Our Diverse Heritage: Marion’s Black History Part 6

Celebrating Black History Month in Marion County

Part 6: Harriet’s life of service to others

From a young age until she was well into her 70s, Hattie worked as a cook and domestic for families in Fairmont. In the 1870 census, she was listed as a house servant for the Rev. James Snowden
and his wife, Kate. Hattie’s mother, Rebecca, lived nearby and was a domestic servant for William Ingram. In the 1870 and 1880 census, Helen Wilson Meade and her husband, Alfred, were raising a family. Helen would die in 1888 of heart problems at age 45.

By 1880, Hattie was working as a servant for Sylvanus Hall, who, as noted earlier, might have taken possession of Hattie’s family after Hiram Haymond’s sudden departure for Illinois. Rebecca is not listed in the 1880 census, so it is possible she died during the previous decade; although, her death record doesn’t appear in Marion County records. On June 2, 1881, Hattie married Richard Whitley, one of the first black barbers in the area. He died of liver problems in 1897 at age 52. They never had children, and Hattie never remarried.

From 1891 to 1931, she was a servant for and eventually lived with the John Andrew Clark family. Clark and his wife, Nan Elizabeth, came to the Fairmont area in 1889, and by 1896, he had
opened three mines under the banner of the Clark Coal Company and was involved with various other businesses. Clark was described in a 1907 as one “whose checkbook is ever at hand when contributions are solicited for purposes conserving the city’s physical, social, educational or industrial welfare.”

He built a prominent Greek Revival-style home at 108 Gaston Avenue in Fairmont. It was home to his wife; sons John Jr., Harry, and Kenna; and eventually Hattie, who became known affectionately in the family and community as “Aunt Hat.”

John Andrew Clark died in 1923, followed by his wife in 1931. No longer needed at the Clark residence, Hattie moved in with her nephew Howard Meade and his wife Cora on Field Street, where she spent the last decade of her life. She died at their home on April 26, 1941. Aunt Hat’s funeral at Trinity Methodist Church, officiated by the Rev. T. H. Carpenter, was well attended by black and white citizens. John Andrew Clark’s sons paid for Aunt Hat’s funeral expenses and purchased her a plot in Fairmont’s Evergreen Cemetery, which had been established in 1935 by John Barker Williams as a perpetual-care graveyard for the city’s black community.

Tags: ,