DeKalb County’s Houseworth family: Three generations of Black history

Last summer I wrote about the “Black Side of Town” in Avondale, inspired by Carl Houseworth, an African American laborer who lived in Avondale in the 1930s-1950s, and for whom the “Carl’s Corner” gateway is named. As I wrote before, Carl was part of an extended family of Houseworths who lived in and around Ingleside long before Avondale Estates was founded in the 1920s.  As a young man Carl lived with several Houseworth uncles (John and Arthur) and his grandmother Letcher at several locations in this part of DeKalb County–Indian Creek Church Road, Grand Avenue and Clarkston Road were two – and the extended family remained in this area for at least three generations. Since writing that post, I have done more research into the Houseworth family across the generations.

The site of the Housworth-Moseley farm in Arabia Mountain. Daniel Houseworth may have been enslaved at this site. Although the property had four slave houses, none are extant. “Housworth-Moseley House Historic Structure Report” (2007). Heritage Preservation Projects 20.

Carl was the grandson of Aaron Houseworth, a farmer living in the Evans District in DeKalb County, an agricultural area east of Avondale Estates. Aaron married Adlecta (Letcher) Paden in 1872. Aaron and Adlecta would have been enslaved as young children, reaching adulthood after Emancipation. Aaron’s father, Daniel Houseworth, who lived in Fulton county after Emancipation and worked as a farm laborer, was enslaved for much of his life. Formerly enslaved persons often carried their enslaver’s surname, which suggests a possible origin for the family on the estate of Philip Housworth, a wealthy landowner in DeKalb County.

Housworth-Moseley house
Housworth-Moseley House today. “Housworth-Moseley House Historic Structure Report” (2007). Heritage Preservation Projects 20.

Houseworth was born in New York in 1774 and sent after the death of his parents to live with family in Greenville, SC. He gained land as part of the Georgia land lottery in 1821 and eventually settled in the Klondike area of DeKalb County, south of Lithonia near Arabia Mountain.[1] Housworth the name has also been spelled Hauswort) was one of many settlers of German descent who farmed in the area and seems to have grown exponentially wealthy over the latter decades of his

List of slaves held by Philip Houseworth and his sons, 1848
List of slave holding in Halsey district, 1848. Philip Houseworth held 10 enslaved persons, and his sons Michael and Abraham were also listed.

life. By the end of his life Housworth had moved beyond early subsistence farming to produce cash crops, perhaps cotton, as was common in that area. After the Civil War the farm started producing sorghum.  Four slave homes were located on his property, which was substantial (2000 acres). In 1830 his estate listed 2 slaves; in 1850 this number had grown to 12 slaves and then doubled by 1860.[2] One of

the men enslaved by Housworth was “Daniel,” a blacksmith.[3] Could this Daniel be Carl’s great grandfather? It seems at least possible, and likely that Carl’s ancestors were associated with a Housworth estate – Philip or his sons Michael and Abraham, who lived nearby and also owned small numbers of slaves in 1860.

List of Freedmen, Evans District, 1873-76
Aaron and Sampson Houseworth listed as “freedmen” residing in Evans district. Georgia, U.S., Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, DeKalb County, 1873-1876.

Aaron Houseworth appears as a “Freedman” on the Property Tax Digests for Evans District in 1873 with his father Daniel and a brother, Sampson (Sam).[4] In 1880, at 29, Aaron was a sharecropper on 16 acres of land, paying rent in the form of product.[5] Aaron and Letcher eventually had 11 children, one of whom was Anna, Carl’s mother.[6] Aaron’s eldest, Elihu, farmed in Ingleside along Covington Road. Three of Elihu’s other sons, Frank, NL, and Charlie, worked as trackmen on the Stone Mountain streetcar line and later moved to Detroit as part of the Great Migration.[7] After Aaron’s death Letcher stayed close to her sons. In 1910 she was living next to Elihu on Covington Road. Elihu Houseworth’s neighbors on Covington Road in 1910 included Frank Henry Porter, his wife, and 8 children.

1910 Census
Elihu Houseworth listed in the 1910 Census as living along Covington Road, near Frank H. Porter. His mother Letcher, is also listed.

Houseworth and Porter were roughly the same age but Porter’s situation substantially better as one of the first African American landowners in DeKalb. Porter owned 50 acres of the former Joseph Walker plantation from Covington Road to Indian Creek.[8] The Houseworths may have been members of Mt Pleasant Baptist Church (the oldest African American church in DeKalb County) on Porter Road just outside Avondale Estates; Carl Houseworth is buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery as are his aunt Mamie and uncle Emzeal. These connections place the Houseworths in the context of a larger network of African American families and neighborhoods in Scottdale, Ingleside/Avondale and east to Stone Mountain. I look forward to exploring this geography further.

Carl, two generations from enslavement, could read but not write. He spent his life taking care of white property. The house he lived in, on Franklin Avenue, was demolished sometime in the late 1950s and 1960s, likely driving his move to Scottdale, where he died in 1963. The segregated Eskimo Heights neighborhood of Scottdale also was home to many Black families from Decatur who had been displaced by urban renewal after 1961 as part of the “Decatur Plan.”[9] The Houseworth family story encapsulates major themes in the Black American experience – enslavement, emancipation, sharecropping, migration, segregation, and urban renewal – a testament to the power of an individual life to provide a lens into a larger history.

If you knew Carl Houseworth or a member of his extended family, I’d love to hear from you!


[1]Avery, Hermina Glass; Danylchak, Erica; Barrickman, Janet; Brown-Bryant, Renee; Byrne, Rebecca; Chuckaew, Parinya; Cooper, Natalie; Eigel, Emily; Hawthorne, Mary Ann; Haynes, Patrick; Johnson, Jeff;

Souther, Anthony; and Wilson, Jared, “Housworth-Moseley House Historic Structure Report” (2007). Heritage Preservation Projects, 20, 10-.

[2] 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. Houseworth held 2 enslaved persons in 1830 1830; Census Place: Dekalb, Georgia; Series: M19; Roll: 17; Page: 55; Family History Library Film: 0007037

[3]“Housworth-Moseley House Historic Structure Report” (2007). Heritage Preservation Projects, 20, 16.

[4] Georgia, U.S., Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, DeKalb County, 1873-1876

[5]  1880; Census Place: District 637, DeKalb, Georgia; Archive Collection Number: T1137; Roll: T1137:12; Page: 13; Line: 2; Schedule Type: Agriculture

[6] Marriage decree, Aaron Houseworth and Adlecta Paden, February 10, 1872. DeKalb County. Record of Marriages, Book B, 1856-1872. Georgia, Marriage Records From Select Counties, 1828-1978 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

[7] Charlie became a railroad porter, a common occupation for African American men during this period.

[8] Herman “Skip” Mason, African American Life in DeKalb County, 1823-1970 (Arcadia Publishing, 1998), 82; “Residents say development threatens DeKalb’s oldest black church and former homestead,” Cathi Harris, decaturish June 20, 2019

[9] Decatur Plan: Folklore, Historic Preservation, and the Black Experience in Gentrifying Spaces,” Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 132, No. 526 (Fall 2019), pp. 431-451

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