son of a son of a son, etc. on down the line to test (or two), it would help me either way. If a yDNA lineage test shows a match, then we know it to be true! If the test does not show a match, at this point, my next plausible suspect is a member of the Plowman family.   Three of Willam B.’s daughters married three Plowman brothers – so with Plowman’s in the household…  Of course, that may not yield a match either. But, we are certainly going to try!

I’m confident I can track down someone, the challenge will be to see if any of them have done a yDNA test or would be willing to do one. Some may not be willing to do it as they may not want the association, but really – we know this kind of situation happened all the time! I hope I can find someone who is willing.So, that is my objective. I look forward to taking this on over the next year and seeing what we can find out!