Category Archives: Tombstone Tales
Born in the Yadkin area of (what is now) Chesapeake, Virginia, Lillian was the daughter of Esau Baines (1878-1967), and Nancy E. Williams (1886-1981). Lillian graduated from I. C. Norcom High School in 1924, and in 1925, enrolled in the Dixie Hospital Training School for Nurses (est. 1891), on the campus of Hampton University. The treasurer of her senior class, Lillian was a proud representative of Portsmouth’s Truxtun community when she graduated from the Dixie School for Nurses in 1928. As the Daily Press reported, the senior class motto was “Not for ourselves, but for the whole world.”
After graduation, Lillian served as a maternity nurse in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1932, she was appointed the official tuberculosis nurse for Portsmouth’s African American community by the City of Portsmouth. Lillian’s daily responsibilities included door-to-door home health visits, where she supplied information and care to those who were sick, and provided comfort for families. Unfortunately, it was a short post, as she succumbed to complications from surgery for a serious ear infection, and died at Kings Daughters Hospital in Portsmouth on January 11, 1933. She was twenty-eight years old.
As the New Journal and Guide reported, her death came as a shock to Portsmouth’s African American community. Members of the Tidewater Nurses Association attended her funeral, which was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and presided over by Rev. Harvey N. Johnson. Portsmouth’s first African American female funeral director, Nancy Thomas Wheeler, performed the hymn “The Vacant Chair.”
Ms. Baines rests in the Baines Family plot in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, less than fifteen feet from busy Deep Creek Boulevard. ♠
Two more replacement headstones for Civil War veterans have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They will be installed as time and weather permits. They are:
Cpl. John Cross, 10th United States Colored Infantry
Cpl. John Cross, of the 10th United States Colored Infantry, was born enslaved about 1833 in Gates County, North Carolina, owned by the Langston Family. He escaped in 1863, and enlisted on the fourth of December of that year at Craney Island, Virginia. He mustered in at Fort Monroe, Virginia, on December 17, 1863. He was appointed Corporal on August 1, 1865, and was discharged from service on May 7, 1866, at Galveston, Texas.
John Cross was married to Eliza Robbins, a free person of color also from Gates County, North Carolina, shortly after the war. The ceremony was performed by Rev. William Brock Wellons of the Suffolk Christian Church. Cpl. John Cross passed away on May 29, 1894, and was interred in Mount Olive Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex). His wife, Eliza Robbins Cross, passed on July 2, 1913. She was also interred in Mount Olive Cemetery, presumably near her husband. Her gravestone has not been located.
Sgt. Ashley H. Lewis, 1st United States Colored Cavalry
Sgt. Ashley H. Lewis, of the 1st United States Colored Cavalry, was born enslaved in 1842 near Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, on the Foxhall Estate. He enlisted on December 3, 1863, at Newport News, Virginia, and mustered in at Camp Hamilton on December 22, 1863. He was promoted to Corporal on April 25, 1864, and promoted to Sergeant on November 26, 1865. He was discharged from service on February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas.
After the war, Sgt. Lewis returned to Tidewater, Virginia, and married Josephine Baker, a free person of color from Smithfield, Virginia, on August 21, 1867, Portsmouth. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John W. Godwin, the first pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church (est. 1865), Portsmouth.
Sgt. Ashley H. Lewis was also an ordained minister, serving as pastor for First Baptist Church Mahan (est. 1866), Suffolk, Virginia, from 1880-1883, and the second pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church (following Rev. John W. Godwin), from 1885 to 1890, the year of his death. According to information culled from his death certificate and an article from the Baltimore Sun, Rev. Lewis died from complications of apoplexy, or, a cerebral hemorrhage, on the morning of November 29, 1890. His wife Josephine, whose name also appears on the family monument, preceded him in death, passing on August 6, 1890. ♠
Quite a humbling experience, standing before the gravesite of carpenter, fugitive slave, freedom-seeker, and abolitionist William Craft (ca. 1824-January 27, 1900). I almost missed it. The story of William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery is legendary. Read it today: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860).♥
Eight more local heroes to receive new headstones. They were all born enslaved, and risked all in their collective escape to freedom to fight against the institution of slavery. Over the years, their gravestones have become weathered, vandalized, and nearly forgotten. The replacement gravestones for Pvt. Arthur Beasley, Pvt. David Bailey, and Cpl. George Baysmore, have already been approved and delivered to a local monument company for installation. Now, five others join them, and will be installed soon, weather permitting. They are:
Pvt. Austin Smallwood (ca. 1845-1894)
Bertie County, North Carolina
Co. I, 14th Regiment, U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)
Pvt. Richard Reddick (ca. 1847-1896)
Perquimans County, North Carolina
Co. F, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry
Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)
Pvt. Thomas Reddick (ca. 1838-1901)
Co. K, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry
Mount Olive Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)
Pvt/Landsman Samuel Morris (1839-1902)
Co. A, 30th Regiment, U. S. Colored infantry
Landsman, USS Allegheny
USS North Carolina, USS Cyane, USS Independence
Mount Olive Cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex)
Sgt. Lewis Rodgers (1844-1884)
Gates County, North Carolina
Co. G, 28th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry
Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
Protected: Portsmouth, Virginia: ‘Til Death Do Us Part’: The marriage of Pvt. Esau Bowers, 2nd Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry
Four more replacement headstones for Portsmouth, Virginia Civil War veterans have been installed in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex. These brave men, who fought for freedom and equality, were from Hinds County, Mississippi, Currituck County, North Carolina, and the independent cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk, Virginia. Stay tuned for more updates!
Pvt. Zachariah Taylor, Company H, 5th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born September 2, 1846, in Hinds County, Mississippi. Enlisted on May 18, 1864, at City Point, Virginia. Mustered in seven days later at City Point, May 25, 1864. Mustered out on September 20, 1865, at Carolina City, North Carolina. Passed on September 4, 1909, Portsmouth, Virginia. ♥
Pvt. Samuel Dyes, Company G, 36th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born October 8, 1835, Norfolk County (City of Chesapeake), Virginia. Enlisted December 9, 1863, Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered December 28, 1863, Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered out October 28, 1866, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Died July 25, 1925, Portsmouth, Virginia. ♥
Pvt. Washington Milbey, Company F, 10th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born ca. 1818, Nansemond County (City of Suffolk), Virginia. Enlisted November 25, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Mustered December 17, 1863, Fort Monroe, Virginia. Mustered out May 17, 1866, Galveston, Texas. Died January 22, 1894, Portsmouth, Virginia. ♥
Sgt. James “Jim” Edwards, Company C, 2nd Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry. Born ca. 1840, Currituck County, North Carolina. Enlisted and mustered December 24, 1863, Fort Monroe, Virginia. Mustered out February 12, 1866, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Died September 15, 1901, Portsmouth, Virginia. ♥
We just received word that three more local freedom fighters are set to get new headstones. Two have Bertie County, North Carolina roots, and one is from Portsmouth, Virginia. The headstones will be installed over the next few months, weather permitting. They are:
Private Arthur Beasley, Company I, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Cavalry. Born about 1840, Bertie County, North Carolina. Enlisted on August 2, 1864, Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered in September 7, 1864, at Newport News, Virginia. Mustered out, February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas. Passed away on May 8, 1896, Portsmouth, Virginia. Interment, Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex).
Private David Bailey, Company F, 10th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born about 1840, Western Branch, Norfolk County, Virginia. Enlisted on December 4, 1863, Craney Island, Virginia. Mustered in December 17, 1863, at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Mustered out on May 17, 1866, at Galveston, Texas. Died on November 30, 1916, Portsmouth, Virginia. Interment, Lincoln Memorial Cemetery (est. 1912).
Corporal George Baysmore, Company H, 36th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born about 1835, Bertie County, North Carolina. Enlisted on July 13, 1863, at Plymouth (Washington County), North Carolina. Mustered in January 25, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia. Mustered out on January 17, 1866, at Hicks General Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, an early discharge due to disability from gunshot wounds received at the Battle of New Market Heights/Chaffin’s Farm, September 29, 1864. He passed away on November 19, 1898, Portsmouth, Virginia. Interment, Mount Calvary Cemetery (Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex). ♥
Perquimans County, North Carolina: Gravestone of Pvt. Josephus Riddick, Co. E, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry, Belvidere
A few days ago, our family visited the grave of Pvt. Josephus Riddick (1844-1925), of Company E, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. The concrete headstone stands about three feet tall, and contains the inscription, “husband of Mary Riddick,” perhaps carved by hand or pressed into the cement before it set. The marker is in very good condition considering its age, and was most likely made by someone skilled in working with the material. I wanted to take a picture of the gravestone without the vine obscuring the inscription, so we wet the stone face with a few bottles of water to loosen the vine’s roots, then carefully snipped it away. Due to the heat, it didn’t take long for the stone to dry. As a rule, we generally try to do as little as possible to a gravestone, but may return soon to remove the rest of the biological growth, as it contains acids that may further damage the stone.
In military records, Josephus is listed as “Joseph Redick.” He enlisted at the age of 21 on March 25, 1864, at Norfolk, Virginia under Capt. Charles W. Emerson (d. December 17, 1905), formerly of the 3rd New York Cavalry. Josephus was born in Nansemond County (City of Suffolk), Virginia, and was described as five feet, six inches tall, with the occupation of “general laborer.” He mustered in at Camp Hamilton, in Hampton, Virginia. After a term of about two years, he mustered out on February 11, 1866 with the surviving members of his regiment at Brazos Santiago, Texas.
After returning to Perquimans County, North Carolina, Josephus married Harriett Ann Turner, daughter of Eliza Turner, on January 12, 1878. The ceremony took place at the home of Rev. Willis Whitehead. The young couple resided in Belvidere Township, where Josephus worked primarily as a farmer. According to census records, five children were born to Josephus and Harriett Ann, sons George, Henry, and James Herman, and daughters Josephine and Wincy.
Harriett Ann Riddick passed away in 1914. Josephus later married Mary Riddick, daughter of Noah and (Harriett) Ann Riddick, on November 18, 1915, in Belvidere. Josephus died on October 15, 1925.
It’s exciting to discover and document a “new” U. S. Colored Troop, but I can’t take credit for finding his headstone; that honor goes to my father. He’d spotted it almost immediately. Josephus is a “Riddick,” and the surname is common on the paternal side of our family tree. Perhaps Josephus is another long-lost relative? Only time will tell…♥