(Oscar Micheaux's four grandparents)
paternal grandparents maternal grandparents
His paternal grandparents, David and Melvina Michaux, served in slavery in Calloway Co., Kentucky. Oscar's largely autobiographical novel, The Conquest (1913), provided the following information about the family name and his grandfather:
" ... It is a peculiar name that ends with an 'eaux,' however, and is considered an odd name for a colored man to have, unless he is from Louisiana where the French crossed with the Indians and slaves, causing many Louisiana negroes to have the French names and many speak the French language also. My father, however, came from Kentucky and inherited the name from his father who was sold off into Texas during the slavery period and is said to be living there today."Oscar's paternal grandmother, Melvina, was born
Apparently widowed and having resumed the Michaux name, Melvina and three of her children became part of the "Exoduster" movement into Kansas during the late 1870s. Here, with a number of other black families, they took up homesteads or bought property in southern Barton and northern Stafford Cos. and prospered. In 1880 the federal census of Barton Co. shows Melvina, her son W.P. and a girl name Hulda (identified as W.P.'s niece) in Great Bend. That January, W.P. had purchased a lot on what is now the southeast corner of 17th and Morton in Great Bend. He and his mother took in boarders and Melvina worked as a seamstress.
Upon W.P.'s death in 1900, his mother Melvina inherited the house and lot in Great Bend, as well as other property. She remained in Great Bend until shortly before her death, when declining health forced her to move in with her daughter, Harriette, on a farm in Stafford Co. The following obituary appeared in the Great Bend Tribune, Monday, 6 March 1916:
"The death of Mrs. Melvina Mischeaux, mother of A.J. Mischeaux of this city, and C.S. Mischeaux and Mrs. Harriet Robinson, of the south side, occurred yesterday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Robinson, from cancer. She suffered from the disease for two years and the last two months had been in very poor health.Oscar's maternal grandparents were John and Louisa (Smith) Gough (sometimes Goff). Ex-slaves who moved to Massac Co., Illinois, from Graves Co., Kentucky, they were formally married in Massac Co. on 10 April 1866. In 1870, the federal census shows the Goughs, with their daughter Bell (Oscar's mother), only a few households away from the Matlock-Michaux family.
John Gough was born in Kentucky in 1816 and died here in Great Bend, Kansas, 26 October 1906. Identical funeral notices were published in the Barton County Democrat (Friday, 2 November 1906) and the Great Bend Rustler (Monday, 29 October 1906):
"The funeral of John Goff, colored, who lived in the southwest part of town, took place Sunday afternoon at 2:30 from the A.M.E. church. Mr. Goff was about 80 years of age, and death was caused by cancer of the stomach. Interment was had in Woodlawn cemetery. The funeral was largely attended."Louisa (Smith) Gough was born in 1833, also in Kentucky, and is probably the grandparent to whom Oscar Micheaux was closest. She is the grandmother, not Melvina Michaux, who, with Oscar's sister Olive, joined him as a homesteader on the Rosebud in South Dakota, receiving a land patent there in 1911.
Louisa must not have stayed in South Dakota long after "proving up" her homestead. She returned to Great Bend and died at her daughter's home here two years later. On Monday, 3 November 1913, the Great Bend Tribune published notice of her death:
"Mrs. Louise Gough died Sunday night at the home of her daughter, Mrs. C.F. Michaux, of this city. Funeral services will be held at the A.M.E. church Tuesday afternoon, at 2:30."According to funeral home records, Louisa was the daughter of Louis Harden and Bettie Smith, both natives of Kentucky.
The Goughs share a tombstone with their daughter Bell Micheaux and granddaughter Veatrice Micheaux on a lot in Great Bend Cemetery (formerly known as Woodlawn Cemetery) purchased by John Gough. Their son-in-law Calvin Swan Micheaux, is buried in a separate plot in Section
R next to his brother, Andrew Jackson Micheaux.
(oldest to youngest)
Calvin Swan William Harriette Edward Andrew Jackson
1. Calvin Swan Micheaux (1847-1932)
According to Oscar's book, The Conquest (1913), C.S. "... was a farmer and owned eighty acres of land and was, therefore, considered fairly 'well-to-do,' that is, for a colored man." C.S. and Bell, after a time, moved from the farm into Metropolis. As Oscar explained, "Not so much to get off the farm, or to be near more colored people (as most of the younger negro farmers did) as to give the children better educational facilities." The family later returned to the countryside, where they all worked at truck gardening, milking cows and keeping a flock of chickens.
When Oscar's uncle, W.P. Michaux, died in Kansas in 1900, C.S. became heir to part of his estate, which, according to The Conquest, "came as a great relief to his ever increasing burden of debt." At about that same time, Oscar himself left Metropolis to earn his own way in the world.
Having inherited the Kansas property, C.S. and Bell soon moved here with their younger children and began farming in Stafford Co. Like many farmers at that time, both white and black, they also purchased property in a larger, nearby town, in this case Great Bend. This was to enable the children to attend Great Bend schools during the fall and winter.
In 1915, the family suffered a double tragedy. On Monday morning, 3 May, the family's two-story, eight-room home at 2523 8th St. was entirely destroyed by a fire which started in the kitchen flue. Just over a week later, 12 May, the family was devastated by news from Pueblo, Colorado, that their young daughter, Veatrice, had been shot by a jealous suitor. She died six days later.
Bell never fully recovered from the loss of her beloved daughter and died 21 December 1918 at the home on North Washington in Great Bend, where the family had moved following the fire. The Great Bend Tribune of Monday, 23 December 1918, paid tribute to her memory:
"The death of Mrs. C.S. Michaux, colored, occurred Saturday night at the family home on North Washington Street, following a second stroke of paralysis. She was stricken first last May and had since been an invalid and only able to be out of bed a part of the time. She was a fine woman and good mother and her death will be regretted by many who knew her sterling qualities. She leaves a husband and five daughters and four sons. The sons are Swan of Hutchinson, Will of Chicago, Finis of Newport News (in the navy), and Oscar of Sioux City, Iowa. The latter is a writer and the Literary Digest recently carried an article about one of his books. The daughters are Mrs. Ida Payne of Pueblo, Mrs. Maude Pritchard of California, and Mrs. Gertrude Cravens, Mrs. Olive Robinson and Mrs. Ethel Wilson of this city. Mrs. J.A. Michaux is a cousin. Mrs. Michaux was born in Kentucky and married there. She and her husband first moved to Illinois and about 17 years ago located in this city.
C.S. survived his wife by several years and died 24 January 1932. At that time, the Great Bend Tribune of Monday, 25 January 1932, stated:
"The death of Swan Michaux, one of the older colored men of Great Bend, occurred Sunday morning at the home of his daughter, Mrs. E. Wilson, on north Washington. He had suffered a paralytic stroke some time ago, and though he had recovered sufficiently to be able to get about town, he had been failing steadily of late months and the last two weeks had been confined to his bed.
Calloway Co., Kentucky, William P. Michaux came to Kansas as part of the "Exoduster" movement of the late 1870s. As did other family members, he took up land and farmed in North Seward Twp., Stafford Co. He also purchased the lot at the corner of 17th and Morton in Great Bend, where he and his mother lived part of the time. The 1880 federal census of Great Bend shows his household with his mother, a niece Hulda and five boarders. One of those boarders was Mrs. R.H. Spencer, one of the Civil War's nursing heroines, Hospital Matron of the 147th New York.
The sudden death of W.P. Michaux was reported in the Barton County Beacon on Friday, 21 September 1900:
"William Micheaux, of north Stafford county died at his home on Tuesday, September 18, 1900, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The deceased was a bachelor, aged about 50 years, and had a good home, in which he kept his mother. He was sick only about a week, with pneumonia. His burial was in Eden cemetry Wednesday afternoon. He was a colored gentleman, highly respected by all his neighbors, and all have a kind word for him, and his aged mother."
Massac Co., Illinois, on 27 December 1869. He was also born in Kentucky in 1846, probably in the area of Paducah, McCracken Co., which is just across the Ohio River from Massac Co.
The Robinsons came to Kansas as "Exodusters" in the late 1870s and settled in North Seward Twp., Stafford Co., where they raised a large family. Napoleon died suddenly 8 November 1909 while on a visit to Topeka. The Barton County Democrat (Friday, 12 November 1909) published the following brief account:
"The many friends of Napoleon Robinson, an esteemed colored citizen of Seward county were shocked to hear of his sudden death which had occurred at Topeka on Monday, where he was visiting. He was getting along in years, but had been active right along, and feeling very well. The body was brought to this city Wednesday morning, interment being made in Eden Valley cemetery on Thursday. Mr. Robinson was a man who was well liked by all. He was a hard working man who had amassed quite a bit of property, which he was always turning in the interests of promoting the welfare of his family, educationally, as well as otherwise. He is survived by a widow, eight sons and one daughter."His widow, Harriette, passed away 8 December 1921 during a bout with pneumonia. The Great Bend Tribune of that date reported:
"Mrs. Napoleon Robinson, one of the early day and well-known colored residents of the south side, died at the family home twelve miles southeast of this city at 3 o'clock this morning, death being due to pneumonia.
She was buried two days later beside her husband in Eden Valley Cemetery. The surviving children were Mamie (Robinson) Pope, Evalina "Lena" (Robinson) Downey, Edward Winfred Robinson, Arthur Robinson, Frank Robinson, Harley W. Robinson, William Robinson, Earl Robinson and Jessie Robinson.
4. Edward Micheaux (1857-1910)Edward is the "mystery man" of the family. According to the 1870 census of Massac Co., Illinois, where he was listed in the household of his mother and step-father, he was born about 1857 in Kentucky. Papers passed down from his younger brother, A.J., include a letter dated 3 December 1910 from the Republic of Liberia, in which E.E. Snow notified the family that "... Mr. E.W. Micheaux is dead. He departed his life on the 26th day of October 1910." It was noted that further information could be obtained from the Editor of the African League, who was the administrator of his will. Accounts in the probate file of Edward's mother's estate do show entries for monies received from Edward's estate, as well as a payment of $10 to Mrs. E.E. Snow for a copy of his will.
According to his obituaries, A.J. came to Kansas in 1883. He pre-empted a homestead claim in Comanche Twp., Barton Co., which became the nucleus of his extensive agricultural interests in Barton and Stafford Cos. Numerous investments in bonds, banks and local companies, probably contributed to descriptions of him as the "richest Negro in Kansas" and banker to the black community. Records of his estate also prove that he was a backer of his nephew Oscar's film company.
A.J. was the father of two children, mother unknown: Nellie (Michaux) Johnson and Fred D. Michaux. On 29 May 1899, in Barton Co., he married Lillie A. (Smith) Robinson of Illinois, a cousin of his sister-in-law, Bell (Gough) Micheaux. This marriage produced no children, although she had a son, James Menloe Robinson, Jr., from a prior marriage. Lillie was born in 1871 and died here in Great Bend 12 April 1948, surviving her husband by six years.
The Great Bend Tribune (Friday, 16 January 1942) eulogized A.J. as follows:
"Andrew Jackson Michaux (c) was born February 17, 1859 in Calloway county, Kentucky, the son of David and Melvina Michaux. At the close of the Civil War, he moved with his mother to Massac county, Illinois where he grew to young manhood.
Oscar Micheaux and His Siblings
(oldest to youngest)
W.O. Lawrence Finis Oscar Maude Olive Ethel Ida Veatrice Gertrude Swan
Calvin Swan Micheaux married Bell Gough - 11 children
W.O. Michaux preceded Oscar to Chicago. According to The Conquest, "He had been traveling as a waiter on an eastern railroad dining car, but in a fit of independence -- which had always been characteristic of him -- had quit," and was unemployed when Oscar joined him in Chicago.
William's death was reported as follows in the Great Bend Tribune (Tuesday, 16 June 1924):
"The death of W.O. Micheaux, colored, occurred this morning, from heart trouble. He was a son of C.S. Micheaux, of this city. He had been sick since last January, and in a Kansas City hospital, until about two weeks ago, when his sister, Olive Robinson went there from California, and his sister, Ethel Wilson here, brought him to this city. At first it was thought there was some improvement in his condition, but he gradually grew weaker until the end came. He was unmarried and 47 years of age. No arrangements had been made for the funeral at noon."Later reports indicate that the funeral was held Wednesday, the 17th, from his sister Olive's house at 1620 Morton (the lot their uncle, W.P. Michaux, had purchased in 1880).
2. Lawrence Micheaux (died 1898)
From The Conquest, readers learn the fate of Oscar's brother, Lawrence, who enlisted for service in the Spanish-American War:
"When the Spanish-American War broke out the two brothers above me [n.b.: Lawrence and Finis] enlisted with a company of other patriotic young fellows and were taken to Springfield to go into camp. At Springfield their company was disbanded and those of the company that wished to go on were accepted into other companies, and those that desired to go home were permitted to do so. The younger of the two brothers returned home by freight; the other joined a Chicago company and was sent to Santiago and later to San Luis DeCuba, where he died with typhoid pneumonia."Family papers pinpoint Lawrence's death as occurring on 14 October 1898. He served as a member of Company C, 8th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
3. Finis Micheaux (1882-1948)
As noted above, Finis went with his brother Lawrence to enlist for the Spanish-American War, but came home when their company was disbanded. He later enlisted in the U.S. Army and was in the service when his mother died in 1918. According to the records of the Los Angeles National Cemetery, where he is buried, he served as a Private First Class in Company A, 404th Signal Battalion. Both the cemetery records and California death records show that he was born 22 January 1882 in Illinois and died 26 November 1948 in Los Angeles Co., California.
The sources for this information are Death Records from the California Dept. of Health Services, Office of Health Information and Research Vital Statistics Section, and the records of the cemetery. The cemetery information can be viewed by linking to: http://www.interment.net/data/us/ca/losangeles/lanat/m/lanat_m15.htm
4. Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951)Since there is a plethora of information about Oscar's own life and career on other sections of this site, this area will stick to the mere vital statistics.
Oscar was born 2 January 1884 at Metropolis, Massac Co., Illinois, and died 25 March 1951 in Charlotte, Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina. He married Orlean E. McCracken on 21 April 1910 at Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. Oscar recounted the story of their marriage in The Conquest in 1913. She was killed by a runaway horse in Chicago in 1917. On 20 March 1926, Oscar married Alice Burton Russell at Montclair, Essex Co., New Jersey. She was born 30 June 1892 at Maxton, Robeson Co., North Carolina, and died in December 1984 in New Rochelle, Westchester Co., New York.
5. Maude Micheaux Pritchette (1886-1967)Oscar's sister Maude was born 1 September 1886 in Massac Co., Illinois, and died in July 1967 at Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., California. In The Conquest, Oscar stated that, "After my eldest sister graduated she went away to teach ..." and later recounts a visit he made to her on his way to Chicago.
Massac Co., Illinois, on 7 May 1889 and died 5 September 1957 in Los Angeles Co., California. After she graduated from Great Bend High School in 1909, Oscar persuaded Olive to join him in his homesteading efforts on the Rosebud in South Dakota and she obtained a land patent for 160 acres there. She returned to Great Bend and lived in the house at 1620 Morton for a number of years before moving to Los Angeles. Her first husband was her cousin, Frank Robinson (1883-1966) to whom she was married 30 May 1910 at Kansas City, Missouri They were divorced in 1929. Her second marriage was to a Wise.
7. Ethel Michaux Wilson (1890-1974)
Ethel was born 6 August 1890 at Metropolis, Massac Co., Illinois. A 1909 graduate of Great Bend High School, she married Elic "Ex" Wilson in 1918. She lived in Great Bend from 1901 until moving to Pasadena, Los Angeles Co., California, in 1956. She died at Pasadena 1 July 1974 and returned to Great Bend to be buried beside her husband in the Great Bend Cemetery. The Great Bend Tribune of Tuesday, 2 July 1974, provided this obituary:
"Mrs. Ethel Michaux Wilson, 83, died Monday at Pasadena, Calif. She was born August 6, 1890, in Metropolis, Ill., and married Elic Wilson in 1918 who preceded her in death in 1930 [n.b.: Elic Wilson died 4 January 1948]. She has lived in Great Bend since 1901, and Pasadena, Calif., since 1956.
8. Ida Micheaux Payne (1892-1957)
Ida was born 28 February 1892 in Illinois and died 6 August 1957 in Los Angeles Co., California, having previously lived in Colorado. She was married to L.S. (or L.G.) Payne.
Veatrice's story is a tragic one. She was born in 1892 in Massac Co., Illinois, and graduated from Great Bend High School in 1910. In May of 1915, she was visiting her sister Ida, who then lived in Pueblo, Colorado, when she was shot by a jealous suitor and died on the 18th of that month. The Great Bend Tribune reprinted a Pueblo newspaper account of the incident on Thursday, 20 May 1915, which is excerpted here:
"Beatrice Micheaux, the young colored woman who was short through the abdoment the night of May 11 by Arthur Norman, a jealous suitor, died last night at St. Mary's hospital.Veatrice's body was returned to Great Bend for burial in the lot where her maternal grandparents, the Goughs, and her parents are buried.
Swan was born in Metropolis, Massac Co., Illinois, on 3 October 1895 and died here in Great Bend on 6 July 1975, having been a patient in a local nursing home for some time. He was married to Inez Johnson 12 July 1916 at Hutchinson, Reno Co., Kansas. They were divorced in 1947. Inez was born in 1892 and died 15 April 1963. She is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery, Hutchinson.
The extremely brief obituary published in the Great Bend Tribune (Tuesday, 8 July 1975) leaves many questions about Swan unanswered:
"Swan Micheaux, 79, died Sunday at the Central Kansas Medical Center, Great Bend. Born in Ill., he married Inez Johnson. He lived most of his life in Great Bend.For about eight years (1919 to 1927), Swan worked as a director and manager with his brother Oscar's book and film company, but left soon after Oscar's marriage to Alice Burton Russell. For a year, he was then manager of imported films for the New York City offices of the German Agfu Raiv Film Corporation. Next, he became Vice President and General Manager of Dunbar Film Corporation in New York City. He would also make a moderately successful film of his own called Midnight Aces. In later years he returned to Great Bend and is buried beside his brother, Oscar.
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