Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another History Mystery Solved

Last year I was able to fit a few pieces of information together to help find the identity of a previously unnamed but photographed USCT soldier.  A couple of weeks ago, I encountered another conundrum. I shared some Kentucky barber advertisements from the early nineteenth century and pondered on how to determine if they were African American.

I am happy to say that of those three barbers, whose advertisements I showed, I now know the race of at least one. I feel that I have to give partial credit for finding out to plain good fortune, but a measure of persistence helped some, too.

One of those barber advertisements was for a Lexington man named Solomon Bundley. I had been unable to locate Solomon Bundley in the census, but had found an African American Solomon Bunley in Louisville in 1880. I reasoned that the 1880 Solomon - although his last name was spelled slightly different from the advertiser, but phonetically virtually the same - may have been the advertiser's grandson. However, unfortunately, that did not give me much to go on.

Yesterday, I visited the Special Collections at the University of Kentucky to see the Samuel Oldham Papers. Oldham was a free man of color barber in Lexington, who ran a shop for over thirty years. I had hoped that I would find some nuggets of information in his papers that would help me.  I'm glad to say and I wasn't disappointed.

Among a number of interesting pieces of information, I came across a power of attorney for one Reuben Bunley given in 1835. In it Bunley explained that his father, Solomon Bunley (ah ha!), had purchased a house and piece of property back in 1808 which had since come under dispute. Reuben Bunley gave Oldham power of attorney to compromise and settle this claim.

Although Reuben Bunley's choice of free man of color Oldham as his power of attorney made me fairly confident in my belief that he, and thus his father, Solomon, were African American, I still wanted more solid information to raise my level of confidence. Having Reuben Bunley's name (which the power of attorney document obviously provided) gave me the missing link of information I needed. Then, searching the 1850 census for Reuben Bundley, I located a free man of color (described as black) of that name in Louisville, who was listed as 58 years old, and, who was - you guessed it - a barber.

Interestingly, Reuben Bunley is listed twice in the 1850 census, both in the 2nd District of Louisville. In the other one he is indicated as Reuben Burnley, a 55 year old black barber. I am not sure why the different ages were recorded by the census taker, but I speculate that one recording was done in the barber shop in which he worked and the other was done at his home, as his family is listed in that second record.

Regardless, my question about the race of the 1813 advertising Solomon Bundley is now answered to my satisfaction. Now, I just need to find out about Thomas Young and Charles Cummens.  

No comments:

Post a Comment