Connecting up the different branches of the Russwurm family has long been of interest to me, and if you’re reading this I expect it might be of interest to you, too. So I am very pleased to point you to Russwurm Rushworm Genealogy, a new website set up to share the ongoing research into the Russwurm/Rushworm connection with the Sumner family of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
When you look at family trees, very often the names of the daughters is the last we hear of them. If you don’t know who the daughters married, very often the daughters get detached from the family history. Probably no one alive knows the name of the unidentified woman pictured here in a gold frame. Hers is simply one of many photographs that have survived with no record of who she was.
Sarah McGill Russwurm was the daughter of and sister of a famous influential Liberian family, who was herself a world traveller and business woman. Sarah married an older man, John Brown Russwurm, himself a noted historic figure. Together they had a family, and all reports indicate how much he relied on her, but his life was cut short and so historically speaking, Sarah’s history seems to have stopped at about the same time. Biographical listings about her McGill family don’t even mention her. There are two known portraits of John Brown Russwurm, but Governor Russwurm missed being captured in a photograph because Augustus Washington didn’t arrive in Africa with his daguerreotype kit until after his death. But his widow Sarah had gone back to be near her family, so she could very easily be the woman in the double daguerreotype case with her brother. Still, we we will probably never know for sure if it is Sarah, or if she is some other anonymous woman, detached from history. One of the things I find most annoying in genealogical research is how easy it is to misplace women. It can be difficult to determine whether they died or if they married and assumed their husband’s name.
Just as often, women appear as “wife of” or “mother of” in family trees with no indication of the families they came from. We don’t even know the given name of John Brown Russwurm’s mother. Although she was an important part of his life, all we know is that she was a woman of colour, (presumably) a slave on his father’s plantation. And yet her son was a writer, educator, and publisher.
Nor do we know the given name of Mrs. J. T. Wade. Presumably this woman was related to John Sumner Russwurm, since she is the person who gifted the John Sumner Russwurm Papers to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. We just don’t know how.
But what is her given name? We know from this obituary that Mrs. Wade tragically lost her 27 year old daughter Jennie in 1923.
***IN LOVING MEMORY***
It becomes my sad and painful duty to write in memory of my dear wife, Mrs. Jennie WHITE, daughter of Mrs. J. T. WADE, who was born June 20th, 1895, and departed this life February 12th, 1923, making her stay on earth 27 years, 7 months, and 22 days. She was married to Dave WHITE on February 14th, 1914; to this union two children were born, Robert Lee and Carnie. She leaves her husband; two children; father; stepmother; three brothers; and seven sisters to mourn her death. Funeral was held 13th February 1923, burial in Poplar Grove Cemetery.
The Eagleville Times on the Web includes references to Mrs. J. T. Wade and family…
Searching for Mrs. J. T. Wade turned up this University of Kentucky digitized newspaper page from the “Breckenridge News (1876-1955) of Cloverport Kentucky which reveals that Mr J. T. Wade is a Reverend)
Rev, and Mrs. J. T. Wade have gone to Princeton to take charge of the M. B. church. They have been with us four yeas and we regret very much to give them up.
[Wonderful Open Data offering! This is an example of an ideal digitization, which allows people view it online, download the page as a PDF or Jpeg or access the information via OCR text conversion.]
Further newspaper sitings:
Mrs. J. T. Wade and Miss Lydia Greer, both of Rocky Mount. Va., are guests at the home of Mrs. Thomas P. Moore on Tenth avenue. Mrs. Wade is the grandmother of Mrs. Moore.
“Mrs. Ann Jackson Is visiting her sister, Mrs J. T.Wade, of Raleign, N. C”
Margaret (Mann) Ahern
AHERN—Aug. 14, at her residence, 328 Loomis-st., Margaret Ahern (nee Mann), [aged 70] beloved wife of Michael Ahern, and mother of John, Michael, and William, Mrs. Jas. W. Sheridan, and Mrs. J. T. Wade, and the late Mary and Henry Ahern. Native of County Limerick, Ireland. Funeral Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 9:30 a.m. to Holy Family Church, where high mass will be celebrated, thence by cars to Cavalry via C. M. and St. P. R. R.
— Chicago Tribune 15 August 1898
In her mother’s obituary above, we still fail to learns what Mrs. J. T. Wade’s given name was. In a world where women were defined by their husband’s profession and status, the husband’s status is conferred on the wife who bears his name. So while I understand why it happens, it’s terribly annoying when following a family tree.
1899-1902. Rev. J. T. Wade served New Hope from the fall of
1899 until March 1902. In “Our Life Story” written by Joel and
Grace Wade, Rev. Wade tells of his arrival in New Hope and of
cutting trees to build the first manse. Much of the timber used
in the construction of that first manse were trees on that
At that point in time, the status of the surrounding churches
were as follows: Olney and Long Creek were grouped with
Steele Creek, Lowell and Belmont shared a minister, and
Bethel and Gastonia had grown to be strong churches and had
a full-time pastor.
New Hope determined to stand alone and called Rev. Wade
as her first full-time minister. The congregation built a manse
and with renewed hope took a forward step.
Rev. Wade was an affable man who was popular with the
young people. He was an excellent Sunday School worker and
in 16 months added 39 members to the church.
In addition to his duties at New Hope, Rev. Wade preached
every Sunday afternoon at McLeans Chapel.
It is noteworthy to mention that his daughter, Emma Lucille,
was the first child born to parents in residence in the first
While these bits and pieces remain, it would be nice to know where Mrs. J.T.Wade fits in the area of Russwurm genealogy. There are still threads that might be followed in the information presented here, so someday I might find out.
By way of the comments below, I now know that it was Mrs. J.T. (Ida) Stockard Wade who presented the papers of General John Sumner Russwurm’s to the Tennessee Library and Archives.
Ida Stockard was the grand daughter of Sara Russwurm Miles, and her J.T. Wade was a Rutherford County farmer, not the minister mentioned above .
Thanks so much to Murray T. Miles, Jr for sharing this information. In historical research, there is nothing as good as a primary source. (You can find more detailed genealogical information in his comment below.)
New Hope Church from the booklet History of New Hope Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, N.C. : established 1793 (1975) available from archive.org
Abolitionist George McGill (1787-1844) bought freedom not only for himself, but for his parents and siblings. Once emancipated, George did well for himself, both teaching and in business in Baltimore. But he wanted more freedom than what was on offer in 19th Century America, so he first investigated the possibility of emigration to Haiti, but it fell through. Later he was hired as to teach in an American colony in Liberia, Africa. After deciding it was a suitable plae to bring his family, a few years later he brought his wife Angelina and their five children over to settle in Monrovia in 1831.
The McGills had four boys and only one daughter, Sarah McGill, born in 1815. While a fair bit is known about the well educated boys, who made good as businessmen, their sister Sarah is all but lost from history.
The McGill Family family emigrated to Africa in 1831, sailing on the American Colonization Society ship Reaper. Three days after arrival in Monrovia, mother Angelina McGill died. The surviving family stayed in Monrovia, and ultimately prospered. All the children were well educated, with the eldest, Samuel, becoming a doctor, brother James a politician and Urias a ship’s captain. They all came together in the successful McGill Brothers import/export business begun by Urias. Like most Liberian immigrants, George not only taught, but became the Superintendent of Schools in Monrovia. His successor in this position was a young man named John Brown Russwurm.
Not much is known about George and Angelina’s only daughter Sarah McGill. Like her brothers, she too was well educated. She married John Brown Russwurm in 1933. What is known is that although there was an age gap of more than a decade between them, (when they married he was 33, she no more than 18), they were very devoted to each other. They moved to Cape Palmas, where John eventually became the first black Governor of the new Republic of Maryland.
Sarah and John had five children, George Stockbridge Russwurm, Francis Edward (Frank), Angelina V. Russwurm, and Samuel Ford Russwurm; but their second born, James Hall Russwurm did not survive infancy.
Mary Sagarin’s 1970 John Brown Russwurm: the Story of Freedom’s Journal offered the first serious look at John Brown Russwurm in the 20th Century.
And now Winston James has written the most comprehensive book about John Brown Russwurm to date, The Struggles of John Brown Russwurm: The Life and Writings of a Pan-Africanist Pioneer, 1799-1851. Mr. James seems to have been the first to speculate Sarah McGill Russwurm was probably the Unidentified woman, probably a member of the Urias McGill family whose daguerreotype portrait resides beside that of her brother Urias McGill in the American Library of Congress holdings.
The McGill family was very close, probably even more than most, the familial bond s no doubt strengthened by the tragic early loss of the children’s mother upon emigration to a whole new continent. While we will probably never know for certain, I am in full agreement with Mr. James.
We do know Sarah relocated to Monrovia to be near her family after her beloved husband John’s tragical early demise in 1851. The photographs in question are dated 1854, just a few years later. In my imagination, I can see Urias trying to help his widowed sister, still a young woman in her 30’s, to find her way out of mourning after the devastating loss of her life partner. When the pioneering Daguerreotype artist Augustus Washington arrived in Liberia, it would have seemed a perfect way to put a sparkle back in Sarah’s eye. But there is no indication that Urias was successful; Sarah McGill never remarried, perhaps because she looks so sad.
About the Photograph
This photograph of Sarah Russwurm is based on the daguerreotype portrait by Augustus Washington, African American Daguerreotypist circa 1854, of an Unidentified woman, probably a member of the Urias McGill family, three-quarter length portrait, facing front, holding daguerreotype case.
The original is held in the American Library of Congress which has made two photographs easily accessible in its online digital holdings. To create the image pictured here above, I combined the the colour photograph’s frame with the black and white photo, creating this digitally restored colour photograph of the framed daguerreotype. The Library of Congress notes that there are “No known restrictions on publication” which confirms that the original image is in the public domain. I consider my digital work simply a restoration, so this work should also be considered in the Public Domain.
I was inspired to undertake this digital restoration work when I saw copies of this daguerreotype photograph reproduced online stamped “copyright” even though it is clearly in the public domain. While the publishers of Envisioning Emancipation are within their rights to copyright their publication, they should not claim copyright on individual photographs in the public domain. Since the copyright notice is only present on the images reproduced in the online version of The Daily Mail, I am inclined to think the British tabloid added the copyright notice in a misguided attempt to “protect” the book. I am happy to have completed this work during Black History Month (just).
Ironically, the photograph the publishers chose to reproduce was a a black and white rendering of the extensively damaged colour print in the Library of Congress holdings. Whether or not this image actually is Sarah Russwurm, it is a historic record in the public domain that anyone should be able to use. You can click on my restoration above to download a large size, or you can purchase a high quality photographic reprints of the original from the Library of Congress here.
More on the copyright issue