Who the heck is Frank Smallwood? And who is …?


In a continuation of this post, I’ll explore — or try to, anyway — why Cyclone Joe Williams is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in obscure Suitland, Md., along with two guys who seemingly have no connection to him whatsoever, Maryland native Frank Smallwood (1868-1946) and Virginia native Moses Crockett (1878-1955).

First off, there’s no indication that Cyclone lived in Maryland, and he likely never visited it unless he swept through briefly because his wife, Beatrice, was originally from the D.C. area (D.C. is only a single mile from Suitland). Second, Suitland is about 230 miles from New York City, where Williams spent his last years and where he died. The small Maryland town (pop. about 26,000) is, to say the least, a LOT farther away than that from Cyclone’s birthplace and youth stomping grounds in southern Texas.

As a jumping-off point, I’ll use fellow researcher and Cyclone enthusiast Bill Staples’ thought that Williams ended up entombed with Smallwood and Crockett because those two have some connection to Beatrice, who is listed in various Census reports as originally hailing from either D.C. or Virginia, i.e. somewhat to very close to where Smallwood and Crockett were from.

I tried to do a little digging about Smallwood and Crockett and ended up finding out very little concrete about the latter but a fair amount about the former.

To sum up things before going into exquisite (maybe) detail, I discovered that Suitland, Md., is Smallwood’s hometown, which answers, at least on the first level, why Smallwood is there. I also uncovered that Smallwood might have been a naughty boy who occasionally ran afoul of the law.

To start, Frank Smallwood shows up in the 1880 Census as the 4-year-old son of and F. Smallwood and Maria Smallwood in Prince George’s County, Md., where Suitland is located. Frank has three younger brothers, while his father is listed as a farmer who’s apparently employing a lodget to help out. Frank’s entire listed family is from Maryland.


Frank turns up, sort of, in the 1900 Census in Charles County, Md., which neighbors Prince George County to the south. Frank is the 29-year-old (so, according to this, né about 1871) head of a one-person household. He’s listed as a “day laborer.”

But there’s a few, shall we say, oddities about the listing. First of all, he’s amidst a whole bunch of people (black and white, male and female) in a similar situation to Smallwood — they’re all heads of one-person households, which several of the males also described as “day laborers.”

The second weird thing: Every single entry/person is crossed all the way out. What?!?!?


OK, move on to the 1910 Census … there’s a 45-year-old (so born around 1865, which is somewhat different than the 1900 Census, but still fairly close) Maryland-born African-American Frank Smallwood in Washington, D.C., with a 31-year-old wife named Emma (robbing the cradle, are we?) from Virginia. It appears to be the second marriage for both of them. Frank is listed as a janitor, while Emma is a servant for a family. They are, interestingly, almost the only non-whites on the page.

This is where things get somewhat interesting. The March 9, 1916, Washington Post, under “The Legal Record” heading, states that a Frank Smallwood just pleaded guilty to grand larceny. The March 21 issue of the paper states that Smallwood was sentenced to one year at Occoquan Workhouse in Prince William County, Va. In both articles, Smallwood’s lawyer is an E.M. Hewlett, which is a possible path for further investigation.

The workhouse — later renamed Lorton Reformatory — was established as a detention center for D.C.’s criminals. It also had a notorious reputation for housing “rabble-rousing” women active in the suffrage movement. And it didn’t just house them — it possibly brutally abused them. In fact, in 1917 (just one year after the article), more than 70 suffragists were confined at Occoquan after an “illegal” picket. The center didn’t close until 2001.

So Frank Smallwood is, essentially, in a working prison. Aha! That could account for Smallwood’s odd listing in the 1900 Census — he was in a similar facility for previous criminal activity. But why are the names crossed out?

Now, in 1917, an African-American, Maryland-born man named Frank Smallwood registered for the draft. But the draft card is — and this seems to be a trend with Mr. Smallwood — weird. One, “don’t know” is written in the space for date of birth, and “don’t know-Maryland” is listed as his place of birth. There is no contact person listed, or any family at all — the card says he’s single (no Emma?). We should note here that the card says he can’t read or write, and he certifies his mark with an X.


The register then states that he pursues “farm labor” on the farm of a C. Jensen in LaPlata, Md., which is the county seat of … Charles County, where he was probably imprisoned in 1910, according to that year’s Census. More than likely, Jensen contracted with some governmental agency to use his farm as a workhouse for convicts. That’s another avenue to explore.

On to the 1920 Census, in which Smallwood is listed with wife Emma (counted as 53 and 43 years old, respectively) in an entirely black neighborhood on 44th Street in D.C. Frank (still a Maryland native) is a fireman at a railroad shop, and Emma (still Virginia-born) is a “chairwoman” at some short of “dept.” (I can’t make out the preceding word.)

Then, in the 1930 Census, Frank (58 yo) and Emma (49 yo) appear to be living in the same neighborhood as 10 years earlier. Frank is a fireman at the “U.S. Treasury” and Emma is a housemaid.

Then there’s a coda — the June 28, 1935, issue of the Danville Bee includes a front-page article about a second man, “Frank Smallwood, colored” who escaped from some sort of criminal detention center along the Dan River. From the article:

“Smallwood had been doing time since November 18 last being convicted of assaulting a railroad man with an iron bar when the latter sought to prevent the breaking open of a box car. He still had three months to serve.

“He was missed from the kitchen detail at supper time and it was estimated that he had escaped about an hour earlier.”

Danville is now an independent city along the Dan River. It was also the location of a Confederate detention center for captured Union soldiers during the Civil War.

I could find no other further record of Frank Smallwood.

So to circle back — at long last after my ramblings — Hall of Fame pitcher Cyclone Joe Williams is buried with an apparent repeat criminal in said criminal’s hometown in Maryland.

But a bunch of questions remain. The first one, of course, is why we should care about all this? I can only answer for myself — because hopefully it will shed some light on the Cyclone’s personal life, especially in his final years and why he’s buried where he is.

The second question: If we go aaaallllllll the way back to the original theory that Smallwood and Crockett are buried with a legendary baseball player because the first two are somehow connected to Williams’ wife, Beatrice, we still have no real answers to that specific question. None of this links Beatrice to Smallwood, and it doesn’t tell us much about Moses Crockett, at least not yet.

That touches on a bigger mystery — who the heck is Beatrice Williams, the Hall of Fame hurler’s wife. Because so far, I’ve uncovered just about jack squat about her. But that’s for a future post …


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