In Search of “Nannie”: An Eight Year-old Girl’s Memorial Headstone in Georgetown

For many years, community members in Georgetown, in the District of Columbia, and beyond have been fascinated by the enigmatic figure of “Nannie,” an eight year female child buried in the Mount Zion-Female Union Band Society Cemetery adjacent to Rock Creek Park in north Georgetown, one of the earliest historically African American cemeteries in the Washington DC area. For years, individuals have respectfully placed objects, including dolls, ribbons, toys, and birthday cards, in front of her simple bluestone crowned headstone, upon which is inscribed:


Born May 26, 1848
Died May 18, 1856

The marker has catalyzed extensive speculation and a series of commemorative art works. In her Washington Post article, ” Someone keeps leaving toys and birthday cards at a 7-year-old’s grave in a historic Black cemetery. No one knows who.” (April 17, 2021) Theresa Vargas recounts work by DC artist Lindsey Brittain Collin, inspired by dolls left at Nannie’s graveside.

In 1842, a group of free women of color formed black benevolent organization, the Female Union Band Society, (FUBS). In trust for the society the school teacher and free man of color Joseph T. Mason purchased a plot of land adjacent to the Old Methodist Burying ground (which had been established in 1808) for burial purposes, for $250 on October 19, 1842. Joseph Mason ran a school within the black church known as the d“The Meeting House” or “the Little Ark” ( after 1844 known as Mount Zion Methodist Church). IfNannie was a free child of color in the vicinity, Joseph Mason most likely taught her as a pupil prior to her death in 1856.

Nannie’s grave marker is located within the old FUBS zone, at times referred to as “Mount Zion West”. it is propped up against a tree, and like many stones in the cemetery was clearly moved at least once. It is not marked on the survey maps of Mount Zion East or Female Union Band Society cemeteries conducted in the 1870s. It seems reasonably likely that Nannie was a child of color, probably part of the substantial free black population residing in Georgetown and the other areas of the District of Columbia in the mid 19th century. It is also possible of course, that she was enslaved for some or all of her short life. (Slavery was legal in the District of Columbia through Spring 1862, when an act of Congress instituted a compensated emancipation system.)

Who might Nannie have been, and why was this striking headstone dedicated to her? The inscription is done professionally with great care. which suggests that it was paid for by someone of means, or with access to a network of supporters who helped fund the purchase.

It is intriguing that only the child’s first name was used, given that surnames are usually inscribed in Mount Zion-FUBS headstones. Possibly, the lack of a surname reflected the fact that the child was buried within an extant family plot, or the simplicity of a single name seemed sentimentally appropriate. Alternately, if Nannie had been fathered by a prosperous white man, outside of wedlock, he might have been willing to pay for a handsome headstone, but unwilling to authorize his surname being used.

Background Considerations: The Name “Nannie” and Relevant Sources

“Nannie” was a popular girls’ name in the mid 19th century. The 1850 census records about seventeen free women of color named “Nannie” living in the United States. The 1870 census, the first to list all African Americans, lists about 2,000 black women named Nannie nationwide. The records of the Mt Zion-FUBS cemetery list two other Nannies: a Nannie Diggs, born 1852 in Virginia, and a Nannie Washington, born 1858, also in Virginia. (The most prominent black Washington bearing the name “Nannie” was the pioneering educator and religious leader, Nannie Helen Burroughs, May 2, 1879 – May 20, 1961, born in Virginia, and a member at 19th Street Baptist.) Two months before the death of the “Nannie” buried in Mount Zion, the Evening Star (DC) reported the death of “Old Aunt Nannie,” an enslaved woman at the age of 12 years, on January 30, 1856, near Powhatan Courthouse, Virginia” (Evening Star, March 6, 1856, p. 3)

It may simply be a coincidence, but an obelisk to Nannie Diggs, who died October 23, 1923, at age 61 was erected by her daughter Katie Anderson in the same section of the cemetery as the headstone to the mysterious child “Nannie.”

The name Nannie, like Anne, is derived from the Hebrew term for favor or grace. Nannie is sometimes a diminutive for Ann, Agnes or Nancy.

Internment records were maintained in the District of Columbia from 1855 onward; these are searchable on line through MyHeritage. No child with the name of “Nannie”, “Nancy” “Agnes,” Ann,” with a death date in the 1850s is recorded. Of the 35 individuals whose deaths are listed in 1856, only one was born in the 1840s (Cathrine Weirich, white, born 1842).

In the absence of a municipal record, we must rely primarily on the 1850 Federal census (enumerated when Nannie was about two years old), church records, probate records, or other sources. Many churches in the area kept parish records that notated christenings and deaths of children and adults, including enslaved and free persons of color during the antebellum era. Records at St. Albans Episcopal Church, at the apex of Mount Albans, now adjacent to the National Cathedral, have many such notations for congregants of color, but no salient child deaths are listed for 1856.

The 1850 Federal census is the first census to list the names of minor children, and the race of all persons, as white, black, or mulatto, although mistakes were at times made, so the document is worth considering with care. The decennial census did not list family relationships until 1880, so these must be inferred when reading 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records.

Possible Candidates in the 1850 Census

I consider in turn several candidates for “Nannie,” concentrating on female children with a first name of Nannie, Nancy, Agnes, or Ann or with the first initial “N.”, residing in the District of Columbia in 1850. It is possible of course, that Nannie was brought to the District at some point after the enumeration of the 1850 census, prior to her death in 1856; it is also possible that the name Nannie was a nickname that was not hinted at by a name given to a census enumerator. It should also be noted that enslaved people’s names were not recorded in the Federal census; the 1850 slave schedule only lists the age, sex, and color (black or mulatto) of enslaved people. Thus, if Nannie were enslaved her name would not be in a census record, but might possibly be found in a church record, a probate court records, or a bill of sale,

First, let’s consider “candidates” in the 1850 census that can be ruled out or, upon consideration, judged unlikely:

  1. Nannie Okie Yates. The only female child of color in the District of Columbia with the name “Nannie’ in the 1850 census is Nannie Okie Yates, listed as a mulatto, born around 1843, residing in Washington City, Ward 2, in in the household of Harriet (Wormley) Johnson, born 1803 or 1810, a daughter of Lynch Wormley, discussed below. Harriet had married James Johnson 10 Jun 1830; he passed away around 1837, so Harriet was a widow in 1850. The Yates child is listed as already attending school in 1850, so would seem to be too old to be “our’ Nannie, born in 1848.

A middle name often indicates a maternal surname, and is it happens the 1850 census does list several free people of color with the surname “Okie” within 200 miles of the District of Columbia. These include the free black man Samuel Okey, born 1786 in Delaware living in Lewis and Rehobeth, Delaware and his possible brother, William Okie born in Delaware in 1787, in 1850 residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylania. Their likely kinswoman Mary Jane Okie, born 1822 in Delaware, is residing (presumably as a domestic servant) in the household of the white stock exchange broker Samuel Hopkins in Philadelphia; she died in Philadelphia in 1854.

In any event, “Nannie Okie Yates” almost certainly appears in the 1860 census residing in San Francisco, Ward 4 California, listed under the puzzling name, “Namcoka Yates” which must be a mishearing of “Nannie Okie.” She is living with her evident parents, Henry F Yates and Mary J Yates, along with sisters Mary Yates, born about 1846 in the District of Columbia, Alice Yates, born about 1848 in D.C., and Frances Yates, born 1859 in San Francisco. (Given Frances’ birth year, the family must have relocated from DC to California at some point between 1850 and 1859). I do not know if Mary J Yates has any relationship to the Mary Jane Okie (1833-1854), who resided in Delaware and Philadelphia, PA.

In 1860, “Namcoka Yates” in San Francisco is listed as born in Washington DC about 1843, which matches the 1850 census entry. In 1850, when Nannie Okie was residing with Harriet Johnson in Washington Ward 2, a “Mary Yeates”, was residing in Georgetown as a servant of the wealthy white woman Maria M. Wainwright. Perhaps Mary Yeates was the of mother Nannie Okie Yates.

In 1860, William H Yates is listed as a ship steward, so it is possible that in 1850 he was at sea, and thus not listed in the census. I assume the various children of the Yates couple were fostered out by their mother with friends or relations. Alice in the 1850 census may be the “A. Yates” residing in Georgetown with the black male brickmaker “F. Yates,” in a large household of free people of color headed by the free man of color and cart driver J. Smallwood.

Nannie’s sister Mary Yates died in San Francisco in July 1864 and her father William H. Yates perished, also in San Francisco, in September 1866. Nannie’s mother Mary Yates is listed in the 1870 census still living in San Francisco Ward 4 with her daughter Fanny Yates and an apparent son Robert Yates, also a ship’s steward. That same year, 1860, a “Nahnioke” appears as married to a back barber Redding Speights (b. 1841) in San Jose, CA. In 1880 her name is listed as “Nahmeakee” Speights, and she is living with her husband, daughter Ida E, born 1860, and her son William H (presumably named for Nannie’s father) . Her husband Redding Speights died in 1900. Nannie died in Santa Clara, CA, on 6 December 1909, listed in the records as “Mamioka Speights.”

Returning to Washington DC in 1850, “Nannie Okie Yates” and Harriet Wormley Johnson resided next door to Harriet’s brother Andrew Wormley, It seems likely Nannie Okie Yates was related to the Wormley’s, who were looking after her in 1850. As it happens, another “Nannie,” born in same time frame as the “Nannie” in the Mount Zion headstone, was a niece of Andrew, Harriet, and James Wormley. Let us next turn to her.

2. Nancy Wormley Brown, born around 1849, residing with her parents, in Washington Ward Two in 1850: John Brown, a 44 year old old barber (b. 1806), and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Wormley) Brown, 35 (b. 1815), who had married in Washington DC on 5 Jan 1831. Nancy’s siblings in the 1850 household are the 16 year old young man O.W (Owen Wormley) Brown, born about 1834 (the year his mother’s brother Owen Wormley died) also listed with the occupation barber; Sarah Brown, age 14 (born 1836); Mary M Brown, age 9 (born 1841) ; Elizabeth Brown, age 7 (b. 1843); Marion Brown, age 5 (b 1845).; and Harriet Brown, age 3 (born 1847).

The 1860 census records John and Elizabeth still residing in Washington Ward 2 with nearly the same set of children as in 1850: Sarah, age 22; Mary, age 20: Elizabeth, age 19, Maria (previously “Marion”), age 14, Harriet, age 12; and two new children born after the 1850: census Anne, age 6, and Hugh, age 5. (Hugh Brown subsequently studied at the Princeton Theological School and became a noted educator in Washington DC and Pennsylvania). The only two offspring missing from this entry are Owen Wormley (who at this point had moved to California) and “Nancy.”

However, a “Nannie Wormley Brown” does appear in the 1869-1870 catalogue of Howard University, p. 12, as a second year student in the Normal Course, with an address as 1416 “I” St,. NW, District of Columbia. That same year in 1870, in Washington Ward 2. John Brown, age 58, is listed as being at sea in the US Navy, and in possession of $10,000 in real estate. His wife Elizabeth Brown is listed at home, along with Hattie Brown, age 18, who is presumably the Harriet listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

It appears that immediately after graduating Howard, on 4 May 1870, Nannie W Brown married John Augustavus Pierre, an employee of the Bureau of Engraving and the US Treasury Department. Nannie Wormley Brown Pierre died of consumption on 11 Jun 1880. She is buried at Columbian Harmony Cemetery, as is her husband John Pierre, her mother Elizabeth Brown (d. 1890) and her sister Maria Louiaa Brown Richardson (d. 1915). So she clearly is not “our” Nannie.

A digression: The Brown-Wormley family had more financial resources than most free people of color in antebellum Washington city. In 1850, Nancy’s father John Brown lists his real estate worth as $1,500, and in 1860, four years after Nannie’s death, his real estate is listed as $4,000 and his personal estate $500 (by 1870 he was worth over $16,000) Nancy’s mother Elizabeth Wormley was the older sister of James Wormley (1819-1884), who would later become one of the city’s most illustrious black citizens and owner of Wormley’s Hotel, built on family property . The 1850 census lists Nancy and James’ father, Lynch Wormley (c, 1780-c. 1851), as seventy years old and worth $1000. He appears to have purchased his freedom by 1820 for $400 from James P. Cocke and worked as a hackney driver within Washington city. Lynch died around December 1851 and may have bequeathed some funds to his daughter. Elizabeth’s brother William Wormley, in turn, was a prominent civil rights leader and co-founder of the city’s Harmoneon cemetery in 1826, where Elizabeth and at least two of her daughters would later be interred. William died in 1855, and bequeathed his estate to his wife Louisa King Wormley; in 1860 she reported real estate worth $4,000. Elizabeth’s brother Samuel Wormley in 1860, then living in Cincinnati, Ohio, reported real estate holdings of $4,000 and a personal value of $500.

Lynch Wormley, it should be noted, is thought to have been sired either by one of Virginia’s wealthiest white slaveowners, Ralph Wormley V, a friend of George Washington who retained royalist sympathies during the Revolution, or by John Tayloe II of Mt Airy (a brother in law to Ralph Wormley). The black Wormleys had many close friends and allies among the Washington D.C white elite, who came to their aid on many occasions.

Nancy’s older brother, Owen Wormley Brown (1834-1886), evidently named for his mother’s brother Owen Wormley, (who died the year of young Owen Brown’s birth) lived a remarkable life. After his wife Anne (Ireland) Brown’s precipitous death on 29 July 1856, nine months after their wedding on 30 October 1855, Owen evidently left the District of Columbia for points west (Evening Star, 29 July 1856, p. 3). For years later, the 1860 census records him as a “mulatto” barber living in Shasta, California. I do not know if he was kin to Nannie Okie Yates, who, as noted above, later married a black barber in San Jose, California around 1860.

Owen Wormley Brown was later a pioneer in British Columbia, working as a miner, oyster bed farmer and barber. He married the indigenous woman Terese Berra-Berra and had at least three children. His life story is presented on line at: His obituary notes, “He was well educated and belonged to a respectable family …”

Nancy’s mother, Elizabeth “Betsy” Wormley Brown, may have been related to the infant child Bessie M. Wormley, buried in Mount Zion West cemetery, 2 February 1926, aged less than one. year. (This infant was likely the child of Charles and Ethel Wormley, who had married 20 Feb 1919 and who were by 1930 the parents of at least seven children, including a three year old giri; Charles was a janitor in a Connecticut Avenue apartment house in Northwest Washington D.C.)

In any event, as noted, we can safely eliminate both Nannie Okie Yates and Nannie Wormey Brown from consideration as “our’ Nannie of the Mount Zion headstone

3.. A girl child “Nanny,” while white, might at first seem plausible. The 1850 census records a “Nanny Blewer“born 1846, the daughter of the white Georgetown physician Edward Blewer/Brewer and Susannah. The family resided in Georgetown’s North West Ward in 1850. They were in the neighborhood and would have had the means for an expensive headstone. However, this appears to be the same family as Edward and Susan “Burs” in the 1860 census, which includes a 14 year old girl listed as “Manni”, who is presumably the same person as “Nanny” from 1850. This young white woman, later identified as Nannie Brookes Brewer, married John Winter Graves and lived until 1912. So she too can be safely eliminated from our consideration.

4. Nancy Smith, mulatto, born around 1847, is the youngest child in the household of John Smith, laborer, and his wife Nancy Smith, with four older siblings, residing in Household 85 in Washington City, Ward 2. All the children, like their parents, were born in Virginia, so the family must have moved into the District at some point during the previous three years. Next door in Household 84, is the household of James Smith, a mulatto laborer, who is perhaps kin to John Smith. However, the 1860 census for Washington Ward 2 does record a black 12 year old girl named Nancy Smith, working as a servant in the household of the white painter Patrick Heffern, so this young person can be ruled out, given that our “Nannie” died in 1856.

5. Agnes Peters, born 1849, living in Washington Ward 2 with her likely parents, James and Elizabeth Peter. However, ten years later, in the 1860 census Agnes Peters, as a twelve year old, is residing as a servant in Ward 2, in the home of the white clerk William Bell, so she too can safely be eliminated.

6. Ann Johnson, born 1849, resides in Washington Ward 1 with her evident parents Martin and Sarah Johnson, in 1850. However, the 1860 census lists an Ann Johnson of the same birth year as residing, evidently as a servant, still in Ward 1, in the household of the white gunsmith William Bitner.

7. Ann Lane, daughter of Nelson and Ann (Boston) Lane, originally of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is listed as born 1848 in the 1850 census, in Washington Ward 4. A decade later, “Annie Lane,” born around 1850, is listed in the 1860 census residing in Washington Ward 4, with a group of individuals, all with the surname Lane, who appear to be her siblings. It appears her parents may no longer be alive. in the 1870 DC. city directory, Ann Lane is listed as a cook. Thus, she too can likely be eliminated.

8, Similarly, an Ann Darsey or Dorsey, born 1848, daughter of “H Darsey” and Ellen Darsey, is recorded in Washington Ward 3 in 1850. In 1860, Ann Dorsey, ten years old, is recorded in the Brookville District of adjacent Montgomery County, living in the household of the free black woman Aecera Dorsey. Ann’s parents may no longer be alive.

9. Ninus Delaney, born around 1849, residing in Washington Ward 7, with her evident parents the black laborer Caleb Delany. 35, and Ann Delany, age 35, and five apparent siblings. Although a stretch. it is just possible that “Nannie” might have been a diminutive for Ninus. However, the 1860 census in Ward 7 records a Caleb and Ann “Delancy” with an eleven year old “Neolis, ” who must the same person as “Ninus,” so she too can ruled out.

10. “N.M. Mathews” born around 1849 in the District of Columbia, appears as a one year old in the 1850 census. She is the apparent daughter of 21 year old Elizabeth Mathews, also born (c. 1829) in the District. They are living in the household of the black laborer Samuel Mathews (b. 1786 Maryland) and his wife Annie Mathews (b 1799, Maryland), evidently the parents of Elizabeth Mathews, who would appear to have had her daughter “N.M.” out of wedlock. This might account for the child sharing Elizabeth’s surname. (Alternately, it is possibly that Samuel’s wife Annie at age 48 gave birth to N.M). Elizabeth’s younger sister Susanah, age 14 (born about 1836) is listed with her full given name. I am not certain why the infant girl “N.M” is only listed with her initials; perhaps the family was concerned to keep some aspect of the girl’s identity private.

Samuel Mathews had clearly been in the District for some time. The 1840 census records him heading a household of five free persons of color, including four females.

Four years after Nannie’s death in 1856, the 1860 census lists Ann Mathews as a washwoman residing in Washington Ward 3 with her husband Samuel Mathews, with three children, Margaret, age 12, Mary, age 8, and Samuel, age 6. Elizabeth is not in the household, and doesn’t appear to be anywhere else in D.C. it is not clear if these three children are Elizabeth’s offspring.

It seems likely that Margaret, born 1848, is in fact that same person as, “N.M,” which would of course eliminate her from being “our’ Nannie.

Digression In any event, five years later, at the end of the Civil War, in 1865, Samuel Mathews appears in the DC City Directory as a “colored laborer,” at 343 west 8th. An Eliza Mathews, presumably the same person as Elizabeth, lives at the intersection of M and New Hampshire; her sister Susanah Mathews resides nearby, at north 17th and Massachusetts west. Perhaps Elizabeth’s children continued to reside with their grandparents, as they did in 1860.

In the 1870 census in DC, the “mulatto” Elizabeth Mathews, age 40 (born around 1830) is recorded as a domestic servant residing in the home of the wealthy white, recently widowed grocer Peter Conlan, age 60 (born in Ireland around 1810; died 1875, Washington DC) located in Washington Ward 4 at 630 West 3rd street. Also in the household is Peter’s 23 year old single daughter, Maria Conlan, “keeping house.” (In this same year, according to the City Directory, Elizabeth’s father Samuel Mathews is residing in alley between 6th and 7th and K and L southwest. )

The historical record indicates that the rich white grocer Peter Conlan was closely acquainted with at least one free woman of color during the antebellum era. On June 15, 1858, he attested that “he knows Virginia Binder, a colored girl, to be born free in the City and County of Washington.” (Such papers were of increasing importance to free people in the District following the 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, which rendered the area’s free black population increasingly vulnerable to slave catchers and kidnappers.)

In the 1860 slave schedule, Peter Conlan is listed as owning one slave, a ten year old black female. That same year the 1860 census entry for the Conlan household lists a 13 year old black girl, Mary Ghant as a (free) domestic servant, who appears to have been the daughter of Benjamin and Henrietta Gannt, a free couple listed in the 1850 census in Washington Ward Seven

Curiously, two years later, Peter Conlan does not petition for compensated emancipation for this enslaved young woman. Perhaps she had been sold, escaped, or had perished in the interim.

Speculatively, might Peter Conlan have been the father of the little girl identified as N.M. Mathews in the 1850 census?

11, Agnes Davis. A white daughter, born to the moulder Addison Lewis Davis (15 November 1812 -1866) and Ann Dorothea Farish Davis in the District of Columbia in 1848. Agnes evidently dies before 1860. However, the entire family appears to be buried in Cngressional Cemetery, including two children, who died in 1852 and 1857

More Likely Individuals

Now, let us turn to more plausible candidates:

13. Ann Yates, born 1848, to parents Francis and Caroline (Smith) Yates, who married in the District of Columbia 16 February 1848. In 1850 the family resided in Washington Ward 4. By 1860, the couple had changed their surnames, and appear as Francis and Caroline Cole, residing in Ward 2, working respectively as a servant and washerwoman. (“Frank” Cole is later employed as a brickmaker). In 1860, the couple has three children, Francis (born 1851), Charles (born 1852), and Jonathan (born 1855). Yet, there is no sign of Ann, evidently their first-born, who appears to have died prior to 1860.

Subsequently listed sons of Francis and Caroline Cole were George (n. 1858-1860 ), Willie (b. 1861), Edward (b. 1868 ), and Daniel (n 1873). There is no discernible trace of a black Ann Yates or Ann Cole in District records.

Seven enslaved people people with the surname Yates were manumitted under the terms of the Congressional act in May 1862 in the District of Columbia. Six of these enslaved people, possibly siblings to one another, were owned by Margaret Catherine (Adlum) Barber, who manumitted a total of 33 slaves in 1862, the second highest total of enslaved people in the 1862 records. Margaret resided on the North View estate, on the property that is now the Naval Observatory; her income, Carlton Fletcher notes, came primarily from renting out many of these enslaved individuals. (see Carlton Fletcher’s review of Margaret Barber’s enslaved people.) Margaret states in her petition she had inherited these slaves from her late husband Cornelius Barber, who had died ten years earlier in 1852. The Barber family of Anne Arundel Maryland appears to have intermarried with the slaveowning Yates family of the region, and that may account for the presence of enslaved people using the Yates surname in the Barber’s DC estate. It appears that this kinship to the Yates family was acknowledged in the name of Margaret and Catherine’s infant daughter, “Caroline R. Yates Barber”, (born 20 February 1848, died 26 July 1848, aged 5 months). As it happens, baby Caroline Yates Barber is buried on the North Hill of Oak Hill Cemetery, just adjacent to the section of the Methodist West Cemetery where the Nannie headstone is located.

It is possible that the one or both of the free Yates family we have considered, that of Nannie Okie Yates (daughter of Henry and Mary Yates) and Ann Yates (daughter of Franics and Caroline Yates), were related to the enslaved Yates owned by Cornelius and Margaret Barber of North View . Or they may have been connected to enslaved people owned by white slaveowners named Yates in Kent and St Mary’s counties, Maryland.

I am not sure why the parents of Ann Yates changed their surname to Cole in the time between the 1850 and 1860 censuses. At times, free people of color altered their surnames to differentiate themselves from their former slaveowners. After the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, free people of color in the District sensed themselves particularly vulnerable to kidnapping by slavecatchers; the Yates’s may have wanted to distinguish themselves from enslaved kin for reasons of safety and security. The 1840 census lists ten slaveowners in Maryland with the surname Yates, and it is possible that Francis Yates or his family had been held on of those plantations, or perhaps at North View within unincorporated Washington County, District of Columbia, on the Barber estate

Note: There are several black women with the name “Ann Cole” in 19th century records in Washington DC, but none of these match with Ann Yates/Cole, the daughter of Francis and Caroline Cole, born around 1848. These include: (A) Ann A Cole, born around 1843, living in 1860 in Washington Ward 2 in the household of David and Mary Johnson, who may be her parents (if “Cole” is her married name); (B) Wille Ann Cole, born around 1850 to James and Catherine Cole, in the 1860 census n Washington Ward 2 [Wille Ann is not recorded in the 1850 census, so was presumably born after the census was enumerated]; (C) Anna Matilda Wormley (28 May 1850-22 September 1929), daughter of James Wormley and Anna Elizabeth Thompson Wormley (discussed above), married Joseph William Cole on 11 February 1877 and thus appears in subsequent DC records as “Ann M Cole”; (D) a woman Annie, born March 1850. who married George Cole around 1876, and whose children included William Henry, Samuel, George, Frank, and Mary.

The 1862 Compensated Emancipation petitions in the District of Columbia indicate that at least fourteen enslaved people with the surname Cole were freed.. I review these persons in Appendix I of my essay on Barbara Cole William

There were five individuals with the surname “Cole” buried in Mount Zion from 1874-1930; I do know if any of them were kin to Ann Yates/Cole.

14. Ann E. Twine. The 1850 census for Washington Ward 1 lists an Ann Twine, born 1849, the daughter of the black coachman David Twine (1820/1830-1894) and Christiana “Christy” (Gray) Twine, born about 1825, who had married on 20 December 1848. David Twine, a member of Mount Zion Methodist Church, died at Freedmen’s Hospital on 28 September 1894. He then was funeralized at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, and was buried in Mount Zion cemetery (the same cemetery in which the “Nannie” headstone is placed).

The 1860 census lists a black hack driver David Twine (born around 1830, rather than his usually listed birth year of around 1820; birthplace unknown) living in household 564 in Washington Ward 3, alongside another black hack driver James F. Anderson. David Twine is residing with a 55 year old washwoman Nancy Johnson. There is no sign of David Twine’s wife Christiana Gray Twine or their daughter Ann E. Twine. I presume they have both died prior to 1860. I am not sure Nancy Johnson is a kinswoman, romantic partner, or landlady to David Twine at this point.

In any event, after the 1850 census I can find no subsequent reference to Ann (born c, 1849) or her mother Christiana (born c.1825) after 1850. It seems likely they both passed away prior to the enumeration of the 1860 census. However, I have not located an internment record for Christiana Gray Twine or for Ann E. Twine.

Note: An older woman of color, also named Ann Twine, born around 1834, married Charles Cogar on 22 Jan 1862 in the District of Columbia, and by 1880 resided at 2121 O. Street in the District.

On 7 April 1863, David Twine remarried Sarah Anderson c. 1834-1892, the daughter of the free black couple Jefferson and Lucinda Penny Anderson. I am unsure is his new wife bears any relationship to the Andersons with whom David Twine was living in 1860. Living with the married Twine couple in 1870 in Washington Ward 2 is Sarah’s mother Lucinda Anderson, as well as Sarah’s apparent brothers William and James, and Margaret Minor (who may be Sarah’s sister) and Margaret’s son Benjamin. In any event, in 1870 the household of David and Sarah Anderson Twine shows no trace of Ann E. Twine, the daughter of David Twine by his first marriage to Christiana Gray.

I am uncertain if David Twine, variously listed as born in Virginia or the District of Columbia, was born free, or was enslaved at some point in his life. He was clearly a free man of color by the time of his marriage to Christiana in 1848. The 1840 census, which names only heads of household, only lists one Twine household with free persons of color in the District of Columbia: Eliza Twine, aged 36-54, heads a household in Georgetown consisting of one male under ten years old, three females, aged 10-23, and one female aged 24-35. If Eliza Twine was in fact David Twine’s mother, then the 1830 year of birth given in his 1860 census entry would seem to more accurate that the 1820 date of birth. Eliza Twine marries Eli Jackson (b. 1793) of Georgetown’s North West Ward on 2 August 1853.

It is possible that David Twine was related to the well-known enslaved woman at Mount Vernon, Sal Twine (c. 1761, died after 1802), a dower slave derived from the estate of Daniel Parke Custis (1711-1757) who after the death of Martha Custis Washington in 1802 was inherited with her children, including Barbara Twine (Cole), by Martha Parke Custis and her husband Thomas Peter, the sometime mayor Georgetown who constructed Tudor Place, among the most elegant private residences in the new nation. Tudor Place was itself partly funded by the proceeds of an earlier sale in 1796 of thirty-one slaves brought into her marriage with Thomas Peter as Martha’s dowry. Among those sold, Mary Beth Corrigan (2014) notes, were Peter Twine (46) along with his family members Elly (30), Maklin (18), Fanny (1). Later enslaved at Tudor Place was the gardener Will Twine, who died in 1832 and who also may have been kin of David Twine. [I discuss some of the Twine family’s fascinating history in an essay on Barbara Cole Williams, and an piece on the enslaved persons involved in the construction of the first Smithsonian building.]

Nor is it clear if David Twine’s wife Christiana Gray, born in the District of Columbia around 1825, was born free or was enslaved prior to her marriage in 1848. In 1840, there were nine households in the District of Columbia with persons of color headed by individuals with the surname Gray or Grey. Of these, four households contained at least one free woman of color in the age range of 10-23, headed respectively by the free black men Henry Gray, Edward Gray, and two different men named John Gray. (One of these may be related to the John Grey who in 1875 was appointed to the Mount Zion Church building committee.[Mitchel 1984: 106] ) Assuming Christian Gray was in 1840 a free resident of the District, one of these four men is likely to have been her father.

In 1850, about 25 free persons of color with the surname Gray or Grey were residing in the District of Columbia. An additional 20 or so enslaved persons with the surname Gray or Grey were freed in 1862 by compensated emancipation in the District., from the slaveowners Joseph N. Fearson, E.L Keese, Ann Maria Summers, and Rachel M.A. Folson.

About fifteen individuals with the family name of Gray are buried in Mount Zion; I am not clear if any are related to Christiana Gray Twine.

The Washington Critic (November 30, 1887) account of the burial at Oak Hill Cemetery of the noted naturalist Dr Spencer Fuller Baird (1823-1887), who served as Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian and then from 1878 to 1887 as Secretary of the institutio, reports that David Twine was overcome with emotion over Baird’s death. The paper writes that Twine had worked for Baird for four decades. The newspaper seems to have been mistaken about the length of Twine’s employment for Baird, although the two men may have had a long term connection. It is quite possible that Baird, who was known as a great ally of African American staff at the Smithsonian throughout his career, may have brought Twine into the Smithsonian. From the early 1880s onward, Twine served on the Federal payroll as a Messenger at the National Museum at the Smithsonian. Towards the end of his life, Twine was the coachman for Baird’s successor, Samuel Pierpoint Langley, who served as Smithsonian Secretary 1887 to 1906. Upon his death, David Twine’s probate estate inventory was about $500., with bequests to his grandchildren, his mother in law Lucinda Anderson and a woman named Mary L. Green.

Before obtaining a regular US government salary, however, Twine’s means appears to have been limited: the 1866 tax rolls indicate his only taxable asset as a carriage. One wonders how Twine might have obtained funding for a fine headstone in 1856. Perhaps his allies, who might have included Dr. Spencer Baird, came to his assistance.

Note: It may be relevant that residing in 1850 with David Twine and his first wife Christiana and their daughter Ann E is an eight year old girl Matilda Clark. I do not see any trace of her in the 1860 census.

15. “William Teney’s Chlld”. The District of Columbia Register of Deaths lists under death #368 “Wm Teney child”. as being buried in the Colored Methodist Episcopal Burial Ground, the earlier name of Mount Zion. in May 1856. The precise date of death is somewhat ambiguous. The previous line, for death 367, is clearly May 11. Then, for William Teney’s child, inverted double commas, indicating ditto, are given, which would seem to indicate May 11, whereas “our” Nannie according to her headstone, died one week later, on May 18.

The 1850 census lists two plausible free male candidates for “William Teney”: (A) a black man William Taney, a servant, in Baltimore, not residing with his wife or children; (B) a black man William Tinny, age 20 (?), laborer, born Maryland. He is married to Bridget Tinny, born Maryland, age 24, with three children: Sarah Tinny, age 7, born Maryland: Mary Tinny, age 5, born District of Columbia; Francis Tinny, age 3, born District of Columbia. Of these three children. Sarah and Mary are mentioned in subsequent records, but not Francis, who is born around 1847, and thus a candidate for “our” Nannie. Although Nannie was not a standard nickname for Francis in the period, it does seem possible that Nannie might have been a term of endearment used for her within the family.

There was also an enslaved William Teney, manumitted in the District in 1862 by Henry Naylor, from the George Naylor estate. I do not know if he had a child who died in May 1856, but since Mount Zion was in principal reserved for free persons of color it seems unlikely he was the listed William in the DC death register.

An 1863 Civil War draft registration record shows a black man William Tenney residing on the Eastern Branch in the District of Columbia, in present day Anacostia, age 42, born Maryland, around 1821.

The 1870 census shows William and Bridget Tinney living east of Seventh Street in DC, with the following children: Rachel Tinney, age 18, born 1852; Dennis Tinney, age 16, born 1854, and Cinderilla Tinnney, age 10, born 1860.

Dennis Tinney appears in the 1871 catalogue of Howard University as a Commercial student, in the same class as John Tinney, who may have been his first cousin. In 1881 Dennis is listed as a laborer in the Pension Office, Department of Interior. In 1871, John Tinney is listed as laborer in the Treasury Department.

The 1880 census records William Tinny, age 56 (born about 1824) and Bridget Tinny, age 50, born about 1830, living on Stanton Road, in what is now Anacostia, with daughter Cinda R. Tinney (who must have been the previous “Cinderilla ), age 18 (b. 1862). and two granddaughters, Sarah C., age 9, and Ida B., age 5. Perhaps these are the daughters of William and Bridget’s daughter Sarah Tinney, born around 1843.

William Tinney dies 13 Aug 1886, and is buried in the Washington Asylum Potters Field, in Anacostia. The 1900 census lists his widow Bridget Tinney as continuing to live in Stantontown at 706 Stanton Avenue. She gives her birth month as March 1828, and indicates she has given birth to 15 children, of whom only one survivs She lives with her son Dennis Tinney, single, ag 38. born May 1862 (the 1870 census, however, has him a eight years older) ; two girls listed as nieces of Dennis, Della McPherson (October 1886) and Addie McPherson ( November 1889), ; and two nephews of Dennis: John McPherson (December 1891), and Andrew Tinney (born December 1884). The McPherson children are all offspring of Julia Tinney and John McPherson, who were perhaps no longer alive in 1900. Andrew is presumably the son of one of William and Bridget’s deceased sons. Delia or Idllia McPherson later married into the Jenkins family (I am not sure if this the Jenkins line at Mt Zion United Methodist, which is extentsively represented in Mt Zion cemetery.)

William and Bridget’s daughter Mary A Tinney is listed in the 1900 census as a seamstress, boarding at 1736 New York Avenue, the same residence as Eliza Tinney, discussed below. Mary A Tinney was a member of Mount Zion Methodist Church, and her death at Freedmen’s hospital is recorded in church records. She is buried in “Mount Zion West,” that is to say the Female Union Band Society cemetery.

William Tinney was perhaps the brother of the free man George Tinney, born 1822, married to Virginia (nee Freeman) Tinney; their son John, born 1859, seems to have been the classmate of Dennis Tinney at Howard. George Tinney, a coachman, died March 19, 1896, and is buried at Mount Zion. (At the time he lived at 1147 Burden Court NW in DC)

It is possible that the free men William Tinney, born about 1824, and George Tinney born around 1822, were related to George Tinney, born around 1832, who was enslaved in Maryland and the District, until being manumitted by Sarah Tolson on 30 Apr 1862 (at the time he was her only slave). They may also have been kin to William “Taney,” age 38 (born about 1824) enslaved and then manumitted by Henry Naylor . This William Taney was one of eighteen slaves freed that day by Henry Naylor, some from the estate of the late George Naylor. Henry Naylor states he had purchased William Taney from Dennis Sweeney. He writes of William Taney: “…a Good Farm hand, Carriage Driver, grain & grass mower and a good plain Cook, very strong, polite and active in his habits—very few Men his Equals.”

This William Taney, manumitted in 1862, may appear as William Tinney in the 1870 census, residing in Washington Ward 7, born 1822, working as a laborer. In the same household is a Jane Tinney, born 1825 in Maryland.

The same Jane Tinney, it would appear, is listed in the 1880 census as a widow, born in 1820 in Virginia, residing at 50 Dumbarton Street in Georgetown. She lives with her daughters Eliza Tinney and Mary Tinney, and her grandchildren, Mary Tinney, Edward Tinney, Jennie Tinney, Edith Tinny, and Godfrey Finney.

Four of these individuals appear on the four faces on a single obelisk in Mount Zion cemetery, which reads:

In memory of our beloved mother Eliza J Tinney, born August 2, 1840, died Jan 21, 1905

Our grandmother Jane Tinney born April 4, 1816, died July 9, 1897

Our brother Edward Tinney, born Nov 24, 1871, died Feb 14 1892

Our brother Godfrey Tinnney born Sept 5, 1878, died Feb 18, 1899

Newspapers account indicate the two brothers died tragically at a young age. On February 19, 1892, Edward Tinney was stabbed to death by an Edward Smallwood. The Evening Star reports his funeral was attended by 500 people and a cross was sent by his employer Dr. Sutter.

On the seventh anniversary of this murder, on February 19, 1899, Edward’s brother Godfrey, employed as bell boy, took his own life in his parents’ home at 1736 New York Avenue. Perhaps he had never fully recovered from his brother’s death.

According to the 1975 survey map by Western High School and Washington Technical Institute volunteers, this obelisk was previously located in the far northeastern section of Section 10 of the Female Union Band Society Cemetery, near the meeting point of sections, 8,9, 10 and 11. This location is about fifty feet due south of the current location of the “Nannie” headstone, which as noted above was clearly moved at some point. The obelisk to Jane, Elizah, Edward and Godfrey Tinney was at some point moved about 50 yards to the east, and is now within a dense assemblage of headstones.

In sum, at least six members of the extended Tinney family are interred at Mount-Zion FUBS. One of these, Mary A Tinney, appears to have been the sister of Francis Tinney, who evidently passed away in May 1856.

Strongest Candidates: “Child” of William Teney, Ann E. Twine, and Ann Yates

In sum, of the above candidates, the most likely: would seem to be:

A. The unnamed child of “William Teney,” listed in the District of Columbia Old Register of Deaths as dying on or after May 11, 1856. This seems most likely to be the three year old girl Francis Teney or Tinney in the 1850 census, born about 1847. There is no subsequent record of Francis. There was a large network of free Tinney’s in the District of Columbia, perhaps kin to one another, and many members of the extended Tinney family are buried in Mount Zion, some pretty close to the current location of the Nannie marker. It may be possible that although of modest means, the extended Tinney’s were about to band together to commission a first rate headstone.

As noted, however, “Nannie” was not a common nickname for Francis, so the identification cannot be said to be certain here.

B. Ann Yates/Cole. The daughter “Ann” (born about 1848) of Francis Yates and Caroline (Smith) Yates, who later took the surname Cole, does not appear in the records after 1850, so must be considered a candidate. Francis and Caroline married three months before the birth of the “Nannie” memorialized on the headstone. They were clearly of modest means, so we are left to speculate how they might have afforded this carefully inscribed bluestone marker.

C. Ann E. Twine. Given that David Twine was interred in Mount Zion in 1894, and seems to have come from a family with long connections to Georgetown and the local black Methodist community, his and Christiana Gray Twine’s daughter Ann E. Twine, born around 1849, and evidently deceased before 1860, is clearly a strong candidate for “Nannie.” The 1850 census does not list David Twine as possessing any real estate; the question remains as to how he might have afforded the headstone for his daughter, if she was in fact “Nannie.” Perhaps kin in the Twine and Gray family networks, or patros such as Dr. Spencer Baird, could have offered some assistance.

As noted, the preceding discussion is based primarily on names drawn from the 1850 census, considering female children residing in the District of Columbia. It is possible that the actual “Nannie” memorialized in Mount Zion arrived in D.C. after 1850, and thus was not captured in the 1850 census.

Future research on church records, burial lists, and related documents in Georgetown and the District may cast more light on this intriguing puzzle, so that in time Nannie’s memory may be more completely honored by those who continue to be drawn to her final resting place.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Lisa Fager, executive director of the Mount Zion-Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park, for a tour of the Mt Zion-FUBS cemetery and her reflections on the Nannie headstone. Thanks as well to Carlton Fletcher for his many insights into local history, and for noting that the name “Nannie” in the 19th century was at times a nickname for “Ann.” and to Wesley Pippenger for his careful transcriptions of 19th century death records. I am especially grateful to Donet D Graves, Esq. for many helpful insights into Wormley family history, and to the staff at the Library of Congress Periodicals and Manuscripts collection, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the District of Columbia Public Library Washingtoniana Division, the DC Archives, the National Archives, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Library.


Mark Auslander. 2012. Enslaved Labor and Building the Smithsonian: Reading the Stones. Southern Spaces. December 2012.

_________. 2021. Barbara Cole Williams (1809-1892): An Enslaved and Free Resident of Georgetown.

Mary Beth Corrigan. September 14, 2013. Enslaved and Free African-Americans in Early Nineteenth Century Georgetown (Research Report)

Gelderman, Carol. 2012 A Free Man of Color and His Hotel: Race, Reconstuction and the Role of the Federal Government. Potomac Books.

Donet D. Graves, Esq. An Early Black Family’s Life in Lafayette Park.

Pauline Gaskins Mitchell. 1984. The History of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and Mt. Zion Cemetery Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. , 1984, Vol. 51,
pp. 103-118. Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

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