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Finishing touches around the house.

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Hamilton Hatter (1856-1942)

Hatter, Hamilton-2000.14.150.jpg

Hamilton Hatter, educator, and inventor was the first principal of Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, West Virginia.  Hatter was born on April 24, 1856, in what was at that point Jefferson County, Virginia but which in 1863 became part of West Virginia. His parents Frank and Rebecca Hatter, his maternal grandparents, William and Lettie McCord, and his paternal grandparents, James Hatter and Matilda Hatter were at the time slaves, and Hatter was born enslaved.  Despite their status, the parents and grandparents supported Hatter in pursuing his later academic achievements. 

Young Hatter attended school in his hometown, Charles Town, West Virginia.  In addition to his regular school studies, he learned carpentry, house framing, and became a skilled mechanic who could construct machines and make plows.  He continued this work into his adult life and in 1893 at the age of 37 according to the Bluefield College Centennial History; Hatter received the patent for an intricate machine that improves the harvesting of Indian corn 1893.

Hatter enrolled in Storer College in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, graduating in 1878.  As was often the case with the brightest students who attended these new black colleges, he was asked to teach in the academic department.  His maternal grandparents, the McCords funded additional education at the Nichols Latin School in Lewiston, Maine. He received his certificate of completion in 1883. 

Hatter spent the next five years in New England and during that period he enrolled at Bates College while managing a sawmill graduating in 1888 with second honor in psychology.

Returning to Harper’s Ferry that year, Hatter rejoined the faculty at Storer College where he taught Latin, Greek, and Mathematics. He also started the Storer Industrial Department and oversaw the construction of the main campus.  Three years after his return, Hatter was named to the Storer College Board of Trustees serving until 1906.  

In 1895, taking advantage of the Second Morrill Act which provided federal funds for the creation of African American colleges, West Virginia Senator William M. Mahood sponsored a bill that established Bluefield Colored Institute.  Bluefield, West Virginia was selected because it was within 100 miles of 70% of West Virginia’s black citizens.

One year later Bluefield Colored Institute opened and West Virginia Governor Virgil A. Lewis appointed Hamilton Hatter as its first Principal.  He would serve in that capacity until 1906.  While there he oversaw the construction of Mahood Hall, the administrative building, as well as Lewis Hall and West Hall dormitories.   Bluefield Colored Institute grew from 40 students when Hatter became Principal to over 180 when he retired. 

Hatter was also politically active.  In 1892 he became the first African American in West Virginia to receive the Republican nomination for the West Virginia House of Delegates.  He frequently attended County, State, and National GOP Conventions and campaigned for other party candidates.

By World War I, however, Hatter was authorized by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson to be a Four-Minute Man. During the four-minute intermission at theaters, these men would stand before audiences and speak in support of the president’s policies.

 On December 3, 1999, the President’s House at Bluefield College was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.   In 2000, Bluefield College renamed the official residence, the Hamilton Hatter House.  Hamilton Hatter died on September 21, 1942, at the age of 86.  He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Bluefield, West Virginia.

Hamilton is our great-granduncle!

William Roy Hayes

Joyceann Gray



The Hayes family was there too!

William Roy Hayes subjected to mustard gas in WWII had died before any of his grandkids were born.  We are told he wore a wide bandage around his stomach to hold everything in place. When he was young, he was quite a cowboy in the Sandhills of Nebraska, which was saying a lot.

Thanks to the long hours, days, months, and years of our researching family members, we have begun to discover what kind of people we descend from. We are learning the true essence of their spirits and characters. Additionally, researching the political and social climate during their years, helps us put events and reactions into proper perspective. We now understand the why and how of the family migration routes and how it was possible for our parents to meet on horseback one spring day on a 22,00-acre ranch in Cherry County, Nebraska.

Now Grampa Hayes was born 17 Jul 1889 in Brunswick, Chariton, Missouri to Caroline Birch and Ewiel Lafayette Hayes. William Roy was their third and last child.  Less than ten years later his mother Caroline died in 1897, of Chronic Gastritis. His father remarried to a lovely lady Mary Stanley by 1910.  Records show that  Ewiel Hayes and his new wife left the children with their maternal grandfather Joe Birch for a time. They traveled north to Nebraska to explore taking advantage of the Kincaid Act of free land to farm. The kids came later and in fact, William Roy also purchased 295 acres of land near his father’s 360 acres. Uncle James came a bit later, and he bought 387 acres of land. The Hayes men realized early on that the land was poor for farming, so they invested in cattle and worked hard to etch out a living. They lived in a community of honest, hard-working homesteaders, who only wanted a better life for their children and respect from their fellow homesteaders. In the Sandhills of Nebraska, the race issue was not a card that was often played. These homesteaders knew they needed each other to make it in this harsh environment of bitterly cold winters and sandy soil that was not a farmer’s friend. In Audacious, the children were all taught together. Barns were erected by the community as the women would prepare a feast. Yes, there was a division of sorts but it was not a major negative that polarized neighbors. Roy was married to Goldie Walker a week thought of teacher (who would later become a principal) and they had three children. Sadly, they would lose their youngest to a fall from a horse. Roy would live long enough to see his only daughter Wilma (math major) graduate from college and marry another college graduate Gaitha Pegg.

Roy was remembered fondly by one of his neighbors in these stories told to me by Vickie;  ” Even after he got so sick, he would sit on the front porch of their house in Valentine, and rope the kids as they ran by……they kept him busy all day…just trying to make it by without being caught. 

Don Colburn told me this story. When they were living north of downtown, they were on the Chaloud place about 2-3 miles west of our home. Douglas’s wife said that their barn was burned down at that time, and horses killed.” All the neighbors came out to help, White, Black Indian it didn’t matter! Another story Vickie shares: “According to my late aunt……one especially harsh winter, many of the homesteads ran out of hay for livestock. My grandfather Tate had a slight surplus and could share. Roy Hayes was given a wagon loaded with hay. Another neighbor was given the same (white man) – later that year Roy returned with a wagon full of corn for grandfather – the other man never stopped, again. Grandfather said, “Now, you tell me which one is white!”

So when I couple these stories with the ones my parents told us, I’m left with a real sense of William Roy Hayes. For starters, he was kind, loving, and honest!  Yes, I missed out on being in the company of my grandfather but I’m so proud to know he was a good man. A man whose character was above reproach, a gracious man indeed.

Yep, that’s my Grampa William Roy Hayes!!

Joyceann’s Corner – Franklin Hatter

            Whatever the cause of George’s flight, his parting made things rather difficult for the remaining free and enslaved people of color. They found their movements restricted, and travel passes all revoked for quite some time.

           The custom was for slaves to share in the work around various family plantations depending on the time of the year for harvest production or planting. The slaves were hired out for a fee and in some cases transported in chains.

        For Franklin, there were no chains, he was Andrew Hunters’ man. Not sure of the relationship there for Franklin was a well thought of Carpenter. Andrew Hunter was the prosecuting attorney at the John Brown Trial in Charles Town. The baptism records in The Zion Episcopal Church show Franklin’s first four children were baptized in 1855. And later, When Rebecca and Franklin lost their precious daughter Barbara Ellen July 10, 1858, that was posted too. Records show Franklin remaining behind in Charles Town, West Virginia married Rebecca, the daughter of William and Maria Lettie McCord. The Edward Aisquith family, who refused to sell her, enslaved Rebecca, her siblings, children, and parents until the end of the Civil War. Franklin continued working hard just five miles east near the Harewood plantation.

          Though born during slavery this family would live long enough to enjoy freedom after slavery was abolished.

           Franklin would send word to his brother through John Brown’s travelers and would receive news when they returned. Until John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. It was Andrew Hunter that prosecuted John Brown not far away in the courts of Charles Town, Virginia. Franklin continued to keep his head down and work hard saving for his family’s future. He knew one day things would change. In 1863, Franklin received word from George again attesting to the wondrous opportunity to honestly own the land you toiled on and how the government was so supportive of individual rights. He spoke of all the land available and how well they could do together with their families. We found that Franklin and Rebecca traveled to Canada and saw first hand what a great opportunity was available, they also went into Kent and were formally  married in 1866.

The Hatters returned to Charles Town to settle their affairs and ensure their children were all doing well. It took some time but they did, in fact, return to Canada and enjoyed a free and fulfilling life. The brothers cleared land and built a fine church that still stands today. They both built fine two story homes for their families and enjoyed a high level of prominence in the community of Buxton Township. Franklin lived until 85.

Welcome Home

“It is a revered thing to see an ancient castle not in decay; how much more to behold an ancient family which has stood against the waves and weathers of time!” – Francis Bacon

Each day I wake with renewed energy to bring to life the accomplishments and lives of our people who walked before us.

My goal is to offer continuous blogging about historical and genealogical research. Mainly, I want to draw attention to the rich legacy that our ancestors worked so hard to leave for us and future generations.

Dr. Khadijah Matin, my younger sister, has been the family historian for years. The research focus for her doctoral thesis centered on our grandfather the Hon. John G. Pegg. I took from that it was time for me to begin my quest to find out about the rest of the family.  There are some gaps in our historical timeline due to the lack of record-keeping, lost bibles, lost photographs, and limited oral folklore. I don’t think many of our ancestors realized they were making history. I believe that many were just too busy trying to make a living, keeping their families together and out of harm’s way.  

The theme of my research is:

You cannot know where you are going until you know who you are, you cannot know who you are until you know who came before…It is only then you will find your true direction and reason for being…  J. Gray ©

 Charlotte Page m. John Grant Pegg

 1st Lieutenants Wm & John Pegg

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Joyceann’s Corner – Riley

My next episode is on another family member that has contributed to our rich legacy.

Jerome R. Riley, MD


Medical Doctor, Author, and Political and Civil Rights Activist.

Jerome was the Second son of Isaac and Catherine Riley (the first settlers of the Elgin Settlement in Buxton, Ontario,

Medical Doctor, Author, and Political and Civil Rights Activist.

During the war between the states, at the urging of his close friend Anderson Abbott, in 1864 he left his practice in Chatham and joined the Union Army as a contract surgeon. He was among the original founders of the Freedmen’s Hospital. The forerunner of Howard University Hospital.

Dr. Jerome R. Riley was born in St. Catherines, Canada West on March 17, 1840 to Isaac and Catherine Riley. His father and mother were runaway slaves that made their way with two small babies from Perry County, Missouri, stopping in Michigan; then crossing over to Windsor and on to St. Catherines. In 1849, the Riley’s read in a bulletin of the colored settlement to be built at Buxton, Township of Raleigh, Kent County, Canada by the Rev. William King. At 9 years old Riley along with his family were the first settlers in Buxton.  Later, his mother often said, “There we were in darkness here we are in the light.”

At age ten Riley was the prize pupil with the ability to recite long passages in Latin from Virgil’s Aeneid and then translate the sense of the verses.  Six years later, to his parents’ delight;   Jerome was among the first four graduates of the Buxton Mission School, gaining a classical education including Latin and mathematics in an integrated setting in 1850.  In 1856, he attended Knox College, University of Toronto, graduating with honors. By 1861, Riley received his license to practice medicine in Canada West. Ten years later he continued to upgrade his medical knowledge attending both the Chicago Medical College for a year then from the pleadings of his great friend Dr. Alex Augusta he transferred back to Howard University Medical College graduating with a medical degree in Allopath-1873.

In 1901 he wrote, “Evolution or Racial Development” (published by J.S. Ogilvie, New York). In 1903, the Byrd Printing Co. (Atlanta) published his third book “Reach the Reached Negro”. 

He became an active ‘Redeemer’ Democrat and participated in the 1874 Constitutional Convention in Arkansas. The Democrats made a point of retaining the controversial civil rights provisions of their predecessors. New York Herald reporter Charles Nordhoff visited Arkansas in 1875 and found Riley employed as the  County Physician and Coroner. When asked about employment opportunities Dr. Riley boasted that “more colored men were elected and commissioned to offices of trust and pay” than under the Republicans. In the summer of 1877,  he married the former Agnes M. Nalle of Virginia.  

Ten years later, a black reporter from the Indianapolis Freedman newspaper was so impressed with the situation he found in Arkansas that he dubbed the state the “Negro Paradise.”  Within two years in 1890, Jim Crow laws were adopted in Arkansas; no black man served in public office again until the 1960’s Civil Rights legislation.  It wasn’t long after this article appeared in print, Dr. Riley lost his position and returned to the District of Columbia. 

In 1895, the local newspaper; the Washington Bee heralded Dr. Riley as a particular genius and the most gifted writer of the African American race. The comment was made in reference to the latest publication and most popular of Dr. Riley’s work  “The Philosophy of Negro Suffrage” a written work on race problems.

Dr. Riley took on a position as a Capital Watchman at a salary of $900 per annum.  He continued his active quest in civic affairs and the political arena.  In 1894 he was appointed the Deeds Clerk for the district winning out over 91 applicants. In 1891, the Democratic Party of the District of Columbia elected Dr. Riley as their President. He would serve two terms for the William J. Bryan Colored Democratic Club.  

His opposition to American imperialism in the wake of the Spanish American War was motivation to help found the “National Negro Anti-Expansion, Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Trust, and Anti-Lynching League” or the “National Negro League” (for short) and they combated several issues as is clear by their name. Their effects had limited influence at best but did offer a choice for those black activists who felt alienated from the Republican Party.  

Dr. Riley remained politically involved, resided in Brooklyn, Kings, New York, and continued to write and accept speaking engagements until his death on Dec 31, 1929.

Joyceann’s Corner -Goldie

We are a family blessed with high achievers. Goldie is one such person but whom also possessed a loving nurturing nature. She left a positive and lasting impression on those who were fortunate enough to be in her life and a rich legacy for her descendants.

Goldie Walker Hayes, was born in Overton, Dawson Nebraska October 1, 1898. Her parents were Charlotte Baldwin Hatter and William P. Walker who were both educated and believed strongly in their religious beliefs and education. So after being home schooled by her parents Goldie received higher education in Overton and completed college at Kearney Normal at Kearney Nebraska, she went on to achieve a degree at the Black Hills Teachers College at Spearfish, South Dakota. 

In 1917 she married William Roy Hayes but only after he quit smoking! Roy owned land just north of DeWitty not far from his father’s acres and that is where he and Goldie set up their home. To this union came three children, Wilma, Douglas and Theodore who died young from a horse riding accident. Goldie would continue to teach before during and after her pregnancies and she would bring them along with her most days.

Early in her career, Goldie, along with her sister Fern Walker Woodson, worked to ensure opportunities for African American teachers in Nebraska, forming an association of teachers when they could not get placement through the regular channels in the state. Later this changed and she also served as the president of the Cherry County Teachers’ Association.  

In 2016, at the installation of the historical marker honoring the African American town of DeWitty, Nebraska; we learned of many who were taught and inspired by Goldie over the 33 years she served as a teacher in both Nebraska and South Dakota. Her last position was to serve as the Principal of the Black Pipe School in Norris, SD. 

Upon her death on July 12, 1956 in Valentine, Cherry Nebraska, Goldie was well known in the area – and as we discovered, fondly remembered.  Goldie is our maternal Grandmother!