Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Tiffany's of Memphis: C.L. Byrd & Co. 1880

Memphis Daily Appeal
November 6 1880

"The jewelry house of C.L. Byrd & Co. at 275 Main street, was founded in 1841.  In all these years it has maintained a high reputation for fine workmanship, fair dealing and superior goods.  It is enough to say anywhere within several hundred miles of Memphis that an article which was bought or made at Byrd's to insure that it is of the quality and value represented.  This is the result of integrity, allied with enterprise and public spirit.  

At present the house carries an unusually large and varied stock of goods, including gilt clocks, marble clocks, gilt mantel sets, marble mantel sets, bronze statuettes and Faience statuettes.  Hand-painted porcelain plaques, Faience plaques, toilet sets, opera glasses, ice water sets and hand-painted vases.  Silver plated wash stand sets, napkin rings, card receivers, cake baskets, pickle dishes, etc.  To this list might be added watches, diamonds, sterling silverware, silver-plated ware, fancy goods in endless variety, etc; in a word, almost any and everything to be found at Tiffany's or any first class jewelry establishment in the country.  The long continued popularity of the house has been maintained by virtue of its genuine merit, happily combined with courtesy, taste and a thorough knowledge of the business in all its details."
Originally posted in the Public Ledger March 1 1883.

In 1879, C.L. Byrd was commissioned to make a presentation medal of gold to commemorate the forty-third birthday of Chief of Police, Philip R. Athy, presented by his comrades who survived the yellow fever epidemic of 1878:

"The medal is circular in form, a little larger than a ten dollar gold piece, and it is exquisite in style, appearance and finish.  A raised star adorns the center on one side, and around the star is a wreath of green, garnished with colored flowers.  An inscription is also within a wreath on the opposite side of the medal which reads, "Presented to P.R. Athy by his surviving members of the police force as a token of regard."  An eagle of chased gold with outspread wings is attached to the medal.  Above this is three links and a bar of gold to which is an attachment pin.  The testimonial is extremely beautiful, and as a specimen of workmanship reflects credit on the house of C.L. Byrd & Co., whose reputation is widely popular for taste in the design and execution of handsome medals."
Originally posted in the Public Ledger March 27 1879

The Sudden Demise of Charles L. Byrd
The Jeweler's Circular
March 8 1893
Memphis TN Mar. 2--The sudden death of Charles L. Byrd, the well-known jeweler, cause much surprise in business circles yesterday morning.  He died on an incoming Iron Mountain train as it was passing Wynne About 7 o'clock yesterday morning.

A week ago, in company with his wife and father-in-law, W.S. Bruce, he started for Hot Springs.  His rheumatism at that time seemed to confine itself largely to his right hand and wrist.  The waters of the famous resort were of no avail and the rheumatism began to spread, reaching the region of his heart.  On Tuesday night the party started homeward. Mr. Byrd's condition became alarming shortly after the train started.  At Bald Knob a physician was summoned and he at once that the patient's heart was affected.  Mr. Byrd's condition became worse, and as the train was standing at the Wynne depot he breathed his last. A telegram was sent to Frank Byrd, of Memphis, announcing the demise of his brother. 

Magnificent Angel Memorial marking the
resting place of Frank C. Byrd's family.
Elmwood Cemetery
Although only 42 years old, Mr. Byrd had been at the head of the well-known house of C.L. Byrd & Co. for nineteen years, having succeeded his brother.  He was born in Mount Gilead, O., but came to memphis shortly after the war. Seventeen years ago he married the daughter of W.S. Bruce (Alice).  Beside his wife, he leaves a mother, a brother and a sister.  The deceased was a successful business man, of many admirable traits of character.  he was always straight-forward in his dealings with his fellow men and his strong character and open methods were in a large measure responsible for his success.  A modest man, he was courteous and affable as well.  Mr. Byrd was a member of Desoto Lodge of Masons.  The of the funeral has not yet been set, but will probably be Friday.

Charles and Frank Byrd were the sons of Charles Bird (1810-1890) and Mary Geller (1815-1897) of Mount Gilead Ohio.  During the Civil War, Charles L. Byrd served with Co. G 187th Ohio Infantry.  His wife, Alice Bruce Byrd filed a widow's application May 13, 1908.

Charles and his wife Alice, along with her parents are interred at Elmwood Cemetery.  Frank's wife, Louise May Chearella Byrd and his son Frank C. Byrd are also at Elmwood.  Frank died in 1920 in Los Angeles, California.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt Whitsitt, The Last Interment at Winchester Cemetery 1888 Broke the Law

On February 11, 1879, the ordinances for the City of Memphis were published in the Memphis Daily Appeal.  The headline read "Ordinances. Offenses Affecting Good Morals and Decency, Public Peace, Quiet, Safety and Property, and in Relation to Misdemeanors and Nuisances Generally."   Under Article II "Offenses Affecting Public Peace and Quiet" the city fathers specifically addressed the issue of Winchester Cemetery which had become a nuisance attracting criminals and vagrants.  Not to mention that since the demise of the owner, William R. Smith in 1867, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair with headstones being broken, knocked over, stolen and the grounds overgrown.

"Winchester Cemetery.  Sec. 2. The burial of dead bodies in any portion of the grounds known as Winchester Cemetery be and the same is hereby prohibited."

It is commonly believed and even says on the sign at Winchester Park "The last burial there was in 1874." However, that's not correct.

On February 1, 1888, Elizabeth Jane "Eliza" Whitsitt died.  She was born about 1814 in North Carolina making her 74 at the time of her death.  Eliza Whitsitt and her family moved to the "Chickasaw Bluff" and shortly after purchased a lot at Winchester Cemetery.  Winchester Cemetery was founded in 1828 which means that the Whitsitt family came to the area prior to 1828.  The Memphis Appeal reported that the family was "wealthy, refined and cultivated, and ranked as the social leaders."  She married her first cousin William W. Whitsitt, also seen as Willie/Wiley, on November 28 1832 in Shelby County Tennessee making her Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt Whitsitt.    The couple had two children: William James Whitsitt and Wilie H. Whitsitt.    
The 1850 Census mistakenly identifies her husband as H.H. Whitsitt.  His occupation was printer and his personal estate was valued at $5000.  Eliza and the two children, William and Willie, are listed as well.  Her husband died October 28 1853 of apoplexy and was interred at Winchester.

In the 1860 Census, Eliza Jane and her sons are living at the boarding house of her mother-in-law, Jane Whitsit who is 72 years old.  Eliza's combined real and personal estate was valued at $29,200. The elder son, William, was working as a "butcher packer."  Eliza's mother-in-law, Jane Harden Whitsitt, died April 2 1876 and was interred at Winchester.

During the Civil War, son William James Whitsitt, was elected Lieutenant of the Memphis Light Guards of the 154th Senior Company CSA.  He was later promoted to Captain when then Captain Genette received a promotion.  According to the retelling of his death in 1888, he died from wounds received at the Battle of Belmont and that "wrapping the battle scarred flag around the form of the slain leader" his body was sent home and that later, when his mother became destitute she sold the flag to the Confederate Historical Association for the sum of $15.  I think the real story can be found in the obituary that appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal on March 8, 1862, which said he died of erysipelas.  Sometimes memories of war and those that died gets embellished through the years. This may be the case with William James Whitsitt.  In addition to the differing cause of death for William, the 1888 article also says that Eliza Jane and William James were the only two surviving family members and then the war broke out.  But that isn't true either because son Wilie H. Whitsitt was alive and doesn't die until 1871!  After his death, Eliza Jane does seem to be alone.  In 1880 she has her own boarding house on Market Street.

Toward the end of her life she began to dwell on the family vault at Winchester and was concerned she would be buried away from her family due to the ordinance..  With that in mind she received assurances from David P. Hadden, President of the Taxing District and future mayor of Memphis, that when she died she would be interred with the rest of the family at Winchester.  True to his word, he wrote a letter to Chief of Police W.C. Davis requesting cooperation from the police in allowing for the interment of Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt at Winchester Cemetery.  The lady being destitute at the time of her death, contributions were given for a proper burial.  And that was the last burial at Winchester Cemetery.
Transcription of obituaries and article:

The Memphis Appeal February 2 1888, page 3
GONE TO HER FINAL REST--The Estimable Mother of A Gallant Son Passes Away.--Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt and Her Reverses of Fortune--Her Persistent Wish To Be Interred in Winchester Cemetery Granted--Call for Contributions.

Old Winchester cemetery, as a burying ground, is a thing of the past, having been closed and condemned years ago. To make this new order of things more securely permanent, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting burials in that cemetery, and in case of surreptitious violations, making it incumbent upon the president of the Taxing District and chief of police to have the corpse removed.  There has never been a violation of this ordinance or protest against the enactment.  On the contrary, public sentiment approved the course most heartily.  There is a wealth of tender memories clustered around the old city of the dead, which additions at this day would seem to disturb. Bones of pioneers rest there, sacred from every rude touch, and head and foot stones, bearing unpretentious inscriptions, mutely tell of the periods when a few struggling souls laid the foundation for the present city of acknowledged greatness and mammoth possibilities.

Among the foremost of this noble band were a family of several members named Whitsitt.  They were wealthy, refined and cultivated, and ranked as the social leaders.  Shortly after their location on the Chickasaw bluff, they purchased a lot in Winchester cemetery, built a substantial and commodious vault, and mutually resolved to make its walls their protectors in the final sleep.  One by one family ties were broken, and as the links fell from the chain, they were sorrowfully laid away within the vault.  At last they had all fallen but the mother and one son.  The war broke out, the latter responded to the call upon the south's chivalrous manhood, and in the sanguinary conflict at Belmont, fell while leading a company in the One-hundred-and-fifty-fourth regiment, Tennessee volunteers, to the thickest of the fray.  His company carried a flag which the loyal hands of the captain's mother had made, and after the battle a beautiful but melancholy departure was resolved upon by the bereaved command.  Wrapping the battle scarred flag around the form of the slain leader, they sent both to the heartbroken mother, that thus they might be deposited in the family vault. Doubly imbued with the spirit of patriotism, now that her last pride and support had been sacrificed to the struggle, the mother poured out her soul in tears over the remains, laid them away, but without the flag. This she returned to her deceased son's company, but again it came back, accompanied by the urgent request that she keep it as a cherished memento of the times and their tenderest devotion.

The afflicted but beloved woman's name was Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt.  To her the war brought severe bereavements and reverses, as it did to hundreds and thousands of others.  Slowly but surely her snug fortune began to slip from her grasp.  From affluence she gradually descended the scale of worldly possessions until a few years ago she struggled against oppressive poverty.  Reduced to the direst straits she was compelled to say farewell to the long cherished and, indeed, sacred relic of the bloody battle of Belmont.  Reminded of her poverty, the flag found its way to the local Confederate Historical association, and Mrs. Whitsitt realized $15.  This small sum was drawn upon as sparingly as the poor old lady's necessities would permit, and after it had been exhausted she subsisted chiefly on Christian charity's gifts. Being a member of the Court Street Cumberland Presbyterian church, that body of religious people took it upon themselves to supply every temporal want.

At last, and only a few days ago, Mrs. Whitsitt sickened, and on account of extreme old age knew her hours were numbered.  During the last illness her mind seemed to dwell continually upon the family vault in Winchester cemetery, and she impressed upon her faithful attendants that there she must be deposited after death.  Years ago she exacted a promise from President Hadden that the ordinance governing the cemetery should be violated to this extent, and with this fact she acquainted her friends.  Yesterday the good soul passed away, satisfied with the promises given and also with her future estate.  After her death two devoted ladies who had taken charge of her burial called upon President Hadden, informed him of the circumstance, and the following letter was written and given them:

February 1, 1888,
W.C. Davis, Chief of Police:
Dear Sir--many years ago the Whitsitt family built a large vault in old Winchester cemetery for the interment of themselves.  All save one of this family are interred in this vault.  This one, Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt, the wife and mother, died today. When I first went into office, six years ago, Mrs. Whitsitt exacted a promise of me, namely, that if she died during my term of office that I would permit her remains to be laid to rest in this particular vault--(she then expected to die in a few weeks).  I am well aware of the fact that the ordinances make it your duty and mine to prevent any interments in this closed and condemned cemetery, and that we shall remove any bodies buried there since it was closed.  None have been buried there during my term of office.  But in this particular case you will let the burial of this old and highly esteemed lady be not interfered with, and you and I will trust to the enlightened sentiment of our good citizens to approve our action in executing a promise made years ago to one of the mothers of our city.  Very truly,  David P. Hadden, President.

Such an interment as that granted the late Mrs. Whitsitt, in generous compliance with a longing desire felt by her for years, can hardly be realized in other than a metallic burial case.  She died, however, possessed of nothing wherewith this costly case could be secured, and it devolves upon the charitable people to provide it. The amount should not fall short of $100, and this should be promptly contributed.  All offerings to this eminently worthy cause may be left at the counting room of The Appeal, where it will be thankfully received and promptly applied to the purpose.

Memphis Daily Appeal March 8 1862
Death of Capt. W.J. Whitsitt--It is our sad duty to have to chronicle the death of Capt. W.J. Whitsitt, of the
senior company, "The Memphis Light Guards," of the senior regiment of the State, "The 154th."  Capt. Whitsitt was well known and highly respected in this community.  he had been secretary of the Butchers' Association and foreman of No. 3 Fire-engine Company.  he was also a member of the Sons of Malta and other benevolent societies in this city.  he was elected lieutenant of the Light Guards, and, on the promotion of Capt. Genette, he was promoted captain of the company.  So earnest and able was his discharge of his military duties, and so zealous his attachment to the cause of the South, that he was appointed to the very important post of provost marshal of the city of Columbus, which position he held up to the evacuation of that place.  He died on Wednesday evening last, at Union City, of erysipelas, and will be buried on Sunday. The funeral procession will start from the residence of his mother, at the southwest corner of Market Square. Capt. Whitsitt was a gentleman of kindly disposition and of many virtues.  He was greatly esteemed by a very wide circle of acquaintances and friends, and profound regret is felt at the loss of a citizen and soldier, whose future career promised to be so glorious to himself and so useful to his country.  He was born and always resided in this city.

Memphis Daily Appeal September 30 1871
DIED- Whitsitt-In this city on the 28th inst., in the 27th year of his age, Wilie H. Whitsitt, son of Mrs. Eliza J. Whitsitt.  The friends of the family are invited to attend his funeral, from the residence of his mother, Mrs. Eliza J. Whitsitt, No. 36 market street, on this (Saturday) afternoon, at 3 1/2 o'clock.  Services by Rev. Mr. Ransom.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Will Flynn, Long-time Zookeeper At Memphis

Will Flynn was born in Olive Branch Mississippi to Haden and Dora Flynn.  His death certificate spells his
name as Flynn but in Census records it's Flinn.  His father appears as either Hayden or Haden Flinn.

We first find the Flinn family in the 1880 Census records for DeSoto County Mississippi in dwelling 305. Hayden Flinn is 24 and born about 1856.  His spouse, Dora, 20 years old.  The couple have three children: Haywood age 4, Mary age 2 and an unnamed female infant age 1.  In dwelling 303 is the family of Glass Flinn age 35 and  in 308 is Nash Flinn, age 45 and his family.  It's easy to assume these three Flinn families are related but if you look at the place of birth for the parents, they are all different.  All of the Flinn's are employed as farm workers.

Skipping to the 1900 Census for Beat 1, Desoto County Mississippi, we find a 14 year old Will Flynn with his father and siblings.  Haden Flinn is now 45 with a birth date listed as February 1855, Mississippi. Dora has passed away.  In addition to Will we find his sister Ida was born July 1887, brother Tom in September 1893, and brother Earl Jones May 1896. A cousin, Joe Flinn, was also in the household born in Dec 1883. The elder Flinn was a farmer and Will a farm hand.  There is no mention of Haywood, Mary or the unnamed infant that appeared in the 1880 Census.

The next time we see Will Flynn is in the 1940 Census for Memphis.  He's 58 years old and working as a feeder at a park.  In reality he was an animal caretaker at the Memphis Zoo.  He also has a wife, Nannie, age 52 however it's probably correct to say that Will and Nannie were married in spirit because they weren't married physically until 1947.  The couple applied for a marriage license in Shelby County Tennessee and were married in Mississippi by J.W. Hall on April 26, 1947.

In Memphis City Directories he can sometimes be found as Will or William.  His occupation varied from laborer, feeder and attendant at Overton Park Zoo.  

Will Flynn appears in the September 3 1953 edition of Jet Magazine as "Zoo Keeper of the Week."  He reminisced about his time at the zoo including how in 1903 the Memphis Zoo had only one animal, a black bear named Nat.  More animals joined Nat including a deer named Jake and Coothey the monkey.  Will Flynn enjoyed his work so much that even after he retired he continued to volunteer his services to the zoo.

Nannie Flynn was the daughter of Crawford Williams and Harriet White.  She born in 1893 in Lucy, Tennessee.  Nannie passed away May 1 1957 and was interred at Mount Carmel Cemetery.  William Flynn joined her a year later when he passed away on November 25 1958.