Kenneth E. (Kenny) Stonestreet, Jr., met the late Natalie (Glover) Richardson of Noblesville, Indiana, in the late 1960s while they were attending Compton Community College in Los Angeles, California. It was the start of a more than 50-year friendship.
In the course of many conversations over the years, Natalie often talked to Kenny about her Hoosier hometown. On one occasion she told him about a historic white clapboard chapel in the rural countryside of Atlanta, Indiana, near her hometown. She explained that the descendants of “free” African-American farmers, who had migrated from North Carolina, gathered every year for a reunion at Roberts Settlement, the site of this chapel.
Kenny, a Detroit native, told Natalie that as a very young boy he had made several annual summer weekend trips to the Indiana countryside with his father and grandmother. Kenny vaguely recalled that their Indiana destination was a small rural church surrounded by lots of cornfields. Kenny did remember that everyone gathered at the chapel for a very big picnic! He could not recall the exact location of the chapel, but the setting seemed very similar to the one Natalie had often described. Kenny told Natalie that their conversations about the little white chapel always felt like “déjà vu moments!”
Over the years, Kenny became acquainted with many of Natalie’s relatives from Indiana, including her nephew, Bryan Glover, who moved to Los Angeles in 1979. When Kenny learned that Bryan was also from Noblesville, Kenny told Bryan about the occasions he visited a little church located in the Indiana countryside. He sensed that his family had an Indiana connection, but he didn’t know enough to explain the connection.
The mystery remained unsolved for many years, and Bryan moved back to Noblesville in 2007. In 2013, Bryan and a host of others were working on a short documentary film about the Roberts Settlement history and its legacy. While reviewing genealogical information pertinent to the Settlement, he discovered the name of Ella Hammonds and her spouse with the surname “Stonestreet.” Following a hunch that the church Kenny had remembered visiting with his father many years ago may have been Roberts Chapel church, Bryan decided to collect more information from Kenny regarding his family tree. Bryan phoned Kenny and his wife, Brenda, who still live in Southern California.
Kenny provided the name of his grandfather, and Census records in turn revealed the names of his great-grandparents, William and Ella (Hammonds) Stonestreet. Earlier records reflected that Ella Hammond’s parents were Thomas Hammonds and Sarah Roberts. Sarah was the daughter of Abner Roberts, son of Anthony Roberts, a resident of Beech Settlement (the Beech Settlement is in Rush County, Indiana)! Anthony Roberts was the brother of Elijah Roberts (Bryan’s third great-grandfather), one of the founders of Roberts Settlement.
The two settlements, Beech and Roberts, share many commonalities. Anthony Roberts (Kenny’s fourth great-grandfather) migrated from North Carolina in 1830 and farmed at Beech Settlement. The Settlement has a rich history and was an early farming community of “free” African-American migrants from the South. Descendants gather at Beech in August for an annual reunion in celebration of their ancestors’ legacy much like they do at Roberts Settlement. Like Roberts Chapel, “the Old Beech Church” is the remaining landmark for the Beech Settlement.
It is very possible that Kenny and the Stonestreet family attended the Roberts Settlement Homecoming; however, in all likelihood Kenny’s visit as a young boy to a “place” that stood in the Indiana cornfields was probably the historic Beech Settlement.
Bryan’s genealogical research revealed that he and Kenny are fifth cousins, once removed. Not only can Bryan and his family claim Kenny as a friend of more than 50 years, he can now claim Kenny as part of his Roberts kindred!