Archive for September, 2019

Detective Gwendolyn (Malone) Downs

Detective Gwendolyn (Malone) Downs (1951-1977) joined the Louisville Police Department in 1974 at the age of 23. She was a detective in the sex-offenses unit. On May 16, 1977, Gwen and her partner, Detective Edward Wegenast, were on patrol when they were dispatched to the White Castle at 7th and Broadway. Upon arrival, they encountered Gwen’s estranged husband, Claude Downs, who was also a Louisville police officer. Claude was off duty when he shot Gwen and then himself. Both died. Gwen served as the corresponding secretary of the Louisville Black Police Officers Organization and had been nominated to serve as the financial secretary of the National Black Police Association. She was also a member of the Black Essence Social Club. She had two daughters. Gwen was the 60th Louisville police officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1907. She was the first female Louisville police officer killed in the line of duty, and she was Louisville’s fourth African American police officer killed in the line of duty. Image of Gwen is from

Loraine (Sneed) Parsons

Loraine (Sneed) Parsons (1896-1971) was a native of Woodford County, KY. She was married at least three times with last names of Duvall, Theobold, and Parsons. At the time of her death, Parsons was a widow with four daughters and one son. She was the owner and operator of the Adair Grocery Store (aka Adair Restaurant aka Moonlight Café) located in the Limerick Neighborhood at 1148 S. 7th Street. Parsons also lived at that address. Unfortunately the building has been demolished. According to several newspaper articles, Parsons was arrested for violating liquor license laws. In one particular incident in 1947, police broke up a “beer-bottle barrage” and “free-for-all” which led to the arrest of nine men and three women participants. Parsons establishment was open for at least 30 years during which time she consistently owned and operated it. This was a feat for a female entrepreneur at this time.

Flora (Kaltenbacher) Bremer

Flora (Kaltenbacher) Bremer (1860-1898) was the daughter of Ludwig and Pauline (Erdtel) Kaltenbacher, who were German immigrants. Flora was born in Evansville, IN in 1860. On January 6, 1885, at the age of 25, Flora married Henry Bremer. Together the couple had six children: three boys and three girls. There is very little information on Flora. However, Flora’s daughter Sophia married Dominic Ehrler in 1913. Dominic was the son of dairy farmer Joseph Ehrler. In 1924, Dominic and Sophia had secured 40 acres of land at 3231 Poplar Level Road and started what we know today as the Ehrler’s Dairy Farm. Three of their sons started processing the milk and selling it door to door. The business evolved into a full-scale processing plant that served all of Jefferson County, several surrounding counties, Southern Indiana, and Lexington. They also operated eleven ice cream stores. Image of Flora from Find A Grave user Stephanie Brown Kaltenbacher.


Mary Jane (Constable) Gibson

Mary Jane (Constable) Gibson (circa 1828-1880) was born to free blacks in Baltimore, MD where she married William H. Gibson in 1850. They then moved to Louisville after Gibson had established a school for African Americans in the basement of a Methodist Church at 4th and Green Streets. Mary Jane taught sewing and dressmaking at the school. Her husband was a well-known educator and community organizer. In 1877, he helped establish the Colored Orphan’s Home on 18th and Dumesnil Streets. Mary Jane was among the women who worked to support the Home. She and William had six children of which three also became educators: William H., Jr., Lucretia, and Mary Jane. Lucretia Gibson (circa 1870-1956) taught at Booker T. Washington School (principal Albert Meyzeek) and Western Colored School. She was one of the organizers of the Louisville Choral Society with the Minnis sisters and was organist of the Quinn Chapel AME Church Sunday School. Lucretia was also a member of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s Clubs with the Nugent sisters.

Eliza (Fitzsimmons) Baker

On this St. Patrick’s Day we will share Eliza (Fitzsimmons) Baker (circa 1828-1873) who was born in Ireland. It is unclear when she immigrated as there were several Eliza Fitzsimmons in the immigration records. At some point she married Eli Baker and became a housewife. Together they had five children: two sons and three daughters. Eliza died of cholera at the age of 45. Louisville saw 7 separate cholera epidemics due to unsanitary conditions affecting the water supply. Eliza died during the 4th epidemic as did 50,000 Americans across the country. Very few were safe from the cholera epidemics including the Rowan Family at Federal Hill, also known as My Old Kentucky Home. In July 1833, 26 slaves and 4 members of the Rowan Family, containing John who had just been appointed President Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State, died of cholera. Image of patent from

Bernadine (Adams) Samuels

Bernadine (Adams) Samuels (1940-1973) was born to Mattie Tubbs and Rev. Tommie Adams on March 8, 1940. She married Charles Edward Samuels and together they had two daughters. Bernadine was a licensed practical nurse and a music teacher. She was a member of the Antioch Baptist Church located at 1701 Dumesnil Street where she used her musical talents to play piano. Bernadine and her family made their home at 3514 Algonquin Parkway. Algonquin is one of the six original Louisville Parkways designed by prominent landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted. The development of the parkway system was carried out from the 1890s through the 1930s. Most of the residential development occurred in the area after the 1940s. Bernadine died at St. Joseph’s Infirmary at the age of 32. Her parents and father-in-law, Johnnie Samuels, are also buried at Eastern. Image of Bernadine from Ancestry user KinikiaW.

Dorothea “Dora” (Hahn) Roederer

Dorothea “Dora” (Hahn) Roederer (1837-1903) was born in France. She immigrated to the U.S. around 1852. In 1856, she married Jacob Roederer, a German immigrant who moved to the U.S. around 1855. They lived on land that Jacob’s brother Christian owned and farmed. Their combined farm was about 80 acres, bounded roughly by what is now Taylorsville Road, the Watterson Expressway, and Farmington. Dora had 12 children, 11 of whom lived to adulthood. Her younger children were educated at the Maple Grove School, founded in 1874. That building is now Air Devils Inn on Taylorsville Road. Dora and Jacob have approximately 1,100 descendants, many of whom still live in Louisville. Thanks to Kaye Ackermann for her help with this bio!! Image of Dora and Jacob Roederer is from Find A Grave user Wayne & Diane (Eversole) King.

Mary Jane Fischer, RN

Mary Jane Fischer, R.N. (1877-1974) was born in Kentucky on October 15, 1877 to Henry Phillip Fischer and Louise Amelia Becker. She never married, but she was educated at the Louisville School of Nursing and University of Louisville. At the young age of 20, Mary volunteered her services as a nurse during the Spanish American War (1898). The Spanish American War was the first war involving the US in which nurses were assigned as a special military unit. At the age of 36, Mary offered her services as a nurse during World War I (1914-1918). After the wars, Mary continued to work as a nurse in the Cincinnati area. She was cited by the US Public Health Services for her work during the national influenza epidemic (1918-1919). Mary died in a nursing home in Cincinnati, OH at the age of 97. Before her death, she was the oldest living graduate of the Louisville School of Nursing. 

Willie (Creth) Saunders

Willie (Creth) Saunders (1890-1986) was born in Madison County, KY to John Creth and Emma Million. Her father worked as a farmer in Fayette County, KY. By 1910, she married Bishop Wellington S. Saunders, Sr. and they lived in Lexington where Saunders worked as a laborer until circa 1920 when he became a pastor. Together they had three daughters and three sons. By 1930, they were living in the Russell Neighborhood where Saunders was a pastor for the Baptized Pentecostal Church in that neighborhood. Willie was a member of a local chapter of the Interdenominational Ministers Wives Alliance. The Alliance was founded in 1914 by Dr. Elizabeth Coles Bouey of Richmond, VA. She wanted all ministers’ wives and widows to unite for more effective service. Image of Willie from Find A Grave user Shawn Bumpase.

Caroline (Esch) Hustede

Caroline (Esch) Hustede (circa 1846-1880) was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States. On April 22, 1875, Caroline married William (or Wilhelm) Hustede in Jefferson County. He was also a German immigrant. According to the 1880 Census, William was a dairyman and Caroline was keeping house. The couple lived at 631 Preston and had two children: Lizzie, age four, and Albert, age one. In November 1880, William died of tuberculosis and Lizzie died of typhoid. By December 1880, Caroline had also succumbed to tuberculosis. William and Caroline are buried together at Eastern Cemetery. Their monument is steeped with Christian symbolism. It includes a flaming heart, representative of the Sacred Heart, which is a Roman Catholic devotion. The monument also includes an anchor, which is often translated as hope and strength. Hebrews 6:19, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” 

Hannah Maria (Webster) Winstead

Hannah Maria (Webster) Winstead (1880-1951) was born in Kentucky to Rev. Henry Battle Webster and Lee Anna Barbour. In 1905, she married Rev. Garrell Hugh “G.H.” Winstead of Nebo, KY. Hannah was a housewife and took care of their five children: Maggie, Lee Anna, Elizabeth, Samuel, and Henrietta. Lee Anna and Elizabeth worked as teachers in Louisville. The couple was married for 46 years, until Hannah’s death at the age of 71. G.H. and Hannah made their home at 1649 Hale Avenue in the California Neighborhood. Rev. Winstead was ordained at Zion Baptist Church in 1915 and also worked for the United States Postal Service as a postal clerk. Zion Baptist Church was traditionally African American and in the 1960s Rev. A.D. King, brother of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor. Image of Hannah (far right) with Artlee and Olver Winstead is from Keith Winstead. 

Carrie (Morris) Evans

Carrie (Morris) Evans (circa 1842-1905) was born in Iowa. She worked as a tailoress with her mother Rachel Morris. By 1880, she had married Frank Evans, a carpenter, Civil War veteran, and employee of the Sheriff’s Office. They lived in the Portland Neighborhood. Frank died of a “soft brain” in 1895 while living in the Lakeland Asylum (Central State Hospital). In 1905, Carrie’s body was discovered under a railroad trestle at 9th Street with her pocketbook, which contained a deed to a lot in Eastern Cemetery, rent receipts, and Frank’s honorable discharge papers. Police believed she was intoxicated and fell to her death. According to the newspaper article, she had been a member of the Portland Methodist Church and engaged in the neighborhood before becoming an alcoholic after her husband’s death. During this time, she moved around to various charitable homes like the Holcombe Mission and the Home for the Aged and Infirm. Image is from “Courier-Journal” article from April 24, 1905.

Elizabetha (Schindler) Seng

Elizabetha (Schindler) Seng (1810-1871) was born in in the Kingdom of Bavaria (now a German state) on June 10, 1810. On July 26, 1837, Elizabetha arrived in New York City, aboard the ship Merchant. Between 1820 and 1870, over seven and a half million Germans immigrated to America, in order to escape economic poverty and political unrest. On March 31, 1839, Elizabetha married Kilian Seng, a gardener, who had immigrated to America from Germany. They married in Louisville at St. Paul’s Evangelical Church (213 E. Broadway) where Kilian was a founding member. The church has a stained glass window memorial to Kilian who died in 1867. Elizabetha was a homemaker, and the couple had six children: five sons and one daughter. Near the time of Elizabetha’s death, the family was living in the Shardine Precinct, which we know today as Louisville’s South End. Image of Elizabetha from Find A Grave user Wayne & Diane (Eversole) King.

India Hogue aka Lillie Henderson

India Hogue aka Lillie Henderson (circa 1864-1884) supposedly left home from Lebanon, IN at 17 years of age and moved to Louisville to become a prostitute. Known as Lillie Henderson, she worked for three separate Madams: Hattie Lawrence (438 S. 10th St. formerly 630 S. 10th St.), Mertie Edwards (722 W. Green St. formerly 730 W. Green St.), and Gertie Collins (714 W. Green St. formerly 720 W. Green St.). India died of meningitis at the age of 20. No other information on India, or Lillie, could be found. Louisville had three main districts for prostitution: Lafayette-Marshall Red Light District (located Preston through Wenzel St. and Grayson and Walnut St.), The Chute (located around intersection of Floyd and Jefferson St.), and Green-Grayson Red Light District (located 6th through 11th St. and Green and Grayson St.). Streetwalkers were concentrated at Green through Market St. and 2nd through 8th St. An 1895 guide of Louisville for the encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic lists numerous brothels and other sites for visiting. Hattie Lawrence’s establishment was featured.

Susie (Zimmerman or Cain) Lewis

Susie (Zimmerman or Cain) Lewis (1924-1981) was born in Alabama on January 15, 1924. Susie married George Cotton on December 30, 1938 and the couple had two daughters: Susie and Jimmie. George and Susie divorced in 1953. Susie worked various jobs throughout her life as a kitchen worker, a laundress, and a maid at the Kentucky Hotel. There is not a lot of information on Susie’s early life. George and Susie’s marriage certificate lists her parents as Tobe Zimmerman and Malinda Cook. However, Susie’s obituary identifies her maiden name as Cain, which would make her parents Rufus Cain and Malinda Cook. Also, in the obituary of Rufus Cain’s wife Annie, Susie is noted as Annie’s step-daughter. Susie is not mentioned at all in Rufus’s obituary. This is an example of how public records can be inaccurate and terribly confusing. We do know Susie’s final resting place at Eastern Cemetery is alongside her second husband Guster Lewis. It is not clear when Guster and Susie started their lives together, but they called Shasta Trail in Newburg home until their deaths in 1976 and 1981 respectively. Image of Susie from Find A Grave user Denita (Cotton) Sims.