• Ricki King

Potpourri of news articles with a dash of family history



This post is a little different. I have The [Iowa] Bystander from November 25, 1920-December 30, 1920 focusing on articles that catch my eye. The first story is about John Quincy Lindsey. He was the first Black deputy sheriff in Polk County. The paper had three articles on him. I added a little research and follow-up comments about him. Why, November 25-December 30, 1920? Because as I write this, it is November 25, 2020, precisely one hundred years. Although I read the paper for December 30th, the stories only go to December 16. Nothing caught my eye in the December 16 and December 30th issues. The talk was about Christmas, who was going where and who came to visit.


First Negro Deputy Sheriff Here

"Chaplain Winifred E. Robb, sheriff-elected, the only democrat to be elected in Polk county at the November election has already proven to the people of Polk county that he aims to fill his office with competent assistance regardless of party lines. He has chosen one of our race as one of his deputies in the person of J. Q. Lindsey. We are indeed grateful to Mr. Robb in selecting such a worthy young man to fill this position, the first in the history of Polk county."[1]


Follow-up: In the 1920 census, John Qunicy Lindsey was listed as a married, 33 years old mulatto from Mississippi. His mother was from Nova Scotia, Canada, and her native language is French.[2] A quick search did not reveal any John or J. Q. in any other Ancestry.com records. Two years later, John is no longer a deputy sheriff. He is working as an examiner at the Iowa Bonus Board.[3]


This story was of interest because he was the first a hundred years ago. The information made me wonder if Deacon Arthur Rabon from church and a Polk County sheriff new was the first Black person on the force.


Our First Deputy Sheriff.

"Lindsay, formerly first lieutenant of 366th infantry has been appointed deputy sheriff of Polk county by Chaplain Winifred E. Robb, sheriff-elect. This is a recognition to which the colored people are justly entitled but one which in view of the fact that the victorious candidate received only a small per cent of the total Negro vote, was surprising. Chaplain Robb has done what no other sheriff in the history of Polk county has done-appointed a Negro to a place above that of bailiff-and his act merits the approval of all members of the race. The Bystander was opposed to the election of the Rev. Mr. Robb, as it was to the candidacies of all Democrats. Credit must be given where credit is due, however, and while congratulating Sheriff-Elect Robb on his appointment of Polk county's first Negro deputy sheriff, we desire to call attention to the fact that the Republican county officers-elect, who received more than ninety-nine per cent of the colored vote, have thus far failed to announce the appointment of a Negro deputy, stenographer or clerk in any of the county offices. Receiving about one per cent of the colored vote and giving the race a deputyship, Chaplain Robb has placed himself in an advantageous position, should he become a candidate two years hence and desire to secure the support of the colored people.


A splendid opportunity has come to Mr. Lindsay and the Bystander believes that he will do everything in his power to discharge his duties in a manner that will do everything in his power to discharge his duties in a manner that will bring credit to himself and his chief. By so doing he will open the door of opportunity a little wider to members of our race."[4]


Comment: The original story of Lindsay's appointment as a deputy sheriff ran in the November 25, 1920, The Bystander. In the next issue on December 2, 1920, The Bystander ran what I would call an opinion or editorial piece with no one person given credit. The third story ran on December 9, 1920; it detailed Lindsey's military service from April 1906-September 1919, including his work as an assistant instructor at the officers training school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.[5]


Macon, Mo. News

"Mrs. Alice H. Crewes surprised her little son with a few of the neighbor children the occasion being Harris Xenophone birthday Monday night …"[6]


Follow-up: Harris went on to serve as an Army Private from Missouri in World War II.[7] When he registered for the draft, he was 29 years old and living with his mother, Alice Harris Crews. On the back of the draft registration card, he is listed as 5'8" and 170 pounds.[8]


The story got my attention because of Harris's middle name Xenophone. It made me think of an instrument, no particular one. Image my surprise when I googled to see if there is an instrument with a spelling close to Xenophone. What do you know there is a synthesizer called Hypersynth Xenophone.


Negro Minister Abscounds.

"Burlington, Iowa, Nov. 26.- Rev. W. M. Ward a so called minister of the gospel, has departed for parts unknown and in his possession is a large sum of the Union Baptist church funds. Anybody seeing him walking on the road headed toward the state of Mississippi, notify the chief of police of Burlington, Iowa, for he has a warrant out for the arrest of the Rev. W. M. Ward."[9]


Follow-up: I got nothing. The Union Baptist Church is in my hometown, and I have attended it.


Corinthian Baptist Notes.

"… Mr. and Mrs. Charles Warden, the daughter and son-in-law of Mrs. Nora Reynolds Whitefield, formerly of Omaha, Neb., have moved to the city to make it their home. We are glad to welcome business people like Mr. Warden to our city."[10]


New to me, and I have been researching for over 15 years. This is the first time I have seen information about someone moving to town within church notes. You should always read the whole newspaper and not look for a section such as an obituary or society news. Why? Because you never know where the information you are looking for is placed or hidden within the newspaper.


Family clues in the note about Mrs. Charles Warden:

1. Husband is Charles Warden.

2. Mrs. Nora Reynolds Whitefield, mother of the wife.

3. Moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to Des Moines, Iowa, in September or December 1920.

4. Search for records if you didn't know already in Omaha, Nebraska.

5. Is Reynolds the maiden name or name from a previous marriage of her mother?


Who's Who in Des Moines Locals.

"Miss Agnes M. Mason, who is soliciting through the state of Iowa for dormitory for colored girls under the auspices of the Florence Crittenton Mission was in Ames, Boone and Perry last week. Miss Mason is working for a worthy cause and should receive assistance from all with whom she comes in contact. She will be in Ft. Dodge next Sunday."[11]


Follow-up: It is 1920, and black women do not have a dormitory to live in at college. The story does not state where the dorm rooms are needed. I am guessing because she is soliciting the state and is in Ames and the surrounding areas, it is Iowa State University the article is not mentioning.


Who's Who in Des Moines Locals

"Mrs. Thornton Adams and brother Jacob Humburd, returned Sunday night from a three day's trip to St. Joe, Mo., where they attended the funeral of their nephew, Robert Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey died Nov. 26 in Chicago, Ill., and his remains were shipped to St. Joe for burial."[12]


1. Married name- Mrs. Thornton Adams.

2. Brother name and maiden name- Jacob Humburd.

3. Nephew's name and sister's married surname- Robert Dorsey.

4. Lived in St Joseph, Missouri, at one time.

5. Robert Dorsey died in Chicago, Illinois, on November 26, 1920.

6. Robert Dorsey buried in St. Joseph.

7. Mrs. Adams and Mr. Humburd lived in Des Moines, Iowa, on December 9, 1920.


I love it when I can find teaching examples showing the importance of newspaper research. Funny, I do not read any current newspapers. I think they are not as interesting or offer as much positive news stories as they used to in the not so distant past.


Public Opinion.

The Colored Movie Problem.

"When, oh, when, will the colored man wake up to the fact, that if he doesn't patronize his own movie houses, run and controlled by his own race, he needn't expect the man of the other race to do so.

The Lincoln theatre is run on a first class basis, shows first class pictures that are seen at the leading Des Moines theaters, and yet they will pass it up and walk or ride downtown where they are segregated.

There was a couple made to stand outside in the front entrance of a certain theatre during the entire preformance of a picture, because there were two couples of whites sitting back in the segregated section, and the usher, rather than ask them move up, or give the colored couple seats ahead of them, they refused their entering, until after that picture had been shown and these said couples vacated those seats. Yet the movie fans will stand such tommy rot rather than patronize their own theatre where they are made welcome, and their money entitles them to any seat in the house.

The "Lincoln" is a beatiful theater and should be a credit to that part of Des Moines and to the entire colored population.

Will you continue to pass it by and eventually see it fail? I AM TAL[K]ING TO YOU.

Jonnie J. Shaw?"[13]


Comment: I thought the above opinion story would be about the lack of Black actors or movies. I was ready to compare it to what Black actors were saying 100 years later. Instead, I found a bit of Black-owned business history. In 1920 the writer was asking Blacks to support Black-owned businesses. This summer, Blacks are again calling for Blacks to support Black-owned businesses. However, this time whites are also trying to find and support Black, and people of color owned businesses. Little has changed over the preceding years, except it is harder to find a company owned by people of color because they are no longer segregated in one central.


Aside note: I did not know there had been a Black-owned movie theater in Des Moines. The theater was located at 12th and Center. By the time my family moved to Des Moines in the late 1970s, most of that area was gone or moved. The city took it as part of the revitalization project when the freeway came through the area.



[1] “First Negro Deputy Sheriff Here,” The [Iowa] Bystander, November 25, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 25 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 1, col. 2. [2] 1920 U. S. census, Polk County, Iowa, population schedule, Des Moines, enumeration district (ED) 105, p. 85 (stamped), dwelling 11, family 13, John Q. Lindsey (age 33); digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 November 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication T T625, roll 508. [3] R. L. Polk, complier, Des Moines (Iowa) City Directory including Valley Junction (Des Moines, Iowa: Polk's Directory Co., 1922), digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 November 2020), 776. [4] “Our First Deputy Sheriff," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 2, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 25 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 4, col. 1. [5] “First Negro Deputy Sheriff In Iowa," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 9, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 30 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 1, col. 5. [6] “Macon, MO. News,” The [Iowa] Bystander, November 25, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 25 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 5, col. 1. [7] Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com: accessed 25 November 2020), Harris X Crews (22 Nov 1910–22 May 1971), Memorial no. 184114950, citing Woodlawn Cemetery, Macon, Macon County, Missouri, USA; Maintained by Nancy Meadows (contributor 47219916). [8] "United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1940," digital image, Ancestry.com (https://Ancestry.com : accessed 25 November 2020), card for Harris Xenophan Crews, serial no. 696: Local Draft Board no. 3, Macon, Macon, Missouri; the source of these images is not cited. [9] “Negro Minister Abscounds," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 2, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 25 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 1, col. 5. [10] “Corinthian Baptist Notes," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 2, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 25 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 8, col. 1. [11] “Who's Who in Des Moines Locals," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 9, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 30 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 3, col. 3. [12] Ibid. [13] “Public Opinion. The Colored Movie Problem," The [Iowa] Bystander, December 16, 1920; digital image, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 30 November 2020), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, p. 4, col. 1.