Extra! Extra!

Recently, while reading “And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank,” I learned that “extras” were published by big daily newspapers to share new information about things like the Leo Frank murder trial that gripped Atlanta in the early 20th century.

Having majored in journalism in college, I should have already known that. OK, let’s be honest, being a live, breathing person, I should have known that. But for some reason, other than knowing that paperboys back in the day hollered “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” I never gave it much thought.

This week, I want to share some “Extra! Extras!” — basically, stuff I learned from readers and other sources after posting articles. I love it when people post comments, especially when they have more information on the subject.

So, here goes.

Graves and Lambs

Four Little Lambs: the Stephens Children

After posting this article, I heard from Bob Stephens, great-grandnephew of the four Stephens children. He said the children’s father, James Stephens, bought the statue that overlooks the graves in Italy.

William Harrison Brooks: Cotton Mill to Battlefield

After writing about William Harrison Brooks, readers told me there was a photo of Brooks in the office at Old City Cemetery. So, of course I had to check that out.

Brooks Photo
William Harrison Brooks. Old City Cemetery.

When I got there, Ted Delaney, the cemetery director, showed me the photo and also a photo of Brook’s little sister, Ida. (See photo below.) Blog reader Wayne Fitzgerald told me Ida died of typhoid in December 1914. She’s buried next to her brother at Old City Cemetery.

Above Ida’s photo hangs the little girl’s wooden school ruler. Ida etched her name on it. Below Ida’s photo, hangs a photo of Brooks’ (and Ida’s) parents, Henry and Callie. (See photo below.)

According to notes from the cemetery’s files, the photo was taken around 1943. At the time, Henry worked at Lynchburg Cotton Mill and his wife ran a boarding house.

I also gathered this information from the cemetery’s files:

Because of his red hair, Brooks was nicknamed “Cock Robin.” He also was called “Harry.” He was unmarried and was, according to cemetery notes, “killed by a sniper on a [railroad] track in France.”

Brooks was originally buried in France. He was re-interred at Old City Cemetery — then called Methodist Cemetery — on Oct. 16, 1921.

‘White Negro Girl’ Helen Walker

After posting the story of Helen Walker, an albino African-American girl who appeared in sideshows and museums in the 1860s as the “White Negro Girl,” I was contacted by Ed James.

James is the great-grandson of the woman who his family calls “Nellie.”

James, who is currently working on a presentation about Walker’s life, said, “She was married three times and outlived five of her six children. She was a remarkable and intelligent woman. Despite her difficult start and lots of tragedy, she lived a productive life and was even involved in the suffragette movement.”

Wow!

Since I wrote that post, I also learned more about Major John Burnell, the showman who “managed” Walker and her twin brother, Henry. I believe he’s the man pictured with the twins in the third photo on this website.

It appears to have been commonplace for showmen to use military titles like “Major,” “Captain” and “Commodore.” I’ve found no evidence that “Major Burnell” ever served in the military. According to advertising, newspapers and other records, during the 1860s, Burnell was traveling with various sideshow acts and operating museums in St. Louis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

It doesn’t appear he had time to fight in the Civil War.

According to an article in The New York Clipper, an entertainment newspaper of the day, Burnell died of consumption on May 16, 1881. The paper reported that he left his widow in “very destitute circumstances.” The following week’s issue of the Clipper invited readers to make donations to help her.

Recently, I also talked with Beth Macy, author of the New York Times bestseller “Factory Man.” Her next book, “Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South,” will be released on Oct. 18.

I mention this because “Truevine” has striking similarities to Walker’s story.

“Truevine,” set in the early 1900s, tells the true story of George and Willie Muse. The albino African-American brothers were kidnapped in Virginia’s tobacco country and forced to perform with circus sideshows for two decades until their mother found a way to rescue them.

You can watch a book trailer for “Truevine” on Macy’s website.

I can’t wait to read it!

Other photos of interest:

Ida and Ruler
Ida Brooks and her ruler. Old City Cemetery.
Brooks Parents
Brooks’ parents, Henry and Callie. Old City Cemetery.
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2 thoughts on “Extra! Extra!

  1. Really enjoyed talking with you yesterday. Just realized I have no idea how I got in touch with you initially! Can’t find your phone number or straight email. Please give me a call or email.
    Thanks
    Lynn

    Like

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