Friday, May 30, 2008


I recently developed this. This Sunday, I began doing something strange. I started reading the obituaries. I used to only get the Sunday paper for coupons. However, this Sunday, I went thru the obits thinking, “Maybe there’s someone in here that I know”. Uh..NO! My ancestors are in North Carolina and I live in Florida. My family in Florida consists of my immediate relatives. That’s it!

Now, I need to figure out a way to get a copy of Daily Advance at my house on a weekly basis….hmmm….

Picture courteously of JMK Books.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We is Cousins....

Hello Cousin! I'm searching for info on Rosa Spence/ Cora McCoy/ the Lowry's too. I'm in Baltimore; email me so that we can work together.”

That’s how I met my cousin, Tina, in November 2007. See, her grandmother, Rosa Lowry, is my great grandmothers, Bessie Lowry, sister and her grandfather, Enoch Spence, is my great grandfathers, Aaron Edward Spence, brother.

Our family story has always been 2 sisters’s married 2 brothers we’re all double related. I always heard the story but never really knew it. I didn’t know Rosa’s side of the family, although we have the same side. But, I never knew her children, grandchildren etc….til now.

When Tina contacted me, I was skeptical. She found me thru I thought no one else was researching my family tree. I would look at message boards and websites and everyone was researching other counties in NC. The rare post I would find researching African-American ancestry in Pasquotank would be for a different surname.

Although our family has been in Pasquotank and Camden counties since at least 1870, I haven’t been able to find much, in my opinion, on our family. I’ve interviewed family members and none of them could ever tell me

Her: Hey Cuz! Girl, tell me who you are (who's your mom)... I didn't know I had family in Florida! Did you go to the family reunion this year? I was there. My Mom is one of Rosa Spence's daughters her name was Matlene (but she goes by Madeline) How do I see your family tree? Maybe you can help me, I'm looking for my father's grandmother’s family and I'm hitting a brick wall -- how do I get around that?

Me: Hey. My dad is Spence. His mom is Spence. Her mom is Bessie Lowry. Her parents are William Lowry and Harriet Banks. Harriet’s parents are Caleb Banks and Henrietta. What’s your dads name and DOB? Also where was he born? Maybe I can find something. I missed the reunion. My grandma told me that the Spence family from South Mills came. I'm trying to compile a family tree for the next on. That’s how it all started. Now, we don't do our research without each other. We're always sharing ideas, theories and finds with each other.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shelton Lowry

Well, this goes to show you that family stories are helpful, but not always accurate. My aunt said they didn't find water in his lungs and he probably died of a heart attack. However, as you can see from the death certificate, they didn't do an autopsy and it states he died of an accidental drowning.

However, she did remember that they had 3 funerals in her church and John Adams was sent back home. According to his death certificate, he was sent back to Fayetteville for the funeral.

The other 3 men were buried in Elizabeth City, NC at Stokely Burial Ground. The funerals were handled by Walson Funeral Home in Elizabeth City. The sad part, besides 4 men losing their loves, is my great uncle Johnny drove them to the river that day. Johnny is Shelton's nephew. I wish Linton was still alive, I would love to talk to him about this and get his story.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Four Newland Negroes Drowned

**Scanners working now**

The library in Elizabeth City, more specifically, the genealogist at the library is awesome! She only works 1 day a week (Thursday). I called on Monday and she called me back Thursday morning. She said she found the article and I had a copy in my possession by that Saturday. All that for a mere $.10!

My hopes were correct and there was an article about the drowning of my uncle, Shelton Lowry. The 4 people that I found on Ancestry that died on the same name were the 4 men in the boat that day. The article also gives me the name of the one survivor. What a great find!

"Four men, all Negroes, were drowned late Wednesday afternoon in Dismal Swamp canal in Camden County when, with five on bard a small skiff, on man decided to rock the boat. He rocked it and the boat sank: drowning four of the five occupants, according to a report brought back to the city by Assistant Fire Chief George Koch, who answered an SOS call from the scene of the drowning at six o'clock. With fireman A. W. Pool, Koch arrived on the scene in a few minutes and with a length of barbed wire curt from a nearby fence had all four bodies fished out; he estimates, in a matter of 15 minutes. With inhalator brought along in the car he and Pool worked over the bodies for an hour or such a matter, but to no avail.

The downed men according to the fire department records are Shelton Lowry, 40; William K. Barnard, 25, John Wilfred Adams, 26, and Milford Moore, 34 all of Newland.

According to the story told Koch by Linton Burnham, survivor Burnham and his brother were swimming in the canal at the point where the old toll bridge used to cross back of the site of the old John Louis Hinton home about 10 miles from Elizabeth City. They live in the old house once occupied by the bridge keeper when the bridge, abandoned when the river was bridged above the cut with paving of U.S. 17 to South Mills, was in use.

The four who were drowned appeared on the opposite bank of the swamp and asked to be brought across the river, Burnham said. Burnham in a small boat went to get them. They all got aboard and one of them wanted to use the paddle. Burnham told him to be careful but he said he knew all the tricks of handling a boat and began to rock it. The boat sand and all five men went overboard. They began struggling with one another in the water; but Burnham extricated himself and swam to safety.

Sheriff M.D. Stevens and Coroner Carroll Godfrey were summoned and the coroner viewed the bodies and held no inquest necessary as the men evidently came to their death by accidental drowning.

Three of the bodies of the drowned men were turned over to the Walson Funeral Home and the other to the Davis Funeral Home in Elizabeth City."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

She died in jail!!!

O.k. so, I've been a slacker when it comes to the library. Everything should be on the internet, right?? But, we all know it's not. Somethings you'll actually have to do some leg work to figure out. Today I went to my local library to see what they had as a genealogy collection.

I couldn't even believe that they have obituaries from 1919-1924 for Elizabeth City, NC. I live in Florida! It's not like Elizabeth City is a large city. Hell, I think I'm somehow related to every black person there. Anywho.....

This is my 2nd great grandmother, Cora Spence. She died in 1922 in JAIL!!!! That's something I didn't even know and none of the elder members knew either.

"Cora L. Spence. A 56-year old colored woman of Newland Township, living about 13 miles from town, died last week after having grieved herself sick because she was placed in jail a day or two during the last term of Superior Court in this county, about three or four weeks ago.
The colored woman was held in jail Tuesday to Saturday, having been held as a witness in a case in which her daughter Beunna Temple was involved. She couldn't understand why a witness should be jailed, and the burden of falling into such disgrace at her age was too much for her. [October 10, 1922, p. 1]"

Why in the hell was she being held in jail?? She was only a witness?!?!??!

So in the first paragraph it says 'a day or two' and in the second it says ' was held in jail Tuesday to Saturday'. Uh...lemme pull out my fingers and count...that is more like 5 days not 'a day or two'.

Correction 06/12/08: I received an e-mail today from Irene at library. She stated that "Cora didn't die in jail but as a result of heartbreak at having been jailed about three weeks earlier". She's sending me some pages from the Superior court case from 1922. Hopefully, this will shed some light as to why Beulah was going to court and why her mom, Cora, had to testify.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Genealogy Addict

Genealogy is a genuine obsession of mine. My family nor friends quite understand it; however, they all think I should do it professionally. I don’t think I’m there yet. I love sharing my recent ‘finds’ with my family. More than likely, they have no clue whom I’m talking about and constantly get confused about which Aaron Edward Spence I’m referring too or who exactly was William Lowry, etc. But for me, explaining it is easy. I have these ancestors, my family, memorized. I can tell you who had a half sister, how the Ferebee surname got into our tree, what year my 3rd great grandfather passed away, etc. These are my family.

One of the most interesting facts that I found is a relative shared the same birthday as I. He’s the son of Shelton Lowry (Brother to Bessie Lowry-my great grandmother). He was born 11 Mar 1928. Sure there is 50 years difference between our births, but I think it’s awesome that a relative and I share the same b-day and I don’t even know him.

I intend on writing the library in Elizabeth City, NC (which covers several counties in northeastern NC) to see if they can pull an article about Shelton’s drowning. Another great aunt of mine told me that all in the boat died and even gave me the name of the person that rocked the boat. However, the problem that I have is, if everyone died, how did they get the story about rocking the boat and Shelton saying ‘Don’t rock the boat because I can’t swim’? Another tidbit she gave me was that Shelton may have died of a heart attack because he was so frightened about drowning. She said her sister told her that there was no water in his lungs. She didn’t know how true that was but I told her I’d order his death certificate and see what it says.

The facts I got from her were:

  • 5 people were on the boat.
  • John Adams rocked the boat.
  • John said ‘All y’all who can’t swim, shame on you.”
  • More than 2 died.
  • They begged him not to rock the boat.

I found record for 4 people that died on 10 Sept 1947 in Camden County, NC. I will be ordering these death certificates.

  • John Adams
  • William K. Barnard
  • Shelton Lowry
  • Milford Moore

I would think that if so many people died in a drowning in a little city like South Mills, it may be in the papers.

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