The letter was a sensation at the time, being first reproduced in the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper, and then reprinted in the August 22, 1865 issue of the New York Tribune newspaper. The letter was also reprinted in The Freedmen’s Book, by Lydia Maria Child, which was published in 1865. The author was an abolitionist, writing several books on the subject, including An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans. Today, however, she is best known for her poem Over the River and Through the Woods, about Thanksgiving.
Some believed the letter from Jordan to Colonel Anderson had been fabricated. But names mentioned in connection to Col. Anderson in the letter are real people. The “Miss Mary” and “Miss Martha” are Colonel Anderson’s wife, Mary, and their daughter, Martha. The man by the name of Henry in the letter, who seemed to have plans to shoot Jordan if he ever got the chance, was more than likely Colonel Patrick Henry Anderson’s son, Patrick Henry Jr., whom everyone called Henry, and who would have been about 18 when Jordan left in 1864. George Carter, who took the pistol away from the Colonel as he shot at Jordan, was a carpenter who lived in Wilson County.
As I stated earlier, the two daughters mentioned in the letter, “poor Matilda and Catherine”, did not make the trip with their parents. Perhaps the abuse that it seems the two girls suffered was fatal. Or maybe they were sold as slaves to other families and Jordan and Amanda did not have a way to contact them. This is something I will endeavor to find out.
V. Winters in the letter was Valentine Winters, a banker in Dayton, and founder of Winters Bank. Jordan must have felt a deep respect for Valentine, for in 1870 his son was named after Mr. Winters.
Jordan held a number of jobs and moved to a few addresses during his 42+ years living in Dayton. They include working as a servant in 1865 and living at 342 Second Street. While there Jordan and Amada had a son, William, who was born in 1865. Sadly, their daughter Mildred, died that same year, on November 21.
Then a unique opportunity came to Dayton in 1867, when the city was chosen to host the Central Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now known as the VA Center. Jordan was hired to drive in the stakes which laid out the site of the Soldiers’ Home.
The family moved to 8 Burns Avenue in 1868 and stayed there until 1874, with Jordan taking on jobs as a hostler and coachman during that time. Three sons and two daughters were born there; William in 1865, Andrew in 1869, Valentine Winters on November 2, 1870, Charlotte “Lottie” on June 8, 1873, and Selma in October 1874.
In 1875 the family moved to 48 South Ludlow. Jordan and Amanda’s last child, Eva Ola, was born there on July 19, 1876.
In 1877 the Anderson’s made a move to 159 Maple. Amanda’s mother, Priscilla McGregor, died on April 18, 1879 at the age of 78 and is buried at Woodland.
Then it was time to move to 70 Monroe in 1880, to 60 East Monroe in 1883, and finally to 60 East Burns in 1890. During this time Jordan would switch back and forth from working as a janitor, coachman or hostler, until 1894, when he became a sexton; a position he held until his death.
The Anderson family became a fixture at the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the same church that Paul Laurence Dunbar and his mother attended, as did Rev. Desota E. Bass. Charlotte would become the president of the church choir; Valentine would play the violin with the organist. It is likely that this is the church Jordan was hired on as a sexton in 1894.
On November 5, 1895 the family celebrated the marriage of their son, Valentine, to Abbigail Weir. Abbigail immediately moved in with the family at their home at 60 Burns Avenue. There is no record of the couple having any children. By this time Valentine had become a physician.
According to the census of 1900, Jordan and Amanda outlived at least five of their eleven children. Assuming that Matilda and Catherine were two of them, and counting Mildred, who died in 1865, the other two children were their son William, who died on May 2, 1895 and probably Selma who, although born in 1874, never appeared in the census of 1880 with the rest of her family.
Then, on June 26, 1902 the family celebrated yet another marriage, this time of their daughter Charlotte to Samuel C. Stewart. Samuel immediately moved in with the family at their home at 60 Burns Avenue. There is no record of the Stewarts having any children. Just as well, as the house must have become quite crowded by this time.
It is unclear at this time just exactly when and where Eva Ola married Charles H. Johnson, but it was probably before 1908. Eva and Charles were the only ones to have children. Their daughter, Catherine K. Johnson, was born in Pennsylvania in 1908. Their son, William, was born in Ohio in 1910. UPDATE: There is a strong possibility that these children were not Eva's, but her step-children.
Jordan died from “exhaustion” on April 15, 1907 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery. Amanda died April 12, 1913 and is buried next to Jordan.
And what happened to Colonel Patrick Henry Anderson? He died just 2 years after the letter was written, in September 1867, at the age of 43.
Near the end of his letter Jordan states that “the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education”. His dream came true. All of his children grew up able to read and write.
As for the rest of Jordan and Amanda’s children and their descendants:
Information on Jane is sketchy at this time. There is a Jane mentioned in the Dayton city directories for 1874 and 1876 living with Jordon, but she is not mentioned as living there in the census in 1880. She would have been 21 by then and perhaps married or moved on. This is a puzzle I am still working on.
Felix died on July 1, 1916 and is buried at Woodland. He was employed as a soldier at the time of his death.
Valentine died May 10, 1920 and is buried at Woodland. Abbigal died August 6, 1923 and is buried next to her husband.
Andrew died January 8, 1931 and his buried at Woodland.
Charlotte would be a great contributor to the Wesleyan Methodist Church, helping finance the printing of the book A History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America: The Story of One Hundred Years 1842-1942 of the First Wesleyan Methodist Church at Dayton, Ohio, as well as writing the Foreword. Charlotte Stewart died March 18, 1944 and is buried at Woodland. Samuel died April 27, 1953 and is buried next to her.