Above is George Washington Stith's photo from a "Souvenir of General Convention of Episcopal Methodist Church" at Cleveland, Ohio, May 1896. He is No. 5. These documents were generously provided by Professor Daniel H. Kaiser of Grinnell University.
George Washington Stith and his extended family were simply remarkable. Ex-slaves from Vicksburg, MS, they lifted themselves out of this brutal and demeaning environment to become educated and deeply committed to the service of their community and to their fellow citizens. They showed extreme courage by taking positions that would have been unpopular with the white community and on many occasions lead to violent death of others who took similary actions. Vicksburg owes much to this family and their offspring. It is my fervant hope that someday they will received the honors they so richly deserve. I would greatly appreciate any information about this family and their descendants. Please email me at email@example.com
George Washington Stith was born into slavery on November 8, 1846 near Vicksburg, MS. He and his siblings listed their parents as Henry and Lucy Stith, both born in Virginia. His mother and his sibling's race in early censuses was mulatto. So far I am unable to find any record of his father, however some speculations are included later in this article.
George Washington Stith was married to Eliza Hebron, born Vicksburg. The birthdates of their children and other records suggest that they married between 1870 and 1876 in Vicksburg. In the 1930 U. S. Census, Eliza reports she married at 18 which would put 1876 as the marriage date; however, daughter Bertha was born 1874. I doubt they were not married during her birth. In the 1880 U. S. Census, Eliza's father was listed as from Virginia and her mother from Mississippi. G. W. and Eliza had two children, Georgia Estella (1876–1943) and Bertha G. Stith Cowan Ross (1874–1933). Bertha first married Samuel A. Cowan, a minister twenty years Bertha's senior. Bertha taught at Cherry Street School. She later married Andrew J. Ross (b. ca 1872). G. W. and Eliza's second daughter, Georgia Estella (born 1876) was a long time teacher in the Warren County School System. She married school principal, Benjamin F. Shannon (later divorced in 1908 after moving to Louisiana) and had a daughter, Myrtle (1896–1989). Shannon, an 1887 Alcorn A&M University mathematics graduate, served as teacher and principal of the Cherry Street School in Vicksburg. He organized the YMCA in Meridian. Georgia and her daughter moved to Chicago. Georgia died in 1943 and is buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in Wort, IL. G. W. Stith died August 20, 1926 in Vicksburg. Eliza died April 16, 1932. Stith, his wife and his daughter, Bertha, are buried in Cedar Hills Cemetery.
In his testimony to the US Senate Committe Hearing, Stith states, "Well, since the war: that is, during the war I went North to school. I had a little (education) before I went there. I was in the army here, and the soldiers took great interest in teaching me; and in 1864, when General Sherman returned of the raid up here, the volunteers went home, and I went with them, and remained there up to 1870.)
A few ponts to consider: Stith was a slave when the war started and likely was on the plantation of Lawrence Washington Stith outside of Vicksburg. Since the areas around Vicksburg formed the battleground between Union and Confederate soldiers as early as 1862 and was a very active confrontation area in 1863 leading up to the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, Stith would have had many opportunities to escape the plantation, or more likely, Union troops, far from supply lines, would have captured plantations inorder to secure food, livestock and other supplies. Slaves would have been free to go if able. Many young men joined the Union forces as Stith did.
A cousin of my wife, Teresa Meikle, has been assisting with a discharge papers transcription project conducted by the National Archives and Fold3. Ater reading my writeup on Stith, she did some research in Civil War records for any records of his. Below is a summary of some of that information.
The first is from Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 47th through 55th. Here is a timeline (with my comments) extracted from these records.
Stith, George, Co. K 47 U. S. Col'd Inf, Private, Index of Cards. Entry includes card numbers related to Stith or Unit.
George Stith, Private, Co K, 8th Regiment, LA Infantry A. D. Age transcribed as 27, Muster-In-Roll, joined at Lake Providence, LA., May 1, 1863 for 3 years. (Comment: This age is in conflict with our G. W. Stith, however examining the record, it is possible that instead of a 2 this might be a 1, making him 17, which was Stith's age in 1863. He also may have given his age as 27, however the difference would have been recognized by the authorities, likely they welcomed any able-bodied soldier who wish to fight. Also note that Lake Providence is north of Vicksburge and across the Mississippi River. Less than 50 miles as the crows flies. Very easy for Stith to get there.}
May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, 1863: Stith marked present in his unit.
January, February, marked Absent, Remarks: Guard with R. D. M. at Vicksburg, MS.
March, April, May, June, marked Present, Remarks: Teamster by Special Orders No. 15, March 20, 1864. His unit has now become the Co. K 47 US Col'd Inf.
July, August, September, October, 1864, marked: Present
November and December 1864, marked: Absent, Remarks: D. S. by S(pecial) O(rders) No 4 dated Head Quarters Post of Vicksburg, Miss, Nov 18, 1864.
November and December 1864, marked Absent, Remarks: Detailed ai Ad Dept. by order of Brig. General M(organ). L(ewis). Smith. (Smith was in charge of Vicksburg)
In his testimony before the Congressional Senate Committee, Stith said he went to Iowa with their Volunteers in 1864. Note that in the entry above he is assigned by the Brig. General in charge of Vicksburg. Being marked present the next two month may mean he continued in the service of the Army as he travels to Iowa.
January and February 1865, marked as Present
February 19, 1865, Stith joined the Episcopal Methodist Church in Chester Center Iowa ( from "Souvenir of General Convention of Episcopal Methodist Church" at Cleveland, Ohio, May 1896
The following entries are at odds with what we know about Stith's move to Iowa and subsequently enrolling in Iowa College. We see below that he was apparently last paid on June 30, 1865, at least six months after he left Vicksburg for Iowa. Poor record keeping, fellow soldier posing as Stith, fraud on part of paymaster, etc. Further research necessary
March and April, 1865, marked Absent, Remarks: Absent sick since March 9, 1865.
May and June, 1865, marked Absent
July and August 1865, marked Present
September and October, 1865, E?t (maybe Eqt) Duty Rolls Quartermaster Department since April 11/65.
November and December 1865, Marked: Present
Mustered out July 5, 1886, Baton Rouge, LA. Last paid June 30, 1865. Due soldier $12.59. Remarks: Joined at original organization.
Below is a summary of some of Stith's service. His Louisiana Infantry Unit in February and March of 1864, assisted in the capture of Yazoo City and surrounding areas. However it is stated that Stith was assigned guard duty in Vicksburg for March. From March to July he is a teamster in the Regiment Quartermaster Department. The November and December entry reads, "Absent on d. s. as teamster in Ord. Dept, Vicksburg, Nov. 18/64. If d. s. means "detacted service" then he could be on his way to Iowa with the Iowa soldiers.
The entries stating he is in Pensacola and Fort Barrancas are difficult to make consistent with other records. Some of the records above and some in this summary could be a result of him remaining in the army during his trip with the Volunteers to Iowa. Since that trip would require teamsters, maybe he continued in the pay of the Army. His absences could be associated with his move to Iowa. The entries in Pensacola in the summary below remain a mystery. Stith was in Iowa by that time. Maybe they assumed he was still in that unit. Record keeping would be difficult, especially for African-American unist where the white officers were not totally engaged with their men. Everything fits our George Washington Stith except these later entries.
George Washington Stith's earliest appearance among my research is Center Chester, Iowa, on February 19, 1865. where he joined a church. The Chester Congregational Church, Centennial Anniversary 1865-1965, p. 26 list "Washington Stith" as a member. (Information from research of Professor Daniel Kaiser.)
Three years later he was enrolled in Iowa College (later Grinnell College) in Grinnell, Iowa. Professor Kaiser writes, "When Stith moved into Grinnell to attend the Iowa College Preparatory Department, he transferred membership to the Grinnell Congregational Church. Identified in church records as member 603, "Washington Stith" transferred membership to Grinnell "by letter, Chester, Iowa" in March 1869 (Drake Community Library, Local History Archive, United Church of Christ, First Congregational Church Records, bk. 5: Register of Members, p. 67)."
In the Iowa College 1869 yearbook, he is listed as from Chester, Iowa and is a student in the Preparatory Department. This is basically a high school department that prepares students for college. It is the largest department in the college. Stith is among the large group of students, "Pursuing the English Studies Only". In the same year, the Iowa College Catalog listed him from Vicksburg. He was in the second year of the preparatory curriculum. Presumably, he had finished the first class course of study, which would suggest he was there in 1868. In fact, new information discussed later in this writeup, confirms that Stith came to Iowa in 1864 and remained six years until 1870. (No yearbook or catalog has been found as of this writing.) The October 18, 1869 Morning Democrat, Davenport, Iowa, touting Iowa College, mentions that it has students from Mississippi. The curriculum is shown here:
Above is a clipping from "Souvenir of General Convention of Episcopal Methodist Church" at Cleveland, Ohio, May 1896, which gives a brief bio which documents his residence in Chester, Iowa.
Stith's appearance in Chester, Iowa, on February 19, 1865, is several months before the end of the Civil War. However, the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the Union victory in Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 would have provided him an opportunity to flee the South. How he arrived in Iowa was not known. When I first researched Stith, however, I put together a likely scenario based on a document generously supplied by Janice Strike of the Howard-Winneshiek Genealogical Society in Cresco, Iowa. In "An Historical Sketch of Chester Township, Poweshiek County, Iowa," read at the Quarter-Centennial, July 4, 1881, by G. H. White, the following sentence appears, "Eighteen years ago today, when the 4th of July, 1863, was celebrated by Vicksburg surrendering to Gen. Grant, and when the shout of victory — a shout like the roar of many waters — went up from 100,000 men, C. B. Smith, D. F. Hays, and W. M. Hays, of Chester, joined in that shout." So these three men listed were at the Battle of Vicksburg. Highly likely that one or all, influenced Stith decision to go to Chester Center, Iowa, and seek an education. In fact, at that time, the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad extended west to Grinnell. Two of the three, Daniel Fuss Hays and William M. Hays were farmers, however, Cyrene B. Smith, had attended Hiram College in Ohio and later Williams College in Massachusetts. After returning to Hiram to teach, he came under the influence of James A. Garfield, later the 20th President of the United States. Garfield was strongly opposed to slavery. His views would certainly have influenced Smith. Both Smith and Garfield went on to distinguished military careers.
More about Cyrene B. Smith: Cyrene B. Smith, was born on May 8, 1833 in Bedford, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. His parents, Sidney and Calista Smith, were born in Vermont. His occupation was cheese manufacturer and later Postmaster. He married Catherine and they had two children, Sidney E. (1858–?) and Elvin K. (b. 1860-?). Cyrene was a Civil War Veteran of the Union Army. He enlisted in Company E, 30th Iowa Infantry Regiment on August 25, 1862. Cyrene was promoted to Full 3rd Sergeant on April 18, 1863. Smith was in twenty heavy battles and four skirmishes and was at the taking of Vicksburg and with Sherman on his march to the sea. He never received a scratch. Balls penetrated his coat and hat, but not his body. He was mustered out on June 5, 1865 at Washington, DC. Records show he was a postmaster of Chester Center, Iowa in 1891. He died October 10, 1894, Powershiek County, Iowa, USA. He is buried Hazelwood Cemetery, Grinnell, Poweshiek Iowa.
There were a number of stops on the Underground Railroad in Iowa. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell was an active abolitionist and Grinnell College was one of the first colleges in the US to admit African-American students.The Chester article referenced earlier, also provides information which bears on Stith's presence in Chester Center. In discussing religion in Chester Center, the article says, "The first religious service held in the township was at the house of J. W. Sherman, July 18, 1858, when the Rev. Job Cushman preached to an audience of fifteen persons. In the summer of '62 a Sunday school and Prayer Meeting were organized in the Samuel Hays house, and on the erection of the first school-house the Sunday school and Prayer Meetings were transferred there. The numbers and interest increasing, the services of L. J. Rouse, of Grinnell, were secured, and he preached during the summers of '63—4. June 15, 1865, the first Congregational Church was organized with sixteen members, ... The M. E. Church was organized March 18, 1867, by Rev. D. Murphy, of Grinnell. For some years, the services were held in the school-house and private dwellings, but in 1874 their present edifice was erected at a cost of $3,400.00." A number of things makes this relevant to our search for Stith's Iowa connections. Samuel P. Hays was the father of Daniel Fuss Hays, at right, one of the farmers mentioned as being at the Battle of Vicksburg. Samuel P. Hays, according to his obituary, "converted and united" with the M. E. Church in 1866, (note: this was nearly a year before the formal organization of the church). Stith was active in the M. E. Church during most of his adult life. So between the Hays farmers and Cyrene B. Smith there was ample opportunity for these three to make arrangements for this bright, seventeen year old, now freed slave to remove to Chester Center, Iowa and pursue an education.
Professor Daniel H. Kaiser of Grinnell University. recently provided some additional information related to the Hays family, he writes, "However, in reading more about the Hays family I was reminded of something that you may already have read but which I did not connect with Stith. As you may know, the Hays family moved to Iowa from Maryland, and they brought with them Edward Delaney, a former slave of their family whom they had emancipated, but who wanted to stay with the family anyway. He did not live long after their arrival in Iowa, but he is buried in the Hays family plot alongside his former masters in the local cemetery here. This story, remembered in Delaney’s obituary, reinforces my suspicion that it was the Hays brothers who brought Stith to Iowa, yet another expression of their abhorrence of slavery and their commitment to emancipation. Hardly proof of the Hays-Stith connection, but perhaps another gentle association."
In May of 2020, I received an email from Tim Pinnock, a noted genealogist, author, and entrepreneur. He had found this site in connection with research he was doing on migration of African-Americans north after the Civil War. He kindly pointed out there was information about Stith in the 1876 Congressional Record of Senate Hearings related to July 5, 1875, riots in Vicksburg. G. W. Stith despite threat of extreme violence against him and his family, gave testimony as to the despicable events that occured during the riots. (His full testimony and cross-examination can be found at the end of this page.) In this testimony he was asked about his personal life and in two places he gave details. Both are shown below:
These documents seem to confirm my speculations as to how Stith got to Iowa.
Stith opened a bank account with the Freedman's Bank in 1870. The 1870 U. S. Freedman's Bank records list him as teaching in Warren County and his age is 24. He is employed by Supt. Hosie (sp?). His siblings are Chloe, Nathan, Harry, Sophia Virginia and Julianna. His parents are Henry and Lucy.
The 1880 U. S. Census lists George Stith, his wife Eliza and daughters, Estella, 6 (at school) and Bertha, 4 as mulatto. In the house was his sister-in-law, Victoria Connor, 20, also mulatto. Her occupation is cook.
In 1903, The Vicksburg Herald has an article that reports a powerful charge to the grand jury by Honorable H. C. Niles of the US Circuit and District Courts. He condemns the lawless oppression of Negroes being carried out throughout the state, especially something called "Whitecapping", where a group of whites enter the homes of Negro families and give them 24 hours to abandon their home, a home which they own. He points to the lack of the justice system providing punishment as the grand juries are often made up of those who perpetrate such deeds. The grand jury he impanels has George Washington Stith as a member. I wonder how often a Negro served on a grand jury.
In the 1910 U. S. Census, Stith was a teacher living in Ward 1, District 0066. The 1920 U. S. Census said he was 73, and a lecturer in the county schools. Parents were from Virginia. He is married to Elizabeth Stith and they live at 703 First North Street.
Stith and his wife were very active in the Wesley Chapel M. E. Church at First East and Openwood Streets.
George Washington Stith's Siblings
The 1880 U S. Census has a Harry Stith, 35 (born 1845) living on Openwood. He is mulatto and married to Mahalia Stith. They have three children, Robert 7, Cora 6 abd Jennie 2. He is a policeman. In the household is Harriett Vick 48, mother-in-law. Harry, in 1870, also filed for a bank account with the Freedman's Bank. In this application he listed his parents as Henry and Lucy Stith. His siblings were Washington, Nathan, Chloe and Sophia. He was living on Jackson Road and was 23 year old (born 1847–48). His occupation was steam-boating on the Yazoo Belle. His wife was Mahalia. He signed with an X. In the Jackson State Ledger, March 7, 1884, it was reported that a Negro policeman in Vicksburg, Harry Stith, arrested a Harry Johnson. They become involved in an altercation, and Johnson cuts the femoral artery of Stith who fires two shots, killing Johnson. Stith was carried home where he died. In 1924, Robert Stith, on behalf of Harry Stith (alias Harry Hardiway sp) filed for a Civil War pension as a result of service in the U. S. Army. He said that Harry died February 1884, consistent with newspaper article. He said he enlisted in 1864 (this would have been after the siege at Vicksburg) and was discharged May 20, 1866. His service was Company L Fifth Regiment U. S. Heavy Artillery (Colored). A brief history: Organized as 9th Louisiana Volunteers (African Descent) August 7, 1863-January 17, 1864. Designation changed to 1st Mississippi Heavy Artillery (African Descent). Designated 4th Heavy Artillery March 11, 1864, and 5th Heavy Artillery April 26, 1864. Changed to 5th U.S. Colored heavy artillery, April 26, 1864. Expedition from Vicksburg to Yazoo City November 23-December 4, 1864. Mustered out May 20, 1866. Harry apparently joined the unit in Vicksburg following the city's surrender. The request was declined.
The 1870 U. S. Census has a C. Daniels, age 29 (born 1841). She lived with her son A. Daniels, age 3 (born 1867). She was a laundress, born in Mississippi. Nathan Stith listed a sibling, Chloe Daniels, in an 1870 application for an account in the Freedman's Bank. Her race in the census was Black.
In 1865, The Vicksburg Herald list letters at the post office: Miss Sophie Stith's name was listed as having a letter for her. The 1880 U. S. Census has Sophia Stith born in Mississippi about 1851, a mulatto, with parents born in Virginia, living on Openwood Street in the household of Emmanuel Sweet, a 22 year old mulatto, laborer. Sophie's relationship is listed as "concubine". She has three children, Lucy, 13, Henry 7 and Benjamin 6. We recall that Henry and Lucy are her parents names. Her occupation is "washes." She was single. Her sister, Julia, lived next door. A family tree on Ancestry.com lists Sophie's parents as Henry Stith (1790-1888) and Lucy Fiebleman (died 1889). It has Sophia (sp) as born 1855 and died in 1907. Her spouse is Emmanuel Sweet (1851–1933) and children Stokes Siddie Sweet and Minnie Sweet are listed. The 1900 U. S. Census has Emmanuel and Sophie Sweet in Vicksburg on Openwood Street. He was 50 (b. Oct. 1849) and she was 48 (b. Sept. 1851). Their children, Siddie, age 16 (b. August 31, 1838–June 5, 1954), Cedar Hill Cemetery, Vicksburg) and Minnie age 14 (b. 1885) were living with them. Emmanuel and Sophie report that they have been married 20 years, making the year about 1880. Birthplace of Sophie's mother was Florida. Emmanuel works in a fish market. In the 1940 U. S. Census, Siddie Sweet Stokes says her father was born in Quincy, Florida and her mother, Sophie, was born in Ballground, MS. In the 1921 Vicksburg directory, Siddie is a music teacher, living at 1404 Openwood. In the 1920 U. S. Census, Siddie J. Stokes is a laundress. She has four children, Charlton Horn, 14, Minette E. Horn, 7, Sophie S Stokes, 4 and Thomas W. Stokes, 2. In the 1930 U. S. Census, Siddie is a maid in a hotel in Vicksburg, her last name is Custe and she resides at 1404 Openwood.
In the 1880 U. S. Census, Julia Stith is 26, born 1854. She is mulatto with a three year old daughter, Emma. Her mother, Lucy, lived with her. Lucy was 74 years old, born 1806. On Nov 18, 1879, the Freedman's Bank records of 1879 has Julia Stith opening an account; she was 19 years old. She lived with her mother. She listed Lucy as mother and Henry as father. Her siblings are Harry, Washington and Nathan. Her sisters are Chloe, Virginia and Sophy(sp). In 1882, a notice appeared in the Vickburg Herald disclaiming any connection of the lodge known as Ladies Vicksburg Union, No 1 with an improperly formed lodge, Ladies Vicksburg Union, No 2. Julia Stith is the Secretary of L. V. U. No. 1. In the Vicksburg newspaper in 1895, a Miss J. E. Stith was teaching at the Cherry Street School. In the 1900 U. S. Census, Julia lives next door to sister Sophie. Her birthday was May 1853 and she was widowed and was a seamstress. Her daughter Emma Scott, single, age 20, born May 1880, lived with her and was a school teacher. Julie lisedt two children, one living. She listed the birthplace of her mother as Mississippi in contrast to Sophie's listing.
Stith's family was devoted to education. G. W. Stith's younger brother, Nathan J. Stith, attended Alcorn University, 1873, 1874. In 1884, he was a senior at Central Tennessee College. He became a doctor. Below is an announement from the Vicksburg Evening Post, April 1886. Nathan opens an account with the Freedman's Bank on July 15, 1871. He was 16 years old (born 1855). His father was Henry and his mother was Lucy. His siblings were George Washington, Harry, Chloe Daniels. He lived 12 miles from Vicksburg on Hardaway's Place. (SUSAN HARDAWAY, plantation owner had 86 slaves, whether Nathan was one of these is not known.) Nathan practiced medicine in Forrest City and Marion, AK (entry in 1890 Polk's Medical Register and Directory of the United States and Canada) and Memphis, TN. In the 1891 Central Tennessee yearbook, Nathan is listed as deceased in the alumni section.
In the 1880 U. S. Census, Julia's brother, George Washington Stith, age 33, teacher, lived nearby with his wife, Eliza and daughters Bertha, 6 and Estella 4. All are listed as mulatto. Julia's daughter Emma (Scott) eventually became a school teacher in Vicksburg. She will have three years of college. In the 1930 U. S. Census, Julia, age 76, was living with daughter, F. Scott (Emma), age 53. They are both widowed. Julia said she was married at 17 and Emma says she first married at 19. Emma is a teacher in the public schools. In the 1910 U. S. Census, Emma was married to John Spring, age 38, a lineman with a telegraph company. They lived with her mother, Julia, age 57. John and Emma were in the 1911 Vicksburg directory. In 1906, the Vicksburg newspaper refered to teacher Emma F. Scott teaching at the Magnolia Avenue School.
Stith testified at the Yellow Fever National Relief Commission in 1879. Here are several of his contributions:
Examining the expenditures of the Relief boat, it appears Stith was unsuccessful in obstaining any monies for his people. $500 was awarded to the Howard Association, however as Stith says in his letter,"the Howard Association has closed their ration depot against us."
Professor Kaiser provided the following related information, "Stith's duties resonated back in Grinnell where the Grinnell Herald remembered the "colored young man, working in Chester eight years ago." In response to Stith's appeal, someone gathered and sent Stith a donation of $16.50 from Grinnell (Grinnell Herald, September 24, 1878)."
Stith served as deputy sheriff in Warren County probably during Reconstruction. He ran for Harbor Master in 1882, coming in second to a white man. He was Justice of the Peace of Oak Ridge in 1874. He ran for Justice of the Peace in 1883, but was not elected. He was an outspoken advocate of free public schools and no educational requirement for voting. George W. Stith, his wife and his daughter, Bertha, are buried in Cedar Hills Cemetery. Their stones are below.
Stith's stone is quite interesting. It is inscribed, "G. W. Stith, Died Aug. 20, 1926, Stand by Temple 1674, Vicksburg, MS." The emblem is the seal of the Mosaic Templars of America, MTA. The Mosaic Templars of America, an African American fraternal organization offering mutual aid to the black community, was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1882 and incorporated in 1883 by two former slaves, John Edward Bush and Chester W. Keatts. Taking its name from the biblical character of Moses, the organization offered illness, death, and burial insurance to African Americans at a time when white insurers refused to treat black customers equally. The core operations of the Mosaic Templars consisted of several departments: endowment, monument, analysis, uniform rank, recapitulation, records, and a juvenile division. The monument department provided every deceased member with a custom-made “Vermont marble marker” engraved with the MTA symbol. Many of these headstones can still be found in cemeteries across Arkansas and the Southeast. (Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Stith's granddaughter, Myrtle Estella Shannon, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt University in 1996 at the age of 91! She remembered her grandfather, "Over all the years--from her rearing in segregated Vicksburg, Miss., to her family's migration to the steel mills of Gary, Ind., then to the big city of Chicago--she heeded the advice of her grandfather, George Washington Stith, a former slave, who was educated in Iowa during Reconstruction. "He always taught us: Get as much education as you can," she recalled. "He said that nobody could beat you out of anything, or take away things that belong to you." Myrtle graduated from high school in Vicksburg when she was 16. She finished business trade school when she was 20. She earned a certificate in liberal arts from an adult education program at the University of Chicago when she was 47. She received an associate's degree from Woodrow Wilson Junior College, now Kennedy-King College--attending school at night--when she was 62
Since George Washington Stith and his siblings are listed in many documents as mulatto, then the question arises as to who are his parents. There was a white man, named Lawrence Washington Stith in Vicksburg who was originally from Virginia. Lawrence Washington Stith (1788–1868), in Vicksburg listed in the 1850 and 1860 MS Slave Schedule. the Vicksburg Daily Whig reported Lawrence W. Stith in Vicksburg as early as 1841 where he was elected as County Treasurer. According to the Vicksburg Register, his daughter, Rebecca Louisa Stith married William H. Paxton in Vicksburg, April 16, 1836. The November 7, 1910 Vicksburg Evening Post reported the marriage of Ann Rebecca Stith, daughter of Commodore W. W. Stith of Vicksburg to James R. Yerger, Esq. in Jackson, MS. However, the 1891 obituary for James R. Yerger says Yergers were married November 1, 1860. The December 17, 1856 Weekly Mississippian (Jackson, MS) reported the death of Captain J. L. Stith of the First Nicaraguan Rifles. He was the son of Lawrence W. Stith, formerly of the U. S. Navy, Captain Stith was 22 years of age. There is confusion here, some report that Captain J. L. Stith was killed in the Civi War in 1862. There was another son, John William Stith.
The newspaper reports that Lawrence Stith was originally from Brunswick, VA. We recall that George Washington Stith said his parents, Henry and Lucy are from Virginia. In the 1850 U. S. Slave Schedule Census, Stith has 5 slaves including a boy about 5, ages are notoriously inaccurate for slaves, G. W. Stith would have been about 3. In 1860, Stith has 11 slaves including a boy about 15 and one 7. G. W. Stith would be 13-14 and his younger brother, Nathan would be 5. The two boys ages differ by 8 years which would match. Lawrence is a serious candidate as the owner, and maybe the father also of George Washington Stith which was where G. W. Stith got his name. In an article about the Stith family of Virginia, I found the following comment, "The author (of the article) would like to mention an incident that happened relative to the marriage of his daughter, Rickey. She and her prospective husband, Robert Hall, decided that no one but the Reverent Bob Saul could conduct their wedding ceremony. This presented a small problem as Bob Saul had been transferred to Vicksburg, Mississippi. To satisfy this whim, everyone packed up and removed to Vicksburg. The wedding ceremony was performed in an old, but picturesque, church chapel. Approximately one month after the wedding, the friendly and rotund Reverend Bob called the author and asked if he might be interested in the names of some Stiths who were members of the church before the Civil War. The first name he called out was Commodore Lawrence Washington Stith and he followed with Lawrence's wife and a daughter. The author was astounded because he had been trying to locate this family of the Washington Stiths. The son, James Stith, who fought the duel with Henry Vick (nephew of founder of Vicksburg), had been killed in the Civil War. "
If Lawrence Stith is the father, he was 69 in 1850, putting him 66 or older when the Stith children are born. Lawrence W. Stith had a son, James Henry Stith who was killed in the Civil War in 1862. He was born 1833, maybe too young to sire George Washington Stith. Very important question: When G. W. and and brother Nathan listed their parents as Henry and Lucy Stith, was he giving his white father's name? In the 1860 Slave Schedule, there is a 60 year old female listed. Lucy would have been 56 years old, maybe this was she. In the 1850 schedule there is a 45 year old female, Lucy would have been 44.
1850 U. S. Slave Schedule for Lawrence W. Stith with possible identities.
15 Female Black—
45 Female Black—Lucy Stith (44)
9 Female Black
12 Male Black
5 Male Black—George Washington Stith (3) or Harry (5)
1860 Slave Schedule for Lawrence W. Stith with possible identities.
7 Male Black—Nathan J. Stith (5)
60 Female Black—Lucy Stith (54)
1 Male Black
1 Female Black
20 Male Black
15 Male Black—George Washington Stith (13) or Harry Stith (Harry apparently was also Harry Hardiway so might live elsewhere)
3 Male Black
2 Female Black
19 Female Black
29 Female Black
4 Female Black—Julia Stith (6)
9 Female Black—Sophie Stith (9)
This clipping appeared in the Vicksburg Whig newspaper, Nov. 4, 1857. Lawrence Washington Stith, a slave owner was possibly the genetic father of George Washington Stith, President George Washington had a half-brother, Lawrence Washington. Lawrence's daughter married Colonel John Stith. Their descendents include Lawrence Washington Stith of Vicksburg, making it possible that G. W. Stith was relative of our first president. George and Martha Washington had no children of their own.
A final reference to George Washington Stith was found by Professor Kaiser who writes, "The name of George Washington Stith emerges from the record again in 1913, when Jennie Pipes, a single, African American woman, composed her last will and testament. In a personal affirmation of the solid character of Stith, Pipes chose to "nominate and appoint my friend, George W. Stith (colored), executor of this my last Will and Testament, believing that he will do what is right and proper on the premises" (Ancestry.com. Mississippi, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1780-1982 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original Data: Mississippi County,, District and Probate Courts. Wills. Vol. C: 1910-1927, p. 313)."