Ella Maude DuVall
Ella Maude DuVall
Christopher Miller and Ella Maude DuVall
were my father's grandparents - his mother's parents. Christopher
was born in Baltimore, the second of 10 children to Frederick J.
Miller and his wife Margaret Schaefer. Frederick was born in
Pennsylvania to a German father and a French mother - both from
Baden in Germany. Margaret was born in Hesse and
emigrated to the U.S. in 1854 as a young girl with her mother. They
were married on October
19, 1869 and their first son George was born in July of 1870.
Christopher followed a little over 2 years later in 1872, followed
by Frederick, Jr., Edward Conrad, Catherine, Annie, Rose Blanche,
Clara, Harrison B. and Cora. They were a close family - I
remember being introduced to ladies at my grandmother's church, only
to discover that they were all my grandmother's first cousins - all
Millers. Christopher was born in Federal Hill at 249 Battery Avenue
in one of the small homes built specifically for rental and occupied
by Baltimore's German and Irish immigrant population. The family
moved and he grew up at 602 Windemere Avenue, now 34th Street
near the site of old Memorial Stadium. Waverly Presbyterian Church still
stands on the corner and the house is still there immediately next
to the church. Part of Windemere
Avenue is gone - torn out for the construction of the Stadium. It
continues east of the old stadium site over to Harford Road. In
Christopher's day, the street ended at Avon, the estate of Marshall
and Mary Smith. Today, no such estate exists, it is 33rd Street and
the old stadium site. Further up 33rd street sat Holyrood, another
estate belonging to Henry Taylor and the present site of Baltimore
City College High School.
Ella was the eldest daughter of Charles Wesley DuVall, Sr. and his wife Margaret Sylvia. Charles DuVall, Sr. was born in Baltimore, the son of Thomas Jefferson DuVall and Jane Foreman; Sylvia was born in Baltimore as well but to a Portuguese father and an Irish mother. Charles Wesley, Sr. was a drygoods salesman but I have no idea who he worked for. He was one of 13 boys born between 1839 and 1862. All but six grew to manhood - giving Ella 6 uncles and 14+ first cousins. The family lived at 75 N. Caroline Street between Fayette and Orleans Street - those homes are long gone - torn out to make way for newer housing. Ella had 5 younger siblings: Laura M., born in 1880; Charity B. or "Chattie" as she was called, born in 1881; Jennie Hamilton, born in 1883, Charles Wesley "Wes", Jr., born in 1890; and Carrie A. DuVall, born in 1894. Ella lost two of her younger sisters, Laura and Jennie before 1900. Her brother Wes joined the Merchant Marines and served in the U.S. Navy during WWI. He was assigned to a sub chaser. He also served during WWII and came away with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was stationed for a good bit of time in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Charity married a man named Robert Key Groff and they had a daughter named Helen Margaret as well. Carrie married Charles R. Hand and had at least two children. All these folks are mentioned in a letter from my grandmother to Ella regarding my father's wedding. Ella did not attend my father's wedding, but she was 82 years old in 1959 so there is the possibility that she was already in a nursing home. She fell and broke her hip and was confined to a wheelchair - but I do not know when that occurred.
Chris and Ella were married in 1897. My grandmother Helen was born in 1898 and her younger sister Ruth was born in 1902. I never knew my great-grandfather, but per my father and his brothers he was a little, short man who was always very formal and very proper. The "short stature/medium build" is in fact confirmed on his WWI draft card. He was also a very well-liked person and was the founder of the Premiere Building and Loan Association, which was founded in 1900 and was still prospering in the 1960's. He worked for Wise Brothers as well, beginning as a bookkeeper and working his way up to a management position until the business was sold - his brother Edward managed a branch of the business located in Harrisonburg, VA.. In fact the entire family worked for the business - Chris's brother Harrison worked as a shirt cutter, George was a desk manager, Annie began as a saleswoman and by 1910 had become a seamstress, Chris's father Frederick was a watchman at the factory and nephew Albert was a bookkeeper.. The business was a 6 story factory located at 132 West Fayette Street (corner of West Fayette and Little Sharp Streets) and remained just at the western edge of the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904 - untouched because a bucket brigade poured water on the building to keep it from burning. Chris and his brothers were part of that brigade. Photos were taken from the roof immediately following the fire. Liberty Street was immediately to the west and Charles Street was immediately east. Wise Brothers was the first factory business in Baltimore City to employee African-American workers and was mentioned several times in the "Afro-American Newspaper" - most notably in 1918 because of an entertainment provided for all the factory workers by the bosses. I have pictures of family member dressed in costumes at the factory for just such an occassion.
The family lived at 1705 North Broadway until the turn of the century. It is here that my grandmother was born. They moved north to a new home at 505 East Franklin Terrace (now 41st Street) - one block from what was at the time - the city/county line after it was moved north from North Avenue, but spent a little time at 242 York Road in Baltimore County (per the 1900 Baltimore County Census), just south of what is now the Towson Branch of the Baltimore County Library. It is a business district now - the homes are all gone.
Chris died in 1944 when dad was just 8 years old. Ella died in 1968 at the age of 91. I vaguely remember seeing her once - she sat in a room full of elderly ladies all dressed in black in wheelchairs and I remember climbing up in her lap - only to be removed by my father - I was not yet three years old. She had suffered from what was either Alzheimers or dementia in her last days and would confuse my father with Wes or his brothers. I know now that the vision I have of her was in a nursing home. Dad did remember her and said that she was a grand lady but very strict. If he wasn't home from whatever he was doing by the appointed time, the house would be locked up tight and it would be very difficult to rouse anyone so he could actually get in the front door. If she went out anywhere, she always had to be "dressed". Dad apparently had great difficultly taking her to the movies and out anywhere because her dressing routine took hours. In some of the photos I have of her, however, she does look like she was a tremendous amount of fun - she's is always smiling back at the camera.
Both Chris and Ella must have been very strong willed, forward thinking people in their day. Both of their daughters went to college, drove, and traveled in an era when women were expected to marry and become mothers and housewives. If a woman went to college at all - it was to become a teacher. Neither was the case here - Ella and Chris sent their daughters to music school and art school where both earned degrees. They also sent a daughter to Europe in the 20's just after World War I and they traveled to Palm Springs, California and Havana, Cuba on several occasions. They obviously loved to travel - I have photos of the family at the beach, in Washington D.C., Gettysburg, and Monticello.
Site Content © Dubhodhar 1/22/2009