In keeping with our vision of researching and sharing “hidden” information and stories about the communities of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast we offer stories of the people and places outside of the most written-about place which is New Orleans. This is done in an effort to provide stories and pictures that can possibly offer new information to those researching their family histories.
The wedding of Sylvia Kelso of Lafayette, LA to Randolph Jones, son of Mrs. Zorado Jones and the late Mr. Louis Jones of Natchez, LA took place in Lafayette, LA in August, 1946. The wedding details were memorialized in a lengthy Louisiana Weekly article which provided several family relationships.
Sylvia was the only daughter of Oliver Kelso and Wilhelmina Kelso. A search of the family history showed that in 1940 Sylvia was 23 years old and a public school teacher while living at home with her father Oliver, a “roader” at the freight depot and Wilhelmina, a housewife They lived at 207 E. Convent 1835-W, Lafayette, LA.
Oliver Kelso was born in Louisiana circa 1887 and Wilhelmina was born circa 1888 also in Louisiana. Sylvanie’s (nee Sylvia) birth is estimated to be 1915. In 1930 Sylvanie’s father Oliver had property worth $2,000 and was a porter on the steam railroad. The family was described as Mulatto (Mu) and lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood with the Webster (W), LeBlanc (W), Thibodeaux (W), William (Neg), Celestin (Neg), Trehan (Neg),and Benoit (W) families.
At the beginning of the 1920s the family lived in Alexandria, Rapides parish, Louisiana, At that time Oliver, then 33 years old, was a machinist in a foundry and Wilhelmina, age 22, was a seamstress. Sylvanie was 5 years old. The family was enumerated as mulatto (Mu), living in a predominantly black (B) but ethnically diverse neighborhood with Lofton (B), Bruno (W), Brisco (B), Morgan (B), Robinson (B), Ayers (B) and Harris (B) families.
Oliver was described as tall, of medium build with blue eyes and brown hair.
In 1910, Oliver, age 23 and a cotton sorter (?) for a cotton buyer, was living in Alexandria, Rapides parish with his mother Lizzie Kelso (est. birth year 1854) and father John Kelso, age 67 (estimated birth year 1843). Oliver’s siblings were Millie, a public school teacher, Jane a bookkeeper and Faxon a bricklayer. John Kelso was also a public school teacher.
John P. Kelso (the bride Sylvia’s paternal grandfather), a brakeman on the railroad had been married for 17 years in 1900 to Elizabeth S. Kelso, a teacher. John’s father had been born in Maryland and his mother in Virginia. Elizabeth’s parents reportedly were born in Kentucky (father) and Virginia (mother). John and Elizabeth’s children were Bunnie, age 20 and a teacher,; Millie, age 20, a teacher; Jane, age 18, a teacher; W. Faxon, age 15 and little Oliver, 10 months old.
In 1870 John P. Kelso, age 28, was living in Alexandria, Rapides parish with his mother Rebecca Kelso, age 48. She was enumerated as being born in Kentucky, contradicting the later record. They lived in a household headed by two women from Tennessee and Georgia—a laundress and a domestic servant and their children.
In 1850 in Alexandria, Rapides parish, John Kelso (designated as Mu) lived with his mother Rebecca Kelso (B), age 32 and estimated birth year of 1818 in Kentucky, and his siblings Clara (14 Mu), Georgiana (10 Mu) and George (6 Mu). They were living in the household with Mary Chase and her four children. This is a tantalizing indication of the relationship between Rebecca and the father of her children and generates curiosity about how she ended up on her own with four children living in a household with another mother and her children. Their stories may be quite similar.
More discussion of this interesting and highly educated Kelso family can be found in “Free Blacks – Kentucky” on the AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum.
Sources: Louisiana Weekly, 17 Aug 1946; 1850, 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 Census; US City Directory 1821 – 1989; US World War II Draft Registration Cards 1917 – 1918, dated Jun 5, 1917.