Grace Mason Papers/ Franklyn Atkinson Henderson Photograph Collection

Dates: 1830-1992
Size: 4 linear feet
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628
Collection Number: 1992/06
Provenance: Donation of Grace Scott Mason, November 5, 1992. Register of members of Chicago Old Settlers Social Club added by Michele Scott Madison, 1998
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Grace Mason Papers/Franklyn Atkinson Henderson Photograph Collection [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Processed by: Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project


Grace Scott Mason and the Atkinson Family

Grace Vivian Mason(née Scott) and her sister, Michele Antoinette Madison (née Scott), were fiercely proud of their family history as some of the earliest African Americans to settle in Chicago. They called themselves “third generation Chicagoans,” members of a community which came to be known in Chicago as the “Old Settlers.” They traced their family history to Isaac and Emma Jane Atkinson, who arrived in Chicago in 1847, the thirteenth Black family to settle in the city. These first Chicago Atkinsons originally resided at State and Quincy streets in downtown Chicago. Isaac Atkinson was the son of Richard Atkinson, born in Scotland, and Cecelia (last name unknown), a member of the Cherokee nation. Isaac Atkinson came to own his own bus line in Chicago, before the advent of streetcars. He later worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.

Emma Jane Atkinson was active in the Underground Railroad, aiding fugitive slaves. She was one of the famous “Big Four,” a group of women members of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church who sheltered runaways and steered them to safety in Michigan and Canada. Other women in the group included Mary Richardson Jones, wife of John Jones, and Joanna Huss Hall, wife of Rev. Abram T. Hall.

Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth Henderson (née Atkinson), born in 1856, was Grace Mason and Michele Madison’s grandmother. She lived until 1941, and was memorialized in the Chicago Defender as “the oldest Chicago-born Negro woman living in the city,” and a “founding member of the Chicago Old Settlers Social Club.” Mary Elizabeth Henderson and James Henderson had two children: Essie, who was Grace Mason and Michele Madison’s mother, and Franklyn (sometimes spelled “Franklyn” and nicknamed “Petey”) Atkinson Henderson, their uncle.

In the 1930s, Franklyn Atkinson Henderson, an illustrator, interior designer, and photographer, launched a concerted effort to preserve the history of the Atkinson family, and of the Chicago Old Settlers Social Club. He collected photographs of nineteenth century Black Chicagoans and sought to document the contributions of the Old Settlers. Many of the photographs in his collection were exhibited at the 1940 American Negro Exposition, held in Chicago. A larger group of the photographs was exhibited in 1943 at the South Side Community Art Center; that exhibit received a major feature article in the Chicago Herald American newspaper. At the time of the exhibit, he was serving as secretary and official historian of the Chicago Old Settlers Social Club. Franklyn Atkinson Henderson, lauded as the Atkinson family historian, died in 1962.

Grace Mason and Michele Madison grew up in the family’s home at 3334 South Vernon Avenue, until they were forced to move to make way for the huge Lake Meadows housing development. Many of the family’s documents and keepsakes did not survive the move. Grace and Michele took over responsibility for preserving family history after Franklyn Atkinson Henderson’s death. They combined materials in their possession with the photographs owned by Franklyn Atkinson Henderson. They studied census and burial records, created a family tree, composed a brief family history, and researched the family gravesites in Graceland Cemetery. They donated sets of the photographs and documents to both the Chicago History Museum and the Chicago Public Library’s Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature.


  • Hendry, A.B., “Old Settlers Club Exhibit Marks 111 Years of History,” Chicago Herald American, February 7, 1943
  • Lyon, Jeff, “Generations: A quiet quest to honor a family’s legacy,” Chicago Tribune Magazine, February 23, 1992


The Grace Mason Papers/Franklyn Atkinson Photograph Collection documents the history of nineteenth century African Americans in Chicago with an extraordinary collection of photographs and a small group of documents. Also included are photographs and documents which illustrate the continuing history of the Atkinson family in twentieth century Chicago.

Series I: Photographs taken by, or collected by, Franklyn Atkinson Henderson

The photographs in this series were taken by, or collected by, Franklyn Atkinson Henderson. Many of them were exhibited at the 1940 American Negro Exposition held in Chicago, and in a 1943 exhibition held at the South Side Community Art Center. The photographs are arranged in the order in which they were received.

Series 2: Photographs of Atkinson family members collected by Grace Mason and Michele Madison

These photographs were collected by Grace Scott Mason and her sister, Michele Madison, from family albums held by the descendents of Isaac and Emma Atkinson. They document family members in twentieth century Chicago. The photographs are arranged in the order in which they were received.

Series 3: Photographs of Atkinson family documents

The documents in this series are of two types: the first group presents research on Atkinson family history done by Grace Mason and Michele Madison; the second group includes clippings, financial documents and invitations collected by Franklyn Atkinson Henderson. They are arranged in the order in which they were received.

Series 4: Historical documents on Chicago’s “Old Settlers”

The extraordinary document in this series is a copy of the register of “The Chicago Old Settlers Social Club, Organized February 11, 1904.” It includes an account of the initial organizing meetings, and a full list of the members of the club throughout its history. Also included here is a newspaper article on the 1943 South Side Community Art Center exhibit on the Old Settlers, and an article on Grace Mason and Michele Madison. The two articles are arranged chronologically.


Series 1: Photographs taken by, or collected by, Franklyn Atkinson Henderson

Box  1 Photo 001 Title page, “The Franklyn Atkinson Henderson Photographic Portrait Collection of Prominent Negro Chicagoans, dating from 1875-1900; exhibited at the American Negro Exposition, Chicago, 1940”
Box 1 002 Rev. Abram T. Hall, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, “Underground Railroad activist”
Box 1 003 Daniel Hale Williams, M.D. (1858-1931), “one of the founders of Provident Hospital”
Box 1 004 Austin Curtis, M.D., “first Negro on staff at Cook County Hospital”
Box 1 005 Hon. John Jones, “first Negro elected to public office in Illinois”
Box 1 006 Attorney Lloyd Garrison Wheeler, “first Negro admitted to the bar and to practice law in Illinois”
Box 1 007 Attorney Edward Hopkins Morris (1858-1943), “wealthiest member of his race when he died in 1943.” Served in Illinois legislature, 1890-1902
Box 1 008 Eliza Campbell-Taylor (1859-1893), “first Negro schoolteacher in Chicago”
Box 1 009 Joanna Cecilia Snowden (1864-1941), “first Negro bank clerk, first Negro probation officer. One of the founders of the Chicago Urban League; founder of the Northwestern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs; co-founder of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People”
Box 1 010 Mary Davenport, first Negro police matron, appointed by Mayor Carter H. Harrison
Box 1 011 Agnes Berry Moody (1856-1901), ”original Aunt Jemima at the Paris Exposition, 1889”
Box 1 012 Cassius J. King (1845-1924), “first Negro child born in Chicago, 1845”
Box 1 013 Rev. J.B. Dawson, Sr. (1819-1850), “among the first commissioned merchants on South Water Street”
Box 1 014 Joseph Hudlun, “built the first home owned by a Negro in Chicago (1854)”
Box 1 015 Anna Elizabeth Hudlun, (Joseph Hudlun’s daughter), 1914
Box 1 016 Rev. Richard DeBaptiste (1831-1901), “organized first Olivet Baptist Church. His grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, and was bodyguard to Lafayette.”
Box 1 017 Georgianna DeBaptiste Carr, “daughter of Richard DeBaptiste. She was president of Old Settlers Club”
Box 1 018 Richard Barry Harrison (1864-1935)
Box 1 019 Dr. George Cleveland Hall (as a young man), “medical director of Provident Hospital, member of the Chicago Public Library Board”
Box 1 020 Ida McIntosh Dempsey, “founder of the Old Settlers Club”
Box 1 021 William Albert and Nettie Amelia Jones
Box 1 022 The Younger Family
Box 1 023 Charlotte and Masces Tervalon
Box 1 024 Mary Richardson-Jones (1820-1910), “wife of Honorable John Jones”
Box 1 025 Gabrielle Knighten-Smith
Box 1 026 Joseph Moore (1848-1915)
Box 1 027 Unidentified woman
Box 1 028 Carrie Jenkins-Skinner (1860-1911), born in Chicago
Box 1 029 Unidentified woman
Box 1 030 James E. Jones (?), 1910
Box 1 031 Andrew C. Drisden
Box 1 032 Unidentified man
Box 1 033 George Allen
Box 1 034 Jennie Waring
Box 1 035 Naomi Crutcher-Baker
Box 1 036 William Watkins (1846-1895), Chicago Fire Department
Box 1 037 Mary Bond
Box 1 038 David McGowen, Jr.
Box 1 039 Lewis Isbell (1818-1905), “bathhouse owner in 1840s”
Box 1 040 Charlotte Knighten
Box 1 041 Luella Pointz-Owens
Box 1 042 Unidentified woman, 1862
Box 1 043 Lawrence Gilbert Harrison (1901-1937), Richard Berry Harrison’s (of “DeLawd” fame) son
Box 1 044 Mary Jane Waring (1838-1896)
Box 1 045 Kitty Ludlum (?)
Box 1 046 Elizabeth Garnett-Pointer
Box 1 047 Valetta Winslow (Drisden) (1878-1937)
Box 1 048 Lourena Simpson-Brown (1842-1930)
Box 1 049 Laney Nelson
Box 1 050 Henry Watts
Box 2 051 Jenny Wilson
Box 2 052 Hattie Warner-Perry (1859-1933)
Box 2 053 James Taylor
Box 2 054 Aida Overton Walker, vaudevillian, “Queen of the Cakewalk”
Box 2 055 Conjoined twins (women), unidentified
Box 2 056 Unidentified young girl
Box 2 057 Photos of exterior, Old St. Thomas’ Church (Dearborn Street location), and Rev. J.E. Thompson, “First Priest-in-Charge”
Box 2 058 Exterior, Old St. Thomas’ Church
Box 2 059 Rev. J.E. Thompson
Box 2 060 Souvenir Program from 1899 dance event, a social function given by The Columbia Club, with inset photos of Julius N. Avendorph, President, and other members of the first social club of Chicago’s Black elite
Box 2 061 John G. Jones (1849-1920), served in Illinois House of Representatives, 1901-1903
Box 2 062 Isaac Atkinson (Richard Atkinson’s son) at age 52, and his wife, Emma Jane Atkinson. Photos taken in 1869
Box 2 063 Sarah Atkinson (Richard Atkinson’s daughter and Isaac’s sister), and her husband, Eugene Cunningham. Photo taken in Cleveland, Ohio, 1875
Box 2 064 Josephine Atkinson (Isaac and Emma’s daughter, and Jacob Greenwood’s wife) at age 19. Photo taken in Chicago, 1864
Box 2 065 Frances Isabella Atkinson (Isaac and Emma’s daughter)
Box 2 066 Nellie Atkinson Johnson (Isaac and Emma’s daughter) at age 15. Photo taken in Chicago, 1878
Box 2 067 Mary Elizabeth Atkinson Henderson (Isaac and Emma’s daughter), and James Henderson (Mary’s husband). Photo of James Henderson taken at military Camp Lincoln, 1897

Series 2: Photographs of Atkinson family members collected by Grace Mason and Michele Madison

Box 2 068 Essie Vivian Henderson and Ira Adolphus Scott, wedding photo, 1924. Also included is photo of wedding invitation, September 24, 1924, to be held at 3334 Vernon Avenue
Box 2 069 Five photos of Grace Scott, from infancy to “Sweet 16”
Box 2 070 Two wedding photos of Grace Vivian Scott and Carey Xavier Miller II
Box 2 071 Michele Antoinette Scott, at “several months of age,” November 8, 1944
Box 2 072 Four wedding photos of Michele (Scott) Madison and Alan Arthur Madison, January 25, 1964
Box 2 073 Exterior photo of “family homestead,” 3334 South Vernon, Chicago, with list of “previous homesteads”
Box 2 074 Carey Xavier Miller III and Cathy Theresa Miller, “Grace and Carey II’s younger offspring”
Box 2 075 Six photos of “All 3 Miller offspring”: Karen, Cathy and Carey IV
Box 2 076 Five photos of Alan Arthur Madison, Jr. (“Michele and Alan, Sr.’s oldest offspring”)
Box 2 077 Five photos of Pamela Madison
Box 2 078 Two photos: Susan, Nettie and Delsinia Poindexter, Columbus, Ohio, 1867; and Joseph Poindexter, son of Dr. James Poindexter, Columbus, Ohio
Box 2 079 Richard Atkinson, husband of Cecilia Atkinson, and father of Delsinia Poindexter, Madison Cunningham, and Isaac Atkinson
Box 2 080 Maude Adelia Greenwood, “Josephine [Atkinson] and Jacob’s [Greenwood] daughter.” Photo by J.B. Wilson, Chicago
Box 2 081 Emma Sarah Atkinson (“Isaac and Emma Jane’s daughter”)
Box 2 082 Three photos of Nellie Atkinson Johnson
Box 2 083 Two photos: Franklyn Atkinson Henderson (“Mary and James’ son, family historian”) as infant and Essie Vivian Henderson (Mary and James’ daughter) as young girl. Photo of Franklyn by J.B. Wilson, Chicago
Box 2 084 Five photos of Essie Henderson, from 1920s(?) through old age
Box 2 085 Photo of Grace Scott, inscribed by her in 1940, and two photos of ChicagoDefender clippings about her as high school graduate in 1942, and as debutante in 1943
Box 2 086 Grace Scott and Carey Miller with their whole wedding party, including Michele (“little sis of Grace”)
Box 2 087 Two childhood photos of Michele (Mickey) Scott
Box 2 088 Grace and Michele Scott (“Sisters”)
Box 2 089 Karen Vivian Miller (Grace and Carey II’s oldest daughter)
Box 2 090 Three photos of Cathy and Carey III Miller as children
Box 2 091 “The Gang”: Karen, Cathy, Carey II and Auntie Michele. Photo by Louis J. Hogan
Box 2 092 Unidentified young girl, “seeing Santa, December 1971 (two months prior to her death in February 1972)”
Box 2 093 Two photos ofunidentified young girl, “Spring 1979, age 5”, and “Dance Recital, Lehnoff School of Dance [in Chicago], 1988”
Box 2 094 Photo of portrait of Emma Jane Atkinson

Series 3: Photographs of Atkinson family documents

Box 2 095 Title page: “Atkinson Family History”
Box 2 096 Chart listing children of Isaac and Emma Jane Atkinson
Box 2 097 Atkinson Family Tree, by family historian Franklyn Atkinson Henderson. Tree prepared by Grace Scott Mason and Michele Scott Madison, 1989
Box 2 098 Typed synopsis of “Atkinson Family History”
Box 2 099 Graceland Cemetery Family Plots (name of deceased, date of death, date of interment, age at death, location)
Box 2 100 List of “First Negro Families to Settle in the City of Chicago,” 1838-1862
Box 3 101 Josephine Greenwood and Ida Mabel Greenwood, marriage and funeral notices, 1875, 1879, 1913
Box 3 102 Citizenship record for George Johnson, husband of Nellie Atkinson, Omaha, Nebraska, 1918; also included is Letter from Mead and Coe, Chicago, to Mrs. Josephine Greenwood, on pending real estate sale, 1906
Box 3 103 Receipts for payments on real estate in New York (1830 and 1831), and Illinois (1897)
Box 3 104 Article on Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, 1984
Box 3 105 Entry on Blanche M. Reid, cousin of the Atkinsons, in Frankfurt, Kentucky book ; letter written by Emma Atkinson to her sister Josephine, 1869
Box 3 106 Five clippings on Atkinsons and Old Settlers, from Chicago Tribune, 1936; Chicago Herald American, 1943; two obituaries for Nellie Johnson, publications unknown, 1948; obituary for Mary Elizabeth Atkinson Henderson, publication unknown, 1941
Box 3 107 Bill to estate of Emma Atkinson, from Mead & Coe, Real Estate and Loans, Chicago, 1906
Box 3 108 Invitations to club events in Chicago: The Oriental Club, 1878; The Junior Half Century Club, unknown year; The Choral Study Club, 1910

Series 4: Historical Documents on Chicago’s “Old Settlers”

Box 3 Folder 1 “The Chicago Old Settlers Social Club, Organized February 11, 1904,” Record of first meetings and full alphabetical list of members, with number of years in Chicago, year arrived in Chicago, year joined club, address of member
Box 3 Folder 2 “Family Album: A Personal History of Black Chicago, 1847-1992,” Chicago Tribune Magazine, February 23, 1992. Article features Grace Mason and Michele Madison, and has a description of memorabilia in their home
Box 3 Folder 3 Program, “Funeral Services of the late Mrs. Maude Roberts George,” Grace Presbyterian Church, Chicago, December 4, 1943
Box 3 Folder 4 News clipping, “Accident Fatal to Mrs. Irene Lewis,” Chicago Defender, January 16, 1943
Box 3 Folder 5 News clipping, “Mrs. Richard B. Harrison, ‘DeLawd’s’ Widow Dies, Chicago Defender, January 6, 1940
Box 3 Folder 6 Program, “Esther Day, Annual Sermon of O.E.S.”, [Order of the Eastern Star], Delivered by Rev. Adelbert Roberts, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, June 2, 1907
Box 4 Folder 1 Hendry, A.B., “Old Settlers Club Exhibit Marks 111 Years of History,” Chicago Herald American, February 7, 1943. Article highlights exhibit at South Side Community Art Center assembled by Franklyn Atkinson Henderson
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