Famous Beaufortonians: J. I. Washington

We mention the "Local History and Nature" pages regularly to highlight that aspect of our "Virtual BDC"services. In honor of Black History Month, we draw your attention to another African American native son of Beaufort of especial note:

Julius I. Washington (1864-1938)

Transcription of his obituary published in the Beaufort Gazette on January 17, 1938:

DEATH OF ATTORNEY J. I. WASHINGTON Buried Last Thursday after Being Confined to his Home Several Years

Simple, but impressive, funeral services for the late J. I. Washington, Sr., who entered into eternal rest Jan. 18, 1938 at 9:24 p. m., were held at three o'c[l]ock Thursday afternoon, January 20, from First African Baptist Church, in which he had served as church clerk and superintendent of the Sunday School for over forty years. The quiet dignity, which he exemplified throughout his life, characterized the brief services. The invocation was asked by Reverend W. F. McBrown, the Scripture lesson, the 23rd Psalm, was read by the Rev. Robert F. Harrington, R. W. McGirt gave the obituary, and H. G. Fisher spoke briefly on the deceased service to his church. The Rev. W. W. Wharthen delivered the eulogy. Music during the services included two of the late attorney's favorites, "I Surrender All" and "Just As I Am, " and "Steal Away"; the latter being rendered by the Penn School Quartet.

He was born December 20, 1866. [sic] His parents were Richard and Catherine Washington. Coming of school age just after the Civil War he entered the public schools of Beaufort and when ready for college attended South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina; later reading law under General W. J. Whipper. He was admitted to the Bar in December 1878.

From that time, with the exception of the years that he held political positions under the state and federal governments, he was engaged in the active and successful practice of the law until his retirement in 1934. For several years prior to 1902 he was associated with former Congressman Thomas E. Miller under the firm name of Miller & Washington. In 1924 he and his son, Charles E. Washington, formed the law partnership of Washington & Washington, enjoying a successful practice.

Many high political positions of honor and trust were held by him. For many years he was an associate of General Robert Smalls in politics, serving with him in the Customs House and as confidential adviser. In 1886 he was elected to the State Legislature from Beaufort County. Prior to this he had served as customs clerk at Beaufort. He also served as special employee of the Treasury Department under the Special Inspector for Georgetown, Charleston and Savannah. In 1890 he resigned his seat in the legislature and moved to Charleston to accept appointment as Coastwise Clerk in the Charleston Customs House, which position he held for four years. In 1902 has [he] was made Special Deputy Collector for the Port of Beaufort, serving in this capacity for eleven years.

He took an active interest in the civic affairs of his home town, serving as chairman of the Citizens' Committee for many years. He was largely instrumental, after many years of untiring effort, in having the Colored Branch of the City Library established.

In his fraternal affiliations he was loyal and efficient in the discharge of his duties. He was a member of the Grand Chapter of the Eastern Star, attorney for the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, and in 1928 was made Grand Master of the Masonic lodge of South Carolina in which capacity he served until declining health forced the relinquishment of his duties in 1934.

In October 1860 he was married to Carrie Kinlaugh, who died in 1885. On June 14, 1890 he was married to Eliza Middleton who survives him.

The deceased bore his long illness with unusual patience, cheerfulness and Christian fortitude.

The universal esteem and respect in which he was held occasioned visits by friends to him from all walks of life, white and colored, during his illness; and the large attendance at the funeral services, including city and county officials! the many floral tributes and numerous telegrams from this and other states. Those who gathered to pay their last tribute of respect included: President M. F. Whittaker and Profesors [sic] Harry Daniels, George Daniels, W. C. Lewis, W. W. Williams, W. T. Cahoun, Clarence Clinkscale, Charles E. Watermann, Sr., Forella Fordam, of State College; Louise Bing and Thos. Cohen of Allendale; Helen Middleton, Inez Thomas, Rev. Charles Levy and Ducan of Charleston; representatives from Penn School, Mather School, Beaufort Training School, Robert Smalls School; Allendale County Training School, and others whose names were not obtained.

Due to inaccuracies in telegraphic communications, representatives from the Masonic Grand Lodge, Grand Master Stanback and Grand Secretary J. E. Dickson, were unavoidably absent, but telegraphed their regrets to the family.

Remains were interred with Masonic Honors in Charity Cemetery, Beaufort, with the following members of the craft acting as pall bearers: Dr. M. P. Kennedy, Albert Dingle, Proctor Glover, Phelix Powell, William Mitchell, and Edward Roache.

He leaves to mourn his passing a devoted widow, Eliza M. Washington; three sons: Thomas W. of Pensacola, Florida; J. Irwin, State College, Orangeburg; Charles E., of Beaufort; three daughters: Sadye W. Rice, Allendale; Adele W. Fleming, Beaufort; and Etta M. Washington, Beaufort; and an adopted daughter, Mamie Bryan, Beaufort; fourteen grandchildren; a niece, Ella Crawford, Washington, D. C., two nephews, Joseph Washington and Fred Moore, New York; other relatives and a host of friends.

Servant of God well done
Rest from thy loved employ.
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Masters joy.


The Editor of The Gazette had known J. I. Washington for the past fourteen years and always found him to be fair and honest in all his dealings and was a leader among his race and had the highest respect of both white and colored people throughout Beaufort, which has lost of one of its leading colored citizens.

A digital version of his obituary is found here.

Q: Did you notice the obvious error in the obituary? It states that he was born on December 20, 1866 but married in 1860! According to the obituary, he was married before he was born. This cannot be true - which gives us a genealogical quandry to investigate.

Q: What types of documents could help us prove the 1) date of his birth and 2) date of his marriage to Carrie Kinlaugh?

a. Birth Certificate - South Carolina, similar to most Southern states, did not require registrations of birth until 1915. Furthermore, as an African American, the birth of an enslaved person may not have been noted at all. There is no indication that his parents, Richard (or Dick) and Catherine had been freed by enumeration day in 1860. If they had been free Black persons, they should have been listed in the US Federal Census of 1860.

b. Marriage Certificate - South Carolina, similar to most Southern states, did not require registrations of marriage until July 1, 1911. If he married Carrie before 1911, any record of that marriage would have to appear in subsidiary records.

Q: What types of subsidiary records might help us?

a. Newspaper notices - Aye, but here's the rub: In 1860 Beaufort didn't have a local newspaper. In 1866, the year he was supposedly born, birth announcements were very rarely published in a newspaper.

Sometimes religious denominations published newspapers which would include marriage and death announcements. We have a few reference books about marriages and ALE carries a few for South Carolina, but I found no record of Washington marrying Carrie Kinlaugh.

b. Religious organizations sometimes keep marriage records - but we'd 1) need to know which church 2) the church would have to still have the recordbook. In any case, it's not research I can do her inside the Library's BDC Research Room.

c. Freedmen's Bureau records can sometimes indicate marital status and dates of marriages.

d. The death of his first wife Carrie Kinlaugh (even using alternate spellings and forms of her name) does not appear in our Online Obituary Index - which means that our docents never saw an entry for her. His obituary says that Carrie Kinlaugh died in 1885. Because South Carolina did not require death certificates until January 1, 1915, she did not die during a Federal Mortality Schedule period, and her name is not listed in our OOI, I cannot confirm her year of death.

e. Federal Census records - (I used our ALE database to do the bulk of the following research):

1. Does Julius appear in the 1870 Census? Yes, he does.

2. If so, how old is he? 12 years old, which would put his birth as sometime between June 1, 1859 to May 31, 1860. (In 1860 - 1900, the enumeration date, that is, the date upon which the count for the census occurred, was June 1st.)

3. Does Julius appear in the 1880 Census? Yes.

4. If so, how old is he? 22 years old.

5. Is his age consistent between censuses? Yes. He's 10 years older.

6. What is his marital status? Single.

The 1890 Census was destroyed by a fire in the Smithsonian Institution in 1920. (There's a whole other story there that I might write about in Connections in the future.)

7. I find that in the 1900 census, J.I. Washington, aged 40, is listed as married to Eliza for 10 years, and all the children in their household are hers (5 living children for 5 pregnancies).

This offers corroborating evidence that Washington's first marriage was of short duration and likely produced no children as well as that the Washington married Eliza on or around June 14, 1890.

His age should be 42 rather than 40 years old but what's a year or two off?

1910: I continue tracking his age and marital status: Enumeration date changes to April 15th. He's 51, which would make his birth date fall somewhere between April 16, 1859 to April 14, 1860. He's still a lawyer, and has been married for 20 years.

1920: He's 53, a lawyer who owns his own home on Prince Street and is living with his wife, Eliza, aged 52. There's also a male boarder, aged 14 years in the household.

It's a very clear "53." In 10 years, he's aged 2 years! (We should all be so lucky).

1930 census: Washington is 69, married to Eliza, aged 65, and their daughter, Eva, now aged 32 is living with them in their house on Prince Street, valued at $6000. Washington gives his age at his first marriage as "30;" Eliza says she was "26." Washington worked the previous day to the enumeration [that is, on April 30th, 1930] as a lawyer. [BTW, Eva was a schoolteacher.]

Doing the math for Eliza's age and her wedding date, I get 1890/1891. Enumeration day was May 1st in 1930. This offers corroborating evidence that Washington and Eliza married around the date given in the obituary.

I read Eliza's obituary as published on December 27, 1962 in the Beaufort Gazette. She died on "Christmas night at the age of 99" which corroborates her birth year as 1861. She was quite a woman, very involved at her church First African Baptist for 85 years, PTA President at Robert Smalls Elementary and High Schools and "the last surviving charter member of the Mizpah Chapter of Eastern Star." Her address is given as 601 Prince Street. [Be sure to read an upcoming post entitled "Can You Help Identify These Church Women?"]

J. I. Washington's death certificate gives his birthday as Dec. 12, 1860 rather than December 20th, 1860 (as in the obituary) and his age at death as 77. The informant for his death certificate was his son, J. I. Washington, Jr.

Q: What are my conclusions? His obituary contains some inconsistencies in light of other records. We cannot truly be sure of his actual birth date. He was likely born in the month of December, perhaps on the 12th or the 20th, probably between 1858 - 1860. He was not born in 1866. He was born before the Civil War began, likely to enslaved parents. I am positive that he didn't marry Carrie Kinlaugh in 1860! My hunch is that he married her after June 1, 1880 and the newspaper made a typographical error.

Discrepancies across records is not uncommon. Family historians usually have to deal with inconsistencies in the records they amass on a particular individual or family. I hope that you'll agree that my reasoning is sound for the conclusions I have reached.

The image is from the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of South Carolina website.

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.