Friday, December 26, 2014

Do You Believe in Santa Claus? The Family Christmas Tree

My first christmas in vitro 1955

I haven't had a Christmas Tree for several years now. Partially because I imagine my cats deconstructing it as I sleep; otherwise because I am just not feeling the spirit enough to take the time out to set one up.

Paula gets a red pony for Christmas 1958


1960s lights out same tree

1960s Opening presents

First Christmas after moving to California circa 1964

Dad and Caroline Circa 1977

Caroline and Vanessa circa 1980s

1990s Top at Paula's with Mark and Ashley, bottom at Dad's

Friday, August 15, 2014

John Chiles

My great great grandfather, John Chiles

According to the 1870 census, John Chiles was born in 1854 in Missouri. By 1870 he was married to Charlotte Bellinger and living in Lockhart, Texas.  Just about everytime I go to Texas I go to Lockhart, Texas.  There is fabulous BBQ there, but more importantly, I have family history there.

Around 1977, I made a trip to Lockhart with my mother, Thelma Washington Gibson.  At the time her cousin Lex Hudspeth was living there in an old house.

I remember being completely amazed by the pot belly stove in the middle of the house, next to what I guess was the area between the kitchen and the living room.

Pot Belly Stove from Catalog

I also remember that the walls were black probably from smoke from the stove. There was a painting that someone had painted on the wall that I admired. Lex said I could have it and proceeded to pull it off the wall. Underneath was the most beautiful flowered wall paper that could no longer be seen under the smoke covered walls.

Anyway, looking into the history of the Lockhart house lead me to a discovery about John Chiles.  That house was located at what would eventually been known as "1189 Farmer St, Lockhart, TX 78644." I knew that Lex Hudspeth was living in the house, but I wanted to know who lived there before him.

Starting with the 1870 Census, I was looking at John Chiles and Charlotte Bellinger.  While attempting to figure out a street name, I turned back a page in the Census and immediately noticed another Chiles family, only this one was white. Going back to 1860, I saw that the white Chiles were still present.

White Chiles and Black Chiles Families one page apart in the 1850 Census
I believe that Caroline Crunk, shown as a cook for the White Chiles neighbor
was also a former Chiles Slave

This is the story that I was able to figure out, so far:

John Chiles was brought from Missouri as a child slave by Dr. P.B. Chiles.

P.B. Chiles' 1857 notice that he is moving to Texas

As stated above, John Chiles was born in Missouri in 1854, about seven years before the start of the Civil War.  The trail from Missouri to Texas had already been established by the DeWitt Colonists. The route probably left Missouri, as did Dewitt previously, from "St. Charles County down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. From there they traveled by schooner down the coast in the Gulf of Mexico entering Matagorda Bay between the Matagorda Peninsula and Matagorda Island eventually anchoring in Lavaca Bay at the mouth of the Lavaca River. This route would be commonly used by numerous immigrants to the colony, a journey which sometimes took over 3 months...The party [would then join] the settlers at Old Station on the La Vaca where [there were] facilities to transport and receive colonists." 

According to a "Note from unknown; Isabel Florence Chiles Maltsberger Collection":

"P.B. bought the first piece of land he bought there on 26 April 1845, and bought lots more after that.  He surely was a land owner of large means, and he had an awful amount of land in and around Lockhart, as did the Heads.  The Heads were living in Bexar County in November 1850 and are in the census.  They left Missouri to go to California in the gold rush of 1849, but evidently got sidetracked in San Antonio."
According to the 1850 census, Caldwell County, where Lockhart was the county seat, had 1,055 free residents and 274 slaves; by 1860 the number of free residents had more than doubled to 2,871, and the number of slaves had increased more than 5½ times to 1,610.  \

P.B. Chiles and family on front porch of their Lockhart, Texas house. Note the black woman
standing on the left of the house.

The Civil War started in 1861.   Texas succeeded from the Union on  February 23, 1861, and the State would not be readmitted to the Union until 1870.  On July 15, 1863, P.B. Chiles was drafted for six months as a Pvt in Co. "A", Inf. 25 Brigade, TST but was mustered out a little more than a month later on August 6, 1863. (Source: State of Texas Archives, Austin, Texas)

 The 1860 Census happened to have counted slaves in the household, and therefore I took a look at that Census for P.B. Chiles. Once I started figuring dates, I could match alleged years of birth with the information that I already knew about John Chiles' family. Looking at the 1860 Slave Schedule for P. B. Chiles to see if the ages matched the known ages for the Black Chiles. They did line up for the Chiles and even for the Crunk family.

There was a 23 year old female slave that I have not been able to confirm.  At the same time, the age I had for Ellen Chiles does not match the age of the slave schedule, and although the age of George Crunk matches, the schedule indicates "female" not "male". That may be because of the way George may have been dressed when the census taker was present.

As suggested by the article below, former slave Caroline Crunk continued to live with the white Chiles as a "cook" after emancipation.

Newspaper Clipping about P.B. Chiles

Young and Old John Chiles

Interestingly enough, some of John Chiles' Daughters have the same names as the White Chiles daughters: Florence and Birdie

Theo Bellinger, Blacksmith and his wife, Louisa Ammey Bellinger

Theodore Bellinger

Theodore Bellinger was born in January of 1826 in South Carolina.  We believe he was a slave of Edmond Bellinger.  The census records identified Theodore as being "mu.", an abbreviation for mulatto.  According to the WPA interview of Harriet Gresham, she was born on December 6, 1838 and was one of many biracial slaves of Edmond Bellinger in Barnwell, South Carolina.

1850 Slave Schedule for Edmund Bellinger shows he owned a male black slave born abt 1830; This was one of four slaves owned by Edmund

Edmund Bellinger's family lineage is well documented.  According to various sources:
Edmund Bellinger was born in Beaufort, S. C., March 4, 1802, received a classical education and completed a full collegiate course of study at Columbia College, South Carolina. He was prevented from graduating, but received a certificate of high standing in all his classes by the faculty. In 1826 he married Miss Ann Le Gare Roach, a native of Charleston, S. C., a daughter of William Roach, of Bristol, England. Through her mother she was a descendant of the "Huguenots " through the Le Gare family, and through her grandfather her family reaches back to the McGregor clan, in Scotland, to the year 700 A. D. Hugh Swinton Le Gare, her first cousin, was Attorney General of the United States. By marriage she was connected with William Gilmore Simms. Mr. Bellinger was directly descended from the "Landgraves" of South Carolina, a title hereditary conferred by one of the Georges of England on Edmund Bellinger of Westmorland County, England, who married Elizabeth Cartwright, and emigrated to America about the year 1688, at which time he was created first Landgrave. His son Edmund was second Landgrave. He married Elizabeth Butler; their son Edmund became third Landgrave. He in turn married Mary Lucia Bull; their son Edmund was fourth Landgrave. William Bellinger, the youngest brother of the fourth Landgrave, was the father of this Edmund Bellinger, who, with his wife, soon after his marriage, moved to Illinois. He remained there six years, and came to Texas in 1839, and assisted in the early development of this country, then "The Republic of Texas."(From DeWitt Colony Biographies on the web at:

They moved to Gonzales, Texas in March 1837 and assisted in the early development of this country; then called the "Republic of Texas".  In 1839 Edmund Bellinger and his family were Prairie Lea's 1st settlers. Other early Prairie Lea settlers were largely slave-holding families. Edmund Bellinger took part in the Indian troubles and participated in the Battle of Plum Creek and other skirmishes. These struggles were hard on his wife, Anne; a woman reared in luxury and refinement of the Charleston, South Carolina aristocracy. In the summer of 1840 the Comanche Indians swept down the Gaudalupe Valley, killing settlers, stealing horses, plundering and burning settlements. Several times Anne abandoned her home with her family to avoid these raids. Finally, the Texans organized a volunteer army and with the Texas Rangers under Ben McCulloch overtook the Indians at Plum Creek in the vicinity of the present town of Lockhart on 11 August 1940. There a decisive defeat on the following day pushed the Comanches westward. Edmund Bellinger acquired land in the 1840s & 1850s, farmed and raised horses & cattle on the ranch. He served as a county judge and was a man of established reputation. During the Civil War Prairie Lea men served with Hood's Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. During the Civil War Edmund Bellinger was a Union man and opposed to the war, as were Sam Houston and others. However, three of Edmund & Anne Bellinger's sons were in the Confederate service. One son gave his life to the cause. While residing near Springfield, Illinois Edmund Bellinger came to know and admire Abraham Lincoln. At a time when it was almost treason to speak Lincoln's name in kindness, Edmund Bellinger had the courage to express his admiration for that great man.[]

From what we could gather from SLAVE TRANSACTIONS OF GUADALUPE COUNTY, TEXAS. Mark Gretchen. Softcover, 2009, 8.5" x 11", Illus, Index, x + 342 pp, after the Civil War, Edmund was injured during the war. He is found living with his son's family, financially destitute. Injured and broke he or his wife sold (Theodore) to a man name James Pinckney Henderson, the first governor of Texas. Later, Henderson in turn sold him to Joseph Henry Polley, on the steps of Guadalupe Courthouse for $2200.   

James Pinckney Henderson-p.jpg
James Pinckney Henderson
Historical designation awarded to Polley Cemetery
Joseph Henry Polley

Texas formally seceded on March 2, 1861.  On June 19, 1865 word that the Civil War had ended and the slaves freed arrived in Texas.  The Texas holiday Juneteenth commemorates this date
By 1867 Theodore was living in Caldwell County, Texas and registered to vote.

P.B. Chiles also referenced here was the slave owner
of Charlotte Bellinger's husband, John Chiles
Theo married Louisa Ammey in 1855.
Louisa Bellinger (nee Ammey)

Louisa was born about 1835 in Tennessee.  Her parents were Ben Ammey (also spelled as Amey) and J. Brown.  Ben was born  around 1800 in Maury County, Tennessee where his wife J. Brown was also born about 1805.  I noted that the 1870 Census had a black farmer with the last name Amis.
Name:Hicks Amis
[Amos Hicks
Age in 1870:56
Birth Year:abt 1814
Home in 1870:District 6, Maury, Tennessee
Post Office:Culleoka
Value of real estate:View image

Thus, Amis might be another variation of the spelling of Ben's last name.

Together, Theodore and Louisa had the following children:

Benjamin Bellinger (1855 - 1914)
Ben Bellinger
Charlotte Bellinger (1856 - 1933)
Charlotte Bellinger Chiles
Charlotte Bellinger

Theodore Bellinger Jr. (1857 - 1931)
Theodore Bellinger Jr
Theodore Bellinger Jr
Jack Bellinger (1858 - 1916)

Jack Bellinger
Jack Bellinger
Sam Bellinger (1863 - 1927)
Betty Besty A. Bellinger (1864 - 1950)
Harriett Bellinger (1866 - 1896)
Henry Bellinger Sr. (1867 - 1940)
Woody Bellinger (1869 - 1924)
William Bellinger (1872 -)
Wheat Bellinger Sr. (1874 - 1931)
Charles Bellinger (1875 - 1937)
Charles Bellinger
Charles Bellinger
Fred Bellinger (1879 - 1947)
Woody Bellinger (1885 - 1980)

Charlotte Bellinger was my great great grandmother.

1870 Census shows Theo is a Blacksmith

1880 Census

1900 Census Record still shows that Theo is a Blacksmith

Theodore's Blacksmith was apparently very lucrative.  According to an article int the The San Antonio Light 1937; Theodore "was the city's outstanding blacksmith and wheelright, enjoying an extensive and lucrative business."

From article about the death of Charles Bellinger

By 1902, Louisa apparently had taken over operation of the blacksmith shop.
Advertisement from Lockhart News Echo February 28, 1902, p. 5

Theo died in 1906 from Bright's Disease, which is a historical classification for kidney disease that is no longer used.

Report of Death for Theo Bellinger 1906

Louisa died four years later on March 3, 1910 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.

Our Great, Great, Grand Mother,  Louisa (Ammey) Bellinger
Louisa Bellinger, Death Certificate

Paula Lauren Gibson's photo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Family Home

Home, Sweet Home
 'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home; A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there, Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere. Home, home, sweet, sweet home! There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!
 -----John Howard Payne (1791-1852)

Although in my entire life I have lived in several places, there is really only one place that I call "home".  The year was 1964.  I remember the first time that I went to the Farralone house with my brothers.  We were living in a rental on Roscoe, but my father had purchased a house up the hill.  We decided to walk up the hill and visit our new home.  After climbing the hill, we were thirsty. So it made sense to us to get some water out of the hose.

Farralone Family House

We were clueless at the time, that our family was about the become the original "Hughleys" - a 1998 TV show about a black family moving to "West Hills, a predominately white neighborhood within the San Fernando Valley". Only this was 1964, and the part of West Hills where we moved was still called Canoga Park.

Back to the water hose.  So there we still in what would be our front yard after the landscaping got put in, when a loud booming voice yelled "You guys get out of here..."!  That booming voice belong to actor Mark Russell who was about the find out that his new neighbors were black.  "This is my daddy's house, I shot back." Mind you, I had lived in an interracial neighborhood in Westbury, New York.

Park Avenue Elementary School; Westbury, New York March  1965.  In December 1965, I would move to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California and attend a school at which my brothers and I would be the sole black kids.  It was culture shock to say the least, because I had never gone to a school that wasn't integrated before that.BTW, Ms. Bennett was my favorite teacher.  A group of kids would meet up with her each day and walk to school together.  Today they call that a walking school bus

Yet I had not experienced the things I was going to experience while living in Canoga Park.  There someone called me a [N-word] for the first time in my life, and I had no idea what they were talking about. Soon, I would find out and thus the next kid to call me that got a punch in the mouth. Fifty years later, someone in my family continues to live in that house.  That's why I call it a family home.
My mother's family home was in Houston, Texas on Barbee Street.  According to my grandmother,   Sixty or more years later, someone from the family continues to live there too.

Barbee Street House; Green Building was the
garage with an apartment on top. 
Last time I was visiting there, I found a photograph of the original owner, a woman named Aline Cover.

Aline Cover is of the former owner of the house.
My grandparents purchased the house from 
Mrs. Cover 
in March of 1951. The Roulande Studio was operated by
Sonia and Kaye Marvins.

Ironically, my mother's family was one of the first or maybe even the first black family to move into that house.  The 1940 United States Census shows that the neighborhood was completely white.

1940 U.S. Census show the race of the persons
living on Barbee Street at the time.

Below are photos of some of the other Gibson/Washington family homes.

Another family home in Lockhart, Texas (That's my mom, Thelma, in front)

House on Buck where my Mom lived before the family moved to Barbee Street

Grand Mother Eliza's Childhood home on Ruthven
in Houston, Texas.  This was a Freedman Town
established after the Civil War.

Family Home in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas Island

Savannah Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas Island
What was left of the house that my Grandfather RCG
was born in 1893.
I believe my grandfather's sister Euleta was about 20 years old
in this photo.  In the background is what I believe is the family home
referenced in the photograph above!!!

"3021"   I wonder whose house this is.  Cornelia and Clarence Washington lived at 3605 Hare Street, Houston, Texas so I do not believe it's their house.

Related Links:

Information about Roulande Studio Photographer Kaye Marvins: