The first time I came across the name Olivia Jordan Butt Smith, my paternal great-great-grandaunt, was twelve years ago. I was researching a branch on the paternal side of my family tree, the Youngs of Portsmouth, Virginia. Olivia was born in 1862, in Portsmouth, the daughter of Jordan and Lovey Butt (ca. 1829-1895). She was the sister of Mary Alice Butt Young (1865-1929), my paternal great-great-grandmother, Matilda A. Butt Colden (1856-1910), Anna Butt Schofield (b, ca. 1855), and Nancy Ellen Butt Lynch (ca. 1848-1879), my paternal great-great-grandaunts.
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. ♠