To: Mrs. Richard Van Lente
Postmarked: Houston, Tex. Mar 5 1909
Stamp: 1c Green Ben Franklin #374
Message: Dear Sadda.
One of the schools of Houston. on other side. for white children only. Niggers have their own schools - Kind regards to all Will soon be returning.
J. P. Rice
The message seems to a contemporary listener rather harsh. A visitor to Houston from Michigan in 1909 must have found Blacks to be quite a curiosity; to imagine that “niggers have their own school,” may have even been nearly incomprehensible. At that time Holland, MI may not have had many African American citizens, and even a century later this population comprises no more than 1.5%. The “Great Migration” that brought descendants of slaves out of the south for northern destinations didn’t manifest until after World War I, and most were bound for cities like Chicago and Detroit, not for smaller communities.
Mrs. Richard Van Lente is Sarah “Sadie” Grace Clark, daughter of Jack Clark and Ruth Hopkins of Holland, Michigan. She was born in 1869, and married Richard Van Lente on September 28, 1904 at the age of 32. She had lived with her sister Rose at the time, and Rose continued to live with the family for at least another 40 years.
Dick Van Lente was the son of Hendricus Van Lente (1840-1923) and Janna Steketee (1844-1920), both from Holland. Richard was born in 1871 in Holland, Ottowa County, MI, an area with many Dutch immigrant families. He had married 1) Charlotte A. Finch (1873-1896), then 2) Sadie Clark. He was in the furnace contracting business, retiring as the manager of Holland Furnace Company.
The author of the postcard is less certain due to the obscure quality of the signature. It appears to be “J. P. Rice,” but even this seems in question as the “R” in the initials does not well match that in the address line. If so, she is Jennie “Jane” Johnson Rice, spouse of Henry Clayton Rice, at the time of the postcard a laborer in a brick yard. It was her second marriage, the first to George Burnett in 1898 apparently ended in divorce, since George Burnett died in 1940, and the second to Henry Clayton Rice in 1903.
Like Sadie, she was a second wife; Harry had married 1) Lodema Wiles on June 24, 1894, who died in 1897 at 26 years of age. Henry Clayton Rice died in 1916 after a load lumber fell on him at the factory, so after 13 years of marriage Jennie was a widow, and would remain so for the next 43 years before her death in 1959. She had three daughters: Renetta Burnett Rowan, Gertrude Rice Serne and Clara Rice Sebright, and three sons: Clarence, Donald, and Merciel Rice.
Holland, Michigan straddles two counties: Ottawa County and Allegan County. Jennie Rice and Sadie Van Lente cannot always be found on the same census, but they seemed to have lived within 4 blocks of each other: Sadie at 279 Central Avenue (1900, 1910) and Jennie at 236 E. 13th street (1920). Sadie is found in Holland, Ottawa County, MI in 1900, 1910, then after her husband died, 1940. In 1924, 1927, 1929 and 1930 she, her husband and sister are found in Lincoln, NE where Dick worked as a manager at Holland Furnace Company. Jennie, on the other hand, is found in Heath township in Allegan County in 1910, Holland, Ottawa County, MI in 1920, 1930, and 1940. No common link between the two can be found, they are not evidently related by family connections, and only the coincidence of addresses and biographical details suggest they may have been acquainted.
Richard died in 1940 and is buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Ottawa County, MI. Sarah lived another 25 years before joining her husband in death. They had no children.
1909: Fannin School, an elementary school, occupied the block between Anita and Tuam, Louisiana and Smith.
28 June 2013: Catholic Charities Building, constructed in 1999, now occupies this entire block. The neighborhood has changed from mostly residential to a mixed-use area Houstonians now call "Midtown."