When starting the process to identify potential sites for a Historic Property Inventory (HPI) form I was able to work off another Preserve WV AmeriCorps member, Iain Mackay's work and that of another Preserve WV AmeriCorps member who had done some work compiling West Virginia Green Book sites and determining which were extant, demolished, or questionable. It took me a couple hours of searching to find possible sites to research. I knew of some sites in Jefferson County, but discovered that HPI forms existed for those and I decided to find a site closer to home so that I could go take pictures if needed. Using Google Maps and preliminary internet searches I could not solidly identify or find information on any of the possible Fairmont sites, so I moved my focus up to Morgantown to try again. My colleagues had already determined that two of the five Morgantown sites no longer existed, and the remaining three were all tourist homes (individual homes that would offer lodging).
The three tourist homes in Morgantown were: “Okey Ogden—1046 College Ave,” “Mrs. Lizzie Mae Slaughter—3 Cayton Street,” and “Mrs. Jeanette O. Parker—2 Cayton Street.” Unfortunately, Google Maps is not great in that area and has no street view on Cayton Street, but I was able to determine that 1046 College Avenue did exist and real estate information indicated that the existing structure was the correct age to have been Okey Ogden’s Tourist Home in the 1950s. Next I turned to Ancestry to dig into the census records and find any information on Ogden. I could find him and his family in the census records between 1900 and 1940 in different homes in Morgantown, including the 1046 College Ave address starting on the 1930 census. I also discovered that Ogden was a veteran of World War I and served in the 542nd Engineers. This is where the process took its first turn. There are few records available in Ancestry or Fold3 connected to Okey Ogden’s military service. However, there was a digitized request form for his military headstone after his 1953 death (his grave and headstone are in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, WV). The person who requested Ogden’s headstone was Mrs. Linnie M. Slaughter, the proprietor of the Green Book site at 3 Cayton Street. Somehow Slaughter and Odgen were connected. According to the scanned map cards digitized by the Monongalia County Assessor’s Office, Lizzie M. Slaughter acquired the plot for 1046 College Ave in 1953, the same year that Okey Ogden died. When I delved into the parcel maps and tax records for Cayton Street I discovered that Linnie M. Slaughter’s name was on all three plots of land, along with Jennette O. Parker. At this point I knew that all three structures were extant, expanding my project from one HPI form to three, and all three proprietors were connected in some way.
The difficulty in connecting Ogden, Parker, and Slaughter together was the different last names. I knew that Slaughter and Ogden were directly connected because Slaughter had requested Ogden’s headstone. However, after about an hour of searching I could find no record of Slaughter’s marriage to Charles William Slaughter to determine her maiden name. The break-through came after switching to focus on Jennette O. Parker. In the tax map cards Parker was always listed together with Grace Edwards, who I determined was Parker’s daughter. By following Parker and Edwards backwards through the census records I determined that Linnie M. Slaughter’s maiden name was Edwards; Grace and Linnie Mae were sisters from Jennette Parker’s first marriage to Charles Edwards. Parker was her married name from her second marriage to Hartley Thomas Parker. I was able to trace Jennette Parker through her first marriage record to Edwards and discovered that her maiden name was Ogden. Jennette O. Parker was Okey Ogden’s sister.
Considering how often Green Book sites are lost due to demolition, extensive changes, or poor documentation it was amazing to find this cluster of three extant sites all together and discover how they were all linked to members of the same family. Okey Ogden’s tourist home only operated between 1949 and 1952; these were the years between the death of his mother (who owned the home prior) and his own death in 1953. However, Jennette O. Parker and Linnie M. Slaughter continued to run their tourist homes into the 1960s when the final edition of the Green Book was published. As I continue to work on the HPIs I hope to dig further into local records to piece together more of the lives of this family that committed themselves to providing safe lodging for black travelers for more than a decade.
Dr. Katie Thompson is a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with Clio during the 2020-2021 program year.
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