The search for a Redding survivor continues, Part 1: The Fords

redding

Cannonball Dick Redding

So it looks like Cannonball Dick Redding’s two siblings, Leon and Minnie, each died without having any children (as did Dick) after living most, if not all, of their lives in Atlanta (unlike Dick, the wandering ballplayer), which is where the trip of siblings were raised by their parents, Richard Redding Sr. and the former Laura Ford.

Minnie died in the ATL in January 1970 and the age of 82 never (apparently) having married, while Leon passed away without he and his wife, Jessie, having offspring. (I can’t immediately determine when exactly Leon died, but he shows up in the Atlanta city directory several times into the 1950s). And, of course, the Cannonball himself never never had kids with his wife, Edna. (Edna, by the way, appears to have remarried quickly after Dick died in New York’s Pilgrim State Hospital in 1948, to William Wortham, a wealthy real estate magnate in New York City.)

So Cannonball never had any children, nieces or nephews, which severely crimps our chances of finding a living descendant/relative who could shed some light on why the famed pitcher was committed to a Long Island psychiatric center and, perhaps more importantly, why and how he died there in 1948.

While ensuing posts will give an update on the other avenues of obtaining that info I’m taking — i.e. human sources, phone calls, emails, etc. — this one the next post will go via the documentation path to find out if Cannonball Dick Redding had any uncles, aunts or cousins, even distant, who could have been progenitors of a continuing family line …

Let’s begin with Dick’s parents, Richard Sr. and the former Laura Ford. The couple, according to an official marriage license — which lists Richard as “Rich Reddin” — was married March 3, 1883, in Washington County, Ga. (see below). The couple moved to North Butler Avenue in Atlanta sometime after that.

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But it seems like Richard Redding Sr. might have been somewhat of a wanderer. The 1900 U.S. lists Laura Redding as a laundress and the widowed mother of Minnie, Richard Jr. and Leon. However, by the 1910 Census, Richard is back in the picture, listed as “Richard Reden” with wife Laura and daughter Minnie on Butler Avenue. Richard is listed as a laborer at the water works, Laura is a laundress, and Minnie is a hotel maid.

Significantly, though, the document doesn’t appear to include Richard Jr. (Cannonball) or brother Leon in the home. But Leon’s WWI draft registration card lists him, age 18, as living at his parents’ home on Butler Avenue as of September 1918. Dick’s draft registration has him already living in Chicago, pitching for the famed Rube Foster.

That brings us to 1920, when Richard and Laura are living alone, sans kids, at 198 N. Butler in Atlanta. By the 1930 Census, the couple, still alone, had moved down a block to 92 N. Butler. Richard Sr. died in Atlanta in February 1936, less than two years after his wife. Curiously enough, Laura Redding’s August 1934 obituary in the Atlanta Daily World identifies her as the mother of famous pitcher Dick Redding and as the daughter of the beloved late Moses Ford, but there’s no mention of her husband.

So let’s take another step back — Richard Sr. and Laura’s parents, i.e. Dick Redding’s grandparents. I’ve already written about Moses Ford, Laura’s father, who moved from his birthplace in Washington County to Atlanta, where he became a beloved figure at the post office. In that post, I detailed how Moses Ford, according to an Atlanta Constitution article after his death, was a slave born to the family of Georgia political power player J.W. Renfroe (who will get his own post here soon) and had, for some strange reason, allegedly never declared himself free.

Because he was born a slave in Sandersville, Washington County, it will be very tricky to track down Mose’s parents, or any siblings for that matter, because he doesn’t appear as a free man until the 1870 Census, when he’s listed as living with wife Harriet and daughter Laura, who would become Cannonball’s mother. Moses is listed as a “farmer,” i.e. sharecropper, aged 25 — which would peg his birthdate around 1845 —  while Harriet is a 22-year-old housekeeper (i.e. birthdate 1848) and Laura is 8 years old (so birthdate of 1862) with no siblings.

In the 1880 Census (below), the 41-year-old Mose (which implies a birthdate of 1839, significantly earlier than the 1870 Census), a laborer, is listed with 40-year-old Harriet (so her birthdate is about 1840, also much earlier than the 1870 poll), a servant, and daughter Laura, 16 years old and at school (implying a birthdate of 1864). There’s probably no doubt that Moses and Harriet were born into slavery, while Laura would be a bit iffier, given that she appears to have been birthed during the Civil War.

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Moses Ford appears in other contemporary documents as well, though … Like, for example, the voting registers. In July 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, Moses Ford registered to vote in Washington County. Not surprisingly, given the fact that he was probably born a slave, Moses couldn’t write or sign his name and was forced to leave his mark, an X.

Moses also appears on several property rolls in the 97th Georgia militia district, Sandersville, under a list of freedman. Unfortunately, in each citation, he’s listed as owning very little, if anything, real property, but such is also the case with several of his neighbors and townsfolk.

The 1880 Census lists two more members of the Ford household. One is 4-year-old daughter Magness. Unfortunately, I can’t find any other record of her anywhere, at least online, so she might have died young, without any offspring or direct descendants.

The other person in the home is Moses’ brother, Cupid, who’s listed as 27 years old (so born circa 1853, probably in slavery). Cupid does show up in other Washington County documents, such as freedman registers, including two sheets on which he is listed very close to his brother. And, in July 1867, Cupid — written as “Cupit” — registered to vote in Washington County.

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From there, there are no more records of a Cupid Ford in Washington County. There are, however, numerous ones — mainly city directories and death registers in Savannah, Ga. — that list an African American named Cupid Ford, married to Anna Ford and born around the correct time.

Finally, one freedman register from Washington County also includes a Cranford Ford close to Cupid and Moses, but that proved to be a dead end. Sooooooo, unless I can follow the one Cupid Ford in Georgia and trace some descendants of him, the Ford family — Cannonball Dick Redding’s maternal family — is a giant dead end, especially because it doesn’t appear that Moses and Harriet had any more children.

However, now, what about Cannonball’s paternal ancestry, the Reddings? Here I found a little more to go on, but ultimately, still can’t find any lineage paths to the present day.

What I can say is this: That the Fords and the Reddings in all likelihood knew other other. Why? Why, because the Reddings, including Cannonball’s grandfather, Henry, also lived in Washington County, Ga. In fact, Henry is listed on property rolls in the same militia district, the 97th, as Moses Ford. So both of Cannonball’s grandfathers lived in the same town, Sandersville, which means Dick’s parents, Richard Sr. and Laura Ford, could very well have grown up knowing each other.

I’ll explore the Redding side of Cannonball Dick Redding’s family in Part 2 …

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