Making family connections

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David Minton/DRC
Joy Miller Davis looks over photos and letters from ancestors in the dining room of the Bayless-Selby House Museum on Wednesday in Denton.
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Woman in Tulsa traces history back to Denton

With just a little time on Google, a lot of history opened up for a Tulsa family with a connection to Quakertown’s Dr. Edwin Moten.

Joy Miller Davis was tending to some genealogy research online when results brought up photographs she had in her possession that were also in the hands of the Denton County Office of History and Culture. With more digging, Davis, a descendent of Moten’s wife, Susie Whitlock, learned of the county’s museums and items from Moten and decided to visit and take a look for herself.

“I’m so pleased this is here, that this history is living,” Davis said.

She is the great-niece of Whitlock. She and her husband, the Rev. Gerald L. Davis, and her children, Olivia Whitlock Davis and Brooks Whitlock Davis, spent hours at the Denton County African American Museum and the Bayless-Selby House Museum.

They took in the African-American museum’s wall exhibit on Moten and viewed historical items of his that are on display, including family photos and letters between Moten and his wife before their courtship and after they wed in 1907.

“My generation is probably one of the first few generations where we were beginning to have history. For most of their parents, there were no photos or records of birth or property,” Davis said. “I’ve always been interested in Susie and Emmanuel Whitlock, I don’t know who their parents were — where they came from.

“The family folklore is that they really weren’t African-American, that they were Native American. Now we’re moving into another era where it is OK to say there is something else in our history. Let’s find it or let’s just find who we are.”

Davis said she searched for Susie Whitlock on a whim and discovered the photo that led her search for information from Virginia to Texas.

“I did not know the Texas connection; I had not been told that. Then, when I mentioned that to my mother, she said, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and things started coming to her,” Davis said.

Peggy Riddle, executive director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, said that she hopes Davis’ story of discovering her family connection will motivate other families — especially here in the county — to document and share their history.

“You never know the connections where all those little threads are going to come together,” she said.

Riddle said she is also hoping to learn more about Moten and his family from Bastrop, where some of his family members live, as well as his time spent in Indianapolis, which Davis said was where Moten had a thriving practice with other African-American doctors.

“See, we cut them off. I am like, ‘let’s see what they are doing in Indianapolis,’” Riddle said.

Davis offered to donate any historical photos, paperwork and other items she finds along the way to the county.

“There is more history, I’m sure,” she said while looking over folders of photos. “I appreciate Denton County’s efforts and herculean efforts to really tell the story. And they have done a good job and they know the story is evolving and the willingness and openness to let the story be told is very comforting, very humbling.”

Davis eagerly shared the historical finds with her husband and children. Her son said it was “very cool” when she recounted the line of ancestors he had and the one who set up their trust fund.

“It’s important to the kids to know they have a history. It doesn’t [always] start with slavery — some people weren’t even slaves,” she said. “There’s always a different road families have traveled, and we’re all going to the same place, but we have all traveled down different roads.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.

 


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