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    The Jubilee Singers. (1875). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.
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Spruce Street Church Revival

Nashville Globe – 1 Mar 1907

Spruce Street Church Revival — A revival meeting is now progressing at the old Mother Church on Spruce street.  One particular character about this revival is that it was begun on Washington’s birthday which keeps up the wish of the late Father Merry; it was always his custom to begin his revivals on the 22d of February, and thus celebrate the anniversary of the “Father of the Country” and at the same time begin an active work for saving of souls.  

This year, Rev. T.J. Townsend of Brownsville, Tennessee, which was recently called to the pastorate of Spruce Street Church, is conducting the revival.  Already tremendous success has been met with.  Up to Wednesday, 30 confessions had been reported with many more seeking for the faith.  Rev. Townsend proposes to make this the most vigorous religious campaign ever held, in Nashville.   Members and friends of the church, irrespective of the denomination, are showing their interest and sympathy in the movement by contributing their presence.  An appreciative audience has been noticed during the first few souls, are added to the church and many more converted.  A new and effective way of advertising this meeting has been inaugurated, that is badges are being pinced on all who will wear them, showing that the revival is in progress and that they are in sympathetic cooperation.


Black Political Leaders in Tennessee, 1864-1865

I recently added the book, Slavery’s End in Tennessee, 1861-1865 to the bibliography list.  I perused this book once during a visit to the TN State Archives as I was looking for information about the Napier family.  The book is a good resource for understanding the broader picture of blacks after slavery in Tennesse.  For those interested, Table 7 on pages 111-112 presents a table of black political leaders.

The table presents names, Legal Status and Occupation. From Nashville are listed:

  • James Caffreey – Free – Farmer
  • Anderson Cheatham – Free – Grocer & liquor dealer
  • Ben J. Hadley – Slave – Liquor dealer
  • Henry Harding – Slave – Construction contractor, liquor dealer, hotel keeper
  • Wade Hickman – Slave – Liquor dealer
  • Daniel Lapsly – ? – Barber
  • Peter Lowery – Free – Disciples of Christ preacher, livery stable operator, general business agent
  • Samuel Lowery  – Free – Disciples of Christ missionary
  • John McGowen – Free – Barber
  • H.J. Maxwell – Free Northener – Sergeant
  • Alfred Menifee – Free – Grocer
  • Napoleon Merry – Free – Methodist preacher, stone mason
  • Nelson Merry – Free – Baptist minister
  • William C. Napier – Free – Hack driver
  • Frank Parrish – Free – Barber
  • Hardy Perry – Free – Hack line operator
  • George Scott – Free – Shoemaker or pressman
  • William B. Scott – Free – Editor of Nashville Colored Tennessean
  • Abraham Smith – Slave – Porter at the state capitol building
  • Jerry Stothart – Free – Hack driver
  • George Sumner – Free – Hack driver
  • James Sumner – Free – Hack driver
  • W. Alex Sumner – Free – Livery stable operator, liquor dealer, grocer
  • Andrew Tate – Free – Boatman
  • Daniel Wadkins – Free – Disciples of Christ preacher, teacher, farm laborer
  • Nelson Walker – Free – Barber

Rev. Merry Writes to the Nashville Union & American

Chicago Tribune
18 Aug 1874
pg. 4

[My Note: the A.G. Merry in the article is in fact, Nelson Grover (N.G.) Merry.]

The editor of the Christian Advocate will probably not attempt a defense of the Rev. J.W. Alword because he is colored. It may not irritate him to learn that a colored minister has been accused of roguery. The charge is brought by another colored clergyman, the Rev. A.G. Merry, pastor of the First Colored Baptist Church of Nashville. The latter minister writes some vigorous English to the Nashville Union and American, explaining the manner in which the Nashville branch of the Freedman’s Bank was conducted. The branch was established in 1865; several colored ministers were placed on the Advisory Board; the parent bank at Washington was in the habit of sending agents to the Southern cities to hold public meetings in aid of the bank; these meetings were called by the colored clergymen, and the poor colored people urged by them to deposit in the Freedman’s Bank. This was the mode of advertising adopted. Mr. Alvord, one of these ministerial agents, says Mr. Merry, used his pulpit to tell the Nashville colored people that every dollar of the bank was invested in United States bonds. The writer says:

“Mr. Alvord is a preacher, and I am one also. I want the world and all mankind to know that I have now found out that the Rev. J. W. Alword stood up in my pulpit and told a lie, thereby fooling many, and increasing the confidence of all present in the bank. Unless he repents of this sin (which is a great sin), hell will be his home.

Whether the last sentence interests anybody or not is not material, except to the Advocate, but another conclusion reached by Mr. Merry is more deserving of consideration. He says:

“I have long since consoled myself with the idea and conviction that the former slaveholder will give us good advice and come as near doing the right as any one else, and that in many instances he will do more.

The italics are his own. It is the fault of Mr. Merry, in common with others, that this doctrine has grown out of fashion among the colored people.

Bishop Evans Tyree – part 2

I have continued to do some research on Bishop Evans Tyree. I have constructed the beginnings of his tree as part of my Nashville genealogies database. His specific information is here.

Since the previous post, I think I have finalized the list of all of his children. In addition to Evans Tyree Jr., Carrie B. Tyree, Anna Alberta, and Herman F., he had two other children – a girl named Eugenia and a son named Wayman.

So far, I’ve located Evans and his family in the 1900 & 1910 census records, but none others yet. Evans Sr. died in 1920 and I have found one obituary for him so far from the Chicago Defender.

I’ve also discovered that he’s had associations with the Rev. L. Napoleon Merry, brother of Nelson Merry. This is not surprising to me since they were both clergy. In the July 13, 1876 of the Christian Recorder, an African-American newspaper, Rev. Thomas Whitlock writes in a letter to the editor

…My third Quarterly meeting Conference was held on the 20th and 51st inst. The Presiding Elders, L.N. Murray, Evans Tyree of the Santa Fee mission, and M. Howard of the Ashwood circuit were with us. We had quite a good meeting. We had ten persons added to the church this quarter and we left about forty anxious souls seeking the way of salvation. Our financial report was very poor. My support this quarter all told was $45., and the Presiding Elder’s $40.25; total $55.25. I have baptized 11 this Conference year, and but one of these was slipped; and the Presiding Elder baptized for me five infants. I think sir, that African Methodism has a firm footing now in this hard shell Baptist country. Pray for us. Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., May 20, ’76.

That L.N. Murray should be L.N. MERRY.

Nelson G. Merry arrested

The New York Times carried this story in 1866 of Nelson G. Merry’s arrest for marrying a William A. Johnson (white) and Josephine McConico (black)  Just another tidbit I’ve found as I research the Merry family.


Memoirs of Sylvia Olden Lee

Last month, using interlibrary loan, I was able to secure a copy of the book, Memoirs of Sylvia Olden Lee, premier African-American classical vocal coach: who is Sylvia. When I first learned of this book from an interview I read with Sylvia, I thought I would try and actually secure my own copy. However, it is so difficult to find at a good rate and goes for a couple hundred dollars!

So, interlibrary loan would have to suffice. 🙂 I was interested in the book because I suspected from the article I read that Sylvia provided more details about her ancestors and it turns out that is correct. I came across Sylvia in my research on Nelson & Napoleon Merry – two black preachers of Nashville that were former slaves. I have blogged quite a bit about the Merry family on this blog and my main genealogy blog.

On the cover of the book is a picture of Sylvia and her daughter, in front of the picture of Nelson Merry that is hanging in the church which he was pastor. Sylvia’s daughter went to Vanderbilt and the picture on the cover was taken on her graduation day from Vandy back in the 70s. In the book Sylvia certainly does recount much of her family’s history and I learned quite a bit about the Merry’s.

Some Merry family history tidbits inlclude:

  • Nelson’s mother was Cherokee and with her 11 or 12 kids was forced to walk the Trail of Tears in 1838-39 from South Carolina going west. She stopped in Nashville and declared she wasn’t going any further. Her kids were sold off to various families
  • Nelson was sold to Betsy Merry who willed him to the First Baptist Church when she died
  • Nelson founded the Colored Sunday School Standard, Tennessee’s first Baptist newsletter
  • Nelson’s daughter Liz Merry was one of the First Jubilee Singers, but apparently was not in the famous picture because Nelson did not want her traveling through Europe on tour.

Very interesting book. How great it is that Sylvia’s story is captured.

News of Nashville – November 10, 1917

    From the Chicago Defender November 10, 1917

  • President G.W. Hubbard of Meharry Medical College has returned to the city after a visit to New York, where he attended the meeting of the National Association of Dental Faculties
  • “The Model Home” was the subject of Rev. W. S. Ellington’s discourse last Sunday morning.
  • An attendance of seventy-five was reported for the Meharry Bible class at St. Paul’s A.M.E. church Sunday
  • E.L. Dunnings, A.B., senior medic, Meharry Medical College, was the guest of F.J. Myles, the Defender reporter, at 3528 West End avenue, Saturday.
  • Capt. M.V. Boutte and Lieut. H.A. Cameron left the city for Rockford, Ill. Tuesday night. They will be stationed at Camp Grant and will assist in training the Race men at that place.
  • The various educational institutions were visited during the week by Secretary Fabius of the YMCA international committee, together with two assistants, Belchaer and Evans, in the interest of the student friendship war fund. Fisk, Walden, Roger Williams universities, Meharry Medical College and the A & I State Normal were all visited and several hundred dollars in cash was tendered by the student of each institution.
  • L.E. Brown, the K. of P. secretary of Tennessee, whose home is in Memphis, was in the city this week.
  • Monroe Jordan of Pulaski, Tenn., is a popular junior dentist at Meharry Dental College.
  • Last week 150 men left the city for Camp Meade, Md. Some of Nashville’s best young men answered the country’s call.
  • Miss Hattie S. Hendly, 111 36th avenue South, was a visitor in North Nashville Sunday.
  • Mrs. Nelson G. Merry, wife of the late Rev. Nelson G. Merry, is dead.
  • The Chauffers’ Instructive association will hold a stag on Nov. 15 at the German-American hall.
  • Pearl High School had a dance last Saturday night at the German-American hall.
  • Miss Bertha Stevens and Ethel Mayberry, Louisiana, have returned for study at Roger Williams university.
  • Leonard Jones and Miss Gordon Officer were guests of Roger Williams university in a big cadillac.

Nelson G. Merry & the Old Nashville Cemetery

I posted this on my main blog, but it is worthy of posting here too.

This must really be the week of the Merrys because I had another great find today! I received a notice in my email today that the Nashville Public Library posted an online index to a listing of more than 19,000 names of people buried in the Old Nashville Cemetery. The listings are drawn from a series of internment books held by the Metro Nashville Archives, 1846-1949. So, I decide to take a look and guess what I find – more Merrys.

It is difficult to be precisely sure of all the exact relationships, but I think it lists another four children of Nelson & his wife Mary, in addition to his mother. Also, there are some other Merrys that I think may be related as they are buried in Nelson’s plot. I am confused though on precise locations, because, I have been to Nelson’s grave and it is not in the Old Cemetery, but it is listed in this database. I may have to call the Metro Archives or go see the books in person to understand more about locations. Mt. Ararat, where Nelson is buried, does have an affiliation with the City Cemetery, but I think there is an issue with naming. But to summarize who is listed in this database…

  • Clancy Cousins – died at age 18, 11 Mar 1850. States that she is free colored female, and sister of Nelson Merry, who is also noted as free. Her cause of death was Fever. It is correct that Nelson was free.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 14 Jan 1851. States that he is the son on “N. Merry” and died of Croope. Now, this could be either Nelson’s son, or a son of his brother, Napoleon.
  • Merry, infant girl – died 6 Oct 1854. States that she is the “daughter of Nelson Merry” who is a free colored man.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 12 Jan 1857. States that he is the son of “Ann Merry” who is a free colored woman. This may or may not be Nelson’s son. His wife Mary’s middle name was Ann, so it could be that her middle name was used in this instance, or the infant’s mother could be a different person all together.
  • Merry, Mrs. Sidney – died 26 Jun 1873. The only note on this one is box paid on Nelson Merry’s lot. This is Nelson’s mother! From census records, I know that Sidney lived with Nelson in 1870, but she was no longer there in 1880. In the 1870 census, she is listed as being 80 years old, but in the 1850 census she is also listed as being 80. So, given the 1850 census date, I had already estimated her year of birth to be about 1770. This cemetery listing matches that and if she died in 1873, that would make her just around 100 years old! I can’t wait to go search for an obituary.

Now, these dates may be actually burial dates and not dates of death – I need to check that in the source books. But, in addition to these whom I think the relationship is clear, there are others:

  • Two infant children of a Jas. Hoss (or Sloss) that are on the lot paid by “N. Merry”
  • A 100 year old woman named Angeline Thomas that is on the lot paid by “N. Merry.” Her date is 24 Jan 1872.
  • A 29 year old man named William King who is listed with Sidney Merry and is also in “box paid by Nelson G. Merry”
  • An infant boy listed as the son of George Merry, who is listed as free colored man.
  • An infant boy listed as the son of a Francis Merry
  • Merry, Mary – died in 1855. The listing just says “Nelson Merry’s lot.” She was 10 years old. I’m not sure who she is because in 1850, Nelson & Mary are only listed with one child, John Wesley Merry.

All of this gives me reason to really go back and research other Merrys in I can find them. How intriguing! Now, the fun is not over. I decided to visit the website of the city cemetery and was happy to see that they are very involved in genealogical causes. They have posted a list of people buried in the cemetery whose descendants have contacted the cemetery, and they have a volunteer looking up obituaries of people buried there and they are providing links to those obits. Very progressive! If only more cemeteries would do this!

Fisk Notes – 1 Feb 1907

Fisk Notes
February 1, 1907
Pg. 5

  • Dr. Grant, traveling in behalf of the Old Folks’ and Orphans’ Home, of Birmingham, presented the needs of that institution to Fisk at prayer meeting, Wednesday evening, Jan. 16. A contribution of more than seven dollars was made by the students and faculty.
  • Friday night, Jan. 18, Prof. H. C. Morgan left for a three weeks’ tour of the South. She will visit the various schools of the South, and the homes of Fisk graduates and former students.
  • On January 17, the College Seniors were excused from classes that those who desired might attend the inauguration of Gov. Patterson. Among those who took advantage of the opportunity to attend were H.F. Mitchell, H.R. Merry, and B.W. Payne. As might have been expected, there were very few Negroes present, but it is the consensus of opinion of those who were there that the occasion was inspiring and uplifting.
  • Through the kindness of Dr. R. H. Boyd, B.W. Payne and G. T. Overstreet spent a very profitable afternoon one day last week visiting the National Baptist Publishing House. Dr. Boyd seemed delighted to show us through the various departments, and not only extended us a cordial invitation to return, but assured us that he would be glad to have any of the students visit him. The afternoon was one of incalculable value from an educational standpoint, and if ever you feel discouraged about the “Negro Problem,” we advise you to visit Dr. Boyd and his Publishing House.
  • Miss Maud Clayton, of Savannah, Ga., was called home on account of the serious illness of her mother.
  • Percy Crenzot has been laid up on account of rheumatism. Crenzot has never fully recovered from injuries received in the early part of the football season.
  • Thursday evening, Jan. 17, the Fisk Debating Club held its regular monthly meeting in the collegiate room of Livingston Hall. This was the most interesting meeting we have had this year. The subject for debate was one in which every Negro is interested: Resolved, That President Roosevelt was justified in dismissing the three companies of the Twenty-fifth Infantry. The speakers on the affirmative were T.P. Haralson and W. G. Upshaw; on the negative, J.A. Green and Wm. Dawson. The speakers on both sides showed that they had givine much care and thought to the subject, and their manner of delivery as well. The decision of the judges was in favor of the negative. Music was rendered by the Fisk Quartette — Myers, Merrill, Boutte and A. King. There was an unusually large attendance, including several members of the faculty.
  • Mr. G. W. Haynes suppled Mr. J. C. Russell’s pulpit at Goodletsville Sunday
  • Mr. Gore, President of the city association, visited the Sunday morning meeting of the Y.M.C.A. and made a few remarks.
  • Prof. J. W. Work addressed the Y.M.C.A. Jan. 27
  • Fisk University and the music lovers of Nashville had a rare treat in the lecture-recital given ni the Memorial Chapel on the January 18, by Prof. Edward Baxter Perry.
  • Prof. W.A. Giles addressed the White Cross League Sunday night, Subject: “Significance of the Sexual Instinct.”
  • Mr. W. A. Hunton, International Secretary of the Y.M.C.A., spent a couple of days with us the early part of last week. Tuesday evening he addressed the Mission Study Class on the subject of “Africa.”
  • Prof. T. W. Talley’s baby, Eunice, died Sunday, January 20. Funeral services were held at the residence Monday afternoon at two o’clock. Prof. C. W. Morrow, pastor of Union Church, officiating. Out of respect for Prof. and Mrs. Talley in their bereavement there was no school on the afternoon of Jan 31.

Seventy-Seven Years Old

Seventy-Seven Years Old
Nashville Globe – January 18, 1907
Pg. 8

Mrs. Nelson T. Merry, of 316 Eighth avenue, North, was 77 years old last Saturday, Jan. 12. She is in good health, able to attend church regularly and has been a member of the church 65 years. Two of her daughters, Mrs. Emma Dunlap, and Mrs. Adella Mitchell, are with her. Mrs. Dunlap who has lived in Memphis for the past eighteen years, where she recently lost her husband, Mr. Frank Dunlap, is to remain with her mother and assist her sister in caring for her.

My Note: I did a lookup to see if I could locate Mrs. Merry in the census and I found her. Apparently, her name is Mary Merry and her husband died prior to 1900.

In the 1880 census, they are listed together – he is 54 and lists his occupation as a Minister of the Gospel, and she is 51. They have a daughter, Adella who is 20, and a son James who is 13. Mr. Merry was born in Kentucky, and Mary was born in Tennessee.

In the 1910 census, only Mary is listed now, as mother-in-law to her daughter’s husband, Edward Mitchell (Adella is his wife). Mary is about 81 now, which fits right according to the announcement of her birthday celebration in this 1907 article. The family also has an Emma Dunlap living with them, who’s relationship is listed as Edward’s sister-in-law. Emma is about 59 here, so she is a few years older than Adella – it is likely she is her sister.