I think this is another example of a really interesting story that was probably a pretty taboo subject at some point in the last hundred years. Oh well, here goes….
Another of my 2nd Great Grandfathers was a gentleman by the name of Dock Ross (b. 1859). Dock was married to the former Bettie Coleman (b. 1863) in Murfreesboro, TN in 1879. I’ve located Dock and Bettie (by the way, that’s Dock up there in the banner behind the word ‘journey’ and that’s Bettie between the words ‘My’ and ‘family’) in a combination of census and tax records from 1880 to 1891. Prior to 1880, I haven’t been able to find either. While I generally believe Dock was born a slave, I don’t believe he (unlike the majority of others in my maternal line) was born in Tennessee; more on that in a minute.
Dock and Bettie had 5 children including my Great Grandmother, Tennie Ross (b. 1897?). She was quite a woman and, although this post isn’t about her, there is no doubt that a few later ones will be. Dock and Bettie also had a son named after his father, Dock Jr. (1887).
Well, it seems that my Great Grand Uncle…. I’ll let the public record speak for itself:
Your petitioner, Sallie Ross (col.), would show the Court, that she, and the defendant, Dock Ross (col.), were married in Rutherford County in, or about the year 1909…. The petitioner, before the marriage, and under the promise of marriage, allowed the defendant certain privileges which resulted in her being with child and in the defendant being forced, by her parents to marry her…
This is an excerpt from a divorce petition presented to the Hon. Walter S. Bearden on the third Monday of January in 1916. Once Dock participated in the shot-gun affair described in the document, he left town for parts unknown leaving behind his new wife and soon to be born daughter; Cressy. Later in the document we find that Dock Ross cannot be found anywhere in the county and did not appear in front of the court to defend himself. It seems certain that Sallie nor Cressy ever saw Dock again….
That would be the end of the tale were it not for the miracle of the internet and online access to priceless records (and a little supposition and detective-work on the part of yours truly). I BELIEVE Dock relocated to his grandfather’s farm down in Plaquemines, Louisiana. Why do I believe that you might ask. Well a couple of pieces of evidence to lay my hypothesis on:
1) An older Dock Ross (b. 1825) lived in Plaquemines, Louisiana. Clearly, not a definitive tie by itself.
2) Although his father disappears by the 1900 census (Bettie lists herself a widow), Dock II is in the household at about 13 years of age (ancestry.com lists him as “Doe” born May 1886, but given the rest of the household this is an almost certain conclusion). I have not been able to find him in Tennessee after 1900.
3) A World War I draft card from Vernon Parrish Louisiana documents a Dock Ross, born in Murfreesboro, TN registering for the draft roughly a year after the divorce petition was filed in Rutherford County. This Dock’s birth date was listed as June 1887. He does list himself as a single man with no dependents, but that would certainly be expected given the circumstances.
4) Finally, Dock Ross died in Caddo Parrish (d. 1945) according to the Louisiana Statewide Death Index, 1900-49. The birth date given in the index is estimated as 1884.
None of this, even in combination, could be held as conclusive. It does make for some fun CSI-style investigative work during my research.
Minnie Batey was born on September 30, 1905. She grew up with her mother, Mamie Kirk and her sister, Tennie. She only went to the fifth grade, but she was very smart, both with intellectually and with common sense. She gave birth to her son, Wash William Brown, alone at the age of fifteen and placed him in a trunk. She didn’t tell her mother about the birth for two days but cared for her son alone. After two days, she contacted her paternal grandmother Liza and told her of the birth and went to live with her grandmother and her father, Wash Batey. Minnie had a hard time for the next few months because her mother insisted on whipping her for having a baby and there was constant friction between her father, her mother and her. Baby Wash’s father, Iss William Brown, found out about the birth, went and took Minnie and their son to live with him and his mother, Jennie Kimbro. They were married June of 1921, their son was five months old and they both adored him. Minnie, now a wife and mother, showed extraordinary judgment and sensibility at that time for such a young woman. She could cook almost anything without measuring the ingredients. She enjoyed cooking and keeping house for her family. She kept an immaculately clean house, everything had a place and everything should be in its place. Her husband, Iss, did not share this passion and many arguments ensued over the years regarding same. She was not a trusting woman and often exhibited signs of that mistrust with friends and distant relatives. If she did not want people to return to her house, after their visit she would sweep red pepper out of the door behind them. For her family which included her husband, son, granddaughter and first daughter in law, Violet; Minnie would go to the ends of the earth, they helped to raise their granddaughter after her parents were divorced. They, both, adored that granddaughter and taught her many things about life and how to handle life problems. Iss and Minnie were very much in love with each other and remained married until Iss passed away in 1977. Although their son, Wash, chose not to tell Minnie of Iss’s death, she instinctively knew. She often said “I know Iss is dead.” But, in her more lucid moments, she hoped that she was wrong. Minnie died in January, 1983. Most people in Murfreesboro remember “Momma Minnie.”
Minnie (Batey) Brown – est. 35 years old
“I wouldn’t take a million dollars for her, but I wouldn’t pay a nickel for another one like her.”
Iss Brown reflecting on his grand-daughter, Minnie.
Iss was born on October 12, 1897 to Jennie Kimbro and William Brown. The name Iss was from Jennie’s brother, Iss. Iss William grew up to be a very handsome young gentleman; quite a lady’s man. He only formally completed the third grade but could read and appreciate very complex subject matter such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek mythology and various travel books and brochures. Reading was very enjoyable to him. He traveled much of the United States working as a porter for Burnes’ Motor company (new car dealership). He delivered new cars to buyers all over the U.S. and Canada. He wanted to visit Cairo Egypt and often remarked that one day he would. He also did a little “bootlegging” which was very common for a young Black man of his day. However, he was very respected by the authorities including sheriff Buford Pusser. He and Minnie Batey married and became the parents of a bouncing baby boy who grew up quickly. Minnie and Iss taught their son, Wash, a strong sense of self worth and work ethics. Iss loved Minnie very much and didn’t want her to work outside the home. But, Minnie was a feminist long before the Women’s Movement was ever thought of. She worked whenever she decided to and spent her money to buy extra things from the peddler (a traveling salesman who allowed weekly payments for merchandise.) It is hard to described Iss’s life without adding facts about his beloved wife, Minnie. They would quarrel and argue about subjects that neither knew a great deal about. But both were competitive and enjoy trying to get “one up on the other.”Iss had a knack for charming the ladies, he would smile with that golden smile (all his teeth were gold.) and he had a twinkle in his eye that was hard to resist. Women, old and young, were fascinated by the wiles of Iss W. Brown. Later, he and Minnie became grand parents of a grand daughter who became the “apple of their eyes.” Their grand daughter became their pride and joy and she lived with them for most of her young life. There was nothing they would not do for their grand daughter. They taught her some of the most important life lessons she ever learned; how observe a person’s action and tell what type of person they are, to make sure that you planned how you were react in certain situations, keeping your business to yourself , and not trusting everyone who claims to be your friend. Iss generally taught by using parables and citing examples while Minnie taught by constant reminding when certain incidents occurred. M. Beatrice quickly understood the importance of saving some of her money as her grandfather
was the person to come to when the Black community needed a short term loan, such as two or three dollars. He charged twenty-five cents on a dollar per week. Guess he didn’t know about usury. He kept very good records, making note in a small composition book of all transactions and allowed his granddaughter to count monies collected and keep books up to date as debts were either paid on or paid in full. He enjoyed “shooting dice” and apparently was pretty good. He once won a horse that he brought home for his granddaughter to ride; he also won a full house of furnishing but only took certain pieces from the home and wife of the gambler. He had a strong sense of fair play and even though he wasn’t religious in the general way, he was God fearing and tried to live his life treating others as he wanted to be treated. Arthritis ravaged his body late in his life and he was unstable in his gait; but men, older and younger, would come to his house, take him to the “gathering place” where he enjoyed having a drink of “white lightening” two fingers measured on a small glass. Everyone in Murfreesboro knew and remember Iss as “Cuz” because that was his reference for most boys and men in the community. He treated all women with total respect even if he didn’t agree with many of their ways. He passed away in May 1977 after spending his last days in Detroit with his granddaughter who adored him. Stories are still told today in Murfreesboro about the antics of “Cuz or Cuzo.”
Iss is buried next to his life’s love, Minnie at the Benevolent Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN.
Written by his loving granddaughter, Minnie.
Based on my research, most of my maternal line can be found in or around Murfreesboro, Tennessee. One of the earliest ancestors I’ve found so far actually migrated (at some point) from Texas. I believe this because I actually have a document which is almost as good a the slave narratives. Ed Bell, the editor of The Rutherford Courier, penned a book in 1948 called, The Lonely People and their strange ways. The book was about people living in Murfreesboro that Ed met during his time there. My 3rd Great Grand-parents, George & Alice Kimbro (Kimbrough) were the subjects of one of his chapters, particularly Alice. A copy of the text has been passed down for a couple of generations and I’m re-printing it here….
An afternoon in February with yellow winter sunshine coming down the small hill on South Walnut and reflecting across the shanties of Blackbottom…
A great bony Negro woman rocking on the porch of a house at the bottom of the hill, a dingy poodle dog at her feet, its belly turned up to the friendly sun… Aunt Alice Kimbrough, who had been living ninety years, talked about her youth, about when she was known as D’King, the champion wrestler of anywhere there is.
She was the most wrestling fool that ever wore a shoe polish skin, and no man nor woman could throw her down… Except one man and she married him…The folks came from 500 and sometimes 5,000 miles to see D’King…They would flock on the fences like blackbirds to watch her grab them up and lay them on the cold, cold ground… When a nigger man or nigger woman got mean and talked to much, they said, “We get D’King to han’le you” and the bragger ran away and never come back again…
On D’King’s wedding day, when they were fixing her up with fine clothes to marry the only man in the whole world who could throw her down, a bigmouth yellow woman from the north country come along….The yellow said she never been throwed by anybody…”We get D’King to han’le you,” And the wedding guests said…But D’King was a busy woman…The barbecue was cooked, George and the preacher waiting…George was her true love…
D’King told them to go tell that fool ‘oman she had no crow to pick with anybody anymore except George…She was not wrestling again until she was a married woman…but her father said, “You no ‘oman less you kin.”…Which made her courage rise up till she laid by her bridal veil and went out to throw the bigmouth yellow from the north country…She made one pass at her middle and threw her so hard she hit the ground like a shook apple…Before the woman could get up D’King was back in the house ready to marry the only man.
D’King and her good friend who was name Cassie Ann were the strongest niggers anywhere there is…They could stand in a half-bushel measure and shoulder three bushels of wheat…If D’King hestitated, her father said, “You no ‘oman less you kin.”…Then she lifted it without one word more.
She was the healthiest pickaninny slave down in Texas…It was because she got so much sugar to eat…And the way she got all the sugar was by busting her bare big toe against a rock and running to the Missus to medicine it with turpentine and sugar…D’King ate the sugar off the toe and got fat.
After her marriage to George Kimbrough, she settled down because George done her good…He never called her fool or liar like all the other nigger’s husbands who called their women everything but a cedar bush…The night of the wedding there was happy doings at the white folks’ house and D’King and George got so many chickens for presents they had to get two somebodies to help carry them home…They lived together many years doing good and having seven children… Of these she was proudest of a double-jointed nigger named Iz… Iz hit a Kentucky mule in the head with his fist once and the mule didn’t live any more.
That was the tale Aunt Alice told me on a yellow winter afternoon a long time ago—I saved it to tell when she died.
George and Alice also had a daughter named Jennie. Jennie’s son, Iss William Brown is likely Iz’ namesake.
Booker Sampson Brown was born in May of 1836. While my research has not determined the identity of Booker’s parents. Family legend suggests that Booker cared for his younger brother Hillery during the latter years of slavery. Later, according to the marriage certificate, he served as a witness to Hillery’s marriage to the former Bettie Roberson.
In January 1864, during the darkest days of the Civil War, Booker was “enrolled” into the 17th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry for a three year tour of duty. Although I’m not fortunate enough to have a photo of Booker, his enlistment record describes him as 5 feet, 10 inches tall, dark complected with Black Hair. For the privilege of spending his new found freedom as an enlisted soldier in the army, Booker owed $26.43 to the U.S. government for the uniform(s) provided.
Clearly, this enrollment (or the experience of service itself) was not to Booker’s liking; and February 2nd of the same year, Booker “deserted.” Booker Booker’s service is on display on plaque Plaque Number: B-34 in the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1999. By 1870, Booker settled down with his wife, Frances, and had a total of nine children.