Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family Professions - Tinner or Tinsmith

Profession: Tinner

As early as the 1600’s professional tinsmiths or white smiths were creating their wares in London.  It wasn’t until about 1720 that tin ware and other tin items became more commonplace. The tin business was so important to Britain that in 1750 they instituted the British Iron Act, which prohibited the erection of new rolling mills in America.  This kept the tin business out of America until after the American Revolution.

Tin itself is very soft and malleable metal, so creating wares requires making an alloy, which is made by combining different amounts of lead and cooper.  Depending on the combinations of these metals will also yield either pewter or bronze.  The most important tools a tinsmith uses are big shears, snips and nippers for cutting and lastly an anvil for shaping.

To become a tinsmith, a person had to be accepted as an apprentice by a master tinsmith. Apprenticeships could last any where from 4 to 6 years. 

There were two men in our family that practiced this trade.  Augustus “Guss Steele and Tommie Lee Rainey.  It is possible that both of these men worked to help install the tin roof on the Trinity AME church.

On the Steele side of the family is Augustus Steele.  Guss as he was fondly called was born in 1845.  He was the second child of Sarah “Sallie” Keen and William Steele.  He is listed on the 1860 census along with the rest of his family as Augustus Brooks.  Sometime after the civil war he began using his father’s last name Steele.  Guss was married to a former slave named Lucinda.  Guss was also the great grandfather of the original historian in our family Laura Pauline Gersham Johnson (mother Gertrude Davis). 

Guss apprenticed and worked under Joseph Staley.  Staley was born in Lancstershire, England, which is probably where he learned the trade. I have no factual evidence but I think it is possible that William Steele took a part in getting Staley to bring on Guss as an apprentice. Staley was a member of the Baldwin Blues, which William Steele founded in 1848, and he was a businessman who owned one of the only hardware stores in town but also later served as mayor, which William also served as mayor in 1851.  Either way Guss was well known and liked in town.  Here is his obit from the Union Recorder when he passed away in 1903.

September 15, 1903Union-Recorder
Guss Steel, a well-known negro, died at this home in the city Thursday night. He was a tinner by trade, having served his apprenticeship under Mr. Joseph Staley, and worked for him a long number of years. Guss was a violin player of local reputation, and played and called at dances through many years, in this city. His remains were buried Friday afternoon.

I found an old photo from Des Steele and I think this might be a photo of Guss based on photos of Frank and Charlie.  I’m totally guessing on this one so please let me know if anyone can confirm the identity the Steele man in the photo. 

The second person in our family that was a tinner was Thomas “Tommie” Lee Rainey or Uncle Bubba.  Tommie Rainey was born July 20, 1877 (died Oct. 14, 1928) in Eatonton, GA.  He was the only son of Katherine “Kate” Broyle Rainey and William Suther.  I am not sure why he chose to continue to use the Rainey name and not take his father’s last name.   Tommie was the brother of Mollie Reid.  Mollie Reid married Warren C. Bell.  Just to review the connection between the Bell’s and Steele’s, Warren Bell’s father Warren Bell Sr. was married to Laura Mitchell the niece of Sallie Keen and granddaughter of Jane Gilbert.

Tommie Rainey probably learned his trade from his father William Suther who was a builder and coffinmaker in Eatonton.  Not only is he listed as a tinner but also on the 1900 census as a blacksmith.  I think Uncle Bubba was a great craftsman.  I have a silver bracelet that Big Mama said Uncle Bubba made her.  There is also a train that was in our house for years that Uncle Bubba carved.  Daddy told us a story that Uncle Bubba took the train to the fair and won first place.  After he won his prize someone stole the train and they had to pursue the thieves to get it back. Tommie Rainey also carved the podium for the Trinity CME church. That podium now sits in the basement of the Trinity CME church located on Wilkinson St. One of my father’s toys that he played with as a child, and I’m sure other generations before him, were two chinaberry guns that were carved by Uncle Bubba.  Daddy said Uncle Bubba would ride his bike from Eatonton to Milledgeville on Sunday's to visit the family.  He also was there to help Mollie out with the Bell girls that were still in Milledgeville (Annie Laura, Ione, Leo, and Ella) after Warren Bell died in 1903.  He called them the “Four Roses”.  I think Tommie Rainey was a true Georgia Folk artist and craftsman.

Does anyone else have a few handcrafted treasures? Please share!

Tommie Lee Rainey 1877 - 1928


Uncle Bubba’s train (photo credit Barbara Braddock)

Podium in the basement of Trinity CME Church

Chinaberry “pop” guns notice the T and 1890 date

Quick Family Research Update

In a previous newsletter I attached a photo of an unknown meat market.  Thanks to George and Leslie it was confirmed that this was Steele’s Meat Market. It was started and owned by Willie T. Steele.

During my last trip to Milledgeville I found out more information about Jane Gilbert.  Listed on the Free Person of Color census of 1837 she is listed with 5 of her children.  She also filed a petition for guardianship on August 9, 1837.  It lists her 5 children which one is Sallie (mother of William Steele’s children).  So now we know 6 of her thirteen children, the sixth one being Jane Mitchell (McComb).  7 more to go!  Miller Grieve a fellow Scotsman and friend of David B. Mitchell agreed to become her guardian.  Mitchell died in January of 1837, so this might be why Grieve was willing to accept the responsibility.  Remember in 1842 Mitchell’s son John J. Mitchell served as agent for Jane Gilbert and Jane Mitchell (McComb).  The question now remains was Jane Gilbert free prior to 1837 and who was the father of her other children? On the census it list Chatham County as her birthplace.  That search is another story for a later time! I have transcribed the document and added it below for everyone to read. 

Happy researching! Hope to see everyone again soon! T

Transcription of Jane Gilbert Petition for Guardianship
August 9, 1837
Milledgeville Court House Probate Office
Minute Book B 1829 Page 111

The petition of Jane Gilbert a free woman of Color respectfully prays the appointment of Miller Grieve as the guardian of herself and her five children vig(?) Patrick Brooks aged about 17 Ann Brooks aged about 15 Charles aged about 12 Sally Brooks aged about 10 and Becky Beck (Butler) aged about 7 years of age.

            And it appearing that Miller Grieve consents to act as Guardian.

            It is therefore ordered that the said Miller Grieve be appointed guardian for the said Jane Gilbert and children and the clerk take Bono and security in terms of the law.

Actual Document from the Baldwin Courthouse

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our World War I Solider Relatives

Our World War I Soldier Relatives

In honor of the recent release of Max Brooks’ book Harlem Hellfighters and 4th of July, I decided to remember our brave relatives that also fought in World War I.  Included in this list are Willie T. Steele, Leo C. Steele, John Kennedy Steele, Edward H. Bell, Ambrose L. Reid, and for this installment I am going to mention Charles Stewart Jr., which is my Mother’s Great Uncle, and Gordon H. Kitchen (my Mother’s Father). Frank P Steele and George A. Steele both signed up for the draft but may have been considered too old in 1918.  When I found Uncle George’s draft card, which he filled out in Washington D. C, they had him listed as white.

After the Civil War, the Army made a decision to disband the “colored” regiments and established four regular Army regiments of all black troops with white officers. There were two Infantry troops (24th and 25th) and two cavalry regiments (9th and 10th). The 9th and the 10th regiments were used heavily in the Indian War, and during the Spanish War all four regiments saw action. 

When World War I broke out many African American men rose to the call to volunteer their services only to be turned down because the quota for African Americans was filled. Once the war effort was underway and the draft was instituted a different story played out. Congress passed the Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917.  The United States would need more then its 126,000 men if they were to ensure a victory overseas.  As African Americans signed up for the draft in many cases (especially in Georgia) the recruiters tore off the corner of their registration card in order for the draft board to identify them first before other White draftees. I have attached a copy of Ambrose’s draft papers and you can clearly see that the corners have been removed.  If you view Uncle George’s papers his are completely intact.  The entire army made up 10 percent of the total population of the US but 13 percent of the Army was African American. The Navy wanted to keep segregation alive and would only allow African Americans to serve in menial positions in the Navy and Coast Guard.  With considerable backlash from the African American community the War Department created the 92nd and 93rd Divisions; which were primarily Black combat units in 1917.  (www.militaryhistoryonline.com) By the end of the war Blacks held a number of positions including surveyors, truck drivers, chemists, engineers, and intelligence officers.  The Armed Forces did not become fully integrated until 1948.
For more reading on African American soldiers in WWI, please see: The Unknown Soldiers: African-American Troops in WWI, by Arthur E. Barbeau & Florette Henri, The Right to Fight: A History of African-Americans in the Military, by Gerald Astor, and Soldiers of Freedom, by Kai Wri.

I found an article in the Milledgeville News August 7, 1918 under the headline 68 COLORED MEN SENT TO WHEELER with a byline A Total of 131 Have Been Sent From This County During a Period of One Week, Monday’s Draft Largest. Included in the list of the 68 are the names Willie T. Steele (1894 – ?) son of Willie F Steele and Katie Ingram(grandfather Charlie Steele),  Leo C. Steele (1894-1948) and John Kennedy Steele (1890 – 1941) both son’s of Frank P. Steele and Martha Tompkins (grandfather Frank P. Steele).  These young men ended up joining the army. 

Article in the Milledgeville News August 7, 1918

Here is a copy of Ambrose Reid draft card. He was in the army until April of 1918. Notice the corners of his card are cut off to alert the draft board that he is African American.

Leo Steele was stationed in Vitteaux, (Cote-d’Or) France on the back it reads “ To Annie Laura and Buddy from Leo Hope all are well and happy. Kiss the children for me. Leo
 Vitteaux is situated in the Cote d'Or (Burgundy region) about 239 KM from Paris  

Sgt. John K. Steele CC USA

Edward Harris Bell (1890 - ) son of George Bell and Geneva Turner ended up joining the Navy.

The Navy’s segregation policies limited African American enrollment during War World I and barred enlistments altogether from 1919 to 1932. 

My Grandfather Gordon H. Kitchen served aboard the USS Pueblo from 1917 – 1919 as a Mess Attendant. Every time he crossed the equator he was awarded a silver dollar.

Charles C. Stewart Jr.
My Mother’s Uncle from Des Moines, IA

So as we continue year after year celebrating the 4th of July remember that we have a history in American and our families have been contributors to this country during the peace times and supporters during war times.  ……They’ll see how beautiful I am. And be ashamed- I, too, am America. Langston Hughes

If anyone has additional photos or stories please share!! Thanks! www.steelebell.blogspot.com

Research Update: I finally tracked down more of William Steele’s family. You may remember that William Steele (Father to the 5 Steele children by Sarah/Sallie Keen) was declared a lunatic by the court in 1856; his brother Ralph B. Steele signed the order. Ralph was married to Fanna Mallet and had two children Cornelia and William G. Steele.  They lived in New Haven, CT.  Ralph died in January 1859 and our William died in November of 1859.  William G. Steele inherited everything. I am now trying to work backwards from this information to find out the parents of William, Ralph, George and unknown sisters.   We are match genetically to a Samuel Steele one of the sons of the founders that settled Hartford, CT.

Family Finder DNA now has a more detailed data based of family origins.  I have attached my new chart and Bubba’s new chart.  Since Bubba has a Y chromosome he is carrying the direct line from father to father.  So through Bubba we can trace the Steele line.  As technology gets better we will see new information to help our search! I thought the Scandinavian origin was interesting. I have got to start watching The Vikings on the History Channel!! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Women Professions Part 2 Seamstress

Part 2 Profession Seamstress

The sewing machine was invented in 1846 but was not used widely until 1860. Wealthy families or families of means would hire a seamstress or find servants that could sew. This was an invaluable skill for most households and it allowed Free Women of Color the opportunity to support themselves but on the negative side it made slaves with these skills more valuable. Be sure to read the famous story of slave and seamstress Oney Judge that was owned by George Washington who escaped to freedom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oney_Judge

 Even with the advent of the sewing machine ready-to-wear clothes did not make a huge impact on American society until sometime between the 1870s and 1900s. By 1910 women could purchase a complete ready-to-wear wardrobe. Once companies established large factories with modern machinery and efficient production practices, consumer demand for cheaper clothes rose. New York City alone produced more than 40 percent of all ready-to-wear clothes during this time. http://historywired.si.edu/detail.cfm?ID=325

The average wage for a seamstress during the 1800s was $16 a week but some made much lower depending on her employer. Many of these women were skilled in crafts that are lost to us today.  All fabrics were natural. There was no polyester, spandex, elastic or vinyl. The most commonly used fabrics were cotton, linen, and wool. Silk was available, but very expensive. There were no zippers, snaps, safety pins or Velcro, and buttons were mostly for decoration. Hooks, straight pins and laces were the most common fastenings.

In the 1880s and into the 1900s, fashion dictated that a woman’s body be tightly corseted and that her gowns–as dresses were made to be tightly fitted over the corsets. Ready-made dresses could not provide the perfect fit, so women who aspired to be among the most fashionable and who could afford it still sought the services of custom dressmakers. The complexity of draping adding elaborate trim and ornaments to make these fashionable dresses also required the expertise of professional seamstresses. Project Runaway participants could have never compared to the skills of these women! Remember there were no ready made patterns either everything was done from scratch.

Many of the women in our family supported themselves and passed down the craft of sewing.  Katherine Broyle (Rainey) was a slave in the Rainey household. Not only was she skilled in sewing and but she passed on the craft to her daughters Mollie, Kate “Sissy”, Willie, Jessie, and Annie Claude. Mollie took up the craft and made her living as a seamstress.  She even was hired to travel to Boston sometime in 1900s to work for the Scarritt family. I am still researching the connection.  Mollie in turn taught her daughter’s (Ella, Leo, Ione, Wille, Annie Laura) the craft.  My grandmother Annie Laura Bell Steele supported her family as a seamstress.  I have several items that my grandmother made and did not understand how priceless they were until I became an adult.  A great story comes from our cousin Geri (Bell) as a young girl; she attended a dance decked out in a taffeta dress made by Annie Laura.  She said several people asked her; did you buy that dress in New York City?  She smiled and never told them it was hand made (expertly) by Annie Laura who made many of their clothes and all of her children’s clothes.  Our cousin Kathy told me, that Aunt Leo (Bell Steele) was also an expert seamstress and made all of the clothes, curtains and other household items.  Here is a pastel of Annie Laura sewing that was done by the artist May Asbury Jones in 1950.  It sold at auction in 2012. I missed purchasing it by two weeks. 

On the Steele side of the family we have Sarah “Sallie” Keen listed on the 1860 census as a seamstress. She is even listed as owning property.  Once William Steele passed away in 1859 Sallie supported her 5 children (Charlie, Frank, Augustus, William, and Addie) by William and Emma (father unknown) by sewing. 

Please share your stories and photos of the seamstress in your family. It is fortunate that we have stories and photos to share with each other.  It is because of these very strong and determined women that food was kept on the table and a roof over their family’s head.
These are photos of some of my grandmother’s handiwork.

This was my father’s (Warren Bell Steele) quilt as a child. It is made of scrap material that Big Mama collected from other projects she was working on. Of course I thought it would be cool to sleep with it as a teenager so it is torn.  The underside is made from used flour sacks.

This quilt was saved by my mother from Big Mama’s house in Milledgeville on Liberty Street. It is much better shape. Beautifully done again with scrap material.

This is a tablecloth that was done by Big Mama. All hand sewn applique with embroidered lace repeated through out the tablecloth

And of course the essential tool of the 1800’s to finish any project. I got this off of Big Mama’s back porch on Liberty Street. She had several.

Here is a great link on how to store your old quilts!

Family Research Continued

In continuing my research on the Steele and the Bell’s I came across this article. It appears that Jane Mitchell was mislabeled as Julia Mitchell.  The interesting thing is it does list her as a former slave of David Byrdie Mitchell. I now have another clue as to where she may have come from and at what date she may have earned her freedom.  David Mitchell came from Scotland and landed in Savannah, GA because he inherited property from his uncle. We know in 1842 she is listed with John J. Mitchell (her agent verifying her FPOC status) and her daughter Jane Mitchell (age 22) as owning property.  So some time prior to 1842 she earned her freedom, although I do not have her listed on the 1850 census as a FPOC.

Baldwin County GaArchives News.....Julia Mitchell June 17 1887 ************************************************ Copyright.  All rights reserved. http://www.usgwarchives.net/copyright.htm http://www.usgwarchives.net/ga/gafiles.htm ************************************************  File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by: Carla Miles http://www.genrecords.net/emailregistry/vols/00010.html#0002476 October 15, 2004, 11:31 pm

 The Marion County Patriot The Marion County Patriot, No. 24 June 17, 1887 Page Eight State News Items 

Milledgeville claims the oldest woman in Georgia.  Julia Mitchell, an old negro  resident of that city, is one hundred and twenty years old, and in apparent  good health.  She was one of Governor Mitchell’s slaves years ago and says she  remembers the revolutionary war distinctly.  She has been blind now for several  years, but her memory of the long ago makes up an interesting conversation.   File at: http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/baldwin/newspapers/nw1585juliamit.txt  This file has been created by a form at http://www.poppet.org/gafiles/  File size: 1.1 Kb

The Reid Connection

I had my DNA test done a couple of years ago and today I had a man reach out to me that was managing his cousin’s account.  Our DNA match on her maternal side; which included Andrew and Agnes Reid.  They are the great great grandparents of David Henry Reid who was the father of Mary Louise “Mollie” Reid Bell.  So it is confirmed now by DNA test.  I have the Reid’s traced back to the late 1600’s from Ulster, Ireland.

Hope everyone is well.  Here is the link to the blog site if you want to read past newsletters. http://www.steelebell.blogspot.com/

Happy in research!  Theresa

Friday, October 4, 2013

Part 1 Profession: Laundress

 Part 1 Profession: Laundress

Today we never think about throwing a load of laundry in the washing machine with our choice of detergent and fabric softener. Nor do we give any thought to shopping for that special event or finding the latest sale at our favorite store or online site.  We even have a term for feeling good while shopping “retail therapy”. I thought I would focus this 2-part installment on the great women in our family.  There were limited choices open to women in the 19th century for survival.  Starting with Jane Gilbert Mitchell Brooks (about 1775 – 1887) who was a Free Person of Color (FPOC), to Laura Mitchell (1842 -?), and Sarah “Sallie” Brooks Keen (1819 – 1888). We will then look at Katie Broyle Rainey (1848-?) who was a slave brought from Virginia, to Mary Louise” Mollie” Reid Bell (1861 – 1938), and Annie Laura Bell Steele (1895–1978). Each of these women while dealing with the harsh conditions of the time, had a skill that enabled them survive and even purchase property.   

In 1819 a law was enacted in the state of Georgia requiring FPOC to register with the clerk of the inferior court in their county or risk being sold into slavery.   FPOC had to have a sponsor or agent to vouch that they were indeed free.  We first see Jane Gilbert and her daughter Jane Mitchell (later McComb and mother of Laura Mitchell) on the 1842 tax rolls with John J. Mitchell listed as their agent. John J. Mitchell was the son of David Brydie Mitchell the 3 times elected governor of Georgia from Scotland.  We are not sure of the relationship but Jane Mitchell (McComb) is possibly the daughter of David B. Mitchell or Laura Mitchell is the daughter of John J. Mitchell.  Either way based on the connection from the tax rolls it shows that there was an important relationship there. Jane Gilbert and Laura Mitchell (listed as Brooks) show up again listed on the 1860 census as FPOC, profession washerwomen. Jane’s property value is listed as $250 and personal value at $100.  Laura’s property value is $150 and personal value at $125.  This may not seem like a lot of money but according to the census of the time there were only 46 free women of color that owned real estate in Georgia in 1860. This number increases to 223 in 1870. To put it in perspective there were 466,000 Blacks (free and slave) in Georgia recorded on the 1860 census.   Although they were below the average in real estate property holding of $1065, it was still a big accomplishment.  http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/L_Schweninger_Property_1990.pdf (Census information on free females and property

There was a cost of being a FPOC in Milledgeville, GA.  In 1828 not only were real and property tax levied, there was an additional tax for all trades and professions. This tax varied from $6 to $16 according to age and sex. It was noted in James C. Bonner book Milledgeville Georgia’s Antebellum Capital that there were special treatments of certain washerwomen.  I wonder if he was referring to Jane and Laura? To live in town FPOC were charged an additional tax of $50 per year.  On the 1860 census 100 FPOC lived in town.  I believe this included Jane and her family.

The Job

The work itself was grueling and required long hours in the hot sun. It was all done by hand until the invention of the washing machine in 1850.  Remember just because the device was invented did not mean everyone could afford one and the work was still difficult because the machines were hand cranked. 

Washing consisted of using two wooden washtubs heated over fire.  There were various detergents available for sale but many of the washerwomen opted to make their own.  Ashes, starch, lye, or soap were used to help remove stains.  The clothes were scrubbed on metal boards and or beat and moved about with a paddle or plunger. Brushes and other tools were used to literally beat the dirt out of the clothes.  They were then dried and in many cases ironed before completing their long day.

Tools of the trade

I am not sure how long Jane Gilbert worked in this profession. I have her listed on the 1880 census living with Laura and Warren Bell.  She died on October 11, 1887 leaving 13 children, 11 grandchildren (Bell’s and Steele’s), 44 great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild. I am still researching where Jane came from and who the other children were.  She was written up in the newspaper twice, once for being the oldest person in the county and again when she died.  For anyone doing research The Dead Book has Jane listed as James Brooks age 108.  Thanks to our cousin Kathy we have the copy of the purchase of the coffin by Frank and Charlie Steele.

You can get a better view of this document from the blog post dated July 31, 2013 from the Google doc link. 

There are more details about Jane from previous blog post, which also includes the newspaper articles.

Laura Mitchell married Warren Bell and had 6 children.  Edward Bell is listed on the 1860 census as Edward Brooks.  I am not sure why Warren Bell is not listed.  It was brought to my attention that he was a traveling musician with his brother so perhaps he was on the road during this time (thank you Barbara and Roslyn).  He is listed on the 1870 census with Jane McComb (mother to Laura) as a waiter in a hotel.  The rest of the children were Warren (1862), George (1864), Ella (1867), Annie (1870), and Frank (1872). One interesting tidbit, there is a woman that matched my DNA as a third cousin whose grandmother is a Bell.  All of her family hails from Alabama though.  She said there is a large group of Bell’s from Alabama.  She is from the UK.  Perhaps Warren Bell’s family originally came from Alabama. 

Thanks to these industrious women we have documentation of our families journey. Never take for granted how easy it is to do laundry!

Part 2 of this story will be the ladies in our family that were seamstress.  Please continue to let me know any new information that you might come across in your research.  For anyone wanting to read previous blogs here is the website http://www.steelebell.blogspot.com/

Last thing I have a few photos I thought I would share to see if anyone might have clues as to how they relate to our family.  This photo was found in the desk drawer of Des Steele.  We are not sure if this is someone in our family or just a friend.  Either way it is a great part of Milledgeville history.  Let me know if anyone has any clues! At the bottom of the photo it says City Market. The sign inside the store says City Meat Market.

I hope everyone is healthy as we begin the latter part of the year and holiday season!!  Thanks, T

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family Presentation Steele Bell Family Overview

Hey everyone here is the link to the presentation that was done for our family gathering in Maryland.  This is just a general overview to get everyone familiar with all the Steele and Bell's beginnings.  Hope this makes sense.  Thanks, T


Jack (son) and Rosyln (Mother: Willie Rachel Bell )

 Family Gathering 7/26/13 in Maryland

Overcoming a Surname Posted on Ancestry.com

I have worked diligently searching my family's history for over ten years.  I joined Ancestry in 2006 and began a more serious search.  On my father's side of the family his roots were in Milledgeville, Georgia.  I knew that there was woman who had four children by William Steele.  There were stories of her being Native American, a mulatto, or a slave.  We thought her name was Mandy.  I took a DNA test and found out that I have no Native American blood, so the next question was—is she a slave or was she free? By finding the four children I found her real name Sarah or Sallie Keen in the 1870 and 1880 census. 

The next mystery to tackle was whether she was a slave or a free person of color.  There on the 1860 census, listed as free people of color, was a family of Brooks.  All of the family’s first names matched, and there was an additional child that I never knew existed.  Where the name Brooks came from I do not know, but I guess after the Civil War they took on their father's last name of Steele. 

For many African Americans looking for their ancestors it should be noted that that the first name and middle name of all family members is very important. This can be the key to identifying the family in situations where there was a surname change, as was the case with my family.  I even found out that Sarah’s mother changed her last name three times. Jane Mitchell, Brooks or Gilbert was a free person of color—a washer woman that lived to be 116 years of age.  She had two newspaper articles written about her as the oldest person in the county! 

Theresa Steele Page


3rd Email newsletter 3/22/2013

This is the 3rd installment done on March 22, 2013

Hello Everyone!

This year is going by so fast.  This is the first family installment for 2013.  I decided to write a little more about the Bell side this time.  Since we are all related I thought it would still be relevant for the Steele’s.  In honor of the Jackie Robinson movie coming out 42 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_(film) I would like to talk about Ambrose Reid. 

Warren Charles Bell married a woman from Putnam County named Mary Louise (Mollie) Reid.  Warren Bell must have been very well respected in the community because the announcement of the marriage made it into the Union Recorder newspaper. 

January 26, 1886 
Union and Recorder 
 Warren Bell, the colored porter of the store of A. Joseph, Esq., was married in Eatonton, on Wednesday, 20th inst., to Miss Mollie Reid, of that town, the ceremony being performed by Rev. G. W. Fears. Warren was born and raised here and has the esteem of many whites as well as colored friends. We hope he and his bride will have a happy and prosperous voyage on the somewhat uncertain sea of matrimony.

I have attached a photo of Mollie in her wedding gown. This was probably handmade by Mollie herself because she was listed as a seamstress on the census.  Don’t be alarmed that is was not white, the tradition of wearing white wedding gowns came much later after the wedding of Queen Victoria to Albert in 1840. It did not become a tradition around the world until the advent of the department store where purchases of wedding gowns were available in 1890.

Now back to Ambrose.  Mollie’s mother was a woman name Katherine (Katie) Broyle.  Katie took the name Rainey from the family that she traveled to Georgia with from Woodstock or Culpepper, Virginia.  I am not sure what her status was I have not found her listed as a FPOC in 1850 or 1860.  Katie had two children (Mollie and Katherine) by a man name David Henry Reid. The Reid’s were Irish/Scots that migrated to Georgia from North Carolina, via Lancaster, Pennsylvania, via Ulster, Ireland.  David Reid fought in the civil war as a confederate soldier along side another solider name William Suther who Katie had an additional 5 children with. These children are listed as Rainey’s and never took the Suther name.  They were Willie (Big Willie) Tommy Lee (Uncle Bubba), Jessie, Deuie or Dewie, and Annie Claude or Claudia.

Jessie had a son by an Eatonton resident (last name Reid), which she named Ambrose Leevolia Reid, he was named after the brother that Katie Broyle left in Virginia and would never see again.  Ambrose Reid was born December 3, 1895 or 1898 in Eatonton, Georgia and died in April of 1966 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I don’t know when Ambrose took up baseball but in 1920 Ambrose Reid is listed as a player in the Southern Negro League on the Atlanta Black Crackers.  From 1920 – 1932 he played for numerous team including the Detroit Stars, Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, Philadelphia Hilldale Giants, Homestead Grays, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.  He played outfield, first, second, and third base.  Here is an excerpt from a story in 1931 that talks about Ambrose’s playing.

Ageless Joe Williams went the distance as Homestead’s Grays finished off St. Louis’ Stars in an April 13, 1931, luminous pitched, 8-1 win. Williams slammed out a solo home run, showing that he was still the “Smokey Joe” of old at bat as well as on the mound. Outfielder Ambrose Reid waylaid a pair of home runs, while ‘Jud” Wilson added another home run. The win completed Pittsburgh’s three-game series sweep.

The History of the Negro Leagues

Prior to 1890 there were integrated baseball teams. Fleetwood Walker and John D. “Bud” Fowler were some of the most prominent black players during this time. Due to pressures of segregation, there were about 200 black independent teams that played in loosely organized groups by 1880.  By the early 1900’s the black baseball league found America’s heartland and the south. By the end of World War I black baseball had become the number one entertainment attraction for urban black populations.  Three leagues were formed The Negro National League, The Negro Southern League, and the Eastern Colored League.  Ambrose at one time or another played in all three leagues.  Negro baseball became one the most successful financial ventures of the time.  As World War II came to a close many felt that it was time that baseball’s color barriers came down. On April 18, 1946 the Dodger’s owner Branch Richie signed Jackie Robinson. Robinson was instrumental in leading the Dodgers to a National League pendant. He was also awarded Rookie of the Year.  At the end of the 1949 season the Negro League disbanded.  http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/history101.html

During Ambrose’s time on the field he was on a championship team and played with the some of the greatest players in history.  He helped pave the way by instilling the love of baseball in people’s hearts and mind. He laid out a path for future players like Jackie Robinson. Attached is Ambrose’s card that sold last year for $948. 
If anyone has other pictures or stories about Ambrose let me know.

Family Updated Research

Also thanks to our cousin Karen in California, there is a correction to the Jane Gilbert/Brooks/Mitchell story.  Laura Mitchell’s mother was Jane McComb and Jane Gilbert is listed as Grandmother on the 1880 census.  I have corrected the information on my ancestry.com page.  Also our story of Jane and family was used in the February newsletter on ancestry.com (http://ancestry-stickynotes.tumblr.com/post/42280301517/overcoming-surname-changes)