The Curious Case of Theodore Flowers

This past week has been full of much needed research. I spent much of my time searching through databases at It is a helpful tool when conducting genealogy; however, not for African American research. They have a limited number of black newspapers provided, which made me extremely upset, but hey it was a free trail. Despite this shortcoming, I was able to pull a few articles from the Pittsburgh Courtier, Harrisburg Telegraph, and a small newspaper based in Jacksonville, Florida. As I stated before, it was nothing much.

Now, this post will focus again on Theodore Flowers. His death certificate left me with a great amount of questions: Why was he murdered? By who? What exactly were the events that led up to his homicide on November 5, 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?

Let me begin with what I know about Theodore.

He was the sixth child born to Harry Flowers (1846-1926) and Nancy Sawyer (1873-1963) on March 16, 1903. Raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Theodore spent his childhood as a farm help on his family’s land. Following the divorce of his parents, I am unsure of who Theodore lived with. He would have been ten years old when his father and siblings moved outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but he is not listed as a member of his father’s household in the 1920 Federal Census. Without the 1920 Federal Census record for his mother, I am unsure of whether or not he lived with her and her husband, Henry Sams, for they migrated in the 1920s to Philadelphia. It is also important to note that the majority of the Flowers children resided with their father with the exception of the older sons who were worked and lived in boarding homes in Harrisburg. With only the 1910 Federal Census and death certificate for Theodore, I also  learned of his marriage to Irma Flowers, yet it is important to note that she (Irma) marked out wife of as she provided the information for the death record.

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 See, a clear clean slash through…more questions….

Outside of this new search on the “marriage” of Theodore and Irma Flowers, I came across an article from the Pittsburgh Courtier, a black newspaper based in Pennsylvania.


Pittsburgh Courtier, November 18, 1933

“X” marks the spot where Harry Morgan and Theodore Flowers “shot it out” last Sunday evening in an argument over a pistol. The scene is at 22nd and Montgomery streets, Philadelphia. .

And so we have part of the story, but nothing more. I will need to go through more African American newspapers in order to learn more about the life and death of Theodore Flowers.

Until the next post,


6 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Theodore Flowers

  1. To find out the entire story, you need to consult the court, the coroner(should have records) the police department..for investigation. I wouldn’t concentrate just on African American sources, but please know that sometimes the terminology of the day can be a bit offensive by today’s standards. I have done a lot of African American genealogy and its always a challenge, but in the end..the stories are so very compelling. Good luck!

    1. I agree, I am not limiting myself to African American sources, but sometimes that is where I have to go to find these stories. Their names are found in these newspapers as oppose to the city newspapers of the time. For example, Rachel Is found in over 100 articles in the Afro-American Baltimore and Philadelphia Tribune and only found in 5 articles for the Harrisburg Telegraph. They lived during a time when the black press was the dominant news for blacks in major cities which is why I seek to focus on these newspapers because in these circles they were important.

      Thanks for the input on how to find more about this murder case.

  2. Your story is so very interesting. Another source, although a bit hit and miss, are funeral homes. They keep interesting records filled with obscure information in them. Its not really a primary source, but you may learn something new. Also, there would have been an investigation and records regarding the incident. Perhaps the police department would also have something. The coroner also would have records. Please forgive me if I have stated the obvious as I do not know how seasoned of a genealogist you are. I really enjoy doing research and just wanted to offer help. Please blog about your findings..I am invested in the story now 🙂

    1. Oh gosh, I hope my last comment did not come off as rude because that was not my intentions. I blog because I need help, so I welcome any suggestions.

      Interesting point about funeral homes, I will have to see what was listed on his death record and see if the funeral home is still around. Not sure how they deal with privacy because I am not related to the family.

      Thank you.

      1. No, no you didn’t seem rude
        Tell them that you are doing genealogy when you go. They will give you what they have.

        I have done African American research and I know that sometimes there are limitations..I was just trying to give you some not so main stream approaches because there are ways of getting around some of that stuff. As per coroner, that is all a matter of public record. Once someone has died, they no longer have the same privacy rights. I think what you are doing is interesting.

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