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

Money Signed by JC Napier

Earlier this week I received the coolest images via email.  

Nashvillian James Carroll Napier was Register of the US Treasury from 1911-1913 and his signature appeared on our currency.

Here is a bill from that time period with JC’s signature on it – how cool is that!

Many thanks to Stefan Jagoe for sharing!

Historical Marker: Sarah Estell

This past weekend, while walking to the public library for a meeting of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society,  I passed a historical marker for Sarah Estelle.


The marker reads: “Sarah Estell, a free black woman in the slavery era, ran an ice cream parlor and sweet shop near here.  She overcame the many hurdles faced by free persons of color, and her venture thrived.  Her catering firm met the banquet needs of the city’s firemen, church socials, and political parties from 1840-1860.” It is located at 217 5th Avenue North in downtown Nashville.

I did some quick research about her and easily enough located her in the 1860 US Census where she is enumerated as having an “eating house.” Her census record also notes she is from NC – I wonder where from? I have research interests in NC so I’ll have to explore that further.


1860 US Census Record – Ward 4, Davidson County, TN


Searching newspaper records at Chronicling America, I found one article notes that General Brigadier Alfred Eugene Jackson paid her 2.00 for “eatables” in 1853


Nashville Union & American. August 11, 1853. From Chronicling America

According to the TN State Library, she opened her shop in 1840 and historian Bobby Lovett notes in his book, The African American History of Nashville, TN, 1780-1930, that she “…served food for parties and balls of whites…” (p. 16).   In the book Old Days of Nashville, author Jane Thomas notes that Sarah’s ice cream saloon was near McKendree Church, which is in fact right around the corner from the Sarah’s historical marker.

In the 1855 Nashville Business Directory her location is indicated as 39 N. Summer Street.

Estell_1855 Nashville Business Directory

excerpt from the 1855 Nashville Business Directory


I’ll have to keep looking and see what else I can learn about Sarah.

Another Fisk Jubilee Singer Gone


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.”‘


Nashville Conference on African-American History and Culture

Just a quick post to share the news of an event I just learned about today.  On February 8th, the Tennessee Historical Commission is sponsoring a day-program at Tennessee State University to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to Nashville and the state of Tennessee.  The event is the Nashville Conference on African-American History and Culture and more details can be viewed at their website.

The Tennessee Historical Commission has long been interested in African-American history and culture.  The notable, Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee collection was created out of the groups’ research efforts.  I regularly consult the Profiles book for information relevant to African-American history in the state – it’s a great resource! I unfortunately will not be able to attend the conference, but it looks like a great event.

Why Would You Steal a Statue?

Today I was so disheartened to learn that the statue of Richard Henry Boyd, founder of what is now the R H Boyd Publishing Company, has been stolen.  Kalonji took the kids to the company earlier this year so they could have a better appreciation for the history of the company.  Around since 1896, the publishing company has been a well-known name in religious publishing for many, many years.  The statue of R.H. has been at the building for more than 40 years.

boys in front of boyd statue

the boys in front of the R.H. Boyd statue (Feb 2012)

Apparently, investigators think the statue may have been stolen to sell for parts.  What a shame and blatant display of having no respect for history.

Obituary of Charles C. Poindexter (1913)

The following obituary for Charles C. Poindexter appeared in the June 6, 1913 issue of the Nashville Globe newspaper.

“Prof. Poindexter Dead”

Charles C. Poindexter, who was Professor of the Agriculture Department and Biology at Fisk University, died at Hubbard Hospital shortly after 12 o’clock Tuesday morning. He was operated on by Drs. Stewart and Welker Saturday and made good progress until an unfavorable change came Sunday afternoon, resulting in complications and ending in his death.

Prof. Poindexter was born in West Virginia March 10, 1880; he was a graduate from the Ohio State University in 1903 and did post graduate work for two years at Cornell University.  Upon completion of his work at Cornell, he became director of Agriculture work for both St. Paul School at Lawrenceburg, Virginia and St. Augustine School at Raleigh, North Carolina under the Episcopal Church. From there he was called to Fisk University four years ago  was assistant professor of Agriculture and Biology. In recognition of his efficiency and character, two years ago he was elevated to full professorship.

During his residence at Cornell he married Miss Florence Mercedes of Ithica, New York, March 31, 1905. A son was born to them in the summer of 1909. These two with three sisters and a brother survive him. The funeral was held Thursday morning at 9 O’clock in Fisk Memorial Chapel, and the remains were interred at the Greenwood Cemetery. The following young men of Fisk student body acted as pallbearers: Messrs. Nelson Glover, Raymond Powell, Charles Lewis, Overton Carter, Atwood Wilson and Henry Ferguson.

National Negro Business League

Today, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History posted a picture of the National Negro Business League in 1900 to their Facebook page.  Booker T. Washington, seated 2nd from left, was the 1st president. Lo and behold, who is that to the left of him? Why, it’s James Carroll Napier.  Napier served as President of the League from 1915-1919.

National Negro Business League - 1900

Funeral of Myrtle Callahan Chadwell

Impressive Funeral Services Held Over Remains of Mrs. Myrtle Callahan Chadwell, Monday, January 18th

Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Jammed to Capacity with Friends and Acquaintances of Deceased

22 Jan 1960, Nashville Globe Newspaper

Mrs. Myrtle Callahan CHADWELL died at a local infirmary, Wednesday morning, January 13th at 10:45, after a short illness.  Mrs. CHADWELL was born in Lincoln County, at Dellrose, Tennessee, July 12, 1912., the daughter of Marshall and Mattie CALLAHAN.  She grew up under a noble Christian influence, which early inspired her to look forward to the better things in life.  Attending the school of her community, she grew in knowledge and understanding and imbibed the spirit of her mother and father and mother, which influenced her life in the way of noble living, which she clung to, to the end of her earthly career.

In the year of 1924, she moved to Nashville, a young and energetic woman; she attended the schools in Davidson County.  Professing a hope in Christ early in her young life, at the First Baptist Church in Rock City, under the Rev. William PITT, who was a the time, the pastor.  In 1930 she was wooed and won by Mr. Sora W. CHADWELL, and united in the holy bonds of matrimony, then she moved her membership to the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church.  To this happy union six children were born, of this number, two preceded her in death.

Her pastor, Rev. Felix H. NEW, delivered an impressive and worthy Mrs. CHADWELL, throughout her membership career; and said the pastor, “Myrtle was an asset and not a liability to Mt. Ararat.”  Papers and resolutions read attested the esteem and love held for the deceased: her friends and acquaintances were in attendance from all walks of life and all parts of Nashville.  Rev. L.R. HALL, assistant pastor of Mt. Ararat; Rev. William PITT, and Rev. Samuel H. SIMPSON, made brief remarks giving words of comfort to the bereaved family.

Mrs. Myrtle CHADWELL leaves to mourn her passing, a husband, Mr. Sora W. CHADWELL, two sons, Wayman N. and John N. CHADWELL; two daughters, Mrs. Cornelia BAIRD and Mrs. Ethel JOHNSON; one steps-son, Sora W. CHADWELL, Jr., four sisters, Mrs. Jerena MERRITT, Mrs. Lucy HARDING, Mrs. Wynona HARDING and Mrs. Elease HARRIS; seven grandchildren, seven nieces; two nephews; two aunts, one great-aunt; one uncle; father-in-law; mother-in-law; two sons-in-law; two daughters-in-law; and

“Sunset” and evening star,
a best of relatives and friends.
And one clear call for me;
And may there be no moaning at the bar;
When I put out to sea.”


This is so disheartening 😦

From the May 12, 1866 issue of the Columbia Herald newspaper of Maury County, TN

We learn that two negroinfants were discovered drowned, in a branch on the farm ofCol. Andrew J. Polk on Monday last. They had been thrown there by their mothers, who, learn, gave as reason, their inability to support them.  — They ought rather to have sent them to their father Fisk

Dedication of Fisk University (1876)

Memphis Daily Appeal
January 2, 1876
pg. 1

Dedication Ceremonies Yesterday – “A Feast of Reason and Flow of Soul”
Nashville, January 1 — The new Fisk university, named in honor of General Clinton B. FISK, was formally dedicated today in presence of a large assemblage of people, white and black.  Governor PORTER and other State officials, Bishop McTYEIRE, of the Methodist church south, and quite a number of clergymen and educators were present.  General FISK, who is president of the board of directors, presided and made the opening address, which embodied an earnest and eloquent plea for cordial relations between the races, for the education and cultivation of the colored people, and for the cultivation of a liberal and patriotic feeling everywhere.  Abounding as it did in the most generous sentiments toward the southern people, and urging that the dead past bury its dead, it elicited warm recommendations.  Governor PORTER, Bishop MCTYEIRE, Ex-Commissioner SMITH, president of Howard university, and others, also made addresses.  The occasion was a notable one, marking an important era in the advancing intelligence and progress of the negro race in the south.  The university building cost one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, nearly all of which was raised by the Jubilee singers.  Mrs. FISK, by personal effort in New York, raised sufficient funds to furnish the forty rooms of the building.  The institution partakes somewhat of the nature of a normal college, as since its establishment, ten years ago, it has annually graduated about one hundred teachers and candidates for the ministry, all colored.  The university was established by, and is conducted under the control of, the American missionary association, but various denominations are represented in the board of directors and crops of teachers and professors.  The building is on a commanding eminence, about one mile west of the city, and with its superior architectural design and finish, and large and imposing dimensions, presents as fine a view as any college building in America.