Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Death of Scott Washington

In my quest to learn more about the family of my great-great grandfather Scott Washington, I ordered his death certificate from MDAH (Mississippi Department of Archives and History. My goal was to obtain the names and birth states of his parents leading to possible siblings and other family members of the Washington family lineage. However, upon receipt and review of the death certificate of Scott Washington, I was met with a surprising revelation instead of the information I was seeking. Instead of the names and birth states of his parents, the below modification appears in its place.

The modification to the cause of death reads as follows:

Scott Washington.
Item 17. Cause of death, Homicide (Murdered)
A.R. Brown Local Registrar

The original item 17 reads as follows:

. . . and that death occurred on the date stated above {8/4/1917} at 7:30 AM
the CAUSE OF DEATH was as follows:
Gunshot wounds on right breast - illegible. . .

Signed A. Davis, Astly Brown M.D.

August 6th 1917 Address Natchez, Miss

Scott Washington was murdered. This death certificate raises more questions than it gives answers. One thing that does come to mind immediately is a family story that appeared in the 2003 edition of the Washington-Rounds Family Reunion. The story being oral history doesn't go into detail about how, but a white man named Jake Laub acquired Scott's land (known as Ben's Corner). However, Scott's son Will Washington was able to reacquire the land by 1918. The modification also indicates is that there was some investigation into his death since the homicide appears as a modification. This opens up another set of records that I can use for research, police records, if they are available. Other records I plan to research are deeds and court documents surrounding the property.

I was able to gain some vital information. Scott's mother was born in Virginia according to the informant L.J. Mazique. It also gives the cemetery, Mt Sinai Baptist Church and the burial date of August 7, 1917. Mt. Sinai church has been rebuilt since the death of Scott Washington. I would have to also find out if the location of the new building is different from the old location. Also, I would like to find out about Bluff City Undertakers company. Bluff City is a nickname for Natchez, MS. Apparently this company buried African-Americans in Natchez and surrounding areas.

On a personal note, saddens me to think that a family member was murdered most likely for his land ownership. My initial review of his death certificate was shock, then anger because of my own personal knowledge regarding the treatment of African-Americans in Mississippi, especially at the turn of the 20th century.

The Family Griot


Shantybellum said...

Dear Ms. Lanier,

You might want to check with Mimi Miller, who is the director of the Natchez Historic Foundation. She's a wealth of information on the history of Natchez and its citizens. Even if she's unable to give you information on your relative directly, she may be able to point you in the right direction.

Good luck with your search, which I hope is fruitful.

Ms Vicky said...

How Sad to hear of the way your ancestor died. You now have another round(no pun intended)of avenues to check. I like Shantybellum stated, I hope it is fruitful

The Family Griot said...

Thank you Shantybellum for the contact information. I will definitely be in touch with Mimi as I'll be heading down that way for a family reunion. I'm going to have to talk to some elders about this first to get the oral history on this to get more clues about exactly what happened.
Thank you Ms Vicky for your condolences. But that's how it was in Mississippi in those days.

Casey Ann said...

There are several people in Natchez who could help you in your research. Stop by the Library and ask for me.

Anonymous said...


Do you think that the modification may just be an overlay and that there could be his parents' names underneath it? It could be worth a try contacting them again to see if they can provide a copy without that piece of paper covering the names.

Good luck with your search!

Mavis said...

I recently experienced the same thing in my own research except it was one of my grandmother's first cousins. One place that you might want to try to begin is the library. Best wishes in finding out more about what happened to him.

Luckie said...

Not a pretty picture I know FG, but thank God you are here to shed light to your Grandfather's story.

You're not allowing Mr. Washington's plight to be washed away by history & that is a blessing.

Keep us posted on your progress of learning about what events lead to this tragedy.

Bring him peace by telling his story.


Angela said...

Luckie is quite right---tell his story so he will not be forgotten under a cloak of names unsaid and deeds unaddressed.

May all of the Scott Washingtons and victims of such acts be remembered.

Kelly said...

Sorry for posting this here, but I couldn't find your e-mail address...

Congrats you are Ancestor Approved...

The Ancestor Approved Award asks that the recipient list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlighted you and pass the award along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud.

You are tagged on my blog...

Anonymous said...

I just received notice that I received the Ancestor Approved Award from colleague Mavis Jones of the Georgia Black Crackers website []. Please check out this site. And thank you, Mavis Jones.

Then go to to receive your award!

The recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award must list ten things learned about their ancestors that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened. The recipient then passes the award to ten other bloggers that are doing their Ancestors proud.

So, here's your reward!

"Guided by the Ancestors"

The Family Griot said...

Thank you George and Kelly for nominating my blog for the Ancestor Approved Award! What an honor!

The Family Griot

Anonymous said...

Hello. I am the great-grandson of Scott Washington. He was killed by his son-in-las over a dispute. The man was the son of his third child (and second daughter).

The Family Griot said...

Anonymous, thank you for the information. Please send me an e-mail at I'm Scott Washington's great-great granddaughter. I have many questions about the Washington family.

Daniel Simon said...

The Jake Laub you mention in your article was one of my great uncles who lived in Natchez. He was a Jewish businessman who must have tried to acquire the land after Scott Washington's death. I don't believe he had anything to do with his death though. It is interesting because Jake, according to my father, owned a night club for African-Americans; this was in the 1940s as my father lived there in 1948 briefly when his father died. He had a night club with an apartment above it, and I believe the building is still there in Natchez. Not sure what the night club was called, but it was strictly for black folk. Jake died in 1949; so it must have become something else. My father still has some old chairs from the night club too. I'm not sure if you know much about that or know much about African-American night clubs of that time period? My email is