Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pauline Patten (nee Garza)

Pauline Garza was Eliza's mother. She was born in 1873 in San Antonio, Texas to a Mexican named Antonio Garza, and a negro slave named Eliza Lewis.
I believe the first photo is also of Pauline Garza, but my cousin
claims that the photo is of Pauline's father, Antonio Garza!!

Pauline had one sister that I know of, Arnetta Jones. In 1900, she married Mason Barnett Patten. They had four children: Thelma, M.B., Donovan and Eliza.

She was a school teacher. Although a few African Americans received a public education in the late nineteenth century, many taught their children at home.

Pauline's children attended a public school. This is a photograph of my grandmother's class.
Eliza Patten's class. My grandmother is in second row, second kid from left

 This is another picture of Pauline taken in the backyard at the Ruthven House.

Pauline died in 1930 at age 58.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mason Barnett Patten

Mason Barnett Patten, Sr.
Mason Barnett, commonly known as MB, was the son of Silas Patten and Kitty Hortense. Kitty was a slave whose father was a white man named Judge Robinson.

In 1910, for $1,100 MB purchase a house at 1018 Ruthven in Houston, Texas. The house was located in a section of the fourth ward, in a part of town then known as Freedman's Town, also known as Buffalo Bayou.House on Ruthven
House on Ruthven

Detail: House on Ruthven
Detail from House on Ruthven
Donovan is being held by the unknown woman on left, perhaps a housekeeper or babysitter. I believe that the next woman is Pauline Garza. MB,Jr, and Thelma are on the steps.

Esteemed Employment
MB worked as a postal railway clerk, which at the time was very high employment for a black man.

Postal Rail Clerks were not allowed to join the white union - Railway Mail Association (1891) aka National Association of Railway Postal Clerks (1904), then the National Mail Handlers (1912). M.B. was instrumental in the establishment of the National Alliance of Postal Employees (1913) whose mission was to eliminate discrimination in employment of postal mail handlers. The Alliance obtained a couple of beneficial changes to the employment regulations, including the elimination of the use of photographs as a part of the appointment process and the addition of race as criteria upon which employment decisions could not be made.

In 1920, the train he was working was in an accident near Shreveport, Louisana. Family history says that as he laid gravely injured, the train company insurance man came around and offered a settlement which he accepted. He died three days later.

This is the scene of the train accident from which he died:

Emailing: ws.jpg

The insurance settlement was $1200 paid by the "United Railway Mutal [sic] Benefit Association" according to the petition for probate filed on behalf of the Patten children on May 8, 1920. The petition valued MB's property at $2,000; $1,500 in community property and $500 as his separate property. However, the appraisers valued his estate at $1,950. The benefit association's name also raises some questions. George Pullman established a company union for his negro employees in 1920. The committee, called the Pullman Porters Benefit Association of America, provided disability and death benefits, as well as a small pension plan. The United Railway Postal Mail Mutual Benefits Association was a white organization established in 1874. It could be that the Patten Kid's lawyers got the name of the insurance provider wrong.

M.B. died on April 10, 1920 in Caddo, Louisiana, USA.

By agreement of the family, although my grandmother was only 10 years old at the time and therefore likely could not legally agree, her sister, Thelma, used the insurance money to go to Howard University's Medical school. Thelma agreed to finance her siblings'education for allowing her to use the money in this fashion. As a result, my grandmother, Eliza went to Howard University, too. She got her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1932. Her diploma, which hangs proudly on my wall, is a real sheepskin. M.B. Jr. went to Hampton University. Donovan died at 21 and therefore did not go to college.

Politics in the blood

The Patten family would have political connections in the state of Texas.

Edward A. Patton
MB's brother, Edward, served in the 22nd Texas Legislature as a representative from Evergreen (San Jacinto and Polk Counties) during reconstruction from 1891-1892. Edward apparently spelled the family name as Patton. Although history has recorded that he was shot by the sheriff while running for reelection to his second term, the books do not disclose what family lore has. He was shot by his white grandfather, Judge Robinson who was the sheriff at the time. Edward survived the gunshot and left town. He wound up in Washington, D.C. where he lived out his final days.
Edward A. Patton [sic] Patten
Edward A. Patton [sic]

Barbara Charlene Jordan
Barbara Jordan Barbara Charlene Jordan (1936-1996), who in 1967, would become the first African American elected to the Texas Senate since Reconstruction was also a Patten. Her maternal grandfather, John Ed Patten, was a son of Silas Patten. Barbara would also be brought into this world by Thelma Patten Law, who by then was a practicing ob/gyn. According to Barbara Jordan, An American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers, Thelma made a crude remark about Barbara's dark skin color when she delivered her. I believe the remark was true because my grandmother would be disowned for marrying a dark man, my grandfather Clarence, by her sister. Barbara served as a congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979. In 1974, Barbara made an influential,televised speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. The other deep, dark family secret was that Barbara, along with Pauline Law (Thelma's daughter), were lesbian.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Eliza was the youngest

Eliza was the baby of the family. Her siblings were Thelma, the oldest; Mason Barnett or M.B., (on right) named after his father; and Donovan (on left).

Before my grandmother was born, the following portrait of the Patten kids was taken. Thelma is holding M.B. who is staddling the chair. Donovan is seated in the chair. Unfortunately, I do not know which professional studio took this picture.

This following picture, apparently taken during the winter because they are wearing coats and hats, was also of the Patten kids.

That picture of the Patten Kids is a real picture postcard. On the back, it was postmarked February 19, 1913, and addressed to Arnette Jones who was the sister of Pauline Garza, their mother. Arnetta is living in Nogales, Arizona. The post card warns her to be prepared to run "when the U.S. Intervenes. Because there will be war along the border." At the time, Victoriano Huerta is about to overthrow, in a violent coup, the Mexican regime of President Madero. History will show that the U.S. declined to intervene, and on February 20, 1913, Huerta formally became the (then) President of Mexico.

Arnetta Jone's granddaughter, Rachel, will eventually marry Jackie Robinson, the famous baseball player who broke the color line in the the sport.

Eliza Patten

Eliza Patten circa 1911, originally uploaded by AfroPix.

My grandmother, Eliza Mae Patten Washington,, was born in Evergreen, Texas, in an unincorporated part of San Jacinto County. About 65 miles or so north of Houston, the town was named for its forest of evergreen trees. When my grandmother lived there only about 50-100 people lived there, too. This picture of her as a baby suggests that they had some money. Her Father, Mason Barnett Patten, was a railroad porter. Her mother, Pauline Garza, a school teacher.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How I Got Started in Photography

My grandmother was a photographer. Not by trade, but she had her Kodak and she loved to take pictures. Her Kodak had her named engraved - - in 18 karat gold - - on the front: "Eliza Mae Patten."

My Mom and Her Camera
My mother was a photographer too. Like me, she carried her camera everywhere. I found this picture of Thelma with one of her cameras from her days as a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s. I was lucky. My parents took me to spend a lot of time with my grandparents on both side. At my grandmother's house in Houston, Texas, I learned my family history while looking through the old photographs of various people long gone. That is one good thing about people who love cameras. A camera makes photographs. By default, a love of cameras creates a love of photographs. Being surrounded by camera people, and their cameras and their photographs, I grew to love it too. Photographs of my family; photographs of my friends; photographs of my friends' families; photographs of people I did not even know and their families; photographs of things around families, like dogs, cats, houses, books, sunsets, etc.

Every Picture Tells a Story
I got my first Kodak Brownie at age 6. Unfortunately, photographs taken by me in my earlier years have not survived. However, my love of cameras and photography did not end. I also developed (pun intended)a yearning for collecting pictures. I wanted my grandmother's pictures. I wanted my grandfather's pictures. I wanted any and all pictures I could get my hands on. The day that I would control my family's pictures, or at least my mother's side of the photographs, has come. I have decided to use this blog as a means to show off my photograph collection and to tell my family history. Since my love of photographs started with my grandmother's pictures, I have decided to start with her and her side of the family first.