John Howcott & Mary Jane Garrett


John Howcott

John, son of William Howcott and Axie Beasley, was christened at Grace Church, Plymouth NC on 3 April 1859. The church record described William as “servant of Ch[arles] Howcott” and Axie as “servant of Mrs M Beasley”; it stated that the sponsors were Mrs Mary Beasley [1] and Mrs H A Littlejohn.


John married Mary Jane Garrett at the Colored Baptist church, Plymouth on 5 February 1880, their respective ages being recorded as 22 and 17. [2] When the census was held in June of the same year, the couple were living at Plymouth and John was working as a shingle hand. At that stage of their lives, neither John nor Mary could read or write.


Records differ as to whether John and Mary Jane had six or seven children. [3] It has only been possible to establish the names of the four of them who survived infancy:






Lulu Q


(1) Moses Cheek 1904

(2) Charles A Henry


Axie Hattie Frances


Robert Ellsworth Hobson 1904




Susie Randall 1910


Martin Luther





All four children were born in North Carolina. [5] At some stage between 1892 and 1900 John and Mary moved north to Boston, Massachusetts, where they remained for the rest of their lives. At the time of the 1900 census they were living at 137 Northampton Street, along with their four children and John was working as a machinist. In contrast to the position twenty years before, both Mary and he could read and write.


In 1910, John and Mary along with their sons were living at 52 East Lennox Street. John was working as a switchman on the railroad and Mary as a laundress.


By 1920, John, Mary and Martin had moved back to Northampton Street, where they lived at number 48, with their daughter Axie and her family residing in the same house.


John died at Boston on 28 May 1928. At the time of the 1930 census, Mary and her youngest son, whose name was recorded on that occasion as “Luther”, were living at 140 Harrishof Street, along with her daughter Lulu and her husband Charles A Henry. Mary Jane died on 1 January, probably in the year 1932, and was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Hyde Park.




[1]  Mary Alexander Beasley (1811-1892) was the second wife of John Baptist Beasley (1796-1855), whom she had married in 1828. Mary Beasley held 30 slaves in Washington county at the time of the 1860 census.

[2]  The most precise records of John’s and Mary’s dates of birth are found in the 1900 census, which say that he was born in March 1860 and she in March 1863. Other sources vary by a few years and John’s baptism date rules out 1860, unless he were the younger brother of a child christened in 1859 and that child did not survive infancy. As they are earlier records, which would have rested on information provided by John and Mary and probably also older family members, the ages given for their marriage in February 1880 are probably more reliable than the censuses; they indicate that John was born in 1857-8 and Mary Jane in 1862-3. The June 1880 census gives their ages as 23 and 18, which taken along with those stated at their marriage narrows their birth dates down to the earlier parts of 1857 and 1862 respectively. However, the 1870 census – when John’s mother was the head of the household - gives John’s age as “15”, pointing to him having been born in 1854-5. On balance, the strongest evidence is that John was born in 1857 and Mary Jane in 1862.

[3]  The 1900 census reports that Mary Jane was the mother of seven children, but the 1910 census gives the total number of her children as six. Both sources confirm that only four of the children were still alive at the time.

[4]  Martin Luther Howcott was described as single in 1920 but as a widower in the 1930 census.

[5]  In the 1920 census, the birthplace recorded for Axie and Martin was more precisely recorded as Plymouth.