Mount Calvary, Mount Olive and Fisher’s Hill are early African American cemeteries in Portsmouth, Virginia. They’re adjacent to each other on a 13-acre plot.

A list of burials is available at the US Genweb Archives Portsmouth, Virginia but a more complete list of burials and photographs of tombstones can be found in Inscriptions of Triumph: Tombstone Inscriptions from the African American Cemeteries of Mt. Calvary, Mt. Olive, Fisher’s Hill, Portsmouth, Virginia by Mae Breckenridge-Haywood and Dinah Walters (Author House, 2001).


Nelson Elliott contracted smallpox in 1864. He survived but the disease impaired his ability to fulfill his duties e.g. he was unable to stand night guard. Elliott named many comrades who vouched for him and he named those for whom he had witnessed. He worked as a shoemaker when he returned to civilian life. You might be interested in what he reported about his parentage.


Invalid — 525, 284 /335,088
Widow — 875,854 / 686,398, Martha Elliott

Affidavit for Commissioned Officer or Comrade, Wm. T. Pitt, 8 March 1886
Took sick with diarrhea and sent to hospital at Newport News, Virginia, never returned to his regiment, discharged from general hospital at Portsmouth.


Deposition, Nelson Elliott, 5 June 1890
“I am 48 years of age, by occupation a shoemaker, Post office address Godwin St. bet Queen & London St. Portsmouth, Norfolk County, Va.  … I took smallpox and was put in a Pest House at Buckroe near Old Pt., Va, I do not remember how long I was in Pest House as I was unconscious a good part of the time while there … I came out of there and joined my company. While in said Pest House I was exposed to the light and my eyes became weak but after I returned to my company, my sight did not trouble me much, until in the summer of 1864, when up in front of Petersburg Va. my sight failed me at night so that I could not see to stand guard, and was relieved from night duty on that account. … Squire Bright of my company was in Pest House with me, and can tell about my having small pox.  … [After I left Howard Elliott’s] I went home to my father, Josiah Elliott, then living near Portsmouth, and I remained with him several years. I suppose nearly two years.”


Deposition, Henry W. Elliott, 6 June 1890
“I am 38 years of age, by occupation an oysterman. The claimant and I are cousins and I have known and associated with him all my life except while he was in the army during the late war. When he was discharged from the hospital and the service in the early summer of 1865 he came to my father’s house (Howard Elliott), and he remained there about two months.”


Deposition, Howard Elliott, 7 June 1890
“I am 65 years of age, by occupation an oysterman. I am the claimant’s uncle … he was discharged from service from Balfour Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, in June 1865 … he got so bad that I sent him to his father who was living a short distance from Portsmouth, where I was living.”


Death Certificate, Sydney A. Elliott, 1 June 1895
Died Portsmouth; 29 years, 5 months, 5 days; married; born Beaufort, N.C.; father’s name was Nelson Elliott, born in North Carolina; mother’s name unknown; was a schoolteacher; buried in Wilsons Cemetery, 5 June 1907.


Marriage License, Nelson Elliott & Martha Turner, 4 February 1899
[Two marriage dates are reported on this record — Leslie]: the marriage took place Portsmouth, Virginia, on 6 February 1899. Husband was 57 years old, wife was 45 years old. Husband was born in Norfolk County, wife was born Warren County, North Carolina. Husband lived in Norfolk, Va., wife lived in Norfolk County. Husband’s parents were Josiah Elliott and Mary Elliott; wife’s parents’ names were not reported. The officiant was F.C. Campbell in Portsmouth, Virginia, on 5 February 1899


Deposition, Nelson Elliott, 23 November 1901
“Of course I drink some, but I cannot say how many times I have been drunk. I have been arrested only once so far as I can recollect for being drunk.

Dr. Kenny got my pension for me. He charged me nothing. Milo B. Stevens were or was my attorney in Washington. He received from the Government twenty-five dollars. I also paid J.C. Depuyton twenty-five dollars when I got my increase.

“My witnesses were Thomas Pitt, Squire Bright, Howard Elliott, Joseph Jones, Albert Jones, William Young. I had others whose names I cannot recollect. My witnesses charged me nothing.
“I made an affidavit for Thomas Pitt. He got wounded in the leg.
“I also made an affidavit for Squire Bright. He had rheumatism and disease of the eyes in service.
“I also made an affidavit for Howard Elliott. No, I did not make an affidavit for Howard. You misunderstood me on that point.
“Joseph Jones was not in the army. I do not recollect whether or not I testified for Albert Jones. I cannot recollect whether or not I made an affidavit for William Young.
“I cannot say how many affidavits I have made in pension cases for my memory is not very good.
Mr. Hannon executes my voucher; charges twenty-five cents. He swears me and I never execute voucher before the 4th.”


Deposition, Nelson Elliott, 23 November 1902
“I am about 60 years of age; shoemaker and I reside at corner of County and Pine Sts., Portsmouth, Va. I cannot explain just why I have my mail sent to Norfolk when I reside in Portsmouth.
“I was born in Norfolk County, Va., and was always free … I was born on Western Branch, Norfolk County”

“… Two of the Jones boys were Sgts. Squire Bright and Johnson were corporals.
James Smith, Jesse Ford, Richard Holt were my tent mates.”
[Note from 1863: Per the Special Examiner: “He says his father was a Frenchman and his mother an Indian. My father was Josiah Elliott.”]


Death Certificate, Nelson Elliott, 5 January 1907
Died Norfolk County, 66 years old; married; born Norfolk County; father’s name was Jas. Elliott, born in Virginia; mother’s name was Mary Dean, born in Virginia; was a shoemaker; buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery, 7 July 1907, by A. Copeland Undertakers


Declaration of a Widow for Original Pension, Martha Elliott, 11 February 1907
“[The soldier] was born at Isle of Wight County, Va. … [she] had been once previously married but first husband had died; soldier had been twice previously but both wives had died … her post-office address is 1003 County St., Portsmouth”


Claimant’s General Affidavit, Martha Elliott, 27 November 1907
“Her first husband was named Benjamin Turner, who died insane in the County Jail, in Warren County, North Carolina, about 25 years ago; that her husband, Nelson Elliott, the soldier had been married twice previous to his marriage to the claimant. His first wife was called Polly, his second wife was named Sydney Ann, both died in the City of Portsmouth, Va. The date of the death of the first is not now known to this claimant, the second died on the 1st day of June 1895.”


General Affidavit, Amanda Whitfield & Lillian Aytes, 20 December 1907
“1422 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, Va. and 908 Columbia St., Portsmouth, Va., [respectively] . . . [45 years old and 29 years old, respectively], affiant Amanda Whitfield is a sister and affiant Lillian Aytes is a niece of the claimant and were living in what was then Warren but now Vance County, N.C. …”


General Affidavit, Eliza Bell & Sarah Bell, 20 December 1907
“[about 60 years old and about 62 years old, respectively], [both of] 712 Columbia St., Portsmouth, Va. . . . Polly Elliott, the first wife of Nelson Elliott, died on Glasgow St. between Washington & Green Streets, in the City of Portsmouth, Va. About twenty years ago; affiants have no way of fixing the date exactly he was married to his second wife, Sydney Ann.

“The affiants were related to the said soldier, being his first cousins, and lived on the same street with him and in the adjoining lot at the time of the death of his said wife Polly.”


Letter of John G. Teicher, Special Examiner, Bureau of Pensions, U.S. Department of the Interior, 14 April 1909
“I examined the index to the marriage records of Norfolk Co., Va., the same do not show any marriage of claimant under the name Martha Turner, from 1876 to Feb. 5, 1899 the date of her marriage to the soldier. Said records show that Nelson Elliott was married to Sidney Ann Peebles, Oct 21, 1887, but no record could be found of his marriage to Polly, who it is shown, was his first wife. Original affiant Jos. Jones is dead.”


Death Certificate, Martha Elliott, 24 December 1924
@ 1203 Effingham, Portsmouth, Norfolk County; widower; 69 years old; domestic; [birthplace] N.C.; father Daniel Dunston born N.C., mother Elizabeth Dunston born N.C.; [informant] Mary E. Stokes, 1203 Effingham St … buried Mt. Calvery [sic], Dec 28, 1924… W.M. Grogan, 823 London St. [undertaker]”


Letter from Mary E. Stokes, Portsmouth, Va., to Commissioner of Pensions, Washington, DC, 20 April 1926
“Dear Sir:
“My mother, Martha Elliott, widow of Nelson Elliott … was drawing pension at the time of her death; that after her death I filed a claim for funeral expenses and the money due her as pensioner at the time of her death.

“I have been patiently waiting to hear from the said claim but up to the present time I have heard nothing.
“Please let me hear from you with regard to the same and oblige.
“I am Very truly yours,
“Mary E. Stokes”

In the early 20th century the overwhelming majority of African Americans in Norfolk lived in or near downtown where veterans and non-veterans were employed in shops, markets, hotels, bakeries, restaurants, and confectioneries. They worked as draymen, blacksmiths, cooks, carpenters, printers, longshoremen, and laborers.

Commercial Square, Norfolk, Virginia, 1905

The heart of Norfolk’s commercial activity was an easy walk from the waterfront. Banks, law offices, and print shops were situated near the court house, the customs house, shippping terminals, and the city market.

This photograph includes Miller and Rhoads (a major department store) and the armory. The structure in the center of the square was to become the base of Norfolk’s Confederate Monument. At the time I was ready to post this entry, I hadn’t come across a singular publication that gave source citations for its content.  I’ll keep looking and I’ll update this entry appropriately.

I didn’t want to hold this sidebar any longer so I’ve reluctantly decided to post it as is. I hope you find these sources helpful. The report from the Southern Poverty Law Center challenges the value of the “Confederate Soldier Monument” in the context of today’s social and political climate.


“On top of a white, Vermont granite base stands a 15-foot figure of a Confederate soldier. The monument commemorates the last reunion of surviving confederate soldiers. Unveiled in May 1907, the soldier was created by Norfolk artist William Couper.”

“Confederate Monument, Norfolk, Virgina — American CIvil War Monuments and Memorials on Waymarking.com”

Katherine Hafner, Amir Vera, and Ryan Murphy. “Intentional or not, local confederate monuments were built on or near former slave sites,” The Virginian-Pilot, pilotonline.com, August 18, 2017

“History of Hampton Roads’ Confederate Monuments”

[Note: This video is just over two minutes long. It features Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Ph.D., a history professor at Norfolk State University, and Troy Valos, a Special Collections Librarian at Norfolk Public Library.]

“Whose Heritage? A Report on Public Symbols of the Confederacy” by the Southern Poverty Law Center

Samuel and his brother Frederick Humphries enlisted in Company K on the same day. Frederick did not come home. Sam’s Compiled Military Service Record (not included here) reported that he “guarded cattle on the James River.” After the war, Samuel acquired several properties in Norfolk. His widow and siblings divided the value of his estate when he died.

Invalid — 653, 349 / 489,730
Widow — 852,930 / 630,872, Virginia Humphries

Marriage License [copy], Samuel B. Humphries & Virginia White, 6 November 1877
Husband’s and wife’s ages, 32 and 24; Husband’s and wife’s birthplaces, Currituck Co, NC and Princess Anne Co., Va.; Husband’s and wife’s residence. Norfolk; Husband’s and wife’s parents, Sampson and Margaret Humphries and China White; husband’s occupation, drayman


Death Certificate [copy], Sampson Humphries, [date?]
85 years old, born Currituck Co., NC, parents were Margaret & Thomas Humphries, worked as wood-sawyer, died at 42 Moseley St, Norfolk; informant was Nap Rainey, Undertaker; pneumonia and old age; buried at Calvary Cemetery, Norfolk, on April 6th, 1881


Questionnaire, Samuel Humphries, 4 June 1898
[married] Yes, Jennie HumphriesJennie White
[when, where, by whom] Oct 1877, Norfolk, Va., Rev. Lewis Tucker
[record] Marriage Register, Norfolk City Clerk’s Office
[previously married] No
[living children] None


Transcript from the Record of Deaths in the City of Norfolk, Health Department, Norfolk, Va., 11 July 1906
Samuel B. Humphries died May 11th, 1906. Colored, male, married, laborer. Born in Virginia. Lived in Norfolk for 40 years. Died of nephritis and advanced age. Died at 72 Mosely St., Norfolk, Va. Sick for 16 days. Buried at Calvary Cemetery, Norfolk, Va. Medical attendant was P.L. Barber, MD. Undertaker was Jas. W. Jones.


General Affidavit, W.W. Dey, Commissioner of Revenue, July 1906
The soldier owned several properties: 72 Moseley St, assessed at $550.00, 42 Pulaski St, assessed at $450.00; 36 Pulaski St, assessed at $900.00; vacant lot at Pulaski St, assessed at $390.00.


Declaration for Widow’s Pension, 24 July 1906
“The said soldier died May 11th, 1906, from results of heart disease.”


General Affidavit, Phillip Cornick, 24 July 1906
63 years old, residence 296 Princess Anne Ave., Norfolk, Va. … “He has been acquainted with the claimant ever since she was a girl; that when he came back from the army in 1866 she was a girl of 12 or 13 years of age and lived three or four doors from him; that he has known her ever since then intimately; that she was never married before she married Sam Humphries; that they were never divorced or separated but lived together as man and wife until he died. That she has not re-married since his death; that he knew Sam for about five years before his marriage and he was not married then and to the best of his knowledge and belief he had not been previously married.

“That he knows that claimant has some interest in some property that Sam left on Mosely St. and Pulaski St. but he does not know the value of it; that no one is legally bound to support her and she is dependent upon her manual labor for a support.”


General Affidavit, Virginia Humphries, 24 July 1906
53 years old, residence 72 Mosely St., Norfolk, Va. … “That she was married to her husband on Nov. 6th, 1877… That her husband had no life insurance. That her husband left no will but died seized and possessed of two pieces of real estate, one the small house where she lives on Mosely St., and a house and lot on Pulaski St. That by an agreement with his heirs she was allowed to retain the house in which she lives valued at about $500 or $600, and has a half interest in the other house which rents for $10 per month, of which she receives $5. That she has no other income, no stocks, bonds nor investments; no one is legally bound to support her and she is dependent upon her manual labor for a support, except for the $5 per month out of which she has to pay her share of the taxes, insurance, and repairs.

“That she believes her husband died from heart disease for which he was pensioned. That he had been ailing for about two weeks but was not confined to his bed. That he was taken suddenly ill with an attack of shortness of breath on Thursday night and died Friday afternoon.”


General Affidavit, Patsey Williams, 24 July 1906
66 years old, residence 36 Pulaski St., Norfolk, Va. … “That she is a sister of Samuel B. Humphries and has known him all his life. … That Sam left no children living and his heirs were herself, her sister Margaret and his wife, and they divided his property by an agreement; the wife got the house 72 Moseley St and a half interest in the house 42 Pulaski St. which rents for $10 per month, affiant got the house in which she lives No. 36 Pulaski St., and her sister Margaret got the other half interest in the house 42 Pulaski St. That Sam left no other property than that mentioned except a vacant lot which they are trying to sell, no personal property, except a small lot of household furniture, no stocks, bonds nor investments and claimant has nothing except the house in which she lives.”


General Affidavit, Tamer Portlock, 30 July 1906
100 years old, residence 68 Lincoln St., Norfolk, Va. …“That she was well and intimately acquainted with Samuel B. Humphries, the late husband of the plaintiff, having known him since he was a child, they having belonged at one time to the same family; that from such long and intimate acquaintance she knows that said Samuel B. Humphries was never married prior to his marriage to the plaintiff.


General Affidavit, Phillip Cornick & Francis Keeling, 7 February 1907
[Cornick] 64 years old, residence 296 Princess Anne Ave., Norfolk and [Keeling] 40 years old, residence 257 Goff St., Norfolk, respectively … “The couple] married in Phillip Cornick’s house and that Francis Keeling lived upstairs in the same house; that they were well acquainted with them until the time of the death of Samuel B. Humphries.”

Brothers Frederick and Samuel Humphries enlisted on the same day. Frederick died of typhoid fever before his service ended; Samuel submitted statements in support of their mother’s attempt to claim survivor’s benefit. She was unsuccessful. 


Mother — 190,565 / —–, Margaret Humphreys

Notarized Statement, Samuel B. Humphries & Andrew Jones,15 July 1870
“[T]hey were members of the 1st U.S. Col. Cavly. Humphreys being a member of Co. ‘K’ and Jones a member of Company ‘D’ and that they were personally acquainted with Frederick Humphreys, deceased … and having heard his death announced to the Company, and Regt. dress parade by the Adjutant of the Regiment”


Notarized Statement, John Halstead, 12 July 1883
42 years old, resided at Pulaski St., Norfolk … That he has been well acquainted with Margaret Humphrey and her husband Sampson Humphrey and their family every since he could remember. Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey were two very old people … [Margaret Humphrey] must be 80 years of age. He further stated himself and the said Frederick Humphrey were partly raised together. Frederick always seemed more devoted to his mother and father than any of the children. He was not married. Had no child or children but stayed home with his mother and father and assisted them up to the time he enlisted in the U.S. Service … [Margaret Humphrey] lives with her oldest son and his family.”


Notarized Statement, Peter Sanderlin & Lewis Parker, about 12 July 1883
60 years old and 45 years old, respectively … “They knew Margaret Humphrey widow of Sampson Humphrey and the mother of Frederick Humphrey … they knew the Claimant’s whole family before the War of 1861 … [the old man] would be up and about and he would go out and do little things for the neighbors such as carrying bundles or a basket and picking up rags and he would earn sometimes 20 and 25 cents at times and his income would not support a three year old child.”


Letter from Adjutant General’s Office, War Department to  . – 21 September 1883
“[Frederick Humphries died] …  July 31 64 in 18th A[rmy[ C[orps] Hospl of typhoid fever …  at  33rd Div. Hospital”


General Affidavit, Cherry Sanderline & Samuel Burrell, 9 October 1890
65 years old and 62 years old, respectively … “That they knew Margaret Humphries the mother of Frederic Humphries while they were slaves, that they belonged to Mr. Cooper Ferrebee who is now dead. … That Margaret had two sons by name of Samuel B. Humphries and Adustus Humphries who are now living in the city of Norfolk, Va. beside soldier Frederic who died in Army. … Their knowledge is derived from having lived on the same plantation with Margaret and family and knew when children were small children around mother’s knee and have been intimate with them and mother from that time to present and have had every opportunity to know and see them often to present-time. They also state that all of the older white members of their owner’s family are dead.”


Deposition, Samuel B. Humphries, 9 June 1892
49 years old, laborer, residence and post-office address No. 46 Moseley St., Norfolk, Va. … “I am the son and legal representative of Margaret Humphries deceased, the claimant in the above described pension claim. My said mother claimed pension as the dependent mother of Frederick Humphries late Private Co. K, 1st USCC, who died while a member of said Company. My said brother was born in Currituck Co., N.C. and was in his 18th year when he enlisted. He and I enlisted on the 11th day of December 1863 in said Company and we served together up to a short time before his death when he was placed on detached duty. [My parents] were entirely dependent upon their own labor and the contributions of myself and brother Frederick from the time we left our owner in May 1863 until we enlisted in Dec 1863. After that date and at the date of my brother’s death they were supported by the government in way of provisions and mother took in washing and did any other work she could get to do to pay rent and buy fuel. Father died April 5th 1881 and mother died April 18th 1884. I took care of my parents for a number of years before they died. … I bore all the expenses of her last illness and burial. Wm. Hutcheson, Cherry Sanderlin, Clara White & John Halstead all of Norfolk, Va. can give you all of the facts concerning the claimant’s dependence etc.”


General Affidavit, Susanna Smith & Amy Dawley, 16 August 1894
residence 50 Howard St, Norfolk, Va. and residence 399 Church St, Norfolk, Va., respectively …  “They knew Sampson Humphreys the father and Margaret Humphreys, the mother of the soldier above described. They both saw the remains of the father and attended his funeral which took place as well as they can now remember about eleven years ago. It was ten or eleven years ago last March when Sampson Humphreys died on this they feel relatively certain. Affiant Smith well remembers that Margaret Humphreys as described died about two years after her husband died.

“Sampson Humphreys, it was in April 1885. She saw his widow’s remains and attended her funeral … George, Liddie, David, Johnson and Sarah were brothers and sisters of the soldier described and all died before the soldier died and were never married except Liddie who left surviving only one child named Marshall Lamb whose age is 30 years of Great Bridge, Va.

Samuel Adustus and Tamar Jackson and Betsy Williams are the only surviving brothers and sisters of soldier.”

Beginning in June 2019, the first Monday of the month will feature an extra sketch or sidebar. Enjoy!

FGS 2019 Conference Speaker Shout Out: Leslie Anderson, MSLS, presents, “Michael Shiner’s Diary – A Black Man Looks at 19th Century Washington, DC”

Slave-born Michael Shiner worked in the Washington Navy Yard since childhood, and his diary (1813-1866) described presidential visits, industrial accidents, epidemics, fires, and the construction of national monuments. His observations about neighbors and his working-class neighborhood offer insight into civic culture and community genealogy.

Join Leslie on Saturday, August 24 at 4pm, and check out her other sessions!

Have you registered for FGS 2019 yet?

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