Joseph Mumford

Pictures Courtesy of Beverly McKinney (Homer Cross Granddaughter), Lillian Mumford, and Marguerite Berry-Jackson


Pictured above is the first Joseph Dorsey Mumford with his five children: Charles, James, Mary, Joseph, and William. This picture was taken in about 1882-1883 when Joseph was raising the children on his own in the Shelbyville, Kentucky area. Joseph was born in Marlboro County, South Carolina in 1841. He left South Carolina after South Carolina seceded from the Union to lead the South in the War of the Rebellion. He fought in that war after volunteering for duty in the Union Army in 1864 from Ohio. He met and married his wife, Addie Dickinson in 1871 in Shelbyville, Kentucky where both of them were teachers in a Freedman school . He is buried in the Morgan West Wheatland Cemetery in Mecosta County where his daughter, Mary Mumford Cross, and his son, the second Joseph Dorsey Mumford, and their spouses and descendants are buried. 

(Submitted by Daryl Mumford)



Mary and Amos Cross

Mary (Mumford), Homer, Arthur, and Amos Cross

Basil David Mumford

Basil David Mumford

Stella Mumford

Stella Mumford


Nancy Mumford being held by Lula Lett Mumford (her grandmother) in the company of Grace Mathews (mother of Leo & Ida Mae Mathews).

James E. Mumford and his wife, Mary Mumford lived on a farm purchased by James E. Mumford at an early age. The home was located on Johns Road just West and slightly North of the City of Blenheim, Marlboro County, South Carolina. James and Mary Mumford were prosperous, land-owning free persons of color. According to the 1820 U.S. Census, they were Mulatto. According to the 1830 U.S. Census, they were free white persons. It may be that they were living in an area settled by mixed-race persons who were identifying as a group and who supported each other financially and socially (see discussions about Melungeons or Brass Ankles). In any event, James E. Mumford became a landowner with the help of those around him. The 1850 Census reveals that his wife, Mary is no longer with the family and James has ten (10) children in the home: Mary 28, Francis 26, James 23, Anna 21, Lucy 15, Elizabeth 15, Caroline 13, William 11, Joseph 10, and Betsy 8. There are then three boys and seven girls. Joseph Mumford is the youngest of three boys. There are seven girls in the house.

James E. Mumford had been born in 1798, in the County immediately west of Marlboro County, Chesterfield County. Both of those counties (Marlboro and Chesterfield) had previously been part of a larger area known as the Cheraw. In 1816, only 18 years following his birth James E. Mumford purchased his first plot of land on a form of credit. The land was purchased in 1816, but he did not receive and record the deed to it until 1823 some 7 years later. The first purchase was 68 acres for which he paid $136 Dollars. It was this ability to buy land on credit that causes the conclusion that this group of folks was supportive of each other financially. The second purchase of land was for 229 acres in 1838 for $100.

When Joseph D. Mumford was born then in 1839, he grew up on an estate with 297 acres and a working farm/plantation (?). The land was split by the Johns Road on which they lived so that they owned the land on both sides of that road. The Johns Road is reached off of the Gravel Pit Road which itself runs into Blenheim. The village of Blenheim is famous for its’ mineral springs. Again, it is remarkable that this community allowed an 18-year-old kid the opportunity to successfully develop this family and this farm. It is also remarkable that James E. Mumford was, at the age of 18, willing to undertake the risks of buying a farm on credit.

The Civil War began shortly after December of 1860 with the secession of South Carolina from the United States by the issuance of a Declaration of its own independence. Joseph D. Mumford was then 21 years old. His oldest brother James was 33, and the middle boy, William was 22. South Carolina’s justification for its’ secession was that the North was not supportive of slavery and would not return to its’ slave-owning citizens the runaway slaves who made it to the North. South Carolina did not secede because of “States Rights” but because it did not get support for the use of slave labor. We all learned in school that this war divided families. The secession of South Carolina from the Union and the decision to go to war to maintain slavery caused Joseph Dorsey Mumford to leave his family. Both of his brothers, James and William, joined the Confederate Army almost immediately. In fact, James was killed by sniper fire at Petersburg just a few months after the Battle of the Crater. Brother William survived the war. Joseph D. Mumford made a different choice.  

The Confederacy issued the first conscription laws in April 1862. Joseph D. Mumford was then 22 years of age. Rather than serve the Confederacy in its’ fight to maintain slavery, Joseph left everything he knew and loved behind. He left his father, his siblings, his baby sister, his own home to travel North. The family farm contained the gravesite of his mother and the extended family. When he went North he probably knew that he would never return home again. He traveled North through a war-torn countryside to resist the 1862 draft and to avoid fighting for slavery. He ended up in Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin is a small community located along the south shore of Lake Erie. Oberlin College was an institution of higher learning which was, at that time, admitting students of color. It has been thought that Joseph D. Mumford was a graduate of Oberlin College but that is not clear. What is clear is that when Joseph D. Mumford joined the Union Army in January 1864 at the age of 25, he listed himself as a student. Joseph served in the Union Army until the end of the war when he mustered out in July of 1865 in Ohio. Lee surrendered at Appomotics on April 19, 1865. So far as known, Joseph never returned to see any member of his family or the place where he was born again.  

After the end of the war and his release from the Union Army, Joseph received some teacher training and became a teacher in the Freedman School located in Shelbyville, Shelby County, Kentucky. The Country now had to deal with the consequences of its complete prohibition against the education of slaves. The freed slaves needed the education to function in society. The first attempt at providing that education was the funding of Freedman schools. He may have earlier met Adaline Dickinson in Oberlin, Ohio but in any event, he knew her in Shelbyville, Kentucky because she too was a teacher at that school. They married in Adaline’s hometown on September 30, 1871, in Decatur, Washington County, Ohio. At the time of the marriage, Joseph was 32 years old while Addie was only 26 having been born in 1845 in Virginia.

Adaline a/k/a Addie or Ada Dickinson was the daughter of Henry Thomas Dickinson, (born in 1817 in Virginia) and Mary a/k/a Martha Patsy Fletcher Dickinson, (born January 12, 1821) in Virginia. The 1860 federal census shows H.T. Dickinson and Mary Dickinson living in Decatur in Washington County, Ohio. There are 9 children in the home. Ann or Anna aged 16 born in 1844, Adaline aged 15 born in 1845, Henry aged 14 born in 1846, Martha aged 11 born in 1849, Thomas aged 8 born in 1852, Fanny aged 7 born in 1853, Dilse a/k/a Adelia aged 5 born in 1855, James aged 2 born 1858, and Amanda aged 1 born in 1859. This 1860 census was taken in June of that year just before the December start of the Civil War. The Dickinson family is listed as Mulatto and living on an owned  farm valued at $2700 and with personal property worth $400. The first five of the Dickinson children were born in Virginia while the other four listed in the 1860 census were born in Ohio. The move to Ohio occurred then in 1853 just before the birth of Dilse. All of the children old enough to attend school did attend school according to the 1860 census. It appears that one additional child, Mihala Dickinson, was born after the 1860 census.

Henry Thomas Dickinson and his wife, Mary, are buried in the Old Decatur Chapel cemetery in Decatur, Ohio. Henry died at age 50 on November 13, 1867. Mary predeceased him at age 43 on March 23, 1865. While there are 9 other Dickinsons buried in that same cemetery none of those others appear to be their direct children. No date of death or place of burial has been found for their daughter Adaline. When Joseph Mumford and Adaline Dickinson married in Decatur, Ohio in 1871 neither of her parents was still alive there but surely family was still there given the family farm was still there. Joseph and Adaline made their home in Shelbyville, Kentucky just south of Decatur, Ohio.

The 1880 federal census shows Joseph and Adaline living in Shelbyville, Kentucky where Joseph is now making his living as a painter while Adaline was still teaching. They have their five children with them: Charles, James, Mary, Joseph Dorsey Mumford, II, and William. Note that the names James, Mary, Joseph, and William are names from the South Carolina family that Joseph D. Mumford left behind. The picture at the top of the page was taken some time after the 1880 census because William who is listed as being 3 months old at the time of the census is sitting up on his father’s lap. The thing of note is that Adaline is not pictured. Was she alive she would doubtless have been in this non-candid photo? The family is well dressed, well-mannered, and somewhat somber. Perhaps Adaline died in childbirth with William or shortly after.

It was the move of Joseph Mumford’s middle child, Mary, to Michigan which makes the Mumford family part of the Old Settlers.  Mary married Amos Cross on March 7, 1895. She would have been about 19 years old. Amos and Mary established a family in Remus, Michigan (then known as Wheatland). Mary and Amos Cross had six children: Homer, Arthur, Anna, Joseph Roscoe, Clifford, and Evelyn. She was later followed to Michigan by younger brother Joseph D. Mumford, II and by William the baby of the family. It was to Mary Cross’s home that the first Joseph D. Mumford came to live his final days. For more on the Cross family see pages 20 and after in Old Settlers book entitled “A Nation Within Itself.”

The children of Joseph D. Mumford and Adaline Dickinson did not all end up in Michigan. It is believed that James stayed in the Shelbyville, Kentucky area. Charles left for Oregon (Charles's cousin, Henry Norman, pictured with him below also went to Oregon) and never came back and Charles made his living as a railroad porter. He is not thought to have left a family there. He married for the first time on June 26th, 1918 at the age of 44 to Ada (no kidding) Sumerile. The marriage took place in Clarke County, Washington but they made their home in Portland, Oregon.

The three children who did come to Michigan and stayed were Mary (discussed above), Joseph D. Mumford (II) and William. Joseph married Lula Lett and had five children: Bernice, Alta (Haig), Stella, Basil, and Wayne. Lula Lett is a descendant of an English woman and an African slave she first bought, then freed, then married.. Lula Lett’s lineage traces back to Mary Walsh, an indentured servant from England, and her husband Ba na ka. That union gave rise to two grandchildren: Jemima Benneker and Benjamin Banneker. Benjamin Benneker is famous in African American history as a surveyor and almanac writer in the early years of our country. Benjamin Benneker also corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about the notion that the phrase “all men are created equal” must include all men.

Meanwhile, back in South Carolina, James E. Mumford had died in 1875 leaving behind a substantial estate. One of his sons had predeceased him in that James was killed at Petersburg in the war. Joseph had left home to head north and was not even mentioned in the Last Will and Testament of James E. Mumford. James E’s estate was left to his remaining son, William, and his daughters.

Joseph D. Mumford is buried in the Morgan/West Wheatland Cemetery just West of Remus, Michigan. Recently a military-provided headstone was placed there for him. He rests there with three of his five children and their families. Mary Mumford Cross is there with her family. Joseph D. Mumford (II) is there with his family. William Mumford is there as well. Joseph D. Mumford did what was right in life and deserves to have that new stone. He abandoned everything rather than fight for slavery.  He stayed and raised his family after the passing of his wife when some of the children were mere infants.  He was surely a most impressive man.

The state of South Carolina declared its’ right to secede from the union of the states on December 20, 1860. Its’ declaration made clear that the reason for the secession was the failure of the northern states to support slavery. There was no nonsense about “state rights” espoused in that declaration.

The seceded states formed for themselves a new nation in February of 1861. The Confederacy was determined to continue its reliance on slave labor to build wealth for the white slave owners.

In spite of this situation, two of James E. Mumford’s three boys joined voluntarily, the Confederate Army. James R. Mumford joined Company D of the 26th Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers one year after the formation of the Confederate government on February 4, 1862. His unit was made up of other men from Marlboro County, South Carolina. Its’ members included the names of men his sisters had married or would marry: English and Jones; and also carried the names of people thought to belong to a tri-parties racial group who came to be known as “Melungeons” or “Brass Ankles”; Driggers, Oxendine and Chavis.

James R. Mumford did not survive his service in the Confederate Army. Some months after the “Battle of the Crater” at Petersburg, Virginia, James R. Mumford was likely killed by sniper rifle fire. Petersburg had been a siege battle for many long months with the primary method of engagement being sniper fire (other than the anomalous Union effort to blow up the confederate army from below).

William Mumford did not join the same unit as did his older brother. As a middle male child, he may have wanted to show his independence. He ultimately ended up in Company G (the Doulas Rifles Company) of the 23rd Regiment of the South Carolina volunteers (the Coastal Rangers). The muster roll for his company likewise shows the presence of Melungeon names: Calder, Driggers and English. William Mumford survived the Civil War and returned to Marlboro County, South Carolina to live.

Joseph D. Mumford did not follow either of his two older brothers into the service of the Confederacy. It is not clear when Joseph D. Mumford left South Carolina to head North but surely, he would have gone before the passage of the April 16, 1862 Conscription Act which required all white males between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve one 3-year term in the Confederate Army. What we do know is that he joined the Army of the United States of America on January 6, 1864. He signed up from the town of Oberlin in Lorain County, Ohio. His records show that he declared himself to have been born in Chesterfield District, South Carolina and to be a 24 year, 7-month-old student. He would use a May 1839 month of birth to calculate that age. His unit was Battery E of the 1st Ohio Artillery Regiment. His National Archive Records show that he served until he mustered out of the service on July 10, 1865, Lee’s surrender at Appomatic’s had occurred on April 19, 1865.





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