The Butler/Fitzbutler Family History Part 1 – Freedom in New Canaan
Amherstburg has many significant figures to be proud of, and among them is Dr. William Henry Fitzbutler. I’ve shared his importance on the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s social media pages and decided to conduct further research into Dr. Fitzbutler’s life, but also his family. Dr. Fitzbutler changed his last name from Butler to Fitzbutler (for reasons that are unknown) so this month’s family history will feature the Butler and the later established Fitzbutler family. I’ll begin with William Butler and his wife Ann Calvert.
According to Milo Johnson’s book New Canaan, William Butler was enslaved and a coachman in Richmond, Virginia. Johnson adds that William Butler’s wife Ann Calvert was an indentured servant born in England in 1812 of Irish and English heritage. The couple was married in Virginia circa 1832. They escaped and came to Essex County, settling in New Canaan some time before 1833.
William Butler’s death record states that he passed away on August 1, 1872 in Colchester at the age of 75. This record also states that he was born circa 1797 in Richmond, Virginia and was a farmer. William’s wife Ann died on December 14, 1886 in Adrian, Michigan. Her death record states that she was born September 16, 1812 in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, England. I wasn’t able to find any notice of William’s death in the press, but I did find a death notice for Ann in The Amherstburg Echo on December 24, 1886 which said “BUTLER – At Adrian, Mich., on Tuesday, 14th December, Mrs. Ann Butler, formerly of New Canaan, aged 74 years, 2 months and 28 days.”
William and Ann Butler had at least seven children including Mary, Emaline, Philip, William Henry, Sidney, James, Elizabeth. The only information that I could find for Mary was a reference to Mary in her brother Henry’s obituary which refers to her as Mrs. J. Henderson of Columbus, Ohio. Mary’s sister Emaline is referred to as Mrs. Emaline Ward of Dakota in her brother Philip’s obituary, but I could not find any further information for her or Mary.
Mary and Emaline’s brother Philip married Mildred, sometimes listed as Mary, Kirtley who was born circa 1842. According to Philip’s obituary, Mildred was a schoolteacher and Philip’s career is also noteworthy. In his obituary from September 30, 1910, it says “Philip Butler, one of the best known colored men in South Essex, passed away at his home here Thursday morning of last week, following a few months illness with heart trouble, aged 75 years, 5 months and 17 days. Mr. Butler was born in Malden township, being one of a family of seven children of whom two sisters and one brother survive – Mrs. Grace Foster, of Monroe, Mich, and Mrs. Emaline Ward, of Dakota, and James Butler, of Adrian, Mich. He was married in 1861 to Mildred Kirtley, a school teacher, and she with two daughters are left to mourn – Mrs. Charles Mitchell and Mrs. Thomas Pearl, both of this township. Two sons, Walter and Gordon predeceased their father. Mr. Butler’s name will go down to posterity as one which stood for honesty and probity. He was a hard worker, and in his prime was one of the strongest men in the township. For many years he was a county constable and his services towards the preservation of peace and good order were invaluable. The funeral took place Sunday to Rose Hill cemetery, Amherstburg. Services were conducted by Rev. Mr. Bowden, pastor in charge of this community, and by Star Lodge, No 17, F. & A.M., of which deceased was a member, and Lincoln Lodge, No. 8, F. & A.M., of Amherstburg. A very large number of friends and relatives turned out to pay their last respects. The pall bearers were Anthony Banks, James Davis, Jerry Harris, Jonathan Strawthers, Dan W. Woodson and Frank Artis.”
A few years later, on December 30, 1921, The Amherstburg Echo printed Mildred Kirtley Butler’s obituary which said “Mrs. Philip Butler, an old resident of this place, died in Detroit Saturday, aged 81 years. The remains were brought to Amherstburg, Monday, and after funeral services at the A.M.E. church, conducted by Rev. W.F. Seay, burial was in Rose Hill cemetery by the side of her husband, who predeceased her several years. Mrs. Bulter’s maiden name was Kirtley. She is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Charles Mitchell, of this place, and Mrs. Olive Pearl, of Detroit; one brother, George Kirtley, who lived with her and a nephew, William H. Bush, of Amherstburg.”
Mildred and Philip had at least four children: Samuel Walter, Gordon Calvin, Olive and Clara A. There was not any information for Samuel Walter, but Gordon was a farm labourer, born circa 1867. Gordon’s sister Olive was born March 25, 1868, and married more than once. Olive married Thomas P. Pearl, a stone mason and the son of Bazzle Pearl and Catherine Hilton, on July 11, 1897, in Detroit. According to Olive’s death record, years later, she married someone with the last name Hulett, but the first name is difficult to read and may say “Ury.”
Mildred and Philip’s last child, Clara, married Charles J. Mitchell, the son of Levi and Annie Mitchell, on January 6, 1891, in Amherstburg. According to her death record, Clara was born on July 16, 1869, in New Canaan and she passed in May 1949 in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of 79. She is also listed as a widow. Clara Butler Mitchell’s children included Ella, Mira Ann, Mabel Orphella, Fulton Fremont, Clara Janette, Mary Gertrude and Charles Clayton.
Ella Mitchell, the first child of Clara and Charles, married Roman Hall, a 29-year-old farmer and the son of Jessee Hall and Mary Allan, on June 28, 1916. At the time, Ella was 23 and her occupation is listed as “farmer’s daughter.” Ella’s sister Mira Ann was born on October 2, 1894 in Colchester North and she married John D. Day, the son of Samuel Day and Sarah Hunt, on February 19, 1919 in New Canaan.
Mira Ann’s sister Mabel Orphella was born on January 27, 1897 in Colchester, while her brother Fulton Fremont Mitchell was born on August 15, 1899. Fulton Fremont married Gladys Berdue on November 1, 1924 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The names of Gladys’ parents are not listed in their marriage record, but it does say that she was 20 years old, a cook and born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It also mentions that Fremont’s occupation was “Trucking.” Following the passing of his first wife, Fremont married Dona Gunn Gutierrez, the daughter of James Gunn and Emma Ledbetter, on June 2, 1939 in Lucas, Ohio. According to their marriage record, both spouses of Fremont and Dona passed away because they are listed as widower/widow. This record even states Dona’s first husband’s name: Elias Gutierrez. Dona was also born in Indiana and worked as a domestic.
Next is Clara Janette Mitchell who was born on September 24, 1904 in Colchester North, while Mary Gertrude was born on December 6, 1907 in Colchester North and Charles Clayton Mitchell was born on July 11, 1910, also in Colchester North. On June 12, 1931 in Lucas, Ohio, Charles Clayton married Virginia Reese, the daughter of George and Helen Reese. Their marriage record states that Clayton was a gardener and that neither he nor Virginia were previously married.
What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.
The Butler/Fitzbutler Family History Part 2 – An Apple A Day
Now that I have discussed Mary, Emaline and Philip, I’ll continue with the next child of William and Ann (Calvert) Butler, who was William Henry Butler. He later changed his last name from Butler to Fitzbutler, so I will refer to him as Henry Fitzbutler throughout this family history. Henry was born in Amherstburg in 1842 and attended school in Amherstburg. Family accounts state that he often borrowed books from physician, Dr. Daniel Pearson, who was previously enslaved. He would later accompany Dr. Pearson on his medical rounds and became the apprentice of a young white doctor practising in Amherstburg. In January of 1871, Fitzbutler became the first Black student in the Detroit Medical College, soon after transferring to the University of Michigan School of Medicine. It was in 1872 that he became the first Black graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School to earn a medical degree. Dr. Fitzbutler, his wife Dr. Sarah McCurdy Fitzbulter and their children moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Henry became the first Black physician practicing in Louisville, Kentucky (for 29 years).
Henry married Dr. Sarah Helen McCurdy on May 7, 1877 in Essex County. Sarah was the daughter of William and Mary Ann McCurdy. Sarah’s father William McCurdy (the son of Nasa McCurdy and Hannah Ann McGill) was a respected resident of Colchester. William McCurdy’s obituary appeared in The Amherstburg Echo on January 20, 1888 and said “Death of Wm. McCurdy, J.P. – On Monday evening of this week, William McCurdy died at the family residence north of Harrow, after being confined to his bed for more than a year with a stroke of paralysis. Deceased was in his 71st year, having been born in the state of Pennsylvania in April 1817. He came to Essex in 1855, and after residing at the Waters farm for one year and at Gilgal for another, he purchased the ? farm on which he has ever since resided. He was regarded by the colored people of South Essex as one of their best representative men and was looked up to and respected by them all and was held in the highest esteem by his neighbors of all nationalities. He several times filled the office of school trustee, was a steward of the A.M.E. Church, and in 1879, he was created a Justice of the Peace for Essex by the Ontario Government – the first of his people, who ever held the office in Essex, if not in Ontario, and the duties of which he discharged ably and impartially. His wife, three sons and four Daughters survive him. His sons are Alvin, of this township; William ? of Detroit, and Joseph, at home; and his daughters are Mrs. Henry FitzButler, Louisville, Ky.; Mrs. George Eveans, of Whittaker, Mich.; Mrs. Robert Mitchell, of Windsor Post office; and Miss Minerva Alice, residing at home. George McCurdy of Sandwich is a brother of the deceased and another brother, Nasa McCurdy died at Amherstburg, some 18 months ago. William McCurdy was a true man. He was a staunch and active Liberal in politics, and at the Provincial election in December, 1886, although unable to sit up he insisted on being carried from his residence to the polls at Harrow to cast his vote for Mr. Balfour, whose firm friend he had been for years. His funeral will take place today (Friday).”
I was also able to find an obituary for Sarah’s mother, Mary Ann Grinage McCurdy which appeared in The Amherstburg Echo on June 1, 1917. It says, “Mrs. William McCurdy, a former resident of the 7th concession and widow of the late William McCurdy, died in Saginaw, Mich., on Wednesday of last week. The remains were brought here Friday and interred in Central Grove cemetery. Deceased was a daughter of the late Rev. Alexander McCurdy, who died in Nova Scotia just a few weeks ago. Her mother has been dead some years. She is survived by one brother, William Kersey, of this township, and one sister, Mrs. Crosby, of Salem.”
Sarah Helen McCurdy Fitzbutler attended the Louisville National Medical College and became the first Black woman to receive a medical degree in Kentucky. She gained an excellent reputation, particularly in the fields of obstetrics and pediatrics. Among her other accomplishments, she became superintendent of the Louisville National Medical College’s auxiliary hospital, in addition to acting as supervisor of the College’s nursing program. Her hospital was considered to be one of the cleanest and best operated hospitals in the US in 1909.
Dr. Sarah McCurdy Fitzbutler’s husband Dr. Henry Fitzbutler, according to his death record, passed on December 27, 1901 in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 64. On January 17, 1902, Dr. Fitzbutler’s passing was reported in The Amherstburg Echo which stated “Word has been received here of the death of Dr. H. Fitzbutler, which occurred on Dec. 29th, at Louisville, Ky., after an illness extending over a period of three months. Decease was sixty four years and seven days old and was a native of this county, having been born near the village of Harrow, but was reared in New Canaan, his parents moving there while he was quite young. He taught school for a number of years at New Canaan and Gilgal and afterwards studied medicine and was a graduate from the medical department of the University of Mich. In 1866 he married Miss Sarah McCurdy, daughter of the late Wm. McCurdy, J.P. of the township of Colchester South, and by their union there were six children: Prima, at home, Mary, Mrs. Dr. Wengate [should say Waring], Chicago, Elizabeth, Mrs. Harper, Chicago (deceased); James, a practicing physician, Louisville, Myra, in Chicago, and Wm. at home. He moved with his family to Louisville about 30 years ago and has since resided there, where he had a large and successful practice. He was interested in a Medical Institute there and was Dean of the Faculty. Besides his widow and children he leaves two brothers and three sisters, Philip, New Canaan, James, Adrian, Mich.; Mary, Mrs. J. Henderson, Columbus, O.; Elizabeth, Mrs. J.W. Foster, California, and Myra, Mrs. M.J. Ward Caster, S.D., to mourn his loss, besides many other relatives and friends.”
I could not find an obituary for Henry’s wife Sarah, but I found her death record which lists her as Sarah Helen Fitzhartler [should say Fitzbutler]. This record states that she passed on January 12, 1923 in Chicago at the age of 75.
Sarah and Henry had at least seven children named Prima, Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, James Henry, Myra and William. According to Find A Grave Prima Augusta Fitzbutler Washington was born on August 3, 1868. She became a teacher circa 1866. According to her marriage record, Prima married James L. Washington, the son of George and Sarah Washington, on November 27, 1918 in Louisville, Kentucky. Her death record states that she died on April 2, 1962 in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 93 and she was a widow.
Prima’s sister Mary married Frank B. Waring, who was born on March 31, 1864 in Chicago and was the son of Mary Jane Gray and Robert Crutchfield Waring. On June 25, 1891, Frank signed a Marriage Bond (which guaranteed that two people were legally available to marry each other). Their marriage license which is from June 26, 1901 records that Mary’s parents, Henry and Sarah Fitzbutler, were both present. Based on the evidence Mary and Frank did not have children.
Dr. Mary Fitzbutler Waring was a very impressive woman. She taught in Louisville before she graduated from the Louisville National Medical College in 1894. She then graduated from the National Medical College of Chicago in 1923 and was one of the earliest Black female physicians. Among her other accomplishments, Dr. Waring was also an activist and protegee of journalist, educator and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett. She was also heavily involved in Black women’s organizations and from 1933 to 1937, she served as the tenth President of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, founded by amazing women such as Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnette and Mary Church Terrell in Washington, DC on July 21, 1896. This organization took on many causes including childcare, education and the vote and had the motto “Lifting As We Climb.” It also raised funds for kindergartens, vocational schools, summer camps, and retirement homes. Dr. Fitzbutler Waring also advocated for women of African descent to join the health care professions and solicited partners to offer health care training programs for women.
Dr. Waring also travelled throughout the United States and sporadically abroad, where she lectured, wrote and provided valuable health care information to African Americans, who were often excluded from mainstream health care services. Dr. Fitzbutler Waring’s 1920 US Passport Application also shares some interesting details. For purpose, she writes “Sight seeing and to attend the conventions of the International Council of Women at Christiana Norway” and she planned to visit Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and British Isles.” At this point, her application lists her as a teacher and that she was born on November 1, 1870.
Mary’s husband Frank, according to his death record, passed away on October 3, 1923 in Chicago at the age of 58. This record also states that he worked as a lawyer. A few decades later, on November 5, 1958, at age 86 in Chicago, Mary passed away. According to her obituary “Dr. Mary Fitzbutler Waring, formerly of Louisville, died Thursday in a Chicago hospital. The daughter of two physicians, she was born in Amherstburg, Ontario, and came with her parents to Louisville at an early age. She was a graduate of Central High School and Louisville Normal College. In 1898 she was graduated from the old Louisville National Medical College which her father, Dr. Henry Fitzbutler, founded. Before moving to Chicago some 50 years ago, she taught here. She is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Prima Washington, of Louisville, and Mrs. Myra Vincent, Los Angeles. The funeral will be Tuesday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Chicago. Burial will be in Lincoln Cemetery there.”
I could only find limited information for Mary’s sisters Sarah and Elizabeth. The only reference to Sarah appears on Find A Grave which says that she was born in Canada in 1872 and died on October 29, 1899 in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 26 or 27. I could not find any information for Sarah’s sister Elizabeth except that she is listed in her brother Henry’s obituary as Elizabeth Harper of Chicago.
Sarah and Elizabeth’s brother Dr. James Henry Fitzbutler is the next child of Henry and Sarah Fitzbutler. He was born on February 25, 1873 (some records say 1875) in Amherstburg. He married Mae A. Hamilton, the daughter of Joseph Hamilton, on August 25, 1904 in Chicago. Mae passed away on October 18, 1934 in Chicago at the age of 64. Her death record also states that she was born on August 10, 1870 in Barry, Illinois.
Over a decade later, James passed away on August 27, 1948 at the age of 75 in Norwood Park, Illinois. He is listed as a physician and widowed. James’ obituary appeared in The Chicago Tribune on August 31, 1948 which said “Services for Dr. James Henry Fitizbutler, 73, of 352 W. 92nd St., who died Friday, will be held 1:00pm Wednesday in the chapel at 4136 S. Michigan Av. Burial will be in Burr Oak Cemetery. He was graduated from the Louisville National Medical College in 1896, and from the Illinois Medical College in 1904. He had practiced in Chicago, Gary, Joilet, and in the Philippines. He leaves a son, James Jr., a daughter, Mrs. Theresa Filait, and three sisters, Dr. Prima A. Washington, Dr. Mary F. Waring, and Mrs. Myra Vincent.”
James’ sister Myra is next. She was born on October 12, 1878 and married at least three times. In her brother Henry’s obituary, she is listed as Mrs. M.J. Ward of Custer, South Dakota. Further research shows that she married Washington Ward and that the couple had a son named Barton Warring Ward who was born on February 17, 1891 in Custer, South Dakota. Myra’s second husband had the last name Dennison. I could not find any documents that list a first name for her husband, but in the 1910 Illinois Census, Myra is listed as Myra L. Dennison. She, along with her daughter Leona Dennison, were living with Myra’s sister Mary and brother-in-law Frank Waring. Myra passed away in 1963 in Los Angeles and she is listed as Myra Luella Vincent, meaning she married a third time.
The last child of Sarah and Henry Fitzbutler is William. The only information that I could find for him is that he was born in November 1881 and passed away at the age of 23, on May 5, 1905, in Louisville, Kentucky.
What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3.
The Butler/Fitzbutler Family History Part 3 – The Antique Dealer
Now that I have discussed Dr. Henry Fitzbutler’s line, I’ll continue with the rest of William Butler and Ann Calvert’s children: Sidney, James, and Elizabeth. I could not find any information for Sidney but found significant documentation for James. He was married to Ann Donnelly. According to James’ death record, he was born on April 29, 1845 in Canada and passed away on September 6, 1923 in Adrian, Michigan at the age of 78. His obituary appeared in The Adrian Daily Telegram on September 7, 1923 and it reports “JAMES BUTLER IS DEAD AT WEST MAUMEE HOME- Expired Last Evening After Illness of But a Few Days; Was Aged 78; Funeral Saturday – Aged 78, died 9 o’clock last evening in home at 1378 W. Maumee St. Died of paralysis. Survived by two daughters Mrs. Lincoln Salor [Falor] of Delta, Oh, and Mrs. Philip Aldrich of this city, and five sons, James, Thomas A., Joseph H., Forest and Walter, all of Adrian. Funeral on Saturday at 1:30 at residence and burial in Oakwood Cemetery.” I could not find an obituary for Ann Donnelly Butler but Find a Grave states that she died on February 8, 1891.
James and Ann had several children including James, Carrie Ann Butler Falor, Sadie Ellen Butler Aldrich, Thomas Albert, Joseph H., Forrest Allen, Walter Jay, Ernest C. Butler, Minnie. James married Ida Richardson, the daughter of Henry Richardson and S. Simmonds, on May 6, 1901 in Adrian, Michigan. James’ brother Joseph married Elizabeth/Lizzie (Cherry) Davis, the daughter of David and Margaret J. Cherry on July 21, 1902 in Monroe, Michigan. Elizabeth was born on September 13, 1878 in Riga, Lenawee, Michigan. Elizabeth and Joseph had at least three children named Benjamin, Elvin and Margaret, along with Albert Davis who was Elizabeth’s son from her first marriage.
Before discussing their children, I will share Elizabeth’s obituary from July 24, 1951which says “Mrs. Elizabeth C. Butler, 71 years old, of Route 1, Tipton, died at 7:45p.m. Tuesday in Bixby hospital after an extended illness. She was born Sept. 13, 1879, in Petersburg and lived 33 years at the Tipton residence, moving there from Tecumseh. Mrs. Butler was a member of the Union Gospel church at Tipton. Her first husband was Edward Davis who preceded her in death. She married Joseph Butler in 1902 and he survives. Also surviving are three sons, Albert Davis of Adrian, Elvin Butler of Clayton, and Ben W. Butler at home; one brother, Charles Cherry of Adrian; one sister, Mrs. Ida Beaubien of Toledo and three grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her first husband; two sons, Franklin Davis and Leslie Butler; a daughter, Margaret Butler; her parents, David and Jane Cherry; three brothers, Frank and Albert McDonald and John Cherry, and two sisters, Mrs. Ada Poll and Mrs. Harriet Poll. The funeral will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at the Everiss Funeral Home. Seth Hoisington of the Tipton church will officiate. Burial will be in the Tipton cemetery.” Elizabeth’s death record adds that she was born on September 13, 1879 and her mother is listed as ‘Jne Bortles.’
As mentioned, Joseph and Elizabeth (Cherry-Davis) Butler had three children named Benjamin, Elvin, and Margaret. I could not find any information for Margaret, but Benjamin’s obituary appeared in The Daily Telegram on October 19, 1982. It says “TIPTON – Benjamin W. Butler, 71, of 6040 Teachout Rd., Tipton, died Monday evening at Bixby Hospital. He was born in Lenawee County, October 26, 1910 to Joseph and Elizabeth (Cherry) Butler. Mr. Butler was employed as an inspector at Tecumseh Products, retiring in 1972. He also taught grade school in Lenawee County and at Newberry. He was a member of the Union Gospel Church in Tipton. Survivors include one brother, Elvin of Onsted and one sister-in-law, Adah Davis of Tipton. He was preceded in death by a brother, Albert in 1967 and a sister, Margaret.”
Benjamin’s brother Elvin married Zelma M. Cook, daughter of George Cook and Minnie Berndt, on August 22, 1925 in Adrian, Michigan. The 1940 Census lists Elvin and Zelma, along with their sons Donald and R. George, as living with Elvin’s father Joseph H. Butler. On February 2, 1990, The Daily Telegram reported Elvin’s passing. His obituary says “Elvin James Butler, 86, of Onstead died Friday, Feb. 2, 1990, at Provincial House in Adrian. He was born December 27, 1903, in Adrian to Joseph and Elizabeth (Cherry) Butler. On August 22, 1925, he was married to Zelma Cook. She survives. Mr. Butler was a farmer residing in Tipton area from 1925-1951, the Cayton area from 1951 to 1974 and in Onstead since 1974. He was a member of the Union Gospel Church of Tipton He attended Tecumseh High School. He is also survived by two sons, Donald of Tipton and Richard of Adrian; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, one sister and two-step-brothers.”
Joseph’s brother Forest is the next child of James and Ann (Donnelly) Butler. According to Forest’s WWI Registration Card, he was born on February 3, 1884 and later worked for Detroit Refrigerating Co. He married Cordelia Meldrum, the daughter of William Meldrum (some records say David), on March 4, 1905 in Adrian, Michigan. Their children include Walter, Clifford, Ruth, John, Thomas, Evelyn, Harold, Lillian, Viola and Frederick. I was only able to find information for Clifford Butler in The Daily Telegram which printed his obituary on August 13, 1996. It says “Clifford Butler, 89, of Adrian, died Tuesday, August 13, 1996, at the Adrian Healthcare Center. He was born June 7, 1907, in Adrian to Forrest Allen and Cordelia (Meldrum) Butler. He is survived by three brothers, Thomas Butler of Bradenton, Fla., Harold Butler of Palmyra, and Frederick Butler of Blissfield; four sisters, Ruth Erd of Lambertville, Mich., Mrs. Richard (Evelyn) Hoffman of Adrian, Viola Fist of Upland, Calif., and Irene DeBruyn of Dundee. He was preceded in death by his parents; four brothers, Walter, John, Floydd, and James Butler, and a sister, Lillian Runkle.”
Forest’s twin brother Walter Jay was born on February 3, 1884 in Colchester North. According to the 1950 Michigan Census, Walter worked at a steel factory as a Converter Machine Operator. He married Mable May Schwartz and they had at least three children named John, Joseph, and Lavern. Before I share details about their children, I’ll share Walter and Mable’s obituaries which both appeared in The Adrian Daily Telegram. Walter’s passing was reported on September 12, 1972 and his obituary says “Ann Arbor – Walter Butler, 67, a former resident of Adrian, died Monday at his Ann Arbor home. He was born September 18, 1904, in Adrian. He moved to Ann Arbor in 1941. Surviving are a son, John of Athens; two daughters, six brothers, four sisters, and several grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a sister.”
Walter’s wife Mable’s passing appeared in the December 10, 1981 edition of The Adrian Daily Telegram and said “Mable May Butler, 87, formerly of 504 S. Madison St., Adrian, died Wednesday at the Lenawee Medical Care Facility, where she had been a patient for the last six years. She was born July 1, 1894 in Adrian, to Jacob and Gertrude Schwartz. She married Walter Butler August 10, 1911. He died in 1972. Survivors include one son, Joseph Butler of Blissfield; three grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren. She was also preceded in death by one son, Laverne, in 1972; one grandson; and three brothers.”
As mentioned, Mabel and Walter had three sons named John, Joseph and Lavern. I could not find any information for John, but I did find Joseph and Lavern’s obituaries. Joseph’s passing was shared in The Daily Telegram on December 4, 1997 and said “Joseph F. Butler, 84, of Blissfield, passed away Dec. 3, 1997, at Bixby Medical Center. He was born July 31, 1913, in Adrian to Walter and Mabel May (Schwartz) Butler. On Nov. 24, 1934, he married Beatrice Darstein in Adrian. She preceded him in death in 1991. He was in the Michigan National Guard. Joseph worked at DeKalb Ag Research for many years before retiring. He was loved by all, and was active at the Bliss-Liewert Senior Center in the Kitchen Band in Blissfield. He was also a member of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Adrian. Survivors include one son, Jack ‘Butch’ (Barbara) Butler of Ann Arbor; a daughter-in-lawn, Dawn Butler; three grandchildren, Robert, Gary, and Michael; and five great-grandchildren, Bobbie Jo, Stephanie, Bradley, Kaitlyn, and Corrin. Besides his wife, Beatrice, he was preceded in death by a son, Richard, in 1981.”
Joseph’s brother Lavern’s obituary from the February 14, 1972 edition of The Adrian Daily Telegram states “LaVern W. Butler, 57, of 427 Madison Street, died Sunday morning at 10 o’clock in Bixby Hospital where he had been a patient since Wednesday. Mr. Butler had been in failing health for the last five months. He was born May 29, 1915, in Adrian, and had been employed for 15 years with the Dunbar-Borton Company as a plumber-sheet metal worker. He was a member of The First Church of the Nazrene, the National Guard and the Eagles Lodge. On April 7, 1938, he married Esther Butts. She survives. Additional survivors are, a son Robert of Adrian; a daughter Mrs. Otto (Janice) Bilkey of Adrian; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Butler of Adrian and a brother, Joseph, of Blissfield. Also surviving are five grandchildren.”
So far, I’ve discussed four of James Butler and Ann Donnelly’s children: James, Joseph, Forest, and Walter Jay. I’ll continue with the rest of their children Sadie, Thomas, Carrie, Ernest, and Minnie. Sadie married Philip F. Aldrich (sometimes spelt Aldrick), the son of Chauncey Aldrich and Nellie Beardsley, on March 15, 1916 in Detroit, Michigan. Philip was born on February 19, 1887 in Armada, Macomb, Michigan. The 1950 Michigan Census for Philip and Sadie reveals that Sadie’s occupation was an Antique Buyer who sold antiques from her home, while Philip was a Truck Driver who owned his own business. Sadie sadly passed away in 1965 which was reported in The Daily Telegram on April 25th. Her obituary says “Services for Mrs. Sadie Aldrich, wife of Philip Aldrich of 1370 West Maumee Street, who died Friday noon in the Bixby Hospital, were Monday at 3:30pm in the Braun Funeral Home. The Rev. William Welton officiated. Burial was in Lenawee Hills Memorial Park. The bearers were Thomas Butler, John Butler, Vern Butler, Benjamin Butler, Robert Falor and Wendell Falor.”
Sadie’s brother Thomas, according to his WWI Draft Registration card, was born on April 5, 1880. He married Mary Meldrum, the daughter of Ed. Meldrum, on September 17, 1901 in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Their marriage record lists Thomas as a hotel porter while Mary worked as a waitress. According to Thomas’s obituary “Thomas A. Butler, 90, formerly of 124 North Madison Street, died Monday at 6 a.m., in Ypsilanti State Hospital. Surviving are three brothers, Joseph, Forrest, Walter Butler, all of Adrian, and one sister Mrs. Carrie Falor of Delta, Preceding him in death were his wife, Mary, a daughter, Carrie, in infancy, one sister, Mrs. Sadie Aldrich and a brother, James Butler.”
Thomas’ sister Carrie is the next child of James Butler and Annie Donnelly. She married Lincoln Falor, the son of Andrew Falor and Hannah McConkey, on June 30, 1919 in Adrian, Michigan. The 1940 Census lists Carrie and Lincoln, along with their children Wendel and Robert B. living in York Township, Fulton, Ohio. Lincoln and Carrie’s son Wendel was born on May 15, 1920 and later married Margaret F. Herrick, the daughter of Fred Herrick and Beatrice O’Haver, on July 18, 1942 in Fulton, Ohio. He passed away on November 15, 1993. Wendel’s brother Robert was born on May 10, 1922 in Fulton, Ohio. Robert married Lois Louise Roddy, the daughter of Henry Roddy and Ethel Van Ness, on September 28, 1946 in Fulton, Ohio. Their marriage record states that Robert worked as a Soldier and Lois was a Clerk.
Robert and Wendel’s father Lincoln Falor passed away on October 2, 1950 at the age of 91. Their mother Carrie Butler Falor passed on January 2, 1973 at the age of 90.
Carrie’s brother Ernest, the next child of James and Ann (Donnelly) Butler was born in 1889 and sadly passed away in 1890. Ernest’s sister Minnie was born on July 15, 1884 in Colchester North, but I could not find any further information for her.
What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 4.
The Butler/Fitzbutler Family History Part 4 – Trailblazers
Now that I have discussed Mary, Philip, Emaline, William Henry, Sidney, and James, I will end this family history by discussing the last child of William Butler and Ann Calvert who is Elizabeth, also called Lizzie. She married James W. Foster, the son of Levi Foster and Elizabeth Waring, on August 20, 1867 in Detroit. I was also able to find the marriage certificate for James and Lizzie which says “This certifies that on the twentieth day of August 1867 I joined in Holy Matrimony James W. Foster of Amherstburg aged 25 years. Born in Amherstburg, province of Ontario. By trade a Mason. And Lizzie A. Butler of the same place aged 19 years. Born in the town of Amherstburg in the province aforesaid. There were present as Witnesses May Chase and Amy Russell both of Detroit. Dated at Detroit this 20th day of August 1867. Supply Chase Pastor 2nd Bap Ch.”
The 1880 Michigan Census lists James’ occupation as “keeps livery stable” which is interesting because his father Levi owned several businesses in Amherstburg including a livery stable on Apsley street (Sandwich street). This business did so well that Levi Foster started a stage coach business which was in operation during the 1850s. According to one advertisement in The Amherstburg Echo, its route began at Mr. Marie’s Tavern in Amherstburg at 8am on Monday and Saturday mornings and from Mr. Beeman’s Hotel in Windsor at 9pm on the same days. This was in addition to operating a hotel from 1848 to 1873 and also a tavern in Amherstburg, which closed for an interesting reason. Levi Foster attended a public debate that was held at the local Sons of Temperance Hall, which resolved that “the Slave Holder is better than a tavern keeper.” At the debate, Henry Botsford, son of Daniel Botsford, spoke to the affirmative side and succeeded in winning the debate. At the time, the temperance movement was very influential, encouraging people to moderate their drinking or stop altogether. As a result, Foster, who was previously enslaved, put a notice on his closed tavern that stated that he would not allow himself to be perceived as worse than a slaveholder.
Following the closure of his tavern, Foster continued his livery business and accumulated valuable real estate, eventually owning several houses and farms in Amherstburg. By 1861 he also had livestock that was valued at $1,000, in addition to seven carriages worth $7,000 and forty-four acres of land. Foster also owned several houses and lots on south George Street.
Levi Foster was also involved in the community, as is evident in his participation in a General Convention that was held in Amherstburg in 1853. This convention brought together delegates from the US and Canada to Amherstburg to discuss issues such as agriculture, temperance, and education. Among those in attendance were Josiah Henson, who was elected chairman, Henry Bibb, and Levi Foster. Levi was also active in anti-slavery debates and chaired at least one anti-slavery gathering in Amherstburg in 1846. He also assisted in the organization of the True Band Society in Amherstburg which was created to assist Freedom Seekers in Canada. He is a very important figure in Amherstburg’s history.
According to Levi’s obituary from The Amherstburg Echo “after farming for twenty-four years he learned the plastering trade, and came to Amherstburg in 1838. Here he followed his trade for ten years, and then started the first livery stable in town, and ran a daily line of stages between Amherstburg and Windsor. About eighteen months since two of his sons succeed him in the livery business and he moved to his farm where he died. His first wife, who was a daughter of David Waring of Coshocton, Ohio, died in 1855, and left him four sons and five daughters. All of the sons and two daughters survive him. Mr. Foster became a member of the Disciple Church, and has continued so ever since, and bore his last illness with meekness and resignation. He was a peaceable citizen and was respected by all who knew him. His funeral on Sunday last was largely attended.”
As mentioned in Levi’s obituary, two of his sons ‘succeed him in the livery business’ and one of those sons was James, the husband of Elizabeth Butler. He was born circa 1842 in Amherstburg. According to a letter found in the Museum’s Foster family binder, it says that James, Elizabeth and their children moved from Amherstburg to Monroe, Michigan in 1878. Their children include Ella, Myrtle, Grace, Mae/Maria Henrietta, William, Jay Walter, and J. Ernest. Before I discuss their children, I will share a few more details about Elizabeth and James. Elizabeth’s death record reports that she was born on February 11, 1848 in Canada and passed on July 12, 1921 in Monroe, Michigan. It also records that she was a widow. That is because James passed away in 1900. His obituary from The Amherstburg Echo from July 20, 1900, reports “In Monroe, Mich., on Wednesday July 11th, Mr. James William Foster, aged 58 years. Deceased was born in Amherstburg on March 8th, 1842. He was the third son of the late Levi Foster, of this town. He leaves to mourn his loss a wife, four daughters and one son, the youngest being 18 years of age. Also four brothers – Levi, of Wisconsin; George H. of Malden; Joh, of Amherstburg; Thomas, in the Klondike. Three sisters – Mrs. J.L. Hyatt; Mrs. H.P. Jacobs, of Natchez, Miss., and Miss Elizabeth, of Monroe.”
As mentioned, Elizabeth and James’ children include Ella, Myrtle, Mae/Maria, Grace, William, Jay Walter, and J. Ernest. I only found limited information for William, Jay Walter and J. Ernest. William was born on April 22, 1881 and sadly passed away the next month on May 3, 1881. Jay Walter was born on March 12, 1883 and passed on January 13, 1911, while J. Ernest passed on August 1, 1896.
I have significantly more information for Ella, Myrtle, Grace and Mae/Maria. Ella was born on May 16, 1873 in Amherstburg. She married Marion Elmore Author on April 26, 1905. Ella and Marion were a very accomplished couple. Together they founded the first Black bank in Ohio – Toledo’s Star Building and Loan Association, in addition to establishing Woodland Park, a summer resort for African American tourists/residents, in 1921. Woodland Park is located near Bitely in Newaygo County’s Merrill Township (Michigan). I have Tom Adamich and Dianna Cross Toran to thank for much of the information on Ella and Marion because Tom Adamich wrote several articles about Ella Foster Author and the Foster family in The Monroe News and Dianna Cross Toran includes information about Ella, Marion and Woodland Park, in her books Woodland Echoes-A Cottage in My Heart and Shadows Beyond the Pines: A Story about Woodland Park Michigan, A Black Resort During Segregation. Adamich shares in his articles that the Foster family of Monroe Michigan had several successful business ventures including a thriving livery business, a 23-acre fruit/dairy farm called the Willow Bend Dairy, and a confectionary and candy business (started by Ella) called the Sugar Bowl which opened in 1899 and was located at 9 W. Front Street, near the Foster family home (corner of East 6th Street and Scott Street). The Sugar Bown was later franchised to include a second location in Ann Arbor and some have argued that the Sugar Bowl was Monroe’s first soda fountain. Ella continued this legacy with the Woodland Park resort which used to be an old lumber mill called Brookings Mill. Woodland Park was a prime destination for Black travellers, and others, and included amenities such as a hotel called the Royal Breeze, clubhouse, convenience store, café/tavern called Pine Cone Tavern, realty office, community centre, church, funeral parlor, and a school which was called ‘The Sweet Childs Rest Building’ according to a photo caption. According to Adamich, Ella only hired accredited Black teachers for this school. The first person to purchase a property in Woodland Park was Mattie Keller described as an ‘enterprising middle aged [B]lack woman from Atlanta, Georgia,’ who settled in Woodland Park in 1922 and opened its first store and gas station. According to Adamich, Keller would later open and operate two of the four main hotels within the resort.
According to Adamich, follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the established ‘segregated business structure’ was altered, but many Black families chose to keep their properties in Woodland Park, while others opted for more integrated vacation and land ownership opportunities. There are roughly fifty families that still live in Woodland Park as residents.
Dianna Cross Toran adds further evidence to the significance of Ella Foster Author and her family sharing their contributions. She states that Ella’s mother Elizabeth contributed to the Monroe Ladies’ Aid Society which often met at the Foster home. Cross Toran also argues that Ella not only preserved a part of America’s Black economic and family history, but also her writing and photography helped to fill in gaps in Black history that had “either not been written, visually preserved or were ignored.” According to Cross Toran, Ella took pictures of everything in Woodland Park and turned many of them into postcards which could be purchased. Because there are only a few places that remain at Woodland Park that existed during Ella’s time, the photographs/postcards help to locate different parts of the resort (ex. The clubhouse) and preserves this history. Ella’s images also include Black leaders who visited Woodland Park such as W.E.B. Dubois, John Overton, Hallie Q. Brown and the Johnson Brothers who wrote the song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ In addition to her photography, Ella also contributed to preserving history by writing articles that ‘were rich with detail and meaning’ for the newspaper The Chicago Defender. It is not clear if the following article appeared in The Chicago Defender, but Ella often wrote advertising articles that encouraged people to purchase lots at Woodland Park. A section of one of Ella’s advertising articles, titled “What Does Woodland Park Mean to You?” says “It offers you the opportunity of bringing to a full realization your fondest dreams, the dreams and ambitions of everyone who has the desire to better himself physically, mentally and morally. It is absolutely essential to the well-being of everyone who is compelled to earn his livelihood and the nerve racking turmoil of a great city that he spend a portion of each year some place where he can throw off the cares and worries of his monotonous, routine life…meeting and mingling with his friends and acquaintances in such a place, give himself up to pure, unalloyed pleasure and recreation … Be one of the progressive ones and act now.”
Ella passed away on November 22, 1941 in Detroit. According to Adamich, there is a historic marker placed near the Brookings Mill Schoolhouse which highlights the significance of Woodland Park and Ella and Marion’s role in developing the resort.
Ella’s sister Myrtle also made a significant impact. Myrtle was born on April 17, 1870. She married twice. Her first marriage was to Dr. Louis G. Todd and second to Hugh Cook Sr. who was born on October 31, 1873 in Washington, D.C. Just as with Ella, others have written about Myrtle. In Notable Black American Women, Book 2 edited by Jessie Carney Smith and Shirelle Phelps, there is a substantial writeup by Ruth A. Hodges about Myrtle on pages 140-143. Because the writeup is so thorough, it will appear in the next few pages of this family history. It says “Myrtle Foster Cook (1870-1951) – Editor, clubwoman, educator, civic worker, political worker – As a member of an affluent immigrant Canadian family, Myrtle Foster Cook was privileged with many educational, religious, social, and cultural advantages. Her early experiences resulted in her lifelong devotion to civic and women’s club work at both the local and national level. She also held leadership positions with the Republican party. Cook served for many years as the national program chair of the National Association for Colored Women (NACW), the premier women’s organization of her time, and in 1922 she became the second editor of the association’s newsletter, eventually transforming the one-page leaflet National Notes into a magazine. During her years as a leader in the NACW she worked with such notable women as Mary McLeod Bethune, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Mary Church Terrell, with whom she frequently corresponded.”
The writeup continues by saying “Myrtle Foster Cook was born in Canada on April 17, 1870, to James William and Elizabeth Butler Foster. She died of bronchopneumonia on August 31, 1951, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of eighty-one. Funeral services were held at Peoples Funeral Home in Los Angeles. Cook’s family immigrated to the United States in 1877 or 1879 from Amherstburg, Canada, and settled in Monroe, Michigan. She became a citizen of the United States as a child, when her parents became naturalized residents of Monroe. James E. Devries, in Race and Kinship in a Midwestern Town: The Black Experience in Monroe, Michigan, 1900-1915, discusses the ambiguity in classifying the racial status of the Foster family. He indicates that several Monroe County records classified them as mulattos; the U.S. census lists the Fosters as black in 1880, white in 1900, and mulatto in 1910; and Grace Foster Schmitt died ‘white’ in 1954 according to Devries.”
Hodges also writes “The fathers of James and Elizabeth Foster were both slaves who escaped to Canada, presumably on the Underground Railroad during the abolitionist years. Elizabeth’s father, William H. Butler, was a native of South Carolina and her mother, Ann Calvert, was English and white. James Foster’s father, Levi, a leading black figure in Amherstburg, was originally from Ohio or Virginia, and James’ mother was Elizabeth Waring, a native of Virginia. It appears that Levi Foster was not pleased with life in Canada between 1866 and 1873. He petitioned several times to end the separate school department for ‘coloreds’ in his community, but each time the trustees turned down his request. Daniel G. Hill, in The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada, states that Mrs. Levi Foster also appealed to the district school board to allow her to send her children to the common school but was refused. According to the board, the separate school ‘was sufficient for the wants of the colored people.’”
“Hill also writes that Levi Foster was a tavern owner in Amherstburg when he attended a public debate at the Sons of Temperance Hall, where it was resolved, ‘The slave holder is better than a tavern keeper.’ The day after the debate Levi Foster hung a notice on his closed tavern stating that, since he was a former slave himself, he could not let it be said that he was worse than a slave holder. Levi Foster was affluent in Amherstburg, operation, in addition to a livery business, a successful stage line and hotel from 1848 to 1873. After closing the tavern, he continued his livery business and built up large holdings of valuable real estate, eventually owning several houses and farms in Amherstburg. In 1861 his property included livestock valued at one thousand dollars, seven carriages worth seven thousand dollars, and forty-four acres of land. When James and Elizabeth Foster arrived in Monroe, they had the cash and the know-how to thrive in their new surroundings …”
“Shortly after James and Elizabeth Foster arrived in Monroe, they purchased a home and livery stable business, which was operated at a profit until 1893 when James Foster retired and sold the concern; the family then bought a homestead of twenty-three acres on the outskirts of the city and ran a successful fruit and dairy farm for several years. As an affluent family in Monroe, they resided in two of the community’s better homes. At the time of his death in 1900, according to Devries in ‘Home Grown,’ James Foster’s estate was valued at $10,000, which included real estate assessed at $5,500 and bank savings and credit totaling $4,530.02. Because of the Fosters’ standing in the community, they participated fully in Monroe’s economic, political, school, and church activities.”
“While James Foster never ran for political office, he was a dependable and committed Republican. Both Myrtle and Ella Foster were elected as speakers for their high school graduation exercises in 1889 and 1893, respectively. In his Baptist church James Foster was elected several times to positions of deacon, treasurer, and trustee; he also chaired annual meetings when the church was without an ordained leader. All the Foster children were baptized in the Baptist church, and the daughters took leading roles in the Baptist Young People’s Union. Meetings of this group and the Ladies’ Aid Society were held at the Fosters’ home …”
The next section of the article from Notable Black American Women is titled “Combines Teaching Career with Club Work” and shares that “Myrtle Foster Cook attended the University of Michigan. She served as a part-time teacher in Monroe for a few years before a desire to do missionary work led her to Kentucky, where she served as principal of a small normal school supported by the Baptist district association. She then accepted a position offering professional advancement at a high school in Frankfort. It was in Frankfort that she met and married Dr. Louis G. Todd, a descendant of a prominent Kentucky family. The Todds settled in Muskogee, Oklahoma, around the early 1900s. Cook was immediately asked to teach in the government high school for black children of American Indians. Responding to the generally poor health of blacks in the community, she organized the Dorcas Club in order to establish a hospital, which was completed by others who continued her work after she left Oklahoma. In Oklahoma Cook also organized a series of lectures and recitals, arranging statewide tours with the assistance of the State Teachers’ Association. Coming to Oklahoma were individuals such as Richard B. Harrison, who played the ‘De Lawd’ in Green Pastures and Dr. Kelly Miller, educator, lecturer, and scientist.”
“Cook was a charter member in the writing of the constitution of the Oklahoma State Federation. Louis Todd died on December 23, 1911. In 1916 Cook moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to head the English department of Lincoln High School. There she joined the Book Lover’s Club, the City Federation, and the Woman’s League. After four years of teaching, Cook married Hugh Oliver Cook, head of the mathematics department and later principal of Lincoln High School. Myrtle Cook laughingly told the NACW that she had married a family, for Hugh Cook had two young sons, Hugh Oliver and Hartwell Cook, and a foster daughter, Chloe, in college. The Cooks supported and aided dozens of other children; some were adopted, reared as their own children and sent to college, and others were given financial aid to help them finish high school or college. Through the Woman’s League of Kansas City, Cook initiated a movement to found a home for ‘colored’ boys. She was the organizer and secretary of the Colored Children’s Association, working nine years to secure the erection, equipment, and staffing of the Jackson County Home for Negro Boys in Jackson County, Missouri. After Hugh Cook retired from the school system in January 1944, he and Myrtle Cook moved to Los Angeles, where Hugh Cook died in 1949.”
Before continuing with the excerpt from Notable Black American Women, I will share a few more details about Hugh. According to a biographical article about Hugo Oliver Cook, written by Megan Dennis, in the 1910s, Hugh Cook led a campaign for the construction of a YMCA facility for African Americans and served overseas during WWI as the YMCA secretary who represented the organization in an all-Black unit, the 371st Infantry Regiment. He was also recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross after being gassed during the Champaign offensive in France in 1918. For his efforts in teaching, Cook was also awarded the Missouri State Association of Negro Teachers’ Distinguished Service Medal award. Not only was he awarded this medal, but he also served as the association’s secretary for twenty-one years and as President in 1923. Following his retirement as principal at Lincoln High School, Hugh Cook, his wife Myrtle and family moved to Los Angeles County where Hugh was involved in the Boy Scouts, sold real estate and fire insurance and, along with his wife, raised funds for a low-income housing project. The newspaper the Kansas City Call, described the Cooks as “‘part and parcel’ of every forward movement which took place in Kansas City over a period of 40 years.”
The last section of the biographical article from Notable Black American Women is titled “Named Editor-Manager of National Notes” and says “Myrtle Foster Cook’s numerous social and charitable activities began in Monroe, Michigan, and continued in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Cook held a number of positions within the NACW, including teller, national program chairperson, editor-manager of the Nationals Notes, and chairperson of the Publicity Committee. From 1918 to 1928, while serving as national program chairperson and as editor-manager of the National Notes, Cook frequently corresponded with Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the NACW, soliciting articles and pictures for the Notes and outlining special programs. Cook succeeded Margaret Murray Washington in 1922 as editor-manager of the National Notes. Conceived by Washington, Notes was adopted as the official organ of the association in 1897 and was circulated at a subscription price of twenty-five cents a year. It was originally a small sheet of facts published by Washington at her own expense at Tuskegee Institute and distributed at the national convention. Cook expanded the newsletter into a sixteen-page magazine full of a variety of reports, articles, and personal comments, along with illustrations of clubwomen, convention groups, and projects.”
“With the expansion of national projects – the restoration of the Frederick Douglass Home in the District of Columbia, the scholarship loan fund, plans for a national headquarters – Notes functioned effectively in disseminating information, inspiring enthusiasm, unifying sentiments, and coordinating state and national support. In addition, Notes prospered financially under the management of Cook, who was able to return $619.28 of the association’s subsidy as projected in her Second Biennial Report of the NACW for 1924-26, the NACW’s fifteenth biennial session. In 1926 Myrtle Foster Cook resigned as editor of Notes. Mary McLeod Bethune, the NACW president at the time, stated in the ‘Special Notice’ section of the National Notes, ‘We hope that our splendid organ will go forward in the future with the same interest and efficiency as it has in the past. The standard has been set very high and we hope the succeeding editor will keep it so.’ Cook’s expression of appreciation to the organization also appeared in the same issue of the Notes.”
Notable Black American Women continues, “Cook was nationally known for her work with the Republican party. She served as chairperson of the Women’s Division in Jackson county during the 1920 presidential campaign, and in 1924 she was designated national chairperson of the Black Division and a member of the National Speakers’ Bureau. During the 1924 campaign she assisted Hallie Quinn Brown, who was director of Colored Republican Women in the Republican National Committee. In the early 1920s Cook was appointed by the governor as a committee member of the Missouri Negro Educational and Industrial Commission and served for six years. Cook, along with her husband, was involved in other activities as well. Myrtle Foste Cook helped organize the NAACP branch in Kansas City and served as its secretary and treasurer for many years; she also organized the Paseo branch of the YWCA, serving as a member of its first Committee of Management and chair of the Public Affairs Committee. Both of the Cooks were pioneer workers in the Peoples Finance Corporation, of which Myrtle Cook was the major stockholder. The couple also helped organize the Home Seekers Savings and Loan Company in 1926.”
Hodges ends by saying “Myrtle Cook spent a lifetime in the service of organizations that sought to improve the conditions of blacks. She was a clubwoman, educator, businesswoman, and civic and political worker. Her keen intellect enabled her to contribute much to the development of National Notes and to the realization of the NACW’s goals of self-improvement, woman’s suffrage, and the uplift of the black community. More research is needed to further examine her role in organizations such as the Home Seekers’ Savings and Loan Company, the Peoples Finance Corporation, the Republican National party, the NAACP, and the YWCA.” Thank you to Ruth A. Hodges for such a thorough account of Myrtle’s life.
Now that I have discussed Ella, Myrtle, William, Jay Walter, and J. Ernest, I’ll continue with Grace and Mae/Maria Henrietta. Grace was born on April 30, 1879 and remained in Monroe, Michigan to take care of her mother Elizabeth. Following her mother’s death, she married Carl Schmitt who worked as the Foster family’s (German) hired hand. Grace passed away in May 1954.
Mae, also known as Maria Henrietta, was born on December 29, 1876 in Amherstburg. In the book Notable Black American Women edited by Jessie Carney Smith and Shirelle Phelps, it briefly mentions Mae was born on December 29, 1876 and was later married to John Fields circa 1900. Mae also assisted her sister Ella in the operation of the family’s candy store business. Mae’s death record which lists her as Henrietta Fields, states that she died on May 25, 1913 in Toledo, Ohio.
What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week where we will celebrate another amazing family.