Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wedding Wednesday: Rufus Littlejohn and Flora Virginia Woods

For all the sleuthing I've done around my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I've written very little about what I actually do know about his life: the time he spent in Steubenville, OH. So I thought I'd dive back into themed posting by focusing on the seeming start of his Steubenville story, his marriage to my 2x Great-Grandmother Flora Virginia Woods.

Rufus Littlejohn and Flora Woods were married in Jefferson County, Ohio on December 25, 1899. Yes, Christmas Day! (If you're keeping track, another pair of my 2x Great-Grandparents, Laura Ann Scruggs/Screws/Strugs and James Steven Evans, married on Christmas Eve 1901.)

Here is their marriage record:

"Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X8DD-C9Y : 8 December 2014), Rufus C. Littlejohn and Flora V. Woods, 25 Dec 1899; citing Jefferson, Ohio, United States, reference cn 24509 p 255; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 900,077.

If you look towards the middle of the document, you'll see that they received permission to marry on December 9th, suggesting that they specifically waited until Christmas to have the marriage solemnized.

One wonders how Rufus and Flora met, and what drew them towards each other. Approximately 33 years old, Rufus was a relatively recent arrival to the area, having been in Cleveland, OH as recently as 1896 or 1897. There, he'd worked as a top filler and at a furnace, both jobs associated with coal mining. He was mulatto (mixed race), one of the middle children of 13 born to his parents in South Carolina, and was perhaps the first child in his family born into freedom.* He was already the father of 3 children, 2 still living: 7-year-old Geneva (nicknamed "Eva") and 2-year-old Alma, who resided with their mother in Beaver County, PA, about 48 miles northeast along the Ohio River.

At the time of their marriage, Flora was 23**, or about 10 years Rufus' junior. She was the baby of her family, about 6 years younger than her only brother and 8 years below her only sister. Records suggest this was her first marriage, and their children the only children she would have. And unlike her new husband, she had been born and raised in Ohio, spending at least the first 4 years of her life in Bellaire, OH, about 30 miles south of Steubenville along the Ohio River.

The pair did have a few things on common, at least that one can tell from the written record. Like Rufus, it seems likely that Flora's parents were both born into slavery (they were born in the late 1840s / early 1850s in Virginia and do not appear in the Federal Census until 1870). Both Flora and Rufus were literate, and both were familiar with the laboring lifestyle - in addition to his own experience, Rufus was the son of a farmer/laborer, and Flora's father was a laborer. Her brother is a top filler at a blast furnace, hearkening back to Rufus' time in Cleveland.

What did their first years of marriage look like? Lucky for us, the 1900 Census gives us a quick snapshot:

1900 U.S. Federal Census, Steubenville, OH - First Half of Rows.

1900 U.S. Federal Census, Steubenville, OH - Second Half of Rows.

At the very center of these images, you can see Rufus' listing (look for South Carolina in the second image to get oriented). Rufus and Flora are living in Steubenville, seemingly in the same building as Flora's mother Sarah, step-father Harvey, and siblings Elizabeth and John. Also in the household are two boarders, one from Ohio and the other from Georgia, who are presumably helping the family make ends meet.

Rufus is a day laborer, his (step)father-in-law is a teamster, and his brother-in-law is a top-filler at one of the local furnaces. At the turn of the century, the Ohio River Valley was a powerhouse of coal mining and steel and iron production, and most jobs supported these industries or served the people working in them. Rufus can be found over the next few years in city directories listed as either a laborer or a hod carrier (someone who carries bricks supporting the work of bricklayers in the building industry), and it's likely his work is in some way supporting the mines and mills.
(An 1880s view of Steubenville. Citation Below.)

What the census record above does not show is that newlyweds Flora and Rufus are expecting a "package" - their first child, Raymond D. Littlejohn is born later that year, on November 9, 1900. Over the next 14 years, they will have 5 more children:  Franklin in 1904, Gladys in 1906, Edward in 1908, Mary in 1910, and Florence in 1914.

In those years, the family sees its share of hardships. In 1905, Rufus is seriously burned in a accident at the iron works where he is employed. In subsequent years, he begins to have run-ins with the law,
to the point where the local newspaper describes him as "a negro who desires a reputation as a 'Bad man.'" (Note: Susan M. Guy, author of Mobsters, Madams & Murder in Steubenville, Ohio: The Story of Little Chicago, notes that "the 1890s through the 1900s saw a rise in Steubenville's murders and other major criminal activities, such as gambling, bootlegging and prostitution.") What went on in the home is unknown to me, but by 1920, Rufus and Flora are no longer living together and Flora is describing herself as a widow (though Rufus is very much alive and possibly still building his reputation).

After another stint in Cleveland, Rufus will move to Beaver County, PA to live with his daughter from his previous relationship, Alma. He is living with her in 1930, but by the time he passes away, in 1934, he is a resident of the county work house. Flora lives until 1964, outliving two of her adult children, and passes away in Weirton, WV, where she had been living with daughter Gladys.

The story of Rufus and Flora is certainly not a happily ever after, but I'm glad to know the small part that I do. Their experiences shaped my great-grandmother, whose experiences did the same for her children right on down the line to me. So each story is a piece of my own puzzle, for better or for worse, and I'm excited to reclaim each one from history.

Do you know anything about Rufus and Flora? Perhaps even have a photo? Please leave a note in the Comments section below!


*It's possible his brother Edward David Littlejohn was the first - he was born about 1864 and Rufus about 1866, but both of these years are "squishy" right now.

**The marriage record and 1900 Census list her age and birth info incorrectly. The 1880 census for Flora's family shows that she is 4-years-old, and her birth information is transcribed in "Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2011. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records. 

Image Citation: 
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "View of City from Nicholsons[?] Hill, Steubenville, Ohio" New York Public Library Digital Collections.  http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5b040640-963c-0135-690f-03a8f68ac7e8

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Seeking Family in Farewells

You know I can't leave anything alone. So, even though I've concluded that the Rufus Littlejohn who dies in Pennsylvania in 1934 is indeed my 2x Great-Grandfather, I still want more proof. Something closer to a smoking gun. The obituary of Rufus' brother Ed Littlejohn was so helpful in placing Rufus in Cleveland in 1923 that I've been wondering if any of his other siblings have obituaries that could do the same thing for other years. So, I guess now I'm on The Sibling Hunt.

Based on the 1870 and 1880 Census, plus death certificates that include parents' names, I've been able to pull together the following list of Rufus' siblings, children of Strap and Eliza Littlejohn. And, because I like charts, I've been using one to track information I've been collecting on their passing.


Name of Sibling
Date of Death
Location of Death
Obituary?
Emanuel (Manuel) Littlejohn
3 Feb 1920
Draytonville, Cherokee, SC
Yes
Junius Littlejohn



Jilson Littlejohn
4 Nov 1940
Atlanta, Fulton, GA

Hamlet Littlejohn
28 Sept 1931
Washington, DC

Anna Littlejohn



Franklin Benjamin Littlejohn
29 Nov 1933
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC

Edward David Littlejohn
15 July 1923
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC
Yes
Henrietta (Littlejohn) Smith
2 Jun 1960
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC
Yes
Eva (Littlejohn) Fair
30 May 1942
Queens, New York City, NY

King Littlejohn



Charles Butler Littlejohn
20 July 1940
Manhattan, New York City, NY


As you can see, though I have most of the dates of death for Rufus' siblings, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to finding obituaries. And even if I do find them, there's no guarantee they will include the names of the deceased's siblings - of the three for whom I have found obits, only Ed's named family members. Still, it's absolutely worth a shot!

Also, if I'm lucky, something in this process will also give me documentary proof of what happens to Rufus' mother Eliza after 1880, and what his father Strap is up to between 1880 and his passing in 1898.

And one final note: Take a look at the places of death in the chart above. You can see evidence of the Great Migration - and the ways in which it separated families. From a hometown (county) of Cherokee, SC, the family has spread to New York City and Washington, DC, not to mention Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Rufus himself ended up. And I know that Eva lived awhile in New Jersey, while Charles had a stint in Connecticut - imagine that kind of mobility for a family whose parents and older siblings were born into slavery!

Do you have any information on these Littlejohn siblings? Obituaries, perhaps? Let's connect - drop a note in the Comments section below!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Restoring a Name for Baby Boy Littlejohn

I recently wrote two posts where I referred to a child of Rufus Littlejohn and Jane "Jennie" Alexanders. In one, I referred to him as an unnamed baby boy. He didn't show up in any of the later records I found for his parents or siblings, and I didn't know what had happened to him or how he'd disappeared.

I'm happy to say, I now know his name: Julius Littlejohn.

I wish his was a happier story, and a longer one. Unfortunately, Julius died shortly after he was born - just 2 days later.

Here is the record of Julius' birth:



Notice that only the names of his parents are given. Without his name, I'd tried finding death records using his parents' names, to no avail. Earlier this week, I decided to try again, but used only the surname Littlejohn and the year of death, 1895 (I know, you'd think I would've done that already, but I was focused on the Rufus mystery instead). After trying a few other sites and indexes, I headed to the "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001" record set on FamilySearch.org. Look what came up:


Register of Deaths, Cuyahoga County, OH. The listing stretches over 2 pages, so I've cut it in 2.


Unhelpfully, it does not list the names of Julius Littlejohn's parents. But quite helpfully, it does list Julius' address: 102 Columbus. Does that sound familiar? It's the same address Rufus and Jennie are living at in 1895, listed not just on the Return of Birth above, but also in the Cleveland City Directory for 1895-1896.



And that is how we know that Unnamed Baby Boy Littlejohn is actually named Julius.

One of Julius's uncles - his father Rufus' brother - was named Junius. I wonder if Julius was named in honor of him? Three of Rufus' other children share the names of his siblings.

Julius was buried at Monroe Street Cemetery, which bills itself as "the oldest public cemetery in Cleveland's west side." They provide gravestone photos and I've reached out to them to see if they can take a photo of his burial location. If they can get me something, I'll update this post.

In any case, at least we know his name.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rufus Littlejohn, Not Quite a Horse Thief

One of the reasons I was so excited to find a document placing my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn in Cleveland, Ohio in 1923 is because I'd recently found an interesting newspaper article about a man of the same name in the same place:



This snippet was carried in the 16 December 1922 edition of the Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram (Richmond, Indiana). Other stories from Ohio were also carried on the same page.

Given that there were no other Rufus Littlejohns in Cleveland at this time, this has to be my 2x Great-Grandfather. And, as I'll share in later posts, Rufus had a "colorful" stretch of years, so I had my suspicions as soon as I saw this article. I have so many questions about this incident! Was he actually trying to steal the horse? Is there a court or police record related to this? If so, what do they say? Who did the horse belong to? Where did Rufus take the horse? What did the horse's owner do when he or she discovered it missing?

I want the story so bad, y'all!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Differentiating Rufus Littlejohns, aka Making Charts Makes Me Happy

Spreadsheets are awesome for solving, or at least better understanding, genealogical problems. Once your information is organized, you can literally see things more clearly, make better inferences, and see where opportunities, possibilities and solutions may be. 

So as I've been trying to untangle Rufus Littlejohns to see if indeed my 2x Great Grandfather from South Carolina is the same man who passes in Pennsylvania in 1934 - or, if that PA Rufus is actually a second Rufus Littlejohn from South Carolina - I made a spreadsheet. Here is a simplified version:



“My” Rufus Littlejohn
PA Rufus Littlejohn
Other SC Rufus Littlejohn
Born
Abt. 1867
1867 or 1868
Abt. 1866
Parents
Strap and Eliza Littlejohn


1870
Draytonville, Union, SC


1880
Draytonville, Union, SC


1892

Kentucky

1895 - 1896

Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH

1897

Pennsylvania

1900
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1902
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1904
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1906
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1908
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1910
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1914
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1920


Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1923
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH


1926
Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).


1929
Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).


1930
Alive  (per wife’s later obit).
Beaver Falls, Beaver, PA
Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1933
Dies (per wife’s later obit)


1934

Dies in Beaver County, PA
 (per own death certificate)

1940


Double Shoals, Cleveland, NC
Spouse(s)
Flora Virginia Woods, 1899 – at least 1911
Jane “Jennie” Alexander, legal marriage unknown, together about 1892 – 1897
Sarah “Sallie” Walker, together about 1889 – at least 1940
Known Siblings
Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler, Emanuel


Known Children
Raymond, Franklin, Gladys, Edward, Mary, Florence
Alma, Geneva (Eva), unnamed son
Edna, Alethia, Brownie ?, Eva, Clyde, Mattie, Amanda “Mandy,” Burt, Nathan, Hiliard, Govan, Myrtha or Murphy, Ethel
 

A couple of things stand out:

1. The other Rufus Littlejohn seems to consistently live in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC from 1900 to 1930. Even in 1940, when he lives in Double Shoals, Cleveland County, NC, all he's done is crossed the county line separating North and South Carolina - Cleveland County and Cherokee County share a border.
 

2. Meanwhile, my Rufus has traveled from South Carolina north to Steubenville, Ohio. Of the two, it seems much more likely that he is the one who would also spend time in Cleveland, OH and Beaver County, PA (which is along the Ohio River Valley northeast of Steubenville.


3. The PA Rufus is with his wife/children's mother Jane "Jennie" Alexander from about 1892 to 1897. In 1898, she marries someone else and in 1899, my Rufus marries someone else.

4. Meanwhile, the other SC Rufus has been with his wife from about 1889 to at least 1940. What re the chances he's living that successful of a double life, between 5 states (PA, OH, KY, SC/NC)?

5. Both the PA and SC Rufuses have a daughter named Eva. If not for the other evidence, this could be a complicating factor. But my Rufus names two of his sons after his brothers (Franklin and Edward), and...he has a sister named Eva. So if the PA Rufus is him, he's just continued this practice of naming a few children after his siblings. 

6. Finally, the other SC Rufus is still alive in 1940, as evidenced by the Federal Census. Meanwhile, both my Rufus and the PA Rufus die at approximately the same time, in 1933 or 1934, respectively. And given that 1) the year of my Rufus' death is provided in an obituary for his wife who passed 30 years later, and 2) his wife had begun referring to herself as widowed in the 1920s despite proof in other records that Rufus was still alive (she was apparently a "grass widow" or a woman abandoned by her husband), it's not unsurprising that the year would be off by a year. With likely little contact with their father so many years ago, what are the chances the child who wrote the obituary would get the exact year right? S/he was only off by 1 year.

All of this is circumstantial evidence. There is still no smoking gun. But, as there is no other death certificate that could be my Rufus Littlejohn, born in South Carolina in about 1867, and given all of the information above, I am comfortable declaring that my Rufus and the PA Rufus are indeed one and the same. 

So, what do you think? And do you, by chance, have the smoking gun? If so, I want to hear about it!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Rufus Hunt: Another Obit Strengthens the Case

In my quest to prove or disprove that a man who dies in PA in 1934 is one and the same with my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I've been approaching the problem from several angles. I've been researching the PA Rufus' descendants using vital records, census schedules, and obituaries; researching a second Rufus Littlejohn born in South Carolina about the same time that my Rufus was born in that state; and seeing what else I can find about my Rufus' birth family and siblings to see if that opened any doors.

It was that last prong of research that lead to a very helpful finding. 

As you can see on his 1899 marriage certificate to my 2x Great-Grandmother Flora Woods, my Rufus' parents are Strap and Eliza Littlejohn, and he is from Union County, SC.



Jumping back in time to census records from Union County, SC in 1870 and 1880, you can find Rufus with his parents.

1870


1880



Of course, these records also gave me the names of a number of Rufus' siblings: Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler. Note the head of household for the family immediately below theirs in both years: Emanuel (Manuel) Littlejohn - he's Rufus' brother as well (confirmed via his Death Certificate).

So, I've spent the past few days using online records to dig into the stories of my Rufus' siblings. Lo and behold, I found two obituaries for his brother Edward, who passed 15 July 1923. Note that, as is customary, each names the deceased's surviving family:

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Cherokee Times (Gaffney, SC) on 16 July 1923.

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, SC) on 17 July 1923.

See our fun fact about Rufus? In 1923, he's living in Cleveland, Ohio! This is supported by a Cleveland, OH City Directory listing from 1922:



How does this help me? It puts my Rufus in a location where I know the PA Rufus had previously spent time. You see, several months ago, I found that the PA Rufus and his wife or partner Jane "Jennie" Alexander had a child together in Cleveland in 1895:


Here's that Rufus in the 1895-96 Cleveland City Directory (he also appears in the 1896-97 Directory, at 582 Broadway):


Is this a smoking gun? Definitely not. But in addition to drawing a geographic connection between these two men - my Rufus and PA Rufus - it also makes it much harder to believe that it's possible the PA Rufus could be the other South Carolina Rufus I have been exploring. That Rufus is living in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC every census year from 1900 to 1930. What are the chances he up and moved to Cleveland, Ohio both in the 1890s and in the 1920s, and returned to South Carolina each time? It's much easier - and more reasonable - to believe that my Rufus moved north from South Carolina and stayed there. In fact, I'll explore this more in my next post.

What do you think? Am I on the right path? Do you know something about Rufus Littlejohn or his family that I should know about? Please share in the Comments section below!



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Piecing Together the Pennsylvania Littlejohns

In my quest to either prove or disprove that a Rufus Littlejohn who dies in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in 1934 is the same Rufus Littlejohn from whom I'm descended, I've been seeking out obituaries to scour them for information. The hope was that the PA Rufus would have an obituary stating his parents' names - I know "my" Rufus's parents, so making the connection would be easy. But alas, I've found no obituary yet - no smoking gun, as it were.

However, I did get my hands on two additional obituaries recently. The PA Rufus was living in the home of his daughter Alma in 1930. Tracking her through records, we can find that her mother was Jane "Jennie" Alexander. The first new obituary is hers - it was published in the Beaver Falls Review on 13 May 1937:


The second obituary is for Jennie's daughter and Alma's half-sister, Madlin. It was published in the Beaver County Times on 2 December 1967:


Rufus Littlejohn was not Madlin's father, but again, receiving this obituary helps me reconstruct the family. It may be worth it to try to trace down the family tree to see if there are any living descendants who want to connect.

Do you know something about the Pennsylvania Rufus Littlejohn or his extended family that I should know about? Please drop me a note in the comments box below!

*Many thanks to the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center for doing the obituary look-up for me and mailing their findings.