AfriGeneas Writers Forum
"Where No Daddy Is Known"
My father, Wendell ALLEN, was born on 6 Dec 1914, in Guilford co NC to Beatrice ALLEN, dau of James and Lydia (nee MASON) ALLEN. James ALLEN (aka Little Jim) was born free in July 1859, to Mollie CONRAD. Grandma Bea was born 9 Apr 1894, in Guilford co where she died in 1962. (Mollie CONRAD had 2 children by a James ALLEN, Sr. (aka Big Jim) in Rockingham co just across the county line to the north, where she had been living with her sister; then about 1867, she returned to Guilford co where she married a James TATUM (a Black former slave), and had six more children.
Daddy would never discuss his father. You just didn't ask. I had always known that his parents were not married, and it seemed that he was embarrassed about being illegitimate. (I could never figure out why, since he was not the only illegitimate person in the family.) It was not unusual to me that he looked white, because my grandmother looked white, with red hair and green eyes, and I knew that her grandfather (Big Jim) was white. I knew lots of people that had family members who looked white, and growing up, I thought everyone had family with different colors and hair textures - I never really considered the ramifications. When I became interested in doing family history, and asked Daddy about his father, his response was twofold: (1) "It's all water over the bridge." (2) "I'm here, so what difference does it make?" Naturally, that sent me to my mother, and eventually to my grandmother's baby sister for verification (since my grandmother was by then deceased).
My mother told me that Daddy's father was an English soldier named John LITTLETON. There was, and is, a private white military school for boys in a nearby township (Oak Ridge Military Academy, est. in the 1850s by Quakers, co-ed for some years now). At the time, my grandmother was working there as a maid. This soldier supposedly had come from England to teach a class of some sort at the school. The rest of the family were still living on a farm where they were tenant farmers, and she had been sent to town to find a job to help with the family bills. She would come home on the weekends she was off to bring her pay. Little Jim felt that she was spending part of the money and not bringing home all her pay, and was physically abusive towards her about this.
She saw that some of the girls were dating cadets (and teachers?) at the school and had more money than she had, so she began dating this John LITTLETON. He gave her money, which she gave to the family (telling them she had gotten a raise), and this kept Little Jim off her back. Later my great-aunt told me that he was a cadet at the school, not a teacher, but claimed that she didn't know his name. She also told me that Daddy was more upset about being a white man's child than he was about being illegitimate. Other children in the area when he was growing up would tease him when they got angry, saying "Your mama had a baby by a white man". I don't know where my mother got her information - from Daddy? from my grandmother? from my great aunt?
(I continue to wrestle with Daddy having a problem about the man being white... I can only assume that perhaps it was the money factor that upset him about his parents' relationship. Big Jim was white, and some members of his family continued off-and-on to make contact with our family through the years, even as late as my grandmother's wake in 1962 !!! "Relatives from up in the hills - Somebody must have got word to them", Daddy told me, when two of them showed up at the wake, and I asked him who those white people were. There were only two people who could have gotten word to them - either him or my great-aunt. Plus my grandmother was a bootlegger (with NC being a dry state), and our family lore included tales of the revenuers chasing Big Jim - Grandma Bea always had a few jars of "corn likker" around, and I figured she got it from them. [Yas'sum - hill-folk, moonshine makers - that's part of my background - LOL - It is what it is.]
When Daddy was in his late teens/early manhood, there was another set of white ALLENs in or near Guilford co with several sons, one of whom Daddy could pass as a twin of - and they often did this. They were drinking, hunting and gambling buddies, and if either of them went alone to one of the bootlegger's places, he'd buy a drink and put it on the other one's bill. They thought it was hilarious that they never got caught at this. Daddy said it was his understanding that these were the "legitimate" descendants of Big Jim, who had married a woman in Rockingham co after Mollie went back to Guilford co. Daddy said they always "treated him as kin"; but then they moved away before I was born in 1938.) They have been very difficult to find on the censuses, but this doesn't surprise me since they always tried to stay under the radar from what I've heard.)
I left the question alone for several years, then tried asking Daddy again. I tried to convince him that I didn't plan to visit the man's family (in case that was worrying him), and that I just needed the information for my records, would never use it, and would keep it secret. He just started laughing then, and began to play mind games with me, trying to look like he couldn't remember... "Well, I asked my mother once; lemme see, what did she say??? Was it Harry, or was it John?????
I tried to get information from England about a John Littleton, probably an officer (they wouldn't send a non-com to teach, would they?), but every place and thing I tried needed his service number - no such luck. The history of the school shows that about that time the school was beginning an ROTC type of program, so that could be a possible reason why he would have come. Then WW1 started that same year, so I figured he'd have had to go back to England to his unit - I tried Ellis Island records for an entry record not too much earlier than 1914. There was only 1 record for a John Littleton (age 30, arrived 1906, had lived in Tullow co Clare) but when you tried to pull up the original manifest, an incorrect one came up. There were numerous John Middleton's, but none was a soldier or listed NC as a final destination. There were no John Woodletons, but a variety of possible spellings for the surname. No luck there.
I wrote to the school, not saying who I really was, or why I wanted the information - just told them I was doing some gene research, and requested class lists for 1914 (she'd have gotten pregnant abt March to have him in Dec). My letter was relatively vague, so I really didn't expect to hear from them, but to my surprise, they sent copies of 1913, 1914 and 1915 class lists from the yearbooks !! The students seem to have been from fairly well-off families, and came from all over - mainly the south, but not just from NC. Needless-to-say, there was no Harry or John Middleton, Littleton or Woodleton listed as a student. (No staff was mentioned in what they sent.)
I tried using the 1910 and 1920 censuses to see if there were any families of either of these surnames in Oak Ridge - no such luck - but I hadn't really expected this to pan out. I just gave up, accepted it as a brick wall, and went on to other more productive lines.
Got some ideas???
Messages In This Thread