Julia Magruder, novelist

Have any of you read the novels of Julia Magruder (1854-1907)? I have heard of her often, but never sought out her works, principally romantic novels in which (of course) the heroine must overcome obstacles to true love. Many of her sixteen novels were serialized Ladies Home Journal, and were known for their defense of Southern culture. Much admired in her day, she is nearly forgotten in ours. Wikipedia says that a week before her death she was awarded the Ordre de Palmes (Order of the Palms) by the French Academie for service to literature, though I have not looked into that claim. (The same page says her birth in 1854 was around the start of the Civil War, so draw your own conclusions.) My attention was struck by finding an announcement of one of her novels in the Washington Bee newspaper, a black-edited paper that published in Washington, DC, from 1882-1922 and was read mostly by African Americans. I guess everyone loves a romance.

The youngest daughter of Alan Bowie Magruder, a prominent lawyer, and Sarah Gilliam, Julia Magruder was born in Charlottesville, VA, but lived most of her life in D.C. Her home, in what is now the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, still stands. She was also the niece of the Confederate General, John Bankhead Magruder.

So, I’m taking the plunge with her first novel, Across the Chasm (published anonymously), about a southern woman’s marriage to a northern man. Magruder is said to have been a great admirer of George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), but I suspect her work did not achieve the moral clarity or social complexity of that great writer. (That’s an example of understatement, in case you needed one.) It’s free on Google Books and almost free for your Kindle.

Have you joined the Magruder/McGruder Facebook groups?

Go ahead, take the plunge! It’s an exciting time in Magruder/McGruder family research. You’ll find ongoing queries from white and black descendants seeking and offering help on family trees, how to use records, locations of farms and plantations, DNA, grave sites, and more. Even if you avoid social media in general, I think you will like this community of warm and helpful fellow searchers. Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy / African American Magruder/McGruders

Who Are Black Magruders & McGruders?

For black Magruders, McGruders, McCruters (and other name variants) there are three likely origins of the name: a blood relationship to white Magruders; adopting the name at Emancipation; or acquiring the name earlier, perhaps in the 17th or 18th century, and carrying it from then on, no matter where descendants ended up.

Not all black Magruders and McGruders are related to the Alabama Black McGruders featured on ABC’s Soul of a Nation. In the two Facebook groups, African American Magruder/McGruders or Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy, you can connect with people currently searching for ancestors in Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, Indiana, and elsewhere. Read through the old posts to see if anyone might be related to you, and post your own questions there. You’ll find a warm and helpful group of fellow searchers.

The Alabama Black McGruder tribe trace their families to Charles McGruder, Sr., who established a homestead in the Sawyerville area for his several wives and many children. Some of his descendants use other spellings, including McCruter. Charles’ parents, Ned and Mariah Magruder, were born in Georgia around 1795, on the plantation of Ninian Offutt Magruder. Ninian migrated from Maryland to Georgia in the early 1780s, along with his first cousin Ninian Beall Magruder. In Columbia County they joined an already established community of Magruders and related families, including the surname Drane, and all these families intermarried extensively.

Ned Magruder was the son of Ninian and an unknown enslaved woman. (When The Alabama Black McGruders book comes out, you can read speculations about who Ned’s mother might have been.) Ned and Mariah, along with their children, were taken to Alabama by Ninian’s youngest daughter, Eleanor Magruder Wynne. One of Eleanor’s brothers, Zadok, also settled in Alabama; the enslaved people he took with him have not been researched.

If your family goes back to either Georgia or Alabama, you might find DNA matches among the Alabama Black McGruder family. If you think you are directly related to them, post on one of the Facebook groups and one of the family members or researchers there will help you figure out the family tree.

If you get a DNA match, but are not descended from the Alabama family directly, there are at least two places you can start looking. If your family is from Macon County, your people may have come from the plantations of William Reardon Magruder, son of Zadock Magruder, who was Ninian’s son and Eleanor’s brother. If that doesn’t sound like your locale, you can start searching records pertaining to the slaveholding Magruder, Drane, and related families in Georgia. If you have traced your family back to, or close to, Emancipation, and/or you know where they were living, I might be able to help you identify some families to start searching. Georgia and Alabama records are relatively easy to use on FamilySearch.org (much better than MD records). Some of the Georgia Dranes and Magruders also migrated west into Mississippi, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

For information on the Alabama DNA project, contact Jill Magruder Gatwood by posting on one of the Facebook groups—African American Magruder/McGruders or Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy. I cannot help you with the DNA project; if you write to me I will simply forward your message to Jill. I am happy to do this if you can’t use Facebook, though I urge you take the plunge and join these two marvelous groups.