Monday, October 11, 2010

Volusia and Davy

My research into a photograph of two women and several children taken near Alexandria during the Civil War has been going on for more than two years. I'll work on it for a while, get somewhere, get stuck and then let it rest for a while. As thorough as I think I've been, I will still discover something "new" from a document I think I've previously exhausted. Sometimes new sources become available through digitization or from archives and repositories I'm finally able to visit.
Much of what I've learned is in an article I posted on Scribd but since the focus of this blog is African American history and genealogy, I hope to share more detailed info about my ongoing search here.

The photograph was taken almost 150 years ago at a farm called Volusia. I've found the names of several enslaved people who lived there and have been able to establish the relationships of some. The matriarch of this family is Julia Hughes and as of 1858, six of her children -- all adults -- were enslaved with her by the same owner; a seventh child, according to an 1874 newspaper account, was sold away years before. Julia was reunited with that child, a daughter named Louisa, in 1874 and later lived with her in Ohio. I haven't located Julia's other three daughters but I have found two of her sons, twins named Wilson and Levin, in freedom, and I'm currently working on some leads for the third son who was named Davy.

I'm pursuing a David Hughes who I think is promising. Davy's owner's estate inventory in December 1858 identified him as being 29 so he would have been born around 1829. The 1870 and 1880 censuses show a David Hughes living in Washington, D.C., who was born in Virginia around that time. That David Hughes has several children including two daughters named Julia and Louisa. The D.C. city directories show David working as a barber and living on 12th Street NW in the early 1880s and then in 1884, living in the 1000 block of U Street NW. Levin Hughes, Julia's son, is living in the same block at that same time. The following year, Frances Hughes, identified as David's widow, is listed at the same home on U Street and Levin is still on the same block.

So David's age, birthplace, daughters' names and 1884 residence are encouraging but I'll need more to be sure. Through the Civil War soldier and sailor index, I found a David Hewes who served with Unassigned Company A of the U.S. Colored Infantry which was organized out of Alexandria. Julia's son Wilson served with Co. A and his widow filed a pension application but I have been unable to find one for David or his widow Frances.

I hope to visit the MLK Library in D.C. this fall to use the Washingtoniana collection and the Black Studies Center. I've already been able to explore some resources online with my D.C. Public Library card to get free access to the historical Washington Post and the Baltimore Afro-American. Let's hope I can find evidence that will prove whether David Hughes is Julia's son, Davy.

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