The Right to Vote: An Ancestral Story

 

By Claudette Bard

Like many African Americans, my genealogical journey began when I watched Roots, the television mini-series that aired in 1977, which chronicled Alex Haley’s family history. I sat down a few years after that viewing to speak to my maternal grandmother. Now she was like many blacks in her age group who did not speak of the past and kept those stories guarded secrets. I later learned it was often too painful a subject to remember. I have seen other relatives approach her, asking such questions and it was usually followed by “the look,” which meant “that’s none of your business.” Nevertheless, I sat down with her one day and prepared myself for “the look.”

I began, “Do you remember your grandmother’s name?” She calmly said she did not.

“Do you remember your grandfather’s name?” She sat silent for a few seconds and then exclaimed, “His name was George Washington Anderson!” and said it with such pride. I let out a sigh of relief and, thus, my journey began.

I shared in my grandmother’s pride recently when I viewed a transcribed document, courtesy of the Lovettsville Historical Society. It listed the “colored” voters registered in Lovettsville. On the transcribed document was my great-great grandfather’s name, listed as George W. Anderson. It was a very emotional moment, to say the least.

This is a brief story of his journey to vote.

The following is based on part oral history and part research. George Washington Anderson was born a slave around 1852 on a plantation south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Although he was very young, he joined the Union Army at age 13 as part of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. He made his way to Lovettsville, Virginia, where he met and married Sarah Jane (Carter) Simms in 1879. They had eight children, all but two made it to adulthood. He died in 1931 at age 79. He is buried in Hillsboro. [sources: newspaper article in the Loudoun Times-Mirror dated January 19, 1956 by Yetive R. Weatherly entitled “Ray Anderson Knew Lovettsville ‘When.’” Ray Anderson is my great-great uncle; LoCo death certificate; obituary in the Blue Ridge Herald dated December 17, 1931 found at Balch Library. Other information is family oral history].

In his lifetime, he was a slave, he joined the Union Army according to family legend, witnessed the emancipation of his people, raised a family, buried his beloved wife and two children and exercised his right to vote. I am extremely proud of this tenacious and determined gentleman.

In the same year my great-great grandfather registered to vote, James Curtis also signed up. He did this on July 23, 1888 and he was 40 years old. According to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, he was married to Amanda and had four children: Charlotte, age 7; Maria V., age 4; Edward L., age 3; and John B., age 1. His daughter Maria Virginia married Louis William Ethcherson Anderson, my great-great uncle. James and Amanda’s son, John B, who is recorded on this list as J. F. Curtis, was enrolled in the Lovettsville Colored School in 1898 and is listed as John Benjamin Franklin Curtis. He was 18 years old. A few years later on October 11, 1900, he registered to vote at age 21. He died just nine years later on March 5, 1909, just shy of his 30th birthday and is buried at Mt Sinai Cemetery in Lovettsville. [sources: U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Lovettsville Colored School student list from the Lovettsville Historical Society and Museum; the Thomas Balch Library—Loudoun County Cemetery data base].

Edward Curtis is another name that is familiar to me. According to family oral history, he was known at one time as Ned Curtis, and was enslaved and owned by Ebenezer Grubb of Lovettsville. He married Maria, which may have occurred while enslaved, and according to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, they had four children: Matilda, age 14; Geary, age 8; Clayton, age 4 and Edward, age 2. Edward Curtis is listed as a 76-year-old registered voter. He died in 1895.

Looking through census records, I have concluded the two men listed under his name (E. M. Curtis and J. G. Curtis) are his sons Edward M. Curtis and Joseph Geary Curtis. They would have been 21 and 26 respectively in 1888. Since the Curtises registered on the same day, I would like to think of this scenario: Could Mr. Edward Curtis, at 76 years old, who was born a slave, witnessed emancipation, have brought his two sons with him to register to vote? [source: U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com].

J.A. Curtis registered to vote and was sworn in on October 20, 1892 at age 21. Not knowing his first two names, it presented a challenge in finding more information about him.

C. W. Curtis registered to vote on October 16, 1896 and he was transferred from Bolington. He is most likely Cornelius Curtis. Mr. Curtis was born around 1858 and would have been 38 years old in 1896. In 1881, he married the former Marie Dean and in 1885, they had a son by the name of Dudley. Based on a court document dated 1926, he was listed as a trustee for the Antioch AME Church. [sources: Antioch document courtesy of the Lovettsville Historical Society; U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Loudoun County death certificate]

Simon Davison was registered to vote and, according to this listing, he was from Snickersville and that transfer took place on October 22, 1894. Not knowing any more statistical data about him presented a challenge in finding more information about his life in Loudoun County.

Silas Ferrell photo, courtesy of Wayne Ferrell.
Silas Ferrell photo, courtesy of Wayne Ferrell

Silas Furl is another name I recognize. I believe it was written incorrectly and it should be “Silas Ferrell”.  There were several members of the Ferrell family in the Lovettsville area and I know a descendent who has verified his family is from Loudoun County. Also, using census records, Mr. Ferrell would have been 34 years old in 1888. In the 1900 census, he was 45 years old and married to the former Martha Curtis in 1886. His occupation was listed as a farm laborer. As of this census, the Ferrells had four children: Emily, age 13; Jamie, age 9; Martha, age 5 and Lulu, age 5 (perhaps twins). Mr. Ferrell was listed as a trustee of the Antioch AME Church in 1915. He died on May 23, 1918 and is buried in the Grace Annex United Methodist Church Cemetery in Purcellville. [sources: U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; LoCo death certificate, Find a Grave website; oral history from a Ferrell family member, Wayne Ferrell; Antioch document courtesy of the Lovettsville Historical Society]

Lewis Hamilton registered to vote on July 24, 1888 at the age of 30. He was born around 1859. According to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, he was a 21-year-old servant in the household of Sophia Hilleary, widow of Henry Hilleary. She had three children: eleven- and eight-year-old daughters and a nine-year-old son. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Lewis is living in the household of his stepfather and mother, Albert Washington and Elizabeth (Coleman) Washington. He was listed as a 48-year-old day laborer. He is listed in a court document as a trustee of the Antioch AME Church in 1926. [sources: U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Antioch document courtesy of the Lovettsville Historical Society]

Charles Howard registered to vote on July 24, 1888. Because of their ages, Charles Howard maybe the son of Henry Howard—I do not have any documentation to prove this. They may have registered on the same day; no date is listed.

Henry Howard was 54 years old when he registered to vote. The 1880 U.S. Federal Census has an H.B. and Eliza Howard living in Lovettsville. Buried side by side in Mt Sinai cemetery are Henry and Elizabeth Howard. Henry’s date of death was September 7, 1900 and Elizabeth died on April 29, 1895 (the year maybe 1898). [sources: U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; The Thomas Balch Library,Loudoun County Cemetery Database].

Charles W. Hogan. Photo used by permission.
Charles W. Hogan. Photo used by permission.

GW. Hogan is probably C. W. Hogan and may have been transcribed or written incorrectly. Charles W. Hogan was born around 1878 and he would have been 22 years old in 1900. On October 24, 1900, he registered to vote and according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was married to the former Lillie Morgan and they lived with Lillie’s mother, Amy Morgan. They had a son by the name of Harry. Charles Hogan was listed as a trustee of the Antioch AME Church in 1915. Lillie died in 1925 and is buried at the African Chapel AME Cemetery in Lovettsville. Charles remarried the former Virginia Beaner and lived the rest of his life in Baltimore where he worked at the Old Trail Riding Academy. [sources: Find a Grave website; U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Antioch court document courtesy of the Lovettsville Historical Society]

Harrison James registered to vote on the 26th of July 1888 and he was 53 years old. We have not been able to find any information about a Black man named Harrison James, or James Harrison, living in Lovettsville at the time.

Henry Lee, who registered in 1890 at age 21, and transferred to Waterford in 1894, could be Henry Lee b. 1873 Waterford, parents John and Caroline, wife Edna, died 1937 in Ohio. A Henry Lee, age 12, isshown in 1880 census in Lovettsville. A Henry Lee, age 13, son of Daniel and Julia Lee, shown in 1880 census (Jefferson District) with a James Lee, age 13, also in household. [sources: Family Search, Ancestry.com]

James L. Lee registered in 1900 at age 21; 1900 census shows James L. Lee, age 19, living in household of Charles and Mary Conard as a laborer; also in household is 14-year-old Susanna (?) Randolph, a servant. . [sources: Family Search, Ancestry.com]

Manley, John registered 1888 at age 52, and lived here all his life. There is a John Manley, age 48, in Lovettsville in 1880 census; wife Agnes; they are listed on census pages near Thomas Nelson, and George Curtis. [sources: Family Search, Ancestry.com]

John Mitchell was 64 years old when he registered to vote on May 9, 1899. He had only lived in Virginia and in Loudoun County for two years, as indicated in the voter list. In the 1880 census, John was living in nearby Knoxville, Frederick County, Maryland with his wife Mary, and his occupation was wheelwright. He was born in North Carolina and Mary was born in Maryland. He was 45 years old; Mary was 46. They had a daughter named Sophia who was 13 years old and born around 1867 in Maryland. It appears that Mr. Mitchell and his family moved to Virginia in the late 1890s because he registered to vote in May 1899. He remained in Lovettsville the following year, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. The census showed him as 66 years old and was born about August 1833 in North Carolina. He had been married for 38, years and his occupation was wheelwright. He could both read and write. His wife Mary was born in Maryland in about February 1834 and was 66 years old. She had five children and only one had survived. Mary could neither read nor write. Sophia, the daughter in the 1880 census, was not living in the household; she would be approximately 33 years old. Bessie Hogans, 10 years old (possibly a daughter of Charles W. and Lillie Hogan (see above) also lived in the household, and the relationship to the head of household was listed as servant.  [sources: Family Search, Ancestry.com]

Morgan, C. registered in 1888 at age 48, was listed in the register as “dead.”  Very likely this is Columbus Morgan, born @1835, married Amy Coleman Hamilton in 1871; father of Lillie G. Morgan who married Charles Hogan. 1900 census shows Columbus Morgan as a farm laborer in household of Americus Wenner. Morgan is listed on 1890 census of Union veterans of Civil War in Lovettsville, along with George W. Anderson and six white Union veterans. He served as a private in the 43rd U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry. He probably died in 1896, because a widow’s pension was awarded to Amy Morgan, widow of Columbus Morgan, on November 14, 1896; she died in February 18, 1922. [source: Ancestry.com, Family Search, Fold 3]

Marchal (Marshall) Morgan, registered to vote in 1895 at age 21; He was born on March 31, 1874, and was a son of Columbus Morgan and Amy Hamilton Morgan, and a brother of Lillie G. Morgan Hogan.  His wife was Mary Morgan, and their children included Rosie Mae Moten, Alma Morgan Hardy, and Virginia Morgan Monroe. His occupation was general laborer. He died Oct. 8, 1919, of cancer, and is buried at the African Chapel AME Cemetery in Lovettsville. [source: Loudoun County death certificate, Ancestry.com, Find-a-Grave]

J. H. Morgan,  registration transferred from Leesburg on May 8, 1897, had lived in Loudoun County for 21 years.   The 1880 census shows a “H. J. Morgan,” a son of Columbus and Amy Morgan, who was ten years old. He was a brother to Marshall Morgan, Lillie Morgan Hogan, etc. [source: Family Search]

John Moten, registered in 1900 at age 23, lived in Britain (on Mountain Rd. southwest of Lovettsville). This likely is John David Moten, born 8 May 1877; married to Julia Nelson in 1898; mother-in-law wasMargaret Nelson in household; owned house, day laborer.  (Census shows neighbors were Axline, Kalb, Rinker, Timbers, J.W. Compher, etc.). [source: Family Search]

Thomas H. Nelson registered in 1888 at age 42, apparently died before 1900. A Thomas Nelson, born 1842, married Margaret Timbers on 29 December 1881; his parents were Philip and Maria Nelson.  1870 census shows a Thomas Nelson, born 1842, living near Bolington, occupation laborer, living in household of Noah and Susanna Fry (white). [source: Family Search]

John Paris, of the Jumbo community, is listed as registering in 1892 at the age 22. This John Paris is listed on a separate page than the other Parises in the voter register, with no check marks; thus it seems probable that this is the same as the John E. Paris who registered in 1888. (see below)

Edward Paris, who registered in 1892 at age 21, is probably Edgar Paris, who was a year younger than his brother John, according to the 1880 census. He does not appear in any other records that we can find, either as Edgar or Edward.

J. William Paris, who registered in 1888 at age 48, was the father of John and Edward/Edgar. The 1880 census shows a William Paris, age 42, a farm laborer, with wife Louisa, a housekeeper, age 36; children are Mary age 15, John 10, Edgar 9, Georgiana 9, Malinda 8, and Melissa 5. (James Curtis is adjacent on the census list.) William Paris died in 1904 at age 75, and is buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery at Britain. [source: Family Search]

John E. Paris, who registered in 1888 at age 21, with four check marks (which probably indicated the times he voted), is likely a son of William Paris. The 1900 census shows John E. Paris, age 30, single, farm laborer, as tenant in household of Roxanne Housholder [white], with Virginia Taylor (his half-sister), age 40. The 1910 census shows John age 40, a hired hand, the same household. John Paris is listed as a trustee of the Antioch AME Church in a court document dated 1915. The 1920 census shows John, age 52, laborer, black, living in household of Addison B. Householder, age 49, a well-known Lovettsville physician. The 1930 census lists John E. Paris, age 60, single, living with half-sister Virginia Taylor, age 69. Next on census listing are my relatives David and Orpha Redmon and George and Carl Anderson. Also living close-by are the Ritchie family, Charles and Virginia Hogan, the Beamer family, and then a number of the Georges, including Fred Lee and Hypatia George, and also is the Wire family – suggesting that these families lived in the George’s Mill area. A death certificate shows John Ebenezer Paris, single, born November 21, 1869, died May 15, 1933 of chronic nephritis at age 63, and identifying him as the son of William Paris and Louise Ann Taylor. Informant was Virginia Taylor. An obituary published in the Frederick, MD, Daily News on May 25, 1933 reads: “Funeral services were held on Wednesday, May 17, for John Paris, colored, Lovettsville. He had been a resident of community all his life. One sister, Virginia Paris, survives him. Interment in colored cemetery.”  He is buried at Mount Sinai in Britain, on Mountain Road. [sources: Family Search, Loudoun County death certificate, Loudoun County Cemetery Database Thomas Balch Library, and Find-a-Grave, which mistakenly shows him buried at the African Chapel.]

Charles Perkins registered in 1894 at age 28, and is shown as having lived in the County and State for only one year. The 1880 census shows a Charles Perkins in Lovettsville, born about 1869 in Virginia, so this may not be the same person. No other records were found.

James Randolf was registered in 1888 at age 38.  Birth records show that a James and Mary Randolph had a son James, born 1 Nov 1890 in Loudoun.  The 1900 census shows James Randolph, no age, head of household, married Mary L. Randolph (born 1867) in 1892; occupation: day laborer; children were Lottie, King, Clarence, and Floyd. (Others on the same census page: Green, McNeally, Robert and Ella Johnson, Michael Everhart, Luther Hickman, Charles Painter, and William W. Scott.)  [source: Ancestry.com]

Joseph Rivers, who registered to vote in 1888 at age 64, is someone we know well from Civil War research. River was born enslaved in Loudoun County around 1824, and was freed at age 21 (probably around 1845) under the terms of the 1826 will of Margaret Douglas. By 1860, he was working for A.T.M. Filler of Lovettsville, who was a cattle trader, among other things.  During the Civil War, Rivers provided information to the Union Army about the Confederate renegade and bushwhacker John Mobberly. River’s services were recognized after the war by the U.S. government.  In 1872 he told the Southern Claims Commission (SCC)  that he had given Union soldiers information on Mobberly and on the presence of rebels in the area, “and I done this at the risk of my life – They would have shot me as quick as they would a rabbit had they known it.”  He emphasized that “I don’t want this known now.” After the war, he owned a house and seven acres of land. He was a founder of the AME (African Chapel) Church in Lovettsville, and was one of five men who bought the property for the church in 1869.  He died in 1898. [sources: Bronwen Souders; SCC files; Loudoun County land records]

C.C. Roberson, registered in 1888 at age 55, marked “dead.” (no information found)

William Scott, age 25. His voter registration was transferred to Bolington in 1896.  Birth records show William and Martha Scott in Lovettsville, who had a son Edgar Scott, born Sept. 4, 1891. They were living in Lovettsville for 1900 census, and were shown on the same census page with members of the Timbers, Beaner, and Moten families. The 1910 census shows William (born 1863) and Martha Scott living in Petersville, Md., both having been born in Virginia, and son Edgar, age 17. [sources: Family Search, Ancestry.com]

Albert Washington was 50 years old when he registered to vote; there is no registration date listed. He had been a resident of Loudoun County for 22 years and had lived all his life in Virginia. Not knowing the date he registered but based on the other dates listed in the register, he must have registered between 1888 and 1900. I calculated his year of birth to be about 1838. I would conclude he might have arrived in Loudoun County (and probably Lovettsville) in 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War. On the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, I found an Albert Washington, age 45, living in Lovettsville and listed as a farm laborer. He was single, and may have lived in the household or on the land of his employer, Edward Tavener. A few years later in 1883, he married the former Elizabeth Coleman. I believe he registered to vote in 1888—when he would have been around 50 years old. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he and his wife remained in Lovettsville, and they had been married 15 years. She was 69 years old and, even though no age is given for him, he was about 61. Elizabeth was reported to have had three children with two still alive. Living in the same household was Albert’s step-son and, therefore, Elizabeth’s son, Lewis Hamilton, who is 48 years old. As previously mentioned, Mr. Hamilton registered to vote on July 24, 1888, when he was 30 years old.

Luther Young may have been known as Martin Luther Young. He transferred from Bolington in 1899 and there were two check marks in his voting record (most likely indicating he voted two times). According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was born in Maryland in September 1868 and was 31 years old. He was listed as a day laborer, was head of household and he could read and write. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was a 40-year-old single man, head of household and his occupation was listed as general work. His birthplace was listed as Virginia, which differs from the 1900 census. Lizzie Brooks lived in the same household, was a 35 years old single woman, and her relationship to Mr. Young was housekeeper. She was born in Maryland and had no children.

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The pride I have for all the men on this list and especially for my great-great grandfather is immeasurable. These men were average, hard-working citizens. They raised families, some owned property, many could neither read nor write; they faced adversities that I can only imagine, and took measures to improve the lives of other African Americans while facing enormous odds. They had the resilience and determination to exercise their right to vote.

Although I have always realized voting is important, after seeing this list and knowing some of the men’s histories, my outlook of voting is forever changed.

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Note:  Research assistance was provided by Edward Spannaus

We would be grateful if anyone having more information on any of these individuals would share that information with us, so we can update the information in this article.