Saturday, December 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Vacaville man traces black heritage to pre-Civil War era

slavery family, 1/15/13

Gerald Gordon, of Vacaville, points out the 1838 deed of sale of his great-great grandfather, Peter Hughes, that he had enlarged and put on display in his house. It is the oldest document Gordon has been able to find about his ancestors. Hughes was born in the United States around the 1780s, lived to be about 100 years old, became a minister and founded Mt. Rowell Baptist Church, which still exists in South Carolina. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | February 01, 2013 |

VACAVILLE — The deed of sale lists Peter Hughes, his wife and seven children as the slaves that South Carolina landowner Thomas Hughes was selling to his daughter on Aug. 6, 1838.

The 175-year-old document found in a deed book in Union County, S.C., is a flash of light into the darkness that envelopes the early history of Vacaville resident Gerald Gordon’s family in America – when blacks were considered property, rather than people.

That is shown in a bill of estate that lists the sheep, cattle, guns, tools “and then all of his slaves” that the owner of Gordon’s ancestors possessed.

A copy of the deed document from the era of slavery in America is now framed on the wall next to a plentiful crop of pictures of the Gordon family and their ancestors.

Aside from discovering the 1882 death date of the “about 100 years old” Rev. Peter Hughes on his gravestone next to the church he founded, the deed is the oldest piece of family history that Gordon has found.

“It was the first black church in the county,” Gordon said.

The deed has created as many questions as answers. Prior to six months ago, when he got an email from a man who found the deed, Gordon did not know his great-great-grandfather had seven children. He is now trying to find out what happened to most of them.

Gordon said he is not chronicling his family’s heritage for himself. He said he is doing it so the Gordon family’s younger generation, such as 12-year-old grandson Drake Claxton, have knowledge of their past that will help them make a better future.

“He has to go through this for himself, and I want to make sure we will be there for him,” Gordon said, pointing to a picture of Drake on the mantlepiece of his Vacaville home.

Gordon speaks of his regret that his own father and grandfather never talked about their family history when they were alive. He said what they knew could have shed more light on his family’s past.

“Our parents never talked about slavery,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s family has been involved in collecting records, pictures and documents of its history for the past 50 years – for as long as the family has gathered for reunions. Gordon got actively involved in the 1980s.

“My grandmother said, ‘You need to know where you came from,’ and that inspired me to get involved,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s great-grandfather, Charles Gordon, was later sold to a Mississippi man named Gordon who took the family to Chickasaw County, Miss. The slave owner’s name stuck.

In Mississippi, the family won its freedom after the Union Army swept through the area during the latter days of the Civil War. The Gordons actually managed to get ownership of some of the land, which they managed to keep until just after World War I, when the bank purportedly cheated the family out of their property.

The seizure was successfully fought in the courts, but when Gordon’s great-uncle was told on the courthouse steps that he could either get out of town or be killed, the family decided to leave.

“The whole family went to Wisconsin,” Gordon said.

His grandfather and father found work in a foundry in Beliot, Wis., that made engines for locomotives.

“It is still there today, and if you see a diesel locomotive, it was probably made there,” Gordon said.

Gordon joined the U.S. Air Force because he didn’t want to go to work in the foundry, and settled in Vacaville.

Tracing his heritage prior to the Civil War is daunting, since black slaves are simply listed in documents as property. Only those who were freed are somewhat easier to trace.

“Most black people can’t trace this far back,” Gordon said.

Modern technology gave Gordon one more insight into his past after his brother had his DNA checked, and it showed a common paternal genetic ancestry shared with the Yoruba people in Nigeria.

Gordon spends much of his free time at the computer and is a member of the Solano County African-American Genealogy Society and the Chickasaw County Genealogy Society.

He is now trying to find out more about one ancestor who served in one of the Union Army’s black regiments and was killed during the Battle of New Market Heights in late September 1864.

“I would like to know where he is buried,” Gordon said.

Gordon is a firm believer that everyone should know about their past. He contends it helps them become a better person.

“You don’t know who you really are until you know your past,” Gordon said. “We all come from somewhere.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Ancestry Research RocksFebruary 01, 2013 - 7:13 am

    That's neat that he's found so much about his ancestors.I subscribed to Ancestry.com,and a few weeks ago after Googling an ancestors name, discovered that Brigham Young personally sent my ancestors from Illinois to Utah.I found that MY ancestors were part of The Donner Party that perished and resorted to cannibalism. I also read that when part of the family was in Georgia, they deeded part of a cemetery that they owned to a Black Church,and allowed Black people that were already buried to remain buried, and also allowed their family to be buried there, which was not common in those days. My great aunt told me that her grandparents had "help",and when the family came from Ga to Ut,the help chose to come with them,because they were treated well, and if they went to another family, they may not have been treated well. While I realize this was norm,to "own" people, It's not something I'm proud off.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Creche collection grows in size, popularity

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Handmade Christmas display is man’s labor of love

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
Company competition a big win for charity

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Meeting a great role model at any age

By Murray Bass | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Hospital to pay $2.2M to settle false claims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Napolitano named as UC public policy professor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Man shocked 20 times during jail booking sues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
Notorious California graffiti suspect arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Island park in San Francisco Bay closed for weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Wetter than usual start to new year in California predicted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Animal rights activists take California rodeo to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California’s bullet train settles 1 of 7 lawsuits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies in California at 95

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Bush officials gave CIA wide latitude

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Theater shooter’s parents plead for his life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Driver pleads not guilty in pedestrian deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Sony on shelving ‘The Interview': ‘We had no choice’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Obama says North Korea hacked Sony, vows response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 5 Comments

AP Interview: Coelho says Sony hack threatens all

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
5 ways to make your email safer in case of a hack attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Celebrities react to latest Sony hack developments

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Prepackaged caramel apples linked to 4 deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Supreme Court won’t stop gay marriages in Florida

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Staples: Customer data exposed in security breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lava could reach Hawaii shopping center in 8 days

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Jury rules for Indiana woman in firing over IVF

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Bergdahl investigation wraps up; top leaders get briefings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Texas eatery worker gets mink coat from customer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Sugarland, promoter settle with state fair victims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NY police officer suspended after videotaped punch

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Franciscan religious order in ‘grave’ financial crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Australian woman arrested in deaths of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Israel carries out airstrike on Hamas site in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Pakistan executes militants and bombards tribal areas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

.

Opinion

Yes, Virginia, the Santa wish list has gone digital

By Petula Dvorak | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
If you want to help the poor, fix the safety net

By Jim Tankersley | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Pampered pets that don duds move to the mainstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Children from wife’s first marriage put father’s ashes in coffin

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B11

Horoscopes: Dec. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B11

 
.

Entertainment

More than 4 million people watched 1st dog telethon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kim Jong Un game spoof ‘Glorious Leader!’ moving forward

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Marathon bombing survivor in ‘Yes to Dress’ finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kid Rock to perform pre-race concert at Daytona 500

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Actor Stephen Collins denies he’s a pedophile in interview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Dodge, Vaca grad Mason lead Southern Oregon to NAIA title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders haven’t needed much from Janikowski

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP sources: Peavy agrees on $24M, 2-year deal with Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Rookie receivers making their mark in NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former boxing champ Ernie Terrell dies at 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Gold medalist Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, avoids jail time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dodgers end Yanks’ payroll streak, owe most tax

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

FIFA will not reopen 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Howe’s family reports rapid improvement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

2 Armstrong associates settle lawsuit with Landis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rays, Padres, Nats complete 11-player trade involving Myers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Vanden girls open Nike TOC with win on Arizona

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Things to know about Friday’s baseball news

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cal men beat Eastern Washington 78-67 for seventh straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
CIF football bowl games headed to Sacramento

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

California unemployment rate dips to 7.2 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Chrysler gives in to gov’t, expands air bag recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

T-Mobile paying at least $90M for unwanted services

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales for holiday shopping season comes down to the wire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Judy Zamora Rogers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Home Seller 12/20/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Ask a Designer: decorating with Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2