Jennie and Dennis Carter

Jennie occasionally used stories from her husband’s life to illustrate her writings. In 1866 she had married Dennis Drummond Carter in Nevada County, California. Dennis was born free in Virginia in 1814. After the death of his father, his mother took her family to Philadelphia to preserve their freedom. He came to California around 1852, not long after the harrowing incident recorded here.

He was a popular musician and band leader in Nevada City. He was also considerably taller than the average man. In the following column Jennie calls him Mr. Trask (since she wrote as Ann J. Trask).

Mud Hill, December 12, 1868.

Mr. Editor.– “Six feet two inches;” so said Mr. Trask to an inquiry in regard to his height. I told him I thought he was mistaken; he said not, for he was measured, and had his measurement recorded at Harper’s Ferry in the summer of ’51, as he was returning from Sulphur Springs, Va., where he had been for several weeks with the other members of Frank Johnson’s band.

Judge his indignation when he arrived at Harper’s Ferry; he was asked who he belonged to, if he had any scars upon him, and then measured, and told he would have to stay over night as no colored person could travel after 4 o’clock P.M. He stood up and in his wrath I guess he was six feet three inches, he pronounced curses on that State. They then threatened him with the lash, and he told them to proceed, that the first one to lay hands on him would die. And their courage was no greater then than years after, when John Brown, with a handful of men frightened the whole State, for they told Mr. Trask they knew he was a free nigger, he was so independent, and they have long since suffered all the curses Mr. Trask pronounced upon them. . .

Born free, living in Philadelphia, associating with men and women, respected as a gentleman, the insult will never be forgotten. And when anyone asks him his height he will say six feet two inches, and think of that occurrence.

Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, p. 53
Morning Union (Grass Valley) 16 April 1873

I wish I could find a photograph of Dennis and Jennie Carter but I haven’t seen one so far. Dennis Carter was active in community affairs, serving on juries, running for office, active in the Republican Party and the Masons. He died in 1894, having survived his wife by 13 years.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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1 Response to Jennie and Dennis Carter

  1. Fascinating story, thank you

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