(Updated) Chauncey Sawyer Flowers


In 1895, Harry and Nancy (Sawyer) Flowers gave birth to their first child, Chauncey Flowers in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. He is Rachel Flowers’ eldest brother.

One of the first items I look for in my research is a photo. I discovered a number of primary sources detailing his life, yet currently no photo (but there is still hope).

Unfortunately many of his children and even Chauncey himself passed away at a young age–Chauncey Sr. at the age of 41, Chauncey Jr. 46, Chauncey III 50, and Ernest at the age of 28. His wife Ernestine also passed away at a relatively young age, 48.

Chauncey Sr. migrated with his father and siblings to the Harrisburg region in 1913. Already eighteen years old, he worked odd jobs in the capital city until the city’s draft called him to fight in World War I. He enlisted in the 351st Heavy Field Artillery, an African American unit. Chauncey trained at Camp Meade alongside the seventy men of this regiment.


When asked ‘Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)?’, he wrote of his sister and brother, both whom he listed as sole dependents. Despite his claim for exemption, Chauncey fought in WWI under the command of Colonel William E. Cole, Lieutenant Colonel Edward L. Carpenter, Major Eric Briscoe, and Major Wade H. Carpenter. The mayor of Pittsburgh praised the work of these men and stated:

When President Wilson issued his appeal, calling upon the people in these United States to rally to the support of ‘Old Glory’ there was a noble response. None was more spontaneous than that from the colored people of this nation. By their deeds they have written their names in golden letters in history….Those who bore arms for us were first in war. In peace let us show them that they are still first in the hearts of their fellow-citizens.

Emmett J. Scott, Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in The World War, (Chicago: Homewood Press), p 317


351st Field Artillery [African American] Troops on the Deck of the Louisville. Part of the Squadron “A” 351st Field Artillery, [African American] troops who returned on the Transport Louisville. These men are mostly from Pennsylvania.

From the African American Photo Collection @Ancestry.com

Chauncey served overseas from June 19, 1918 to February 16, 1919 (honorably discharged on March 5, 1919).


Post-war, Chauncey returned to Harrisburg and served in an organization for veterans of foreign wars. I am unsure of the nature of this organization; however, the Harrisburg Telegraph documented the group’s activity throughout 1918 (it held some significance).

He continued to work various jobs here and there, waiting tables, bar-tending, etc. According to the 1920 Federal Census, Chauncey resided in a boarding home along Daisy Street. In 1920, he worked as a waiter in a local hotel.


While living in the city, he met a young woman named Ernestine Hagins, daughter of Ishmael Hagans and Ella Watson. Perhaps they met at church or worked at the hotel together. Regardless of how they met, they married on April 21, 1920. A few months later, they welcomed their first child into the world, Chauncey Jr. (bn. July 10, 1920). Two years later, they had a second child, Margaret. Between 1920 to 1936, the family moved over twenty times across the city. Little is known about the family outside of their physical whereabouts during this time. Then in 1936, Chauncey Sr. passed away from pneumonia. His service held in the same church as his father’s funeral, Wesley AME Church.


At some point, the family moved from Harrisburg to Philadelphia before moving to Ernestine’s home state of Indiana. The Philadelphia Tribune published an article about a birthday party thrown for Chauncey Jr..



Will continue this family’s story in my next post.

Until then,






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