Author Archive

Mattie (Holsclaw) Kreis

Mattie (Holsclaw) Kreis (circa 1880-1904) lived a very short life. She was born to Warren Holsclaw and Annie Dotson sometime around 1880-1881 in Taylorsville, KY. On November 23, 1903, Mattie married William Kreis in Jefferson County. The couple lived at 2018 W. Market Street. William was an examiner for Kaufman-Straus & Co. a local department store that operated in Louisville from 1879-1969. Just a little over a year after the couple was married, Mattie died of consumption/tuberculosis on December 4, 1904, at the age of twenty-four. At the time of Mattie’s death, the “Courier-Journal” described her as a rather pretty young woman. Both Mattie’s mother and William talked openly with the “Courier-Journal” about Mattie’s fear of being buried. William said, “she knew she was going to die. The idea of cremation was revolting to me but, she said that ever since she was a child, she had had a great horror of being buried in the ground. She often thought about medical students and grave robbers. And it seemed that she had long ago made up her mind that when she died she would request her body be burnt. I told her if it was her wish I would do as she said. It seemed to quiet her. She said if I didn’t, she didn’t know what she would do. The fear of being put in the ground seem to fill her mind, and the horror of her body being dissected always accompanied the fear.” William honored Mattie’s wishes of cremation. At the time of her death, the closest crematory was in Cincinnati. William accompanied her body to Cincinnati and returned to Louisville with her ashes. Mattie’s ashes are buried in the Kreis family plot at Eastern Cemetery along with William’s six brothers and his mother and father. The exact location of Mattie’s final resting place within the family plot is unknown. Image from “Courier-Journal” December 6, 1904.

Elizabeth (Pegee) Gibson

Elizabeth (Pegee) Gibson (circa 1833-1896) was an African American woman in a time when women’s history and African American history was not well recorded. We determined she was born circa 1833, but we do not know her exact birth date. We also do not know her mother’s name. According to records, Elizabeth often went by “Eliza” or “Lizza.” Her father was Alexander “Alex” Pegee, a day laborer from Virginia. On December 1, 1859, Elizabeth married Jacob Gibson, who was also known as “Jack” and “Jake.” The couple married in Louisville prior to the Civil War, and their marriage certificate notes that both Elizabeth and Jacob were free. Jacob worked as a riverman and laborer while Elizabeth kept house. Throughout their lives, the Census tells us the couple was living in Louisville’s First Ward and later, more specifically on Hancock Street. Together they had three daughters: Emma, Annie and Nelly. Elizabeth died from cancer on August 25, 1896, at the age of 63. Jacob died June 18, 1899 from hemophilia. Elizabeth and Jacob, along with Elizabeth’s father Alex, are buried at Eastern Cemetery in unmarked graves. Elizabeth is buried in the Ladies Union Band section of Eastern Cemetery, which contains a single marker for the entire section. The Ladies Union Band were a benevolent group of women who vowed to take care of each other. Image of Elizabeth from Find A Grave user Larry Stivers.

Rev. Garrell H. Winstead

Rev. Garrell H. Winstead (1875-1953) was born in Nebo, KY to Samuel and Betty (Elliott) Winstead. In 1905, he married Hannah Webster, and together they had five children: Maggie, Lee Anna, Elizabeth, Samuel, and Henrietta. A graduate of Simmons College of Kentucky, Winstead taught in Kentucky and Illinois schools until 1903. He began working for the post office and retired from there in 1940. Winstead was ordained in the Zion Baptist Church in 1915. He served as a pastor at Beargrass Baptist Church (1918-1929) and at Zion Baptist Church (1937-1945). His wife Hannah, who we featured in a biography last year, preceded him in death in 1951. Together they lived at 1649 Hale Avenue in the California Neighborhood. Photos are from Find A Grave member Keith Winstead and Ancestry member MadMannixx.

Horace Morris

Horace Morris (1832-1897) was born a free man to Shelton Morris and Evelina Spradling Morris in Louisville. His father came to Louisville in 1828 after being emancipated in Virginia. He was a barber, bathhouse owner, and real estate speculator with his brother-in-law Washington Spradling. In 1841, Horace’s mother died and his father was accused of voting in the 1840 presidential election, which was illegal at the time. So, the family moved to Ohio. Horace completed his education in Ohio and actively engaged in the Underground Railroad. He married Wilhelmina “Willeann” Chancellor, who was ten years his junior. The couple made their way to Louisville in the late 1850s, where they were longtime residents of Magazine Street. The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia notes that Horace was the father of five children, however, upon research of Ancestry.com, only four children can be accounted for in his lineage. After the Civil War, Horace became prominent in local and state Republic Party politics. He was regarded as a skilled speaker who advocated for civil rights. Horace was considered a leader to both black and white Louisvillians. In December 1868, Horace was appointed cashier of the Louisville Branch of Freedman’s Savings and Trust. In 1881 there was a nationwide failure of the bank. He was the only African American summoned to Washington to help straighten out the messy accounts. Horace led campaigns for suffrage and education for African Americans, which led to the creation of public elementary schools and a high school for African Americans. He also helped found the Colored Orphans Home in 1878. Although it was short lived, he was a pioneering black newspaper publisher with “Kentuckian” in the early 1870s and the “Champion” in the early 1890s. He was the first African American to serve as steward at the Marine Hospital. He was a prominent Mason and an active member of Quinn Chapel A.M.E Church. Images of burial records are from University of Louisville.

Martha (Spradling) Lewis

Martha (Spradling) Lewis (circa 1827-1868) was the daughter of successful barber and businessman, Washington Spradling and Lucy Ann Jackson. It is possible that Martha was the twin sister of William Spradling. Their birth dates and ages changed several times over the years, so it’s difficult to be sure. Martha and William were the oldest of five total siblings and one half brother. On September 20, 1842, Martha married James Lewis in Louisville, KY. James worked as a barber just like Martha’s father. Martha worked as a “washerwoman” or laundress. Together the couple had four children: Washington, Cassius, George, and Ida. By the age of 17, their son Washington was a “riverman.” The family frequently lived with Maria Slaughter, James’s mother, as well as other boarders. On November 30, 1868, Martha died of a heart valve disorder at the age of 43. She is buried in the Spradling family plot at Eastern Cemetery. After her death, her children continued to live with Martha’s mother-in-law, Maria.

William Watson

William Watson (1857-1905) was born in Louisville to Washington and Ophelia Watson. In the 1880s, white customers increasingly disliked white undertakers serving African Americans. Therefore, African Americans were either denied service or charged double. This opened the door for black undertakers. Watson created his undertaking business in 1887, the Watson Undertaking Co., and earned a great deal of money as one of three leading undertaking operations for African Americans in Louisville. The other two were owned by the Fox Brothers and J.H. Taylor. Watson reinvested his profits into quality equipment which outdistanced him from his African American business competitors. In 1894, Watson married Levina, a mortician, who was the top student in the 1892 graduating class of the Clark School for Embalming, one of three African Americans in the class and the only woman. Levina worked for Watson Undertaking Co. He also employed Alonzo McAfee, who was the first African American to obtain an embalmer’s license in Kentucky. Watson was one of Louisville’s wealthiest African Americans when he died in 1905. By 1908, there were 10 African American undertakers in Louisville.

Robert L. Anthony

Robert L. Anthony (1866-1941) was born to Mark and Melissa (Young) Anthony on November 28, 1866 in Fairfield, OH. His father was a domestic servant and a barber. Robert had two brothers and two sisters. Hewas a graduate of Iowa State Normal School, Wilberforce University, Cornell University, and Eastman College. After graduation, he was a principal at schools in Olmsted, IL; Cairo, IL; and Indianapolis, IN. He also taught in the business department of Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville. On June 28, 1893, Robert married Carrie B. Gaddie of Louisville, daughter of Rev. Daniel Abraham Gaddie (who we featured last year) and Julia (Pearce) Gaddie. By 1900, the couple was living in Carmi, IL with three children: Frank, Julia, and Esther. Both Robert and Carrie were employed as teachers.
On March 27, 1906, Robert and Carrie lost their twelve-year-old son, Frank, to septicemia. The family was living in Vincennes, IN at the time where Robert was a teacher at the Colored High School. By 1910, the family had moved to Knox, IN, and the Federal Census shows they had three additional children: Naomi, Robert, and Helen. On August 23, 1913, Robert and Carrie lost their fourteen-year-old daughter, Esther, to tuberculosis in Vincennes where Robert was president of McKinley Memorial University. By 1920, the family had made their way to Louisville, KY. They were living at 939 Clay Street and had added daughter Minnie to the family. Robert was employed as a professor.
According to the 1930 Federal Census, Robert was living in Crawfordsville, IN where he was the principal of a “Colored School” while Carrie continued to take care of the family in Louisville. Robert and Carrie were together in the Clay Street home by the time of the 1940 Federal Census. On May 9, 1941, Robert died of diabetes. Carrie died on December 18, 1946 of sclerosis. Photos are from Ancestry user leelandj.

William H. Steward

William H. Steward (1847-1935) was born in Brandenburg, KY to W.D. and Eliza Steward. They moved to Louisville when he was a child and he studied in private schools. After graduation, Steward was a teacher in Louisville and Frankfort. In 1876, he became a letter carrier for the Louisville post office. Steward was the first African American letter carrier in Kentucky. He was a member of the Fifth Street Baptist Church where he served as a Sunday school teacher. On April 25, 1878 Steward married Mamie Lee (featured at end of the month), and together they had four children: Lucy, Jeannette, William Jr., and Carolyn. While still working as a letter carrier, in 1879 Steward established the oldest weekly African American newspaper in Louisville known as the “American Baptist.” For over 50 years, the newspaper promoted racial equality. Steward earned the title “Dean of Colored Editors.” Steward was quite involved in politics and civil rights and spoke against segregation. As the judge of registration and election for the 15th Precinct of the 9th Ward in Louisville, Steward encouraged African Americans to participate in politics. He was the first African American in Kentucky to hold such a position.
Steward was chair of the Board of Trustees of Colored Baptists (Simmons College of Kentucky); vice president of the National Afro-American Council; president of the National Afro-American Press Assoc.; secretary of the General Assoc. of Colored Baptists of Kentucky; and secretary of the National Baptists Convention. Steward was a captain of a fundraising campaign for the Louisville Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a legal case against segregation. Other captains included Dr. John A.C. Lattimore, Albert Meyzeek, his wife Mamie Steward, Nola King, Rev. John H. Frank, and Rev. Henry Wise Jones. Steward died January 3, 1935. Drawing is from “Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising” and photo is from the “Kentucky African American Encyclopedia.”

Allen Wakefield and Mary (Griffin) Hodges

Allen Wakefield Hodges (1884-1953) was born in Bloomfield, KY. On October 22, 1906, he married Mary Griffin (1885-1961). Mary was the daughter of Dudley Griffin, Sr. and Belle Wilson. Allen and Mary had five children: Alene, Mary, Juanita, Alonzo, and Clifford. Allen worked as a porter in a dry goods store and the U.S. Customs House. A porter was a person employed to carry luggage and other loads. According to the 1910 Federal Census, Allen and Mary were living at 1026 W. Chestnut Street with seven other households. By 1920, they were renting a house at 539 S. 21st Street where Mary’s sister Helen and brother Dudley were also living with them. By 1930, the owned a shotgun style house in the Russell Neighborhood located at 2110 W. Madison Street. The family remained in this house well into the 1960s. Allen was working as an elevator operator at the U.S. Customs House. By 1940, their daughter Mary and granddaughter Mona were also living with them. Mary married attorney Alfred Carroll who we featured in a bio last year. Allen died from heart disease on June 4, 1953. His wife Mary also died from heart disease on November 13, 1961. Photos of Allen and Mary are from Find A Grave user Anonymous.

William Spradling

William Spradling (circa 1827-1868) was the son of successful barber and businessman, Washington Spradling and Lucy Ann Jackson. It is possible that William was the twin brother of Martha Spradling. Their birth dates and ages changed several times over the years, so it’s difficult to be sure. Martha and William were the oldest of five total siblings and one half brother. On January 4, 1849, William married Melvina Riley in Louisville, KY. Together the couple had five children: Annie, McCawly, Mary, Julia, and William Jr. In the mid 1850s, William Spradling sought clients by placing ads in local newspapers. He described himself as a barber and hairdresser located at No. 88, Third Street. According to the 1880 Federal Census, their five children all had occupations. Annie was a nurse; McCawly was a barber; Mary was a teacher; Julia was a seamstress; and William Jr. was a barber. William Spradling died on August 5, 1892 from heart issues. He was about 67 years old. He is buried at Eastern Cemetery in the Spradling family plot. After William’s death, Melvina, Annie, Julia, and William lived with Mary and her husband George Pierce.

Nola (Coones) King

Nola (Coones) King (circa 1872-1922) was born to Nelson and Winnie (Duncan) Coones. Nola was the youngest of six children. On October 4, 1890, she married William Nolan King, and together the couple had four children: Eva, Eugene, Ruth, and William, Jr. By 1900, Nola and her family were renting a house on W. Walnut Street. Her husband W. Nolan was working as a mail carrier. By 1910, the family was living in a house they owned in the Russell Neighborhood located at 2115 Magazine Street. While Nola King was never recorded as having a job, she was active in various groups. Nola was a member of the State Society of Christian Women and the National Council of Good Samaritans. In 1915, Nola was a captain of a fundraising campaign for the Louisville Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to make a legal case against segregation. Other captains included Dr. John A.C. Lattimore , Albert Meyzeek , William H. and Mamie Steward , Rev. John H. Frank, and Rev. Henry Wise Jones. She was also on the executive committee of the Louisville Chapter of the NAACP. According to the “Louisville Leader,” Nola was also president of the Colored Women of Louisville, known as the National Woman’s Industrial Association, as well as a chairman of the Lincoln Independent Party, which was a political party created in Louisville in 1921 by African Americans. In 1921, the party nominated Nola to the Park Commission. She was not elected. Nolan and W. Nolan were members of the Third Christian Church and considered driving forces behind many of its programs for the community. W. Nolan died on March 7, 1919. Nola died on November 14, 1922. She and her husband are buried in unmarked graves in Eastern Cemetery. On September 24, 1921, the “Louisville Leader” said this about Mrs. W. Nolan King, “of the best known women in Louisville and Kentucky, a leader among women in politics and all that means for the good of the race and community.” Photo is from “Louisville Leader” November 18, 1922.

John O. Blanton, Jr.

John O. Blanton, Jr. (1885-1962) was born in Versailles, KY to John O. and Eliza Blanton. He was one of seven children. By 1910, Blanton was living at what is now known as Simmons College and working as a teacher there. On November 24, 1915, Blanton married Carolyn Steward, daughter of William H. and Mamie (Lee) Steward (who are both featured this month), and together they had two children: John William, and Mamie. Blanton and his family lived with William H. and Mamie Steward in their house at 621 S. 8th Street, even remaining there after the Stewards passed away. Blanton taught at Central High School for a number of years before becoming president of American Mutual Savings Bank. Blanton was a member of the Fifth Street Baptist Church as well as Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Additionally, Blanton served on the Louisville Urban League board for over 25 years. According to an April 27, 1959 “Courier-Journal” article about Blanton’s 25th anniversary there, “Blanton was said to be the person most closely associated with the league’s beginnings. He was credited with assembling the first group that became the league.”
John O. Blanton, Jr. died on October 9, 1962 and was buried in the Steward family plot in Eastern Cemetery. On October 18, 1970, the Fifth Street High Rise, Inc., an African American organization, broke ground on a 20-story senior citizens tower that they named the J.O. Blanton House for Senior Citizens (850 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.). Blanton’s widow, Carolyn, and their two children attended the event. According to the “Courier-Journal” article, “She said she hoped the building and the memory of her husband might be an ‘inspiration to the small-town boy, that one may make a success of life no matter what the color of his skin.’” Photo of John is from an April 27, 1959 “Courier-Journal” article.

La Val Todd Duncan, Sr.

La Val Todd Duncan, Sr. (1907-1979) was born to Henry Duncan and Cora McClasky in Louisville, KY on October 2, 1907. He was an only child. La Val and his family moved to Nelson County, KY when he was a child. At the time of the 1920 Federal Census, the family was living in Nelson County, and Henry was a shoemaker while Cora kept house. La Val was well educated. In 1927, he graduated from Simmons College of Kentucky. By 1933, he had earned a business administration degree from The Ohio State University. The following year he became an insurance agent for the Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company. La Val had an impressive career with the company, holding several positions and eventually advancing to vice president. In 1937, La Val married De Jarnette Pate of Christiansburg, VA. Together the couple had two children: a son La Val Jr. and a daughter DeVon. De Jarnette died of breast cancer on March 17, 1962 at the age of 51. La Val later married Julia Hunton. He belonged to numerous civic clubs and fraternities and served on many boards: Downtown Kiwanis Club of Louisville, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment, National Insurance Association, National Conference of Christians and Jews, Sigma Pi Phi, Sigma Psi Phi, Louisville Housing Authority, St. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, and Red Cross Hospital. La Val died on May 4, 1979. At the time of his death, he was living at 1111 Southwestern Parkway in the Chickasaw Neighborhood. Photo of La Val is from the “Courier-Journal” March 30, 1975.

Jesse Davis Penney, Jr.

Jesse Davis Penney, Jr. (1900-1976) was born to Jesse and Mariah Penney in Madison County, AL. He was the eldest of eleven children. His father worked as a farmer. Penney enlisted into the Army on October 29, 1918 right before the end of World War I, so he was subsequently discharged December 17, 1918 after the war was over. On September 29, 1919, Penney married Betty Dancy in Madison County, AL. The couple did not have any children. In 1920, they were living in Huntsville, AL where Penney worked as a laborer for the electric company and Betty worked as a cook for a family. By 1936, Penney and Betty were living in Louisville at 909 S. 17th Street, and Penney was working as a waiter for the Kentucky Hotel. Soon they moved to 1817 W. Madison Street in the Russell Neighborhood. Penney worked as a machinist at Fort Knox and was a member of the Chestnut Street YMCA Retired Men’s Club. Betty died on May 29, 1975 and Penney died on November 18, 1976. They are both buried in Eastern Cemetery.

Washington Spradling, Jr.

Washington Spradling, Jr. (circa 1831-1870) was the son of successful barber and businessman, Washington Spradling and Lucy Ann Jackson. Washington was one of five total siblings and one half brother. On July 4, 1820, Washington married Louisa Williams in Louisville, KY. At the time of their marriage, Louisa was 15 years old and as a result, the marriage required parental consent. The couple began their life together living with Washington’s sister Martha and her husband James Lewis, a barber. His brother William and his brother-in-law James were barbers too. Washington was a barber throughout his life. In 1851, Washington and Louisa started to grow their family. Together the couple had five children: William, James, Joseph, Mary, and Washington III. Washington Spradling, Sr. played a significant role in establishing an African American presence in the Russell Neighborhood. After the Civil War, Washington Spradling, Jr. helped establish the Smoketown Neighborhood, a predominately African American neighborhood, on land he inherited from his father. Washington died from cancer on January 13, 1870. He was 42 years old. He is buried at Eastern Cemetery in the Spradling Family Plot.


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