Olga Victoria Byrd
Many people are not aware of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church on Spring Valley Road, which was built in 1880 from the funds of the local black community. The African Americans worked mostly in supporting the farming community. Some, like the Byrd family, lived in tenant houses.
In this new era of heightened awareness, we highlight a notable black woman who worked hard to raise eight children in a white community during the 20thcentury before Civil Rights became law. Her vision was to raise her children to be good citizens who would be educated, have good paying jobs, and eventually become homeowners.
Born in Atlantic City NJ on August 8, 1919, as Olga Victoria Clark, she moved to Concordville and attended schools in Concord and Chadds Ford. She married James T Byrd in 1939. At that time he had three children from a previous marriage and they went on to have five more.
Olga worked as a domestic for various families in the area, including the Andrew Wyeth family in Chadds Ford, and James worked on the Willits farm on Smithbridge Road, which allowed them to live in a simple wooden house with no running water. She cooked delicious meals on the wooden stove and made holidays special for her family. And thanks to James gardening skills, meals were plentiful.
Olga was a devout Christian who read her bible daily. She was non-violent and believed strongly in the right to vote by participating in every election. She was born just two months after Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Nine days after her first birthday, it was ratified and passed into law. Now we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that amendment and her story is a shining example of the power of the vote in moving families forward.
According to her daughter Betty, she never complained or used profanity, and taught respect for self and others by example. Betty was told to just put one foot in front of the other when the going got tough.
Olga made sure that her family had what money couldn’t buy – happiness, as seen in this photo of her, her husband James, and son Larry. Five sons served in the military. They and the other siblings went on to become homeowners and lead successful lives, realizing her vision of long ago.