In Search of David Twine (c. 1824-1894), Smithsonian Coachman

One of the more fascinating individuals interred in Mount Zion Cemetery in north Georgetown, District of Columbia, is David Twine (c.1824-1894). Twine was a lifelong hack driver and coachman in the District of Columbia, who for the last decade of his life was employed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum, serving as a coachman, in turn, to Dr. Spencer Fullerton Baird, the second Secretary of the Smithsonian, and Dr. Samuel Pierpoint Langley, the third Smithsonian Secretary

Family Background and Other Twines in the District of Columbia

David Twine’s mother may have been Eliza Twine, the only free person of color with the surname Twine in the 1830 and 1840 censuses in the District of Columbia. Eliza was born around 1800 in the District of Columbia. The 1830 census indicates she is the head of a household in Georgetown containing seven persons of color: one free woman, age 23-35, which must be Eliza Twine herself; one free female, age 10 to 12; two free girls, under age 10, and three free boys, all under age 10. It is possible that David Twine, whose death record indicates he was born in 1824, was one of these boys and a son of Eliza Twine. (The 1850 census, the first census to reference David Twine by name, states he is born in the District of Columbia, although his 1894 death record lists his birthplace as Virginia).

Eliza Twine on 2 Aug 1853 married Eli Jackson (b. 1793). The 1880 census records 80 year old Eliza Jackson as a widow residing alone on Four and A Half Street, SW, District of Columbia. She is evidently the Eliza Jackson who died 24 September 1884.

The only Twines in the 1850 census in DC are David and Christiana Twine, with their daughter Ann. However, it is possible that other children of Eliza Twine (that is to say, likely siblings of David Twine) are listed in the 1860 census, in the Washington Ward One household of Edward Woodland, a free black laborer:

Ann Twine, age 33 (b, 1827) , born Virginia
Andrew Twine, age 31 (b. 1829), laborer , born D.C.
Elias Twine, age 29 (b. 1831) , waiter, born D.C.
William Twine, age 27 (b. 1830 , waiter, born D.C.
Charles Twine, age 23 (b. 1837) , waiter, born D.C.
Mary Twine, age 18 (b, 1842) , servant, born D.C.

Living separately in Washington Ward One is a different William Twine, age 26, with his wife Mary Twine, age 25.

In addition, the 1860 census records a ten year old Eliza Twine, born 1850, in the household of William and Nancy Brown, in Washington Ward Two.

The 1870 census, the first “Freedmen’s Census,” lists nine black Twines residing in the District of Columbia:

Andrew Twine, b. 1825, a laborer in Washington Ward One, with his wife Martha and children Andrew and Ida. (This must be the same Andrew as listed in the 1960 census )
William Twine, laborer, b 1834, married to Mary Twine, in Washington Ward 1. (The same couple as listed in the 1860 census).
22 year old Rebecca Twine, b. 1848, working as a domestic servant in the household of the white publisher, John H. Hawes, in Washington Ward Two. Circumstantial evidence, discussed below, suggests she might be the daughter of David Twine.
Julia Twine, age 22, b. 1848, cook of Dr. Samuel Busey, who had a farm on the property that later became part of the National Cathedral Grounds, in Washington County, along with Julia’s 20 month old daughter Delilah. Julia Twine is not among the seven enslaved people owned by Dr. Busey, manumitted in 1862.

Note: A free woman of color, 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.

Mount Vernon and Tudor Place Connections?

It is possible that David Twine and this other cluster of Twines were related to the well-known enslaved woman at Dogue Run Farm, part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation, Sall Twine (c. 1761, died after 1802). Sall Twine was a dower slave derived from the estate of Daniel Parke Custis (1711-1757) who after the death of Martha Custis Washington in 1802 inherited with her children 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. Sall Twine’s children, included Barbary, born around 1788, Abbay, born around 1789, Hannah, born around 1795, and George, born around 1798.

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. The 1796 Day Book of Thomas Peter records his ownership of six members of the Twine family:

Peter Twine 46 (45 pounds) evidently married to Elly Twine
Twine, Elly 30, 60 pounds, wife of Peter Twine. In Mrs. Peter’s Patrimony.
Dinah 12 36 pounds, evidently, daughter of Peter and Elly Tiwne
Maklin 18, 25 pounds evidently child of Peter and Elly Twine born around 1778
Lyddia 4, 18 pounds evidently child of Peter and Elly Twine
Fanny 1, 5 pounds evidenly child of Peter and Elly Twine

A note indicates that on May 10, 1796, the following members of this family were sold;
Peter Twine, Elly,
Macklin and Fanny, (109 pounds )

Then, on November 10, 1796, Dinah and Lyddia were together sold by Thomas Peters, respectively valued at 45 pounds and 25 pounds, for a total of 70 pounds.

(Tudor Place Archives; see also Mary Beth Corrigan (2014)

Later enslaved at Tudor Place was the gardener Will Twine, who died in 1832 and who also may have been kin of Peter Twine and David Twine.

I discuss some of the Twine family’s fascinating history in an essay on Barbara Cole Williams, and in a piece on the enslaved persons involved in the construction of the first Smithsonian building.

As noted in the Smithsonian essay, Sall Twine’s son George would seem to be listed as one of twenty four enslaved people in the 1848 probate inventory of the son of Thomas and Martha Peter, John P.C. Peter of Seneca, Montgomery County.

David Twine’s Marriages and Offspring

To my knowledge, the earliest record of David Twine is his D.C. marriage record to Christina Gray, 20 December 1848. The next year the couple had a daughter Ann E. Twine, who is listed in the 1850 census but not in subsequent records. I suspect she is the same person as Mary Eliza Twine, who later married an Ignatius (Nathan) Gross of Frederick, MD and Baltimore. She may be the sister of Rebecca Twine who in the 1870 census is listed as born 1848.

The 1850 census shows David and Christina Twine residing in Washington Ward One, with their one year old daughter Ann E Twine and an eight year old Malinda Clark. David is a hack driver.

A decade later, the 1860 census records David Twine living in Washington Ward Three, with no sign of his wife Christina, who presumably died in the interim. He is living in a household with the 55 year old free black washwoman Nancy Johnson, and in the same dwelling structure as the free black hackman James F. Anderson. His daughter, previously listed as Ann E. Twine in 1850 is in 1860 listed as an “Eliza Twine,” ten years old, residing in Washington Ward Two with a William and Mary Brown, both age 60, who are perhaps the little girl’s paternal or maternal grandparents. They had presumably consented to raise the child since the widower David Twine felt incapable of the task.

Three years later, on April 7, 1863, David Twine married Sarah Anderson, a cook, born 1839, daughter of Jefferson Anderson and Lucinda “Lucy” Penny. It is possible that these Andersons were kin to the hackman James F. Anderson, with whom Twine had been residing in 1860. (Sarah’s younger brother was also named James.) In 1868, the city directory records the married Twine couple living at 387 10th street, with David employed as a coachman.

The 1870 census shows David Twine residing in Washington Ward Two with his wife Sarah Twine, along with his mother in law, Lucinda Anderson, and Sarah’s younger brothers, the waiter John Anderson, age 20, and James Anderson (14), and with Sarah’s sister Margaret (Penny) Miner (age 38) and Margaret’s evident son Benjamin Miner (12).

The 1880 census shows David and Sarah Twine living at 1608 M Street, with Sarah’s mother Lucinda Anderson and no others. Sarah Twine is recorded in the D.C. death records dying on 22 August 1892, two years before David Twine’s death. (I am unsure where she was buried). It does not appear that David and Sarah had children together.

Like many DC hackmen, Twine was occasionally charged with violations of the hack law and related statues. On 30 June 1853, the Evening Star reports he was held over for trial for a hack law violation, and again on 23 Sep 1881, he was one of many hackmen charged with failing to clean up manure on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ann E. Twine, Eliza Twine, Mary Eliza Twine Gross and Rebecca Twine Gross: The Same Person?

The identities of David Twine’s daughters, variously listed as Ann E., Eliza, Mary Eliza, or Rebecca, are somewhat confusing. As noted above, the 1850 census lists only one child of David and Christiana Twine, Ann E Twine. As noted below, David Twine’s granddaughter Katie Gross’s death certificate lists her mother’s maiden name as Rebecca Twine, who must be the same Rebecca Twine listed in the 1870 census as a servant in DC, working for the white publisher John Hart Hawes, the future US Consul to Hakodate (Hakodadi), Japan (1872-1875).

This Rebecca Twine (and possibly Ann E. Twine) might be the same person as “Mary E. Gerter Twine,” who on 27 May 1872 married Ignatius Gross in the District of Columbia. One month earlier, on 20 April 1872, an Ignatius B, Gross, born and raised in Frederick Maryland, opened a Freedmen’s Bank account in Baltimore, Maryland. He lists as his address Number 52 Park Street in Baltimore and as his parents Thomas and Nanny, both deceased, and as his siblings Daniel, Sarah, and Thomas. Thomas, he indicates, is in “Maryland, Africa,” meaning the colony set up for repatriated African Americans by the Maryland Colonization Society, known as “Maryland in Africa,” which later became part of the nation of Liberia. This is consistent with accounts of Thomas Gross, former slave of the late William Potts, consenting to colonization in Maryland in Africa, Liberia in 1849.

The 1880 census for Baltimore records Ignatius Gross, married to named Rebecca, born about 1851 in the District of Columbia. They have two children, David Gross, age seven (about 1873) and Catherine Gross, age one month.

Four years later, in 1884, the following death announcement appears in the Frederick Maryland Daily News, reprinted from the Baltimore American:

The Daily News
Frederick, MD
Friday, January 18, 1884
Page 4

The funeral of Nathan Gross, a well-known colored man, who died on Saturday, took place yesterday morning from his home, 33 Oxford street. He was a native of Frederick, and about 55 years old. He had suffered for about two years from consumption, and had been confined to his bed for nearly two months. He had been employed as a porter by Messrs. J. J. Nicholson & Sons, bankers, West Baltimore street, for the past fifteen years, and had always been found faithful in the discharge of his duties. He was a member of St. Francis Catholic Church, Calvert and Pleasant streets, and also of the beneficial organizations of St. Benedict and the Good Samaritans. High mass was said for him, and the remains were buried in St. Paul’s cemetery on Liberty road. He leaves a wife, two children and two brothers. He received every attention from his employers during his illness.—Balto. American.

Two years later, on 13 March 1886. the following death notice appeared in the Evening Star of Washington D.C: Departed this life on Friday morning, March 12, 1886, at 10:30, Mary Eliza Gross, daughter of David Twine. Her funeral will take place from the residenc eof her father, No. 1148 Fifteenth Street, between L and M street northwest, on Sunday afternoon, March 14 at 3 o’clock, Friends of the family are invited to attend.

Mary Eliza Gross was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, the largest Catholic cemetery in Washington DC. (Her husband Ignatius Gross, who had died two years earlier, had been Catholic, so she had presumably converted.)

The 1886 District of Columbia city directory records a Rebecca Gross living at the same address, in the home of her father David Twine, 1148 15th street. This would suggest she might be same person as Mary Eliza (Twine) Gross. Whatever the name she was using, her two young children, discussed below, were presumably residing there as well, and got to know their grandfather well. As reviewed below, he would remember them in his will.

David Twine, Dr. Spencer Baird, and the Smithsonian Institution

On July 6, 1876, Dr. Spencer Fuller Baird, then Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian penned a note to David Twine: “Dear Twine, -enclosure with(in?), for $50 for account of which $24 is in advance. Please sign and turn the accompanying receipt for Jubilee service.” The Jubilee being referenced might be the US Centennial marked two days earlier, on, July 4, 1876, or might reference that the 30th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, which was to be marked the next month.

The note’s mention of an advance suggests that Twine had a long-term connection with Dr. Baird. A newspaper account of Baird’s death, eleven years later (discussed below) asserts that David Twine had worked for Dr. Baird for forty years.

In any event, seven years after Baird’s note to Twine, on 11 April 1884, David Twine was hired as a laborer at the Smithsonian National Museum. Baird had been elevated to Secretary of the Smithsonian in 1878, following the death of his predecessor Dr. Joseph Henry. Twine worked as a messenger and as coachmen for Dr. Baird, and later for Baird’s successor, Dr. Samuel Pierpoint Langley, the third Smithsonian Secretary.

Twine’s deep emotional connection to Dr. Baird is suggested by an account of Baird’s funeral in Oak Hill Cemetery, in the Washington Critic, on 30 November 1887, written in the racially pejorative language of the day:

“A touching sight was the visible emotion of one of the family servants, David Twine, the coachman, a venerable old darky with gray hair, who had been in the family’s service for forty years. As the remains of his late master were borne of the chapel he could not restrain his tears, and seemed overcome with sorrow. “

A later newspaper account, written during the period of Secretary Langley’s tenure, notes that Langley gave his old clothes to his coachman David Twine, and would at times amuse himself by giving Twine electrical shocks, through a battery he had installed under the coachman’s seat.

David Twine died September 29, 1894 at Freedmen’s Hospital. He was funeralized at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. where he was a member, and was buried at Mount Zion Cemetery on October 2, 1894. His will, witnessed on September 11, 1894, 18 days before his death, bequeaths to his grandson David Gross of Baltimore $100; to Mary L. Green of the District of Columbia. $100; to his mother in law Lucinda Anderson, $20; to his granddaughter Pauline Gross of Baltimore his gold watch and a picture frame from his room; to his grand daughter Katie Gross of Baltimore his silver watch. He appoints his friend and Smithsonian co worker William T. Black as the estate executor.

The court inventoried his entire estate at $505.59.

Who was Mary L. Green? The 1900 census does list a Mary L. Green, washerwoman, born March 1850, residing at 1225 28th street, in Georgetown near Rock Creek Park. She is living with her sister Liza Ogelton. Four years earlier, the City Directory lists Mary L Green at the same address, as the widow of Thomas Green. On 20 October 1880, a Mary Anderson married a Thomas E, Green in the District of Columbia. It is thus possible that the Mary Green mentioned in David Twine’s will was his sister in law, Mary Anderson. Alternately, she may have been a close friend of David Twine.

Whatever the connection, there are several newspaper accounts noting the refusal of Twine’s executor William Blake to pay the $100 bequest to Mary L. Green. For this failure, a bench warrant was issued on 19 March 1897 for Blake; I am not sure of how the case was ultimately resolved.

David Twine’s Descendants: The Gross Family

David Twine’s 1894 will mentions three grandchildren with the surname Gross, but does not mention his daughter Rebecca (Twine) Gross. I can see no mention of Rebecca Gross in the DC City Directory after 1886; perhaps she is indeed the Mary Gross who died in March 1886, six years before David Twine’s death in 1894. It would seem that after their mother’s death, the three children returned to Baltimore, where they had lived prior to their father’s death, and where they may have had kinfolk.

(Nine individuals with the Gross surname are buried in Mount Zion; I am not sure if any of them are related to the Twine-Gross line.)

What became of the three grandchildren enumerated in David Twine’s will, David Gross, Pauline Gross and Katie Gross, who appear to have been the children of Rebecca Twine Gross?

  1. David Gross was perhaps named for his grandfather David Twine. David Thomas Gross’ 1936 Social Security claim index lists his birth date as 24 Feb 1873 (which was about nine months after the D.C. marriage of Ignatius Gross and “Mary Twine”). He appears to have resided in Baltimore his adult life, appearing in the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses, as well as multiple Baltimore city directories, employed variously as a driver (like his grandfather) and as an office building janitor and a porter in the Telephone Exchange. At some point, probably in the late 1890s, he married a woman named Alice (maiden name unknown). In the 1950 census, Alice Gross is listed as widowed so David Gross must have died prior to then.

The couple had one daughter Elizabeth D. Gross, born around 1900, who married the musician Harrison Morton Dodd around 1913. The couple had one daughter Dorothy E. Dodd, born around 1914. By 1930 Elizabeth (Gross) Dodd was divorced, once more living with her parents David and Alice Gross, and with her sixteen year old daughter, Dorothy E. Dodd.

In the 1940 census, Dorothy is listed as a married woman, with the surname “Davenport,” living without her husband with her mother Elizabeth and grandparents David and Alice Gross. (Curiously, Dorothy’s age is incorrectly given as 21 in the 1940 census, and she is listed as high school senior). In the 1950 census she is listed as married to a Bernard Smith, residing in the household of her widowed grandmother Alice Gross. I am not sure if Bernard and Dorothy Smith had children.

By 1942, Dorothy’s mother Elizabeth is married to Alfonso Alexander McLaren (1902-1981), who had been born in Jamaica The couple is also listed in the 1950 census, residing in the household of Elizabeth’s mother Alice Gross. I am not sure if the McLaren couple had any children of their own.

  1. Catherine or Katie Gross. As noted above, the 1880 census lists Catherine Gross as a one month infant, living with her parents Ignatius and Rebecca Gross.

She appears at some point to have married Rogers Monroe, a laborer in the gas office, and is listed as residing with him in Washington DC in the 1920 census, at 729 50th street.

On 25 July 1930, “Katie Monroe” marries Henry Bazamore (1888-1971) in Detroit, Michigan. She dies 23 July 1936, at age 56, in Detroit. Her death certificate informant was her brother David Gross, who lists her parents as Nathan Gross and Rebecca Twine. I am not sure Henry and Katie had any children, or if Katie had children by her previous marriage to Rogers Monroe.

One puzzle is that the marriage certificate for Katie , which records her father’s name as “Gross,” lists her mother’s name as “Pauline,” which, according to the will of David Twine, was the name of one of his granddaughters, presumably a sister of Katie and David Gross.

  1. Pauline Gross. Other than the reference in David Twine’s 1894 will, and the assertion on Katie Gross’s death certificate that her mother was “Pauline,” I have not found any record of Pauline Gross, to whom David Twine bequeathed his gold watch. (Note that the 1884 obituary of Nathan Gross mentions two surviving children of Nathan Gross, but that David Twine’s 1894 will references three grandchildren with the surname Gross.)

As of this writing, I am unsure if there are any living descendants of David Twine.

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