Saturday, April 14, 2018

Reverend Jeremiah King - Setting the Facts Straight

The Non-Endowment Section of Stockton Rural Cemetery 

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of misinformation spread about the life of Stockton's late Rev. Jeremiah King. According a few websites (including an article in a local newspaper) a person labeled as an "historian" was interviewed about King's life. Sadly, only one fact within the entire article holds up, and that was the mention of the establishing of the African Baptist Church in 1854. That's it.

From the claims that Rev. King struck it rich mining during the gold rush, to the theories he had purchased many properties throughout San Joaquin County and even an entire city block on the waterfront district, all the way down to the very stretching claim that in his spare time King used "militant" force by hiring spies and armed horsemen to go after illegal slave owners and free slaves within the county, none of these claims can be substantiated with factual evidence. 

Again, I cannot stress this enough -- if you do not cite sources, you cannot make these sorts of claims. 

According to records Jeremiah always claimed to have been from Georgia (although I did find one where it says Tennessee). Although we know where Jeremiah was born, it is very unclear exactly when he was born. 

The 1860 Census states that a man named Jeremiah King was living in the O'neil (or O'Neale) township of San Joaquin County, living with Abbey King, Jack Barret and Westley Hemphill. But this record claims he was born in 1794, in Georgia. (Marriage records indicate that Jeremiah King married Abby Tulop in San Joaquin County on January 29, 1860.)

The 1860 Census for that specific township, which was pretty huge, listed only five African-Americans as residents, Rev. King and his wife being two of the listed five people. In fact, According to the "Population of Race, Sex and Nativity" provided by the U.S. Federal Census Bureau., lists that in San Joaquin County during 1860 there were only 126 African-Americans, 9,106 Caucasians and 139 Chinese residing within the entire county. 

Going back to Rev. King....

Just a few years earlier, in 1854, Reverend Jeremiah King had founded the African Baptist Church, later known as the Second Baptist Church. According to the book, "The History of Stockton" by George Henry Tinkham, published in 1880, it goes on to state:

"This church was organized in 1854. They had no house of worship until 1859, when they purchased the pioneer church of the Presbyterians for $800, just $13,200 less than it cost nine years before. The lot was given by Captain Weber."

So as you can see, Reverend King did not have the funds to build the church nor purchase the land at the time of establishing his church, and it even took five years before they could obtain a set location for their congregation. That was when Captain Charles Weber generously gave the lot to Rev. King.

Rev. King (and his congregation) paid $800 for the church structure that was on the land. They were getting a pretty sweet deal since the building had cost the Presbyterians $14,000 to build just a shade under a decade prior.  He remained the pastor of the church for 25 years (from 1854-1879), and eventually retired. 

"Their first pastor was Jeremiah King, and from a young man in 1854, he has grown old in the service of this people. He has been absent from his pulpit only once, and during that time the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Samuel Read.  They have sixteen members of the church, and over thirty pupils in the Sunday School. In this school two white ladies in the name of Christ and the human family taught continuously for thirteen years; Mrs. True teaching five years, and Miss Stowe eight."- “The History of Stockton”, George Henry Tinkham, 1880.

The location of Rev. King's church was on the south side of Washington Street, east of Madison Street. On September 19, 1986, and a plaque was placed by officers and members of the Second Baptist Church in honor of Reverend King. The actual location of the church would literally be where the present freeway is now, since Washington street used to go straight, but now it curves north in that spot because of the freeway.

The "An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County" states:

"The Second Baptist Church (colored) was organized in September, 1854. Subsequently they purchased the famous frame church which Rev. James Woods had brought from San Francisco for the Presbyterians, the first in the State. This building they moved to its present location on the south side of Washington street between Commerce and Beaver streets, fitted it up and have ever since occupied it. Recently it has been remodeled and improved, at an expense of $525. Numerically this church has always been weak. At present there are about twenty-two members. Regular preaching, once a month. A Sunday school is maintained. The deacons are J. Burrows, T. Petter and C.H. Sublett. Rev. W.A. Mitchell has been pastor since 1887."--- published 1890. 

Moving forward....

The 1880 Census states that an African-American man also named "Jeremiah King" was listed living in the O'neil Township again, this time though it lists his age as 66 (same age he was in 1860) and now he has a wife named Rachel (who was crippled). 

Is this the same Jeremiah King? It’s the only person with that name in the entire county.

The name Jeremiah King comes up again in several of the California Great Register's but each year his listed date of birth changes. 1871, page 31 states his date of birth as 1806. 1872, pg 45 states his date of birth was 1807. 1873, pg 36 states that his birth date was 1808, while 1875 states his birth date was 1810. 1876, pg 34 states his birth date was 1811, while 1877, pg 37 states his birth date was 1812.  There is also two more registers, in Nightingale precinct of the O'Neil Township San Joaquin County in 1880 and 1882, both times his date of birth is different again. 1880, pg 34 says he was born in 1804, while 1882, pg 37 says he was born in 1806.

Very little is documented by primary sources in regards to Jeremiah King's personal life except for the fact that he was listed as a "Farmer" in the 1860 Census and a "Jobber" in the 1880 Census. The term "Jobber" by definition means someone who performs occasional side jobs, not someone who is employed full time in any set trade or profession. 

Besides census records or marriage records, there are no details about Rev. King's life while in San Joaquin County that have been located, therefore we cannot definitively give an in depth personal biography because of the lack of primary source material.

According to census records, during at least the last decade of his life, he lived on property next to the Pacific Insane Asylum which was located in Woodbridge just north of Lodi. In fact, both census records are for the O'Neil Township which spanned from Lodi, Woodbridge all the way clear out to the Collegeville area but was NOT part of Stockton. 

In all the records I have searched I have found no documentation that Jeremiah owned any property other than the one parcel of land that the African Baptist Church was located on, which again was given to him as a gift by Captain Charles Weber. He might have owned the land he farmed on in 1860 or he could have been sharecropping for another farmer, although I haven't located any land deed records with his name for the Woodbridge area as of yet. If I do find any, I will certainly update that information on the blog I am currently writing about King’s life. 

Rev. King's short biography which was written by the late Glenn Kennedy, a longstanding trustee of the Stockton Rural Cemetery, states: 

"Born in Georgia. He came to Stockton in 1854 and started the African Baptist Church which is now the Second Baptist Church. He was pastor for twenty five years and missed only one service in all that time.

In 1862, during the Civil War years, when feelings were running high, he came to the trustees of Rural Cemetery asking for a place for his people. His request was granted and in all the years that have followed, Rural Cemetery has reserved a special place for his people. He was loved and respected by all the people of the community as a builder of men."--- “Stockton Area Pioneers,” Glenn A. Kennedy (1992)

This is an important point to make since over the past few years there has been confusion and serious misinformation spread about Rev. King's life as well as the history of the so-called "colored section" at Stockton Rural Cemetery known as Block 27.

According to documented facts Rev. King was able to have a section "reserved" for his congregation, but the Block itself is NOT a segregated section at all. I have been researching burials in that section for years and I have found just as many Caucasian burials as I have African-Americans which proves that the area was not segregated. 

The fact of the matter is this, although a small area within Block 27 may have been reserved for Rev. King's baptist congregation, the block itself was not a colored section. Think of it this way, Rev. King's reserved area in Block 27 is no different than if a family reserved a large plot within a section of the cemetery, the block itself is comprised of every type of person you could imagine (Caucasian, African-American and yes, I even found a Hispanic male, too).

From Reverends to farmers, housewives to prostitutes, a fallen Police Officer, many European immigrants, a Judge, a Confederate Major and even a County Clerk, that section is full of history but one thing is for sure, it was not full of discrimination. 

And as far as the area of that cemetery getting very overgrown during the spring and summer months, there is a reason for that too, and it isn't because of racist neglect. Block 27 is merely a non-endowment section of the cemetery just like Block 36 or Block 14, both which are adjacent to Block 27. That means that section does not get the upkeep that other sections are supposed to get because all those people who purchased their plot in the non-endowment care area did not pay for perpetual care of their graves or the land surrounding it. Go to any historic cemetery and you will always find an endowment care and and non-endowment care just like Stockton Rural. (also the staff at the cemetery weed-eat the non-endowment areas at least twice during the spring and summer months).

As far as claiming only one section of the cemetery was for colored people, that appears to be false, too. I have found many African-American pioneers buried in Stockton Rural Cemetery in sections all over the cemetery, so that contradicts the idea that only one section of the cemetery was set aside just for “colored” people.

When I created Rev. King's Find-a-Grave memorial several years ago, I did a lot of research to find out who he was, and tell his story accurately. There hasn't been any more information available about his life by way of primary sources. This is the most detailed account of what I could find about Rev. King's life and his congregation at the First African Baptist Church in Stockton without adding speculation or theorizing about his personal life without facts to back them up.

In ending, please do your research when it comes to finding the truth about people of the past. It is our job to search diligently to uncover the documented facts and not spread fabricated stories that cannot be backed up by documented sources. This sort of thing only causes confusion or upsets others. Also, if the person presenting the history cannot or will not share their sources with the public that is a red flag that they are fabricating their story. All true historians ALWAYS cite their sources. 

Happy History Hunting! 

--If anyone has any primary source documentation that may conflict with any of my findings, please feel free to contact me with that information along with your cited sources and I would be happy to add the information to my blog. --

(Copyright 2015 - J'aime Rubio -
Photo: J. Rubio (Copyright 2015)

Note: I have published some of this bio on Find-a-Grave; content is still copyright protected.

"Stockton Area Pioneers"- Glenn Kennedy
History of San Joaquin County, 1890
History of Stockton - George Henry Tinkham, 1880
Federal Census Records (for California, San Joaquin County).
California Great Registers, 
Marriage Records (CA)
"Population of Race, Sex & Nativity", Federal Census Records (for California, San Joaquin County.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Two Graves of Henry Behnke

This mystery has been puzzling me for a while now and it was originally brought to my attention by my fiancĂ©.  Mr. Henry Behnke, one of Stockton Rural Cemetery's eternal residents has not one, but two headstones and they are in separate areas of the cemetery, too!  

Henry Behnke was born on May 20, 1829 and died on March 2, 1862. One of his headstones states his name "Henry Behnke" (found in Block 26, lot 24) while the other just says, "H. Behnke" (found in Block 24) - but both share the exact date of birth and date of death. 

Although a few people have pondered the thought that perhaps there were a set of twins, both with the same date of birth and similar names starting with an "H," that maybe in some freakish accident both lost their lives on the same day.  Although I guess anything is possible, I would say that it is near to impossible and in this case highly unlikely.

You see, the only record I can find where he is mentioned, there is not other mention of another male "Behnke" with him.  According to  "An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County, California" Henry is mentioned very briefly in the biography of a man named John Corsten Grupe.   Grupe went on to marry Catherine Behnke, who I believe was Henry's sister, and this is how Henry's name was mentioned within the biography.

"In the spring of 1852, he (Grupe) went to San Francisco and took ship for New York, going by way of Panama; from New York he shipped at once to Germany and in the fall of the same year returned to New York. In the meantime he had sold his store in New York to his brother, and after stopping there a few days, started on a return trip to California. This time he came by way of Panama. 

In New York he met a number of persons who came to California with him. Among them was Catherine M. Behnke, who he afterward married. The others were Henry Behnke, Hattie and Rebecka Behrmann, Lena Meyer, John Kulmoe, John Wilkins and Henry Meyer, -- nine in all; of these, four only are living.  They crossed the Isthmus on a mule train, then took ship and came to San Francisco, and landed at Stockton on November 10, 1852.

On December 1, he was married to Catherine Behnke, and Henry Meyer was married to Rebecka Behrmann, both on the same day. " --

So we now know that Henry came to Stockton on November 10, 1852 and he died on March 2, 1862. After searching archived Census records I was able to determine that both Catherine and Henry came from Germany just like Mr. Grupe. According to the 1900 Census for the Douglas Township in San Joaquin County, Catherine Grupe was still living, but now a widow. She was living with two of her sons by that point. She was listed as being born in 1831, just four years younger than her older brother Henry, and that she was from Germany.

Unfortunately, this is where I have hit a dead end with learning more about Henry's life here in Stockton, and why on earth he has two headstones. I have found three other Henry Behnke's who lived in San Joaquin County, between the 1850's up to about 18 years ago. 
I can only assume that some of these "Henry's" are related to him somehow.

1) Henry August Behnke was born in 1854 and lived in Stockton in the 1890's because he is listed as a registered voter in the 1896 voting registry.  

2) Henry Behnke, born in 1850 and died 1928 (San Joaquin County)

Could one of the above listed men be his son? 

3) Henry John Behnke was born on February 8, 1918 and died in January of 2000, in Lodi (San Joaquin County). 

Could he be a grandson maybe? 

After searching the abstracts of the Stockton Daily Independent newspaper, dated March 3, 1862, I located Mr. Behnke's death notice. (They misspelled his name though).

"DIED- in this city, at the Avenue House, on Sunday morning the 2nd, Henry BENCKE, a native of Hanover, Germany, aged 32 years. His funeral will take place from the Avenue House at 1 o'clock this Monday afternoon."---

Answers to the rest of this mystery are still eluding me at the moment. 

I recently reached out to the Stockton Rural Cemetery office to see if they could shed some light on the mystery of the two headstones, one being found in Block 24 and the other in Block 26.  After speaking to Clara Navarro, who works in the cemetery office, she had no information to give me. The cemetery staff state that their archive records are in storage, so basically they were not willing to search through the records for this information.

As disappointed as I was to hear this, it does not deter me from my search for answers. I will keep searching to find out just who Henry Behnke was, and why he has two headstones, and I will not stop seeking these answers until they are available. 

I hope you will check back with me in the future as I plan to continue updating this particular blog post with more information as it becomes available.

(Copyright 2018- J'aime Rubio. --