(11) comments Back to story

Bailey Jones

I recently reactivated my Ancestry.com account to do a census search of our house. I was happy to discover that Ancestry now has Galveston city directories from the 1800s to 1960, with every property listed both by tenant and by address. I was able to discover that our house goes back to 1914. Our little house will never be a "landmark", but it was fun to see who lived there, and what they did for a living, and what those businesses are now. One resident worked at Davidson Dry Goods, and that building is still there. Another worked at a wholesale grocer, which is now Hearsay. Another worked for a sulfur company - who knew Galveston used to produce sulfur (and still does)? In 1930, in the house across the alley, there lived an African American man, William "Sonny" Johnson, who was a detective on the city police force - I bet there's a story there that deserves telling. I recommend doing the research for anyone who has a curiosity about their home, and a few late nights to spend chasing down historical rabbit holes.

Carlos Ponce

"Negro" police detectives W.B, "Sonny" Johnson and Sanders "Sweetmeat" Davis along with 4 other policemen were charged with accepting bribes from Risieri Celli, grocery store owner (31st and M) in 1939. The bribes were connected to a "policy wheel" at Celli's grocery. A "policy wheel" was apparently a gambling device described as "A revolving drum used in the selection of winning numbers at policy," "winning numbers were set by the daily outcome of a random drawing of numbered balls, or by spinning a 'policy wheel', at the headquarters of the local numbers ring. The daily outcomes were publicized by being posted after the draw at the headquarters, and were often 'fixed'. " A numbers racket.
W.B. Johnson resigned from the police force, Davis was not "reappointed" to the force.
Each detective was no-billed by the grand jury

Bailey Jones

That's interesting, Carlos - what's your source? I was aware that this was during the mobster days, so the corruption isn't a surprise. Presumably it's the same guy, although his middle initial was S, not B, and his death certificate at age 70 in 1956 still lists his occupation as police. The 1945 and 1949 directories still list them both as policemen. Maybe it's a case of once a cop, always a cop. I'd like to learn more. Interesting that Sonny lived just a few blocks from the grocery, at 26th and M.

Carlos Ponce

Source? The Galveston Daily News:
November 2, 1939
November 8, 1939
November 9, 1939
January 26, 1940
October 13, 1940

Michael Gaertner

If you're wondering how Carlos Ponce gets his info, I have a suspicion. For anyone who doesn't already know, a great source of historic information is the Texas History Center at the Rosenberg Library. With the number on the back of your library card (you have one, right?) you can access any number of electronic databases, including the Sanborn maps, city directories, historic and more recent newspapers. All of this without leaving home. Just Google Rosenberg Library. You can look at newspapers from all over the country, not just Galveston.

If you live in Galveston and don't have a library card, go get one soon! While you're there check out the computer center with their large format color printers (posters anyone?) and lots more. The library is a resource for the whole community and no, I don't work there.

There is even a way to use Ancestry.com for free, although I think you might have to access it from a library computer.

Carlos Ponce

I use my Rosenberg Library Card to access Newspaper Archives which includes Galveston Newspapers of the past.
https://rosenberg-library.org/

Bailey Jones

sweet!

Bailey Jones

[thumbup]

Elizabeth Kelly

Thank you!

Charlotte O'rourke

An absolutely beautiful home. Congratulations.

Mary Branum

Honored to have our home included in the 100.

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