Monday, January 21, 2013

Where Was Sam Jethroe Born?

1951 Bowman card.
The baseball career of Sam 'The Jet' Jethroe has been well documented. He signed with the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro American League in 1942, for the Montreal Royals in the International League in 1948, and was signed by the Boston Braves in 1950, where he was named 'Rookie of the Year.'

I was curious about Sam's early life, having wrongly assumed that he was from Erie, PA. The connection with Erie was through Ernest Wright. Wright owned the Cleveland Buckeyes baseball team and the Pope Hotel in Erie. Sam lived in Erie during the off season with his brother, Jessie Jethroe.

Throughout his baseball career, Sam reported his birthdate as January 20, 1922 in East St. Louis, Illinois. When he died on June 18, 2001, the New York Times reported that he was 83 years old, making his year of birth 1918. Which one was correct?

An article in the newspaper Afro-American, published March 24, 1951, stated that Sam's father Albert owned a farm on the outskirts of East St. Louis. This piece of information helped me find the family in East St. Louis, IL in the 1930 federal census. Albert and Janie Jethroe were listed with their children, Rachel, Samuel and Jessie. 

The 1920 federal census proved to be a bit of a challenge. I finally found them by doing a search for a girl named Rachel (no last name) who was born in Mississippi and lived in IL. Here is what I found:
The Jethroe family was mistakenly listed with the surname 'Jeffro,' with a three year-old son named Samuel. Curiously, Sam's birthplace was listed as Mississippi in both the 1920 and the 1930 census. Which leads to another mystery for another day. Was he born in Illinois or Mississippi? 

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at:

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