Recollections of Ella Baylor

From Porch Swings To Patios: An Oral History Project of Charlottesville Neighborhoods, 1914-1980, Wilma T. Mangione, editor, The City of Charlottesville, 1990.

Ella Baylor, now deceased, grew up in the section of Charlottesville called "Kelly Town." She taught elementary school for fort-one years, and was sharply aware of the needs of the black community. Her recollections reflect these needs and how conditions have improved.

"I've lived at 838 Ridge Street since 1959. Before that I lived on Anderson Street, from 1939 to 1959. I lived on Preston Avenue from 1914 to 1939. Until 1914 I grew up in the country. I was born in Goochland County, as was my mother. My father was born in Fredericksburg. I belong to the Ebenezer Baptist Church. I taught school for 41 years at Jefferson Elementary, and retired in 1964

. "Our neighborhood was called Kelly Town because my brother and sister married Kellys who had a large area of land there. This included Preston Avenue. Everyone else calls it Kelly Town also. Everyone who lived here knew each other. The people who worked didn't work in the neighborhood. They had to work somewhere else because no jobs were available.

"Important to the community is Washington Park. Mr. McIntire gave the park to the black people. There were alot of vacant places and open space. There was one house next door, and one lot belonged to Inge near Rugby Road. Ridge Street consisted of homes.

"Some residents who made this neighborhood what it is included my brother-in-law's grandmother, Millie Kelly, who was a good nurse. She could make medicine--a bitter dipper--she put water in roots and made bitter medicine for stomach aches and colic. Most of the residents here just worked or taught; there were several teachers.

"What has changed the neighborhood mostly is that so many homes have been built here, and also Trinity Church. There is only a little Kelly land left, and they're trying to develop where the Monticello Dairy is now. They cut new streets all through there. Where the Dairy is used to be Westfield. They used to have mini-carnivals there because it was one big open field. From Lankford Avenue on up, where the black people lived, they took old houses out. Out from here there used to be carnivals in a big field, but now it is developed. It used to be all mud roads.

"The community groups consisted mostly of church clubs. Also the Elks and Masons. There were other social clubs similar to card clubs. Most of the people here came from within the city. One was from Lynchburg, and one family came from Louisa. No one moved out.

"Most of the people used cars around here. Before cars, I recall a lady with a surrey and two horses. At that time most everybody walked. There weren't too many children in the neighborhood. Most of them played in their backyards. They played ball and rain games, and also regular games.

"The city of Charlottesville has changed a lot over the years. So many areas have been built up. When I first moved here, Barracks Road was woods and they used to have horse races out there. There were no homes down Rugby Road except Miss Gardenias School and there was a house for the president of the University. The big house on the corner of Rugby and Preston was built for President Alderman. Much of the land belonged to the Rosters. My sister used to work there. In a positive way, the city changes have improved the streets and things like that. They have put in sidewalks, whereas before, it was all mud. Another nice addition is a high-rise apartment complex for the elderly.

"The most popular recreational sports included baseball and fishing. They played baseball in vacant lots and fished down in the James, near the Woolen Mills. We went for picnics in the summer, and had dances at the Elk's Lodge or in homes. The Elk's Lodge was down on Second Street. The important employers in the area revolved around the railroads and the laundries.

"What has been important to Charlottesville is the schools, because of the children. There are churches who help children whose families cannot give them everything they need. In the 1950's there were day care centers here on Ridge Street. The school nurse, Nurse Green, started a private day nursery. The programs at the churches on Preston and Trinity are not private.

"The streets and sidewalks have changed the city. Where they were mud, sand, and dirt, a car couldn't drive through this. In the fifties and sixties all the homes were built on Preston and Rugby Road. On Ridge Street there have been a lot of homes built in the last six years.

"A bad memory of the city and its surrounding area is how bad discrimination was. But now you can go to all the parks. Our recreational facilities were limited. The University was all white, also. I remember when the first black graduated. The University and the hospital has just grown and improved. There used to be the black wards in the basement--one for women and one for men, with pipes. There were some private rooms for richer black people, but very few. Some people came in from Richmond and ended that discrimination.

"In the black neighborhood, from Lankford to here, there was nothing but mud and only room for one wagon on the streets. The white neighborhoods were lovely. Things got a little better when we got cars. Black people live in the Ridge Street area and around the railroad, in Preston Heights, around 11th, 12th, Page Street, and Venable School. Kelly Town was all black. The Kellys were a black family.

George Ferguson Recollections Thomas Ferguson Inge, Sr. Recollections Rebecca McGinness Recollections Brief History of the Rivanna River

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Last Modified: Thursday, 28-Jul-2005 17:00:33 EDT