Sgt. Edmond Carter served with Company G, 45th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. According to his military pension record, he was born enslaved on the Allen Estate “in the third week of August,” 1844, near Bowling Green, Caroline County, Virginia. He was the son of Lewis Carter and Mary Jones.
He enlisted under the name “Edmond Allen,” the surname of his last owner, at the age of nineteen on July 28, 1864, at Grafton, West Virginia. He mustered in on July 29, 1864, at Camp William Penn, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Edmond was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant on August 16, 1865, and was discharged nearly three months later at Brownsville, Texas, with the surviving members of his regiment.
I located Edmond’s death certificate at the Library of Virginia in early 2015, and later reviewed his pension file at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. His testimony contains a very detailed description of his military experience, as well as the reason he chose to enlist under his former slave owner’s surname.
When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgrador responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.
As she started tracing her lineage and locating her ancestors’ final resting places in North Carolina and Virginia, Orton began to notice the state of black cemeteries. Many were overgrown, unprotected and unmapped. Seeing the condition of these sacred spaces sparked a passion for protecting them.
Orton has since visited hundreds of cemeteries, and helps other families identify their ancestors’ plots. Host Frank Stasio talks with Nadia Orton, a public historian and professional genealogist, about how she uncovers the past and how it feels to find who came before you