Monday, May 31, 2010

Memory Monday: A Family Story

There are all kinds of family stories. Some of the stories I remember best were about the crazy shenanigans of my parents and their siblings; it seems there was no scheme too wild, no prank too complicated, for them to dream up and try to pull off.

Then there were the stories that were about family relationships: feuds, disagreements, hurt feelings. You know, psychological stuff. Depending on who was telling the story, it could definitely take on the teller’s biases.

And so it was with a story my mother used to tell about her mother.

My grandparents, Kirby Moore and Eula Floyd Moore, moved from the Lancaster area in Dallas County out to Baylor County in 1917 together with Eula’s brother King David Floyd and his family. Eula and King had each inherited some money after the death of their mother, Angeline Matlock Floyd, and King and Kirby had decided the money should be used to buy cheap land in Baylor County. Serious settlement of Baylor County did not start until the 1880s and it has never been a populous county. The two main towns at that time were Seymour, the county seat, and Bomarton, near which the Floyds and Moores settled; today Bomarton is little more than a ghost town with some surrounding farms.

Baylor County must have seemed quite a desolate place to Grandma Eula, especially when compared with her home back in Lancaster. According to the story as I heard it related by my mother, Grandma would pine after her family, that is, she would talk about how much she missed them, and in darker moods would blame Grandpa Kirby for bringing her out to this forsaken place so far from home.

Now, my mother loved her father and did not care for it much when Grandma criticized him. And she told the following story she had heard about when Grandma had gone home to Lancaster for a visit: “They said that when she got home she didn’t even take any notice of her mother or sisters; she just ran, bawling, straight to her Mammy and hugged her and cried.” (I realized later that one item has to be inaccurate in this story; when Grandma went back, it would have to have been after 1917, and since her mother died in 1916, she wouldn’t have been there.)

My grandmother Eula Amanda Floyd and her sister Dona Floyd; may have been taken around 1900

This story stuck in my mind for two reasons. One was that it indicated that the Floyd family had a bit of money. They did; more at some times (when speculation was going well) than at others (when speculation fell through and my great-grandfather Charles Floyd and his brother Alford were charged with fraud).

The other reason was that it was the first hint that there might have been some history of slave-holding in my grandmother’s family.

Correspondence with a cousin on the Floyd side revealed some of the background to this story:

“Kitty Stevenson, ex-slave of James and Sarah Alcina Harris Taylor (Angie’s [my great-grandmother Angeline Matlock Floyd’s] aunt), was the midwife who delivered just about all kids in this area in the late 1800s. Her daughter Birdie was also a midwife who delivered [name of relative] in this house in 1907. [Cousin’s name] just loved old Birdie and stayed at her house a lot of the time. Birdie was always ready to help if someone was sick and had a home remedy for just about everything. Am sure all the Floyd kids of their generation must have loved Kitty, too, probably did call her Mammy.”

This cleared up a lot, but I was still curious and tried to see whether or not I could find Kitty and Bertie in the census. Based on what I found, I believe it is more likely that Birdie – or, as her name appears in the census, Bertie, was actually Kitty’s granddaughter. Her father was Mack Stevenson/Stephenson, born December 1851 (according to the 1900 census) in Missouri, parents both born in Virginia (which is shown as Kittie’s home state).

1880 US Federal Census, Enumeration District 66, Dallas, Texas, Page 9, 3 June 1880

Line 18 Dwelling 65 Family 66

Stephenson, Kittie Black Female 47 Mother Widowed Keeping house Cannot read or write VA VA VA
----- Sarah J. Black Female 20 Daughter Single Cannot read or write MO VA VA
----- Edward Black Male 17 Single Cannot read or write MO VA VA
----- Horace Black Male 14 Son Single Cannot read or write TX VA VA
----- Willie Black Male 8 Grandson Single TX TX TX
----- Andrew Black Male 7 Grandson Single TX TX TX
-----Lavoney Black Male 5 Grandson Single TX TX TX
----- Ellen Black Female 2 Granddaughter Single TX TX TX

Living next door are J. H. and Sarah A. Taylor, so this is the correct family.

1900 US Federal Census, Precinct No. 5, Dallas, Texas, Enumeration District 138, Page 20, 25 June 1900

Line 22 Dwelling 351 Family 353

Stevenson, Mack Black Male Dec 1851 48 Married 16 MO VA VA Farmer 2 months not employed Cannot read or write Can speak English
----- Mollie Wife Black Female Mar 1855 45 Married 16 7 7 Can read, write, and speak English TX MD Unk.
----- George Son Black Male Apr 1884 16 Single TX MO TX Cannot read or write Can speak English
----- Ellis Son Black Male Apr 1886 14 Single TX MO TX Cannot read or write Can speak English
----- Bertie Black Female Jan 1888 12 Single TX MO TX Cannot read or write Can speak English
----- Carl Son Black Male Dec 1889 10 Single TX MO TX Cannot read or write Can speak English
----- Florance Daughter Black Female Apr 1892 8 Single TX MO TX
----- Eddie Son Black Male Aug 1894 5 Single TX MO TX

This family is living almost next door to Harvey J. and Sarah A. Taylor (and the Floyd family is also nearby). Mack’s mother was born in Virginia, as was Kittie; I am guessing that she was his mother. He was not shown living with her on the 1880 census, but was old enough to have been out on his own by that time.

1910 US Federal Census, Justice Precinct 5, Dallas, Texas, Enumeration District 96, Page 9A, 27 April 1910

Line 17 Dwelling 152 Family 152

Stevenson, Mack Head Male Black 62 M1 27 MO VA VA English Farmer General farm Employer Cannot read or write
----- Mollie Wife Female [Not clear – may be Mulatto] 61 M1 27 7 7 TX MD MD English None Can read and write
----- Bertie Daughter Female Mulatto 22 Single TX MO TX English Farm laborer Home farm Worker Yes 0 Can read and write
----- Carl Son Male Mulatto 20 Single TX MO TX English Farm laborer Home farm Worker Yes 0
----- Eddie Son Male [Not clear – may be Black or Mulatto] 14 S TX MO TX English Farm laborer Home farm Worker Yes 0 Can read and write Attended school

Several Floyd families are living nearby. The Taylors may have passed away by this time.

1920 US Federal Census, Justice Precinct 5, Dallas, Texas, Enumeration District 100, 11-12 February 1920

Line 41 Dwelling 36 Family 37

Stevenson, Mack E. Home owned Farm Male Black 65 Married Cannot read or write MO MO VA Can speak English Farming General farm OA
----- Mollie Wife Female Black 61 Married Cannot read or write TX US MD Yes None
----- Birdie Daughter Female Black 31 Single Can read and write TX MO TX Can speak English Servant Private family Worker
----- Eddie Son Male Black 25 Single Can read and write TX MO TX Can speak English Laborer General farm Worker

The family of Oscar Floyd (grandfather of the cousin who would visit Bertie) is shown next door.

1930 US Federal Census, Justice Precinct 5, Dallas, Texas, Enumeration District 57-127, Page 4A, 22 April 1930

Line 12 Dwelling 68 Family 70

Stevenson, Mack Head Home owned Farm Male Negro 82 Widowed Cannot read or write MO MO MO Can speak English Farmer Farm Own agent Employed Did not serve in WWI
----- Berta Daughter Female Negro 35 Single Did not attend school Can read and write TX MO TX Can speak English None

The Oscar Floyd family lives nearby.

I was not able to find Kitty/Kittie Stevenson/Stephenson on any census after 1880, although there was a Black Kittie Jackson, born ca 1820 in Virginia on the 1900 census for Dallas.

Like many stories concerning the Floyd family, this one definitely has an element of truth, but the details are a bit scrambled. When she was a child, Grandma Eula may have been attached to Kittie, but it is not likely that she had any sort of reunion with her after 1917. If she did have the emotional reunion as described by my mother, it would more likely have been with Bertie, who may have been a childhood friend/playmate, since she was born five years after my grandmother.

Since Kittie is shown living near the James Harvey and Sarah Alcena Harris Taylor family in 1880, it is possible that she had been a slave who was owned by the Taylor family. However, the states and years of birth of her children as shown on the 1880 census indicate that in the year 1863 she was still living in Missouri. I am not sure about the Taylors, but I believe that they moved to Texas from Kentucky in the 1850s.

The part of the story related by the cousin is supported by the proximity of the Mack Stevenson family to the Oscar Floyd family, and from this I gather the Floyds were close to Bertie. Based on some occasionally stormy family dynamics I have heard about in other stories, it may well have been true that what my grandmother missed most about living so far from Lancaster was someone she felt closer to than to her own sisters, and that person could have been Bertie.


  1. you just gotta love these inherited convoluted family histories!! Thanks for a good read.