Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, aka Frederick Douglass

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches old newspapers to learn about one of the great figures in American history: the African American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.

I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.

—Frederick Douglass

Exactly 119 years ago today, on 20 February 1895, America suddenly and unexpectedly lost one of its most impressive abolitionists, reformers, orators, writers, statesmen, and advocates for equal rights of all people: Frederick Douglass.

photo of Frederick Douglass

Photo: Frederick Douglass. Credit: Wikipedia.

Wanting to know more about this great African American, I turned to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to look for old articles to learn about his life and times. I was not disappointed with my research findings.

This obituary of Frederick Douglas appeared in an 1895 New York newspaper. All of us genealogy fans can always appreciate a well-written obituary, and this certainly is one.

Death of Frederick Douglass, Irish American Weekly newspaper obituary 25 February 1895

Irish American Weekly (New York, New York), 25 February 1895, page 4

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey

Born about 1817 as an African American slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, Frederick Douglass was born with the name of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He proceeded to spend his life breaking just about every mold people tried to force him to fit.

Runaway Slave & Man of Many Names

Douglass tried to escape slavery twice before he was finally successful, but once free, he was a wanted man. As a result, he had to change his name from Bailey, to Johnson, and then to Douglass—and as genealogy fans we can appreciate Douglass writing his autobiography, which helps us understand his changing name history.

Rising to Be a Famous American Abolitionist

Just how impressive was Frederick Douglass? Take a look at this article from a 1909 Chicago newspaper with its subheading calling Douglass “…One of the Sublimest and Most Noble Characters…”

The 92nd Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass, Broad Ax newspaper article 13 February 1909

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 13 February 1909, page 1

Douglass rose from the hardship of being born into slavery and the cruelty of being removed from his mother’s care as an infant (which was a customary practice in slavery at the time), to finally managing to escape to freedom—and became, at the time, America’s premier African American voice against slavery. One of my favorite quotes by Douglass is captured in this article from a 1952 Kansas newspaper. It is short, but really powerful:

I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.

Frederick Douglass' Statement, Plaindealer newspaper article 11 July 1952

Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas), 11 July 1952, page 7

Facing Abolitionist Opponents

While we all wish this was the case throughout American history, we all know it certainly was not. For an unvarnished view of just how challenging Frederick Douglass’s anti-slavery stand was, I strongly suggest that you look up and read this article from a 1930 Kansas newspaper.

The Truth about the Great Frederick Douglass, Plaindealer newspaper article 30 August 1930

Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas), 30 August 1930, section: illustrated feature section, page 3

Running an entire page, this article often graphically relates what kinds of perils Douglass faced in his quest to speak out against slavery. Here is one horrifying example:

At Pendleton, Ind., the mob tore down the platform on which he was speaking. When the mob attacked him, he defended himself with a club until his arm was broken and he was battered into unconsciousness. When he regained it, with is arm in a sling, he insisted on speaking again.

Strong Advocate for Women’s Rights

Slavery was not the only cause that Frederick Douglass fought for. As you can read in this article from an 1848 Washington, D.C., newspaper, he supported the Women’s Rights Movement as well. Douglass spoke (he was the only African American invited to speak) at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, where he continued his strong advocacy for equal rights for women.

article about Frederick Douglass speaking at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 16 August 1848

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 16 August 1848, page 2

Frederick Douglass Meets President Lincoln

This article from an 1864 Louisiana newspaper reported on Douglass meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. In a speech he gave afterward, Douglass said:

Now, you will want to know how I was impressed by him [Lincoln]. He impressed me as being just what every one of you have been in the habit of calling him—an honest man.

article about Frederick Douglass meeting President Abraham Lincoln, New Orleans Tribune newspaper article 26 July 1864

New Orleans Tribune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 26 July 1864, page 2

This old article from an 1891 Nebraska newspaper reported that Frederick Douglass advised President Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation, and was appointed the U.S. Minster to Hayti (now Haiti).

He (Frederick Douglass) Advised the (Emancipation) Proclamation, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 7 August 1891

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 7 August 1891, page 4

His Home a National Historic Site

Moving toward more current times, the Douglass family home, known as Cedar Hill, became a National Historic Site and a part of our National Park Service, as you can read in this article from a 1972 Wisconsin newspaper.

(Frederick) Douglass Honored, Milwaukee Star newspaper article 24 February 1972

Milwaukee Star (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 24 February 1972, page 10

Frederick Douglass’ Newspaper

Note: one of the historical newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection is the very newspaper edited and published by Frederick Douglass himself! It is the Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York), where you can read entire issues of this newspaper from 1847 to 1860.

I’d encourage you to take some time, delve into the newspapers of GenealogyBank’s online collection, and really investigate Frederick Douglass, one of America’s finest!

Investigating the Murder Mystery of Louise Bailey with Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena searches old newspapers to investigate the murder mystery of Louise Bailey back in 1914.

“If she is innocent, may God help her.”

~ Mrs. Duryea

Imagine a story that involves jealousy, murder, and a bullet through a window. The players in this tragedy include the jealous society wife of a physician, the doctor, and a female patient. And as with all good whodunits the story ends with more questions than answers.

Is this the plot of a recent murder mystery novel? Perhaps one of those episodes of Law and Order ripped from the headlines? No, this is a murder mystery that happened almost 100 years ago, specifically June 1914 in Freeport, New York. A story preserved in old newspaper articles.

It involves Dr. Edwin Carman, his wife Florence Carman, and a patient named Mrs. Louise Bailey. On that June evening Mrs. Bailey was in the exam room of Dr. Carman’s home medical office, seeking a remedy for malaria. Suddenly a bullet was fired from outside that went through the window of the exam room and killed Mrs. Bailey instantly. Later, speculation would arise that Mrs. Bailey was the unintended murder victim and the real target was the doctor himself.

photo of Dr. Edwin Carman with his daughter Elizabeth

Photo: Dr. Edwin Carman with his daughter Elizabeth. Credit: Library of Congress, Windows Live Photo Gallery.

As with any murder that involves a married woman, first suspicions might rest with the husband of the victim. In this case, Mr. Bailey was at home at the time of the shooting, wondering what was taking his wife so long. It is thought that this was the first time Mrs. Bailey had sought Dr. Carman’s services.

photo of Florence Carman, wife of Dr. Carman

Photo: Florence Carman, wife of Dr. Carman. Credit: Library of Congress, Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Suspicion quickly turned to Mrs. Carman, who admitted that in the past, jealousy had driven her to such acts as setting up a recording device in her husband’s office so that she could hear anything going on behind those closed doors. Bugging her husband’s office wasn’t the first time Mrs. Carman had allowed jealousy to cloud her judgment. Her husband relayed a story where Mrs. Carman had burst into the exam room and slapped and pulled the hair of a female patient.

So from their own admission, Mrs. Carman had been known to be jealous of her husband’s female patients—but was she capable of murder? While Mrs. Carman and another family member insisted she was in bed at the time of the shooting, a male patient in the waiting room testified that he had seen her walking around.

Sensations in Bailey Slaying, Elkhart Daily Review newspaper article 3 July 1914

Elkhart Daily Review (Elkhart, Indiana), 3 July 1914, page 4

Whether it was the vengeance of a disgruntled employee—or the true testimony of someone who heard Mrs. Carman admit her guilt—the Carman’s maid said that Mrs. Carman had confessed to her that “she shot (at) him.” The maid’s claim sealed the deal and Mrs. Carman was put on trial for first degree murder.

The alleged confession added to the speculation that the doctor was the true target of the crime. Mrs. Carman’s defense team argued that the real killer was an unknown man. Another possible suspect for the shooting raised by the defense was an “insane” patient exacting some sort of revenge on the doctor. But Dr. Carman couldn’t think of any possible patients who fit that profile.

photo of the 1914 murder investigation at the home of Dr. Edwin Carman

Photo: murder investigation at the home of Dr. Edwin Carman. Credit: Library of Congress, Windows Live Photo Gallery.

After a sensational court trial, the jury reported to the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked on the verdict. Later, a second murder trial acquitted Florence Carman. Did Florence Carman get away with murder or was this a case of some random act of violence? Maybe Mrs. Carman had reason to be jealous or maybe an equally jealous husband pulled the trigger, intent on ending the life of the doctor.

We may never know what really happened that summer evening at the home office of Dr. Carman, but if you’re investigating a case of a murder in your family history, remember that those who commit murder leave a paper trail—and that trail can often be found in old newspapers.

Have a murder case or other crimes in your family tree? Consult newspapers in the city that the ancestor was from, as well as newspapers from across the United States because the story may have been picked up and republished. Read histories of the area for information about the case and the families involved. If the case went to trail, spend some time at the courthouse or hire someone to find documents relating to the case. Also, peruse old newspapers for court case articles. The public hearings and verdicts of superior, civil and criminal court cases can often be found in old newspapers. A criminal case may just be the tip of the iceberg. The victim’s family may have also decided to sue, so check the civil trial index. Looking for other records to consider? Coroner’s inquests and criminal records might also help.

What happened to Dr. and Mrs. Carman? They continued to live out their days in Freeport, New York. Some books suggest that her new-found infamy led her to the New York stage where she spent a short time singing.* It seems that even in the “good old days” those who committed murder sometimes found a fame that escaped them prior to their notorious deeds.

While you may never know what really happened in your family’s murder case, with enough research you can at least tell the story. Whether your ancestor was the accused or the victim of the crime, resources exist to help piece together and document this part of your family history.

____________________

Note: the quote at the beginning of the post refers to the fact that Mrs. Bailey’s mother, Mrs. Duryea, reportedly said of the accused killer Florence Carman: “If she is innocent, may God help her.” “Mrs. Florence Carman Arrested and Held on Charge of Murder.” Meridian Weekly Republican (Meridian, Connecticut), 9 July 1914, page 1.

* The books Ghosts of 42nd Street by Anthony Bianco (page 40) and When I’m Bad, I’m Better: Mae West, Sex, and Entertainment by Marybeth Hamilton (page 4) both suggest Florence Carman spent some time singing on stage.

GenealogyBank Has More than 100 North Carolina Newspapers

GenealogyBank Has More than 100 North Carolina Newspapers

GenealogyBank has a strong and growing archive of newspapers from all 50 U.S. states. Our historical newspaper archives contain more than 100 old and recent newspaper titles from North Carolina: from Charlotte to New Bern to Chapel Hill to Raleigh to Danbury.

We’ve got the online genealogy resources you need to document your N.C. family history.

State City Title Dates
NC Albemarle Stanly News and Press 1/2/2007 – Current
NC Apex Apex Herald 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Asheboro Courier-Tribune 4/6/2010 – Current
NC Asheboro Randolph Guide 4/6/2008 – Current
NC Blowing Rock Blowing Rocket 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Boone Mountain Times 2/4/2011 – Current
NC Burgaw Pender Chronicle 10/28/2009 – Current
NC Burgaw Pender Post 10/8/2009 – Current
NC Cary Cary News 2/13/2011 – Current
NC Chapel Hill Chapel Hill Herald 1/1/2002 – Current
NC Chapel Hill Chapel Hill News 5/3/2000 – Current
NC Charlotte Africo-American Presbyterian 12/21/1899 – 12/21/1899
NC Charlotte Carolina Israelite 2/1/1944 – 12/1/1958
NC Charlotte Charlotte News 12/11/1888 – 9/29/1922
NC Charlotte Charlotte Observer 3/13/1892 – 12/31/1922
NC Charlotte Charlotte Observer 1/1/1992 – Current
NC Charlotte Charlotte Post 2/3/2011 – Current
NC Clinton Sampson Independent 4/18/2010 – Current
NC Danbury Stokes News 12/20/2007 – Current
NC Durham Herald-Sun 1/1/2002 – Current
NC Elizabeth City Daily Advance 11/9/2004 – Current
NC Elizabethtown Bladen Journal 2/23/2007 – Current
NC Elkin Tribune 9/19/2007 – Current
NC Fayetteville American 4/26/1816 – 4/11/1827
NC Fayetteville Fayetteville Observer 1/18/1988 – Current
NC Forest City Daily Courier 1/1/2005 – Current
NC Fuquay-Varina Cleveland Post 1/18/2007 – Current
NC Fuquay-Varina Fuquay-Varina Independent 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Garner Garner News 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Greensboro Daily Record 3/17/1906 – 11/30/1929
NC Greensboro Greensboro Daily News 7/20/1909 – 11/30/1980
NC Greensboro Greensboro News and Record 4/11/1985 – 4/20/1985
NC Greensboro Greensboro Record 9/5/1927 – 2/28/1983
NC Greensboro News & Record 1/1/1990 – Current
NC Greenville Daily Reflector 8/30/2004 – Current
NC Halifax North-Carolina Journal 8/1/1792 – 9/11/1797
NC Hampstead Topsail Voice 9/10/2008 – Current
NC Henderson Daily Dispatch 4/10/2002 – Current
NC Hickory Hickory Daily Record 2/10/2011 – Current
NC High Point High Point Enterprise 4/14/2007 – Current
NC Holly Springs Holly Springs Sun 7/10/2008 – Current
NC Kannapolis Independent Tribune 2/20/2010 – Current
NC Kannapolis Kannapolis Citizen 4/1/2008 – 5/12/2009
NC Laurinburg Laurinburg Exchange 1/2/2006 – Current
NC Lenoir News-Topic 11/12/2008 – Current
NC Littleton True Reformer 7/25/1900 – 7/25/1900
NC Lousiburg Franklin Times 10/3/2009 – Current
NC Lumberton Robesonian 1/1/2004 – Current
NC Marion McDowell News 2/12/2011 – Current
NC Monroe Enquirer-Journal 10/1/2009 – Current
NC Mooresville Mooresville Tribune 2/16/2011 – Current
NC Morehead City Carteret County News-Times 4/16/2008 – Current
NC Morganton News Herald 1/12/2008 – Current
NC Mt. Airy Mt. Airy News 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Nashville Nashville Graphic 1/28/2010 – Current
NC New Bern Carolina Federal Republican 1/12/1809 – 4/25/1818
NC New Bern Morning Herald 9/17/1807 – 12/30/1808
NC New Bern Newbern Herald 1/20/1809 – 2/26/1810
NC New Bern Newbern Sentinel 3/21/1818 – 6/12/1828
NC New Bern North Carolina Sentinel 1/13/1827 – 12/21/1836
NC New Bern State Gazette of North Carolina 8/9/1787 – 2/20/1799
NC New Bern True Republican 4/2/1810 – 8/7/1811
NC Newton Observer News Enterprise 9/6/2008 – Current
NC Pilot Mountain Pilot 2/20/2008 – Current
NC Princeton Princeton News-Leader 5/30/2007 – Current
NC Raleigh Dispatch 12/21/1991 – 4/10/1993
NC Raleigh Gazette 12/16/1893 – 2/19/1898
NC Raleigh News & Observer 1/1/1991 – Current
NC Raleigh News & Observer, The: Web Edition Articles 5/6/2004 – Current
NC Raleigh North-Carolina Minerva 11/26/1799 – 5/20/1800
NC Raleigh Raleigh Extra 6/18/1995 – Current
NC Raleigh Semi-Weekly Standard 8/10/1861 – 3/8/1868
NC Raleigh Star 11/3/1808 – 5/12/1831
NC Red Springs Red Springs Citizen 7/10/2008 – Current
NC Reidsville Reidsville Review 3/25/2008 – Current
NC Richlands Richlands-Beulaville Advertiser News 10/28/2009 – Current
NC Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald 9/2/2003 – Current
NC Rockingham Richmond County Daily Journal 5/5/2003 – Current
NC Rocky Mount Rocky Mount Telegram 9/3/2002 – Current
NC Roxboro Courier-Times 11/22/2006 – Current
NC Saint Pauls St. Pauls Review 9/4/2008 – Current
NC Salisbury Salisbury Post 12/1/1998 – Current
NC Sanford Sanford Herald 2/17/2007 – Current
NC Shallotte Brunswick Beacon 4/21/2010 – Current
NC Smithfield Smithfield Herald 1/19/2011 – Current
NC Southern Pines Pilot 10/8/2009 – Current
NC Spring Hope Spring Hope Enterprise & The Bailey News 8/3/2006 – Current
NC Statesville Statesville Record & Landmark 2/6/2011 – Current
NC Swansboro Tideland News 9/3/2008 – Current
NC Sylva Sylva Herald & Ruralite 10/2/2009 – Current
NC Tabor City Tabor-Loris Tribune 3/14/2007 – Current
NC Tarboro Daily Southerner 1/23/2007 – Current
NC Thomasville Thomasville Times 1/1/2011 – Current
NC Tryon Tryon Daily Bulletin 5/14/2007 – Current
NC Wadesboro Anson Record 6/19/2003 – Current
NC Wallace Wallace Enterprise 1/6/2010 – Current
NC West Jefferson Jefferson Post 9/25/2007 – Current
NC Whiteville News Reporter 4/22/2004 – Current
NC Wilmington StarNews 1/31/2002 – Current
NC Zebulon Eastern Wake News 1/19/2011 – Current