Samuel E. Died 1889
Malvina Died 1910
Sammie I. Died 1900
James Died 1867
Photo Credit: Rosa G. Gonzales
1. "Slavery: An Untold Story," by Ellen Bernstein
Corpus Christi Caller Times (February 29, 2000). Available on microfilm.
2. Early Negroes of Corpus Christi, by Mrs. J. D. Smith, 1939 Provenance: Corpus Christi Public Libraries.
A. New Article about Mrs. J. D. Smith
Former Coles School Principal Started at $25 Monthly Pay
Widow of First Negro Mailman Still Active
By Mary Ann Dodson
Twenty-Five dollars a month for teaching two grades in the Negro school here was Mrs. Dudley L. Smith’s first salary as a teacher more than fifty years ago. Mrs. Smith, widow of the second principal of the Negro school here and a onetime principal herself, is one of the most prosperous and influential members of t he local Negro community. Her large real estate holdings help to make her so, but she has known days of struggle and poverty. Gracious, alert and soft-spoken, Mrs. Smith tells with good humor the teaching difficulties she and her husband encountered. A sincere belief in the importance of education and an unselfish, active interest in raising the standards of their people have always been their guiding principles.
Mrs. Smith’s grandmother came to Texas in 1849 when Colonel Kinney’s settlement here had 10 or 12 widely scattered houses. She worked on the Britain Ranch and her daughter, Mrs. Anna Moore Schwien, was reared on the Evans Ranch. Mrs. Smith, the former Adelaide Schwien, was born here in 1875 and lived just a few doors from the Negro school, then located near Northside Junior School. Solomon M. Coles, founder and first principal, was in charge when she attended school. Her teaching career began early and by an unforeseen incident. “During the last month of the school year, when I was 15,” Mrs. Smith recalled, “one of the teachers resigned and the school board decided to let an advanced student teach during the month. I was chosen and finished the term, receiving $12. In 1894, Smith at 26 was the youngest principal ever employed in schools here. The son of a carpenter, he had grown up in Alabama. He had received his bachelor of science degree the year before and had been teaching mathematics, doubling as head of Fisk University’s athletics department.
In 1896, Mrs. Smith went to Fisk University and four years later received her bachelor of science degree and a diploma in music. She first taught in Austin and then at Wylie University at Marshall. Eight years were spent in San Antonio schools before her marriage to the young principal in 1912. After 13 years as principal, Smith became one of the city’s first four mail carriers when mail delivery began here in 1907. He received the highest mark in the examination. Dudley Ward was the postmaster at the time. Smith’s mail route covered the area from the post office, then located under the hill, to the port, then turning southwest to the railroad depots, continuing to the Carmelite Day nursery and then back to the post office. Twenty-five years later when he retired, Smith was still covering the same territory. When he retired, his territory was divided among three carriers.
It was not until 1917, when the war produced a shortage of teachers, that Mrs. Smith began teaching in the Negro schools here. Two years later, she became principal of Solomon Coles School. Her first efforts were to acquire vocational training projects. Latin was still being taught in the eight grade in those days. Both the students and Mrs. Smith felt that it was useless to the children. Receiving permission to substitute Spanish she took several courses at Columbia University in Spanish while working on her master’s degree.
New Building Obtained
By 1925, the four-room school building had deteriorated beyond repair and a new building went up on the site of the present school. It was named after the first Negro principal. In 1932, when Mrs. Smith resigned, the number of teachers had increased from three to six, the number of rooms from four to six and the number of students had jumped to 300. After 11 years of retirement, Smith died in 1943 at the age of 74. Mrs. Smith hopes to make her home in New York as soon as the housing shortage eases. One of her brothers, William A Schwien, is a caterer in Baltimore. The other, Harry Franklin Schwien, is a retired railroad man in Oakland, Calif. Both are graduates of Fisk University.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller Times, February 16, 1947
Research and transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission
B. Obituary for Mrs. J. D. Smith
Obituary of Mrs. Adelaide Schwien Smith
LIFE-LONG RESIDENT DIES AT 83
Mrs. Adelaide Schwien Smith, 83, a life-long resident of Corpus Christi, died at 7:30 p.m., yesterday in a local convalescent home. Her home address was 815 Staples. Widow of the late Dudley J. smith, former principal of Solomon Coles High School who died in 1943, Mrs. Smith was a teacher for 27 years. She was also principal of Solomon Coles for nine years. She attended public school and seminary in North Texas and was a graduate of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., in 1900. Her mother was the late Anna Schwien who did laundry and sewing for many old families in Corpus Christi. She died in 1946. She is survived by her brother, William A. Schwien of Baltimore, Md. Funeral arrangements will be announced later by Cage-Mills Funeral Home.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller Times, June 30, 1957
Research and Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission
3. Interview, 1909
OLDEST WOMAN IN THE CITY
Malvina More Tells of Corpus Sixty Years Ago.
There are but few remaining persons in the land of the living who were born shortly after the close of the war of 1812, but Corpus Christi has a negress who is now 93 years of age. While somewhat feeble her mental faculties are still unimpaired and she can also recall events of her early days, things that happened long before the existing generation now living in this city. This old woman’s name is Melvin Moore and she is now living with her daughter, Anna Moore Swain, at a507 Carancahua street, on the bluff, where she has lived for the past 42 years. Aunt Melvina was born in Virginia 93 years. At the age of 21 years she came with her old master to Mississippi and finally to Texas, landing at Corpus Christi in January 1849, the year following the close of the Mexican war. Her recollections of Corpus Christi at that time are very vivid. “Taylor’s army had been gone but a year or two, they said when I came here. Corpus was only a village in those days, and there were very few houses here. “The army had been encamped north of the bayou and their earth-works or fortifications are plainly to be seen to this day. Aunt Melvina says that after the army was disbanded and left, it was the custom for the young people of the town, as well as some of the older to go “money hunting,” as by poking among the debris of the various deserted camps. Quite often pieces of money and jewelry were found. When Aunt Melvina came to Corpus Christi the population all told was but a few hundred, and there were not over 20 white families in the city, the balance being Mexicans and a few Negroes. There were then not over ten frame and adobe houses in the town, the majority of the people living in “jacals,” which were nothing more than a hut made of brush and weeds. There was no Water street then, as this is the “made” ground from the action of the waves in the bay. There were streets laid out, and outside of one house on the hill there was no other habitation on the bluff. The Mexican population in those days lived in and near the arroyo, where the Tex-Mex track now is.
First Building on the Bluff.
Her master was Captain Forbes Brittain, who after the close of the war decided to locate here permanently, and erected his home on the bluff, the building still standing in good repair and now occupied by Mrs. George Evans. This was the first building constructed on the bluff. There was no church building in those days and Aunt Melvina says that where the Fitzsimmons home is now, opposite the Episcopal church, the bay water came up there and there was a foot path across the little bayou composed of logs. The first wharf was constructed by Wm. Mann. It was constructed of brush and dirt and was very narrow. Recollections of Early Settlers Her recollections of the McCabes, Rannyhans, McCoys, Cahills, Fitzsimmons and other early settlers are very vivid, and she can tell many anecdotes that happened when Corpus Christi, now a city of 14, 000, was in its swaddling clothes. She recalls the lake back of the old Parker house on the bluff which
since filled in. It was where Carrizo street now is.
Source: Corpus Christi Daily Caller, October 18, 1909, p. 4, col. 1
Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission
AN AGED COLORED WOMAN DEAD
On July 24th, 1910, Malvina Moore, the oldest citizen of Corpus Christi,Texas, passed away.
More than 90 years ago in Fredericksburg, Va., Malvina Garrett was born of Negro and Indian parentage. She served the family of Wm. Hason until she was 21 years of age, when she moved to North Carolina where she passed into the heads of John Baskin, of Mississippi.
After living some time in Mississippi, a partnership was formed with Baskin Mann, and Capt. Forbes Britain, later father-in-law of Edmund J. Davis, Governor of Texas. When the partnership was dissolved, the property was divided and she left to Forges Britain.
In January 1849, on New Years Day, she arrived in Corpus from Galveston, and with the exception of a few years spent in Boerne, New Braunfels, Seguin and San Antonio she has lived here ever since.
She has often told thrilling tales of experiences with the Indians and Mexicans at Fort Merrill, where she worked for Capt. Sam. Plummer, of the U. S. Army. She also often related stories of the Boerne Ranch where, as housekeeper, she remained six or seven years, three years of which were spent without seeing the face of another woman.
Returning from these places, she went to Britain’s Ranch. Afterwards, hiring her own time, she kept a mess of the soldiers in Corpus during the Civil war. About this time she was married to Samuel Moore who died 20 years ago.
After the emancipation, she settled in Corpus Christi, then a mere ranch, and saw it grow to its present size, while the children, then babies, became grandmothers and grandfathers.
Her mind was active and bright until her death. She could recall incidents of her childhood and remembered distinctly her great grandparents.
She was a most charitable woman as members of both races know, since both received many benefits from her hands. Her home was a home for the friendless; the care of two orphan girls from infancy to womanhood proves her tenderheartedness and self sacrifice.
Her life was an exemplary one. The poor and suffering appealed to her and always met with a kind word from her. She enjoyed the respect of all and nothing pleased her more than to have the gray-haired persons whom she had known and nursed as children come around her and talk of the old, old days.
She died with faith in the god whom she had known and served so long.
Source: The Texas Sun, Corpus Christi, Texas, August 4, 1910
Vertical files, Local History Room, Corpus Christi Public Library.
Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission