Octavia Jeter

Octavia Augusta Jeter was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1879. She was the eldest daughter of Pastor Henry N. Jeter, of the Shiloh Baptist Church in the City. 

Our first two records of Olivia come in early federal and state census records. The first being the 1880 U.S. Census, where she is less than a year old, and they put her middle name as her first. In this 1880 census the family was living on Second Street. The 1885 R.I. census lists her and her younger sister Nellie together.

1880 United States Census - Newport, Rhode Island
1885 Rhode Island Census - Newport

A Very Musical Family

"Pastor Henry N. Jeter's Twenty-five Years Experience with the Shiloh Baptist Church, pg. 90

In 1875, Henry N. Jeter came to Newport to preach at the Shiloh Baptist Church. After five months, the church offered him the full-time job of becoming their pastor. He would marry Thomasinia Hamilton in Brooklyn, Ny in 1878. They would go on to have eleven children, the oldest being Octavia. You can read more about Pastor Jeter and the Shiloh Church in the book Pastor Henry N. Jeter’s Twenty-five Years Experience with the Shiloh Baptist Church.

By the early 1890s Octavia was performing and accompanying at the Shiloh Baptist Church, with her family and many other musicians.

Their musical talent would lead to a number of performances outside of the church and away from Newport. In the advertisement below, Octavia and A.D. Aintolo, clarinetist with the 2nd. United States Artillery Regimental Band from Fort Adams are highlighted as featured musicians.

She would also be listed as the organist at Shiloh Baptist Church in the book by Henry N. Jeter, although no dates are listed for when she was.

Fall River Daily Evening News, December 12, 1896

From Newport to New York

On September 6, 1900 Octavia would marry Reynold Dash, a Newport cook from the West Indies. By 1910 the family appears in the United States Census, still living in Newport.

1900 Marriage Record
1910 United States Census - Newport, Rhode Island

Her performances and those of the Jeter Family would still be recorded in local papers, and as far away as New York City.

Reynold Dash dies sometime around 1915 and our next records of Octavia have her in New York City married to John Crispin and living in Manhattan. 

1915 Newport City Directory
1920 United States Census - Manhattan Borough

Her musical career continues as she appears in a New York paper.

Later in life there is little known about Octavia, aside from an article about the marriage of her sister Olyve and the wedding annoucement.

Dash, Octavia Jeter. Announcement from Octavia Jeter Dash to Dr. & Mrs. W. E. B. Du Bois, April 12, 1955. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Octavia died in 1962 in New York City.

There is more out there about Octavia Jeter, and we are always looking for help completing our records of the lives of these important musicians. Contact us if you want to share stories about Octavia Jeter, or any of the musicians of Newport. Their stories are our history, and our goal is to share this history.


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Historic Music of Newport is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preserving Newport’s rich musical heritage. Help support our mission.

P.O. Box 539
Newport, RI 02840

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