Friday, October 14, 2022

Struck By Lightning

Sarah Jane Hildreth, daughter of Berry Grove and Colon C. Teal Hildreth, has a story of her own. While brief and simple, she was one the growing number of women I keep coming across, who belonged to a group I have come to call ,"The Women Who didn't exist, (except that they did)."

Sarah, sometimes called Sallie, was born around 1853 in Anson County, North Carolina. She's shown as a 7 year old in the 1860 census, living with her parents, Berry and Coley, sandwiched in between two other Hildreth households, her extended family. 

Ten years later, she's gained a little brother, Ebben, but her father is nowhere to be found. His military records from the Civil War revealed he spent most of the war AWOL, so he could have been still in hiding somewhere,  afraid of prosecution. He could have also went West, as many war-scarted vets did. They're still living next to Ann Pilcher Hildreth, widow of Elijah Hildreth, Berry's brother, who did die during the war. They were probably still farming on the land left by her grandfather Hildreth, (I'm leaning towards Reuben), who was deceased before 1860, and grandmother, Mary, deceased before 1870. 

In 1880, Berry Hildreth has shone back up, living in White Store Township, but Colon C Teal Hildreth is still living in Gulledges with her two children, Sarah, and "Deberry", who has to be Ebben, as the age is right and this Deberry didn't exist 10 years prior. Also in the home is a 20 year old James Cox, said to be a cousin, but I have not yet deciphered where he fits in. Lastly, Sarah is now a grown woman, and gives her marital status as a widow. She has a 4 year old son named Frank.

Twenty years is a long time in the span of the life of a family and the twenty years between 1880 and the turn of the century saw a lot of change in the life of Sarah Jane Hildreth. First, her mother, Colon, seems to have passed away,  and Sarah went from being a young woman to a middle -aged one. She also had a daughter, Mary, father unknown. I believe she never married. Ebben did marry, to a Caroline Burr, and became the father of 10 to 12 children. 

One of the biggest changes was that Berry and both of his children had moved south of the border, the North/South Carolina border, that is, to an area in the Courthouse district of Chesterfield County, SC.

It wasn't a big move at all, the counties border, and Courthouse sat just below the state line.

So in 1900, we find Sarah Jane, at around 40, living in Courthouse  District, Chesterfield County SC. She's farming, with help from her son Frank, now 23, and her daughter, Mary, 17. Also living with her was her father, Berry Grove Hildreth, 65,   and a 21 year old 'servant' named Simeon Townsley, who probably helped on the farm. Sallie reported being the mother of two children, with two living. She gave her marital status as single. Nothing out of the ordinary, 
except for one small detail. 

While Berry and Sallie were given a "W" under race for white, Simeon Townsley, and Sallies children, Frank and Mary, were given a "B" for black. In the wounded years following the Civil War, Sarah Jane Hildreth, had had not one, but two mixed race children, and possibly three. 

The father of her children was unknown, she likely never told, as any relationship between a white woman and a man of color could get someone killed. In modern times, racism towards interracial relationships has been swept under the rug, the relationships are not only accepted, but common. This was not the case in 1877.

This status placed Sarah into that category of Women who didn't exist, women with European heritage who had children of a darker hue in the 19th century or before. But they did exist, although  they were rare, well, maybe not so rare in a small corner of Montgomery County. I keep running into them, however, mostly quite accidentally. 

In 1910, Frank, now 30, is head of household and Sallie is 49. They live on Church Street and Frank is still farming. This time Sallie reported being the mother of 3 with two living. She also gave her marital status as married, for a span of 3 years, but no husband was living with them. Mary was also missing, but as she had two living, Mary had probably gotten married, but to whom, I don't know. 

Frank, himself, married in 1912 to Miss Savannah Evans. He was 33, and she, but 15. I hope Frank, in his few short years of marriage, found happiness, because it was brief and he was struck down in the prime of life, literally.

On May 19, 1915, Frank was out in the fields tending his cotton, when a storm started brewing and he was struck by lightening and killed immediately. He was 39 years old. 

He was buried at the Chesterfield Community Cemetery, in the town of Chesterfield, his name given as Franklin Hildreth and date of birth given as August, 1876.


The Chesterfield Advertiser

Chesterfield, South Carolina
20 Jul 1916, Thu  •  Page 1

He had a respectible estate for his station in life and a T.R. Eddins, no apparent relation, was appointed as the Executor. Names mentioned in the estate records as purchasers of property were Sallie Hildreth, Savannah Hildreth and Mary Simms or Simmons.

Sarah Jane Hildreth survived her son by three years. On June 11, 1918, she fell dead immediately. The cause given was apoplexy, or a cerebral hemorrahage or stroke. She was 65 years old. Her father was named as Berry Hildreth and her mother was unnamed. No informant was given,either, so we don't know who supplied the information. 

Tombstone of Sarah Jane Hildreth from Find-a-Grave.

Sallie was buried with her son at the Chesterfield Community Cemetery.

Frank and Savannah had one child.  Her name was Carolease and she was born on January 4, 1914. She was 16 months old when Frank died.  Savannah, still in her teens when she was widowed, quickly remarried to Robert T. Falkner (1890-1968). Carolease was raised as a Faulkner and Savannah had no more children.

Name:Rev Robert Faulkner[Rev Robert Fenlkner]
Birth Year:abt 1882
Birthplace:South Carolina
Home in 1920:Mercer, Mercer, Pennsylvania
Street:Otter St
House Number:401
Residence Date:1920
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Married
Spouse's Name:Robert Faulkner
Father's Birthplace:South Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:South Carolina
Able to Speak English:Yes
Employment Field:Wage or Salary
Home Owned or Rented:Rented
Able to read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Household MembersAgeRelationship
Robert Faulkner38Head
Robert Faulkner24Wife
Carlese Faulkner6Daughter

Robert was a minister and the family was very mobile. In 1920, they were living in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

1926 Greenville, PA
1930  Alliquippa, Beaver, PA
1935  Concord, North Carolina
1940  Pensacola, Florida
1950  York, South Carolina
1966  New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina was the final stop for Savannah and Rev. Faulkner, here, they retired.

Rev. Robert Fulton Faulkner died two years after his retirement on October 10, 1968. He was 77 years old and was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery.

Carolease Faulkner graduated high school in Pennsylvania, but grew up all over the country. She seems to have called North Carolina home.  

In 1935, she was a student at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. In the above City Directory of Salisbury, she's at the bottom of the clip as a student.

She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Carolease sought a career in education,  teaching at Virginia State College, and returning to Livingston College as a member of the faculty in the 1940's

Here, she met the debonair and charismatic Dr. Benjamin Hargrave, who was also a member of the faculty. Carolease is top right in the above photo.

Ben is bottom right in the above photo. 

Benjamin Hargrave, Jr. was born on December, 18, 1918 in Wakefield, Virginia to Benjamin Hargrave,Sr. and Laura Blow Hargrave. During his boyhood, his family moved to Westfield, Union County, New Jersey. He attended Springfield College in Massachusetts and began his career as an athletic director.

He enlisted in WWII at West Point and served as an airman.  He met and married Carolease Faulkner while both were teaching at Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC. Thereafter, the couple moved to Oakland, California and Ben received his Master's Degree from San Francisco State University in 1951.

Ben and Carolease were community activists and involved in numerous organizations and in the state government of California. Ben would retire from teaching and become an Education Consultant.

The couple would remain in California, and never had any children, but spent their entire lives working with and for, the benefit of children. That's Ben, above, later in life, on the right, next to one of his own teachers as a boy, and paying tribute to her influence.

Livingstone College in Salisbury , NC.

Carolease Faulkner Hargrave, biological daughter of Franklin Hildreth, retired from Alameda High School in 1973, having spent her entire career as an educator and inspiring a multitude of young minds along the way. She had been both a student and a faculty member of Livingstone College.

Carolease passed away on July 3, 1980, in Oakland, Alameda County, California, at the age of 66, survived by her husband and mother.

Savannah Evans Hildreth Faulkner outlived her second husband by 30 years, and her only child by 11. She passed away on December 18, 1991, survived only by her son-in-law, Benjamin Hargrave. She was 94 years old.

Benjamin Hargrave was the last surviving member of the family and lived another 10 years after Savannah, passing away in 2001 at the age of 82.

His membership in organizations, and contributions to the community was so great, I've had to divide his obituary in half. 

The magnitude of the diversity in the life of Carolease Hargrave has made me stop and think, "What If?" 

She was born in January of 1914. She came of age in the Roaring Twenties. She entered college and began her career as an African American educator during the Great Depression. 

What if Frank Hildreth had not been struck by lightening in 1915?  What if his oh-so-young wife, Savannah, had continued to have children and they continued to try to operate that meagar cotton farm through the Depression? Carolease could have been the oldest of 8, 10, 12 children, working her fingers to the bone in a cotton field or cotton mill, instead of  attending college and joining sororities.

Her chances of graduating high school would have been slim to none and her chances of attending college even less. Fortunately for her, she was raised as the single child of an educated, well-traveled minister, instead of one of a dozen children of a struggling cotton farmer.
This amazing union of two foresightful educators had a positive and influential effect on numerous North Carolina and California African -Americans, which would not have likely happened had Franklin Hildreth, grandson of Civil War vet, Berry Grove Hildreth and son of an unknown African American man in an illegal relationship with a white woman, Sarah Jane Hildreth, not been killed by lightening.

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