Tales from the East End: The obituary of Elisha Mayo, Evergreen and East End Cemeteries

**Elisha Mayo originally researched and documented in the East End Cemetery database on Find-a-Grave, July 31, 2015**

Elisha Mayo (1837-1915)

In Memoriam – Mayo – The record of a faithful life, though it may have no place in written history, will always be enshrined in hearts its faithfulness has touched and so, moved to the expression of a single tribute to such an one, we pronounce at the bier of an old and honored servant this encomium to his fidelity, from which, along the humble path he trod so many years he never wavered. ELISHA MAYO, or “Uncle Elisha,” was born April 10, 1837, and died at his home in this city June 4, 1915. His parents, Samuel and Fannie Mayo, were slaves, and were wedding gifts to Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Blanton, Sr., of Amelia County, Va., parents of Mr. T. L. Blanton, of this city, in whose employ “Uncle Elisha” was for many years, and up to the time of his death, and who joins in this memorial to his valued and trusted servant. Elisha was twice married, and left surviving him seven children, namely Walter L. Mayo, Ella Mayo Price, Mary Mayo Rogers, Bettie Mayo Kemp, Edmonia Mayo Brown, Grandison Mayo and Frank J. Mayo. Of many of those to whom he ministered in the days now long gone, and who have passed into the beyond, it may doubtless be said that in his latter days, when his head was “bending low,” he “heard their gentle voices calling him, as in the days “before the war.” And so, full of years, he has passed peacefully from an humble, though well-spent earthly, life to that reward that knows neither race nor class nor creed. X X X.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21, 1915; Richmond Planet, June 26, 1915
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Portsmouth, Virginia: Update on one of Portsmouth’s “Harlem Hellfighters”

Gravestone of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow. Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Photo courtesy Find-a-Grave user Leslie W.

We’re pleased to report that we now have a photo of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow’s headstone. It was taken by Find-a-Grave volunteer Leslie Wickham, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and she graciously allowed me to use it.

Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow, a Portsmouth, Virginia native, served during World War I. He was a member of the 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, the famed “Harlem Hellfighters.” He was featured in an earlier blog from last year, “In Their Own Words: Voices of African American WWI Veterans,” in recognition of Veterans Day. At the time, Pvt. Snow wasn’t listed in the Find-a-Grave database for Cypress Hills National, so I added the listing, and sent a photo request. Leslie fulfilled the request just a few weeks later. Thanks so much, Leslie!

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In Their Own Words: Voices of African American WWI Veterans

On Sunday, November 11, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the technical end of World War I, was observed by our nation and many countries throughout the world. As with other major historical events, I viewed the day through the lens of a historian and genealogist. It can be quite an interesting enterprise; as a historian, you want to know all of the facts of an event, and as a genealogist, you’re eager to place your ancestors within the context of those events. 

Over the years, our family has located the grave sites of many of our ancestors that served in World War I. We’ve tracked them to historic African American cemeteries in Portsmouth, Richmond and Suffolk in Virginia, Buncombe, Franklin, Henderson, Hertford, and Warren counties in North Carolina, and Knoxville National Cemetery in Tennessee.

At times, whether simply visiting their gravesites, or planting flags, I’d find myself staring down at the stones, and wondering what their WWI experience was like. Sure, I could review the details of the various battles and engagements in books, or read first-person accounts from some of the more famous veterans, but those sources wouldn’t tell me what my ancestors thought, nor how they felt about the war.

That’s why I was so excited to learn about the WWI History Commission questionnaires, many of which have been or are currently being digitized by local and state libraries. A historical window into the minds and memories of long-deceased ancestors? Perfect!

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On Memorial Day, Reflecting on African-American History – The National Trust for Historic Preservation

First Memorial Day plaque Charleston SC Copyright Nadia Orton 2015

Plaque honoring the first Memorial Day in the United States. Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 6, 2015

Every May, the nation marks Memorial Day, the longstanding tradition we use to recognize fallen veterans. The holiday has its origins in “Decoration Day,” originally held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, when thousands of former slaves, Union soldiers, and missionaries honored Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prison and were subsequently buried in a makeshift mass grave.

Historian David Blight recounts that after the soldiers’ proper burials, a massive parade followed. Participants decorated the graves with flowers, and clergy delivered speeches to commemorate the fallen.

My personal introduction to Decoration Day began with oral histories provided by my family’s elders. In rural Tidewater, Virginia, they told stories of Decoration Day commemorations stretching back to the 1880s. Parades began in African-American communities and ended at local black cemeteries. Families and friends honored their ancestors through song and praise, while their graves were cleaned and re-decorated.

They had good reason to pay homage: Many veterans had returned from the front lines of war to become leaders in their communities, forming masonic lodges, burial societies, schools, churches, and cemeteries. These institutions formed the foundations of post-Civil War African-American communities, giving their communities potential for the very type growth and development African-Americans had been denied in slavery. READ MORE…