Portraits of Black Vermonters: The Hazard and Mero Families

To celebrate Black History Month, we are sharing portraits of the Hazard and Mero families of Woodstock, Vermont. Both families were part of the town’s small Black community that had roots extending back to the late 1820s. The collection includes a  tintype, studio portraits, and several 8 x 10 black and white prints. The studio portraits especially show the Meros and Hazards as they wished to be represented. Dressed for the occasion, they made their way to local photography studios. Special events, such as a christening or a graduation, may have prompted some of the photo sessions.

Fortunately, notes on the photographs identify each person. The brief biographies that accompany the photographs in the gallery below are based on information gathered from a wide range of sources, including census data, newspaper articles and obituaries, vital records, maps, gazetteers and directories, and print and online articles. Most of the photos are not dated, but we estimated date ranges for some based on the years when the photographers were active in Woodstock. The paper photos are pasted on stiff cardboard embossed with frames and decorations, often with a large border around the images. For this blog post, we cropped the borders to highlight the individuals.

A studio photograph shows an older Black woman sitting in an ornate chair. her hands are folded over a book in her lap.

Roxana Park, photographed by A. W. Perkins between 1910 and 1914.

Roxana Hazard Park (1828-1915). Roxana Park was born in Barnard, Vermont to Henry and Belinda (Lewis) Hazard on April 18, 1828. She married Henry Park in 1852. In 1866, they bought land on South Street in Woodstock where Henry farmed and bred cattle. Their daughter Cornelia, born in 1854, married Thomas Gilman Mero on March 1, 1882 in Woodstock. Thomas worked on the nearby Billings estate for 47 years. Thomas and Cornelia also lived in a house on South Street, where they raised four daughters: Julia Ann, Roxanna, Caroline and Rosetta.

This studio photograph shows a young Black woman standing next to a chair. She is wearing a hat, an embroidered top and a long pleated skirt.

Roxanna Mero

Roxanna Agnes Mero (1885-1929). Roxanna Mero, daughter of Thomas and Cornelia Mero, was born in Woodstock in 1885 and died in Waterbury 1929.

Studio photograph of a young Black woman seated in an elaborate chair. She is wearing a long dress with a high collar.

Carrie Mero, photographed by A. W. Perkins between 1910 and 1914.

Caroline (Carrie) Belinda Mero Ledeatt (1891-1943). The third daughter of Thomas and Cornelia Mero, Carrie Mero was born in Woodstock on September 10, 1891 and died in New York in February 1943. She graduated from Woodstock High School (1910), Burlington Business College (1915), and the College of the City of New York. She married Edmund Athill Ledeatt in 1918.

In November 1917, Carrie Mero was appointed secretary of the Ladies Division of the United Negro Improvement Association. When the UNIA organized in the United States in 1918, she was one of the directors who signed the certificate of incorporation. Carrie served as a clerk-stenographer for the UNIA and its shipping company, the Black Star Line. She contributed articles to the “Our Women” page in the UNIA’s Negro World advocating for gender equality and urging black women to be leaders and innovators.

In 1926, Carrie was the first Black typist/stenographer employed by the borough of Queens, where she worked until she transferred to the New York City Department of Welfare in 1939. Carrie’s obituary notes that she was an active member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Business and Professional Women’s Guild and the Merry Wives of Jamaica.

Studio photograph of a young Black woman sitting on a ledge in front of window. She is wearing a fancy white dress and may be holding a diploma.

Rosetta Mero, photographed by J. O. Stone, Woodstock. Stone bought and opened his studio in 1914, dating the photograph to 1914 or later.

Rosetta Elizabeth Mero (1898-1947). Rosetta Mero was born to Thomas and Cornelia Mero in Woodstock on June 2, 1898 and died in Jamaica, New York on March 20, 1947. A graduate of Woodstock High School, Rosetta worked at the Vermont Standard newspaper as a typesetter for several years before moving to New York in 1920 to work as a linotype operator. Her daughter Margaret was born in 1923. The 1930 census indicates that Rosetta was living in the family home in Woodstock. The 1940 census reports that Rosetta and Margaret lived with her sister Carrie and her family in New York and worked as a servant.

Studio photograph of a Black man and woman in front of a studio backdrop.

Allen and Martha Hazard

Allen Horace Hazard (1858-1950) and Martha Hazard (1863-1945). Allen Hazard was born about 1858 to James and Sarah (Talbot) Hazard, who lived on Prospect Street in Woodstock. As a young man, Allen worked as a mason for Tower Hazard in Harvard, Massachusetts. He married Tower’s daughter Martha in December 1879. They had four sons, including Alva (see below), and three daughters. Allen was a caretaker for the Hildreth estate in Harvard for 65 years. He died in 1950.

Studio portrait of a young black man wearing a suit and fancy tie.

Alva Hazard, photographed at the Park Studio in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Alva Edward Hazard (1884-1965). Alva Hazard was born December 22, 1884 in Harvard, Massachusetts to Allen and Martha Hazard. He married Julia Ann Mero  (1883-1941), the oldest daughter of Thomas and Cornelia and sister of Rosetta, Carrie and Roxanne, in 1910. They raised five children in Woodstock. Alva worked for over forty years as a caretaker for Dr. and Mrs. Fred Kidder. He died in Woodstock October 1, 1965.

Studio portrait of a young black child seated on a chair and possibly wearing a white christening outfit.

Elmer Hazard in April 1912, when he was ten months old.

Elmer Edward Hazard (1911-). Elmer Hazard was the first child of Alva Hazard and Julia Mero Hazard, born July 17, 1911. He died on September 16, 1913.

Two images of a Black man in middle age and old age. The younger man is wearing a suit and tie. The older ma is sitting on a porch smoking a pipe.

William F. Hazard. The photo on the left was taken by Arthur E. Spaulding between 1897 and 1907. The photo on the right was taken by Fred Woods. According to a note on the back, it shows William at 102.

William Frederick Hazard (1853-1958). William Hazard was born to James and Sarah (Talbot) Hazard on Nov. 6, 1853. He served in the Navy from 1869-1874. In 1893, articles in a number of Vermont newspapers reported that William was “the first convict to be released on probation in the history of the Massachusetts state prison. Hazard has had a good record as a prisoner and Gov. Russell determined to make an experiment of the case” (Vermont Phoenix, September 22, 1893). William married Amanda Dunbar the following year, and they had six children. In 1900, he was listed in the census as a teamster. He later worked as a farm laborer and Woodstock town employee. William was featured in Vermont newspapers for his status as the oldest Vermonter before his death at 105 in 1958.

Studio portrait of Black woman wearing a fancy white blouse and a bow or hat on her head.

Lizzie Lewis, photographed by Arthur E. Spaulding between 1897 and 1907.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hazard Lewis (1857-1931). Elizabeth Lewis was born in Woodstock March 4, 1857 to Austin and Rhoda Hazard and died there October 27, 1931.  She married Arthur Lewis in 1878. After Arthur’s death in 1909, she lived with her son Joseph (1879-1966) and her grandson Arthur in Woodstock.

Studio portrait of a young Black man in a suit.“Ozie.” Only the name “Ozie” is penciled on the photograph; we have not yet identified this family member. The photo was taken by J. O. Stone of Woodstock.

Sylvester Oriston Mero (1847-1919). The last photograph in the Hazard-Mero Family Photographs is a large tintype with a note on the back that says, “Believe this is Sylvester Mero.” We do not yet have a good copy we can include here.

Sylvester Mero was born to Hezekiah and Harriet Hazard in Woodstock on April 6, 1847. Thomas Mero, husband of Cornelia Park Mero was his younger brother. During the Civil War, Sylvester, along with two of his brothers, served in the Vermont Infantry and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. The tintype image may have been taken at the same time, or in the same place, as a photograph of Sylvester’s oldest brother George. After the war, Sylvester returned to Vermont and worked as a farm laborer in Pomfret and Woodstock, a coachman in Rutland, and later a janitor in Worcester, Massachusetts. He died in Worcester in March 1919.

More about the Hazard and Mero Families

Contributed by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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