Emory Franklin Timbers: A Fisher of Men

By Howard Gilbert Timbers

An important landmark of the Timbers Family history is the small community near Lovettsville, Virginia called Little Britain.  This small, rural close-knit African-American community was centered around its church (Mount Sinai Free Will Baptist Church), which also served as Guinea School during the week.  Descendants of Margaret and Charles Timbers laid down deep roots in Little Britain. Family members worshipped at the church, learned to read and write there, purchased property, and were laid to rest in the cemetery adjacent to the remnants of the church foundation which is visible today.

This article tells the story of how one remarkable man, my great uncle Emory Franklin Timbers, was raised and nurtured by the Mount Sinai church.

I never met my great uncle Emory, but have come to know him through my discussions with my aunt Geraldine Evans Wilson and Carolyn Holleman.  Carolyn attended the Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. where my great uncle pastored.  A significant portion of this article is based on information provided in the July 28, 1985 semi-monthly newsletter Talk of the Church published by The Heart and Hand Club.  In addition, information about my great uncle from research conducted by the Edwin Washington Project and by the Lovettsville Historical Society and Museum has been included.

Emory Franklin Timbers was born November 20, 1909 near Lovettsville, Virginia, the seventh of eight children of James Robert Timbers and Martha E. Hogan.

The 1910 Census for Lovettsville reflects the household of James Robert Timbers as follows: James R. Timbers, 39; Martha E. Hogan Timbers (wife) 33; Susan R. Timbers, daughter, age 9; Ruth A. Timbers, daughter, age 7; Mary E.Timbers, daughter, age 6; James H. Timbers, son, age 4; Cordelia B. Timbers, daughter, age 3; Samuel L. Timbers, son, age 1.5 years; and Emory F. Timbers, son, age 4 months. Both James and Elizabeth were able to read and write, although James’s parents Thomas Henry Timbers and Elizabeth Beaner could not. James’ parents however knew the importance of education, and they were listed as guardians for several of the Beaner children during the 1892-1898 period. Thomas also was able to purchase over four acres of land near the church. It is likely that Emory’s father James followed his own father’s lead in ensuring that his eight children received an education.

Emory received his early education attending Guinea Colored School, which was part of the Lovettsville, Virginia School District. When the 1920 Census for Lovettsville was completed, the Timbers household had grown by one more son, William T. Timbers, age 8. Emory’s father worked as a farm hand. Emory was now eight years old and was enrolled in school. School records compiled through research at the Edwin Washington Project for the school year 1921-1922 reflect that sixteen students attended the wooden frame one-room building, heated by a wood stove. Half of those students were Emory and his brothers and sisters. Courses such as spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and history of the United States were offered. The school season was for only two months, or about 43 days. The Timbers family lived in close proximity to the church, and thus they walked to class during the school session.

Emory shared a close relationship with his mother and regularly worked alongside her where he learned to wash clothes, iron, cook, bake, and sew. There was no chore that he considered demeaning as long as he was working alongside his mother. As a young child, Emory enjoyed fishing in the local ponds and streams near the family homeplace. Throughout his life, fishing would become one of his favorite pastimes–which will be discussed a little later in this story.

Emory’s parents attended church regularly and were active participants at Mount Sinai Free Will Baptist Church. His father was the church caretaker, and was responsible for ringing the church bell and digging graves, as well as handling regular church maintenance duties. Emory’s sister Ruth was also active in the church as church clerk in later years.

Emory received his early religious indoctrination at Mount Sinai and would often walk to Sunday services with his mother. At the age of ten, he was baptized in the same creek that he fished in. It is alleged that he once wrote a letter to one of his siblings stating that he wanted to become a preacher. His mother made certain that all of their children attended church services. She discouraged his brothers and sisters from playing “hooky” from church; as Emory put it in the church newsletter interview: “If you weren’t too sick to go to church, she’d let you know that you could resume your illness after you had attended church services.”

In 1927, James and Martha Timbers relocated their family to Rockville, Maryland where the opportunities were better for employment, higher wages, and improved living conditions. When the 1930 Census was compiled, it appears that the Timbers and Kahn family shared a home. Listed in the household were the following: Robert J. Timbers, 59; Martha E. Timbers, 53; Lester S. Timbers, son, age 21; Emory F. Timbers, son, age 19; Mary E. Timbers, daughter, age 15; Carl Timbers, grandson, age 7; Arlene Timbers, granddaughter age 6; Frank H. Khan, age 60; Annie L. Khan, age 57; Virginia M. Khan, age 27; Mildred E. Khan, age 26; and Bradley C. Khan, age 25. Emory was still living at home under the watchful eye of his father. In the Timbers household, children were expected to live at home until age twenty-one and turn over earnings to their father. When you reached the age of twenty-one, it was expected that you would move out and be able to live independently.

Emory moved out of his father’s home in 1932 at the age of twenty-three, and moved to Washington, D.C. When the 1940 Census was compiled for the District of Columbia, Emory was listed as 30 years old, renting a house at 901 R Street, NW, and married to a woman named Silvia, who was 34. His occupation was listed as truck driver for a local coal company. Emory would eventually leave his truck driving position for employment with E. C. Keys and Sons, where he mastered mixing paint colors. While at the company, he designed charts of colors he imagined. These special colors were sent to California to be used by private industries. He worked at the firm for forty-three years.

Emory Timbers and wife (2)
Emory and Madeline Timbers

Emory’s marriage to Silvia ended, and he married Madeline Joyce Henderson on March 25, 1944. His honeymoon was cut short due to his induction into the United States Army on March 31, 1944, at Fort Meade, Maryland. Emory served in both the European and Pacific Theatres. While in the Philippines in 1945, he taught his first Sunday School class. Emory was honorably discharged from the Army with the rank of Private, and returned home to Washington, D.C. with numerous ribbons and medals, that he seldom discussed.

When Emory returned to the states, he resumed his religious study, attending First Baptist Church in Kensington, Maryland. On April 14, 1949, he was licensed to preach by Rev. Isaac Gray, pastor of First Baptist. On July 2, 1951, at age 41, a council of church messengers witnessed his ordination. After ordination he served as assistant pastor of First Baptist before moving on to Greater St. Paul Baptist in October 1962.

As mentioned earlier, Emory was an avid fisherman and generally fished two days each week during his fishing season of April through September. He supplied the church with fish for their annual fish fries. Emory would often travel to Delaware to fish; his other favorite spot was on the Chesapeake Bay. Emory received citations for some of his catches. For example, on July 8, 1985 he caught a 9 pound, 3 ounce flounder, and was recognized by The Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife. Two of his other great catches were in 1983 when he caught a ten-and-one- half pound, 36-inch bluefish, and in 1970, when he received a citation from then Governor Mandel, for a 24-pound rockfish.

When the weather was unsuitable for fishing, Emory enjoyed being an amateur meteorologist. He recorded the weather temperatures and measured rain and snowfall. He also enjoyed gardening. It was quite evident he knew what he was doing once people saw his yard and the king-size “veggies” that he grew.

Misfortune did not elude Emory. In May 1987, Emory lost his son, age 55–the victim of a homicide. Emory continued to serve faithfully as the pastor of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church, until his unfortunate collapsing and passing while preaching on May 19, 1991, at the age of 82. Many from the church remember Emory’s easy-going demeanor, his smile and his singing. He loved to sing. They also recall him telling them how on one particular Sunday, a special collection was taken, and he put all the money he had in the collection basket. The very next day he was at work and the co-owner of the company called him into the office and handed him an envelope with $1,000 in it. The company’s display of kindness towards him was not unusual.

Emory’s widow Madeline Henderson Timbers passed away in Columbia, Maryland on December 2, 2012, at the age of 87.

Although I never met my great uncle Emory, I have learned so much about his life. His faith was obviously very strong–as it is in our family–and he greatly resembles my father who had tinted eyes (Emory had gray eyes and my father had hazel eyes). Fishing has been a favorite pastime in the Timbers family. My dad used to take us fishing at least weekly. The other day when I was on the river fishing, I thought of my great uncle Emory. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any fish that day, but I felt as though he might just be watching me.

Sources cited:

Talk of the Church Newsletter, Greater St. Paul Baptist Church, 1985.

Guinea Colored School Research paper, The Edwin Washington Project, 11/1/2012.

Timeline for Mt. Sinai Free Will Baptist Church, Lovettsville Historical Society,- 2/19/21.

Conversations with Geraldine Evans Wilson.