Sunday, May 29, 2016

Honoring Sgt. Malbert Montgomery Cooper

Today I placed some flowers and a flag on Sgt. Malbert Montgomery Cooper's grave.  He did not have a headstone for his grave when he was buried on May 2, 1979. It took six years of negotiations to get an government-issued marker thanks to the efforts of Veterans Service Director Chuck Elmore, Veterans Service Officer Nadel Barrett and me, Patricia Bayonne - Johnson, President of Eastern Washington Genealogical Society in Spokane, Washington.

On May 11, 2009, I went to Spokane Memorial Gardens, Cheney-Spokane to photograph the headstone to accompany an article I had written 
about Sgt. Cooper.  My husband I traveled to the cemetery and went to the office to get the location of the grave.  We wandered around the area where the marker should have been for an hour but couldn't find one. So we headed back to the office and the staff looked again  and gave us the bad news: Sgt. Cooper was buried without a headstone because he was buried by Public Assistance which would not pay for a headstone. They would only pay for the burial. But the good news was because Cooper had been in the military, the government would issue a headstone.  All I needed was his DD214 - his discharge papers.

I contacted Chuck Elmore by email, starting a process that would last six long years to get that government- issued headstone. I had two appointments with Elmore to discuss the documents and photos I had for Sgt. Cooper. Chuck knew all the places to be contacted, so he took over from there.

The matter was complicated because Sgt. Cooper did not have any relatives. He was married twice and the last woman had a son, but he had not been adopted by Cooper. It was difficult to find the paper work on Cooper but Chuck was successful. Then I got more bad news: I had to be the next of kin to apply for a government headstone. Well, I am not the next-of-kin; I am just an interested party trying to get the government to do the right thing. The man served his country and he deserved a headstone! That was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard  in my life! Chuck even talked to  Senator Patty Murray about it; the last response she got from the VA, was if we wanted a headstone we would have to take them to court.

Then Elmore hired Nadel Barrett, a Navy veteran in January 2015.  Nadel, a lawyer, took over Cooper's case and was successful in getting an approval from the VA without having to go to court. I received a call some time in May 2015 after the headstone was installed. My husband and I immediately drove out to see it.  A full military burial ceremony was held on  May 27, 2015. I have never attended a military burial ceremony and it was very moving - Honor Guards, Flag Folding, Taps and a gun salute.  What a Day!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finding the Butlers - My Family Who Was Enslaved by the Jesuits

If you have read the newspapers, watched TV or listened to Talk Radio in the past month, you could not miss the media coverage of the 272 people who were enslaved by the Jesuits and sold to pay the debts of Georgetown University. Although I received very little coverage in the initial article, this is my story, too.

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society appeared in a story on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday, April, 17, 2016. Two hundred and seventy-two people were reported to have been enslaved by the Jesuits of St. Mary's County, Maryland and I, Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, have ancestors who were among that group.

I first learned of my ancestors who were enslaved by the Jesuits in 2004 as I was making plans for the Hicks/Estes family reunion in New Orleans. I sent the documents I had gathered to Judy Riffel, a professional genealogist who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for examination. Judy noted that Rachel Hicks, my great-grandmother's mother was born in Maryland. She knew from prior experience that Jesse Batey , a large plantation owner, purchased a bunch of slaves from Maryland; she went to the court house and pulled those records. One of the documents was an inventory for the late Jesse Batey. My third great grandparents, Nace and Biby Butler, were listed by name, age and value along with their 11 children. The most important document that she found was the bill of sales for 64 Negroes by Thomas Mulledy to Henry Johnson on behalf of Jesse Batey in 1838.

When I received the report from Ms. Riffel, I summarized her research and sent it to my aunt Onita. As she began to write the history of the family she wondered how the family became Catholic and decided to research Thomas Mulledy. Onita learned that he was a Jesuit priest who served as president of Georgetown from 1829 until 1837. She also discovered the Butlers in the Jesuit Plantation Project.

The Jesuit Plantation Project consists of plantation records that were digitized by the students in the American Studies Department of Georgetown University. They are records of White Marsh, Newtown,  St. Thomas Manor's and St. Inigoes. My Butler family was enslaved on St. Inigoes.  Those documents included an inventory, manifests, profiles of the slaves, chronology, resources a bibliography and the diary of Brother Mobberly

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to large plantations in Louisiana. The university folklore says all 272 slaves died and left no survivors or descendants. However, many of the slaves survived the Civil War and were emancipated in 1865. There are thousands of descendants today, many still living in Louisiana.

The Georgetown Memory Project was formed in November 2015 a few days after I was contacted by Richard Cellini, an alumnus of Georgetown University. He was seeking descendants of Nace and Biby Butler and found my blog when he did a search for them.  The goals of the GMP are: to identify the slaves sold in 1838; find their living descendants; acknowledge them as members of the Georgetown family; honor their sacrifice and legacy. I joined GMP immediately.

The Butler Team was formed in November as soon a I got back to the library.(I was in New Orleans when I was contacted). I asked the Tuesday library volunteers if they would assist me in the search for the members of my Butler family and they all agreed. The  Butler Team members are: Carol Anderson, Pat Ayers, Barbara Brazington,  Mary Holcomb, Juanita McBride, Dolly Webb and me. Janette Birch is also a member of the team; she joined when she overheard us enthusiastically talking about the project. The team has found a lot of information and there is a lot more to find.

This is the first of many posts about the 272.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

First Watch Night Service - Wed, 12/31/1862

I had never heard of First Watch Night Service until a few years ago. It is defined as a late-night Chrisitian church service held on New Year's Eve and ends at midnight. According to Wikipedia, the Watchnight service "provides the opportunity for Chrisitians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving."  The reason that I am not of aware of the so-called First Watch Night Service is,  I am Catholic and  this ceremony is known as Midnight Mass. I have never attended a  Midnight Mass although older members of my family have participated.

The Watch Night Service, also known as Freedom Eve,  is significant in the African American community.It can be traced back to New Year's eve in 1862, where slaves and free blacks gathered in churches and homes to await the news   that the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln had become law. On January 1, 1863 at the stroke of midnight, all slaves in the Confederate states were declared legally free.When the slaves and free blacks learned of their freedom, they prayed, shouted, sang, and thanked God.

The First Watch Night Service has been celebrated every NewYear's eve since December 31, 1862.  African Americans gather in churches to thank God for living through another year and to celebrate "how we got over."  

Source: African American Registry

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Juneteenth National Freedom Day Observation - 19 June 1865

19 June 2014

Today we celebrate Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is the name given to Emancipation Day also know as Freedom Day by African Americans living in Galveston, Texas in 1865 when they first learned that all slaves were free.

Officially, the end of slavery was declared on 1 January 1863 by President Lincoln but the declaration was issued on 22 September 1962.  The people in Texas didn't learn of the decalaration until June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is celebrated all over the United States with religious services, speakers, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, with food, dances and games.

Friday, February 28, 2014


Last week, I learned something about my great-uncle, Joseph Leo Bayonne. A shaky leaf indicated that the hint was a California marriage record for Uncle Leo. I thought, "No way could this be my relative; he has never been to California." I pulled up the information and checked out the groom's parents and there were the names of my great-grandparents, Jules Bayonne and Victorine Randall. To my knowledge, Uncle Leo had never lived in any places except Louisiana which is where he was born and Alabama where lived at the time of his death.

According to the marriage license, Leo Bayonne was 35 years old, a tailor and a resident of Oakland California when he married Sarah Blanche Broussard, 32 years, a housewife and a resident of Oakland, California on August 4, 1930. It was a second marriage for both of them - Leo was divorced and Sarah was widowed. Sarah's parents were Perry Lawson and Emily Hunter... three more surnames to add to my  family tree!

Although 1930 was before my birth, I would think that this would have come up in my research of  the Bayonne family. I had just watched a webinar on Ancestry entitled, "Forward Thinking: Tracing the Children of your Ancestors and their Children." Now I am more motivated than ever to get started tracing the children of Jules and Victorine Randall Bayonne.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nelson Lofton's Obituary

Date: Friday, October 17, 1980  Paper: Times-Picayune(New Orleans, LA) Page: 25

Mr. Nelson Lofton, on Monday, October 11, 1980 at 10:00 a.m., at Touro Infirmary Hospital, beloved husband of Mrs. Rebecca Lofton, father of Ms. Carol Lofton.

Funeral sevice from Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home on Saturday, October 18, 1980 at 10:30 a.m. followed by religious service at Mount Zion Methodist Church, on Louisiana Avenue.

Interment in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Wake serice on Friday October 17, 1980 at 9 p.m. at Gertrude Geddis Funeral Home.

Curtesy of Michael Willis

(author's note: This obituary was abbreviated because the print was blurred and difficult to read.)

15th Amendment Ratified Today

On February 3, 1870, the 15th amendment was ratified. Republicans wanted the amendment passed to obtain the the vote of the freed slaves.

The 15th Amendment ensures the right to vote to all male citizens of the United States, regardless of order or previous condition of servitude. The 15th amendment opened the door for the elections of African Americans to the US Congress and to Southern local and state offices. New Southern governments began collecting taxes for local public schools.

Women would have to wait until 1920 to get the vote, the year that my mother was born.

Source:  African American Registry 2/3/20014