Otelia had seven brothers and sisters. The family lived Near Lynchburg, Virginia. Her father’s occupation was on the Southern Railroad in a roundhouse for 47 years. He fired up the train engines with coal to make steam for the train to run. Additionally, he had a one-horse farm where he grew all the vegetables and chickens needed for his family. Otelia was taught how to drive a team of horses.
In 1902 the Tuckers moved to 433 State Street. Uncle John and his wife Addie raised two of their nieces in that house. Aunt Addie was a seamstress and a church lady who also taught Sunday School. John was a hunter, a fisherman, landscaper, and conducted real estate business. Over the years many people visited and stayed at 433 State Street; visiting ministers and their wives and training school people. Ministers still visit this house. The chair in the parlor is a replica of the one that Lincoln was in when he was shot, but this version is a rocking chair.
Mr. Tucker was an original founder of the Colored Citizens Club of Hudson, located on Columbia Street. Mrs. Tucker was also a member of the church and a musician. Aunt Addie’s family history was found in a trunk and went back to the 1700s. She never talked about slaves.
Otelia came to Hudson in June 1965 for a social gathering. She met Miss. Randolph and Mrs. Jenkins who steered her to come to work at the New York Training School for Girls. Otelia was very successfully teaching Cosmetology in New York City at the time. She was quickly recruited to the Training School to improve the performance of the students in passing the exams. In those days it was a beautiful campus made up of quads beautifully planted with flowers and was a major employer in Hudson. They also arranged for her to live with Mrs. Parr, Aunt Addie’s niece. Otelia cared for Mrs. Parr as she aged. She was allowed to live in the house for as long as she wanted, although it belonged to Margaret, Mrs. Parr’s daughter.
Otelia states that the church has always been an integral part of the community. She talks about a living Bible, that is a roadmap for life. She bemoans the fact that young people are not as involved with the church as previous generations were because it imbues discipline in kids. AME Zion was built on the site of a house that was donated. Miss Cynics (?) went to Fellowship AME Zion to celebrate her 100th birthday and also celebrated at 433 State Street.
For entertainment there was an annual boat trip with the Church. In winter, they skated across the Hudson River, and wagons pulled by teams of horses went across the ice too. Sometimes snow was extremely high and horses and wagons were used in cleaning the streets.
While visiting Virginia for a large family reunion at a farm, Otelia was told by her cousin Mr. Spruce that she had relatives that were Morgans, Colemans, Ellises and Spruces. Almost 700 people attended, and 52 were white. They had BBQ, fried chicken, vegetables, and pies. They played games like Ally OOPs and mingled with their second cousins. In Virginia, her mother’s grandfather was white and her father’s mother came from a white family, named Spruce,
Her mother had diabetes that was not under control. She came to New York for Otelia to help. Although she took her to the doctor, her mother couldn’t tolerate the treatment. Instead, a friend brought her aloe, showed her how to prepare it, and gave doses that would lower her sugar. This was effective and tolerated by her mother.
To the Future: Learn something for each life experience. Persevere, help others, pray, have Faith and believe in God and yourself.
Marcella Mary Kane Schneider Beigel (Marcella Beigel) was the RSVP Director and originator of the BLACC Oral History Project. She moved to the Columbia County area at the age of 60 and was involved in many civic projects in Columbia County. She believed in the importance of the area’s black history and enlisted seniors to cull old newspapers as well as interview local residents in order to gather information on this history. She also was instrumental in creating a curriculum guide for local schools of the history that gathered in this collection.