Nelson Talbert Gant1, was born about May 10, 1821 in Loudoun County, Virginia; and died July 14, 1905 in West Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio. Like many slaves, no record of his birth exists, nor has the identity of his parents been established. His first official biographical sketch, penned 42 years after arriving in Zanesville,i identifies Edith Tolbert, wife to a Mr. Gant, as mother to Talbot, while some descendants claim Edith or Eve as Talbot’s stepmother.ii Given Talbot’s light complexion (his certificate of freedom describes him as a bright mulatto), they also allege his father was white and might even have been John Nixon, his owner. However, no evidence has been found to either prove or disprove this assertion. Talbot had been described as a tall man – some cited his height as exceeding six feetiii despite freedom papers that point to a man of a slighter build.iv Whatever his height, he was a “man whom strangers were wont to turn and look at. There was a distinction in face and form. He spoke with weight, in short sentences and deliberately choosing his words.v”
Within three years of arriving in Zanesville, Talbot had acquired 42 acres of land. Within 15 years he had acquired 300 acres of land. He became prosperous by his innovations in gardeningvi and raising early spring crops that brought high prices.vii At his death 55 years later, Talbot was one of the wealthiest and most influential colored citizens of Ohio,viii with an estate valued at more than $100,000. He served his adopted city, participating on the hospital board, as a trustee in the South Street AME Church, and on the board of Woodlawn Cemetery. Talbot was 84 years old when he died of heart failure on July 14, 1905 at the family home on West Pike just beyond Zanesville.ix
Sometime in 1843, Talbot married first, Anna Maria Hughes (probable daughter of Henny, who, along with Maria and another young girl, Hester, had been identified as slaves owned outright by Sarah M. Russell in her 1829 deed of gift).x Anna Maria Gant was born about 1826 and died on October 11, 1877 in Yorktown, Virginia while visiting her daughter Sadie.
Talbot married, second, Lavenia Julius Neal on January 9, 1879.xi Lavenia was born April 3, 1858, in Virginia and died in 1912 in Zanesville. xii Taking as his bride a young woman almost 27 years his junior, Talbot may have experienced a wedding probably very unlike his first one nearly 36 years earlier. Following a ceremony performed at the home of the bride’s foster parents, Talbot and Lavenia were feted with “a bountiful table spread with all the delicacies of the season.”xiii
Nelson Talbot and Anna Maria (Hughes) Gant were the parents of eight known children, all born in Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio, unless otherwise noted. Although evidence of eight births has been found, it’s been said that Maria had 12xiv or 13 children.xv All the Gant children who reached adulthood received the best educational advantages available for free Negro men and women. This generation started an unbroken chain of six generations of Gant descendants who have graduated college.
2. i. Mary Elizabeth2 Gant was born 29 Aug 1848 at Loudoun County, Virginia, although her death certificate lists a birth in 1850.xvi Elizabeth is likely the 20-month old “Mary E. J. Gant” whose certificate of freedom was registered in the Loudoun County Virginia court during its June 1850 term.xvii She also went by the name of "Lizzie."xviii It is doubtful she attended college, despite teaching briefly at a school near Licking View in Falls Township.xix Elizabeth married first, local barber Wesley Tate, on 20 September 1868 at Muskingum County, Ohio. xx In March 1878, Elizabeth filed for divorce, alleging drunkenness and adultery,xxi which led to the dissolution of the marriage sometime before 14 June 1880 when she was living once again in the home of her father.xxii Elizabeth married second, Edwin Washington, on 29 July 1880 at Zanesville.xxiii This marriage to yet another barber did not last either, for Elizabeth married third, Robert Manley, a laborer on her father’s farm, on 18 November 1886 at Zanesville. xxiv Elizabeth had no children, although she raised her sister Margaret’s youngest daughter as her own.xxv
Elizabeth died in Zanesville around noon on 20 October 1940 from chronic nephritis .xxvi According to her obituary, this retired schoolteacher had been sick for almost a month before she died. Mary Elizabeth J. Gant Tate Washington Manley was buried on 23 October 1940 near her parents at Woodlawn Cemetery, Zanesville.xxvii
3. ii. Henrietta2 Gant was born about June 1850. She may have been named for Maria’s presumed mother, Henny. Henrietta was 10 months old when she died March 20, 1851 at Falls Township. She was the first of the Gant children buried in the Old Quaker Burying Ground, Falls Township, in a plot in the back of the cemetery on land owned later by Nelson Talbot Gant.xxviii
4. iii. Alice2 Gant was born in 1855. She was 5 years of age when she died on 14 November 1860 at Falls Townshipxxix and is buried in the Old Quaker Burying Ground.
5. iv. Theodora2 Gant was born and died in 1855 at Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio.xxx This five-month old was buried in the Old Quaker Burying Ground.
+ 7 vi Margaret2 Gant was born March 3, 1858xxxiii in Falls Township, and died September 21, 1924 in Zanesville.xxxiv Margaret married first Henry Williamson, on January 15, 1878 at Zanesvillexxxv and second, George W. Potts of Williamsburg, Virginia, on October 20, 1885. xxxvi
8. vii Benjamin2 F. Gant was born and died in April 1860.xxxvii Just 4 days old, the infant was buried in the Old Quaker Burying Ground.
9 viii Nelson2 Talbot Gant Jr. was born June 15, 1864. He graduated Oberlin College in 1889. He was proficient in Greek, so much so that his elevation to substitute teacher on the illness of the professor, prompted the retelling of his parents’ flight to freedom.xxxviii After graduating, Nelson returned home to assist with the family farm until his marriage to Florence Elizabeth Mintzing, in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland on October 27, 1892.xxxix At that time, he assumed full control of the farm. He noted with pride the eulogy he wrote for Bishop Payne’s 1894 memorial service and published by the Zanesville Courier in March 1894.xl He published additional articles about race, educations, and politics. On June 2, 1900 he went to work for the State of Ohio Insurance Department, where he worked for 12 years.xli Nelson then moved on to real estate and farming, making periodic trips to Zanesville to oversee the properties inherited from his father. After suffering from ill health for some time,xlii Nelson “folded his tent and silently stole away”xliii on November 14, 1942 in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio.xliv They had no children.
Nelson Talbot Gant and Lavinia Julius Neal were the parents of:
10. ix Talbert2 Henry Logan Gant was born and died on October 15, 1880.xlv
6. Sarah2 Ann “Sadie” Gant (Nelson1) was born May 1855 xlviii at Zanesville. She attended the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music from 1869 to 1871; however Oberlin College Archives does not have a record that Sadie had ever graduated. It does, however, include her on its list of non-graduates.xlix At age 16, Sadie married Dr. Daniel M. Norton on December 28, 1871 at Zanesville.l The Norton family alternately is listed as McNorton in some documents.li Sarah died January 19, 1919 at Yorktown, York County, Virginia, two months after her husband. Both were apparent victims of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.lii Both are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville.liii Sarah Ann and Daniel [Mc]Norton were the parents of two children named for her parents:
+ 12. i Nelson Frederick3 Norton was born September 28, 1875 at Yorktownliv and died in May 1945.lv Despite oral history alleging that he was adopted, a birth record for “Nelson Frederick Norton” was found, confirming he was the natural son of Daniel and Sadie.lvi He was married December 29, 1919 to Carrie R. Phillips, daughter of Thomas and Jennie S. Philips of York County. As a child, Dr. Nelson was sent to Zanesville and spent five years in the city schools, “thus securing advantages not obtaining in Yorktown.”lvii He was a graduate of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute at Petersburg, Virginia and the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University.lviii Like his father, Nelson was a physician and practiced out of his home. On Monday, April 15, 1935, Nelson was arrested for murder resulting from a “criminal operation” on an unmarried beer garden waitress in Elizabeth City, Virginia.lix Echoing his grandfather Talbot’s case, Nelson had a formal array of powerful attorneys at his side, including two white former Virginia Commonwealth attorneys. He underwent three trials, after which the charges were dropped.lx Nelson continued to practice medicine in Yorktown until his death. Although he and his wife adopted a young boy named Nelson,lxi he had no children of his own.
+ 13. ii Anna3 Maria Norton was born July 1880lxii and died 1949 in Norfolk, Virginia. Oral family history says Anna allegedly was adopted by Sarah and Daniel at her birth. No record of her birth has been found in the York County birth register. Anna married first, John C. Brooks after 1910 but before 1920.lxiii The couple lived in Norfolk, Virginia. During this marriage, Anna adopted a son, Daniel.lxiv Anna married second, Alexander Sampson McFadden of Norfolk.
7. Margaret2 Gant (Nelson1), was born March 3, 1858lxv in Falls Township, and died September 21, 1924 in Zanesville.lxvi Margaret married first Henry Williamson, on January 15, 1878 at Zanesville.lxvii She and Henry apparently were divorced by October 20, 1885 when she married George Westever Potts at Zanesville. Although family tradition claims that her father was not happy with Margaret's marriage to George, Talbot did apply for the marriage license.lxviii Margaret and George’s marriage was a bit tumultuous, perhaps because George’s wanderlust. They apparently did not share residence at least twice during their married life but they counted themselves as married.lxix After the birth of her sixth surviving child, Margaret suffered from ‘child bed fever.”lxx Margaret died at 10:55 a.m. on 21 September 1924 at her home in West Zanesville After suffering for several months from tubercular laryngitis. She was buried 24 September 1924 at Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville.lxxi
Margaret (Gant) Williamson and Henry Williamson were the parents of:
14. i Mariah Neal3 Williamson was born 12 March 1879lxxii in Muskingum County. Mariah married Louis C. Black on 6 November 1906 at Zanesville.lxxiii She died of chronic myocarditis on February 2, 1958 at her home at the age of 78.lxxiv She was interred three days later at Gant Circle, Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville. She had no children.
Margaret Gant Williamson Potts and George Westever Potts were the parents of six known children,lxxv all born in Springfield Township, Muskingum County, Ohio, unless otherwise noted:
+ 15. ii Sarah Ann Elizabeth Potts, was born May 26, 1886 in Hampton, Virginia and died February 25, 1937.lxxvi She married Bernard Goss, on September 11, 1911 in Clayton, St. Louis County, Missouri.lxxvii
16. iii George G. Potts, was born August 4, 1887 in Hampton, Virginia. The one-year old died of typhoid fever on August 10, 1888lxxviii just months after the family had relocated from Virginia to Muskingum County.
17. iv Clarence Burris Potts was born October 26, 1888lxxix and died December 11, 1966 in Sandy, Clackamas County, Oregon.lxxx Clarence attended Pratt Institute like his siblings, but did not graduate. He served in the U.S. Colored Troops from April 1913 to April 1917. He re-enlisted at Fort Shafter, Hawaii from May 1917 to his discharge in March 1919.lxxxi No marriage or children for Clarence have been found. Records for Clarence alternately list his given name as Lawrence.lxxxii Clarence was buried in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.lxxxiii His obituary said that he had no known relatives.lxxxiv
+ 18. v Norman Tolbert Potts was born July 28, 1890.lxxxv He died December 4, 1934lxxxvi in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois of tuberculosis and complications due to alcoholism. Norman married Dorothy Estella Woods between January 20, 1920 and mid-1922.lxxxvii
+ 19. vi Royce Houston Potts was born November 21, 1891 and died December 7, 1989 in Brooklyn, New York, of old age and pneumonia. He married Hermione Olympia Watts of Natural Bridge, Virginia on May 13, 1916 in New York.
20. vii Margaret Potts was born March 18, 1895 and died March 21, 1980 in Zanesville of gastrointestinal hemorrhage.lxxxviii While her mother battled with childbed fever, Margaret was placed in the care of her Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Robert Manley. Margaret never left their home and was treated as their adopted daughter. Throughout her adult life, Margaret was alternately known as Margaret Manley Potts or Margaret Manley, although three generations of nieces and nephews affectionately called her Aunt Shug. Margaret never moved away from Zanesville, living out her life as the last Gant descendant in that city. She was an accomplished pianist, performing at weddings, funerals and Sunday Church services.lxxxix Upon her death, she was buried in Gant Circle, in Woodlawn Cemetery, Zanesville. Margaret never married and had no children.
15. Sarah3 Ann Ellen Potts (Margaret2, Nelson1), was born May 26, 1876 in Hampton, Virginia and died February 25, 1937 from complications from surgery.xc Three years after graduating from Pratt Institute in New York City, New York,xci she married Bernard Goss, son of Charles Goss and Susan Alexander, on September 11, 1911 in Clayton, St. Louis County, Missouri. After Bernard’s death in January 1916, Sarah removed her family to Kansas City, Missouri where she was as a teacher at Lincoln High School for 20 years.xcii Sarah’s body was returned to Zanesville for burial in Woodlawn Cemetery. Sarah Potts and Bernard Goss were the parents of three children, all of whom graduated college.xciii
18. Norman3 Tolbert Potts (Margaret2, Nelson1), was born July 28, 1890.xciv He died December 4, 1934xcv in Chicago, Cook County, Ohio of tuberculosis and complications due to alcoholism. After graduating from Pratt Institute,xcvi Norman served in the U.S. Army Infantry in a unit from Chicago. At his enlistment, he was a senior medical student at xxxx medical college, now Northwestern University Medical School. Norman married Dorothy Estella Woods between January 20, 1920 and mid-1922. Norman Potts and Stella Wood were the parents of one child.
19. Royce3 Houston Potts (Margaret2 Nelson1) was born November 21, 1891 in Falls Township, and died December 7, 1989 in Brooklyn, New York.xcvii Royce graduated from Pratt Institute in 1913xcviii and worked as a mechanical engineer. He married Hermione Olympia Watts of Natural Bridge, Virginia on May 13, 1916 in New York. Royce was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Royce Potts and Hermione O. Watts were the parents of three children, all of whom attended college.
i Biographical and Historical Memoirs, Ibid
ii Oral Interview with M.G. Winn, Ibid
iii Lewis, Zanesville and Muskingum County, page 531
iv Record of Free Negroes. Certificate number 1333. Ibid. The clerk writes “the said Nelson T. Gant is about . . . five feet 9-3/4 inches high.”
v Zanesville and Muskingum County, Ohio, Ibid. page 532.
vi “Nelson T. Gant rose from slavery to become wealthy, respected,” Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio Saturday, February 10, 1996, page 6A.
vii The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio, Sunday, November 2, 1969, page 4.
viii The Daily Courier, Zanesville, Ohio, July 15, 1905, page 1
x Loudoun County Deed Book 3s, page 130. Henny “a woman,” Hester “a girl,” and Maria “a girl,” may represent a family group that had come from Sarah Russell’s paternal McCarty or maternal Richardson families. Unfortunately, this deed is the only record found in which Henny and Hester are named.
xi Unknown Newspaper clipping pasted inside Gant Family Bible. The clipping appears to be cut from a Parkersburg area newspaper published within days of the January 19 wedding.
xii Lavinia Gant Carroll headstone, Woodlawn Cemetery, Section GG, Gant Circle, Zanesville, Ohio
xiii Unknown Newspaper clipping pasted inside Gant Family Bible, Ibid.
xiv Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County, Ibid.
xv Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Anna Maria Gant, Ibid.
xvi Certificate of Death, State of Ohio, File No. 63712.
xvii Record of Free Negroes, Loudoun County, Virginia, Certificate number 1679, page 114. Samuel Janney affirmed that Mary E. J. Gant is the infant daughter of Ann Maria Gant who previously had been registered as freed woman.
xviii Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 10, page 193.
xix “Death Comes to Mrs. Robert Manley,” The Zanesville Signal, Zanesville, Ohio; 21 October 1940. page 7.
xx Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 5, page 587
xxi “Sidewalk Notes,” Zanesville Daily Courier, Zanesville, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5, 1878
xxii 1870 Federal Population Census; Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio. Roll M593_1250; Page 78
xxiii Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 8,.
xxiv Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 10, page 193.
xxv Elizabeth Manley obituary, Zanesville Signal, Ibid. Margaret’s daughter Margaret Potts was called “Miss Margaret Manley.” Census records for Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio for the years 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 also refer to this relationship.
xxvi Record of Deaths, Muskingum County, Ohio, Volume 236, page 610.
xxvii Elizabeth Manley obituary, Zanesville Signal, Ibid.
xxviii Zanesville Times Recorder, 2 November 1986, Section D, by Lawrence Fulkerson.
xxix Zanesville Times Recorder, Ibid.
xxx Zanesville Times Recorder, Ibid.
xxxi Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 6, page 427. Sarah was 16 when she married on September 28, 1871.
xxxiii 1860 U.S. Census, Population, West Zanesville Post Office, page 126, dwelling no. 920. The enumerator recorded a middle initial of "E."
xxxiv Ohio Death Certificate, , File No. 51379. Information provided by her daughter, Mariah Williamson.
xxxv Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 8,
xxxvi Ibid. Volume 10, page 48.
xxxvii 1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule, Falls Township, Muskingum, Ohio; Roll T1159_30; Line Number 18.
xxxviii Scrap of History, Ibid.
xxxix Ibid, dated January 21, 1905, 2 pages
xl Nelson Talbot Gant Jr. Alumni Profile, dated 7 February 1895, 1 page
xli Ibid, dated October 31, 1925, 3 pages
xlii Letter from Mrs. N.T. Gant to Mr. Donald W. Love, Oberlin College, dated January 5, 1943. She explains that Nelson had been in poor health for two years.
xliii Nelson Gant [Jr] Obituary, Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday, November 19, 1942.
xliv Nelson Gant [Jr] Certificate of Death, State of Ohio, File Number 65700
xlv Gant Family Bible, original in the possession of the author
xlvi Gant Family Bible, Ibid.
xlvii Lavinia Gee headstone, Woodlawn Cemetery, Section GG, Gant Circle, Zanesville, Ohio
xlviii Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 6, page 427. Sarah was 16 when she married on September 28, 1871.
xlix "Oberlin College Archives"; List of Non Graduates – Classes 1869-1883, page 223.
l Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 6, page 427. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Daniel A. Payne.
li For example, Daniel McNorton household, 1910 U.S. Population Census return for York County, Virginia.
lii As a prominent physician serving the Negro population in Yorktown, Dr. Norton would have been at the forefront of efforts to treat residents felled by the disease. It was not unheard of for physicians to bring the illness home to their families.
liii Daniel M. and Sadie McNorton headstones, Woodlawn Cemetery, Section GG, Gant Circle, Zanesville, Ohio.
liv History of the American Negro: Virginia Edition, edited by A.B. Caldwell, volume V, page 176. Published 1921. Atlanta, Georgia
lv Nelson [Mc]Norton obituary notice, “Colored Citizens News of Interest,” The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio, Wednesday, May 19, 1948.
lvi Birth Register, York County, Virginia.
lvii History of the American Negro, Ibid.
lviii “Dr. McNorton held in White Woman’s Death,” New Journal and Guide, Portsmouth, Virginia, Saturday, April 20, 1935.
lx Various articles, New Journal and Guide, Portsmouth, Virginia, May 25, 1934; June 15, 1935; October 12, 1935; and December 1935.
lxi Nelson Norton household, 1930 U.S. Population Census for Yorktown, York County, Virginia, Roll 2464. E.D. 3, page 3A.
lxii Daniel Norton household, 1900 U.S. Population Census for Nelson, York County, Virginia, Roll T623_1732. E.D. 74, page 14A.
lxiii John C. Brooks household, 1920 US Population Census, Norfolk, Virginia, E.D. 232, page 18A.
lxiv John C. Brooks household, 1930 US Population Census, Norfolk, Virginia, E.D. 112-113, page 198.
lxv 1860 U.S. Population Census, West Zanesville Post Office, page 126, dwelling no. 920.
lxvi Ohio Death Certificate, , File No. 51379. Information provided by her daughter, Mariah Williamson.
lxvii Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 8,
lxviii Ibid. Volume 10, page 48.
lxix Margaret Potts household, 1900 and 1920 U.S. Population Censuses for Muskingum County, Ohio
lxx The Cherokee Physician by Jas. W. Mahoney, 1849. Child bed fever, more technically termed puerperal fever, was regarded as one of the most fatal diseases to which lying-in women were subject. When it occurred, it usually attacked within the first few days after delivery. When the fever continued for a time, it was very apt to change to typhus.
lxxi Ohio Death Certificate, , File No. 51379.
lxxii Register of Births, Muskingum County, Ohio, , Volume 2, page 293.
lxxiii Marriage Register, Muskingum County: Volume 17, page 417.
lxxiv Muskingum County, Ohio Record of Deaths, Volume 430, page 92.
lxxv The 1900 U.S. Population Census for Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio reports that Margaret had given birth to nine children, of which 6 were surviving. An examination of the known births indicates that the two unknown children may have been born and died between 1892 and 1899.
lxxvi “Mrs. Sarah Goss Dies in Kansas,” Zanesville Times Recorder, Tuesday, March 2, 1937, page 6.
lxxvii Bernard Goss and Sarah E. Goss Marriage Announcement, Clayton, St. Louis County, Missouri. Photocopy in possession of author.
lxxviii Death Records, Muskingum County, Ohio, Volume 2, page 207. Birth date ased on his age at death (1 year and 6 days).
lxxix Register of Births, Muskingum County, Ohio, Volume 3, page 141
lxxx Oregon Death Index, 1903-98 [database on-line]. Certificate 17341 Provo, Utah: Original data: State of Oregon. Oregon Death Index, 1903-1998. Salem, Oregon: Oregon State Archives and Records Center.
lxxxi Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18, page 13624
lxxxii Social Security Death Index for 551-26-9478 and corresponding application match birth and parental information for Clarence B. Potts. Additionally, the veteran’s burial record for Clarence Potts matches his military record.
lxxxiii Willamette National Cemetery, Plot K 3092
lxxxiv Clarence B. Potts obituary, The Sandy Post, Sandy, Oregon, Thursday, December 22, 1966, page 4.
lxxxv Register of Births, Muskingum County, Ohio, Volume 3, page 141
lxxxvi Certificate of Death, Cook County, Illinois.
lxxxvii In early 1920, Norman was listed as single [Elizabeth Hutchings household, U.S. Population Census, Chicago, Ward 2, Illinois, ED 99, page 11B]. Daughter Norma Logan Potts was born in 1922.
lxxxviii Certificate of Death, State of Ohio, File number 020779
lxxxix “Tate-Croston Wedding,” The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio, Monday, August 25, 1947, page Nine, column 4.
xc “Mrs. Sarah Goss Dies in Kansas,” Zanesville Times Recorder, Tuesday, March 2, 1937, page 6.
xci Diploma, Pratt Institute, 1908, photocopy in possession of author.
xcii Sarah Goss obituary, Ibid.
xciii Daughter Margarette Goss attended Kansas State Teacher’s College, Emporia Kansas [Life Certificate No. 3390 issued by Kansas State Teachers College, August 1, 1931, photocopy in possession of author]; son Bernard Goss graduated the University of Iowa, Iowa City [Bernard Goss obituary, June 1966]; son Cassel C. Goss completed studies in mechanical and architectural drafting [Affadavit, U.S. Committee on Fair Employment Practice, November 11, 1943]
xciv Register of Births, Muskingum County, Ohio, Volume 4, page 182
xcv Certificate of Death, Cook County, Illinois
xcvi Diploma, Pratt Institute, 1912, photocopy in possession of author
xcvii Social Security Death Index
xcviii Diploma, Pratt Institute, 1913, photocopy in possession of author