A while back I received a voice mail message. Okay, I’ll admit it: it was more than a year ago—I think it was around Christmas 2011 (!). The person who left it said that the ballplayer Tim Samuel Strothers, a catcher for the Leland Giants and Chicago Giants in the first two decades of the 20th century, was her husband’s grandfather (if I remember correctly). She had seen Strothers’s page at the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, and noticed that he’s listed as having been born in Clay Center, Kansas, and was wondering where we got that information.
Well, I wrote this down, deleted the message, and promptly forgot about it. Oh, and I also failed to write down her number. I ran across these notes recently, and figured I would give my answer here, so it’s on the internet, and she will at least have the theoretical chance of googling it at some point.
These are my biographical notes on Tim Strothers (also known as Sam Strothers):
•1880 census: Samuel Strather [sic], born August 1879 (9 months old), “mulatto,” born in Kansas; living with parents Wallace (28) and Kati[e], 23, both born in Mississippi, and sister Eulah [?], 5, born in Mississippi; living at 300 Fifth Street, Clay Center, Kansas.
•1885 Kansas State Census: Sammie Strothers, black, 5, living with parents Wallace (engineer) and Katie Strothers in Clay Center, Clay County, Kansas.
•1900 census: Samuel Strothers, black, single, born March 1879 in Kansas; no occupation; lodging with Talbot family in Concordia, Cloud County, Kansas.
•1930 census: Samuel Strothers, “negro”, 58, born in Kansas, married since age 33; steam fitter, stock yards; living with wife Rachel, 48, born in Kansas, at 5300 State St., Chicago, Illinois.
•“Tim Strothers, Former Ball Player, Is Dead,” Chicago Defender, 5 September 1942, 22. “Tim Samuel Strothers, 74, retired baseball player, died at the County hospital on Wednesday, August 26….He was born in Kansas.” Includes photo.
•Illinois Statewide Death Index: Tim S. Strothers, “Negro,” 74; died August 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois.
•Illinois Deaths: Tim Samuel Strothers, born 1868; died August 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois.
•State of Illinois Certificate of Death: Tim Samuel Strothers, born [unknown date] in [unknown], Kansas; “about 74 years old”; “laborer”; died December 26, 1942, Chicago, Illinois; buried Restvale Cemetery, Worth, Illinois.
As far as his birthplace goes, the key document is the 1880 census, showing the “Strather” family, listed as “mulatto,” living in Clay Center, Clay County, Kansas.
Little Samuel is here 9 months old (as of June 10 & 11, when the family was counted) and born the previous August in Kansas. Here is the right side of the census page, which shows the family’s states of birth (Mississippi for the two parents and older sister, Eulah; Kansas for Samuel).
So while we don’t have a birth record, we do have him living in Clay Center at the age of 9 months. He could well have been born elsewhere in Kansas, but this is the best information available at the moment.