The geographic relocation of six million African Americans from the rural Southern United States to the urban Midwest, Northeast, and West during the early to mid-1900’s seeking better economic opportunities and/or escape from racial oppression is described by historians as the “Great Migration”. The Staples Family certainly participated in this cultural phenomenon. Descendants of William & Abigail traveled to and settled in various cities across the country, but the Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee areas seem to have garnered the largest concentration of Family members external to our Mississippi roots.
Chicago was the first major northern city to attract Staples Family migration in quantity. Seven out of the twelve “Branches” - the 2nd Generation children of William & Abigail - had family members that ventured to the Windy City. In 1924, Warren Staples’ daughter Mattie (3rd Generation) and her family relocated to Chicago. Her siblings Roebuck, Sears, Chester, John, Leora, Katie, and Rosie all later settled in Chicago as well along with their families. William Staples Jr.’s son Emmet (3rd Gen) also moved to Chicago in the 1920’s with his family. His brother Clyde would follow years later. John Staples’ daughter Sadie Bell (3rd Gen) moved to Chicago in 1935 with her family, and her siblings Lorraine, Emma, Bige, Naomi, Thomas, and Sallie likewise thereafter all relocated to Chicago. George Staples’ daughter Alice and her family moved to Chicago in 1936.
The ‘caravan’ just continued…Matt Staples’ children Laflore and Olice, Georgina Staples’ children Drew, Lieon, and Laura, and Alice Staples’ children Mary, JD, Fancy, Juanita, and John Henry all eventually settled in Chicago. And in fact, three of the 2nd Generation brothers - Warren, John, and George - ended up following their children and settling in Chicago as well. Overall, more than twenty-five 3rd Generation Staples families relocated to Chicago during the Great Migration establishing our largest hub of descendants outside of Mississippi. This accumulation of folks was the impetus for the first annual Staples Family Reunion being conceived, planned, and hosted in Chicago in 1978.
Staples Family migration to the St. Louis area began with several children of Katie Staples (2nd Generation) & Lonnie Hearon. Their daughter Mildred (3rd Gen) and her family were first to move in January 1936. Her sister Ethyl and family followed in July 1936. Later the same year, their brother Shedrick and his family along with their youngest sister Sarah also relocated to St. Louis. Subsequently, all but one of the remainder of Katie & Lonnie’s nine children – Odis, Mary, Beulah, and Martha – also relocated to St. Louis. Jim Staples’ son Percy Staples (3rd Gen) also settled in St. Louis with his family in 1936. The following year in 1937, Joe Staples’ daughter Greetel (3rd Gen) along with her mom Sadie also moved to St. Louis. By the early 1940’s, William Staples Jr.’s daughter Fannie Lee (3rd Gen) & family as well as Warren Staples’ grandson William Watson Staples (4th Gen) & family had also moved to St. Louis. So within a few years after the first Staples pioneers journeyed to St. Louis to reside, the area had descendants from five out of the twelve Branches and remains today one of our largest concentration centers of Family members.
The family of Jim Staples (2nd Gen) initiated our foray into the Milwaukee area. His son Robert (3rd Gen) was the first to move to Milwaukee in 1937. In subsequent years, several of Robert’s siblings also moved to the Milwaukee area – William (1942), Jennie Lee (1944), George (1945), Pride (1946), Toy (1947), and Lester (1954) along with their families. Jim Staples later trailed his kids relocating to Milwaukee himself. Since some of Jim’s seven children that moved to Milwaukee ended up having large families, the number of descendants became significant and formed a solid destination locale for the Staples Family. Milwaukee is where the second Staples Family Reunion was held in 1979.
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