Here is a story that has been hidden in silence and denial for a century. After I documented this family unit, relatives (white) confessed that they had heard the story whispered within the family. Unfortunately, the extensive footnotes do not copy in Genforum posts.
Dr. Benjamin Silas Vawter, son of Silas P. and Elizabeth F. (Christian) Vawter, was born on Aug. 28, 1831 at Bent Creek in Buckingham County, Virginia and died in Washington, D. C. on Jan. 5, 1910.He graduated from the University of Virginia and the Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania. He was listed as a physician and dentist in the Chataigne's Virginia Gazetteer and Business Directory for Appomattox County, Virginia, 1888-1889, with practices in Bent Creek, which was in Appomattox County after the new county was formed in 1845.
Unknown to most people in Appomattox County, Dr. Vawter had a clandestine romantic relationship with a young Negro female named Sarah “Sally” Watts, daughter of Edmond and Lucy (Davis) Watts.Sarah, who was born in May 1857 in Appomattox County, was twenty-six years younger than Benjamin. Sarah’s parents lived next door to Dr. Vawter at Bent Creek, and may have had slave status prior to emancipation in 1866.Sarah gave birth to their first child when she was only seventeen years old. The child was named Edmund Silas Watts, for both of the child's male grandparents. Dr. Vawter arranged for Sarah to work for a family across the James River, in Nelson County, when the first children were born.
Benjamin was enumerated as a single man when the 1880 census was taken for Appomattox County.Sally Watts was enumerated with her two children, Edmund and Annie Watts, on the 1880 Nelson County census.Sally stated that she was a widow, which was a cover for her de facto husband.
Evidently, Dr. Vawter loved her deeply or he would not have fathered all eight of her children. In 1890, Dr. Vawter decided to move to Washington, D. C. where they could have privacy. Rumors about Dr. Vawter had been circulating for sometime in the Bent Creek community. After the move to Washington, D. C., the children’s’ names were then changed from Watts to Vawter, as proven by the censuses, to reflect their true biological surname. Sarah’s name changed, too, from Watts to Vawter.Their children were listed as mulattos on the 1900 census. The doctor evaded the census taker in 1900.
In 1900, Sarah stated to the census taker in Washington, D. C. that she had been married twenty-seven years and that five of her eight children were still living. This is consistent with the Bible record that was maintained by one of their children. When the 1920 U. S. Census was taken in Washington, D. C., she was listed as Sarah Vawter. They lived at a good address in the NorthWest section of Washington, D. C.
Children of Benjamin S. and Sarah (Watts) Vawter:
1. Edmund Silas Vawter was born on Aug. 1, 1874 in Nelson County, Virginia when his mother was seventeen years old and died before 1920. Edmund was named for his two grandfathers. He was listed in the census household of his mother in 1900 in Washington, D. C. where his surname had been changed from Watts to Vawter. He was living on Elsworth Street in Philadelphia when the 1910 Census was taken.He and his wife Mamie were classified as Black. Edmund registered for the World War I draft in 1917 in Philadelphia.Edmund and Mamie were married in 1906 and had no children when the census was taken. Edmund was employed as the head waiter in a restaurant. The 1920 census lists Mayme Vawter as a widow, forty years old, employed by the War Department.
2. Lucy Elizabeth Vawter was born on Sept. 14, 1875 and died in Nelson County, Virginia in 1876. She was named for her two grandmothers.
3. Alice Louise Vawter was born on Nov. 17, 1876 and died in July 1878 in Nelson County.
4. Annie Mitchell Vawterwas born on March 15, 1878 at Bent Creek, Appomattox County and died Sept. 12, 1951 in Alameda, California. She was living in her mother’s household in Washington, D. C. when the U. S. Census was taken in June 1900. She was named for her father’s niece, Annie (Walton) Mitchell of Appomattox County. Annie married Wallace Neal Towns, son of William and Alice (Ratchford) Towns. Wallace was born Sept. 20, 1870 in California and died May 20, 1959 in Alameda. Their children: William N. Towns was born April 7, 1909 in New York and died May 19, 1967 in Alameda, California. Marjorie W. Towns was born in 1912 in California.
5. George Henderson Vawter was born on July 16, 1880, in Nelson County. He moved with his parents to Washington, D. C. about 1890. On Oct. 1, 1903, he married Annie H. Harley in Alexandria, Virginia.George married second Amelia H. Green, who was born in 1899 in Mississippi. George visited his Walton relatives about 1928 in Appomattox County, after which he wrote a letter containing information on the Negro (mulatto) Vawters and their Walton relatives. He visited Dallas Walton, John C. Walton and Lizzie Abbitt in Appomattox. George’s address at that time was 311 Cumberland Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 1930 U. S. Census for Philadelphia lists his occupation as a “clothes dyer,” and his race as a Negro. No children were listed in their household.
6. David Doggett Vawter was born on March 19, 1882 in Nelson County He was listed as a jeweler on the 1910 U. S. Census for Washington, D. C., E. D. 147, Sheet 5B, Line 66.His wife was named Sarah Louisa, who was born in the West Indies. They were married in 1905, but were still childless in 1910. Both were classified as mulattos. When he registered for the draft in 1942 in Newcastle, Delaware, he was listed as being white, whereas the 1918 draft listed him as a Negro. It said that three fingers were missing from his left hand. David’s occupation was watchmaker.
7. Abraham Benjamin Vawter was born on June 27, 1884 in Appomattox County and died on June 25, 1893 in Washington, D. C.
8. Enoch Marvin Vawter was born on April 5, 1888 in Lynchburg and died before 1930, in Alexandria, Virginia or in Philadelphia. When the 1900 Census was taken, he was listed as a student in school. On Jan. 8, 1905, he married Lularetta Ricks in Alexandria, Virginia.She was a widow living in Philadelphia in 1930 with her son Lewis Vawter (born in 1908) and daughter Harriett Vawter, born in 1928 in Virginia.
More than likely, Sarah (Watts) Vawter died in Philadelphia. I have not been able to reach any descendant of this family.It is possible that some descendants are classified today as being white. Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.