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A debate wages on the internet as to whether former slaves took on the surname of their last owner. I'm letting that go on without me.

Instead, my quest is to find the last owner of my JETERs, particularly my 2nd Great Grandparents, John & Emaline. I know that they were slaves from their obituaries and that they were from Virginia prior to Emancipation. The 1870 & 1880 census supports this.

I decided to make a 'Fun' case study out of this by enlisting my genealogy friends - old & new - to look at the materials I have and help me break through this specific brick wall.

And in the process, we will help others with similar projects. This exercise will teach us all how to analyze and interpret the documents and photographs we have collected. This will also give the GenealogyWise members an opportunity to show their spirit of community and fellowship.

The benefits to me is obvious. I get a bunch of folks helping me. But I also feel that this can be a template for others. We will be learning, giving, and sharing. I hope that you will join in the conversation or at the least watch the journey!

I love you all; let's get started!

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John R. Jeter

Here's my 2nd Great Grandfather, John R. Jeter.
His Obituaries reads:

"Bradford Republic; March 21, 1893
-Death of a Venerable Colored man.
Some twenty-five or thirty years ago, soon after the proclamation of emancipation was issued by Abraham Lincoln, there came to Towanda, we think from Virginia, John R. Jeeder, a colored man, formerly a plantation slave.
He was a tall, boney man of powerful physique, with the habits, manners and dialect of a regular plantation negro.
He was a good humored, inoffensive man, inclined to garrulity in describing his experience of a life of nearly seventy years as a slave before coming to this place.
His principal employment here was doing chores about town, and occasionally he was utilized in standing at the door of auction rooms and crying in a stentorian voice

“Auction! Auction! Auction here genmun and ladies, walk right in. Auction! Auction!”

John R. Jeeder soon became noted and known to every one, and the good will of every body, children as well as adults, was extended to him. This aged man for the past two or three years, enfeebled by age, has been unable to support himself, has been supported by charity contributed by his colored friends to some extent and also by the Ladies Aid Society and citizens of the borough.

On Saturday evening last at ab out 6 o’clock, the subject of this sketch died at the residence of John Street, on Lombard Street, at the age, as given by himself, of 99 years.
Funeral services were observed from the M.E. Zion church, on state street, at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon.
Thus passes from our midst a long time conspicuous character on the streets of Towanda.

Daily Review; March 21, 1893
-Old Mr. Jeter Dead.

John Jeter, an aged colored man of this place, died on Saturday last about six o’clock, quite suddenly.
He was about town as usual on Friday. The old man was a familiar and well known figure upon our streets; for many years he has done the bell ringing and street calling for every auction that has been held.
Mr. Jeter was about ninety years of age.
The funeral services were held yesterday afternoon; interment at Riverside cemetery.

Bradford Reporter Journal; Thurs., Mar 23, 1893
Geder, John R., d. Sat-Towanda, age 90–colored.

The 1870 & 1880 census records state that he and his family members were born in Virginia.
That's clue #1. And if you read my post about his wife, Emeline, you know what I'm up against.
Thanks go out to the Bradford county Historical Society for providing me with this obituary.

Let's keep the discussion going!

"Guided by the Ancestors"
Mrs. John (Emaline) Jeter

This is my 2nd Great Grandmother.
I'm blessed to have inherited this Tintype from my Dad.
Also, I'm thankful to the Bradford County Historical Society of Pennsylvania for sending me the obituary a number of years ago. It reads:

-Mrs. John (Emma)Jeter, a colored woman aged 81 years, died in this borough last week and was buried from the colored church, the service being conducted by Rev. Mr. Smith.

She was a slave at Charleston, SC, from infancy until the emancipation proclamation, and was mother of thirteen children, ten of whom were sold from her.
She thus experienced the horrors of slavery in its most heart-crushing phases.
Her son James Jeter, came to this place soon after the close of the war and by industry earned and saved enough to bring his parents here two or three years later.

I need help; as you'll also see in subsequent posts.
I'll be calling upon those GenealogyWise folks who live in Pennsylvania to help me. (Friend requests coming up shortly! LOL)

My Jeters came to Towanda from Virginia. I just don't know where in VA. Jeters are in practically all of the counties and mine are named James, John & Jeremiah.

Wills, deeds, and court records are what I need help with.
Can anyone assist?

"Guided by the Ancestors"
James Jeter; my Great Grandfather

Bradford Argus; Thursday, January 5, 1882
Photo copy from the Bradford County Historical Society, 1997.

-James Jeder (colored) having the last few days exibited signs of insanity - by telling everybody how much money he had made, and singing in the streets, &c., - was on Monday taken to the insane department of the poor-house, where the pure air of the country may restore him.
Bradford Reporter; March 23, 1882
Photo copy from the Bradford County Historical Society, 1997.

-James Jeeder, a colored man of this place, who became insane, and was taken to the County House, a few weeks ago, died there on Saturday evening last. His remains were brought to this place and interred on Tuesday. He was about 32 years of age.

Sooo..... did my Great Grandfather go nuts or did he catch a virus?
I can tell you this; he died before his last child, Emmett Moore Geder, was born on 31 March 1882. Emmett is my Grandfather.

"Guided by the Ancestors"
The 1870 census

Here's the 1870 census. It states that they all were from Virginia.
Also, the info is all over the place.

1. Phonetic spelling of the surname (here, it is spelled 'GEDA')
2. The son James is the actual property owner
3. The brother Jerry (Jeremiah) is not 63 yrs old ( he's more like 19)

James would be approx 2-3yrs in 1850 and 12-13 in 1860.
There are quite a few slave owning Jeters throughout VA - with slaves in that age range.
I couldn't discern anything with the 1850 & 1860 slave censuses.

In 1880 they're in separate households but they all claim VA as their birthplaces.
I have no maiden name for Emeline.
In a Post From Alane Roundtree
Dear George,

Two items from Mrs. Emma Jeter’s 1881 obituary immediately caught my eye.

The first was the mention of the “colored church” where her burial services were conducted.

The second was the identification of the minister who officiated at her funeral as the “Rev. Mr. Smith.”

I’m always curious about the relationships our ancestors had with others within their community and what we may be able to learn about their lives by examining the lives of the folks they knew and interacted with.

In this case, what do you know about the “colored church” where Emma Jeter’s funeral was held and the clergyman who conducted the service?

In your 2nd Great Grandfather’s obituary (John R. Jeter, widower of Emma Jeter) we learn that his “funeral services were observed from the M.E. Zion church, on State Street, at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon.” Is this M.E. Zion Church the same “colored church” where Emma Jeter’s funeral took place twelve years earlier?

Yes, it appears so!

In the History of the Towandas 1770-1886 by Clement F. Heverly, Towanda, PA Reporter-Journal Publishing Company, 1886 there is a brief sketch of the African M.E. Church of Towanda on Pgs 189-191. In that sketch we learn that William SMITH was secured as pastor sometime between 1869 and 1870 and that “In 1871 the church joined the Zion conference at Philadelphia” henceforth known as the “African M.E. Zion Church of Towanda.” The sketch further tells us, “The church edifice is a wooden building, 30x40 feet, with basement, and stands on State Street between Second and Third. The building was begun at the suggestion of John Carter, who was one of the first and most liberal subscribers.”

Could Pastor William Smith, cited in the above history, be the same “Rev. Mr. Smith” who officiated at Emma Jeter’s funeral in 1881? It’s seems very likely. So, what does the 1880 census reveal, if anything, about a minister named William Smith residing in Towanda or in Bradford County, PA?

The only record I could locate in the 1880 Census for a black male named William Smith residing in Bradford County, PA was the following:

In Asylum Township, Bradford County, PA, enumerated in the household of a white farmer named Benjamin Mingos, age 49, was a black man named William Smith, age 42, who stated he and his parents were born in Virginia. His occupation was not listed as preacher or minister, but “laborer.” His relationship to the head of household was recorded as “servant.”

Emma Jeter’s obituary stated that your JETER family came to Towanda via Virginia at about the same time period that William Smith was installed as pastor of the African M.E. Church of Towanda.

It begs the question: If Rev. William Smith was born in Virginia -- could there be a Virginia connection between the SMITH and JETER families?

Also of great interest is the bio in the same "History of the Towandas" for John CARTER, the man credited with being the “first class leader” at the African M.E. Church. According to the remarkable sketch on pg 301, John Carter was born into slavery, also in Virginia, and escaped a slave coffle bound for Georgia. He eventually settled in Towanda, PA in 1837.

Hmmm…there seems to be a preponderance of former Virginia slave families who belonged to the African M. E. Zion Church in Towanda. Since your family appears to have belonged to that church for a long period of time, have you inquired about any church records which many shed further light on the JETER/GEDER family history?

Knowing the sleuth that you are, I’m sure you’ve already considered or examined most of this information George, but I couldn’t help thinking out loud. All good wishes to you my friend as you continue your search!


P.S. Now, what about those EUBANKS and DUNBARS from South Carolina?! ; -)
In a Post from Katrina Haney
This just breaks my heart. I simply cannot imagine how horrible it was for people to have their children ripped from them and sold like they were they were just another possession, with no thought or concern about the feelings of the people involved. I've never been able to wrap my head around this. But how you must cherish this photo and obituary. So many people did not have anything recorded about them like this. Thanks for sharing.
In some Emails From Cheryl Trowbridge Miller

Have you seen this book? Virginia Slaves birth index 1853-1865. Scroll down to Jeter, L.A. and Jeter, Louisa A - notice that she has a slave woman name Emaline and is recording the births of her children. Although, the dates wouldn't account for children missing in 1870 census.

My Response

Thanks for the info!

Hmmn, the three E's Emily, Emaline, and Emerline all come out of Powhatan.
Another Emily comes out of Bedford.

Emily of Bedford
Winston, b. 27 June 1855
Moses, b. 13 December 1856

Emily of Powhatan
Archer, b. April 1859

Emaline of Powhatan
Agness, b. 31 July 1854
Rachal, b. 19 March 1856
Robert, b. 3 June 1857
Madison, b. Jul 1860

Junius. b. 9 July 1858

How to work this data?
If you look at the birth dates you sent me - they fit perfectly to make Emily, Emerline, and Emiline all the same woman.

Here's the 1860 schedule for Louisa.

This is quite interesting. George and William, on the record that I just sent you, belong to Louisa. That's not the interesting part though..... look at the birth counties. This ties the Jeter name to three birth counties and the county they reside in on this record. That's four Virginia counties tied with Jeter.

My response

Alrighty then!

Awhile ago, I purchased a 800+ page book; "The Jeter Mosaic, Seven Centuries in the History Of A Family", by Grata Jeter Clark.
I haven't been able to take advantage of it until perhaps now!

Louisa Ann Jones (b. 24 sept 1804) is the second wife of Rev. James Mason Jeter (b. 13 April 1804)
They marry on 15 January 1835.
Their first son, George Scott Jeter is born 6 November 1835
Their 2nd son, Henry Jones Jeter is born 20 January 1841 and dies 26 January 1845
Their 3rd son, William Mason Jeter is born 9 April 1843
Rev. James Mason Jeter dies 10 Dec 1843.

So, in 1860, Louisa is a widow and George and William are her sons!
The doesn't mention deeds, wills or slaves, yet , for Louisa.
More to come....
Ah! Your friend Alane and I are like-minded. One of the first things that I did was see how many persons living in Towanda had brown skin and were born in VA. There were only 12 total. (BTW- John Carter showed up on that list.) The only female is Emaline. The other 11 people are all men. While this would not be a worthwhile act if Bradford County was geographically close to Virginia; however, inasmuch as it's quite a haul, one has to confirm or rule out what took the families to this area and any potential relationship to the other persons living there. If you can make a connection AND you can find where these other families resided in VA - then the pieces fall together.

From there, you perform the same exercise for 1880 and discern persons that were in VA in 1870, but Towanda in 1880. Follow them back to 1870 etc. etc.

I liked John Carter due to the closeness in age to John and Emaline. There's a John Basey/Bosey and family that I need to look at as well. I had not know the info on John Carter that Alane had gleened. Now I'm thinking that John Carter (b. abt 1814) was possibly family to the Jeter's.

There are 4 men (I suspect 5, but Peter Jones has moved into the home of a white family, but I presume he's a brother to the Denice Jones.) that are all the same age group as your James. They live in an Inn. I'll want to look at where their families are in 1870. Did they have the same thought as James: earn money and migrate family?

I'm getting ahead of myself now........... more in a bit.

Hi Cheryl,

May I introduce you to Alane? I bet she's read your book with Bennie.
Also, may I share your thoughts with Alane and others? (minding my manners, asking first)

I do have some info on members of the Towanda community and I think John Carter.
I plan to post them on GenealogyWise; and to also expand the conversation.
There is much to share with others about how to analyze the data just from what you and Alane have written.
This is great, more later...
Yes and yes. I love connecting with other researchers, and I love sharing my tricks. By all means, post anything you think useful.

I'm off to do my 1880 comparison now......I'm intrigued by Louisa A. Jeter, but do not want her to distract me. Although - I couldn't help but do an 1870 search on Emiline, Emily, Emma etc in Powhatan County. I found one potential match. May or may not be. Can't tell yet. There are ZERO black Jeter's in the county for 1870.

Before I forget, I would not put a whole lot of stock in Emaline being from South Carolina. There's consistency in the VA connection. Her children may or may not have been sold at Charleston though. Too much research to do right now to even consider whether Emaline was part of a white family that sold the children of slaves. To be clear, there certainly was a slave market in major cities like Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta etc... But, there were also a great deal of white families whose property value was in keeping those children. They could afford to buy a male and female and the rest were children, those children grew up and had more children......Free labor for the homes and farms etc.

Now, I think folks will be up-to-date on the information so far.
Please join in the conversation!

"Guide by the Ancestors"
Hi, I have been out of town and just getting back to this discussion which is interesting but I am a little behind.. The point I was makeing was have you researched the SC area for Jeters. The connection of if she was there for a brief period with a owner family that moved from VA to SC then on to another state. What happen to the family in SC(if this is true) that held her. Are they relatives or her children. But then we really don't know what her last name is. Just that she was born in VA then stated in SC. George you have to run the owner Jeter family tree to understand the connection. A wife that married into the owner line. When you run it check the folks that are living next door for smith and carter. You will no matter what you do have to run an owner tree. Yes you will have to get wills and etc to come to a conclusion. All the names that pop up in your family line. Also as was stated by Alan during that time period family members all went to the same church check those records minutes and etc. I got a hit that my great grandmother was a McClure but was owned by the Powells found out that the Powells lived next door to the McClure farms.
George take a look at this site Jeters from NC to SC to DC.
Hi Quan,

I, too, have been out of town. We just got back from a Family Reunion in Lubbock, Texas (my mother's HANCOCKS; not my dad's JETERS)

Thanks for the link. I need to study it a bit. Some of the info can be found in the book titled "Jeter Mosaic", by Greta Jeter Clark.

BTW, the link should read
I'm not sure at what stage you are in in this search but one thing I do know is that you will have to eliminate the obvouis name first then move on to the next list of names. First clue for Emaline is Charleston SC. Search one line at a time but look for family close by. Not many families moved to far away those first years. If they were all born in VA what is the connection to SC. What family member took them to SC then on to PA.
Hi Quan,

At first read, Emaline's obituary suggests that she was either born in Charleston, SC or was there during her entire enslavement. So far, the 1870 census, which gives the birthplace as Virginia, is the document closest to the event, namely her birth and the obit is the furthest. She, her husband, or her two sons could have given the census enumerator that information. Although this has to be treated as speculation on our part, the closer to the event the more likely the accuracy of the document.

The 1880 census repeats the birthplace as Virginia. The assumption could be made that either John or Emaline gave the census enumerator that information.

A year later, Emaline passes and her obit mentions Charleston, SC.
Researcher Beth Wilson in her presentation called ‘Trails Back, Tracing Ancestors in Slavery through Census, Probate & Land’ at the AAHGS 2006 Conference said, among many important and informative things, when you evaluate a family fact or record consider “Who said it, When did they say it, and How did they know”. Go to for the video.

Emaline's husband is still around as are her two sons and their families; living separately. Who told the story to the newspaper reporter? And how did they know? The strongest candidate is John, in my opinion.

Quan, I'm at the stage where I have to re-examine all of the documents and notes that I have to sift out clues.

"Guided by the Ancestors"



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