Writings of Leota Henson Turner

Loudin's Jubilee Singers, (Leota is seated at the keyboard)

While researching Leota Henson's family, I was delighted to discover that we are related. Her cousin, William Loudin, married my grandmother's half-sister, Rosetta Clinton. Members of that Ohio settlement ended up marrying their cousins in many cases. I'm happy to call myself a great-grand niece of Frederick Loudin.

This is a tradition handed down from the first piano accompanist for the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ella Sheppard, to Leota Henson, to my mother, Anne Gamble Kennedy. Now that my grandmother's friendship with Leota has been revealed to me, I know that Leota's role-modeling was at the forefront of my grandmother's thinking while she raised my mother.

Here is part 2 of the writings of Leota Henson Turner, describing the world concert tour of Loudin's Jubilee Singers from 1888 to 1900.

Continued from Part 1.

      “During our stay of two years in Great Britain we made many friends and had more social invitations than it was possible to accept. In the year 1888 my uncle decided to take his company to Australia. One bright morning in the month of May we boarded the Steamer Orient of the Orient Line of steamships, which was lying at South Hampton and started for a six-week trip to Melbourne, Australia. We sailed down the Bay of Biscayne through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Our first stop was at Naples in Italy where we spent the day. Most of the passengers went ashore and spent the day sight-seeing. Many of us went out to see the ruins of Pompeii. This town is located on the side of Mt. Vesuvius and was destroyed hundreds of years ago when an eruption of the mountain took place. It was a very interesting trip. Many of the houses and streets have been excavated. We saw a baker standing in front of an immense oven filled with bread. He had a long handled shovel in his hand and evidently was just going to take out the bread when the eruption took place. After looking over the stores in Naples and buying a few curios we went back to the steamer and arrived in time for dinner, which was served at six o’clock in the evening. After dinner we sat up on deck and as we sailed down the very beautiful bay of Naples it was a sight well worth seeing. As the darkness came on and we could see Mt. Vesuvius in the distance pouring forth fire and smoke it made a sight one can never forget.

      In the first class cabin where we traveled there were about 200 passengers and 300 in second class, the balance traveled steerage. Altogether, there were about 1,000 persons on board which included Officers and Seamen. We had our Breakfast from 8 to 10 A.M., Lunch at 1 P.M., Tea at 4 P.M., and Dinner at 6 P.M. On Sunday we had Church Services in the morning led by the Captain. During the week we played games during the day and had concerts, theatricals or a dance at night. One of the Officers arranged these affairs. People got very friendly and a great many romances and lasting friendships were formed. A few days after leaving Naples we reached Port Said, which is at the entrance of the Suez Canal The Captain informed my uncle that it would take two days to go through the Canal, as the traffic was heavy and if any of us wanted to take a hurried trip to Cairo in Egypt we could do so and meet the steamer at Suez. Of course, we were glad to have such an opportunity so in the early evening the Captain hailed a Mail Boat which was passing and in ten of fifteen minutes later my uncle and auntie, and also one of the ladies of the company, Miss Wilson, Mr. Waters an Englishman, and ‘yours truly’ were seated on the little flat boat and on our way to a little town called Ismailia. The hotel there had only one available bedroom. We three women occupied the bed and the men slept downstairs on a billiard table. Early next morning after a hurried breakfast we took a train for Cairo. It was a hot dusty trip across the Sahara Desert. The train was made up of compartments just as they are in England. At the station where we stopped very frequently, women would come up to the windows and beg for pennies. Usually they carried a baby on one hip. The baby was usually naked and had sore eyes, so you were glad to give them a penny so they would move on. The women usually wore a black veil over their face and you could only see their eyes.”

To be continued...

In the next article you will read Leota’s description of the magnificent Sphinx and Pyramids, their stop in Aden on the southern corner of Arabia, the passage across the Equator, and their arrival in Melbourne, Australia.

For part 3, click here.


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