On Sunday, April 2, Lynchburg’s Presbyterian Cemetery will host its first “Sunday Stroll” of 2017. The hour-long, guided tour, “Lynchburg During the Civil War,” will begin at 2 p.m. The cost is $5.
The tour will focus on what life was like in Lynchburg during the Civil War. It also will highlight local Civil War soldiers — more than 200 of which are buried at Presbyterian Cemetery — along with mourning traditions and more.
Presbyterian Cemetery was founded in 1823 on land purchased from Edward Lynch, son of the city’s founder, John Lynch.
While not famous, the four Stephens children also are buried at Presbyterian. Their graves are overlooked by an exquisite statue, one of many beautiful monuments at the cemetery. I wrote about them a few months ago.
For full disclosure purposes, I’m a member of the Friends Board at Presbyterian Cemetery.
After I finished writing my last blog post about Miss Lula Gooch’s trunk, in which I mentioned that I hadn’t been able to find evidence of Lula after 1910, I stumbled upon this article from the Dec. 2, 1913, Richmond Times Dispatch:
This isn’t a great copy, so I’ll paraphrase: On Dec. 1, 1913, a man calling himself James Gooch, with an alias of James Rogers, was indicted in Richmond, Va., for killing a woman named Lula Gooch on Nov. 24, 1913.
The article doesn’t say how Lula was murdered or anything about her family, and I couldn’t find any more articles about the case online. In other words, I was having trouble connecting this particular Lula Gooch to the one I wrote about previously, who lived with her family in Richmond in 1900 and worked as a cigar roller.
I’ll admit, when initially researching Lula and her trunk, I found numerous Lula Gooches from all over the U.S. on FamilySearch. But what was the possibility, three years after I can last place Lula in a census, that this murdered Lula Gooch — in Richmond, where she lived, no less — wasn’t her?
Could this be the Miss Lula Gooch who once owned my trunk? Murdered, in Richmond?
So, on the off chance that the case was heinous enough to have made it into the Lynchburg newspaper, I went to Jones Memorial Library, a great (and free) local resource for genealogical and historical research.
There, the mystery unraveled, but not in the way I expected. On page 2, column 1 of the Tuesday, Nov. 25, edition of the Lynchburg News I found this story:
SHOOTS HIS WIFE RICHMOND NEGRO FIRES BULLET INTO HER HEAD
Richmond, Va. Nov. 24 — (Special.) James Rogers, a negro, this afternoon shot and instantly killed his wife Lula. They had separated, and today the man went to where the woman was employed and when she stepped out into an alley he shot her in the back of the head. The man was captured by mounted officers.
One might be tempted to shout, “Whee hoo!” at this point, but not so fast. While I was glad to find the article in the Lynchburg newspaper, the Lula I was looking for was white.
In 1913 Richmond, it wasn’t likely that James and Lula were an interracial couple, and at that time in history I imagine the newspaper would have reported that fact if they were. During my research, I’ve noticed that newspapers, even into the 1960s, were quick to note if someone was “negro” or “colored.”
Also, even though murdered Lula was called “Lula Gooch” in the first article, she wasn’t actually a Gooch. She was a Rogers, with the maiden name Broadus.
When I found Lula Rogers’ death certificate a few minutes later on Ancestry.com — with the cause of death “homicidal shooting, apparently” — all questions about the identity of murdered Lula were put to rest.
According to the death certificate, Lula Broadus Rogers was “about 24” years old when she died and worked as a cook. She was the daughter of Willie and Elleanora Broadus, and she was born in North Carolina.
The death certificate says she was killed “in an alley near … 16 E. Marshall St.” I found this address on Google Earth. In the photo below, there’s an alley to the right of the building. Perhaps that was where Lula Rogers died.
As for what happened to James Rogers after his indictment, I haven’t been able to find anything (at least not without traveling to Richmond to look at court records, which I’m probably not going to do, to be honest).
He isn’t on this list of executions in the state of Virginia during that time period and I haven’t found him on the 1920 U.S. Census, where he (hopefully) would have shown up as a prison inmate.
I did find a 1916 newspaper article from Paris, Tenn., in which police were seeking a James Rogers who was wanted for murder. This James Rogers also was African American, but there’s nothing else in the article that points at him being the murderer of Lula Rogers.
Actually, while researching this story, I found several different men named James Rogers, white and black, who were accused of murder during the same decade. Interesting, huh?
In the end, though, it was a tale of two Lulas: one a cigar roller, who might have taken her trunk on an exciting trip far away, and the second a cook trying to escape a bad marriage and shot to death in an alleyway.
My next door neighbor, Kathy, has been doing some spring cleaning and over the weekend she gave me a trunk that had worn out its welcome in her basement. When husband John and I went over to pick up the trunk — which he was so excited about — Kathy said she’d noticed something stamped on the side.
“It looks like it says, ‘Missoula Coach,’” she said, thinking the trunk’s destination, at some point, had been Missoula, Mont.
Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed it wasn’t a city and state stamped on the end of the canvas-covered, wooden trunk, but a name: MISS LULA GOOCH.
Loving a good mystery, I couldn’t wait to get on the computer.
After doing some laundry — the one household duty that gets done consistently at my house — I got on the computer. I typed “Lula Gooch” into FamilySearch and got a bunch of different Lula Gooches. Who would have thought? How many Lula Gooches could there possibly be?
Apparently, there were a pile of them, born in several states, among them Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky and Georgia. Most were born in the late 1800s or early 1900s, but none of that information helped narrow down who my Lula Gooch was.
When I told John about all of the Lula Gooches, he remarked that stamped under “Miss Lula Gooch” there appeared to be some more words, more specifically what looked like “OND” followed by what looked to be “VA.”
My immediate thought: “Richmond, Virginia!”
Back on the computer, I looked for Lula Gooches, between 1850 and 1930, living in Richmond. I figured using a date range when people used shipping trunks might result in some more useful hits.
I also checked the little boxes next to “Lula” and “Gooch” so I wouldn’t get a host of near-matches that I’d have little patience to sift through. While I enjoy research, I’m not as patient as I should be, especially when faced with 10,000 hits.
In the 1900 U.S. Census, I found a Lula Gooch living at 2313 Venable Street in Richmond. She was living with her father, Archibald, a barber, and mother, Susie. Lula also had a few siblings. You can find their house on Google Earth, that is assuming the house numbers haven’t changed in the past 117 years.
In 1900, Lula was 20 years old and single. Her occupation, and that of her two sisters, Estelle and Bessie, appeared to be “chervot roller.”
Chervot roller? What the heck is that? I’d never heard of that occupation before — or the word “chervot” for that matter. I wasn’t even sure I’d deciphered it correctly, so I did what any sensible person would do: I resorted to Google.
While I didn’t find “chervot roller,” I did find “cheroot roller.” Lula and her sisters were actually cheroot — or cigar — rollers. Richmond is a big tobacco town, too, so that makes sense.
By the time the census taker came around in 1910, Lula was no longer living on Venable Street. She was living with her younger sister, Bessie, and her husband. Lula’s mom, Susie, was listed in the same household, but she’s also in a separate listing with Archibald.
Perhaps Susie was visiting her daughters that day and the census taker just wrote down everyone present. Without a time machine, it’s impossible to know.
As for what type of trunk it is, I’m not quite sure. This Wikipedia page has a description of the types of trunks made between the mid-1800s and early 1900s, and there are more types than you’d imagine.
The page helps you identify what type of trunk you have based on things like the size, whether or not the top is dome-shaped or flat, etc.
I initially thought my trunk was a steamer trunk, but after reading the description, I don’t think it is. According to Wikipedia, a steamer trunk is about 14 inches tall, “to accommodate steamship luggage regulations.” Mine is 25 inches tall — almost twice that.
It’s also 36 inches long and 21 inches, front to back. It’s a big trunk. If I was more flexible and not claustrophobic, I could get inside of it.
I came to the conclusion that my trunk is probably a Saratoga or barrel-stave trunk, both of which are described in more detail on the Wikipedia page.
As for whether or not the trunk once belonged to Richmond cigar roller Lula Gooch, it’s a good possibility, but hard to know for sure. I’d like to think so, though. And as for what happened to Lula after 1910, if I find out anything else, I’ll let you know.
My first thought was it was a book about the Nat Turner rebellion, which occurred in Southampton County, Va., in 1831. After all, that’s probably the best-known slave uprising. Books have been written about it and at least one movie made, including the 2016 film, “The Birth of a Nation.”
As a side note, I thought calling a film about the Nat Turner rebellion “The Birth of a Nation” was brilliant because the last movie by that name — a silent film from 1915, originally titled, “The Clansman” — was sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan and contained all sorts of racist portrayals of African-American people. So, take that!
But “American Uprising,” written by Daniel Rasmussen, isn’t about the Nat Turner rebellion. It’s about a slave uprising that happened in 1811 on Louisiana’s German Coast, a stretch of sugar cane plantations along the east side of the Mississippi River, just north of New Orleans.
Husband John and I drove down what’s also called the River Road a couple of year ago, while in New Orleans for a family wedding. There are still a lot of plantation homes there and what looked like sugar cane fields, but there also are a lot of refineries and industrial sites.
Still, while reading “American Uprising,” it was nice to be able to see the German Coast in my head.
Destrehan Plantation figures prominently into the “American Uprising” story. Some of the approximately 500 slaves involved in the revolt were from Destrehan, a sugar cane plantation owned by Jean Noel Destrehan.
Also, after the revolt was put down by federal troops and local planters, one of the three trials condemning the rebels was held was at Destrehan.
Another thing I learned while reading “American Uprising,” something I’d never thought about before, was that some of the slaves who were brought from Africa had actually been soldiers in their homelands.
Tribes would war against each other and sometimes the losers were sold into slavery. At least two of the German Coast rebels fit into this category and had apparently been planning to revolt since they first touched American soil.
I also learned that the Haitian Revolution, which took place from 1791 to 1804 and ended slavery in what was then called Saint-Domingue, would have inspired fear in Louisiana planters and hope in their slaves.
You can watch a presentation by author Daniel Rasmussen here which talks more about that.
In the end, a handful of white planters and more than 100 slaves were killed, either during or after the revolt. As a deterrent to others who might consider taking up arms against their masters, the rebels’ decaying bodies were displayed along the Mississippi River for months.
Recently, I wrote about a slave revolt that happened along the James River near Lynchburg, Va. In that post, I mentioned a website where U.S. executions from the 1600s to the 1970s are listed. While not named, many of those executed after the 1811 German Coast revolt are included in that list.