Friday, January 15, 2021

Extraordinary Man, Common Surname


When we seek to learn more about the lives of our ancestors, it is sometimes an exciting discovery to find that an ancestor's life attracted enough interest to merit being written up in publications lasting far beyond their own lifetime. That, at least, was how I felt, even though it wasn't concerning one of my own relatives, when I discovered the book about the man known as King Stockton. The nine-page booklet, though sharing stories of King Stockton's early life in territorial Florida, still left me with one question: just how did it come to be that a millionaire would choose to make an obscure preacher the focus of the booklet he had written?

At first, I assumed the connection between King Stockton and A. L. Lewis, his biographer, was through a business association. After all, Abraham Lincoln Lewis was involved in establishing a number of successful ventures, and was also known for his humanitarian efforts in the Jacksonville area. Though quite a bit was written up about A. L. Lewis' accomplishments—even his obituary appeared in newspapers from Florida up to the New York City metro area—I couldn't discern any place where his path might have crossed with that of King Stockton.

From that point, having learned that King Stockton's mother-in-law was also a Lewis, I thought perhaps there was a family connection, and decided to pursue his biographer's own family history.

Though much has been written about A. L. Lewis—even his entry at Find A Grave is informative—besides the usual accolades for his business acumen, the only family relationships mentioned were those of the relatives involved in key positions in his business, the Afro-American Life Insurance Company.

As it turns out, there were a number of trees on which included a Florida-born man by the name of Abraham Lincoln Lewis, but almost all of them labeled A. L. Lewis' parents as Author and Mary Lewis. Indeed, there was an 1880 census entry for a family of three with those names listed for the adults, plus their nineteen year old son Abraham.

Only problem with this Columbia County record: that Abraham would have been born about five years before the Abraham we are seeking. According to A. L. Lewis' burial information, he was born in 1865, not 1860.

Though I couldn't find another family with a promising entry for a son by that name in 1880, I could find an "Abram" Lewis in a family in the 1870 census for Madison County. That family, headed by South Carolina natives Robert and Judy Lewis, included children Frances, Luellen, Eliza, and, of course, Abram. A promising corroboration of that listing came from the other end of A. L. Lewis' life with one of the many obituaries published at his passing. According to the obituary published in the Pittsburgh Courier on March 15, 1947, besides his widow and sons, he was survived by one sister, Eliza Dixon of New York City.

Sure enough, Eliza's entry at Find A Grave also listed her parents as Robert and Judy Lewis. That confirmation, however, still did not help me connect A. L. Lewis' family with that of King Stockton's wife Louvenia. Louvenia's death certificate had listed her mother as Melissa Lewis, and a mis-labeled census entry for the 1885 Florida state census included King Stockton's mother-in-law under the same given name.

So how did they relate? At this point, I can't tell. Perhaps the fact that both families claimed the same last name was merely coincidence—the artifact of a fairly common surname. The question now becomes: if not by blood, how exactly might King Stockton have been connected to a man like A. L. Lewis? Though it is doubtful that it would be by business, there is another avenue to consider, which we'll explore on Monday.

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