Strange Arts & Visual Delights
An extraordinary diary to emerge from the war was written by Piete Kuhr. Aa teenager during the war, she went on, as Jo Mihaly, to become an anti-war Expressionist dancer in Berlin in the 20’s and 30’s, to write novels, and in 1933 to flee Germany with her Jewish husband.
The following passage, from 30 August 1918, juxtaposes her grief at losing a friend, Lieutenant Waldecker, with the funeral of the fictitious Lieutenant von Yellenic elaborately staged by Piete and her friend Gretel. Like Piete herself, one hardly knows whether to laugh or cry:
“No one else was in the house. I covered the camp bed in [my brother’s] room with a cloth and with old sheets and pillows. I made up a life-size dummy…, covered it with a black coach-rug to make it look as if there was a body underneath. Then I put Uncle Bruno's old army boots under the rug. I put a dented steel helmet where Lieutenant Yellenic's head was. I placed my uncle's old cavalry sword and a little bunch of dried lilac … where the hands should have been. I made two Iron Crosses, first and second class, out of cardboard and a paper 'Order of Merit' which Lieutenant von Yellenic had been awarded after his 80th 'kill' in his fighter-plane 'Flea'. I laid out these three medals on Grandma's blue velvet pincushion, then I drew the curtains and lit two candles at the head of the corpse. They were only two little stumps really, but as they were stuck in Grandma's tall brass candlesticks they looked a bit like big funeral candles. After all this I shut the door.
Meanwhile, Gretel had dressed up as the mourning 'Nurse Martha'. She wore Grandma's black dress,… a thin black veil and ... a white handkerchief.… I sat down at the piano and played Chopin's 'Funeral March', then I beat a slow-march rhythm on a saucepan covered with a cloth. It sounded just like a drum roll at a military funeral. The procession then made its way from the bedroom through the dining and drawing rooms. I rushed back to the piano to play 'Jesus, my protector and saviour, lives', and Gretel instantly started to cry—they were real tears.
Now came the high point: I opened the double doors. Gretel whispered 'Oh God!' when she saw Lieutenant von Yellenic's corpse in full war regalia in the candlelight, and I must say that it really looked as if there was a dead officer lying there. Nurse Martha sobbed as if her heart was about to break, for she was of course secretly in love with Lieutenant von Yellenic.
I didn't know whether to roar with laughter or cry. I was near to both, but then it suddenly struck me that the whole affair resembled Lieutenant Waldecker's funeral procession. I made a speech about Flight Lieutenant von Yellenic, honouring his 80 'kills' and burst three paper bags which I had blown up.
And so ended the game of Nurse Martha and [Lieutenant] von Yellenic.” [Source: Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis, ed. A War in Words: The First World War in Diaries and Letters].
by Wilfred Owen
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,--
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now. . . .”
[Source: Dominic Hibberd and John Onions, The Winter of the World]
Editors’ note: “Written March–May 1918…. Owen’s first, worst memory of the front was of a captured dugout where he and his men had almost been buried alive, a horror that must often have recurred in his shellshock nightmares. As Edmund Blunden noted, the poem is ‘a dream only a stage further on than the actuality of the crowded dugouts’. But it is also a very literary vision, Owen’s farewell to poetry, with echoes of Homer, the Bible, Dante, Spenser, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson and many others. Acutely aware of the crisis at the front, he foresees his own likely death, expects his poetry to achieve nothing and – unlike most of the war’s poets – faces up to the full implications of killing.”
Although written in early 1919, this poem by a survivor of the war, Siegfried Sassoon, captures the joy of being liberated from the war.
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
[Source: The Winter of the World]
Photograph: E.O. Hoppe/Corbis. From: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/31/edward-thomas-adlestrop-to-arras-review-jean-moorcroft-wilson
“[K]illed at Arras on that first day of the battle [April 9] was the British poet Edward Thomas, who so loved the English countryside:
This ploughman dead in battle slept out of doors
Many a frozen night, and merrily
Answered staid drinkers, good bedmen, and all bores:
"At Mrs Greenland's Hawthorn Bush," said he,
"I slept." None knew which bush. Above the town,
Beyond `The Drover', a hundred spot the down
In Wiltshire. And where now at last he sleeps
More sound in France - that, too, he secret keeps.
[Source: Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History]
Douglas Lyall Grant, a British POW in a German prison camp, on 28th January 1917 – “Renewed joy in the morning when it was discovered that two Russians had escaped last night. We wish them all the best of luck and a rapid journey over the frontier. The method of their escape was particularly cunning. Each day Russian orderlies wheel out barrels of refuse to a ground nearby where the pigs are kept. Today two of these barrels had refuse on the top but Russians underneath.”
“The Italian soldiers had not illusions about a swift breakthrough [at the 10th Battle of the Isonzo, beginning 10 May 1917]. Among their many jingles was the verse:
Il General Cadorna
Ha scritta alla Regina
'Se vuoi veder Trieste,
Compra una cartolina.'"
Gilbert translates: "General Cadorna / Has written to the Queen, / 'If you want to see Trieste, / Buy a picture postcard." [Source: Gilbert, The First World War]
Elias Canetti in the first volume of his memoirs: “I was twelve when I got passionately interested in the Greek wars of liberation, and that same year, 1917, was the year of the Russian Revolution. Even before his journey in the sealed freight car, people were speaking about Lenin living in Zurich [where Canetti lived with his mother]. Mother, who was filled with an insatiable hatred of the war, followed every event that might terminate it. She had no political ties, but Zurich had become a center for war opponents of the most diverse countries and tendencies.
Once, when we were passing a coffeehouse, she pointed at the enormous skull of a man sitting near the window, a huge pile of newspapers lay next to him; he had seized one paper and held it close to his eyes. Suddenly, he threw back his head, turned to a man sitting at his side and fiercely spoke away at him. Mother said: ‘Take a good look at him. That’s Lenin. You’ll be hearing about him.’ We had halted, she was slightly embarrassed about standing like that and staring…, but his sudden movement had struck into her, the energy of his jolting turn towards the other man had transmitted itself to her … I was … astonished at Mother’s immobility. She said: ‘Come on, we can’t just stand here,’ and she pulled me along…..
She never the called the war anything but ‘the killing.’ Since our arrival in Zurich, she had talked about it very openly to me; in Vienna, she had held back to prevent my having any conflicts at school. ‘You will never kill a person who hasn’t done anything to you,’ she said beseechingly; and proud as she was of having three sons, I could sense how worried she was that we too might become such ‘killers’ some day. Her hatred of war had something elemental to it: Once, when telling me the story of Faust, which she didn’t want me to read as yet, she disapproved of his pact with the devil. There was only one justification for such a pact: to put an end to the war. You could even ally yourself with the devil for that, but not for anything else.”—Elias Canetti, The Tongue Set Free
Private D. Sutherland killed in action in the German trench, May, 16, 1916, and the others who died [published in 1917]
by E.A. Mackintosh
So you were David’s father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.
Oh, the letters he wrote you,
And I can see them still,
Not a word of the fighting,
But just the sheep on the hill
And how you should get the crops in
Ere the year get stormier,
And the Bosches have got his body,
And I was his officer.
You were only David’s father,
But I had fifty sons
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns,
And we came back at twilight--
O God! I heard them call
To me for help and pity
That could not help at all.
Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers’,
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.
Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed “Don’t leave me, sir”,
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.
[Source: Winter of the World]
Editor’s note: “Young officer-poets who wrote about their men often used the language of love poetry…. Mackintosh had carried the badly wounded Sutherland out of a German trench, pursued by the enemy, but the man had died before he could be got to safety.”
Here's my own take on that bloody year.
Days of 1917
On the eighth day God looked
and the world was mad.
He sent forth a pouter pigeon,
saying, Alight in a poor
out of the way place, maybe
then fly around the world,
flitting up and down,
and tell me if any cling
to tatterdemalion faith.
Shall I release the waters
of another flood?
Perched above brick-red plots
she sees men and women scratch
the dirt like hungry biddies, sees
drivers and wagons
hauling chestnut bark
lined up at a tannery,
a line of barefoot women
selling them apple brandy--
they call it corpse-reviver,
milk of the wild cow,
Pigeon calls it wife-beater
and bust-head. She takes flight,
the world below snorts
and bites its stall: fire coals
belch from sawmill boilers,
the bristling Atlantic scrapes
its tusks against Hatteras.
She flies eastward, over seas
spattered with white caps
and periscopes and bodies
of sailors who once swaggered
and cussed like gods.
She reaches a guarded mount,
turns inland, and skims over
Polygon Wood, racing ahead
of a creeping barrage
inundating no-man’s land
with fire. She hovers over Tommies
engulfed by mustard gas,
over Jerries out of sight
who suffocate in mud,
though once they could swim
the length of a pond
on one deep breath.
Here and there a comrade
dies to rescue one
he loves, a padre
breathes life into one
who is losing hope.
The pigeon looks up to heaven.
They’re drowning themselves
ready enough. You can hold off.
“[T]he last British troops left Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. … Thirty-three Commonwealth war cemeteries on the peninsula contain the graves of those whose bodies were found. On the grave of Gunner J.W. Twamley his next of kin caused the lines to be inscribed:
Only a boy but a British boy,
The son of a thousand years.
A bereaved Australian sent the following lines:
Brother Bill a sniping fell:
We love him still,
We always will.
From parents whose grief could not find comfort in religion came the question:
What harm did he do Thee, O Lord?”
[Source: Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History]
by Edward Thomas
Men heard this roar of parleying starlings, saw,
A thousand years ago even as now,
Black rooks with white gulls following the plough
So that the first are last until a caw
Commands that last are first again, – a law
Which was of old when one, like me, dreamed how
A thousand years might dust lie on his brow
Yet thus would birds do between hedge and shaw.
Time swims before me, making as a day
A thousand years, while the broad ploughland oak
Roars mill-like and men strike and bear the stroke
Of war as ever, audacious or resigned,
And God still sits aloft in the array
That we have wrought him, stone-deaf and stone-blind.
[Source: Dominic Hibberd and John Onions, The Winter of the World]
by Rose Macaulay
There are forty steaming heaps in the one tree field,
Lying in four rows of ten,
They must be all spread out ere the earth will yield
As it should (And it won’t, even then).
Drive the great fork in, fling it out wide;
Jerk it with a shoulder throw,
The stuff must lie even, two feet on each side.
Not in patches, but level…so!
When the heap is thrown you must go all round
And flatten it out with the spade,
It must lie quite close and trim till the ground
Is like bread spread with marmalade.
The north-east wind stabs and cuts our breaths,
The soaked clay numbs our feet,
We are palsied like people gripped by death
In the beating of the frozen sleet.
I think no soldier is so cold as we,
Sitting in the frozen mud.
I wish I was out there, for it might be
A shell would burst to heat my blood.
I wish I was out there, for I should creep
In my dug-out and hide my head,
I should feel no cold when they lay me deep
To sleep in a six-foot bed.
I wish I was out there, and off the open land:
A deep trench I could just endure.
But things being other, I needs must stand
Frozen, and spread wet manure.
[Source: The Winter of the World]
Editors’ note: In England, “many women volunteered to replace men as land workers; like soldiers in the trenches, they suffered in the exceptionally harsh winter of 1916–17.”
The winter was harsh throughout Europe and was particularly hard on soldiers in wet trenches, civilians in blockaded economies like Germany’s, and on prisoners of war, especially those who, like Russian soldiers, were not assisted by their governments. A Russian POW in a German camp wrote this in his first diary entry:
“Hunger does not give you a moment's peace and you are always dreaming of bread: good Russian bread! There is consternation in my soul when I watch people hurling themselves after a piece of bread and a spoonful of soup.… We work from dawn till dusk, sweat mingling with blood; we curse the blows of the rifle butts; I find myself thinking about ending it all, such are the torments of my life in captivity! [He had been held for 11 months.]
On Sunday we did no work but stood around outside our huts under the gaze of the Germans with their wives and children, full of curiosity and hate watching us from their windows and from the street. And, it was wonderful, they could see that we were people too and they began to come a little closer. But then some of the little German children began hurling stones at us.…
[N]othing surprises me here - like today, I saw a soldier rummaging in a rubbish pit, picking out potato and swede peelings and eating them slowly to make them last. The hunger is dreadful: you feel it constantly, day and night. You have to forget who you once were and what you've become.” [Source: Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis, ed. A War in Words: The First World War in Diaries and Letters]
Returning, We Hear the Larks
by Isaac Rosenberg
Sombre the night is:
And, though we have our lives, we know
What sinister threat lurks there.
Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know
This poison-blasted track opens on our camp--
On a little safe sleep.
But hark! Joy—joy—strange joy.
Lo! Heights of night ringing with unseen larks:
Music showering on our upturned listening faces.
Death could drop from the dark
As easily as song--
But song only dropped,
Like a blind man's dreams on the sand
By dangerous tides;
Like a girl's dark hair, for she dreams no ruin lies there,
Or her kisses where a serpent hides.
[Source: The Winter of the World]
In the summer of 1916, Rosenberg, then serving in France, looked back on the war’s beginning:
What in our lives is burnt
In the fire of this?
The heart’s dear granary?
The much we shall miss?
Three lives hath one life –
Iron, honey, gold.
The gold, the honey gone –
Left is the hard and cold.
Iron are our lives
Molten right through our youth.
A burnt space through ripe fields
A fair mouth’s broken tooth.
[Source: The Winter of the World]
The first few entries below were all written in March 1915 by a British civilian, a Russian soldier on the Eastern Front, a thirteen-year-old Prussian schoolgirl, a widow in a besieged city in Galicia, British soldiers in Flanders and the Dardanelles, a Turkish officer in the Dardanelles, an unknown Austrian officer fighting the Italians in the Alps, Rudyard Kipling (whose son John had been killed in unknown circumstances in France), and Thomas Hardy.
Epitaph: Neuve Chapelle
by H.W. Garrod
Tell them at home, there's nothing here to hide:
We took our orders, asked no questions, died.
[Source: Dominic Hibberd and John Onions, The Winter of the World]
In his journal entry for 27 January, Russian soldier Vasily Mishnin describes being under artillery fire. The men break and run. Mishnin and a comrade hide in a hut: "We press ourselves against a wall, sit down and wipe our tears. Our eyes are full of tears, we wipe them away, but they just keep coming because the shells are full of gas. We are terrified. [We] lie face down and we just want to dig ourselves into the earth. Under our breath we pray to our Lord God to save us from this, just for this one day. Dear Nyurochka [his wife], pray for me in this terrible hour, and forgive me if I am guilty of anything. Dear God, are you really sitting up there in heaven without hearing or saying anything?" [Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis, ed. A War in Words: The First World War in Diaries and Letters]
On March 11, the Prussian schoolgirl, Piete Kuhr, wrote in her journal: “Another collection has been announced at school, for copper, again, but also for tin, lead, zinc, brass and old iron to make gun-barrels, field guns, cartridge cases and so forth. There is a keen competition between the classes. Our class, the fourth, has so far collected the most. I turned the whole house over from top to bottom. Grandma cried, 'the wench will bankrupt me! Why don't you give them your lead soldiers instead of cleaning me out!' So my little army had to meet their deaths.”
Helena Seifertóv Jabłońska was trapped by the Russian army in a besieged fortress city in Galicia, a province of Austria-Hungary. She had refused to leave because she did not want to abandon her husband’s grave. On March 15, she wrote: ”The Russians have burned nearly all the surrounding villages. In one village the inhabitants locked themselves into their huts to keep out the Russians. The Russians boarded up the doors from the outside and set fire to the huts. There is no longer any doubt that we will have to surrender. Betrayal and hunger have exhausted us.
.... [The soldiers] are mere shadows, not people, they are skeletons, not men. The peasants have had everything taken from them, so as not to leave anything for the Russians. This was done ruthlessly, without any compassion. An act unworthy of the civilised Catholic nation that we are. It was cruel to give such an order, but those executing it were crueller still. How generous of them to leave the peasants their lives!”
Sidney Appleyard remembered a soldiers’ marching song from May 1915 in Flanders written by the “platoon poet, Bill Bright”:
I’m a bomber, I'm a bomber
Wearing a grenade,
The Army's got me where it wants,
I'm very much afraid.
When decent jobs are going
I never get a chance,
Which shows what bloody fools we were
To volunteer for France." [Source: Andrew Roberts, Elegy: The First Day on the Somme]
In the Gallipoli campaign, a British officer at Cape Helles wrote about returning to the front after a brief leave:
'I saw a man this morning'
by Patrick Shaw-Stewart
I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die:
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.
Fair broke the day this morning
Against the Dardanelles;
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.
But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean Sea,
Shrapnel and high explosive,
Shells and hells for me.
O hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?
Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese:
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.
Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knewest, and I know not--
So much the happier I.
I will go back this morning
From Imbros over the sea;
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.
Two years later, Shaw-Stewart was killed on the Western Front. This poem—his only surviving complete poem—was found after his death in his copy of Housman’s A Shopshire Lad. [Hibberd and Onions, The Winter of the World: Poems of the Great War]
On 22 November, Mehmed Fasih, a Turkish officer fighting opposite Shaw-Stewart, wrote in his diary: “05.00 hrs. Daydream about a happy family and nice kids. Will I live to see the day when I have some? I know I should be infinitely grateful for what I do have, but why have I not, to this day, been able to find real happiness, the kind that sets the heart free and brings comfort to the soul? Dear God! Will you ever grant such things to be my lot in life?” [A War in Words]
From the diary of an unknown Austrian officer, 18th July 1915, fighting the Italian army in the Alps: “In the night the artillery fire became insanely heavy. This is the end, I thought, and prepared to die like a proper Christian. But I am still so young! To die without a confession, without the words of comfort and faith of our holy religion! Oh Italy, may God punish your king and your treacherous people.” [A War in Words]
By Rudyard Kipling
These were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right
But who shall return us the children?
At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us –
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.
They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the judgment o’ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour –
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.
Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.
That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven –
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled on the wires –
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes – to be cindered by fires –
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.
But who shall return us our children?
[The Winter of the World]
This post is already too long, but I cannot leave without this poem from December:
by Thomas Hardy
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder comb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
In this workweek that ends on Friday with Veterans Day, each day I am going to post a poem or two from the war, beginning today with poems written in 1914, and ending in poems written in 1918. I’ll also add some other items, including contemporary journal entries.
For the most part, I’ll be posting items I copied into my journal in 2017 when I was preparing to teach the literature of the First World War at Southern Virginia University. The conditions of another world war appear to be forming. Let Providence and chance, wisdom and stupidity combine to prevent it.
Today’s first poem is by Akhmatova.
IN MEMORIAM, JULY 19, 1914
by Anna Akhmatova
We aged a hundred years and this descended
In just one hour, as at a stroke.
The summer had been brief and now was ended;
The body of the ploughed plains lay in smoke.
The hushed road burst in colors then, a soaring
Lament rose, ringing silver like a bell.
And so I covered up my face, imploring
God to destroy me before battle fell.
And from my memory the shadows vanished
Of songs and passions—burdens I'd not need.
The Almighty bade it be—with all else banished--
A book of portents terrible to read.
Translation by Stephen Edgar. Source: http://www.worldwarone.it/2016/06/the-poets-and-world-war-in-memoriam.html.
The 12-year-old Prussian schoolgirl Piete Kuhr began a diary and wrote (1 Aug 1914): "At school the teachers say it is our patriotic duty to stop using foreign words. I didn't know what that meant at first, but now I see it—you must no longer say 'Adieu' because that is French. I must now call Mama 'Mutter'. At school they talk of nothing but the war now.” [Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis, ed. A War in Words: The First World War in Diaries and Letters]
On 4 August, Piete wrote: “The 149th Infantry Regiment is stationed in our town, Schneidemühl. They are going to be sent to the Western Front. This evening we heard the far off sound of the drums, bass drums and kettledrums. The music kept getting louder and clearer. We couldn't bear to stay in our room and ran out into the street.… Our regiment was marching down the street to the station. The soldiers wore new grey uniforms and black spiked helmets. They were looking serious. I had expected them to be laughing and rejoicing. A trumpet call rang out. A soldier as big as a tree came past me. I stretched out my hand over the fence and muttered 'Farewell!' He smiled at me and shook my hand. I gazed after him. Gradually the train began to move. It wouldn't have taken much for me to burst out crying. I went home by a roundabout way. I held my hand out in front of me, the one that the soldier had squeezed. As I went up our poorly lit steps, I stared at the palm of my hand. Then I quickly kissed it.”
Yves Congar, a French schoolboy in Sedan in eastern France, also began an illustrated diary about this time. This mixture of quotation and summary is from his entry for 25 August: "We are just getting up when mother comes up to me and says, ‘….Put your soldiers away, the Germans are coming.' I go outside after putting them away and I hear shooting and I see a plane in the sky. As soon as I am back inside, my big brothers come through the door. 'They're coming! They're coming! They're right behind us!' I go and look out the dining-room widow."
Yves watches through the wind as "the shooting starts." The German soldiers charge; he hears two massive thuds "as two horses fall dead in front of the window. Bullets whizz by in both directions." They can hear artillery, machine guns, and rifles; they hear the "Germans hitting Mr Benoit's door with their rifle butts, looking for French troops. Just to be safe they shoot Mr Benoit's dog, so that its barking won't interfere with their patrols."
In the evening, they hear bridges being blown up. "The Germans, fiends, thieves, murderers and arsonists ... set fire to everything: to our church in Givonne; to the chapel in Fond de Givonne Glaire; to Donchery, where they use incendiary rockets....." Next day, the Germans demand "a quarter of a million francs' worth of gold." (Source: A War in Words)
Sedan was occupied for almost the entire war.
I’ll end with this poem by a poet who died in November 1914:
ON THE EASTERN FRONT
by George Trakl
The winter storm's mad organ playing
is like the Volk's dark fury,
the black-red tidal wave of onslaught,
Her features smashed, her arms silver,
night calls to the dying men,
beneath shadows of November's ash,
ghost casualties heave.
A spiky no-man's-land encloses the town.
The moon hunts petrified women
from their blood-spattered doorsteps.
Grey wolves have forced the gates.
Translation by John Greening. Source: http://www.worldwarone.it/search/label/Poets
Micajah Watt (or Watts) was identified by the court as a ringleader in the effort to protect Tuttle. Can we find evidence of his leadership outside of the newspapers? (The article excerpt is from the Western Sentinel, 22 August 1895).
Connections (3) – Micajah (Cager) Watt and the Depot Street School Neighborhood
Micajah Watt or Watts (1847/1849 – 5 May 1905. PID GS65-YPD). Watt was usually called Cager, but he was also shown in newspapers and elsewhere as Kajah, Cajer, Mc Cager, and possibly Kaziah. At almost 50, Watt was one of the oldest men arrested in the aftermath of the riot; born in 1850 or earlier, he was old enough to remember slavery times. An article in 1886 listed him as one of 68 African Americans in Winston-Salem who owned improved real estate (Western Sentinel, 11 March 1886).
The judge at the trial of the rioters considered him a ringleader in the effort to protect Arthur Tuttle. As a ringleader, Watt received a sentence of six months of hard labor on the county road. This was the second most severe sentence handed down. It is possible that his sentence was no longer because of his age; in other cases, as I have noted, the court showed leniency on account of health or age. One of the three men who received longer sentences, Pleas Webster, was a much younger man, somewhere between 27 and 31 years of age, but I have not found evidence for the age of the two other men (Charles Hauser and Frank Robinson) who received a one-year sentence.
As a reputed leader, Watt was also singled out for unofficial punishment—abuse while in prison. Although a cook and restaurant owner, he was made to work at hard labor rather than serve as the prison camp’s cook. He was whipped in the camp with the knowledge of, if not at the order of, the camp superintendent. We know this because of a short article on the front page of the Western Sentinel. It begins with a headline—“County Convict Camp. Micajah Watts Was Not Whipped”—that is not supported by the story: the story does not say that Watt was not whipped, but only that he was not whipped by Superintendent Shutt; in recent political jargon, it is a nondenial denial. Beating Watt was obviously meant to intimidate and bully him; placing the story on the first page and printing a denial that, in effect, acknowledged the beating were both consistent with a strategy of intimidating the community that looked up to Watt. But this is admittedly speculation.
My original goal in studying the protectors as a group was to ascertain whether Watt was, as claimed by the court and newspapers, a leader in the effort to protect Tuttle. Are there clues that justify the claims that he was a leader in the community? I thought I might find clues in identifying the men who lived near him.
Cager Watt lived at 809 Depot St and ran a restaurant at 807 ½ Depot; the “Graded School” for African American children was not far away, at 615 Depot. The Depot Street school was a major institution in the African American community. Established in 1887, its principal from 1890 - 1895 was Simon G. Atkins; in 1895 he moved to take charge of the Slater Institute, forerunner of Winston-Salem State University, where he served for many years. In addition to the men arrested for riot (see below), many prominent citizens lived nearby, including Rufus Clement (801 Depot), an alderman and a member of the Republican Executive Committee; lawyer John S. Fitts (corner of Chestnut and E. 7th), who defended a number of the men arrested for riot; Dr. H. H. Hall, who lived at 127 E. 7th ; and Dr. J. W. Jones, at 710 Chestnut.
Nearby institutions included the African American Hook and Ladder company commanded by Aaron Moore (E. 7th near Depot), who served at least one term as alderman. Just across the street from the graded school, on the corner of 7th, was the AME Zion church. If you walked from the corner heading west on 7th, on the right was the Hotel Bethel, the only hotel for African Americans in Winston-Salem. (Later, an important community center, the hall of the Knights of Pythias, was located here.)
Just before the hotel, you could turn north on Chestnut and soon walk to the home of the Rev. J. C. Alston at 714, then to his church, Lloyd Presbyterian. Dr. J. W. Jones lived at 710, and few years later, the lawyer James S. Lanier would live at 713, near the Presbyterian church where he worshiped; like Fitts, he defended in court a number of those arrested for riot, including Pleas Webster. Webster lived nearby, at 715 E. 9th.
Continuing on 7th, just past the hotel you could turn left on Chestnut and walk south a block to the First Baptist Church, near the corner of 6th Street; the pastor, the Rev. G. W Holland, lived at 309 E. 8th, within easy walking distance and a few doors down from shoemaker Wesley Mitchell, one of Tuttle’s protectors. Holland officiated at the weddings of Samuel Toliver, Walter Price, and Aaron Stone.
From the hotel you could also continue west on 7th Street and soon reach, on the left, St Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church and the home of its minister, the Rev. W. W. Pope. Pope officiated at the marriage of Frank Meadows and Sam Penn. His church is likely where Robert Tuttle rose after the service on the evening of August 11, 1895, to ask the congregation to gather near the jail to protect his brother, Arthur, from lynching.
Given the vibrancy of the neighborhood, it is not surprising that many of its citizens would have acted to protect Tuttle. The information available cannot prove that Watt was a leader. But it is still interesting and possibly significant that between Watt’s business and the Depot St. school lived several men arrested for participation in the riot:
William Cooper (724 ½ Depot St)—sentenced to pay proportion of costs. He may also have been known as Will Copper, and there may have been a white man in town with the same name. I have not found other connections for him.
Calvin Martin (738 Depot)—indicted, but no information available on the disposition of case. Two men named Calvin Martin seemed to have lived in town at the time, close in age, but married to different women. The Martin on Depot St (born 1864 – 1869) married Mary Davis in 1891; the other (born 1872) married Paulina Mitchel in 1895. Both marriages persisted into the next century. Both men were working class. I don’t know which man was involved in the riot, but I suspect it was the older man.
Matt Malone (728 ½ Depot)—discharged without payment of costs. Another Matt Malone—or perhaps the same man who moved while the 1894 directory was being prepared—lived nearby, at 330A 7½ St., the same address as Walter Price, found not guilty. I have not established other connections for Malone. Price was married in September 1894 by the Rev. G. W. Holland to Alice Holmes of Reidsville; I have found no other connections for him.
Henry (W. H.) Neal’s home and grocery store were near Price, at 313 7½ St; he was found not guilty. He was politically active a few years later, in the hotly contested election of 1898. On one occasion, he and John Mack Johnson appeared to take the opposite sides in an acrimonious debate; in a later discussion, his words were construed (or misconstrued) by the local white supremacist newspaper to heighten racial tension. I will discuss politics in more detail later.
James Williams (734 ½ Depot)—sentenced to 4 months of hard labor on the county roads. I have not established other connections for Williams.
Other rioters who lived nearby on other streets include:
Frank Carter (possibly the C. F. Carter who lived at 523 Sycamore St)—pleaded guilty, but because of his high character, was not sentenced to hard labor but fined $50 and his proportion of costs. Carter likely lived near the school, since he was employed there as a janitor—a salaried position that was highly coveted. He was licensed to preach by a local church (I don’t know which) and, like Samuel Toliver and James Dandridge, he belonged to the Knights of Pythias. He also employed tobacco stemmers. I think it quite likely that contemporary sources sometimes identified him by his initials. Most white men and certain African American men, primarily those accorded a degree of respect by the white community, were known in the newspapers by their initials—R. J. Reynolds, for example. African American ministers were regularly identified this way, for example, the Rev. G. W. Holland, minister at the 1st Baptist Church. Usage was not consistent. It is possible but not certain, then, that C. F. Carter was Frank Carter.
Also living on Sycamore, at 608 was John Grogan, found guilty but released without fine, costs, or hard labor.
Wesley Mitchell (315 E. 8th St)—not guilty. I have not been able to establish other connections for him.
Aaron Stone (618 Chestnut St, just south of the Presbyterian minister and his church)—For unknown reasons, his sentence—three months at hard labor on the public roads—was changed by the judge to $50 and cost. I have not been able to establish other connections for him, except the fact the Rev. G. W. Holland officiated at his wedding.
James Dandridge also lived on Chestnut St, at 253. He was sentenced to four months at hard labor on the county roads. As I noted in a previous post, there were later at least three men of this name in town. I do not know which of the men lived on Chestnut, nor which participated in protecting Tuttle. The oldest of the three seems to have been about the same age as Cager Watt; at his death in 1922, he was a member of the Masons, the Knights of Pythias (like Samuel Toliver and Frank Carter), and the Odd Fellows, in whose cemetery he was buried.
As with my previous posts, this is an interim report. There are a few known sources of inform I have yet to explore and perhaps better ways of assembling and understanding the information I have already gathered.
Prosopography in 1895 Winston-Salem: Difficulties
Before going on, it may be useful to note the limitations imposed by the available information:
(1) So far as I know, none of the men in included in my collective portrait left their own words behind. With the exception of one or two newspaper articles, we cannot hear them in their own voices, even at second hand.
(2) Because of a major fire in the fall of 1892—it destroyed two city blocks, including a bank and several businesses, a factory, and a warehouse—the twin cities and their business leaders became serious about fighting fire. An invaluable resource from our period is the Sanborn-Perris insurance maps published in April 1895. But they focus on the areas of the city where there was heavy capital investment in factories and institutions; outlying areas are not included, and minor streets are not named. Many of Arthur Tuttle’s protectors lived in areas not covered by the map.
(3) We know where many of the protectors were living in 1894 because of the directory for the cities of Winston and Salem published that year by E. F. Turner of Yonkers, NY. The directory lists name and occupation, home address, and often business address. It also segregates the citizens by race, a practice we avoid in directories (but not the US census), but it is useful for analyzing the racial composition of neighborhoods and occupations.
This resource, as useful as it is, also has its limitations. It generally does not list women in households that include a male relative. It may have also excluded some areas dominated by African Americans; this omission, if it occurred, would explain why men known to have lived in the area during this period are not listed in any of the directories (I have reviewed those published in 1884 and 1890, as well as in 1894). Further, the testimony in the 1890 trial of the contested election of 1888 (see previous posts) suggests that African Americans often moved in and out of town, in part I suspect because tobacco factories were not open year-round. Many may have been away when citizens were being identified for the directories.
(4) The detailed information from the 1890 US census was destroyed many years ago, leaving a large gap in the available information for our period.
(5) Until 1898, no newspapers in Winston-Salem were published by and for African Americans, and no copies of the short-lived Twin-City Herald published in that year are known to exist. Out-of-town papers—notably the Richmond (VA) Planet and the Star of Zion, published in Charlotte—did occasionally cover news from Winston-Salem, including but not limited to the 1895 riot.
(6) Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com have collected marriage records that, where they exist, are useful in showing age, family relationships, and other connections; for example, as I have already discussed, Yance Simpson and Walter Tuttle attended each other’s weddings in the summer of 1888.
These information gaps mean that we can gain at best only a limited understanding of the men who were arrested as they attempted to protect Arthur Tuttle.
Headline in the Western Sentinel on 29 August 1895. The newspaper was a proponent of secession before the Civil War, and of white supremacy afterwards. It was disappointed in the court's leniency—that is, some were acquitted, and some found guilty but discharged without punishment, or subjected to fines and court costs in lieu of harsher punishment. But many were sentenced to 3-12 months of hard labor.
Overview of Tuttle's Protectors
Before going on, it may be helpful to provide an overview of the men who banded together on the night of Sunday, August 11, 1895, to prevent the feared lynching of Arthur Tuttle. I will list the protectors, along with a few others, noting birth and death information, where I have it; known occupation around the time of the riot; and the sentence issued for participating in the riot. The newspapers are not always clear or consistent about the charges, but at least some were charged with carrying concealed weapons or unlawful assembly.
In many cases, birth and death dates and locations are tentative. Based on available information, in some cases I’ve noted dates for which there is evidence the men were still alive or no longer alive.
NOTE: PID means personal identification number in FamilySearch.org.
Tuttle, Arthur (born 1875 in Forsyth Co, NC; died 1946 in Philadelphia, PA. PID G7X2-5M2). I’ve no evidence that he worked tobacco in Winston-Salem, but it’s likely. On moving to Philadelphia after his release from prison, he worked in a cigar factory. Trial: guilty of 2nd degree murder, sentenced to 25 years, with possibility of release in 17-18 years based on good behavior. But he appears to have served no more than 15 years, possibly no more than 8.
Tuttle, Walter (1867 – 1894; born and died in Forsyth Co NC. PID G7X2-MD8). Worked as a roller in a tobacco factory. Killed by policeman Hasten in July 1894.
Protectors—those discussed in earlier posts
1. Foster, Henry (possibly born 1875 in Davie Co, died 1949). Started as tobacco worker, but by the time of the riot (and later) was working as hostler, driver, and coachman. Trial: acquitted.
2. Johnson, John Mack (John McJohnson) (born unknown, died after 1898). Tobacco roller, once owned a bar and organized an excursion. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to 4 months at hard labor on the county road.
3. Matthews, Ellis (born 1870, died unknown). Occupation not known. Trial: found guilty; discharged upon payment of his proportion of the costs.
4. Neal, W. H. (born 1856 in NC, died probably after 1922). Grocer. Trial: not guilty.
5. Owens, Peter (born 1828?, died 1897 or later). Co-owned restaurant serving snacks. Trial: pleaded guilty; judgment was suspended on payment of cost.
6. Scales, Green (There were three: 1: Born 1838, died 1924, probably in Winston-Salem, since he is buried in Odd Fellows’ cemetery; 2: Born in NC 1845-1850; 3: Born 1867 in NC). A young Green Scales worked tobacco; later, a man or men of that name ran a grocery store and a restaurant. Trial: acquitted.
7. Searcy, Walter (born 1870/1877, possibly died after 1918). Tobacco worker. Trial: acquitted.
8. Simpson, Yancey (born 1861/1862 in NC, died 1930 in Goldsboro, NC). Worked as a tobacco roller. Trial: pleaded guilty; judgment suspended on payment of cost.
9. Toliver, Samuel (last name also spelled Taliaferro and Tolliver) (born 1846/1852, probably in Richmond, VA; died 1903 in Greensboro, NC. PID LDPW-D3V). Owned a restaurant, was agent for the Richmond Planet, represented an insurance company, and at least once organized an excursion. Trial: pleaded guilty. Fined $100 and cost; originally sentenced to four months at hard labor, but the judge softened the sentence.
Protectors—to be discussed in detail in later posts
10. Bailey, George (possibly born 1840 in Virginia; death unknown, probably after 1902). Tobacco worker. Trial: because of weak evidence and his age, judgment was suspended.
11. Barnett (or Bennett, Bonnet, or Bornett), Robert (There were 2: older was born 1862, died unknown; younger was born 1882/1883, died 1960, in Winston-Salem, NC). The younger man later worked in tobacco. Trial: payment of proportion of costs.
12. Brim, Joe (born 1864, in VA, possibly Patrick Co; died in Winston-Salem in 1909). Began as laborer, later owned a restaurant and a butcher/oyster shop at City Market. Trial: Not guilty.
13. Carter, Frank (born 1864/1865, possibly in Forsyth Co; died after 1900). Janitor of Depot St School, licensed preacher, town commissioner, employed tobacco stemmers. Trial: pleaded guilty; because of his high character, fined fifty dollars and his proportion of the costs rather than hard labor.
14. Copper, Will or Will Cooper (unknown). Laborer. Trial: Guilty; pay his proportion of the costs. Will Copper and Will Cooper may or not be the same person.
15. Dandridge, James (Jim) (At least 3 men of this name--1: born 1840/1850 in Henry Co, VA, died 1922 in Winston-Salem, buried in Odd Fellows' cemetery; 2: born 1876 in Ohio, died in 1931 in Winston-Salem, buried in Happy Hill Cemetery; 3: Samuel James, born 1880 in Virginia, son of James Dandridge 1; died 1956). The men with this name worked as laborer, tobacco roller, and driver. Trial: four months at hard labor on county roads.
16. Day, Earnest (born 1875/1878, in Florida; died after 1938). Laborer. Trial: Pleaded guilty; sentenced to 4 months at hard labor on county roads.
17. Foster, Della (born 1876 in NC, died after 1923). Occupation in 1894/95 not known; later worked as barber, laborer, factory worker. Trial: Not guilty.
18. Foy, Lee (born 1870 in NC; died possibly after 1924). Shoemaker. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to 3 months of hard labor on the county roads.
19. Goins, Gus (born 1875/1879 in Winston-Salem; died 1951 in Pittsburgh, PA). Laborer. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to 4 months at hard labor on county roads.
20. Grogan, John (born 1836 in Maryland; died after 1906. PID GWJ6-27M). Tobacco worker. Trial: discharged without payment of costs, possibly because of age.
21. Hart, Morgan (born 1864/1865, possibly in Edgecombe, NC; died 1935 in Columbus, OH; PID GQM7-HSC). Tobacco worker. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to 4 months at hard labor on county roads.
22. Hauser, Charles (unknown). Occupation unknown. Trial: 12 months at hard labor on the county roads.
23. Hopkins, Gus (unknown) . Occupation unknown. Trial: arrested and jailed, but possibly released without trial.
24. Jones, Nathan (Nat) (born 1866 in Virginia; died after 1902/1903; PID GWJN-V92). A man of that name was later a laborer. Trial: four months at hard labor on county roads.
25. King, Frank (born 1881, died 1937 in Winston-Salem and buried in Happy Hill). Plasterer. Trial: acquitted.
26. Knowles or Noals, Ed. (Also possibly spelled Noel or Noell) (unknown). Occupation unknown. Trial: acquitted.
27. Lee, Felix (born 1873 in Caswell Co, NC; died 1962 in Lexington, NC. PID GCMY-RR7). So far, no one of that name have been found in Winston-Salem, but this farmer in nearby Davidson County may have been in town to buy and/or sell. Trial: not guilty.
28. Malone, Mat (born 1868/1871 in Warrenton, NC; died before 1940, probably in Winston-Salem). Tobacco worker. Trial: discharged without payment of costs.
29. Martin, Calvin (born 1869/1872 in NC; died unknown). Tobacco worker. Trial: Indicted, but no further info available.
30. Matthews, Soon (unknown) . Occupation unknown. Trial: acquitted.
31. Meadows, Frank (born 1867/1869 in NC, died after 1903). Tobacco worker. Trial: Not guilty, possibly because he identified a number of the defendants.
32. Mitchell, Wesley (unknown). Shoemaker. Trial: Not guilty.
33. Myers, Tom (born 1874, died 1899 in Winston-Salem). Occupation unknown. Trial: 4 months at hard labor on the county roads.
34. Penn, Sam (There were three. 1: born 1862, died unknown; 2: born 1875/1880, died unknown; 3: unknown). Occupation in 1894/1895 unknown. Sam Penn 2 and 3 later worked in tobacco factories. Trial: 3 months at hard labor on the county roads.
35. Price, Walter (born 1871/1873 in NC, died after 1902). Tobacco worker. Trial: Not guilty.
36. Robinson, Frank (born unknown, died after 1916). Laborer. Trial: 12 months at hard labor on the county roads.
37. Ross, Coy (born in Union Co, SC, 1861/1865; died in Winston-Salem in 1936 and buried in Odd Fellows’ cemetery. PID GWJ7-CJ3). Later a tobacco worker, his occupation in 1895 is not known. Trial: Four months at hard labor on the county roads.
38. Scales, Mat (born unknown, died after 1906). Occupation unknown. Trial: guilty; discharged without payment of costs.
39. Skeen or Skeens or Skeenes, Sam (born 1862, probably in Randolph Co, NC; probably died before 1910). Tobacco worker. Trial: guilty; discharged without payment of costs.
40. Smith, Charles (unknown; possibly a schoolboy born 1878, died 1896 in Winston-Salem, and/or a tobacco worker with unknown dates). Trial: not guilty.
41. Snow, Sam (born 1876 in Germanton, NC; died 1953 in Winston-Salem and buried in Odd Fellows’ cemetery). Tobacco worker. Trial: Not guilty.
42. Steele, Anderson (unknown). Plasterer. Trial: guilty, but sentence suspended due to infirmity.
43. Stone, Aaron (born 1864/1865 in NC, died unknown). Tobacco worker. Trial: His sentence—three months at hard labor on the public roads—was changed by the judge to $50 and cost.
44. Taylor, Oscar (born unknown, possibly died after 1931). Tobacco worker. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to four months at hard labor on the county roads.
45. Tuttle, Will (born 1868 in Forsyth Co, NC; died after 1903. PID G7X2-5FM). Occupation unknown. Trial: arrested; disposition of case unknown.
46. Watt, Micajah (born 1847/1849, possibly in Rockingham Co; died 1905, in Manhattan, NY. PID GS65-YPD). Cook, restaurant owner. Trial: pleaded guilty; sentenced to 6 months at hard labor on the county roads.
47. Webster, Pleas (1: born 1864 – unknown; 2: born 1868 - unknown). Probably tobacco worker. Trial: Pleaded guilty; sentenced to 12 months at hard labor on the county roads.
48. Williams, James (Jim) (unknown). Tobacco worker. Trial: four months at the county road.
Edited 14 Sept 2022
Peter Owens testifies about his role in the contested election for sheriff in 1888 ("Boyer vs Teague," Union Republican, Thu, 23 Jan 1890, 1).
As noted previously, in the year of the 1895 riot, Toliver and Peter Owens had businesses near the corner of Church and 5th Streets. Owens partnered with Dick Walker in the business of serving snacks (1894/1895 directory). Owens lived nearby on 5th Street. Neal lived farther away, on E 7 ½ Street, in the African American neighborhood near the Depot Street school for African American children.
Toliver and especially Owens were acquainted with John Mack Johnson. As noted earlier, Toliver’s sentence to hard time was changed to a stiff fine. Owens pleaded guilty, but judgment was suspended on payment of cost (Union Republican, 22 August 1895). Neal was found not guilty. Like Toliver and Owens, John Mack Johnson pleaded guilty, but he was sentenced to four months hard labor on the county roads (Western Sentinel, 29 Aug 1895). Two years later, he sued unsuccessfully to “recover [$16] stolen [by a guard] while he was on the county roads after the riot” (Western Sentinel, 16 Dec 1897).
The profile I am creating suggests that those who acted to protect Arthur Tuttle had attained some success in business, participated in community and political activities, and had an appetite for taking risks. See below for profiles of Peter Owens and John Mack Johnson. The small amount of information I have on W. H. Neal suggests a similar profile; he was a business owner willing to engage in political activity.
Owens came to Winston-Salem about 1880, or so he testified in an 1890 electoral fraud case in which Sam Toliver and John Mack Johnson also testified (Union Republican, 23 Jan 1890). The newspaper reports of the trial recount the testimony of both “Peter Owen” and “Peter Owens”—probably a typographical error, but possibly two men in town had similar names. We will encounter this problem with other protectors of Arthur Tuttle.
In his testimony at the trial, Owens mentions by the way that he had employed a couple of the contested voters under discussion. Entrepreneurialism is a trait he had in common with Sam Toliver as well as John Mack Johnson. Entrepreneurs are often risk takers; this trait Owens appeared to have in abundance, at least judging from his court appearances. Between 1891 and 1897, Owens (or another man of that name) came before the local courts several times for “retailing”—that is, selling whiskey without a license—and for gambling, twice along with John Mack Johnson (for example, Western Sentinel, 16 May 1895). From what we can tell through the filter of time, Owens seemed to enjoy taking risks.
Owens owned some property, a tenement house and lot on Best Street (Union Republican, 14 Nov 1895).
Beyond the newspapers, the only records I have been able find concern his marriage to Catherine Miller in 1892. According to the marriage records, he was 64 (born around 1828) and his bride was 36, almost thirty years his junior. If this was the same man arrested after the riot, he was the oldest of Tuttle’s protectors, so far as I have been able to determine from current information. His age may explain why, after he pleaded guilty, his judgment was suspended on payment of cost. In one case, a man found guilty after the riot was released without penalty because of his age; this was George Bailey, possibly born in 1840 (Western Sentinel, 29 Aug 1895; 1900 US Census). But many of those found guilty received minimal or even no penalty, so this is not a strong argument. Some of them were considered old—for example, John Grogan, born in 1836—but some were not.
Another trait that Owens shared with Toliver and other Tuttle protectors, including Frank Carter and W.H. (Henry) Neal, was involvement in local politics. In 1892, Owens was on the credentials committee of the county Republican convention, and in 1894 he was named to the state Republican convention (along with lawyer J.S. Fitts and others) by the Wheeler faction of the local Republican party (Western Sentinel, 2 Aug 1894).
In his behavior during the much-contested sheriff’s election of 1888, Owens exhibited his risk-taking nature: the details are murky, but it appears he was arrested, apparently for pushing ahead in the voting line, though he said African Americans were outnumbered by whites two to one. After two hours in jail, he was able to vote. Joining the insurgent Wheeler faction took some degree of nerve—splitting the party risked ensuring a Democratic victory, with all the recriminations that such an outcome would entail—as of course did his participation in the assembly to protect Tuttle.
John Mack Johnson
As already noted, there were several John Johnsons in Winston-Salem in the early 20th century. Ours seems to have appeared in the newspapers as John Mack Johnson, John McJohnson, John Johnson, and perhaps even John Mack. In the 1894-95 directory there were two John Johnson’s in Winston—a tobacco worker who lived at 1012 Oak, and a laborer, at 222 Conrad; and in Salem there was a third, also a laborer, who lived on Salem Hill. I don’t know which, if any of them, was our John Mack Johnson. The man on Oak St lived near one of Arthur Tuttle’s protectors, Oscar Taylor, at 1005 Oak.
From the sparse available evidence, John Mack Johnson appears to have been an intimate of Peter Owens and acquaintance of Sam Toliver. All were entrepreneurial. Johnson ran a bar room at times and occasionally organized excursions by train, at least one, to Danville, in partnership with Toliver (Western Sentinel, 2 Jun 1898). Owen and Toliver, as we have seen, both ran eating houses. Owen and Johnson gambled. In May 1894, Peter Owens and eight others, including John Mack Johnson, were charged with gambling; Owens was acquitted, Johnson found guilty (Union Republican, 31 May 1894). Both were arrested on the same charge a year later; Johnson was found guilty, but the newspapers did not report the disposition of Owens’ case (Western Sentinel, 16 May 1895).
All three were witnesses in Jan 1890 trial in re fraudulent voting the race for sheriff. A newspaper report of Johnson’s testimony in the trial gives us a rare chance to hear one of Tuttle’s protectors in an approximation of his own voice:
"I live on Fifth st., two or three squares from ‘Louse Level;’ I have been keeping barroom; ain’t doing anything now; I have been up before Mayor for gambling twice; submitted both times; been before Mayor four times for fighting…." ( Western Sentinel, 23 Jan 1890).
Fighting also indicates a taste for risk, of course, one shared with Johnson by Walter Tuttle and Yancey Simpson (twice found guilty of assault) and others to be discussed later.
As I’ve already noted, some of the protectors held minor political offices or party roles, which I take as evidence of bravery or risk tolerance, given the hostility of many whites to African Americans in any political office or role, however lowly. In 1891, John Mack Johnson served on a school committee, along with Charles Tuttle (probably the father of Arthur and Walter (Union Republican, 17 Sep 1891). By 1898, he was taking a more prominent role in politics. He spoke at a Republican county convention in favor of “the contesting delegation” seeking more political representation in the party for African Americans. Perhaps he shared the sentiments of J. M. Hawkins, who gave “a hot speech in favor of the contesting delegates. He said the negro had been treated as a fool and tool long enough” (Union Republican, 2 Jun 1898; Western Sentinel, 2 Jun 1898).
Finally, for a time at least, Johnson owned a horse, a fact we know because, in 1893 he threatened to sue the county “for injuries sustained by his horse falling through a bridge on the East Salem Road” (Western Sentinel, 9 Feb 1893). Owning a horse was not common among working class citizens of either race and suggests a degree of prosperity.
W. H. Neal
Neal is included here because he spoke against the “contesting delegation” in the May 1898 convention mentioned above, where John Mack Johnson spoke. Neal accused one of the speakers of "receiving money for his opposition work to the ‘bosses,’” i.e., chairman Reynolds and other leaders (Union Republican, 2 Jun 1898; Western Sentinel, 2 Jun 1898). This payment may have come from Democrats, as I will discuss in a later post).
In an October 1898 political meeting, Neal was quoted by the Winston Salem Journal as making inflammatory comments—"the issue now was the ‘negro man the white woman’” (Winston-Salem Journal, 7 Oct 1898). This comment was quoted by the white supremacist newspaper to inflame whites against the Republican Party. The context of Neal’s comments are not provided, indications of the bad faith characteristic of the Democratic Party.
In Sept 1898, W. H. Neal was a businessman who “conduct[ed] a [grocery] store [on E 7 ½ St], east of the … Graded School” for African Americans on Depot Street (Western Sentinel, 8 Sept 1898; Western Sentinel, 28 Apr 1897). I believe him to be the Henry Neal who was found not guilty for charges arising from the “riot.” He was married and had four children (1900 US Census). Like Owens, he was a property owner; in the 1900 census, he owned his home outright.
In 1895, Samuel Toliver's shop and home were near Masten's Corner, where the men gathered to protect Arthur Tuttle from lynching, and directly across Church Street from the jail, technically located on Main Street. A neighboring shop was owned by Peter Owen, also arrested for unlawful assembly.
Samuel Toliver (FamilySearch personal ID LDPW-D3V) was born in Virginia, probably in or near Richmond, sometime between 1846 and 1852 (the sources differ). In the 1870 census, he may well be the young housekeeper of that name who worked in a hotel in Lexington, Virginia. In 1874, as Samuel Taliaferro, he married his first wife in Richmond. He was probably living there: his mother lived in Richmond at the time of his second marriage in 1885, and as we will see he had important personal and business connections in Richmond.
Toliver came to Winston-Salem in 1882, as he testified in 1890 (Western Sentinel, 23 Jan 1890). Three years later, he married Lizzie Morehead in a ceremony conducted by the locally prominent Baptist minister, G. W. Holland.
Toliver had deep connections in the local African American community and was well respected in the white community. The latter fact probably accounts for his presence in the local newspapers. He was an acquaintance and agent for John Mitchell, Jr., the owner and editor of the influential African American newspaper, the Richmond (VA) Planet, and for that reason, if no other, he was occasionally mentioned by that paper, too.
By 1889/1890, Toliver owned a grocery store and lived at 447 Church Street in Winston. He was still here at the time of the action to protect Arthur Tuttle. Toliver’s store was near the corner of Church and 5th Street, a location known as Masten’s Corner (see the map above). On the night of August 11, 1895, men gathered at this corner before walking to the nearby jail to protect Arthur Tuttle from the rumored lynching. Toliver was not mentioned in the newspapers as a leader, but his original sentence—four months of hard labor on the county roads—suggests that he was seen as one. His sentence was among the harshest handed down: three men received twelve-month sentences, one man identified as a ringleader received a six-month sentence, and four others, in addition to Toliver, received four-month sentences.
The judge reduced Toliver’s sentence to $100 and cost, then a substantial amount of money. The newspapers do not provide a reason for the change, but perhaps we will find it in the judge’s reason for reducing Frank Carter’s sentence: he “had been given an unusually good character and through deference to this [the judge] imposed a fine … instead of consigning him to the county road” (Western Sentinel, 29 Aug 1895).
A number of Tuttle’s protectors lived or ran businesses near Toliver, including Peter Owen, a business colleague and probably friend whose snack-bar had been next door, at 445 Church Street, since at least 1889/1890. Owen and another protector, tobacco worker Walter Searcy, lived around the corner on East 5th. In 1890, John Johnson, a tobacco worker and sometime barkeeper, also lived nearby on 5th.
Separate articles will consider these relationships in more detail. For now, I will continue with my profile of Toliver.
In 1895 and 1897, Toliver was an officer in the Twin City Pythias Lodge, a fact we know from the Richmond Planet (for example, 20 July 1895), not the local papers. (For a brief excursus on social organizations in Winston-Salem, see below.)
By 1897, Toliver was the Winston-Salem agent for the Richmond Planet (Richmond Planet, 21 Aug 1897) and occasionally made trips to Richmond to confer with the paper’s owner / editor, John Mitchell, Jr. He was also the Winston-Salem manager of the Working Men's Aid and Beneficial Association in Richmond, VA (Richmond Planet, 29 May 1897).
In April 1898, Toliver chaired a ward meeting of the local Republican party (Western Sentinel, 14 Apr 1898). At least one later post will address local politics in detail.
In January 1903, a false accusation against Toliver gave a newspaper the occasion to praise him as a “reputable and well known colored business man”: his business was now on Fourth Street (where it had been since at least 1897), and according to the paper “he has a good many friends among the white people of that vicinity” (Winston-Salem Journal, 10 Jan 1903). His health was declining, and he died later that year while seeking medical care in Greensboro (Union Republican, 20 Aug 1903).
Membership information in the many social and fraternal organization would be very helpful in defining social connections and networks, but unfortunately the local papers showed little interest in such features of the African American community. Even the city directory for the period often ignored these organizations.
It would also be helpful to know more about the membership services and benefits provided by the Masons and Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Knights of Honor, and other groups, to know more about the cornet and string bands, and to know if there were temperance and literary societies in the community. In the African American cemetery established by the Odd Fellows are buried four men who may have been among Tuttle’s protectors—James Dandridge, Coy Ross, Green Scales, and Sam Snow. Probably many of Tuttle’s protectors had such connections, but they are at present beyond reach.
Here's the beginning of an inventory and chronology of such groups and related organizations:
1860s - 1880s