Very glad that Thee Porter, the victim, was reported as recovering. These clippings do not mention motive, but the situation of two white men, including my 3rd great-grandfather, disappointingly and embarrassingly, Nathaniel Lewis, against one “old” Black man certainly suggests racism.
Transcript: Jailed For Assault Farmer Held for Attack on Man Found Almost Beaten to Death Mt. Vernon, Ind., Aug 6 – (Special) – Nathaniel Lewis, a well known gamer of Marrs township was arrested today charged with assault on William Bell, the man who was found almost beaten to death yesterday two miles south of Caborn. G. V. Menzies has been retained as attorney for Lewis. Lewis is out on $1,000 bail.
Transcript: Jim Willis as bound over to circuit court in the sum of $5,000 by Squire Weir this afternoon. Willis is charged jointly with Nathaniel Lewis with beating up the old negro, Thee Porter, near Caborn Station last week. Willis was arrested by Sheriff Joe Causey near Alzey, Ky., this morning. Porter is at the county infirmary, and is reported as being bale [sic] to sit up. Unless complications set in he has good chances for recovery.
Transcript: The case of the state vs. Nathaniel Lewis, charged with assault and battery with intent to kill is being heard in circuit court. Lewis is charged with beating an old negro at a school house in Marrs township this summer. Triplett and Wade represent the state and Major G. V. Menzies the defendant.
I did not find further reporting on this case, and I haven’t researched jail records yet. The reporter seems to have sympathy for the victim.
Source for featured image: Caborn Chapel in Caborn, Indiana, Chris Flook, Wikipedia Commons.
For a few reasons, I’m thinking about relatives I’ve never met. This post is an updated version of a post from 2015 about my grandmother, Mary Louise Romine.
In 1951, my father was 7 years old and his brother and sister, the twins, were 6. They were living in Vassar, Michigan, and then Millington. Mary Lou worked as a cook in a restaurant; their father Ralph worked as a bartender. They both drank a lot.
Because of their work schedules, Mary Lou had family friends take care of them. A little babysitting became a lot of babysitting. Those friends got tired of taking care of them, so the kids were shipped to their Aunt Eva’s house. She took care of them until one day Ralph picked them up and took them for ice cream at Harriman’s Dairy. After that, he dropped them off at the juvenile home. Most likely it was a legal arrangement the kids weren’t aware of.
Eventually, social workers placed the kids in three different houses full of strangers: foster families. I imagine on his third or fourth night in the new house my dad realized his parents weren’t coming back for him. That was Mary Lou’s first death.
In 1983 or so, a call from a stranger marked Mary Lou’s second death. It went something like this:
“This is [my dad’s] Aunt Loretta,” a woman said by way of a greeting. “I’m calling to tell him his mother is sick with cancer and is asking for him. She doesn’t have much time left.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but where was she all the time [my dad] wanted and needed her?” my mom said. Mom had known Dad since high school, so she knew the family history.
“Oh, I don’t know nothing about that! Will you tell him?”
Mom agreed. Later, Dad said he hadn’t known he’d had an Aunt Loretta. From then on, Dad believed his mother was gone. Mary Lou’s second death.
In 1989, another phone call. No one remembers who told him she had died, either his half-sister Delana or her daughter. It went something like this:
“Hello, this is your sister/niece.”
“What can I do for you?”
“I thought you should know your mother died last night.”
“Thanks for telling me. I’m sorry for the people who care for her, but I am not one of them. Goodbye.”
In 2013, I connected with a relative of his sister and niece on Facebook. We got together for dinner one night. I was nervous; she was the first relative on that side of my family I had ever met. I wanted it to go well. I wanted her to answer questions I’ve had simply with her presence. At some point during dinner, I started describing my dad, her grand-uncle, but she stopped me mid-sentence. She told me she’d met my dad at a wake, Dad’s mother’s, in 1989. I didn’t know he’d gone to her funeral.
My mind reeled to think what I was doing that day. I would have been 15, preoccupied by marching band practices and pool parties at friends’ houses. Too young to understand his need to leave his past alone, to give his sons a less complicated family life.
I know facts about my grandmother now. I know Mary Lou was born in Parma, Missouri, in 1918. She was the oldest daughter of Clayton Romine and Elizabeth Lewis. She married Del Smith in Missouri in 1934 and had three children. She moved to Flint, Michigan, sometime around 1940 and eventually became the head cook of Higgins Restaurant on Corunna Road. She had three more children with my grandfather, Ralph James. She was with Rollie Fletcher and James Harvey as well. She died on November 18, 1989, near Otisville, Michigan, and she was buried near Clio.
I’ve been given pictures of her. She is the woman on the far left of the picture in the polka dot dress. She is the woman who died not twice, but three times. She is the woman who profoundly hurt my father, but she is also the woman who directly shaped my father’s attitude toward his own family, made him want the opposite of what he had. She is a key reason I had a stable and loving childhood, and for that I begrudgingly thank her.
TRANSCRIPT from The Flint Journal (Flint, Michigan), 6 Jan 1963, p. D7:
Flint Man Marks 97th Birthday
Nathaniel Lewis, who is 97 today, has been a farmer all his life. Last summer he cultivated a small plot of corn and berries.
Lewis lives with his daughter, Mrs. Nora Miley, at 1482 Alberta St. He was born on a farm near Mount Vernon, Ind. and has lived in Flint since 1951.
He has a son, Nathaniel Jr., Parma, Mo.; five other daughters, Mrs. Mattie Hicks, Flint, Mrs. Dora Alley and Mrs. Alice Spanick, both of Dearborn, Mrs. Lillian Myrick, Dexter, Mo., and Mrs. Elizabeth Zint, Parma; 18 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.
I am one of Nathaniel Lewis’s many great-great-grandchildren born after he passed away in 1964 at age 98. Our common first name is a coincidence; my parents didn’t know there were Nathaniels in the family when they named me.
Writing this for Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors. This week’s prompt was “longevity.”
I never thought I was descended from saints or anything. Still it’s difficult to see proof that your forebearers were abusive, racist, or felonious. My two-times great-grandfather, Nathaniel Lewis, turned out to be all three. I’ll post more about this story soon.
“What does your father do while you and Ben are working?” my neighbor asked me.
“Read, watch television, I suppose.”
“I don’t want to alarm you, but when the windows are open I hear him talking to someone. He calls her sweetie.”