“Uncovering Our Past” — An Update on The Hill

For those interested in learning the latest on the explorations and research into The Hill neighborhood in Easton, please plan to join us on Saturday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“Uncovering Our Past” will take place at the Talbot County Senior Center (400 Brookletts Place) and will provide a debriefing on the on-going documentation efforts regarding “The Hill” and a discussion on the role of archeology and historic preservation. Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning and Dr. Mark Leone of the University of Maryland College Park Department of Anthropology will highlight a panel discussion followed by a open session for sharing and collecting stories of the neighborhood history. Light refreshments will be available.

For more information on this project, please see:

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Update from The Hill

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

SNGF: Longest Gravestone Line

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Tonight’s mission from Randy Seaver is perfect for October:

Determine what is your longest unbroken line of ancestral gravestones – how many generations can you go back in time?  Do you have photographs of them?

Unfortunately, I can’t go back too terribly far in terms of my own family’s gravestones. I do have a photo of my dad’s gravestone (though I won’t post it for privacy reasons) and I’ve posted about my search for his parents’ and grandparents’ stone.

The photo trail goes cold in terms of the next generation of Corleys — Benjamin William Franklin Corley and his wife Lois (Wakefield) Corley (though I know them to be buried in Tower Hill Cemetery in Shelby County, Illinois; I’ve requested photos of their graves). On my dad’s maternal side, I did have the luck of finding his grandparents at Laurel Hill in Philadelphia. The cemetery sent me a photo of a headstone listing my great-grandparents William B. Hill and his wife Martha (Simpson), but it is copyrighted.

HAYES Headstone

When my mom died, she wished for her ashes to be scattered in the garden of her church. There is no marker. If I were to skip to the next generation, I do have a photo of my maternal grandparents grave (again, not posting for privacy reasons). Just a couple of years ago, I finally got to visit the grave of my great-grandparents, Della Crow and William Hayes.

I haven’t found a photo of the grave of William’s father, Joseph (but this post spurred me to request one via FindaGrave). I haven’t found death information for his mother yet. Likewise, I haven’t had much luck finding stones for Della’s parents.

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

Those Places Thursday: Great-Grandpa Hill’s Grocery Store

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

For years, I’ve known that my paternal great-grandfather William Boyd Hill was a grocer in Philly. That and the fact that he was an Irish immigrant, but little else.

Earlier searches for him hadn’t turned up any city directory listings, which I thought was odd for a city like Philadelphia. I decided to do a more targeted search and finally found him.

The 1873 city directory listed his grocery store at 800 North Second Street. In subsequent years, the number changed slightly, but the street remained the same. Whether the shop actually moved or the addresses changed (I’ve seen this happen in other localities), I’m not sure yet.

I pulled up a Google Street View image of 800 North Second Street as it appears today. The shop on the corner sure looks like it may have once been a grocery store. It looks like it’s now a Rita’s Italian Ice. (Sure enough, I looked up their Philadelphia locations and there is one at that address). I think I might need to get myself an icy treat the next time I’m in Philly!

800 North Second Street in Philly.

Closing in On William Boyd Hill’s Origins

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

This past week, Ancestry.com has made its immigration and naturalization records available for free. I already had access to most of these records with my subscription, but I was spurred to pay closer attention to them thanks to the special offer.

I decided to try one more time to find out more about one of my paternal great-grandfathers, William Boyd Hill. From census records, I know he was born around 1840, that he was a grocer in Philadelphia and that he hailed from Ireland. I hadn’t had any luck finding out when and/or where he entered the United States though.

I was a bit disappointed with the search function for the immigration and naturalization records, at least as they were set up for the free access this week. You didn’t have a chance to limit results by exact spelling, etc. The results included way too many bad hits. I was already dealing with a rather common name and didn’t want to have to weed through still more extraneous information.

I decided to narrow my results by record type instead and that led me to what I hope was the jackpot. First, I selected the Citizenship and Naturalization records from the choices on the left-hand side of the Ancestry results page. I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. Either the name was right and the country of origin was wrong, or vice versa.

Next I selected Immigration and Emigration Books. Drilling down still further, I saw that there was a listing for Philadelphia, 1789-1880 Naturalization Records. Bingo. I didn’t have any evidence that my great-grandfather ever left Philly once he settled there. If he applied for citizenship, it would have been in that city.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the link, the very first result was for a William B. Hill from Great Britain/Ireland who filed a Declaration of Intent with the Court of Common Pleas in 1873. I’m still not sure he’s my William Hill, but I read more about the record and how to get copies of the original records.

First, Ancestry has a page about these records. It gives a lot of background about the source behind the record and where to request the originals. I also looked up the repository itself — the Philadelphia City Archives (link goes directly to the Naturalization Records section). This page was helpful because it gives still more background about the records it holds and its fee schedule.

Now, I’m getting ready to send off my request to the archives to see if they can send me more information about this William B. Hill. Fingers crossed that he’s the right one and that the original information will contain more tidbits to tell me about his origins!

Mystery Monday: Ida, I Don’t Know

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

I am in possession of a number of old photos from my father’s side of the family. I put many of these into a scrapbook when I first got into genealogy several years ago. At the time, I didn’t know much about older types of photos and fashion through the years. Now that I do, I’m starting to second-guess some assumptions that I made way back when.

Case in point: my father’s mother Ida Corley. I always assumed that the wedding photo below was hers.

Ida was married to my grandfather in 1905. I do know that the undated photo below is her:

Compare:

The mouths are the same. The eyes and hair seem very similar. Even the noses, though the one on the left may be a bit narrower and longer…

There are two other photos to consider:

The top photo, I believe, is the same woman in the wedding dress. She is definitely not the stylish woman in the bottom photo, whom I know to be Ida in the 1920s.

I doubt that stylish Ida reverted to granny wear as she got older (with apologies to whomever is pictured on the left; I’m assuming it’s actually Ida’s mother, Martha Alcorn SIMPSON). The thing that clinches the fact that these are two different women for me is that one is wearing glasses and the other is not.

You can barely tell that the bride on the left is wearing glasses — you can see the pince-nez on the bridge of her nose though.

I think that if the person pictured in all four photos were the same woman, she would either not be wearing glasses in all of the photos or she would have them on in all four photos. If you’re self-conscious enough about wearing glasses to take them off for seated portraits, you’d especially take them off for your wedding picture. That’s assuming Ida ever wore glasses, and all evidence seems to point to the fact that she did not.

Given that there is such a strong resemblance between the women pictured though, I’m going to assume that the woman in the wedding dress is Ida’s mother. Now, I just need to find more information about her wedding and possibly other photos of her to prove it.

My next question is, might the earlier photo of Ida be her wedding portrait?

SNGF: A Brickwall Ancestor

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Well, I’ve posted about him before, but here I go again. William Boyd HILL (one of my paternal great-grandfathers) and his parents constitute a brickwall I would love to bust down and so they are the topic of this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post.

I’ve featured the Hills before in a Surname Saturday post and even got as far as identifying Hill’s wife’s name (it was SIMPSON), which helped lead me to their family burial plot.

William Hill lived with his wife and children in Philadelphia in the mid- to late-1800s. According to census records, he was an Irish immigrant working as a grocer. I have yet to figure out when he came to the U.S. and via which port (if he even came straight to the U.S.; many Irish landed in Canada first).

I would absolutely love to learn more about William and his parents because they are my closest Irish ancestors. Finding out where in Ireland that line hailed from would be a treat.

My plan for tracking down more on William is to start by looking for information about his death. I need to see if a death certificate exists for him, or barring that, an obit or other evidence of his death (this hopefully will be easier now that I know the year of his death thanks to his tombstone). Thanks, Randy Seaver, for the prompt to re-investigate this line!

Tombstone Tuesday: The HILL Family

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

After receiving a couple of vital records pertaining to my family, I was able to delve a bit deeper into my dad’s mother’s side. Her death certificate revealed the full names of her parents, neither of which I had prior to last week. Once they were known, new information became available.

While searching on FindAGrave, I came across the grave site for my great-grandfather William Boyd HILL. The marker indicates that a number of Hills are buried at the same spot in addition to a gentleman I believe to be related to my great-grandmother Martha Alcorn SIMPSON (Martha A. Hill on the stone).

The photo posted on FindAGrave is in shadow and I haven’t had luck discerning all of the dates on the stone. Still, I’m ecstatic to have found this stone online and thankful that it’s there at all. Luckily, Philadelphia’s not too far of a drive. Someday soon, I hope to make it up there to see the stone in person.

SNGF: Most Recent Unknown Ancestor

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

This week’s mission from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings: 1) Who is your MRUA – your Most Recent Unknown Ancestor? This is the person with the lowest number in your Pedigree Chart or Ahnentafel List that you have not identified a last name for, or a first name if you know a surname but not a first name.

2) Have you looked at your research files for this unknown person recently? Why don’t you scan it again just to see if there’s something you have missed?

3) What online or offline resources might you search that might help identify your MRUA?

4) Tell us about him or her, and your answers to 2) and 3) above, in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or a comment on Facebook or some other social networking site.

One of my paternal great-grandmothers is my MRUA. As I posted in a Surname Saturday post a few weeks ago, my father’s mother was #5 Ida Bole Hill (1880-1943), the daughter of Irish-American grocer #10 William B. Hill (~1841-?) and his wife, #11 Martha (aka Mattie; ~1847-?). I have not discovered Martha’s last name. Census records seem to show that Martha was born in Pennsylvania, but both her parents were born in Ireland.

William and Martha had seven children total, five of whom were still living by 1910, when Martha was listed in the U.S. census of that year as 62 and widowed (still in Philly).

One item that will probably assist me with finding out about Martha and the Hill line in general is William’s death certificate. I have not spent much time on this particular part of my family, however, because of the daunting hill of Hills I must sift through when pursuing records about them.

Interestingly, in going back through my records about the Hill family, I found them listed twice in the 1870 U.S. census:

1870 U.S. Census, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia Ward 26 Precinct 9, p. 323 (stamped), dwelling 1903, William B., Martha and Mary Hill; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 November 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1442. (Listed as second enumeration.)

AND

1870 U.S. Census, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia Ward 26 District 88, p. 524 (stamped), dwelling 131, family 151, William B., Martha and Mary Hill; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 August 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll  1414. (First enumeration, done in June of that year–much more information on this page.)