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Chasing Shadows: What's in a name?

by Pam Richardson Special to the Times

Last year, I had the pleasure of researching and writing up the history of Apalachicola’s Grady family for descendant Kathy Willis, who recently passed away. She shared some wonderful stories with me, and I was able to fill in some blanks for her. Together, we scratched our heads over a couple of mysteries, notably the following.

Just when and why a man named St. Clair Hartman came to Apalachicola is unclear.

He married Jennie Tompkins in 1854 in Scottsville, Virginia, where they lived on a 270-acre farm, but over the next 30 years, they and their daughters, Alice and Sallie, moved around a lot. In 1860, Hartman was in Richmond, Virginia working in the “manufacture of guano” (bat fertilizer), in 1870, he was a farmer in Lovingston, Virginia, and in 1880, he was in Newnan, Georgia, employed as a “commercial traveler” or traveling salesman.

Jacinto V. Pereira, Bank President, 1920.

Shortly after their stint in Georgia, the Hartman family came to Apalachicola where Jennie, only 53 years old, died in August 1883. In September of the following year, Alice St. Clair Hartman married the up-and-coming local businessman, John E. Grady, and a week later, her sister Sallie married Jacinto V. Pereira, a new arrival like herself. Alice soon became pregnant, but both she and her baby died when she developed puerperal fever. Alice was laid to rest next to her mother in Chestnut Cemetery. John Grady never remarried, and St. Clair Hartman continued to live and work in Apalachicola - he was Inspector of Dredging in 1890 – until his death from “la grippe” in 1897.

Sallie Hartman’s father who was always changing careers and geographic locations may have had some issues, as we say these days, but Sallie’s husband, Jacinto Valentine Pereira, was an even more complex - and more perplexing - character. His “official” bio, reiterated in several early 20th century editions of Who’s Who in Finance and Banking, reads as follows:

  • Jacinto Valentine Pereira, Scottsville, Virginia. Banker. Born in Liverpool, England in 1850; son of Jacinto and Eliza Pereira; educated in St. James Episcopal School, Mechanics Institute, Liverpool; married in Apalachicola, Florida in 1884 to Sarah Gilmer Hartman. Was engaged in shipping business in Liverpool; left England in 1877 and moved to Georgia and engaged in lumber business; now in banking. President of Fidelity Bank; treasurer of V. B. Jeffries Company; Town Treasurer of Scottsville; member of the American Bankers Association and the Virginia Bankers Association; Senior Warden at St. John’s Church, Scottsville. Recreations: swimming, horse-back riding. Has travelled extensively in Europe. Crossed the Atlantic twelve times. Democrat. Episcopalian.
The Scottsville, Virginia Town Council, 1909. J. V. Pereira is first on left, in the front row.

Research corroborates some, but not all, of this rendition of Pereira’s story. For example, no record is found of his Liverpool business, his arrival in the United States, or his time in Georgia. The first mention of Jacinto Pereira in this country is in Apalachicola on an 1883 list of Advent communicants at Trinity Church. He soon gained a certain social standing as evidenced by his 1884 marriage to Sallie Hartman, his election to Trinity’s Vestry, and his relationship with the Grady family.

The late Kathy Willis, John Grady’s great-grand-niece, believed that Pereira was the builder of the original one-story Grady family home at 127 Bay Avenue, and the facts seems to support this. Six weeks after the Hartman women’s marriages, John Grady’s brother, Henry, sold his recently purchased Lots 1-5 in Block 45 to Jacinto Pereira.

A year later, after Alice’s death, two odd real estate transactions occurred on the same day:

Jacinto Pereira sold Lots 1-5 in Block 45 to his father-in-law, St. Clair Hartman, who immediately sold the same property back to his daughter Sallie, Jacinto’s wife. One can only guess at the reasoning behind this convoluted transfer. Unfortunately, the real estate tax records for the ensuing three years have disappeared.

127 Bay Avenue, Grady Family Home c. 1888, before its second story addition.

The next year for which they are available is 1888, by which time the taxes on Sallie Pereira’s five lots in Block 45 were nearly 10 times higher than they had been when Henry Grady owned them, indicating that a house and perhaps other structures were now occupying the property. Finally, on Feb. 20, 1891 Sallie sold the property back to Henry Grady for $2,700.

Apart from the peculiar sale of the Grady property to Pereira’s wife via his father-in-law, J. V. Pereira’s story is - up to this point – not particularly remarkable. However, a handwritten notation on the yellowed pages of Trinity Church’s Vital Records opens up a big mystery.

This footnote in the official record was probably made by Henry Grady, who held a 66-year tenure on Trinity’s Vestry and was probably the only official in the Church privy to the most intimate details of his family. Next to the announcement of Sallie Hartman’s marriage to Jacinto V. Pereira on Sept. 30, 1884, but in different handwriting, is the following terse statement: “Mr. Pereira was [the] former Joseph Jones, but had his name legally changed.”

The altar area of Trinity Episcopal Church, taken sometime in the 1880s.

Apart from the startling fact that a man named Joseph Jones would change his name to Jacinto Valentine Pereira, this revelation gives rise to questions that unfortunately may no longer be answerable. Was he really born in Liverpool? Were his parents’ names Jacinto and Eliza? Why did he change his name and why did he choose that particular name? Why did he leave England? All research attempts to match Jacinto V. Pereira’s biographical details to a “Joseph Jones” have so far been in vain.

An 1890 Pensacola News article identifies Jacinto Pereira as a co-owner of the D.M. Munroe & Co sawmill in Apalachicola, but whether or not he was still living in Apalachicola that year cannot be verified due to the loss by fire of the 1890 Federal Census. The next time he shows up is with Sallie back in her parent’s town of Scottsville, Virginia where he is listed in an 1896 publication of the American Bankers Association as president of the Fidelity Bank there.

In 1901, he purchased a beautiful home next to the Episcopal church. Pereira became as upstanding a citizen of Scottsville as he was of Apalachicola, contributing for three decades to the life of that town as bank president, town council member, and builder of the Travelers’ Rest Hotel on Main Street.

However, when a long, drawn-out lawsuit against him ended in his opponent’s favor, he became severely depressed, and on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, 1925, just before eight in the morning, Jacinto Valentine Pereira committed suicide. He jumped from a 30-foot high porch on his hotel building and lived for 30 minutes before dying from the skull fracture he incurred in the fall.

Sallie, who filled out her husband’s death certificate, deviated from the Who’s Who in Finance and Banking bio by stating that Jacinto’s mother was Ann Venn, born in England, and that his father was Joseph Pereira, born in Liverpool. But, like “Joseph Jones,” neither of those names proves of any worth in solving the mystery of Jacinto V. Pereira’s true identity.

Thirty-five years later, Sallie died, without issue, at age 94, from arteriosclerosis and a pulmonary edema, taking her husband’s secrets with her and bringing an end to the family line of St. Clair Hartman.