21 Cubic feet (64 document boxes, one oversize folder)
United States -- Race relations
Papers and photographs documenting the lives and descendants of Samuel and Mamie Anderson Bridgewater of Helena, Montana.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the lives of the family and descendants of Samuel and Mamie Anderson Bridgwater. The papers primarily belonged to the family and descendants of their daughter Mary Emma (1893-1981), who married Charles H. Harrell (1878-1948), a Pullman porter. The collection includes materials from collateral relatives and from those who married into the Bridgewater and Harrell families. The women of these families were extensively involved in community, religious, and social organizations. The collection contains materials about social and religious life in the relatively small African-American communities surrounding Helena, Montana. It also contains family papers including Samuel and Mamie's marriage certificate from 1892; educational memorabilia and school diplomas; scrapbooks and photogaphs documenting family members, vacations, life events and friends; baptismal records; hand-written birth and death entries; and correspondence between family members and friends living in other states.
The collection includes records of many of Montana's social and religious organizations from the 1890s to the 1950s, including the Colored Women's Clubs of America; the Pleasant Hour Club in Helena; the Helena Negro Chorus; the local chapter of the Society for the Relief of Worthy, Aged, Indigent Colored Persons, Pleasant House Club; and numerous Baptist and Roman Catholic congregations. Generations of women in the Bridgewater and Harrell families were members or officers of these organizations. The collection contains records and photographs relating to several African-American and integrated churches in Helena. Friends and community members, primarily other African-American Montanans, are represented in the collection as well.
Photographs and other documents record the lives of nearby neighbors and friends as well as lives of more distant family members and friends. Subjects covered in the collection are: the formerly enslaved parents of Samuel and Mamie Bridgwater; Samuel Bridgwater and his fellow Buffalo soldiers; Octavia Bridgewater's experiences at the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City; Octavia Bridgewater's service with a segregated unit of the Army Nurse Corps in World War II while stationed at the Tuskegee Air Base, Alabama and her later life after returning to civilian life in Helena when she worked mostly as a midwife.
Some of the arrangement of the collection was done by family members prior to its donation to the Archives Center. The families had a vigorous and wide ranging network of family and friends in Montana and elsewhere in the United States, and materials related to all family members and friends may be found across multiple series.
Subseries 2.8: Harrell, Richard Francis, 1960-1996, undated
Subseries 2.9: Harrell, Cornelius Eckart, 1940-2001
Subseries 2.10: Harrell, Jr., Charles Henry, 1925-2005
Subseries 2.11: Family Memorabilia, 1960-1990, undated
Subseries 2.12: Photographs, 1929-1996, undated
Series 3, Trahan Family, 1923-1995, undated
Series 4, Family Friends, 1912-1979, undated
Series 5, Photographs, 1907-1992, undated
Biographical / Historical:
The Bridgewater family is a multi-generation African American family descended from Samuel (1862-1912) and Mamie Anderson Bridgwater (1872-1950) (note: later family members spelled the name with an "e"). The son of slaves, Bridgwater was born in Dixon Springs, Smith County, Tennessee, on February 25, 1862. He later enlisted in the all-Black 24th Infantry Regiment, USCI (United States Colored Infantry), one of the famous "Buffalo Soldier" regiments. The 24th Infantry served in the Department of Texas from 1869-1889, Indian Territory from 1880-1888 and following 1888 in the Department of Arizona. In 1892 he married Mamie E. Anderson the daughter of Levi Anderson and Emma Lucy in Fort Huachuca, in what later became the state of Arizona.
Bridgwater fought in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, where he was wounded. He retired from the United States Army at Fort Harrison, Montana, after twenty years of service on August 22, 1906. The family remained in Helena, Montana purchasing a home at 502 Peosta Avenue. The 1910 United States Census lists Samuel has having retired from the United States Army and lists Mamie as being a matron in the US Army hospital. They raised five children, three boys and two girls.
Samuel died on June 9, 1912. His widow and family remained in Montana becoming active in community affairs. Their descendants continued their parents' involvement in community and religious affairs as well as their fathers' tradition of military service. Their daughter Octavia served in an all-black unit of the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and then served her community as a nurse-midwife for the rest of her life. Members of the family continued to live in the home at 502 Peosta well into the twentieth century.
Donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian by Janet Harrell Campbell and Jules Harrell, descendants of Samuel and Mamie Anderson Bridgewater, 2016.
The collection is open for research.
Unrestricted research access on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
United States -- Armed Forces -- African Americans
United States -- Army -- Cavalry, 9th
The collection, spanning the late 19th century to 2005 with the bulk from circa 1880 to circa 1955, measures 1.44 linear feet and documents the daily lives and activities of the Plummer-Arnold family and the military career of Henry Vinton Plummer. The collection consists of 48 color and black-and-white photographs and a framed certificate, letter, and two DVDs regarding the honorable discharge of Henry Vinton Plummer. The photographs are undated.
Scope and Contents:
The Plummer-Arnold family papers span the late 19th century to 2005, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1880 to circa 1955. The collection contains 48 black-and-white and color photographs, one letter, one certificate, and two DVDs. The black-and-white and color photographs, mostly undated, depict the daily lives and activities of descendants of the Plummer and Arnold families. The collection also features a letter, certificate, and DVDs relating to the honorable discharge of U.S. Army chaplain Henry Vinton Plummer (1844-1905). The collection is organized into two series, Series 1: Family photographs and Series 2: Henry Vinton Plummer military service.
The Plummer-Arnold family has a long and notable history. Adam Francis Plummer (1819-1905) and Emily Saunders Arnold (1815-1876) were enslaved African Americans who married in 1841. The couple was separated on different Maryland plantations for the first 22 years of their marriage. They had eighteen children, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. Their eldest son, Henry Vinton Plummer (1844-1905), escaped slavery in 1862 to become a Civil War chaplain and founder of the Bladensburg Union Burial Association. His descendents' successful battle to upgrade his 1894 dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army is documented in this collection.
In 1862, Henry Vinton Plummer escaped from a Maryland plantation to the District of Columbia, where he joined the Union Navy as a chaplain. He was honorably discharged in 1865 and began his studies at Wayland Seminary, which educated freedmen to enter the Baptist ministry. Upon completion of his studies he became the pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Bladensburg, Maryland, founded by his sister, Sarah Miranda Plummer, on October 19, 1866. Henry Vinton Plummer married July Lomax of Virginia in 1867 and their marriage produced nine children.
Henry Vinton Plummer founded the Bladensburg Union Burial Association in 1870, a society that ensured that its African American members would receive a proper funeral by collecting dues and pledges. It was formed in response to a white undertaker's refusal to conduct a funeral because the family of the deceased could not afford to pay. Plummer interceded on behalf of the family and paid their debt. The Bladensburg Union Burial Association remained an active and successful organization into the 20th century.
In 1884, Plummer was appointed as the first black chaplain in the 9th Calvary, one of the Buffalo Soldier units of the Regular Army. Amidst controversy, Plummer was accused of conduct unbecoming an officer and dishonorably discharged from his post in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, by a military court in 1894. In 2005, Plummer's descendants successfully petitioned the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to eradicate his dishonorable discharge. They were issued a certificate from the Army that retroactively grants Plummer the honorable discharge he was denied during his life.
Related Archival Materials note:
These Smithsonian collections and digital exhibits contain related material:
Plummer-Arnold Collection, Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.
The Bladensburg Union Burial Association records, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Reverend L. Jerome Fowler.
Plummer Diary Website Project, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. For a description of the preservation of the diary, see the Smithsonian blog post "A Sense of Place."
These items held by the Smithsonian are related material:
"Out of the Depths or The Triumph of the Cross" by Nellie Arnold Plummer, Gift of the descendants of Adam and Emily Plummer.
Plummer Family Diary, Gift of the Descendants of Adam and Emily Plummer.
United States flag Of Henry Vinton Plummer, Gift of the descendants of Adam and Emily Plummer.
These items are held outside the Smithsonian:
Interview with Reverend L. Jerome Fowler, PTIP Interview Transcripts, Center for Heritage Resource Studies, Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Images of America: Riverdale Park by Donald Lynch, Tom Alderson, and Melissa Avery, Arcadia Publishing, 2011.
The Plummer-Arnold family papers were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum on October 14, 2004, by Reverend L. Jerome Fowler.
The collection is open for unrestricted research. Use of the collection requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu.
The Plummer-Arnold Family papers are the physical property of the Anacostia Community Museum. Literary and copyright belong to the author/creator or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archives.