Moseley

Curtis Allen Moseley enlisted and was inducted into the Army on April 26, 1918. His occupation, on his induction records, was noted as chauffer and musician. [COURTESY of SCHAUDIES-BANKS-RAGLAND COLLECTION]

The Journal, a Huntsville weekly newspaper, set the future life of Curtis Allen Moseley into context on May 31, 1890, with the following article regarding the wedding of his parents in Decatur:

“Still the wedding bells ring. Not many weeks ago ... for Mr. A. T. Moseley and Miss Ida M. Schaudies, at 8:30 o’clock at the M.E. Church (St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, now King’s Memorial United Methodist Church) which had been beautifully decorated, and was densely packed with people from home and abroad to see the eventful and ever attractive occurrence, which was at 9:30, The Rev. T.C. Levert, officiating. The bride and groom were handsomely attired and the ceremony was very impressive. Messrs. Edmond Moseley and Jack Smith did fine service as ushers. Smith also acted as groomsman waiting with Miss Mattie Robinson. Mrs. Gettis presided at the organ.”

Miss Ida May Schaudies was the first child and first daughter of Samuel Schaudies and Abbie Robinson Schaudies. The Schaudies moved to Decatur from Huntsville during the early 1870s. Samuel Schaudies was part of the early Black middle class in Decatur’s Old Town with his profession being boot and shoe maker. Ida May’s maternal great-grandfather was John Robinson, who arrived in Huntsville enslaved from Virginia in 1820, and by 1827 he was emancipated and became one of the leaders to the free Black community in Huntsville. Her maternal uncle Lafayette Robinson was cashier with the Huntsville Alabama Freedmen’s Bank.

Being the first born in the Schaudies family, Ida May was beautiful, strong-willed and imperious. For eligible bachelors in Decatur, she was considered a delicate rose with sharp thorns. Regardless of their thoughts, Allen T. Moseley was up for the challenge and married Ida May.

Allen T. Moseley was a descendant of Coleman “Golar” Moseley of Decatur. Coleman was a Union Civil War veteran with Company “K”, 111th United States Colored Infantry, and was one of the well-connected pre-Civil War families in Decatur. Allen T. was the fifth child and fourth son of Coleman and Sallie Moseley.

Allen T. Moseley and Ida May Schaudies Moseley’s son, Curtis Allen, was born April 2, 1891, and was the first child and only son. Curtis Allen’s maternal first cousin, Miss Athelyne Celest Banks, now deceased and one of the namesakes of Banks-Caddell Elementary, was reared in a five-room cottage with him. She remembered him as strikingly handsome, artistic and musically adventuresome. He was also the child catered to and indulged by his mother and maternal grandmother.

According to Miss Banks, unlike other children in the extended family, he was encouraged to be seen and heard. The cottage, now known as the Schaudies-Banks Cottage, was the home of Curtis Allen, and the family always insisted they lived on “The Hill” on Pond Street (now Wilson Street). “The Hill” neighborhood families included: W.J. Wood, Rufus P. McEntire, Henry Jackson, and Nathan Washington.

Curtis Allen attended the public school in Decatur and was graduated from Decatur Negro High School when the school’s terminal class was eighth grade. According to Miss Banks, Curtis Allen excelled in all of his classes, was possessed with beautiful cursive handwriting, and like many in his family, was possessed with gifted musical abilities with the trombone and trumpet.

He married Henrietta Irwin in a lovely wedding setting. Henrietta was the daughter of the prominent Banks Street barber, William Arthur Irwin and the wedding was held at the residence of the bride’s father with The Reverend Jonas C. Chuman, pastor for St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, officiating. Their daughter — Marjorie Olive Moseley — was born in the Schaudies–Banks Cottage. The marriage of Curtis Allen Moseley and Henrietta was brief and ended in divorce.

After the divorce, Henrietta Irwin Moseley returned to the house of her parents and later moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Curtis Allen moved to Birmingham, and was employed as a chauffeur. His sister and Miss Banks would reminisce that Curtis Allen would interview his prospective employers for their suitability and if they did not pass his inspection, he would turn them down for employment. With his free time, he participated in music scenes in West Birmingham’s Tuxedo Junction. Music and the pursuit of music was part of Curtis' family and he was surrounded by music from childhood.

His mother was known as a gifted soprano at St. Paul’s Church, and his maternal aunt, Tulie Ophelia Schaudies Banks was a noted contralto. The sisters were always in demand for recitals, luncheons, dinner parties and weddings in Old Town.

Curtis Allen’s sister, Caulyne Oletha Moseley, was an accomplished lyric soprano and was graduated from Alabama State Teachers College with a major in voice. Later, she and her husband, Dr. W.L. Ruffin, became great friends with W.C. Handy, a Florence native known as “The Father of the Blues.” Dr. W.L. Ruffin was a physician and was socially prominent and a gifted musician in Colbert County. Because of their musical abilities, and their prominence in the community, their friendship with Handy was secure. When Handy would routinely return to the Florence area from New York City, he was a welcomed guest with the Ruffins.

Curtis Allen’s uncle by marriage, H.J. Banks, was a member of an Old Town community band and also a close friend of W.C. Handy. H.J.’s sister, Ida Lee Banks, was the organist for St. Paul’s during the 1890s. Curtis Allen’s maternal first cousin, Patricia Treelander Banks Wade, was an accomplished violinist and pianist and with the soprano voice of her sister, Athelyne Celest Banks, the Schaudies, Moseley and Banks families would spend their leisure time, holidays, and Sunday afternoons with music from the classics, spirituals, and hymns.

In June of 1917 Curtis Allen registered for the World War I draft in Jefferson County, Alabama. In keeping with the military tradition of the Moseleys, he insisted upon giving his time and service in the defense of freedom. For him, serving his country was paramount and on April 26, 1918, he enlisted and was inducted into the Army. His occupation, on his induction records, was noted as chauffer and musician. His boot camp experience was held at Camp Custer, Michigan. After boot camp, Curtis Allen received orders to France.

He boarded the SS President Grant from Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 30, 1918, for France. Private Moseley was a member of Battery “F”, 350th Field Artillery Regiment, 92nd Division. The 92nd Division was a racially segregated unit — with senior white officers and junior Black officers — and this unit saw combat in the Muese-Argonne Offensive. Battery “F” was part of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front that provided assistance to the Western allies.

Always the dutiful son, Curtis Allen sent home numerous letters/cards to his mother sharing how much he missed her and the family. He also gifted her with mementos, cards, vases, and military souvenirs from his time in France. His gifts were a major source of pride for the family. Throughout the years, the war memorabilia and art items were meticulously and carefully maintained by the family.

After the Armistice was signed, Cpl. Curtis Allen Moseley boarded the ship SS Maui, from Brest, France, on Feb. 16, 1919. Brest is located in the westernmost part of France. The town was a major area for arriving and departing troops from the United States. Many missions of the American Expeditionary Forces were launched from Brest. A monument was also erected by the United States to commemorate achievements of America and France.

Moseley arrived back in Hoboken on Feb. 23, 1919, and was honorably discharged. From New Jersey, Curtis Allen returned to Decatur, and played musical gigs throughout the Southeast. He would later join many talented young people of color in Harlem, New York City. The Harlem Renaissance Community included artists, writers and musicians and this period spanned from about 1918 to the 1930s. It was in this culture that Curtis Allen participated with blues bands and late night gigs with his trombone and trumpet. He traveled in music circles that included family friend W.C. Handy. By this time, Handy was a world-renowned blues musician, band leader, composer, and music publisher.

Curtis Allen Moseley returned to Decatur from New York City in the late 1920s and died on Jan. 23, 1928. The funeral was held Jan. 25, 1928, at 2:30 p.m., at King’s Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. The Rev. James Nathaniel Wallace, pastor for the congregation, officiated. The Rev. J.W. Whitfield, presiding elder, Huntsville District, Central Alabama Conference, offered prayer and scripture. Interment after the funeral was in the Schaudies family plot at Decatur City Cemetery. 

The 38 years of Curtis Allen’s life included serving his country and returning from the war in reasonable health; following his dream of playing with some of the best blues bands in the country; enjoying the attention and adulation of his mother, sister, and family; traveling and when not in Decatur and Morgan County, not encumbered by Jim Crow laws; and always living his life on his own terms.

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