Monday, September 22, 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

Vaca Christian hits FM airwaves

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Hazmat crew responds to Fairfield after spill Sunday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

SBDC schedules free workshop for small businesses

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Cordelia Rotary to host Senior Center fall dinner

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

CHP offers teen drivers class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Golf tourney to help uninsured children

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Dixon Scottish Games return to Solano

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Hospital launches farmers market in Vacaville

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Local governments schedule meetings

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Master Gardeners schedule annual plant exchange

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co. hold butchery class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
American music makes a sweet sound Sunday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

Popeye’s seeks Fairfield site

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
North Bay Pediatrics celebrates anniversary

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8

Sutter Solano has new leader

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8

 
‘Peter Pan’ earns Elly awards for Missouri Street Theatre

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A11

.

US / World

Some California wells run dry amid drought

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
More drought forecast next year across West

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

32 structures destroyed in California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Melted glacier sends miles of mud down Mt. Shasta

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Crews cleaning fuel spill in San Francisco Bay

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Police say rifle carried by ambush suspect found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Gov. Brown signs clean-air vehicle legislation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Feds censure local police, yet give lethal weapons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Del. authorities: Bus overturns, at least 1 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Sierra Leone concludes nationwide Ebola lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

2016 may loom, but Jeb Bush is focused on business

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
China, US, India push world carbon emissions up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

New Afghan president, but vote totals kept secret

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NASA’s Maven explorer arrives at Mars after year

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

North Korea powerful temptation for some Americans

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Craig Ferguson plays it loose with new game show

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

‘Maze Runner’ races past ‘Tombstones’ with $32.5M

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

Burning issue of the day? Statehood for D.C.

By Ann McFeatters | From Page: A8

 
Pulse poll: Will the drought end this year?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Idealists made mess of 20th century

By Jack Batson | From Page: A8

Thanks go out to Telstar Instruments

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Ned’s drinking is ruining our parents’ business, health

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

Horoscopes: Sept. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

 
Giants swept by Padres; fall 4 ½ behind Dodgers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stanton leads Cardinals past 49ers 23-14

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Donaldson’s walk-off HR powers A’s past Phillies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Penalty nixes Raiders rally, Patriots win 16-9

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Seahawks hold off Broncos 26-20 in overtime

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

NFL roundup: Cowboys erase 21-point deficit, beat Rams 34-31

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Armijo boys run to 2nd-place finish in Irvine

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Hamilton wins in Singapore, takes F1 title lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ex-Titans kicker Bironas killed in car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hur pulls away for LPGA Tour win in Alabama

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Logano wins at New Hampshire in 2nd Chase race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

.

Business

 
Native Americans getting final settlement payments

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

5 ways to protect yourself from data breaches

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Dilbert Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baby Blues Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C. Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7