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    The Jubilee Singers. (1875). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Another Fisk Jubilee Singer Gone

taylorgeorgia

Photo from NYPL Digital Library

Sunday I took another visit to Greenwood Cemetery, an African-American cemetery here in Nashville.  While photographing tombstones, I saw the one for Georgia Gordon Taylor.  Georgia was one of the original Fisk Jubilee singers, and wife to Rev. Preston Taylor, the founder of Greenwood Cemetery.  She and Preston married on May 7, 1890. Georgia passed away almost 100 years ago on June 7, 1913.

I also looked up her obituary – this is what appeared in the June 13, 1913 issue of the Nashville Globe.

“Another Jubilee Singer Gone”

On Saturday morning the death angel came into the city of Nashville and removed from her midst one of her most highly respected women, Mrs. Georgia Minor Gordon Taylor. She had suffered for several months, and the end was not a surprise to those who had some knowledge of the condition, and in fact she realized several months ago that it was only a question of time with her. It was only five hours between the time that Mr. William Brewster was found dead when Mrs. Taylor breathed her last. Mrs. Taylor was one of the best known characters in this city, and she enjoyed both a national and international reputation as a Jubilee Singer.

A useful life was closed last Saturday morning when Georgia Gordon Taylor entered “Brith Mansions above.”  We were girls and schoolmates and members of the choir of thirty at old Fisk in 1868-1871. We labored together as soprano singers in concert tours to raise funds for Fisk in her poverty.  When George L. White asked for volunteers to go north to sing for money out of the hearts and pockets of the people for our school, Georgia was among the first to offer her sweet flute-tone voice in the service.  There came a time that we must have a name; special prayer was offered in which our leader, Mr. White, tarried at the mercy seat all night, and toward morning he opened his Bible to the scripture about the Jew’s year of Jubilee and later he came in with a beaming face and said, “Children, you shall be called ‘Jubilee Singers.”‘

TaylorGeorgia_headstone

Tombstone Tuesday: Sampson W. Keeble

Sampson W. Keeble was the first African-American to serve on the TN State Legislature. He represented Davidson County from 1873-1875.  Earlier this month I was out at Greenwood Cemetery and happened upon his grave. 

coxbenjamin

As you can see, he is buried with his daughter and son-in-law.  The Tennessee State Library & Archives has an online exhibit of black legislators from Tennessee in which Keeble is included. His bio has several details about his personal life and legislative career. 

The bio mentions that he last appears in the Nashville City Directory in 1886, and now that Ancestry has Nashville City Directories now from 1879-1899, I was able to quickly look him up.  Looks like he lived at 100 N. Spruce St. 

keeblesampson_directory1886

Given how new his headstone is, and given that a previous bio of him indicates it was now known where he died, I suspect this marker may have been recently done, perhaps in conjunction w/ the TSLA exhibit?

Trip to Greenwood Cemetery

This past weekend I took a trip to Greenwood Cemetery – a black cemetery here in town. I went looking for the grave sites of the Napier family whom I’ve been researching. I knew there to be at least 12 members of the family there so I wanted to go take pictures of their graves as only three of them were previously on FindAGrave. In tow with me were both Kalonji & Kaleya. Kaleya pretty much has no choice :-) but I’m pleasantly surprised whenever Kalonji says he wants to go – i mean really, how many people really like to go hang out in cemeteries!

It was quite an experience. By walking around looking for the Napiers, it was like a who’s who in black Nashville history. The first noticeable grave when you drive into the cemetery is that of Rev. Preston Taylor, the founder of the cemetery who had a big funeral business and was accomplished in many other things as well. I saw the headstone of others I’ve come across in my study of Nashville as well – Bishop Evans Tyree and his wife, Dr. Charles Spurgeon, Dr. Arthur Townsend, Arna Bontemps, both of the Boyds and their families. I also found others that I’ve not yet gotten very familiar with, but make good candidates for the future.

I did not take a lot of pictures, but most of the ones I did take I have added to Find A Grave – here is a link to the listing there. Adding to FindAGrave is wonderful way to contribute to the genealogy online community. I highly encourage others to do it. I am planning to go back out there in a few more weeks to take more pictures.

But, back to the reason I went there – the Napiers. I found everyone I was expecting to find. James Carroll Napier (who I call JC), his wife, Nettie and their adoptive daughter/biological niece Carye were there and already in FindAGrave. This week, I’ve added the most of the rest of their family buried in the family plot-I am realizing now I missed at least one person. The links will take to each person’s FindAGrave page.

Greenwood Cemetery (West)

Today I took a field trip over to Greenwood Cemetery West and took pictures. My original goal was to go back to Mt. Ararat, but they had that side locked. Greenwood was right next door so I went there.

Greenwood Cemetery (& the West division of it ) is the final resting place for a number of Nashville’s black citizens. The cemetery is pretty large and will take me some time to get through, but I took close to 150 pictures today. I will be adding them over time to the FindAGrave listings so that they may hopefully be of use to others.

As I was leaving the cemetery, I did see this mausoleum and had to go and see it. While I recognized the McKissack name, it didn’t come to me immediately who they were. The oldest black-owned architectural firm in the US is McKissack & McKissack, founded in 1905 is still in operation today. The firm was founded by Moses McKissack III and many family members were involved. For more information about the history of the firm, there is information online in the Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee book and the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture.

In the mausoleum are buried:

I’ll be adding the McKissacks to my surnames to watch out for in my research. I have already started a family tree for them on my site.

Party Leaves for Florida

Nashville Globe – January 18, 1907 (pg. 5)

Party Leaves for Florida — Rev. Preston Taylor, the Fourth avenue undertaker, and Mr. R. E. Watkins left the city Monday morning, Jan. 14, on the 2:25 train for Daytona, Fla., where they will spend several days as the guests of Rev. J.C. M. Combs. En route they made stops at Birmingham, Ala., Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Fla. Rev. Combs was formerly a Nashville citizen, but moved to Florida several years ago. He came to Nashville on the sad mission of interring the remains of his wife in Greenwood Cemetery.

Rev. Taylor and Mr. Watkins will spend about two weeks among the balmy groves of the Peninsula State before returning to Nashville.

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