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Matthew James (Dada) Bynum

Matthew James Bynum , or “Dada” as I grew to know him in countless stories, was born in early 1894.  I know very little about his upbringing, other than what I’ve discovered in the census records.  By all accounts, by the time Dada was an adult, he was a hard man.  In fact, every time I see The Color Purple, I think of ‘Mister’ as my Great-Grandfather.

Dada had two or three wives.   My Great-Grandmother was Ethel Graham.  As the family story goes, one day, living with Dada got to be simply too much.  So, with one child in hand and one on the way, Ethel took off down the dusty road leading away from the family farm…. and Dada stood and watched from the porch as his wife and two of his children disappeared in the horizon.

One of the other stories I remember had to do with the circumstances surrounding his death.  There were two versions of the story that pasted down through the years…. both disturbing because my Great-Grandfather was murdered.

What is known for sure is that Dada was found slumped over in his rocking chair in the middle of a field on his farm; shot in the back.  The family has always suspected that where he was found was not where he was killed.

Story one suggests that Dada’s third wife was secretly dating the local pastor.  Together they conspired to kill Dada and run away together.  Story two concludes that local whites, angry and the “injustice” of a black man owning a productive farm (and I’m sure if this story is true, spreading his own brand of charm), shot and killed him in order to force his family to sell his land.

In either event, my father often spoke, most of the time fondly,  of the time he spent as a little boy working the farm and growing in the shadow of his Grandfather, Dada.


3 Responses

  1. […] Posted on October 25, 2009 by rkb191 In an earlier post, I talked about my 2nd Great Grandfather and his “complicated” family.  In that post, […]

  2. […] He passed away when I was a young child.  Lived in Lake City (which likely means that Dada was his father) and moved to St. Petersburg, FL with the rest of my father’s family.  […]

  3. Hi;
    I am researching the same family for a coworker of mine. I would like to communicate with you regarding the Bynum’s.

    I’m especially interested in JOSEPH C. BYNUM, born FEB 1873, who married LUGENIA “Genie” WRIGHT on 30 OCT 1891 in Columbia Co., FL.

    I originally had Joseph C. Bynum as the son of Richard Bynum, born 1831 in SC. In the 1880 census of Columbia Co., FL, Richard Bynum and wife, Myric or Myrie, have a son named Joe, born 1872-1873. This is the only male Bynum I find in Columbia County in 1880 who’s birth is remotely close to 1873, besides Robert (son of Claborn).

    In the 1900 census for Joseph & Phyllis Bynum, it indicates that Phyllis only had two children, whom would be Smart and Ceasar. In 1870, both Smart & Ceasar are with them. In 1880, only Ceasar is with them. In 1900, the census indicates Phyllis has two children, only one survives. Three grandchildren live with them, namely Ceasar Jr., so apparently Ceasar Sr. has died? No…he’s in the 1910 Columbia FL census with wife #2, Daisy. Two of the above-mentioned Grandchildren who were living with Joseph & Phyllis in 1900 are now with their father. These are Jonah & Phyllis. Jonah is probably Ceasar – birth years match both Jonah (Ceasar) and Phyllis.

    This is VERY confusing!

    After finding the 1900 census (below), one would think Joseph’s father was the same Joseph Bynum who married Phyllis, since the census indicates “Joseph Jr., born Feb 1873). Only problem is that son Joseph is not with Joseph & Phyllis in the 1880 census. This census does show a “Ceasar Bynum”, but he’s 22 years old, making his birth about 1858. Where is Joseph Bynum, Jr., born 1873 in the 1880 census?? Again, the only Joe Bynum I find in 1880 is the son of Richard & Myrie.

    In the 1900 Columbia Co., FL Census, it lists the following:

    BYNUM, Joseph Jr., Born FEB 1873 *note “Junior”
    BYNUM, Genie, Wife, Born APR 1878
    BYNUM, Matthew, Son, Born JAN 1894
    BYNUM, Ada, Daughter, Born MAY 1895
    BYNUM, Cora, Daughter, Born NOV 1896
    BYNUM, J. C., Son, Born OCT 1897

    In 1910, another child is added to the family, namely:

    BYNUM, Charlie, born 1901

    Charles “Charlie” Bynum married Reatha Jones in 1922 in Ocala. They had 6 children in Dunnellon and moved to St. Pete by 1935.
    Charlie’s son, Cornell Bynum is the direct line I’m researching.

    I know I’ve typed a lot of stuff here, but hopefully we can get it all straightened out. Thanks for your time and Happy Thanksgiving!

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