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Hiram Revels

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The Negroes of Knox Co., IL

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HIRAM REVELS & THE NEGROES OF GALESBURG

Mr. Revels, who was the first Negro in American history to be seated as a United States Senator in Congress, spent a few years of his young manhood as a resident of Galesburg and a student in the Knox Academy. A manuscript which he wrote or dictated appears in this section, along with other pertinent materials which shed new light on the prairie land history of black people. D. E. Butler’s writings are given in this part of Voices of the Prairie Land, as well as Henry Allen’s anti-slavery oration delivered at Knox College in the Winter of 1861.

From the front page, The Galesburg Republican, Saturday, April 9, 1870

      Hon. H. R. Revels---We have it on undisputed authority that Hon. H. R. Revels, the colored United States Senator from Mississippi actually received his education at Knox College. Several of our colored citizens claim to be old friends and acquaintances of the honorable Senator, and it is even reported that one or two of his relatives reside here. Galesburg is thus distinguished as having educated and trained the first man of color who occupies a seat in the senate chamber of the republic. finis

-I-

      Black people were early participants in prairie history. Before their arrival as refugees, some were brought in as the property of southern planters, although—on occasion—a few were freedmen. And while a great many northern state laws reflected archaic social attitudes and were unfair or downright immoral, still the Negroes came to the spacious plains. By the mid-1830’s, individual blacks could be seen in scattered Midwestern communities.

      Galesburg, Illinois, perhaps more than other communities in that part of the prairie land, was a place of safety for escaping slaves. Many technical treatises about the historical reasons have come down to the present. But, maybe the one central aspect—the human one—was what made the difference: there were individuals in Galesburg who knew and believed that it was morally wrong to buy and sell human beings. They helped slaves escape.

      Considerable and basic historical research is yet to be done where the subject of Galesburg’s very first blacks is concerned. There is some documentation on the whites of the town who were anti-slavery. Perhaps a black historian sifting those items will find helpful clues. Maybe some Canadian archives will possess material in point, too.

      It is told in 19th century historical sources that the early 1840s saw the emergence of Galesburg as a haven of refuge and a good deal of the material describes the place of Knox College in that picture. Dr. Hermann Muelder’s Fighters For Freedom is a valuable study.

      An important thing to appreciate in any group’s history is the contribution of transition or restlessness as a dynamic social element. The tiny black communities that sprang up in certain safe places often became permanent, such as in Galesburg, or else disappeared as their members went elsewhere. But the feeling of restlessness became a local characteristic.

      Many of the Negroes who reached Galesburg during the early days paused only briefly. One such transitional person was Hiram Rhodes Revels, who, in later life, became the first black United States Senator.

      In the waning days of President Buchanan’s administration of the late 1850’s, a Senator from Mississippi was Jefferson Davis. Mr. Davis left the Senate when his state seceded from the Union. He became the head of the Confederacy.

      After the Civil War, when Mississippi was returned to the Union, the senator’s seat was still vacant. Mr. Revels was elected to it.

      Of Mr. Revels and his stay in Galesburg, we know but little. What house he and his wife Phoebe lived in, where, how it looked, how they supported themselves, or who their personal friends were—none of these facts have come down to us. We know he was at the Knox Academy during the late 1850’s.

      Dr. Muelder’s Fighters For Freedom carries a footnote on Mr. Revels. Information is given that points to the enrollment of Revels at the town’s leading education institution during 1856 and 1857. In her admirable America’s Black Congressmen (T. Y. Crowell, New York, 1971), Maurine Christopher says about Revels “his last formal education was as a scholarship student at Knox Academy in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1856-57.” This sounds reasonable, for the Principal of the Academy in that day was George Churchill, a man of genius who was a teacher and a friend of the oppressed. It would be interesting to know of George Churchill’s feelings about Revels. And what did the pupils in the Academy think of Revels? Was it not something of a novelty for those teen-agers to see an adult, married Negro in their classes? Given Revels’ aura as a southerner, it is quite possible that when he told stories of slave life, his youthful listeners were rapt.

      One possible acquaintance of Hiram Revels may have been the young Henry Allen, who identified himself as a fire-breathing Abolitionist in an oration he delivered at the College in February, 1861. The manuscript of that speech survives and is published for the first time in this book. The words of Henry Allen may be read as the result of his reaction to tales such as those which could have been told by a man like Revels.

      It would also be interesting to know if Sheldon Allen, the father of Henry, was a friend to Hiram Revels. Sheldon Allen was active in Negro rescue work during that era.

      A bit of authentic evidence from the Galesburg of old on the subject of Hiram Revels and Professor Churchill appears on the editorial page of The Galesburg Republican, issue dated Saturday, December 2, 1870. The column is headed “Clark E. Carr, Editor and Proprietor” and he will be remembered by many history students as the Galesburg postmaster who rose politically to become U. S. Minister to Denmark in later years. Here is the full text of the editorial item:

      Thirteen years ago this winter H. R. Revels, a poor young colored man, was a student under Professor Churchill in the Academicals Department of Knox College in this city, and many were the sneers and taunts the poor fellow received, for no fault of his own, but simply because he was a “nigger”. On last Tuesday evening the Honorable H. R. Revels, United States Senator from Mississippi, delivered an able lecture in Caledonia Hall, before an audience consisting of the most cultivated people of Galesburg, which was highly appreciated. The “nigger” schoolboy of ’57 now occupies the distinguished position then held by Jefferson Davis.

      Dr. Muelder of Knox College found a short writing of Mr. Revels’ and it was apparently dictated by Revels late in life. The Library of Congress granted permission for it to be given here. (Readers should note that the last few sentences are a trifle cloudy in style and this may be attributed to a faulty transcription a long time ago.)

 

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HIRAM REVELS

      I was born at Fayetteville, North Carolina, on the 27th day of September, 1827. My ancestors as far back as my knowledge extends, were free. So that it may be seen that from experience I knew nothing of slavery. But from observation and contact, I was aware of its workings, and what were the painful afflictions and sufferings of my poor people under its galling yoke; and on account of it, my early years were years of sorrow and grief. I was early imbued with a love of knowledge and it was my determination to educate myself and become a professional man, and religious teacher. My first educational advantages were when I was between eight and nine years of age.

      Prior to the Nat Turner insurrection, in the State of Virginia, the State of North Carolina was noted for its mildness toward its free colored people, whom they allowed to vote, discuss political questions, hold religious meetings, preach the gospel together with some educational advantages. But after that insurrection, they changed their policy in regard to free Negroes. For at the first meeting of their legislature, laws were passed depriving free Negroes of all political, religious, and educational privileges.

      But even after this, so much of the former friendly, generous feeling toward their free people of color remained that in many parts of the State, especially in cities and the larger towns, colored schools were tolerated, through the sympathy of the better class of the white people of that State. Two fine colored schools were taught in Fayetteville, one by a colored lady and the other by a white lady.

      I attended the former, and together with other colored youths, was fully and successfully instructed by our able and accomplished teacher in all branches of learning, embraced in the curriculum of that school. While I appreciated the educational advantages I enjoyed in the school, and was proud of what I could show in mental culture, as the result of attending it, I had an earnest desire for something more than a mere business education, that is, I desired to study for a profession, and this prompted me to leave my native state and go to the State of Indiana, a free state, where I could attend schools of higher grades, and accomplish what I so much desired in point of learning. The first school I attended in the latter State was a Quaker Seminary in Union County. That school was largely attended by students of both sexes, whose parents were educated and wealthy. I being the only Negro in it, was astonished at seeing that my color was no disadvantage to me, but I was by teachers and students treated as if they and I were of the same color and race.

      In this school, I found many branches of English literature which I by the dint of hard study mastered. Finding that it would be to my advantage, I spent a year at a colored seminary in Darke County, Ohio. Here I studied more earnestly than I had done before in order to keep pace with the most advanced students and I was successful in the undertaking, and greatly benefited by attending that school. It may to some extent be interesting to say in this connection that Rev. Bishop Turner of the A.M.E. Church and I studied Greek together in the City of Baltimore, Maryland.

      When about 18 years old, I engaged in church and educational work; teaching school and lecturing my people in behalf of the education of their children. About the same time, I entered into the work of the gospel ministry.

      I labored as a religious teacher and educator in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and to some extent, in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, during which, at times, I met with a great deal of opposition. I was imprisoned in Missouri in 1854, for preaching the gospel to Negroes, though I never was subjected to violence.

      According to the slave code, no free Negroes had even any right to remain in that State, because their presence tended to arouse discontent among the slaves, but in large towns and cities, this was seldom enforced. I sedulously refrained from doing anything that would incite slaves to run away from their masters. It being understood that my object was to preach the gospel to them, and improve their moral and spiritual condition—even slave holders were tolerant toward me.

      But when in free states, I always assisted the fugitive slave to make his escape.

      I am connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church as Presiding Elder of the Holly Springs District, in Mississippi. I have from necessity, as I have thought and now believe, in State as well as in the Church, filled many offices.

      In 1868, in the City of Natchez, Mississippi, I served as Alderman. All the members of that body, including the Mayor, were Republicans. Finding that the management of the affairs of that City could, in my judgment, be improved, I tried prudently to make that improvement and was successful in so doing. Through the influence chiefly of my much esteemed friend, Mayor John R. Lynch, I ran for the State Senate, in Adams County, and was overwhelmingly elected as was the entire Republican ticket. At the legislature to which I was elected, an opportunity of electing a Republican to the United States Senate, to fill an unexpired term, occurred, and the colored members, after consulting together on the subject, agreed to give their influence and votes for one of their own race for that position, as it would, in their judgment be a weakening blow against color line prejudice, and they unanimously elected me for their nominee. Some of the Democracy favored it because they thought that it would seriously damage the Republican Party.

      When the election was held, everything connected with it was quiet and peaceable and I was elected by a large majority.

      My career and work in the Senate are too well known to need to be repeated here. While there, I did all I could for the benefit of my needy and much imposed upon people. But I will only mention here on thing that I did.

      That is, I got colored mechanics in the United States Navy Yard for the first time.

      A delegation of intelligent, influential colored mechanics from Baltimore called upon me at Washington and informed me of the object of their visit, which was to obtain employment in the United States Navy Yard, where it had not been previously possible for any of the most capable, and intelligent colored mechanics to get employment, and I conducted them to the office of the Secretary of War and explained to him the object of their visit to Washington and he (the Secretary—I forget his name) assured me that as soon as possible, they would be appointed. And in a comparatively short time, these men received their appointments. Shortly before my time expired in the Senate, Senators Morton of Indiana, and Chandler of Michigan—when I was not aware of it—called President Grant’s attention to the fact that some position should be given to me, to prevent my falling into obscurity, when I left the Senate. And it would have been done had I not gratefully and respectfully declined the honor and favor upon the ground that I preferred remaining in Mississippi where I could be more beneficial to my race and State from an educational and religious standpoint, then I could be in a position located outside the state.

      The then-Governor of Mississippi, James L. Alcorn, wrote to me saying that when my time expired in the Senate, he advised me to return to Mississippi, as he had a dignified service for me. And when I returned, I learned that the service to which he referred was the establishing of Alcorn University.

      The governor said that he desired to do that thing for the benefit of the colored people of the State of Mississippi and that that was the most opportune time for doing it by my assistance, that is, that I, having just returned from the United States Senate, would have a large, telling influence with both branches of the legislature.

      So he and I prepared a bill for the establishment of the school, and I presented it first to the Senate and then to the House of Representatives and it soon became a law and then school was established.

      As a compliment to me, the legislature styled the school Revels University, but on my earnest solicitation, it was named for the governor, Alcorn University.

      I was President of it altogether for nine years, but finally abandoned the position on account of failure of health, and engaged in other, active employment.

      It gives me pleasure to say that great numbers of men can be found in Mississippi and other states, who are learned and intelligent and acknowledge their indebtedness to Alcorn University for the same.

      At the earnest request of the then-Governor of Mississippi, S. R. Powers, I, in 1873, on the death of the Hon. James Lynch, Secretary of State, became Secretary of State ad interim. But at the State Convention for nomination of a legislature and state officers, I declined a nomination for the secretary ship of state, and resigned and returned to the Presidency of the University. And when I, as before stated, retired from that position on account of failure of health, I exclusively engaged in church work. At Rust University of the M. E. Church situated at Holly Springs, I was appointed Professor of Theology. After serving in that position a short time, I, finding it would be more congenial to my health to do so, left it, and permanently engaged in the more active work of Presiding Elder.

      I, when a member of the United States Senate, was on the senate committee on the District of Columbia and we having prepared a bill for the establishment of the free school system in that District, presented it to the Senate for their consideration.

      The fifth clause of that bill provided that there should be no distinction in those schools on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Democratic members of the Senate made a motion that, that clause be stricken from the bill. This motion was opposed by Senators Sumner, Carpenter, Wilson, and Revels. After my speech, Senator Yates and ex-Governor of Illinois sent me these lines:

                                    Washington D. C.

                                    March 4, 1871

Hon. Hiram Revels.

      As I retire from the Senate, I beg leave to assure you of my admiration for your abilities and character, and that in the coming years which may be allotted to me, shall cherish for you affectionate remembrance.

                                    Sincerely Yours,

                                          Richard Yates

      My views on the subject of General Amnesty having been misrepresented, I made the following remarks on this subject:

      ‘Mr. President, I did not intend to take any part in the discussion. It was not my desire to do so. I do not rise now for the purpose of doing so, but merely desire to explain my position and that of the State which I, in part, represent, with regard to the question of general amnesty.

      I have been referred to by quite a number of honorable Senators, who have already addressed the Senate on this subject, and at last I have been called upon by one to explain my position and that of my State. First, allow me to speak of my own position and then I will speak of that of the Republican Party in the State I represent. I am in favor of removing the disabilities of those upon whom they are imposed, in the South, just as fast as they give evidence of having become loyal and of being loyal.

      If you can find one man in the South who gives evidence that he is a loyal man, and gives that evidence in the fact that he has ceased to denounce the laws of Congress, as unconstitutional, has ceased to oppose them, and respects them and favors the carrying out of them, I am in favor of removing his disabilities; and if you can find one hundred that the same is true of, I am in favor of removing their disabilities. If you can find a whole State that that is true of, I am in favor of removing the disabilities of all its people. Now, my position is fully understood.

      Often I receive petitions from citizens of my State, asking Congress to remove their disabilities; and how much I regret that it is not in our power to take that class of persons and put them by themselves and remove the disabilities of all of them, at once. I would be glad to see this done, but we can only do it by the process adopted by Congress.

      These remarks by the Hon. Wendell Phillips at the close of my lecture at Boston, I give as published by a Boston daily newspaper.

      Mr. Phillips referred in a pleasant manner to the Arabian Nights’ Tales he had read when young, and of the disappointment he, with other children, had felt when he found himself still sitting on the cold ground, while the glorious visions were all gone at the clapping of the Caliph’s hands. And said that he had felt, when sitting behind Senator Revels that night, like clapping his own hands, to see whether the scene would change, and he would vanish. He could scarcely realize that a thousand men had come into Tremont Temple to see and hear a Senator of the United States from that race which had been so long victimized. It seemed to him that he would like to feel of the Senator, and see if he was real flesh and blood. Why, he remembered at the second anti-slavery meeting that he ever attended, the Attorney General of Massachusetts (and he still breathed) was seized with the idea that to take the chains off the black race would be like setting loose the hyenas.

      “Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of Boston,” said Mr. Phillips, pointing to Mr. Revels, “I introduce to you a hyena. (laughter) This is the man, the danger of unloosing whom, that the Attorney-General so eloquently delineated.”

      Then later down in the newspaper article (Mr. Phillip continued) Robert Toombs told us that if we ever dared to fire a gun against the South, he would go over the roll call of his Negroes under the shadow of Bunker Hill. The man that addressed them that night was the first man that answered.”

      Mr. Phillips heartily congratulated the audience upon the rapid disappearance of the hope that before long the prejudice now existing against the Chinamen would also be swept away.’

finis

-II-

      With the foregoing brief acknowledgment of Galesburg’s most famous transitional black man, Hiram Rhodes Revels, it is time to survey the history of those black families who remained. To better appreciate something of the spirit in the community after the Civil War, two news articles shall be repeated from the spring of 1870. Both appeared in the Galesburg Republican, the town’s daily, and both, interestingly enough, were on the editorial page of their respective issues. From the issue dated Saturday, April 25, 1870, comes this item:

Colored Celebration

A Respectable turnout of Freedmen, Citizens, etc.

      The celebration on Thursday, inaugurated by the colored citizens in honor of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment was a quite creditable affair and was managed admirably by the committee of arrangements. At about ten o’clock in the forenoon, the procession began its march and the utmost decorum and order marked its progress throughout the city. Heading the cavalcade was the College City Cornet Band which discoursed the most enlivening strains of music, while immediately behind was a chariot containing twenty-nine young ladies of color representing the states that ratified the amendment. They were neatly and appropriately costumed, and each one bore a small flag on which the name of the state was inscribed. They made a really fine appearance—far better looking and much more lady-like in their deportment than those democratic females who formerly paraded the streets under the shadow of “White Husband or None” banners. Following in their wake were wagons containing the scholars of the Methodist Episcopal and Baptist Sabbath schools, while vehicles to the number of about twenty-five formed the remainder of the equestrian portion of the cortege. Probably the most noticeable feature of the affair was the military company commanded by Captain Anderson Gash. The men kept step with precision and handled their pieces fairly, evincing considerable military knowledge in their evolution. The display throughout was really excellent, and was a decided triumph in every way for our colored citizens, and too much praise cannot be accorded to the various officers who worked faithfully and earnestly for its success. In every part of the city the procession met with words of encouragement and cheer, for, to the honor of our good city, let it be said that there are not enough democratic rowdies within the corporate limits to get up even the semblance of a free fight. The democracy of Galesburg are far more respectable, tolerant and intelligent than those of any other locality on this continent, and they seem pleased that the colored folks celebrated their full freedom in such a becoming manner.

      The line of march was under the direction of Colonel Dennis Fletcher, with Major J. B. Knowles, Captain Aaron Williams, and Lieutenant Franklin Gash comprising his staff as assistant marshals.

 

Evening Meeting

      Caledonia Hall in the evening was well filled with an audience of both colored and white people. The stage was decorated with flags, banners, and evergreens, and we noticed in front the portraits of Grant, Sumner, Garrison and others, while on the stand was a beautiful statue of Abraham Lincoln. The exercises were opened by singing the old and well-known hymn Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow after which an eloquent prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Graves. After this, the audience sang the chorus of Rally Round the Flag and then listened to a few sensible and pointed remarks from Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, Dr. Balch, Captain Barquet, Col. Carr, Captain Grant and Dr. Beecher, after which the audience sang the national anthem America and the meeting was ended. The room was then cleared and a grand dance ensued. All passed off pleasantly and the colored folks enjoyed themselves hugely.

      Of the names given in the above-recited news article, the Gash family continues on the Galesburg scene a century later. Mr. Johnson of Kentucky is unknown to this research, Captain Barquet was a black man. Colonel Carr was Clark E. Carr, editor and publisher of the Galesburg Republican. Captain Grant was Charles Grant, a director of the Farmers & Mechanics Bank and an operator of the then-new Union Hotel which stood on the Square and was known to later generations as The Broadview, razed in 1969.

      The same page of the newspaper containing this article also carried a theatrical ad for Caledonia Hall, announcing that Uncle Tom’s Cabin would be performed for three nights that week. Also to be performed that week was Hamlet, featuring the renowned Shakespearean tragedian Mr. McKean Buchanan.

From the Galesburg Republican, Saturday, April 9, 1870

THE COLORED MAN

      The fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States is now part of the law of the land, despite the futile opposition of the Venerable Gampsons of the democratic school of politics. The sooner men of all parties realize the fact that the Negro is a legal voter and clothed with equal political rights the better it will be for all concerned. The colored man is now a voter and a citizen and each of the democratic politicians, who are proverbially slow to learn, will recognize him as such.

      The Negro having thus obtained his rights and privileges, we hope he will not imagine that they give him the right to saunter on the street corners and loiter in low saloons. The proper and only way to prove himself capable of citizenship is to go to work and stay at work. We are not one of those republicans who think a dark skin should shield vice, indolence or general unfitness for the duties of life. Let us again repeat that the Negroes must cultivate industry and education if they would live down prejudice, and a half-dozen of them loafing on a street corner will do much towards keeping them in a menial and secondary condition. The leading colored men should drive the stragglers either to work or out of Knox County—toil is the inevitable destiny of mankind, and its decrees should not be forgotten by those who are basking in the sunshine of their newly acquired freedom.

      We do not by any means belong to that class, either, who consider the African the superior of the foreign-born citizen, and neither do we believe, in the slightest degree, that the Negro alone saved the republic during the late war. Had we depended on Negro prowess or intelligence, we greatly fear that Mr. Jefferson Davis and gentlemen of that ilk would now be making and executing laws in Washington.

      This is our deliberate conviction and it may go for what it is worth. What we started out to say was this: the Negro is now on an equal footing with the white man, and, in the name of that which is right and just, let him hereafter take his chances in the battle of life. Being a citizen, he should be responsible for his actions and he has it in his power to make himself respected, if he proves himself industrious and capable. The colored man will also find it greatly to his advantage to have as little to do with politics as possible. He cannot earn subsistence for himself or family by listening to the special pleading and representations of scheming politicians, and the more he avoids that class of men the more he will be respected. Let the colored be sober, upright and industrious and he will be sure to obtain respect, besides insuring his prosperity and welfare. Let it be understood that a black skin is no excuse for vagrancy and laziness.

      The next article appeared on the same editorial page eight or nine weeks later. It was a Letter to the Editor and was printed on Saturday, June 4, 1870. At that time, Decoration Day was a newly-instituted national holiday, being in honor of the men who had died in the Civil War. This letter-article is an unkind and slightly unbalanced tirade which is signed A White Republican Soldier. Colonel Carr saw fit to publish the letter on his editorial page. Immediately next to this letter is a full column of editorial writing headed The War is Over. It is my feeling that this article was intended as a rebuke to the person who wrote the unkind letter.

The Colored Troops

Editors: Galesburg Republican:

      The soldiers who participated in the procession as soldiers on Decoration Day would not have made in numbers a respectable sergeant’s squad. But for one cause there would have been a battalion of white troops in line, and a better feeling altogether would have prevailed. Lest there be any doubt that I am not understood I will say distinctly that the colored troops who were “mixed in”, or were pushed into the ranks by their special champions, kept scores of white soldiers outside the procession. I am perfectly aware that it is unpopular to say this—I suppose that the many who hate the Irish, the Dutch, the Swedes, or somebody else that is white, will hold up their hands in pious horror on account of this declaration. Christians of the straightest sect will tell us that all are alike before God, and moral reform politicians will tell us that the law of the land has made the African the equal and peer of the paleface. Admitting all this to be true, and also admitting the solemnity of the occasion, still I must be allowed to give it as my opinion that the action of the sable and tawny heroes in thrusting themselves forward was decidedly premature and in exceedingly bad taste. If the colored men who had borne arms in defense of the republic were desirous of paying honor to the dead soldiers they would have displayed far more sense and judgment by marching as a separate squad or detachment. Hundreds of men who followed the old flag in danger and peril did so without having Negro comrades and it is not to be expected that they will march with them now. If our colored fellow citizens are desirous of being soldiers, I am perfectly willing that they shall wheel, march and counter-march to their hearts’ content, but it would certainly look a great deal better if they will perform their evolutions solely among themselves. I am perfectly willing to admit, for the sake of argument, that they “fought nobly”, but I am not willing to have a robust and lusty colored warrior for a comrade on a hot and dusty day—no matter what the opinions of others may be.

      History is filled with reminders of the coarse expressions that some people put into the record of communal life. And while we do not know the identity of that letter’s author, and although a century has passed since the letter was printed in Galesburg, it would be without point to try and scold that person. If that former Civil War soldier were alive today, he might be very interested in how the American public has become wholesomeness- and body odor-conscious.

      Still, the hurt lingers and is worthy of some reply. Perhaps the following will be of merit.

      At the present time, a very old lady living in Washington, D. C. is Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Teddy Roosevelt and the widow of Congressman Nicholas Longworth. She was a girl in her late teens, when her father was President of the United States.

      Over the years, Mrs. Longworth has been outspoken and frank. Her comments about society are often memorable.

      In the late 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson was President, his daughters found husbands and the newspapers were filled with social-page articles about social doings in the White House and weddings there.

      A writer from the New York Times called on Mrs. Longworth in her Washington home and asked her to look back on the days of her debutante social life in the White House in the early years of the 20th century.

      The writer suggested to Mrs. Longworth that many grand parties had been held in the White House during her father’s tenure and Mrs. Longworth agreed. The parties were grand.

      The writer suggested to Mrs. Longworth that the parties were well-attended by couples clad in the finest evening clothes and Mrs. Longworth agreed. Everyone wore splendid evening clothes.

      And the orchestras? Yes, the music was divine.

      And didn’t the young Alice Roosevelt find her card will-filled with the names of handsome bachelors who wished to dance with her?

      Mrs. Longworth thought about it a moment and then nodded. Yes, on occasion, her card was filled.

      The writer from the Times paused. Only….on occasion? Not always?

      Mrs. Longworth assented.

      But surely the debutante daughter of the President of the United States would want to be the center of attraction at every ball?

      Mrs. Longworth shook her head No.

      The Times writer was mystified.

      Why?

      Because, in those days, Mrs. Longworth said in so many words, there was no air conditioning in the White House. And when a large crowd of people gathered in the East Room, for example, as guests at a grand ball, the ventilation was poor. After a while, regardless of how splendidly the guests were clad or how well they had perfumed themselves, the body odor was noticeable. The Young Alice disliked it and therefore avoided going to her Papa’s social gatherings.

      In this story, it may be noticed that the racial angle is absent. Perhaps, then, this will serve to debunk the cruel letter which appeared in the Galesburg newspaper a century ago. Bodies are bodies and when they become over-heated, in certain circumstances, they smell. It is a fact of life for everybody. For the writer of that letter to infer that white soldiers remain immaculate or never smell on a hot day is a joke without parallel to anyone who was ever in the service and went on a ten-mile hike.

      So much for the B. O.

      One of the most dramatic chapters in the history of Galesburg’s black people is recounted in the 1878 Knox County History and it covers the story of Sukey Richardson. That material is given here verbatim.

 

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

BLACK LAWS

      The early settlers of this county, although mainly from the Southern or slave States, entertained a deep-seated prejudice against the Negro, for which it is hard for us to account at the present day. This prejudice, we may remark, was not held altogether and only in this county, for by referring to the Revised Statutes of this State, approved March 3, 1845, we find the following in chapter 54, under the head of “Negroes and Mulattoes”:

      Section 8: Any person who shall hereafter bring into this State any black or mulatto person, in order to free him or her from slavery, or shall directly or indirectly bring into this State, or aid or assist any person in bringing any such black and mulatto person to settle and reside therein, shall be fined one hundred dollars on conviction and indictment, before any justice of the peace in the county where such offense shall be committed.

      Section 9: If any slave or servant shall be found at a distance of ten miles from the tenement of his or her master, or person with whom he or she lives, without pass or some letter or token whereby it may appear that he or she is proceeding by authority from his or her master, employer or overseer, it shall and may be lawful for any person to apprehend and carry him or her before a justice of the peace, to be by his order punished with stripes, not exceeding thirty-five, at his discretion.

      Section 10: If any slave or servant shall presume to come and be upon the plantation or at the dwelling of any person whatsoever, without leave from his or her owner, not being sent upon lawful business, it shall be lawful for the owner of such plantation or dwelling house to give or order such slave or servant ten lashes on his or her bare back.

      Section 12: If any person or persons shall permit or suffer any slave or slaves, servant or servants of color, to the number of three or more, to assemble in his, her or their outhouse, yard or shed, for the purpose of dancing or reveling, either by night or by day, the person or persons so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of twenty dollars with cost to any person or persons who will sue for and recover the same by action of debt or indictment, in any court of record proper to try the same.

      Section 13: It shall be the duty of all coroners, sheriffs, judges, and justices of the peace, who shall see or know of, or be informed of any such assemblage of slaves or servants, immediately to commit such slaves or servants to the jail of the county, and on view or proof thereof to order each and every such slave or servant to be whipped not exceeding thirty-nine stripes on his or her bare back.

MODE OF RUNNING THE U.G.R.R.

      Very likely all of our readers have heard of the famous Underground Railroad, but very few know anything of its system of work. Happily the corporation does not now exist, the necessity for the enterprise not being apparent at the present time, as the class of freight or passengers transported over the line are not now produced.

      The question of slavery has always been a mixed one, from the time the first slave was imported into our country until, by the emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, all men were made free and equal in the eyes of the law. A strong anti-slavery party has long existed in the country. The framers of our constitution upon the organization of the government had to deal with the question of slavery; the successive administrations from Washington to Lincoln had to grapple with it; various compromises were adopted which it was thought would quiet its spirit; but, like Banquo’s ghost, it would not down at the bidding of any man or party. The death of Lovejoy at Alton, in 1837, a martyr to the anti-slavery cause, gave an impetus to the agitation of the question which never ceased until the final act was consummated which broke in pieces the shackles that bound the slave.

      Growing out of the agitation of this question, and the formation of a party in sympathy with the slaves, was the organization of the so-called Underground Railroad, for the purpose of aiding fugitives to escape to a land of freedom. The secrecy of its workings justified its name. Notwithstanding the system was an organized one, those engaged in it had no signs or passwords by which they might be known, save now and then a reconverted rap at the door when a cargo of freight was to be delivered. Each relied upon the honor of the other, and, as the work was an extra-hazardous one, few cowards ever engaged in it. Pro-slavery men complained bitterly of the violation of the law by their abolition neighbors, and persecuted them as much as they dared; and this was not a little. But the friends of the slaves were not to be deterred by persecution. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” and persecution only made them more determined than ever to carry out their just convictions of right and duty. No class of people ever made better neighbors than the Abolitionists, or better conductors on a railroad. It is well, perhaps, in this connection, to note how the passengers over this road were received in Canada, the northern termination. From mere goods and chattels in our liberty-boasting nation they were transformed into men and women; from being hunted with fire-arms and blood-hound, like wild beasts, they were recognized and respected as good and loyal subjects by the Queen as soon as their feet touched British soil. At the same time there stood, with open arms, Rev. Hiram Wilson, the true, noble-hearted missionary, ready to receive these refugees from “freedom’s (?) soil,” and administer to their wants. In February, 1841, there came a day of jubilee to the doubting ones, when Queen Victoria’s proclamation was read to them: “That every fugitive from United States slavery should be recognized and protected as a British subject the moment his or her foot touched the soil of her domain.” Mr. Wilson arranged with the authorities to have all supplies for the fugitive slaves admitted free of custom duty. Many were the large, well filled boxes of what was most needed by the poor wanderer taken from the wharf at Toronto during that winter by E. Child, mission teacher. He was then a student of Oneida Institute, N. Y., but for many years has resided in Oneida, this county. He went into Canada for the purpose of teaching the fugitives.

      A very singular circumstance in connection with this road was the fact that, although people well knew who were engaged in it, and where the depot was located, freight could seldom be found, search as carefully as they might. A consignment would be forwarded over the line, notice of which would reach the ears of slave hunters, and when ready to place their hands upon the fugitives, like the Irishman’s flea, they wouldn’t be there. The business of this road for a number of years was quite extensive, but today all its employees are discharged, and, strange to relate, none are sorry, but all rejoice in the fact. As illustrating the peculiarities of this line, we append several incidents that occurred in this county:

“AUNT SUKEY”

      One wintry day in the year 1843, a Negro woman with two small children and a son about seventeen years old, together with a Negro girl about the same age, were brought to Knoxville and incarcerated in the county jail. “What for?” you will quite naturally ask. What crime had they committed that they should imprisoned? They were making an attempt to gain the liberty which their Creator had destined for them, but which was denied by man’s inhumanity. They had made their way from Southern Illinois, carefully secreting themselves during the day, and the anxious mother with her loved ones hurried along by night, directed to the land of freedom by the changeless North Star. It was not for her own freedom that Aunt Sukey was trying to obtain so much as to purchase that prized boon for her children. Her master had repeatedly threatened to sell them to Southern traders. This the mother well knew would be done. She had often seen loved children mercilessly torn from their mother’s arms and sent south, never again to be heard from. How like the sad sequel of this story, and worse; for here in Knox County this loving mother was robbed of her babes and son by cruel hands. They were violently torn from her care and borne to a Southern clime to receive the abuses and cruelties of the poor, degraded plantation slaves, and man’s uncompassionate, selfish nature and inhuman hand would still more ruthlessly cause all the torture and degradation of such a life of bondage.

      Thirty-five years have passed; a bloody and destructive war has been fought; the right prevailed after much carnage and bloodshed; and the shackles of four million degraded slaves were broken, and the much coveted liberty given the poor, benighted beings. Whether the two babes were among the number (the son being killed the year after his capture) the mother never knew. The continent was convulsed a few years ago over the sad story of little Charley Ross; but there is a mother living in Knox county whose babes were taken thirty-five years ago, and yet she has never heard a single word from them; she knows not whether they are living or dead, but for years she too well knew they were in in-human hands, suffering the cruelties of bondage and pain which slavery and the bartering for human flesh could but produce. It was such incidents as these that aroused the liberty-loving spirit of the North and goaded her soldiers to go and so nobly fight for the slave’s freedom.

      Let us continue our narrative. Susan Richardson, for such was “Aunt Sukey’s” real name, was brought into the Territory of Illinois a few years before it was admitted into the Union as a State. Her master, Andrew Border, lived in Randolph County, where she was kept a slave until, as she told us, “she left betwixt two suns.” The immediate cause for this unannounced departure was certainly one wholly justifiable. Her children and those of her master had gotten into some altercation, when her mistress had her children whipped. The mother very naturally resented this, and her passionate mistress then declared the lash should be laid most heavily upon her back. When Mr. Border arrived home his wife told him she wanted Sukey whipped. Seemingly he possessed finer feelings, more sensitive than those of his delicate wife to the pains of others, for he said he could not comply. Aunt Sukey had always been so good, and besides he was afraid she would run away if he did. Refusal aroused the fiery temper of his wife, when she avowed that she would neither eat nor sleep until he promised that Aunt Sukey should be whipped. As a compromise he agreed to tie her and make all the other necessary preparations, then to give the lash to her and let her apply it to the bared back of the poor abused slave until her anger was fully appeased. This was entirely satisfactory to the groveling mind of the unkind mistress, and she promised herself to punish the impudent slave (as she considered her) as severely as her strength would permit. Aunt Sukey knew the design of her mistress, and accordingly was on the “lookout,” for she had overheard the promise made by her master. The thoughts of being scourged, and by a woman too, was more than she could endure, and so aroused her wounded and indignant spirit that she hastily and secretly, with her children, left her master that night and went to Cairo, where she got on the line of the Underground Railroad and reached Canton, Fulton County, in safety. Here Conductor Wilson took her in charge to convey her to the next station, which was at the Rev. John Cross’ in the eastern part of Knox County. He did not arrive until after daylight; and scarcely had Aunt Sukey and her charge alighted from the wagon when she was arrested and conveyed to Knoxville, where for some days the five were confined in the county jail. Notices of their capture were immediately sent south. Of course the cruel master was on the lookout, and the notice soon fell under his eyes. In the meantime, however, through the agency of humane citizens of Knoxville, they were released on bail. The woman was soon engaged in going from home to home and doing the washings of the different families. For her son she had secured a situation on a farm near town, and her younger children she left at the hotel during the day. One day while washing at the residence of Rev. Cole, the Presbyterian minister of the town, the startling intelligence of her old master being in town was communicated to her. Her first thought was for the safety of her children, and remembering the little ones at the hotel, the same tender, loving, motherly feeling prompted her to make the attempt to secrete them. But unfortunately for the thoughtful mother, her master had met them in the hallway at the hotel, when he at once seized them, carrying them to Mr. Newman’s house and hiding them in the loft, and then going in search of the son; for said he, “If I can get the children I am not afraid but what the old one will follow.” Aunt Sukey then thought to save her son, but ere she could even give him a warning note his merciless master had also captured him.

      The grief of the poor, distracted mother, too terrible and intense in its nature to be pictured, can be perhaps much better imagined than described; so we will pass over it. Frantic and almost heart-broken, the poor woman thought she must return to the dreaded scourged life of bondage with her children. She was advised by her sympathizing friends not to go, for it would only be to suffer increased pain and mental anxiety, as the children would undoubtedly be sold and sent south. Charles Gilbert from near Galesburg drove up to Rev. Cole’s residence in a sleigh about this time. His finer feelings were wrought upon and touched by the sad recital of the story of the hunted fugitives. He resolved to save the mother; so, donning her in clothing of Mrs. Cole’s, with closely veiled face, he helped her into his sleigh, and sitting down beside her, took up the reins and sped over the snowy earth for Galesburg, where it was well known then, as always after, that a Negro was safe when once within its limits. The two small children and the son were taken back to the dreaded and bitter life of toil, pain, and bondage, never to again look upon the mother that had battled so nobly for their liberty. Can any one, who has never been placed in any such, or similar, position, fully realize the pain and anguish of such a parting? Can the dreariness, the gloom and terrors of the embittered and bondage life of slavery be too plainly pictured or overdrawn?

      Hannah, the name of the young girl who accompanied Aunt Sukey, did not belong to the same master, and being nearly of age, she was not molested but suffered to go free. She went to Galesburg, and lived for some years, but at present resides in New York City. Mrs. Richardson lives on the corner of West and Ferris streets, Galesburg. She is a very intelligent, fine-looking and active old Negro lady.

      Soon after Aunt Sukey had settled in Galesburg a lawsuit, which became famous, was instituted by her former master, Mr. Border, for her recovery; but by some means he was beaten, although he had that eminent lawyer, Hon. Julius Manning, for his attorney.

BILL CASEY

      Bill Casey was another passenger over the Underground Railroad, but so closely pursued that he left the main line and worked his way as far as Galesburg himself. That city was well known among the Negroes, and a runaway slave was considered as free from capture when within its limits as if in Canada. Being settled by Eastern people, who not only had no sympathy with slavery, but held for it a righteous indignation, and whose citizens would any time violate an inhumane and unjust law to help a fugitive slave, Galesburg was known throughout the country as the strongest kind of an abolitionist place. Here the weary, hunted slaves could find a refuge, some comfort, and a host of sympathizing friends.

      Bill Casey reached Galesburg Saturday night, and going to the residence of the colored lady, Susan Richardson, whose coming to the county is related above, he was admitted and kindly cared for. He was a miserable and affecting human being to look upon, having neither shoes nor hat and almost naked, with feet bleeding and swollen, and body bruised, besides being almost in a starving state, having had nothing with which to appease his hunger for several days. With five companions he had started from Missouri. They were pursued, and two or three of the number had been shot, and the others captured, and only by the rapidity of his flight through the woods with heavy undergrowth had he escaped. Sunday morning came, and “Aunt Sukey” locked her house and with her family as usual went to church, leaving Casey at her home. She knew, as she told us, “who to tell.” Accordingly she soon made known to members of the Underground Railroad that a fugitive was at her house. They immediately visited him, and found him in a needy condition, and that he must have a pair of shoes before he could go farther, as well as some clothing. So Messrs. Neeley, West, and Blanchard began to prepare him for the journey. Of course he could not be taken to the store and have his shoes fitted there, but they had to bring them to him. His feet were so badly swollen that it was necessary for them to make three or four trips before they could find shoes that would fit or he could wear. After everything was fully arranged, Casey was put in charge of a conductor on the Underground Railroad and conveyed to the next station. In a year or two he returned to Galesburg and engaged in cutting timber northwest of town.

      One day two men, evidently “Southern gentlemen,” rode up to the Galesburg hotel. There they met a young Negro boy, Charley Love, of whom they inquired of Bill Casey. Although small, Charlie was well posted, and of course “never heard of such a fellow”. However, as soon as possible he ran and gave the alarm, and immediately a fleet-footed horse with noble rider was off for the woods where Casey was at work. The two strangers referred to were on the hunt for Casey, and after some inquiries learned his whereabouts and started for him, but Charlie Love had saved him, for he was warned in time and escaped capture.

GALESBURG STATION

      Galesburg, from the very starting of the colony to the time of the war, was noted as the principal depot of the Underground Railroad in Western Illinois, if not in the whole state. The refugees were from Missouri, and most of them would first stop at a Quaker settlement in southeastern Iowa, where friends would keep them and bring them on at night to Galesburg. Here George Davis, Samuel Hitchcock, Nehemiah West and others would promote their welfare as far towards Canada as Stark County or Ontario in the county. A Mr. Hizer, one of the Iowa Quakers, called on Mr. Davis in this city only two years ago, surprising him with an unexpected but very pleasurable visit, and the gentlemen refreshed their memories concerning a certain colored man whom they had helped through over thirty years previously. Mr. Davis was accompanied by Rev. R. C. Dunn in taking the refugee to Mr. Wyckoff’s in the southern part of Stark County. In 1858 a colored man was taken through to Canada, who shortly afterward found his way back to Missouri and started with nine other slaves for the land of freedom, but reached Galesburg with only five or six. With these it is presumed he got safely through to Canada.

      There was a Negro man, who stopped at Nehemiah West’s on his way to freedom. He formerly lived in luxury, being the favored coachman of an eminent gentleman, but who, through misfortune, failed and consequently all his property was sold. His coachman was sold to a cruel master, who stripped him of all the good clothing his former master had given him and donned him in the coarsest of garments and beat him unmercifully in order, as he said, “to learn him where he belonged, and to show him that he couldn’t act the gentleman around him.” This Negro was greatly afflicted with the consumption and was quite feeble.

      Another one, a cook, stopped at the same place. He was a fine intelligent fellow, but not unlike all others, he was continually on the watch, thinking every footstep he heard was made by his master. Mrs. West says they would run and hide the moment they heard the slightest evidence of some one approaching. This cook was anxious to help prepare the meals. He was sent to the well, just a few feet from the house, to peel some potatoes, but becoming nervous he would start, even at the fall of a leaf. Finally being unable to endure the torture of fear any longer, he begged to come into the house and work, which request was granted him. He would go to the window and look out every few minutes, expecting to see his master coming after him.

      Four Negroes were hidden, and kept one day in the cupola of the First Church of Galesburg, and when night came they were hurried on their journey.

      After the railroad was built through from Chicago to Quincy, in 1854-55, these refugees would get aboard freight trains at Quincy and go right through without much local help along the route. The Galesburg Underground depot was then about outmoded.

      There is no telling how many fugitive slaves were helped through this region of the country, no one thinking at the time what important history he was making for future generations to write up. The number, however, was quite large, for often business was quite brisk over the road.

ONTARIO STATION

      The depot of the Underground Railroad in Ontario Township was at the residence of C. F. Camp, Hod Powell, conductor. Passengers for one train consisted of four well dressed Negroes, who were evidently rather intelligent. They arrived on the evening train from Galesburg in care of Conductor Neeley. After a partial night’s lodging, and a sumptuous meal, Conductor Powell, with his load, looking as if he were going to mill, started for Andover Station, the next on the route. One of the above four returned south three different times for his family. He was so closely watched that he failed each time to rescue his loved ones. On the third trip he found they had been sold and sent farther south.

      In the files of the Probate Court records of 1837 and 1838 are “free papers” of the freedom of slaves. One is found stating that “Harvey Van Allen, a boy, who was born free, and when he arrives at the age of 21 will be as free as any white person.” Another, filed May 15, 1837, of “Joe, commonly called Joe Allen, property of John Allen of Pulaski County, Kentucky, being, for certain causes and considerations desirous to emancipate and set free a certain Negro woman, called Sukey, the wife of free Joe, aged about 29. Said John Allen do emancipate, liberate and set free forever the said Negro woman and to all intent and purposes to enjoy the privilege of freedom as though she had been born free.”

HITCHCOCK STATION

      Samuel Hitchcock’s farm, three miles northwest of Galesburg, was a prominent station on the Underground Railway for ten years. Many a time he secreted six or more of the fugitive slaves in his hay mow, or in the back rooms of the house. He usually carried them to the next station in Ontario Township, fifteen miles distant, starting at 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening. On one occasion, which happened to be Commencement Day of Knox College, and a very warm June morning, a gentleman from Warren County, Mr. Dilley by name, drove up, in company with one Mr. Parker, with what resembled a load of oat straw. Mr. Parker hailed Mr. Hitchcock, “All right!” Mr. Hitchcock exclaimed. “All right,” was again the response, when the load of straw began to present signs of life and one by one crawled out the brunettes, until three women, one man and three children, seven in all, were safely landed at Mr. Hitchcock’s. They were kept secreted until opportunity offered to forward them to the next station.

ARREST OF THE REV. JOHN CROSS

      About the year 1843 some fugitive slaves passing north through the eastern part of Knox County were helped on their journey by members of the Underground Railroad. Rev. John Cross, a Presbyterian Minister, then living in Elba Township, was suspected of helping them. He was accordingly arrested and indicted therefore. In the meantime, before the trial came off, he removed to Bureau County. When the time for trial finally came the sheriff of this county sent a requisition to the sheriff of Bureau County to deliver the said Cross into court. The deputy sheriff, John Long could find no one to bring him. Mr. Cross, appreciating his dilemma, proposed to aid him, and offered to take his own team and deliver himself and the deputy in good order to the authorities of this county. They started on Saturday, and came as far as Mr. Whitaker’s, in the township of Osceola, and stayed over Sunday, as they were no doubt conscientiously opposed to desecrating that holy day. On the Sabbath Rev. Cross preached to the good people of Osceola. Their sympathies were aroused and excited in behalf of the reverend prisoner, and some insinuations were uttered relative to a rescue. When Monday morning came, and they were about to start, the deputy expressed some suspicions that there was danger. Mr. Cross felt they were quite safe and so assured the deputy, who said—“Well, I am prepared for any emergency.” The young men of the neighborhood who were somewhat waggish in their natures, thought to test the courage of the blustering, boasting Kentuckian official. They mounted their horses and circulated about through the woods, which Mr. Cross and the deputy passed through shortly after leaving Mr. Whitaker’s. The deputy, observing their mysterious movements through the trees, became further alarmed, and tremulously suggested to the prisoner that he feared trouble ahead. Mr. Cross reassured him that his courage did not waver, as he had a good team, and could give anyone with mischievous intent a lively chase, but added suggestively—“If you feel there is danger of not getting through with a whole skin, perhaps you had better lie down in the bottom of the wagon-box, and I will throw this buffalo robe over you, so that you will be entirely unobserved, and I will in the meantime keep a sharp lookout for foes.” The courageous (?) official at once profited by the prisoner’s hint and deposited his heroic form in the bottom of the wagon, assuming the shape of a flounder as nearly as possible, when the robe was thrown over him, completely obscuring him from view. The road over which they had to travel for the next two miles was of that antique construction known as “corduroy.” Mr. Cross at once began to apply the whip, and anon loudly saluted imaginary equestrians with a “Good morning!” “How do you do?” “Fine morning”, etc. etc, not failing in the intervals to tell the poor, quivering official, who was writhing under the double torture of fear and a free dose of “corduroy,” to lie flat and keep quiet, at the same time urging forward the horses to a still more lively speed. When Rev. Cross, who was evidently a practical joker, had punished the deputy to his satisfaction, he halted and informed his tortured passenger that he thought the danger now passed, and they could proceed more leisurely without fear of interruption. They drove on to Galesburg, and Mr. Cross at once notified the court that he had brought the prisoner, and delivered himself up.

      The prisoner expected to have George W. Collins as attorney, but he did not come. Persons were ready to bail him. Mr. Cross undertook his own defense, saying “his attorney had failed to appear; and although ‘tis said that ’he who undertakes to defend his own cause has a fool for a client,’ he was forced to that resort,” and signified his readiness to proceed to trial. This was an unexpected attack upon the State’s attorney, and he was compelled to enter the plea that he was not ready for trial, for want of witnesses. The defense entered a nolle prosequi, which ended the case, somewhat ingloriously to the participants on the part of the prosecution.

REV. JOHN CROSS AGAIN

      The following was written by Jacob Kightlinger, an old settler of Knox County, who now resides at Yates City. It has reference to the reverend gentleman of the previous story, and is the “other side” of Underground Railroad life. It shows Mr. Cross to have been a persistent worker and an active member of this humane railroad, the best ever conducted on the continent.

      About the year 1839 or 1840, Rev. Mr. John Cross came into the township of Elba, Knox County. He was a Presbyterian preacher, and an abolitionist at that. He told me to come and hear him preach, and the next Sunday I took my wife and family, and went, and he preached a very good sermon. I had no objections to his preaching. After the services we started for home. We got into the wagon, and seeing that Mr. Cross was afoot, I said “Mr. Cross, you can ride in my wagon if you choose.” So he got in, and we started. Very soon he commenced running down the laws of Illinois, saying they were black, and he would not obey them. He said he would harbor, feed, and convey off Negroes in defiance of the black laws of Illinois. I then said, “Mr. Cross, do not let me see you violate the law,” “Why sir, what would you do?” “I would take you up for violating the law.” “That sir, is just what I want to find. Some one that has the fortitude to take me up.”

      So that week a load of Negroes passed my house, and was conveyed to Mr. Cross’ house by a man named Wilson. I, with five or six neighbors, went after Wilson, and we met him coming back empty. I asked him where his Negroes were. He would not tell; so we went to Mr. Cross’ house, and found the Negroes in a lot of corn. We took the Negroes to Mr. Palmer, the constable, and told him to give them a good dinner, and I said I would pay for it. Mrs. Cross had dinner cooking for them. It was corn in the ear and potatoes with the skins on, all boiling together in one pot. I said they should have a better dinner than that, for I fed my hogs in that way, on that kind of feed.

      Mr. Cross had gone down south after some Negroes that day, and he was afraid that I would take the Negroes from him; so he sent a spy to my house—a Mr. Thomas, of Farmington. He came to my house about midnight, and wanted to know the way to Spoon River Bridge, about five miles off. Said I, “You appear to be in a hurry.” “Yes,” said he. “Well, sir, what is your business?” He said he did not tell his business to every person. “Well sir, you will tell it to me, or you shall not leave here tonight,” and I picked up my rifle. I saw he got some scared, and then he was ready to tell me his business. He said he was in search of some Negroes. I said, “Have you lost some Negroes?” “Yes.” “Can you describe them?” “Yes.” “Well, go at it.” He commenced, and described them perfectly. Said I, “Do you own those Negroes?” He said he had an interest in them, so I took him to be the owner of said Negroes. I said, “I will put your horse up, and in the morning I will tell you where your Negroes are.” I set my rifle up and walked out, and I heard a wagon down at the bridge. Said I, “Do you know what wagon that is?” He said it was the Rev. Mr. Cross. “Ho, ho! You are a spy and an infernal scoundrel!” cried I. He jumped on his horse, and went to Mr. Cross, and told him that I would take his new load of Negroes from him. So Mr. Cross put the Negroes in Wilson’s wagon, and he drove up empty. Another man and I were mounted on horses at my gate, when Mr. Cross drove up. I called three times, “Is that you Mr. Cross?” But instead of answering, he put whip to his horses, and they ran, and I after them about a mile and a half. I called to a man that lived there, named McLaughlin, to stop Cross. I said, “Shoot the horses if he won’t stop, for he has stolen something,” but he did not shoot. There was another man further on, however, who, with a pole struck down both horses.

      The next day Mr. Cross went to Galesburg and swore out a warrant against me, and I went to Galesburg before an abolition squire, and he fined me $100. I then took an appeal to the Circuit Court. When all the evidence was given in, the judge (Douglas) threw it out of court—no cause for action. I then went into the grand jury room, sent for witnesses, and Cross was indicted, and three bills found against him for stealing Negroes. He was put in jail. Afterwards the abolitionists of Galesburg bailed him out. This is all true. JACOB KIGHTLINGER, YATES CITY

 

OTHER AVAILABLE HISTORICAL ITEMS

III

      Perhaps the most interesting research materials in the history of any people are those things which may be described as shards. Shards are usually thought of in relation to things like pottery and as many amateur historians know, there are places in the world where the shards of pots are studied assiduously for clues. In Israel, for example, where archaeology is a national pastime almost, it is often said that General Dayan has one of the great private collections of shards in the country.

      In the history of the black people of our prairie community, there are many shards and because there are few of great size, the small ones tend to stimulate the imagination. One such shard of published material is Butler’s Blue Book. This was a magazine published in Galesburg by D. E. Butler and sold for fifty cents a copy. Only one copy has thus far been located and it reposes in the Illinois State Historical Library at Springfield.

      Mr. Butler was a colored man and may have been the same D. E. Butler who was a clergyman. He was an ambitious and brilliant man, for his magazine is evidence of what he had to offer. In the August 1907 issue, Mr. Butler published quite a bit of material about blacks then living and progressing in the town. His material is presented herewith.

GALESBURG, ILL. --- ITS COLORED PEOPLE

      Abraham Lincoln made all-American history for that matter, but at Galesburg, his public utterances rung out their sweetest notes. It was here that he and Stephen A. Douglas met in joint debate. His sledge-hammer blows were intensely ideal of this Sangamon dreamer, so human and divine. His poignant interrogations cut out a pathway for his opponent, Douglas, to march into the United States Senate, but the “stuff” there from laid along for an hallowed highway, over which Lincoln passed to a seat at the nation’s head—president; and sat there till the dream of his days was come to pass, his eventful mission accomplished, then fell upon his broken shield.

      Galesburg is a beautiful inland city of 25,000 persons, 165 miles from Chicago, and about the same distance from St. Louis, on the C. B. & Q. R. R., with the great Santa Fe R. R. system plowing through her midst. There are about 23 suburban towns sleeping on Galesburg’s skirts, and these find intercourse and transportation pleasant, easy and often, because of the network of street car lines and competing telephone systems.

      It was the invention of the founders of Galesburg to have here a mammoth institution of learning, a distinct educational centre, but as time rolled on, and those who blazed the trail fell asleep upon their pick and ax, the sons of those devout old torch bearers turned aside to see. So that today Galesburg is a typical American city, with a mellow history and a name.

      Galesburg is not distinctly a manufacturing city, but these things have given her a high place among other cities that do bear such a name: Three iron foundries, a manufactory for paving brick, for windmills, for brooms, pianos, automobiles, typewriters, an immense flouring mill, and workshops without number.

      Galesburg is “up-to-date”. Her educational institutions are her biggest bet, her proudest boast, of which educators throughout the country speak in the highest terms. Above an almost perfect school system are Knox, Lombard, and Corpus Christi, colleges that rank high, an academy, an excellent business college, and a mammoth conservatory of music.

      The 25, 000 persons that compose Galesburg’s population are not all white, for about 1,400 of that number represents her colored constituency, and these, just as staid as their Anglo-Saxon brother, not moved by every wind and doctrine, or pleased with a rattle and tickled with a straw, mix and mingle in the city’s business and political life and labor for the advancement of the cause of morality and religion.

      Jefferson Turner, now 103 years of age, with a fairly firm step and a vision not yet dim, is the oldest citizen of color here, and talks with interest and pride of the days, when in his prime, he came to Galesburg, and that was fifty years ago. Other old settlers are Perry Cook, Jefferson and Washington Gash, Dr. I. S. McGill, George Fletcher, Matilda Garner, Billy Wilson, the Simms, Washington's, Allen's, and Solomon's; and still others, who with the number already named, would make up an “Old Settlers’ Club” more than a hundred strong.

      There are three churches of color, African Methodist, regular Baptist, and a Zion A.M.E. Rev. Daniel E. Butler pastors the African M.E., Rev. N. Alexander the Baptist, while the Zion A.M.E. was assigned to Rev. A. H. Chase, just eleven months ago. Each of these churches possesses a parsonage.

      A few of the most substantial citizens, ranking in the order named, are Richard Worthington, commonly called “Uncle Dick,” Melvin Bell, Dr. I. S. McGill, Frank Wilkins, Perry Cook, J. H. Washington, Tip and Jefferson Gash, J. H. and R. A. Duke, Henry Wells, J. T. Hamblin, George Fletcher, John Bell, Abe Harper, and William Davis.

      Of the 350 families, 175 live in their own homes, or fifty per cent of the colored families of Galesburg are property owners. Aside from their homes and churches, they own one creditable public building, and that in the heart of the city, an Odd Fellows’ Hall. This building, a two-story pressed brick, is valued at $10,000.

      Here the colored people receive exceptionally good treatment, both in public and fireside discussions and by the local press. They are given a chance to toil at the same tasks as the white man, and are welcome patrons to all functions that cater to the general public. The chefs of the two largest hotels in the city, the Union and the Illinois, are colored men; this is also true of the Galesburg Club and the Soangetaha Club. Others clerk in stores, are delivery men or labor on the bench. The women are in demand for domestics or day work. One lamentable fact, there is not a single professional colored man, i.e., doctor or lawyer, in the city, nor is there a so-called “Political leader.” As to the last named, however, the race hasn’t much to lose, for the recognition received, politically, is the equal of that given to any other race in the city, when the number of votes cast are taken into consideration. Several men are employed in the street-cleaning department, while the dog-catcher is a colored man, as is also the patrol driver, J. J. Brown. Aside from these, there are two policemen, Abe Harper and Thomas Waters. All of these men are men of family, and are represented in one or the other of the churches.

      The following table shows the colored businessmen and artisans:

Brickmasons 7
Plasterers 4
Carpenters 2
Blacksmiths 1
Saddle and harness makers 2
Engineers 1
Painters and paper hangers 3
Cabinet makers 2
Gas makers 1
Stereotypes 1
Dress makers and seamstresses 15
Musicians and music teachers 12
Typewriter and stenographer 2
Caterers 1
Hotel and boarding houses 10
Express and draymen 4
Garbage men 4
Barber shops 6
Laundries (hand) 3
General business and employment bureau 1

      There are three mail carriers and a mail messenger, Richard Worthington, who has the government contract of transporting all the mail to and from the railway stations.

      In the memory of the oldest inhabitants there graduated from the Galesburg public schools 25 young men and women of color, of whom 18 are living here now. Chas. Hopkins, a graduate of Knox College, is studying law in the office of Mayor George Shumway.

REV. N. ALEXANDER, B. S.

      In the Rev. N. Alexander, pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Galesburg, the race has quite a unique character. He is an organizer, a quick thinker, and preaches a pungent Gospel, flashed with ready wit. His field is the REVIVAL, and in this can the force of the man best be seen and felt. He is also an inventive genius and spends his spare moments on an electric apparatus that bids fair to revolutionize things in the heat, light, and motive world. Born in the city of Houston, Texas, he has come with giant strides, doing evangelistic and pastoral work in various cities, with Rev. B. F. Abner, of Kansas City, Missouri, as companion singer. He and his splendid wife, Mrs. E. J. Alexander, have given to his denomination a society which for loyalty and devotion is not exceeded in the great Middle West.

RICHARD WORTHINGTON, SR.

      Richard Worthington, commonly called “Uncle Dick”, is modest, unassuming and difficult to quiz.

      Richard Worthington, now 77 years old, was born at Boyle, near Lancaster, Garrett County, Kentucky, in 1830. His parents were slaves, and with them he did his master’s bidding till the opportunity came to him to shoulder his gun and go to the field and face and conquer his former master and oppressor. He enlisted in the 14th Kentucky, and became identified with the Army of the Potomac; was on the field at Petersburg when Lee surrendered, and was on the south side of that city the night of Lincoln’s assassination. After the war was over he went with his regiment to Texas, where he remained for two years, doing duty at Brownsville, the scene of recent military entanglements. After two years service in Texas he returned to Louisville, Kentucky and was mustered out in the spring of 1867. In the fall of the same year he came to Galesburg, Illinois, with $100, which he had the good fortune to draw out of the Freedmen’s Bank the day before it busted. Mr. Worthington began work at the gas works in Galesburg, and has held this job unbroken for a period of 30 years, saving his earnings and investing in securities that were gilt-edged and paying a tremendous profit. It was commonly said that when a dollar got into Uncle Dick’s hands it was simply “out of circulation.” Four years ago he secured the position of mail messenger, transporting all mails to and from the railway stations, which requires the use of several teams, and enables him to give employment to three or more men. He owns a beautiful and commodious home on a plat of five acres, high and dry, in one of the most conspicuous residence parts of the city. This property, considering Galesburg’s new addition rising up just a few blocks to the north, is worth in the neighborhood of $15,000. He has invested heavily in first mortgages, the income from which together with his earnings increases his wealth at the rate of $3,000 per annum. Mr. Worthington is a man of business and keeps close tab on all things to which his name is attached. He is as well up on the market value of real estate as though he was a real estate man. If there is any evidence of a slump, “Uncle Dick” pulls in. Mr. Worthington’s wealth will scale $50,000 if it will scale a dime. His advice to young men is, “Go slow and get some of the world; it will do you, your wife and children good when you grow old. There is nothing in the fast life; join the church, become moral, upright and honest; become a permanent fixture in the community. You will then gain the confidence and respect of the white man, while now you only have his sympathy.” He is a member of the local second Baptist Church and gives to it liberally of his means, in fact he aids all worthy causes. His wife, Mrs. Anna E. Worthington, pleasant of face and disposition as ever woman was, is as attentive to household duties, and the every desire of a generously provident husband, as one would find pleasure in seeing. She is a stewardess in the African M. E. Church and generously responds to its every charitable call. Mr. Worthington has one son, Richard Worthington, Jr., who labors with his father as Mail Messenger. This young man happily married, lives in a modern, two-story frame adjoining his father, which is worth about $5,000.

MELVIN BELL

      Mr. Melvin Bell came to Galesburg about 19 years ago, and became fascinated with farm life. He purchased a large tract of land in the eastern part of the city, and together with his family went in for all that it was worth. As a result he is now the second citizen of color in Galesburg. His farm consists of more than 100 acres, improved and under cultivation, and valued at $110 per acre. Some of his land because of its close proximity to the great Purington Brick Works is worth nearly $500 per acre. Mr. Bell has a steady income from his farm, and because of his strict economy and business tact he is today worth in round numbers $25,000. He has a wife and two daughters, Misses Ella and Jennie M., the last named being the only colored graduate from Galesburg High School Class of ’07.

HENRY WELLS

      Henry Wells, one of Galesburg’s most substantial citizens, was born in Fulton, Missouri, March 4, 1845, the day of the inauguration of James K. Polk as President of the United States. In June, 1864, he enlisted in the 18th U. S. Volunteers and served two years. At Nashville and at Sand Mount, Georgia, he was in the thickest of the fight, and proudly wears his button of colors, a military badge of honor. He was mustered out at Huntsville, Alabama, in March 1866.

      In July, 1875, Mr. Wells came to Galesburg and at once identified himself with its up building and development. He was the first and only President of the Colored Men’s Business League here, and the promoter of the idea that resulted in the erection of Odd Fellows Hall, in which he is a heavy stockholder. He was recently elected Vice President of the Convention of Patriarchs of the Grand I.O.O.F. of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Mr. Wells conducts a paying tonsorial establishment, has a good Christian family, one married daughter, who together own valuable property in the best part of the city.

IDA WALL BUTLER

      Ida Wall Butler, whose article, “Angels in Disguise,” on page 21 of the Blue Book, is more than ordinarily fitted to write along sociological lines. Aside from having done considerable Social Settlement work, she has, under various guises, visited among the “Upper Ten and the Lower Five” in numberless large cities, taking items as she went.

WILLIAM COYNE

      Linemen are indeed a rarity among colored men, but Galesburg is fortunate in possessing one and he an expert at the craft—Wm. Coyne. The unions fought hard to prevent the employment of this man, but his gentlemanly bearing, extra-ordinary ability and daring won all opposition. When the government publishes its next census this man will have added to the achievements of his race.

DR. I. S. McGILL

      The subject of this sketch, Dr. I. S. McGill, is in a true sense of the word, one of Galesburg’s “Old Settlers.” He was born in Davis County, Indiana, in 1830, and came to the city of Galesburg June 3, 1856. Dr. McGill is a first-class brick layer and plasterer and for 15 years followed this trade. He engaged in numerous business ventures, ever keeping before him the possibility of the coming of the proverbial “Rainy Day.” Galesburg real estate was more attractive to him than a savings bank, and in this he invested heavily, which in subsequent years proved the wisdom of the man. For 35 years Mr. McGill was a traveling doctor, “up the root and herb way,” ten years of which time was spent as companion doctor to the great Charles Sunrise, the famous Indian cancer doctor. Sunrise had openly declared that the secret of how to lift cancers without the shedding of blood would remain locked up in his bosom until death, but Dr. McGill proved himself the bigger “Injun” and filched from him this great secret in an hour when he knew not. This together with a number of Indian remedies has made the name of McGill a sweet smelling savor in the nostrils of persons afflicted with certain kind of diseases, which so stubbornly resist medicines differently applied. With the wife of his only choice sleeping beneath the sod, Dr. McGill, at the ripe old age of 77 years, has settled down in the center of a tremendous circle of friends, both white and black, whose respect and confidence he enjoys. The income from a number of small loans, which he has wisely placed, enables him to live in comfort and ease, and contribute to public enterprises, as becomes all good citizens. He owns two houses and lots, and these with his savings in the bank make him worth about $8,000. He is a devout Christian, and very active as a class leader and steward in the local African M. E. Church. He has two children, Hiram McGill, living in Galesburg, and a daughter in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Other interesting shard include the following. From the Western Citizen newspaper published in Chicago, October 28, 1842:

IS ILLINOIS A FREE STATE?

Mr. Editor:…..

      You will confer a favor on a numerous class of the inhabitants of this region, by giving an answer to the query stated in the caption at the head of this communication, through the columns of the Western Citizen. My reason for asking you to do so, are as follows:

      When I became a resident of the State of Illinois, I believed that no involuntary servitude could be sustained by the laws thereof, otherwise than by conviction of crime. But the event of judicial action, in the circuit court of Randolph County, last April, has led me to doubt, whether my belief has been correct. This must be so, otherwise the action of the court is corrupt; in a case of which I shall give you a short account.

      A few years since, the question stated, became a subject of some interest in this neighborhood, and was often made a subject of debates, which still led to more investigation; the result of which was a determination to have the question brought before the proper tribunals for adjudication, so soon as suitable opportunity was offered, in a case which occurred, respecting a colored woman, who had lived with Andrew Borders for some years, having a daughter, woman grown, living there also, and four other colored persons, all claimed by him as his slaves. These unfortunate beings were treated so inhumanly and were so badly provided for, as to excite the feelings and sympathies of the whole neighborhood, except the pro-slavery minions who are often worse than the slave-holder himself. Some inquiry was made as to the terms on which they were held; but as one waited on another, the inquiry progressed slowly. At length the feelings of the people were aroused by a circumstance which took place in Border’s family, at which time the colored woman named Sarah was cruelly beaten, and badly wounded in her arm. Fearing her life was in danger, and unable to bear such inhuman treatment, she made her escape the following night. In this distressed condition, she came to a house in the neighborhood; was pitied and lodged for the night. Fearing that Borders, who true to the scent of human flesh, as a blood hound, would find her and force her to return, she fled where she could remain with greater secrecy. Borders, with his mean ungenerous accomplices, soon became very noisy in blaming the neighbors for secreting his slaves. For some time he bantered and bullied through the neighborhood, manifesting the true spirit of the slave holder, used to tyrannize over the defenseless slaves. The people, who believed he had no legal claim to his Negroes, did not wish to be insulted and trampled upon by this petty tyrant; they entered suit in her name for assault and battery, and wages for the time she had lived with him, and determined to await the issue. The design of the people, however, was not her case alone, but through it to reach the case of all others held in slavery in the state. A society was formed, assuming the name of the “Friends of Rational Liberty.” The ablest counsel was employed, and the case came up before Judge Breese in Kaskaskia, last April. Both parties and counsel agreed to let the individual case remain on the docket, and try the general question whether slavery can constitutionally exist in any case in the state. Thus it came before the court, purely as a case of law. The counsel on the side of slavery argued that every indenture, made before Illinois was admitted as a state, was valid and must be specifically fulfilled. The counsel on the abolition side argued that the ordinance of 1787 prohibited every kind of slavery North West of the Ohio River, and consequently any article introduced into the constitution of the state in favor of slavery is of no force, being contrary to that ordinance of Congress. The court decided that indentures made without force or collusion before the admission of the state are valid. Assuming the ground that the ordinance of Congress is a compact and not a law, and the people of Illinois were one party in the compact, and they agreed to have these indentures held valid, and asked Congress to allow that it should be so. Congress being the other party in the compact admitted the state into the Union, with that provision in its constitution, and thereby confirmed the same. The case is appealed to the Supreme Court, to sit at Springfield next December. The friends of the oppressed are very anxious that the case have a full and able investigation before that court, and that the talents of the best lawyers should be enlisted on the side of the oppressed. The ablest counsel that can be procured in these parts will be employed on the opposite side. We hope that abolitionists of the north will solicit the aid of gentlemen of the bar, friendly to the cause of freedom and human rights; that this question, the result of which will affect some hundreds of wretched creatures now held in slavery in this state, may not be lost for want of sufficient advocacy.

      I believe that by opening a communication through your paper, with all abolition attorneys, counsel will be given productive of much good to the poor slave, and which may materially affect the issue of the case. I hope therefore, that you will invite arguments on this important question, and let them appear in your columns, that our state may have the foul blot of slavery wiped from the statute book, which is justly denominated black law. As I intend being a reader of your paper, whatever arguments may be brought forward on the subject, will come under my investigation. I trust the true friend of the slave will not be silent.

      The cruel treatment which the rest of Borders’ colored people received excited them to seek safety by flight. They escaped and traveled north, leaving Borders to search the cornfields and thickets, which he did painfully, for more than a month, when he heard of them 300 miles north. These are the same we see noticed in the 8th No. of your paper. On investigation it was found he had no indenture, nor legal claim to one of them, and yet claimed them with as much audacity, as though they had been really secured to him by law. One had served him until she was thirteen years over age, and the other had served him one year over age, yet they never received anything like wages.

                                          “Honertas.”

Eden, Randolph County, Illinois, October 15, 1842

From the Western Citizen for Friday, December 23, 1842. Published in Chicago. Hiram Kellogg’s letter.

THE FUGITIVES IN KNOX COUNTY

Mr. Editor:…..

      In a former communication respecting the family which was imprisoned in the Knox County jail, under the black code of Illinois, and who were taken at the time of the “Farmington row”, I erroneously gave the name of their former master as a Mr. Boggs, of Randolph County. I had been informed that such was his name. I have since learned that his name is Andrew Borders, of Randolph County, the same against whom a suit is now pending in behalf of a colored woman named Sarah, before the Supreme Court of this State, which is particularly noticed by your correspondent “Honertas” in the Citizen of October 28th. One of those who were imprisoned at Knoxville is the daughter of Sarah. The six weeks for which they were imprisoned expired on or about the 17th of October, at which time they were offered to be hired out for one month. But bidders were scarce. The month soon passed away, and again, on the 10th of November, they were offered by our sheriff at the door of the court house. But bidders were still wanting. I have understood that only two of the five were bidden upon, and these only to the amount of fifty cents each. On Thursday, the 20th inst., Andrew Borders and his son again made their appearance at Knoxville—for the three little children, he now institutes an entirely new claim form than which he instituted before. He now demands them as indented apprentices under the poor laws, and exhibited indentures executed in 1839 and 1841, by two justices of the peace in and for Randolph County. This claim being perfectly satisfactory to the sheriff, he delivered over the children to Mr. Borders. The friends of humanity, unwilling that Borders should succeed in carrying off his victims, and believing that his indentures were probably defective, if not fraudulent, instituted a suit against him before the Circuit Court in their behalf, which suit will be heard in June next. On the complaint of the mother that the children were detained without authority, a magistrate of this town issued, on Thursday night, a warrant against him for false imprisonment. Borders was brought here and examined on Friday before A. B. Bergen, Esq. He stated that he had indentures, but declined exhibiting them. As the result of this examination, he was bound over to the next term of the Circuit Court.

      After the examination, and after bail had been given for his appearance at the Circuit Court, Borders was informed by the counsel who had been employed to conduct this case, that if he had such indentures and would exhibit them, and if they contained probable evidence of correctness, he would not be troubled farther, till the session of the Circuit Court. He however declined exhibiting his papers, and immediately left town for Knoxville, intending, as we supposed, to start off with the children, whom he had kept in confinement all day in our county jail, under the circumstances of slaveholding barbarity. Another warrant was immediately issued against Borders and his son for the imprisonment of the children on Friday, and an officer was dispatched in pursuit who returned by 5 o’clock on Friday evening with his prisoners.

      They had their examination on Saturday. At this examination, Borders exhibited his indentures; but the opinion of the magistrate was unfavorable to their validity, and both men were ordered to give bail for their appearance at the Circuit Court. This they at first refused to do, and they were delivered into the hands of the sheriff to be committed. Subsequently, however, they gave bail and were discharged. This closed the week.

      It was reported that they would now stay and spend another week and bring the people of Galesburg to Knoxville to answer for their misdemeanors. This, however, was probably a feint to conceal their operations; for we are now upon the third day of the week, and no arrests have been made. But where are the children? Nothing has been heard of them since Friday night, and the probability is that some one was employed after the arrest of Borders and his son to take them off. Their friends are on the lookout for them; and if any trace of their steps can be had, they will be followed, and whoever has taken them off will be held to answer for it. But I fear they will not be found. Truly, on the side of the oppressor there is power. But who can describe the anguish of the poor mother robbed of her little ones. True, she might have gone with them; but she did not believe that the hardhearted man would take away those little children at this inclement season without her, nor did she suppose that her presence could prevent their sufferings.

      We offered to give Borders security for their appearance on the first day of court if he would leave them; but no inducement we could offer would prevail on him to relax his hold. It was our intention to keep an eye upon their movements, and as often as they attempted to go away with the children, to arrest them. But they have probably, through the assistance of those who ought to befriend the helpless, defeated us for the present. No effort or expense has been or will be spared to have justice done to the poor; and the suits, both in behalf of the people and the children, will be prosecuted so far as the law will enable us to go. May the Savior of the poor take care of them.

                                    In haste, yours, &c., H. H. K.

Galesburg, November 29, 1842

( “H.H.K.” was Hiram H. Kellogg, president of Knox College. Kellogg Street is named for him.)

Published in the Western Citizen newspaper in Chicago, Thursday, April 6, 1843.

REPORT

      Of a Committee appointed by the Knox County Anti-Slavery Society to inquire into the facts in the case of the colored woman and children who were arrested and confined in the jail at Knoxville last fall.

Mr. Editor:…..

      The following report was made to the Knox County Anti-Slavery Society, at a late meeting, by a committee appointed by the citizens; which was accepted, and, by their request, is now sent to you for insertion in the Citizen.

      Your committee respectfully reports: That on the 6th of September last, a meeting of the citizens of Knox County, favorable to the cause of freedom, was called to take into consideration the case of five colored persons, who had been committed to jail the night previous by the sheriff. They consisted of a mother (named Susan), with her three children, aged about 2, 4 and 12 years. Susan is a professor of religion, aged over 30 years. The other, a young woman about 19 years old. The circumstances of their capture, and the fact that a suit was commenced before Justice West of Galesburg, in which the captors were fined for an assault upon Mr. Wilson, and their appeal to the Circuit Court, have been laid before the public through the Citizen. It is proper therefore that the termination of this suit should be known. When it was called by the court, it appeared that no witnesses had been subpoenaed. The clerk of the court, whose duty it was to subpoena the witnesses, for some reason unknown to the committee, had wholly omitted it. The State’s Attorney observing the Rev. Mr. Cross, who was there voluntarily, called upon him to testify in the case; upon which testimony the court decided that it was a case of riot, not of assault; thereupon, it was quashed. The State’s Attorney then offered to go with Mr. Cross before the Grand Jury and make an effort to obtain a bill of indictment for a riot. But Mr. Cross considered this a hopeless case, knowing that one of the jury was a principal one to be complained of; and how correctly he judged in the case, will appear from the fact that this very same jury attempted to find a bill against Mr. Cross for perjury, for the testimony given before Esq. West. There were those on the jury, however, who would not listen to a proposal so unfounded and infamous. Thus the case was closed. Whether any, and what pains were taken to place this man and others on the Grand Jury, to meet the exigencies anticipated, is best known to those who managed the business. In the meantime the jail, as has been stated, was guarded it, and to the prisoners within, that the sheriff did not lodge in the same building, as has been reported.

      Great pains were taken by the sheriff to ascertain the owners of these supposed slaves. Letters were written in different directions. One gentleman came from Missouri in hopes of finding his slaves. In a few weeks, a Mr. Andrew Borders, from Randolph County, Illinois, arrived, and claimed the mother and three children, as his runaway servants. The young woman, he confessed, had served out her time, but Susan, the mother, he said, had nearly a year to serve, as she had been registered under territorial law, and was bound to serve him according to that law until she was thirty-two years old. This was his statement, although, from the date of his register, it was nearly a year and a half. The children he claimed as registered servants. At this time, the sheriff was absent, but the committee were on the ground, and Mr. Borders was given to understand that if he obtained them, it would be in consistency to the strict letter of the law.

      He could show no papers of right or title; and after remaining one day, and attempting to sell out his claim to a colored man, for a horse, he left under pretense of going into the country for the night, but he did not return. Thus ended this effort to grasp the victims.

      Soon after this, a gentleman to whom the committee had written for information arrived from Randolph County, with a certificate from the acting clerk of Randolph County, by which it appeared that none of the persons claimed by Mr. Borders had been registered, except the mother of the children. He also brought an affidavit of William Temple, a neighbor of Mr. Borders, taken before John Campbell, a justice of the peace for Randolph County, and who certified to the respectability of the witnesses. Mr. Temple testified that he had known Hannah, the colored girl, for seventeen or eighteen years, and that she was two years old when he first knew her, and that the children of Susan were all born in Randolph County, Illinois.

      This testimony was laid before the sheriff, but he did not deem it sufficient to authorize him to set any of them at liberty, not even the girl, whom Borders confessed had worked out her time. The deficiency in the papers complained of was, want of the clerk’s certificate that Mr. Campbell was at that time an acting justice of the peace in and for that county. The gentleman who brought the affidavits believed that he had all the evidence that any man would want that Campbell was then an acting justice of the peace. With the papers, he presented his commission, signed by Governor Carlin only six months before. The gentleman from Randolph returned home, and immediately sent other affidavits, with the clerk’s certificate according to law, but none of these appeared to the justice-loving sheriff sufficient to discharge them from prison. All the affidavits made the girl Hannah a year at least older than she was said to be. She must therefore have served Mr. Borders one year over her time, for which she has received nothing but abuse and imprisonment. And Susan, who, according to the record, and the statement of Mr. Borders, had one and a half year more to serve, the gentleman from Randolph County wrote that it was believed she had served beyond her time, and gentlemen who had lived neighbors of Mr. Borders while in the State of Georgia, now living in that county, were willing to testify to that fact.

      The time having arrived, according to law, when the prisoners must be sold to pay their jail fees, they were put up at public auction. But the citizens of Knox County, who had assembled, not so much with a spirit of purchasing as to witness this novel spectacle, were not prepared to bid for the services of those they believed owed no debt to this county for being fed and guarded while confined unjustly in their jail. Fifty cents was at last bid, by some one, for the girl Hannah. The others finding no purchasers, were left in the care and service of the jailer, who, after keeping them a few weeks, by the direction of the sheriff, permitted them to go where they pleased. The girl Hannah went to a neighboring town, and Susan, with her children, hired a house in Knoxville. The day after she had gone into her house, with the little furniture she could procure, and when she and others had no expectation of any further molestation, it was announced to her that Borders and his son had arrived in Knoxville. This mother at once committed her children to a friend to secrete, while she ran to ask advice of friends. To her great surprise and grief, she soon learned that Borders, aided by his friend the sheriff, had secured all her children. Under these trying circumstances, the mother thought best to secure herself from their cruel hands.

      The committee, after taking legal advice, instituted two suits against the said Borders—one for trespass, the other for false imprisonment of the children. The writ for the former was served the same evening, and that for the latter the next morning, when he was taken before a justice of the peace at Galesburg. Upon the trial it was proved, from the evidence of the sheriff, that the children were in his custody. Borders offered nothing in justification but the testimony of his own son, who testified that the children were his father’s apprenticed servants. The court found him guilty of the charge, and bound him over to appear at the next Circuit Court, in the sum of five hundred dollars. His old friend the sheriff, who had been his counsel, now became his bail also. It having been understood that he had papers on which he founded his claim, he was informed that if he would show them, and they were satisfactory, the matter would be pursued no further. This was refused.  The next day a suit was commenced against Borders and his son, for a continuance of the same crime of which he was found guilty the day previous; it being understood that the three children had been thrust into a cold, open log jail, with neither stove nor fire-place, with an open vessel only of some kind with fire to warm them, the smoke passing out of the openings on each side of their prison, and this in very inclement weather. They were brought before the same magistrate. On trial he produced his papers, which were indentures, binding them to him as poor children, made, as it appeared from one, three years before. One of these, the indenture of the oldest, was found essentially defective, the age not being found on the face of it, but just where it should have been a very small round hole was found, and that in the middle of the paper. The indentures of the others were still more defective. Many words, and sometimes almost a whole line was erased, and no notice made of it in the margin, as should have been. One more very essential thing, and the most important, was the certificate of the judge of probate of the county where they were made was not on them. It was stated in all these indentures that these poor children were the children of one Sukey, a colored woman, and indentured to this said Borders, and thus serving him without wages.

      On this last trial, at the request of the counsel for the defendant (the same said sheriff), two other justices of the peace were associated with the court, but only as advisers. With all the objections to the papers, as stated, and there being no other testimony to establish his claim, and it being proved by his own counsel, the sheriff, that the children were in his and his son’s possession, locked up in jail by his permission, the justices all decided that the papers were very imperfect, and the court found them guilty of the charge. The defendants refusing to enter into bonds of recognizance in the sum of four hundred dollars, were committed to jail. It is said the sheriff turned the key upon them, but it was rather too uncomfortable a place to spend the night, although it had been a very suitable one for the poor colored children. The sheriff and others having their compassion stirred for these abused men, became their bail, and they were released, to follow these children, whom they had taken the precaution to send off secretly some twenty-four hours before.

      Thus the case terminated. Next June it is expected this whole affair will undergo investigation, upon its merits, in the Circuit Court.

      To satisfy those who may inquire why they were not taken out of the hands of the sheriff, by writ of habeas corpus, we answer: Before the sitting of the court it was expected that satisfactory proof could be procured of their title to liberty. When the court was in session they were not in jail, and it was not expected that anything more could be done with them by the sheriff, and that Borders would give himself no further trouble about them. This was the opinion of friends in Randolph County. When they were last seized, there was no judge before whom they could be brought, nearer than Springfield. It was exceedingly doubtful what his decision might be; and whatever it might be, the case would not be tried upon its merits.

      It ought also to be remarked that the committee remonstrated with Mr. Borders about taking children of that age from their mother a long journey in such inclement weather. Any reasonable security that he would ask was offered him for their appearance on the first day of the Circuit Court, if he would leave them. This he refused. He was willing to sell his claim, and the committee offered to pay all the legal expenses he had been at if he would relinquish them all. This also he refused to do. When it was found that Borders would take away the children, the mother was greatly distressed and would have given herself up; but she feared, and no doubt with good reason, as she said, that in a short time she would be sold and carried into slavery.

      In this whole business the community have had an opportunity of seeing the spirit of the slaveholder, his relentless grasp upon his victim, his unfeeling heart, and base cupidity. The mother has not only been robbed of her children, but of all the little furniture and clothing which, in her haste, was left in her house, consisting of bed, bedding, cloak, and cloth which she had procured in Knoxville for her children, and all of which had been obtained, as she says, by her own extra labor. They have had an opportunity to see who were the real friends of the downtrodden and the oppressed. With but few exceptions, abolitionists only have manifested sympathy for the suffering. It remains to be seen how far the public will justify their civil officers in volunteering their influence and power to aid the slave-catcher, and make our jail the receptacle of his pretty, even when the victims of his cruelty are the widow and the fatherless.

      The committee would add that they strongly suspect, from the fact that Mr. Borders produced no such papers as indentures the first time he was at Knoxville, and that he did not intimate to the committee that he had such, but claimed them as registered servants, according to the letter of the constitution, that these indentures were made after he returned home and before he came up the last time; and facts have since transpired calculated to confirm that belief. They may, however, be found to be genuine indentures: that the court will inquire into.

      There is another fact in relation to the treatment of these colored persons while in jail which ought not to be passed over; and that is the refusal of those who kept the jail to allow them to attend worship on the Sabbath, although solicited by some of the most respectable and responsible citizens, who offered to give bail for their safe return.

      All which your committee respectfully submit.

                  John Cross,

                  George W. Gale,

                  O. Palmer,

                  A. S. Bergen,

                  J. C. Moore.

Galesburg, January, 1843

      Still other shards of Negro history can be found in Bess Allen Donaldson’s  in her recollections about the Simms family, the Milburns, and Aunt Lizzie Johnson.

      Mrs. Lizzie Johnson (colored) residing on Knoxville Road, north side, east of Mulberry.

      Jacob Milburn (colored) was a shoemaker, residing on Mulberry, south side, five doors east of Pine.

      Mrs. Donaldson wrote a fine bit about Ham Coleman of Galesburg, an ex-slave, who went to Kansas with the Allens and helped them set up their farm.

      The Knox County History for 1899 carried a most interesting paragraph on John Henry Washington, who had been engineer for the Galesburg Republican-Register for twenty-one years, then. He is described as “one of the leading colored men in Galesburg.”

           Other interesting shards of black history in Galesburg will continue to be found. We are particularly fortunate in having enlisted the aid of Mrs. Esther Palm Gayman, a retired stenographer who still takes short-hand. She recently interviewed Mr. Harold R. Allen of Galesburg and sent the following report, after having first shown it to Mr. Allen and obtaining his permission and approval.

      Notes taken in an interview with Harold R. Allen, 767 S. Henderson St., Monday morning, Feb. 28, 1972.

Harold’s Mother’s Side of the Family

      Harold’s great grandparents were Thomas Richardson and Susan Van Allen Richardson. Their children were all born in slavery. Slaves in Warren County, Kentucky. (Bowling Green and Mammoth Cave).

      In escaping they crossed the river into Ohio, where they met the Ferris family, who were on their way here to help found Galesburg and Knox College. The Ferris's brought the Richardsons with them. Their slave owner, however, followed them here. A trial was held at the court house, in Knoxville, in which the slave owners sought to have the Richardsons returned to them, but the Knox County authorities refused to release the Richardsons.

      The Richardson family bought and occupied the farm at the S.E. corner of W. Fremont St. and Linwood Cemetery Road.

      The Richardsons started the Colored Methodist Church in 1853. The deed for the land is recorded in Book 3046, Page 47, at the Court House. Harold, however, does not know the location. The church was built, but burned down in 1870.

      A second church was built, but it too burned just a few months after building. Harold thinks this second church was built on East Tompkins St., where the present A.M.E. Church now stands, but is not certain.

      He does not know when the present church, the third one, was built, but it was covered with brick in 1911.

      Harold’s grandparents on his mother’s side, were James Cannon and the former Clarissa Richardson. Susan Allen (Harold’s mother) is a child of this marriage. James Cannon came out of North Carolina.

      The slave-owners who owned James Cannon gave James to his own daughter (white) in Pennsylvania, who raised him. The slave-owner thus spelled his own freedom.

      James Cannon was a drummer boy in the Civil War, from Pennsylvania, and is buried in Hope Cemetery, Galesburg, under the monument. His wife, also, is buried in Hope, but not under the monument.

Harold’s Father’s Side of the Family

      Harold’s grandfather (father’s father) was Irish, the son of a slave owner, named Inskip, who owned Harold’s grandmother. Inskip had 3 children with her, a boy (John), a girl Sarah, both of whom were dark, and another daughter, Belle, who was fair. Inskip lived in Missouri.

      Inskip went to California, during the gold rush, was successful, came back to Missouri, married the mother of his children, and brought his family to Galesburg, and changed his name to Allen.

      Belle was born in 1859, and was 19 when she entered Galesburg High School, from which she graduated in 1879 as Belle Allen. (Harold got these facts from the office at Galesburg High School.) She died in 1890.

      John Allen and Susan Cannon were married and had 20 children—12 girls and 8 boys, but several of them died young. Only the 18th, 19th and 20th are still living, and Harold is the 19th.

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE REGARDING SOCIAL ATTITUDES

IV

      A very interesting bit of evidence concerning prairie land attitudes about local Negroes during the Civil War is found in a letter from Mayor Dunn of Galesburg to General Jacob Ammen in Springfield. Writing on the date of April 25, 1863, Mayor Dunn said this:  “I understand from the papers that you have charge of military matters in this State. Such being the fact, I wish to hear from you how to proceed to exterminate the rebels in this part of Illinois. In parts of this County, Negroes are not allowed to work for respectable farmers: Meetings are openly held denouncing the War and proposing opposition to any draft. Cheers open and loud for Jeff Davis. Is there any remedy? Please let me hear from you in regard to this matter.”

      Exactly what General Ammen said in reply is unavailable to this research. Dunn’s letter does show, however, that the friendly attitude of many Galesburg white residents in relation to colored people could be compared to the hostile attitudes of some whites, who lived outside the city limits.

      The central motive of our system of education is to place information before today’s students in the hope that as these students mature into responsible adults they will, at least in theory, do something constructive to improve the world.

      While this places a potential messianic burden upon public education, it may be that such hopes are reasonable.

      One thing which education does is that it influences public attitudes. And public attitudes, particularly on social questions, may often be reflected in the statistical papers of the communal past. For example, the late F. R. Jelliff of the Galesburg Register-Mail who left his immense, unpublished Municipal History of Galesburg, compiled a document which is unique for the reflection of social attitudes it contains.

      1860

      August 15—Complaint was made to the council that the census taken by the U. S. Marshal is incorrect. The clerk was instructed to see the marshal, obtain his permission to see the list, and, if he found it incorrect, to employ a suitable person to take the census, according to the forms used by the marshal and his assistants.

      November 12—It is evident that the clerk found the list incorrect for he appointed B. F. Holcomb to take the census and at the meeting on this date, the census report was made as follows:

      
Inhabitants 5544
Males 2753
Females 2791
Swedes 654
Irish 422
Germans 222
Other foreigners 120
Americans 4026
Colored 78

      The list then covered other classifications such as the number of churches, schools, etc.

      Then Fred Jelliff says:

            “It will be noted from the foregoing that foreigners were coming in rapidly and this must be taken into account in considering the future history of the town for they had a part in its shaping.”

      1865

      September 18—A school census taken by Isaac Delano showed these figures:

      
Swedes 1296
Americans 4985
Irish 669
Germans 285
Colored 465
Total 7700

      The most marked feature of this census was the growth in colored population.

      This is Mr. Jelliff’s complete entry for 1865.

      The irony of the topic headings in the 1860 and 1865 census will be apparent to many. For example, in 1860, when Galesburg had a population of Americans totaling the number of 4,026, other groups of people were not considered as Americans. According to the list, there were 78 Colored who were without nationality, and Swedes numbering 654, 422 Irish, 222 Germans and 120 people described simply as Other foreigners. Who these other foreigners may have been can only be the subject of conjecture at this point. Perhaps the criteria for deciding who was an American rested on two points: the place of the subject’s birth and the color of his skin.

      In 1865, a school census taken by Isaac Delano resulted in a list with the same kind of topical headings. By then, the blacks had been emancipated officially, but in Galesburg, the town famous for giving refuge, “Colored” was still a separate population tabulation from “American.”

      While it may be said that these census details are among the most telling, in our tracing of historical attitudes vis-à-vis various social groups, it may also be said that such antique theories have left their mark. Much of the contentious atmosphere within our society today may be attributed to the attitudes those classifications reflect.

      And so public education carried the burden of training those who must resolve the great social questions of our time. We find no mention of those of Latin background in the various statistics, and no mention of those of Oriental background. But our schools of today focus on these things, the sins of commission and those of omission. It is very interesting indeed that a town of Galesburg’s size should devote such an extensive part of tax revenue to public education.

      For in the school system established by George Churchill, as he surely believed in his own day, is the key to the future chapters of some interesting new prairie land history.

      BORDERS vs. BORDERS

      The following is sent by Mrs. Catherine Bradley, Librarian, State of Illinois Supreme Court Library, Springfield. From Scammon for December 1843.

      Sarah, alias Sarah Borders, a woman of color, v. Andrew Borders

      Appeal from Randolph

      1. SLAVERY—right to correct. Sarah, a woman of color, residing in Illinois, brought an action for trespass vi et armis against D, who pleaded that the plaintiff, at the age of fifteen years, owing service in Kentucky to one A, was brought into the territory of Illinois, in 1815, and within thirty days thereafter, with her own consent, was duly indentured to said A, as his servant, for forty years, before the clerk of the court of common pleas of St. Clair County, in said territory; which indenture was acknowledged and recorded, according to the laws of the territory. That said indenture was afterwards duly assigned to one B, and by him to one C, and by him to D; all which was done with the consent of the plaintiff, before justices of the peace. Wherefore, in compelling the plaintiff to attend to and perform the ordinary duties of an indentured servant, as aforesaid, in doing his ordinary business, and in compelling her to remain and continue in his service, he was necessarily compelled, at the time and place in the declaration mentioned, to use a little force, restraint, and beating, [*342] doing no unnecessary injury to the said plaintiff; which is the same assault, etc., complained of in the plaintiff’s declaration, etc. Held, on demurrer, that this plea was valid, and contained a good defense to the action. Such indentures were authorized by the acts of the territorial legislature, and have been confirmed by the constitution.

      2. STATUTE—office of proviso. The province of a proviso to a statute or constitution is not to enlarge the enacting clause; it can only restrain, qualify or explain it.

      3. SAME—constured. Semble, That the acts of the territory of Illinois gave no right to the services of children of registered servants; and the constitution confirmed only such rights as those acts attempted to confer.

      4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW—vested right. Indentures of Negroes and mulattos, under the acts of the territory of Illinois, are valid, and those acts provided for the assignment of the same. A constitutional recognition was not necessary to give them validity. When a master had acquired the right to the services of an indentured servant, the legislature might regulate the mode of assigning or transferring that right; but without statutory regulation, the parties to the contract might transfer it by mutual consent.

      5. CASE—re-affirmed. The decision in the case of Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207, is reaffirmed. (a)

      This was an action of trespass vi et armis, brought by Sarah, a woman of color, to test her right to freedom. The declaration is in the usual form, and contains two counts. The first charges the defendant with having beat and ill treated the plaintiff; and the second, in addition, contains a charge of false imprisonment.

 

  CASES CITING TEXT

      (a) See Willard v. People, post. 461, 470. Held, in 1845, that colored man might bring assumpsit for services rendered, and thereby try right to his freedom. 

Jarrot v. Jarrot, 2 Gilm. 1, 7, 21.

      STATEMENT OF THE CASE

      The defendant pleaded not guilty, which plea was afterwards withdrawn, and, also, a special plea alleging “that the said plaintiff, being a woman of color, and owned by and owing service and labor, as a slave, to one William Padon, in the state of Kentucky, and being above fifteen years of age, was, on the 2nd day of December, 1815, brought by the said William Padon into the county of St. Clair, territory of Illinois; and afterwards, to wit, on the 13th day of December, 1815, in the county and territory aforesaid, the said plaintiff did then and there go with the said William Padon, before one John Hay, clerk of the court of common pleas of said county, and did then and there, in the presence of the said clerk, agree to and with the said William Padon, to serve the said William Padon, as an indentured servant, in conformity with and by virtue of the provisions of an act of said territory, entitled “an act concerning the introduction of mulattos and Negroes into this territory,” passed September 17th, 1807, for and during the term of forty years from and after the day and year last aforesaid, and then and there, in the presence of the said John Hay, clerk as aforesaid, did enter into and acknowledge an indenture, whereby she, the said plaintiff, bound herself to serve the said William Padon forty years next ensuing the said 13th day of December 1815; which indenture was then and there recorded by the said John Hay, clerk as aforesaid. And the said defendant avers, that afterwards, to wit, on the 13th day of November, 1816, at the county aforesaid, the said plaintiff consented, in the presence of the said John Hay, he then and there being a justice of the peace in and for the county of St. Clair aforesaid, that the benefit of said contract of service, and all the rights, title, and interest of the said William Padon in and to the said indenture or service, might be assigned and made over by him, the said William Padon, to one William H. Bradsby, then and there being a citizen of said territory [*343] and the said William Padon, then and there, in the presence of the justice of the peace aforesaid, by the free consent of the plaintiff, did assign, transfer, and make over the benefit of said contract of service, and all his right and interest in and to said indenture, and in and to the services of the said plaintiff, to the said William H. Bradsby; which free consent of the said plaintiff was then and there attested in writing by the said justice of the peace.” The plea further avers that on the 30th of July, 1818, said Bradsby assigned said contract or indenture to Elias K. Kane, who on the 5th day of May, 1825, assigned the same to Andrew Borders, the defendant. The assignment from Bradsby to Kane, and from Kane to defendant, are set forth in the plea as substantially the same as that from Padon to Bradsby. The plea then avers, that for the purpose of compelling the said plaintiff to attend to and perform the duties of an indentured servant, as aforesaid, in doing the ordinary business of him, the said defendant, and in compelling her to remain and continue in his service, he was necessarily compelled, at the time and place in the said declaration mentioned, to use a little force, restraint, and beating, doing no unnecessary injury to the said plaintiff; which is the same assault, etc., complained of in the plaintiff’s declaration, and concludes with a verification.

      To this plea there was a general demurrer and joiner. The court below overruled the demurrer, and gave judgment for costs against the plaintiff. The case was heard at the March term, 1842, of the Randolph circuit court. The plaintiff brought the cause to this court by appeal, and assigned for error the decision of the court in overruling the demurrer and giving judgment against the plaintiff.

      L. TRUMBULL and G. B. KOERNER, for the appellant: The territorial law (Ter. Laws 1807-8, 423), providing for the introduction of mulattos and Negroes into the territory was repugnant to the ordinance of 1787; and therefore, the indenture entered into under the said law is void. Ordinance R. L. 57, Art. VI.; Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207; Mary v. Tiffin Menard, 1 Missouri 725; Winney v. Phoebe Whiteside, 1 Missouri 472; Choisser v. Hargrave, 1 Scam. 317; Menard v. Aspasia, 5 Peters 504; Law of Slavery, 340, 356.

      The ordinance is still binding upon Illinois, unless it has been changed by common consent, which means the consent of the original states individually expressed. R. L. 55, immediately preceding Art. I., of ordinance of 1787. Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207.

      Such consent has never been given, it not being competent for the Congress of the United States, by a resolution admitting Illinois into the Union, to give that consent; [*344] the third section of the article of the constitution of the state is therefore void.

      Art. VI. 3, of the state constitution, admitting it to have been adopted by common consent and therefore pro …..to have repealed the ordinance, was adopted under the mistaken notion that these were valid territorial laws, authorizing the indenturing of Negroes; when in fact no such laws ever existed, and those purporting to be such were a nullity. Boone v. Juliet, 1 Scam. 258. Admitting the constitution to have ratified and made valid indentures which were before void, still the constitution has no where recognized the right of assignment, which is not given by the act authorizing the indenture of Negroes, but by a separate and distinct act, which act was void by reason of its repugnance to the ordinance. Ter. Laws 647, 3

      The constitution has not fixed, nor did it intend to fix the condition of the Negroes and mulattos, and the rights which they shall possess in community, but merely intended to continue certain contracts, which were considered valid before the adoption of the constitution, and which were thought to be abrogated by the constitution, unless expressly taken out of its operation. State Constitution, Art. 1, 3

      The constitution, by recognizing the law authorizing the registry and indenturing of Negroes and mulattos, did not thereby sanction and make valid all legislative acts, which were merely incidental to said law, or had some remote connection in their subject matter with said law.

      The provisions of a state constitution are void, when in conflict with the constitution of the United States, or constitutional laws of the United States or with treaties made or which shall be made. Constitution of the United States, Art. VI, 2; 3 Story’s Com. on Const. 697; 1 McLean 349; Peters’ C.C.R. 390; Peters’ Dig. 1557. The clause in our constitution recognizing involuntary servitude is against the law of Congress of April 18th, 1818, providing for the formation of the state of Illinois, and therefore void.

      A contract solemnly and expressly entered into, for specific purposes, cannot be revoked by implication. Congress, by passing the resolution admitting Illinois into the Union, did not mean to decide thereby, that said constitution contained nothing which might not be declared to be in conflict with the constitution of the United States, and against the ordinance, etc. Congress has no judicial power, and judicial tribunals are left free to act; and our supreme court has decided that said clause in the constitution violated the ordinance of 1787. Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207, and other cases.

      D. J. BAKER, for the appellee.

      SCATES, Justice, delivered the opinion of the court: (After stating the facts in the case.) [*345] The plaintiff’s counsel insist that the acts of the territorial legislature upon this subject, are repugnant to article VI, of the ordinance of 1787, and therefore void. It is further insisted that the third section of article VI of the constitution of the state of Illinois, is also repugnant to the ordinance and void, and the demurrer should have been sustained.

      The ordinance provided that there should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory, and that this article, amongst others should be considered as an article of compact between the original states, and the people and states in the said territory, and forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent.

      The territorial legislature passed an act authorizing the taking of such an indenture as is set forth in the plea; and the constitution of the state of Illinois declares that all such contracts and indentures, made conformably to that act without fraud or collusion, shall be valid, and the party held to a specific performance of the same. This is a question of power, and not of policy.

      It is not the province of this court to determine whether it was politic, just or humane, but simply whether the people in convention had the power to fix the condition of people of color thus situated, at the adoption of our constitution. This question came directly in judgment in the case of Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207; and which was afterwards recognized and approved in the case of Boon v. Juliet, 1 Scam. 258.

      The counsel insist that the latter case conflicts with, and has shaken the authority of the former. This seems to me to be based upon a misapprehension of the point in the latter case. The acts of the territory gave no right to the services of children of registered servants. The constitution confirmed only such rights as those acts attempted to confer. The proviso, which, from its phraseology, has raised the apparent confusion could not enlarge the enacting clause, but only restrain, qualify or explain.

      The cases decided in Missouri (1 Missouri 472, 725), and in Mississippi and Louisiana (Walk. Miss. 36; 20 Martin 699), held that the ordinance effected the emancipation, or secured the freedom of persons of color in the North Western Territory. None of these courts take any notice of the Constitution of Illinois, although the cases in Missouri respected Negroes who went from the state of Illinois, after the organization of the state government.

      Upon a calm review of the grounds of that decision, and consideration upon the constitution and territorial acts, we must affirm the correctness of that judgment. It was further urged, upon the argument that, admitting the case of Phoebe v. Jay to have been correctly decided, yet the constitution did not recognize the validity of the assignments of the indenture. [*346] The acts of the territory did provide for the assignment of certain indentures of Negroes, and which, from contemporaneous practice, have always been understood as applying to these indentures. It needed not a constitutional recognition to give them validity. If the master acquired a right to these services, the legislature might regulate the mode of assigning or transferring that right; and even without statutory regulation, the parties to the contract might transfer it by mutual consent.

      The judgment of the court below is affirmed with costs.

      THOMAS, Justice, delivered the following separate opinion: I concur in the judgment of the court, in this case, but not in all respects, in the opinion on which it is predicated, or in the opinion of the court in the case of Phoebe v. Jay; I therefore deem it proper, considering the importance of the principles involved, to give an exposition of my views on some of the most prominent points in the case, and will proceed to do so.

      The question presented by the record involves the right of the appellee to require of the appellant “a specific performance” of a certain indenture by which she was bound to service to one William Padon, in 1815, in conformity to the provisions of the law of the territory of Illinois, then in force, authorizing such proceedings, and which indenture had been subsequently assigned to the appellee, in conformity to the several laws of the territory and state of Illinois, in such case made and provided.

      The counsel for the appellant, denying the validity both of the indenture and assignments, assume several positions, which I propose to notice, in the order in which they are stated.

      They contend, first, that as well the territorial laws, under which the indenture was made and assigned, as the 3rd section of the 6th article of the constitution of the state of Illinois, confirmatory of acts done under those laws, were, and are in violation of the 6th article of the ordinance of 1787, and that, consequently, the indenture relied on by the appellee, originally was, and still is void.

      In this position I do not concur. That the laws authorizing the indenturing and registering of Negroes and mulattos within the territory of Illinois contained provisions in contravention of the ordinance, and therefore void, I do not doubt. Nor do I deny that many of the acts of indenturing, and all of registering, done under those laws, were introductive of involuntary servitude within the meaning of that instrument, and therefore legally insufficient to bind to service the persons indentured or registered, as the case might be. But I, at the same time, maintain that those laws were not in all respects void, and that indentures might have been, and doubtless were, in many cases, entered into under them voluntarily, and without “fraud or collusion,” and that all such indentures were then, and are now, valid. [*347]

      Indentures however, procured by improper means, were, in my opinion, void in their inception, and could not, if it had been intended, have been made good, as such, by our constitution. The power of the people, in their primary, sovereign capacity, broad and comprehensive as it undoubtedly is, is not so plenary, as to enable them to infuse vitality into a contract void ab initio. Nothing short of omnipotence could do so. But the 3rd section of the 6th article of the constitution was not intended to confirm any such contract or indenture. It simply holds parties, who being free to contract, had voluntarily done so, to a specific performance of their contract. It operates on no other indenture than such as “were entered into without fraud or collusion,” and these being good and valid, even under the compact, as not imposing upon the person indentured involuntary servitude, it does not, and was not intended to, confirm indentures originally void. Between the constitutional provision in reference to indentured servants, and the 6th article of the compact, there is therefore no incompatibility.

      It is, however, otherwise in regard to registered servants, and the issue of indentured servants. Their services were originally claimed without any contract or agreement, on their part, to serve their masters; they were therefore held in a state of involuntary servitude, under the territorial laws, and, as I think, in violation of the compact. It does not however follow, that the constitutional requisition, on them, to serve out the time for which, under the territorial law, they were bound to serve, is void, for repugnance to the compact.

      The convention, when about to establish an organic law for the state, find, within its territorial limits, a class of persons whom they do not choose to recognize as citizens, and who, consequently, will owe no allegiance to the state; and they claim the right, in the exercise of the police power incident to their sovereignty, to require such persons, for a specific time, to serve a certain class of their citizens; and congress, having the sole power, if it existed anywhere, to repudiate their claim, affirm it. [*348] The people of the state, through their convention, assert, and the original states, through congress, admit, either that the persons on whom this provision of the constitution is to operate, are not thereby to be held in involuntary servitude, within the meaning of the compact; or else, that the condition of those persons may be fixed by the constitution, the inhibitions of the compact to the contrary notwithstanding. The difference, then, between this class of servants, and such as “have been bound to service by contract or indenture,” is that the constitution operates directly upon the former, as a class of persons, upon the latter, only through “the contract or indenture,” by which they bound themselves, holding them, in certain cases, to a specific performance of such “contract or indenture.”

      But the counsel for the appellant contend that this provision of the constitution is repugnant to the compact, and therefore void:

      1. Because the compact is a law of congress, within the meaning of the 2nd clause of the 6th article of the constitution of the United States, and as such, is “the supreme law of the land,” and so to be regarded by this court, “anything in the constitution of this state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

      2. Because the compact is unalterable, except by the consent of the original states, individually given, in the same manner that they would be required to assent to an amendment of the constitution of the United States, and that such consent not having been given, it is still in force in this state, so as to render wholly null and void the provisions of our constitution, said to be repugnant to it.

      These views of the counsel I consider incorrect. The compact is now a law of congress, as contended by them. Such a law could never be repealed by resolution, but at any time might be by law; whereas the compact, being unalterable, except by the “common consent” of the original states, and the people and states in the north western territory, could not be repealed or altered without such consent, even by law.

      But, although an act of congress alone could not alter or repeal the compact, yet a resolution of congress expressing or implying, as they lawfully might do, the assent of the original states to a proposition made by the people of any state or territory within the north western territory, for its alteration or repeal, would certainly effect that object. Then if any provision of our constitution is in anywise repugnant to the compact, the latter has been, to the extent of such repugnancy, repealed by the former. The consent of the people of the state, to such alteration or repeal of the compact, has been sufficiently manifested, by engrafting such provision upon their constitution, and that of the original states, by the resolution of congress admitting the state into the Union, without objection to the constitution; and this is the “common consent” required for such purpose by the terms of the compact itself. [*349]

      This position, first assumed by this court in the case of Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207, has been most fully sustained and fortified by the circuit court of the United States for the district of Ohio, in the case of Spooner v. McConnell, 1 McLean 343 (the authority relied on by the counsel for the appellant in support of a different position). Judge McLean, in delivering the opinion of the court in the latter case says: “It may be admitted that any provision in the constitution of the state (Ohio) must annul any repugnant provision contained in the ordinance. This is within the terms of the compact. The people of the state formed the constitution, and it was sanctioned by congress, so that there was the ‘common consent’ required by the compact to alter or annul it.”

      But the counsel for the appellant contend that inasmuch as the convention, in the preamble to the constitution, and congress, in their resolution admitting the state into the Union, expressly declare that the constitution is inconsistent with the compact, they cannot be supposed to have consented that by the establishment of the former the latter should be in any wise repealed or altered. This argument is plausible, but will not bear the test of scrutiny.

      Generally the parties who make a contract and receive to themselves the power to alter or rescind it, are competent to say that certain acts purporting to have been done under such contract were so done under it, and within its meaning; and by such admissions they are bound. To this general rule, as to all others, there are exceptions; but this case does not come within any of them. The state and congress, by their ‘common consent,’ could exercise supreme control over the matter, and could therefore as well give effect and operation to the constitution by agreeing that none of its provisions were repugnant to the compact, as by declaring expressly that any particular provision assailed by the former should be abolished. The effect of affirming the constitution by the ‘common consent’ of the convention and congress is the same, whether such affirmance is made on the alleged ground that there is no inconsistency between that instrument and the compact, or by means of an express repeal of the latter. In either case their ‘common consent’ is clearly manifested to give full force and effect to the constitution, and if it be repugnant in any of its provisions to the compact, pro tanto to repeal the latter.

      But the counsel for the appellant further contend, secondly, that if the 3rd section of the 6th article of the constitution is not void for the reason assigned by them, but is, on the other hand, operative to make good and binding indentures entered into under the territorial laws as between the original parties thereto, yet, non constat, that it confirms the assignment of such contracts. [*350]

      The ingenuity of the argument urged by the counsel in support of this position is equaled only by its unsoundness.

      The language of the constitution is that “each and every person who has been bound to service by contract or indenture, in virtue of the laws of the Illinois territory heretofore existing, and in conformity to the provisions of the same, without fraud or collusion, shall be held to a specific performance of their contracts or indentures.” Is there anything in this language to justify the construction put upon it, that although a person had been bound to service by indenture in the manner specified by it, he should nevertheless not be held to a “specific performance” of such contract, because it had been assigned? Had such person been any the less “bound to service” within the meaning of the constitution because of such assignment? Assuredly not. “The territorial laws” referred to in the constitution authorized not only the making but also the assignment of indentures, and when assigned required the persons bound thereby to serve the assignees thereof, as they would have been required without assignment to have served the original holders of such indentures. The assent of the person bound to the assignment of his indenture amounted to a contract on his part to serve the assignee of such indenture. Indentured servants were therefore as much “bound to service,” in virtue of the laws of the Illinois territory, and in conformity to the provisions of the same, “where their indentures had been assigned, as where they had not,” and consequently the constitution operates to confirm as well the assignment of indentures as the indentures themselves in cases where such indentures and assignments had been procured “without fraud or collusion.” To state this position is, in my estimation, to demonstrate its correctness.

      The only position of the counsel for the appellant remaining to be noticed is, thirdly, that if indentures and assignments, under the territorial laws, were confirmed by the constitution, the state legislature nevertheless had no power to legislate further on the subject, and that consequently the law of 1819, and all acts done under it, are null and void.

      The answer to this view is obvious. The legislature of a state, unless restrained by constitutional inhibitions from doing so, may make what regulations its members, in their discretion, deem proper, in reference to the transfer of contracts and property within their jurisdiction, having due respect to the rights of contracting parties and owners of property. The constitution of our state recognizes the indentures under consideration as valid and binding contracts, and neither that instrument nor the constitution of the United States, nor any treaty nor law of Congress, made under the latter, imposes any restrictions upon the power of the legislature, to provide by law for the assignment of such indentures, by the free and full consent of the persons bound thereby. [*351] How then has the legislature transcended its legitimate powers, in making such provision? I confess that if it has done so, I cannot perceive it.

      Again: By the doctrine of the common law, a master is held to have property in the services of his apprentice, assignable by the consent of the apprentice, so as to vest in the assignee, a legal right to such services, when the person of the apprentice accompanies the assignment. The law of 1819 may therefore be considered as merely declaratory of the common law, and making the indentures, as it does, assignable only by the consent of the servant, it authorizes no act by which he can possibly be reduced to a state of involuntary servitude, but leaves his condition wholly unchanged.

      SYLLABUS

      It only remains to be added, that not one of the authorities relied upon by the counsel for the appellant conflicts in the least degree with any of the views hereinbefore expressed, except the case of Phoebe v. Jay, Breese 207, where the same conclusion is sustained by different reasoning.

      In every aspect in which I can view this case, I am convinced that the circuit court decided correctly in overruling the demurrer to the appellee’s plea.

      CATON, Justice, delivered the following separate opinion: I agree to this decision, but I do not concur in all the positions laid down by my brethren of the majority. I think it was not the design of the framers of the constitution to make indentures valid which were before void, and reduce to a state of involuntary servitude, those who were legally free, but only to continue those which were before obligatory. If the indentures were obtained by fraud or collusion, they were not legalized, and whether they were so obtained or not is a question of fact, and not of law.

 

MATTHEW CHAMBERS V. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

      Error To Randolph

      1. Indictmentin language of statute. An indictment is sufficient which is in the language of the statute, and so plainly drawn that the nature of the offense may be understood by the jury. (a)

      2. Slaveryharboring a slave. An indictment contained two counts. The first was for “unlawfully and willfully harboring a Negro woman named Sarah, she then and there being a slave, and owing service to one B, then and there being a resident” of the county, and the second was like the first, except that instead of alleging that Sarah was “a slave”, it alleged that she was “an indentured servant”: Held, that both counts of the indictment were good, and that it was no objection to the first count, that it alleged the existence of slavery in this state; and that it was not necessary to allege a scienter. [*352]

      3. Evidence—leading questions. As a general rule, it is well settled, that upon an examination of a witness in chief, the party calling him has no right to put leading questions; but there are some exceptions to this rule; as that, in the discretion of the court, leading questions may be put to an unwilling witness, and upon introductory matter as mere inducement to, or explanatory of, the relative evidence, or for the purpose of identifying a person, a witness may be asked if a person in court, or the prisoner at the bar, is that person.

      4. Same. On a trial, under an indictment for harboring an indentured colored servant, the master of the servant was called as a witness, and asked if the servant had been living with him, as an indentured servant, since she was assigned to him, which question was objected to by the defendant: Held, that the question was admissible for the purpose of identifying the servant.

 

CASES CITING TEXT.

      (a) Rule enforced. Cross v. People, 47 ILL. 152, 157.

      See Eels v. People post, 498, 515.

      Finis

      (Note: The Matthew Chambers mentioned above is of the family for whom Chambers Street, in Galesburg, is named.)

 
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