Notable Black Toledoans – Garland H. WHITE

I first came across the name of Garland H. WHITE when I was looking through newspaper articles about black residents of Toledo. Oftentimes looking through online resources of African American newspapers provides me with some interesting stories and insights into the early black community of Toledo and Northwest Ohio.

As noted in the Black Culture Series post regarding education and intellectualism, I discovered an article published on March 3, 1871 in a black newspaper called the “Weekly Louisianian” that stated that Garland H. WHITE of Toledo had filed suit against the Toledo school board for not allowing his daughter to attend the school of the ward that they lived in at the time. She was disallowed attendance due to the City of Toledo and its school board having segregated school facilities at the time; therefore his daughter, named Anna would have had to attend the “Colored School” of Toledo and not the one nearest to her home.

WHITE’s complaint did have an impact in the city, being that by 1873 Toledo Public Schools integrated the system and allowed children to attend the schools closest to them regardless of the race/color of the student.  WHITE, however, moved away from Toledo around 1873 and so his children may not have benefited from the integration of the schools in the city.

After finding this information out about WHITE and the integration of Toledo Public Schools, I decided to place him on my (LONG) list of individuals to research later and this past week, I decided to take some notes on him and others.

When I first begin to focus on an individual, I usually first refer to my transcriptions of the Census data of Toledo from 1840 to 1870.  Then I  use the magic of google and see what comes up with a query of their name and the location of Toledo. I was very surprised that WHITE had a lot of references in a general query so decided to make my next post about him.

Garland H. WHITE was born to a slave woman named Nancy in Hanover County, Virginia around 1829. Biographical information found about him shows that he was taught to read and write as a child. Prior to the age of 13, he was separated from his mother and sold to Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia. During his teenage years, he was a personal manservant to Senator Toombs and accompanied the Senator on trips back and forth to Washington, D.C. Around 1857-1859, WHITE escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad from Washington D.C. He settled in SE Ontario, Canada, then called “Canada West” and became an ordained minister in the London, Ontario AME church.

WHITE first shows up in Toledo on the list of Civil War draft registrations in 1863.  He was living in Ward 2 of the city at the time and listed his occupation as a “minister.”  His draft registration is below on line 15:

WHITE petitioned the government to serve as a recruiter for black troops, even before the federal authorities allowed black men to enlist in 1863.  His requests were denied but he was persistent due to having a goal of recruiting and serving as Chaplain for the first black regiments – the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments (the 54th was memorialized in the movie “Glory”).  Unfortunately he was not allowed access to those regiments but was later asked to recruit for Indiana’s first colored regiment – the 28th USCT.   WHITE both joined and recruited black soldiers for this regiment from all over the Midwest and was persistent in his writing campaigns seeking to achieve his goal of becoming a chaplain in the Army.    WHITE’s request was delayed but ultimately approved and he became the Chaplain of the 28th USCT in 1864 and received a rank similar to that of a Captain.  His rank made him one of the few black officers in the USCT during the Civil War (there were less than 20).   Even though he was appointed Chaplain and attained his rank, he was not authorized to wear an officer’s uniform due to the Army not wanting white soldiers being forced to salute him upon sight.

After the war, he returned to Toledo, where as noted above, he filed a complaint against the Toledo Public School board to desegregate the system.  At the time, he was married to wife Georginna and had three children, per the 1870 Census named Anna (born 1862 in Canada), Jane (born 1867) and son Emery/Henry (born 1869).  He was listed in the City of Toledo directory  as a minister between 1867 and 1872.

During the 1860s and 1870s he was also a frequent contributor to black media publications, including the “Christian Recorder” a publication of the AME church.  In one of his more well known correspondences, he described reuniting with his mother, who he had been sold away from as a child.  The letter was written toward the end  of the Civil War on April 12, 1865.:

Among the many broken-hearted mothers looking for their children who had been sold to Georgia and elsewhere, was an aged woman, passing through the vast crowd of colored, inquiring for one by the name of
Garland H. White, who had been sold from her when a small boy, and was bought by a lawyer named Robert Toombs, who lived in Georgia.

Since the war has been going on she has seen Mr. Toombs in Richmond  with troops from his state, and upon her asking him where his bodyservant
Garland was, he replied: “He ran off from me at Washington, and went to ‘Canada. I have since learned that he is living somewhere in the State of Ohio.” Some of the boys knowing that I lived in Ohio, soon found me and said, “Chaplain, here is a lady that wishes to see
you.” I quickly turned, following the soldier until coming to a group of colored ladies. I was questioned as follows:

“What is your name, sir?” “My name is Garland H. White.”

“What was your mother’s name?” “Nancy.” “Where was you born?” “In Hanover County, in this State.” “Where was you sold from?”

“From this city.”

“What was the name of the man who bought you?”

“Robert Toombs.”

“Where did he live?”

“In the State of Georgia.”

“Where did you leave

“At Washington.”

“Where did you go then?”

“To Canada.”

“Where do you live now?”

“In Ohio.”

“This is your mother, Garland, whom you are now talking to, who has spent twenty years of grief about her son.”

I cannot express the joy I felt at this happy meeting of my mother and other friends.

After his service in the war WHITE had aspirations of working for the Freedman’s Bureau but his request was denied.  In the mid 1870s he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and then to North Carolina and served as an AME minister in both locations.  He ran for a seat in Congress in the 1870s in North Carolina as a Democrat, but lost to John Adams Hyman, a black Republican.  His relationship with the Democratic Party, which back  then was the party of the former Confederates,  placed him in a contentious position with his church family in Halifax, North Carolina and he was forced out of the church by 1880.

WHITE experienced a respiratory illness, which he associated with his service in the USCT and specifically the Battle of the Crater.  He applied for a disability pension in 1884 but it was not approved until 1890 when rules for pensioners changed and all who served were able to receive payments.  WHITE moved back to Washington, D.C., toward the end of his life and worked as a messenger in the Capital.  He died on July 5, 1894 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Wikipedia – Garland H. White

Forged Through Fire – Bethel AME Church – Chaplain Garland H. White

1870 Toledo Census – Household of Garland H. White

Find a Grave Memorial – Rev Garland H. White 

Weekly Louisianian – March 3, 1871 – US Civil War Draft Registration Records – Ohio 10th Congressional District Volume 1 – City of Toledo Directories 1864-1880


Early Black Toledo Families – TILTON

One of the earliest found commercial establishment of Toledo’s black community was a restaurant/saloon established by John B. TILTON who was mentioned as a restaurateur in the city directory in 1868.  Mr. TILTON had been a resident of Northwest Ohio since at least 1860 and prior to opening his own restaurant, he was listed as a farmer in Swanton.  John TILTON seemingly moved to Toledo after 1860 as in the 1864 Toledo directory, there was a “cold” John TILTON listed as a Porter employed by the Oliver House.

TILTON was labeled as associated with the  restaurant business on the 1870 Census. Occupations of “restaurant” or “restaurant keeper” were shown on the document.  TILTON had real estate valued between $4000 and $12000 and a personal estate of between $1000 and $3000.  Based on real and personal estate figures, he was one of the wealthiest black men in Toledo in 1870 and the only black saloon/restaurant keeper in the city at the time.

Per the 1860 census and every census afterwards John B TILTON was born in the state of Delaware in approximately 1820.  In 1860 he was a farmer in Swanton and in his household was Sarah TILTON, presumably his wife and two black residents named John INGRAHAM and Woodson DERINGER.  Both were labeled as black farm laborers.

The TILTON restaurant was also labeled in the city directory as a “distiller” and a saloon, basically a club and drinking establishment.  Due to there being so few black/colored residents in 1868, TILTON was required to serve a diverse crowd in his establishment.  It can be assumed that John TILTON took advantage of the many economic advantages of a diverse, integrated society that Toledo was in the mid 1800s.  His restaurant/saloon was located near the corner of Monroe and St. Clair Street near the present day “Hensville” outdoor venue arena, Fifth/Third Field, and the SeaGate Convention Center.  It was a part of a community of establishments that took advantage of what was then known as Toledo’s “Times Square” in the 19th century.  St. Clair Street was the location of a variety of theaters and commercial establishments for many years, and luckily the area is seeing a resurgence in being the center of similar activities today.

John TILTON’s business was called the Opera House Restaurant in the 1878 Toledo directory ad that was placed for the establishment.  It was across the street from the Wheeler Opera House, which was one of the most popular entertainment venues in Toledo at the time.  Per the ad below he was “Open at all Hours” and even had a separate area for women’s entertainment with a “Ladies Dining Hall, Up Stairs.”  Associating his business with the opera house and being so near it would encourage crowds going to or leaving shows to also visit his establishment for drinks and food in association with the shows and visitors to the Wheeler.  The ad also showed that diners would be treated to all sorts of “game” that was always in season


1878 City of Toledo Director – Opera House Restaurant – John. B. TILTON proprietor

Many today, due to seeing depictions of saloons in old Western movies, associate them with prostitution.  Though it is true that many of them did provide venues of “vice” it should be noted that a majority of saloons were not houses of prostitution.  Most served as restaurants and nightclubs.  Many, per the source linked below regarding Toledo’s saloon culture, also served as hotels, especially those ran by women who rented out rooms as a way to make a living after being widowed.  On the 1880 Census half of the persons enumerated at TILTON’s establishment were labeled as “borders” meaning they were renting rooms at his saloon.

I found no evidence that the TILTON establishment was involved in any illegal activities after a review of Toledo newspapers.  In 1880 the Census takers seemingly counted all the workers who were employed by TILTON.  All of them were black community members of Toledo.  His employees included Joseph GARRETT who was mentioned as being the father in law of Toledo’s first black photographer George FIELDS.  Both men were also listed as some of the early trustees of Warren AME Church.  The occupations listed for TILTON’s employees ranged from “cook” to “porter” to “dishwasher.”  All of his workers in 1880 were labeled as black or mullato while all the borders were white, showing that he primarily hired black workers yet served a majority white customer base.  He and other black business owners assisted the small black community due to their hiring trends based on the fact that in the City of Toledo, employment opportunities for black/colored Americans in the 19th century were severely limited due to the prevalence of race prejudiced against all people with any known negro ancestry.

A further review of the history of Warren AME Chruch showed that John B. Tilton was also listed as one of the trustees of the church who bought the first church home for the young congregation.  The deed information shown below, listed as Trustees various persons who I am currently researching in early Toledo’s black community as are shown in bold:

Know all men be these present that we Calvin Barker and Mary Barker, his wife, in consideration of dollars to us paid by Joseph Garrett, David Gatsel, William Mills, John B. Tilton, David Philips, Simon Roady and George Field, Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the City of Toledo, State of Ohio, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey to said Trustees and their successors for the uses and purposes of said African Methodist Episcopal Church their successors and assigns forever all the piece or parcel of land known and described as follows:


I could not find out much about TILTON’s life prior to him moving to Northwest Ohio.  Due to him consistently being labeled as being born in the state of Delaware, I did a search of Delawareans with the surname TILTON.  I did find a free black family with the surname TILTON on the 1850 Census in Kent County, Delaware, but no one named John TILTON.    I also discovered a white TILTON family who were slave owners in Delaware.  One of the members of this family – Dr. James TILTON moved to Madison, Indiana in the late 1820s.  He was a Revolutionary War veteran and when in Dupont, Indiana, it was noted in the work “Free Boy:  A True Story of Slave and Master” that Dr. TILTON  apprenticed a young black boy named John SMITH to train as a farmer soon after moving to Indiana in 1827-1828.  The age of this young John SMITH does approximately match that of John TILTON but there is no solid evidence that John TILTON was associated with the white TILTON family from Delaware.  If additional information shows up, this post will be updated in the future.

I also have been unable to locate a death record for either John TILTON or his wife Sarah.  John was labeled as a “widower” on the 1880 census so it can be assumed that his wife Sarah passed away by that year.  TILTON was consistently listed in the city directory until 1883 when he no longer had an entry showing.  Unfortunately many of my own relatives who died in Toledo between 1880 and 1900 have spotty and some, non-existent death records and it seems that TILTON may have also fell into this category of poor death record keeping for those decades.  However, I did locate some index entries for Ohio Death records between 1890 and 1900 where there were 2 John TILTON’s listed has having died in the City of Toledo.  I will review information at the TLCPL and/or the county vital statistics office to see if there are any additional entries for those deaths since only a name and date of death was provided online.



Hawkins, Arnette.  “Raising our Glass: Saloon Culture in Toledo, Ohio” 2010

History Footnotes – Warren AME Church History

US Census 1860 – Household of John B. TILTON

US Census 1870 – Household of John TILDON

US Census 1880 – Household of John B TILTON (restaurant)

City of Toledo Directory 1864-1883 – accessed 4/24/2017-6/25/2017


Early Black Toledo Families – WASHINGTON

One of the most interesting things that I have discovered in researching the black/colored historical families in Toledo is the fact that many of them are unknown and unacknowledged participants in the Underground Railroad of NW Ohio.

A review of material from the digitized Wilbur H. Siebert collection regarding the history of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) about the City of Toledo, I discovered that Henry/Hank WASHINGTON was mentioned as having devised a plan to free an escaped slave from Kentucky that was in the process of being taken back into slavery.

This information was contained within notes that Dr. Siebert had compiled about one of Toledo’s former mayors – Mavor BRIGHAM.  BRIGHAM gave an interview about his life and a few of the activities that he had been involved with regarding the anti-slavery movement and assisting runaway slaves.  A part of BRIGHAM’s  interview about a runaway he had assisted in Toledo in 1847 was as follows:

“I was told by a man I knew on Sunday morning in 1847 I think that there was a man at the hotel up-town who had his slaves with him all shackled and tied up.  I told my informant not to talk about it and I would go up and find out what I could.  I asked the hotel-keeper if I might see the parties.  I went upstairs, introduced myself and said to the slave owner that I had called to see if he had a colored man tied up.  The negro was standing in the corner.  I asked what was the matter.  The master said the nigger was a runaway and he was taking him back to Kentucky, and that the fellow was as anxious to go as he was to have him.  The darky shook his head at me.  I asked the man if he had gone before any judicial authority.  He replied no, that he had the power of attorney from his uncle the owner of the fugitive.  But I found he had done nothing in a legal way to secure the authority to hold this man in bonds.  He said I might investigate it and he’d stay if I paid his expenses….

While the matter was being discussed a young colored fellow Hank Washington came running into the office.  He with two other men had been left to guard the darky.  He came to tell that the darky had escaped by a back stairs (through WASHINGTON’s own plan). James Conlisk carried him into Michigan…”

I found a more recent article written about Mavor BRIGHAM and also of other white UGGR administrators such as James ASHLEY and Richard MOTT in the Toledo Blade.  This article posted below spoke of the dangers faced by the white men and didn’t mention any of the activities of the black/colored community in Toledo at this time.  I honestly have never heard that any black people in Toledo were involved in the UGGR and only the names above and other wealthier white families are mentioned as having been UGGR administrators.

Black/colored men that I have discovered who assisted runaways in Toledo or were named as attending UGGR conventions such as William MERRIT, Benjamin TALBOT/TABOT, George W. TUCKER, William HAWKINS and Henry WASHINGTON faced much more danger being that they were black and some,  were more than likely runaway slaves, which would place them in greater danger if discovered or captured themselves.  Historians now acknowledge that the free black/colored communities in northern and border states were much more actively involved in assisting runaway slaves than  previous histories written on the subject have indicated.  They were also more daring in regards to assisting the fleeing slaves, such as was described about Hank WASHINGTON in BRIGHAM’s interview.  The  UGGR was usually not tunnels under buildings or secret rooms in a white person’s home.  More often than not, it was free black people seeing a fugitive and helping him/her to not be discovered or assisting them to safety.  There were also some violent accounts of blacks and whites against southerners who sought to re-enslave a black person who had been living as free in their community.  The UGGR stands as one of the most intricate and interesting networks of inter-racial cooperation in American history.  Unfortunately, Siebert made little mention of black Toledoans in his section about NW Ohio and who were involved in anti-slavery activities or who assisted runaways and even omitted the names of black Toledoans from his book – like Henry WASHINGTON and even William MERRITT who was mentioned by multiple white UGGR administrators as being involved in UGGR activities in Toledo and a leader of the colored community.  The interview of Mavor BRIGHAM and his recount of WASHINGTON’s deeds did not make it into Seibert’s text.  Luckily the interview survives and brings to life one of the names of a member of one the earliest black families to have resided in the Toledo area.

Unfortunately, in looking through Siebert’s papers that were digitized online, I did not see any reference to him contacting the black churches in Toledo as in the 1890s when this account was provided to him by Mavor BRIGHAM, research that I have conducted on Henry WASHINGTON shows that he may still have been alive.  The name of “Henry” or “Hank” WASHINGTON was only shown within research documents that I discovered twice; however, there was a George H. WASHINGTON who was approximately the same age as Henry and who was also a Barber and Laborer in the City of Toledo through the 1890s.  This George H. WASHINGTON, due to the black population of Toledo being so small, may very well have been Henry WASHINGTON.  George H. WASHINGTON passed away in 1897, two years after Mavor BRIGHAM provided this account to Siebert.   Other known black anti-slavery activist such as the poet James Madison BELL was also still alive in 1895.  The son of physician James A. FIELDS, a black abolitionist was also alive and living in Adrian, Lenawee County not too far from Toledo and he was also not contacted.  It is unfortunate that Siebert and his team did not follow up on the black/colored individuals who were involved in anti-slavery societies or the UGGR while conducting their research for NW Ohio.  The only name that has been mentioned in the various texts I’ve read about Toledo’s UGGR network who was black/colored is William H. MERRITT who was mentioned as being a participant by a few people that Siebert contacted, but even he was not mentioned in the published text regarding the NW Ohio routes of the UGGR.  According to information shown within the post regarding MERRIT’s life on this blog, he was a relatively wealthy individual, the most wealthy black man in Toledo in the 19th century and it makes sense that he, as a prominent black/colored citizen would get more attention than the other free blacks in Toledo who were poor to working class individuals even, though quite a few of individuals other than MERRITT, I have discovered were mentioned in newspaper accounts of UGGR activity and in interviews such as the one provided to Siebert by Mavor BRIGHAM in 1895.

Genealogical information I’ve discovered about Henry WASHINGTON includes the fact that there was also a George WASHINGTON listed on the 1840 census.  Interestingly enough, there was also a colored George WASHINGTON listed on the 1830 census for the Michigan Territory of which Toledo was a part of at that time.  In  both 1830 and 1840 all household members were not named so only George WASHINGTON is listed.  In 1830 there were only two members of his household, a male aged 24-35, presumably George himself and a female aged 24-35 presumably his wife.  In 1840 George WASHINGTON had four individuals in his household – a black/colored male under age 10, a black/colored male aged 36-55, and two black/colored females – one between 24 and 36  years old and the other between 36 and 55 years of age.   It can be assumed that George WASHINGTON in 1840 may the father of Henry WASHINGTON

Henry WASHINGTON married Josephine PERRY in Toledo on June 12, 1845.  This is the earliest marriage I have found thus far between a black man and woman in online county records for Lucas County.

On the 1850 census, Henry and Josephine were living in Ward 1 of the city in the “Port Lawrence” district near downtown Toledo.  The 1850 Census provides more details about all household members versus 1840.   Henry was labeled as a “Barber” in 1850.   Henry and his wife Josephine were both approximately 21 years old.  I believe, due to the year of their marriage, that they were probably a bit older than that.  At the time of the 1850 census there were two children within their household – an  8 month old  infant named Eli and a 3 year old male that I couldn’t quite make out the name.  It looked like “Estera” or more than likely “Edward” from the original script writing.

In 1860 Josephine was listed in the household of Charles and Cinderilla WALKER.  I am not certain if they were related to her in some way.  The WALKER family lived in Sylvania at the time and were labeled as “Black.”

The next record where Henry was located in the Toledo area was in the city directory in 1870.  He was labeled as “col’d” and  his residence was stated at being on “Hartford blk. 3d floor.”

After 1870 I did not find any records of Henry WASHINGTON via  I did find records of another George WASHINGTON though that was close in age to Henry WASHINGTON.  Due to believing that Henry may have been the son of George WASHINGTON from the 1840 census whose year of birth was between 1785 and 1804, I am of the belief that George H.WASHINGTON who began to show up as “col’d” in the directory instead of Henry WASHINGTON may have been Henry.  I have quite a few relatives in my own genealogical tree who went by both first and middle names at one point in time so Henry may have been George Henry WASHINGTON and perhaps after his father passed away he went by George instead of Henry.

His wife Josephine also disappeared from records starting in 1860.  I could not find a record of her death so both Henry and Josephine may also have left the area after 1870 or her death may not have been recorded.

However, there were three other individuals who were black/colored and named George WASHINGTON in Toledo through the turn of the 20th century.  The oldest George WASHINGTON called George H WASHINGTON, as stated above died in 1897.  He was born in the approximate year of Henry WASHINGTON – 1820 so may have been the “young colored fellow” that Mavor BRIGHAM referred to in his interview shown above who freed the slave in 1847.

It is unknown whether or not there are any descendants of Henry and Josephine WASHINGTON.  As stated there were other black/colored persons in Toledo after 1860 who had the surname WASHINGTON.  It is possible that they were all related but that cannot be known for certain.  Individuals listed in records that I’ve discovered who had the surname WASHINGTON through 1900 are listed below primarily because, as noted, this family has been in the Toledo area the longest of any others that I have researched.  Please note that any bulletted persons underneath the head of household are in the same household.  Each lone  name was enumerated separately or with a different surname versus WASHINGTON:


George WASHINGTON – 1840 Census household included male (probably himself) aged 36-55 years of age.  This would make George WASHINGTON’s year of birth between 1785-1805

  • Un-named male in household aged 10 and below
  • Un-named female in household aged 24-36 (possibly daughter)
  • Un-named female in household aged 36-55 (possibly wife)


Marriage record of Henry WASHINGTON and Josephine PERRY, June 12, 1845


Henry WASHINGTON – 1850 Census aged 21, black, barber, birthplace “unknown”

  • Josephine WASHINGTON aged 21, black, birthplace Michigan
  • Edward WASHINGTON aged 3, black birthplace Ohio
  • Eli WASHINGTON aged 8 months, black, birthplace Ohio


Josephine WASHINGTON aged 30, mullatto, birthplace Michigan (NOTE:  enumerated in household of Charles WALKER in Sylvania may be related to Charles WALKER.  They have the same birthplace)

Louisa WASHINGTON aged 25, mullatto, servant, birthplace Washington, DC (NOTE:  enumerated in household of white family headed by Carline FIELD)

James/George WASHINGTON aged 64, black, laborer, birthplace Virginia (NOTE:  may be George WASHINGTON from 1840 census, potential father of Henry WASHINGTON)

  • William WASHINGTON, aged 20, black, laborer, birthplace New York (NOTE:  may have been boy in household of George WASHINGTON in 1840)


George WASHINGTON married Sophia LEE in Lucas County, February 18, 1866

John A WASHINGTON married Sarah R WILLIAMS in Lucas County, July 23, 1868 (NOTE:  Sarah WASHINGTON was listed as deceased August 18, 1869 along with infant Charles WASHINGTON on August 31, 1869)

Edward WASHINGTON married Mary ARMSTRONG in Lucas County, March, 19, 1870 (NOTE:  may be son of Henry WASHINGTON based on 1850 census household)

1870 CENSUS (these entries are taken from previous blog post)

Edward WASHINGTON – 1870 Census aged 20, black, laborer, birthplace Ohio (NOTE:  may be son of Henry WASHINGTON based on 1850 census household)

  • Mary E WASHINGTON aged 22, black, keeping house, birthplace Ohio

John WASHINGTON – 1870 Census aged 28, black, cook, birthplace Ohio

George H. WASHINGTON – 1870 Census aged 40, black, laborer, birthplace Ohio

  • Mary WASHINGTON aged 30, black, keeping house, birthplace Ohio

Ed WASHINGTON – 1870 Census aged 22, black, barber, birthplace Ohio

George WASHINGTON aged 18, black, cook, birthplace Ohio



Hamon WASHINGTON married Martha JACKSON in Lucas County, March 3, 1873

William WASHINGTON married Jennie HILL in Lucas County, June 12, 1883

There were other entries of the WASHINGTON family whereas they were labeled as children of William or George WASHINGTON in Toledo after 1900.  So it can be assumed that there are still descendants of this family in Toledo but their identities are unknown.



Ohio Historical Society – Mavor Brigham interview, Aug 4, 1895, Wilbur H. Siebert Collection, pages 3-4.

The Toledo Blade – “Local Abolitionist Risked All to Help Free Escaped Slaves.


Early Black/Colored Toledo Families – (Harvey) FIELDS

Between 1850 and 1900 there were three black and mullatto families in the Toledo area with the surname FIELDS.  I am now certain that two of them are related based on some additional research.  The other FIELDS family – headed by physician James FIELDS, per the entry regarding him being Toledo’s first black doctor and there being an obituary about him with a pretty detailed biography of his life, I do not at the moment believe he was related to the other two black/colored FIELDS families in Toledo.  The various black/colored families with the surname FIELDS were as follows:

  • 1850 Census family headed by Harvey FIELDS Barber/Laborer
  • 1860 Census family headed by James A FIELDS  physician
  • 1870 Census family headed by George FIELDS  photographer

This post will focus on the family of Harvey FIELDS since his was the first branch shown in records as living in Toledo.  Harvey was listed as a Barber in 1850 and lived in Ward 1 of the city with his wife Jane and children:  Robert, Julius, William, Anna,  and John.  In the racial category, the entire family were labeled as “mullatto.”  Their older children were some of the few black/colored children who had attended school in 1850. On the 1860 Census Harvey was listed as a “laborer.”  The City of Toledo Directory began to be published in 1864 and unfortunately Harvey was never listed in the directory.

Harvey’s sons – Robert, Julius, and William FIELDS were listed as having been born in Canada in 1850.   Harvey stated his place of birth was Massachusetts, his wife Jane stated she had been born in Georgia.   However, on the 1860 Census Harvey was listed as also having been born in Canada along with his wife Jane and all of the older children in the family.  An additional child not listed in 1850 was Mary who was listed as 4 years old in 1860.  Due to the change in birth area, it is unknown whether Harvey was a free person of color prior to moving to Toledo or if he was an escaped slave.

Some searching into this family’s background showed that son William FIELDS was listed on the Ohio Civil War Roster as having served in the US Colored Troops in the 27th Regiment, Ohio Infantry, Company I.  Research into Ohio US Colored Troops (USCT)  enlistments showed that over 80% of black/colored service eligible men (by age), volunteered for the war effort.   I have been surprised in my on family’s history to discover that a large amount of my male ancestors, no matter their state of residence, served in the USCT.  Local history research into the the black/colored population of Toledo thus far shows a similar trend in that nearly every family I have researched had at least 1-2 volunteer soldiers for the war effort.

At the time of his enlistment, William FIELDS would have been  approximately 16-18 years old.  Older son, Robert FIELDS volunteered later in the war for the 189th Regiment, Ohio Infantry, Company A.  He would have been approximately 26 years old at the time of his enlistment in 1865.

The 189th Ohio that Robert joined was organized in Toledo and Camp Chase in Columbus in January of 1865 and was only to serve for a year of the war.  This was not a regiment of the USCT.   Though black and mullatto soldiers usually served in segregated commands, there were instances where they did not.

The 27th Ohio that William joined was organized in Delaware County in January of 1864.  It was the second regiment created of US Colored Troops organized in the state of Ohio.  This regiment stayed in service until the end of the war in 1865.  Below is a picture of their camp during service in Petersburg, Virginia.

Some interesting information discovered about the 27th Ohio was that they saw some active fighting. One of the more well known battles that they participated in was called the “Battle of the Crater” in Petersburg, VA shown in the picture above.  There were some members of the regiment who kept journals and records of their service.  One was an AME minister named James Payne who was stated by the Ohio Historical Society website as having originally hailed from Kentucky and who went to Lima to enlist.  A portion of Reverend Payne’s journal provided a harrowing and humbling account of the black soldier’s experiences during the war:

(T)wo regiments [the 43rd USCI and 27th USCI] drove the enemy from their breastworks, and took possession of the blown up fort; but while they did, all the white soldiers lay in their pits and did nothing to support our men in the struggle; they lay as if there was nothing for them to do for one hour after the explosion took place…How easily Petersburg could have been taken on the 30th of July, had the white soldiers and their commanders done their duty! But prejudiced against colored troops prevented them…I can only conclude that our men fell unnecessarily in the battle on the 30th. In their retreat, they received the cross-fire of the enemy, and no small number were killed by our own artillery.

Such was the terrible fate of the day. Time will tell who was in the fault, and who made the great blunder in the battle of the 30th of July.

Among the captured was my brother-in-law, William Johnson of Upper Sandusky, Ohio…but, I can only give him up into the hand of God, who knows just how to deal with his case. If he is murdered by the rebels all is right, his blood will speak for the cause in which he fell.


In 1870, Robert FIELDS, the oldest son of Harvey and Jane was shown living by himself in Toledo on the Census.  He was labeled as a Painter just as he had been in 1860 when he lived with his parents and siblings.  Neither Harvey nor Jane showed up in the City of Toledo on any census data that I have come across after 1860 nor in any death registers.  I also have never found mention of them in the city directory or with a query into newspapers thus far.  If ever anything is located this post will be updated.  However, I do believe that Harvey FIELDS and his family were related to the family of George FIELDS, Toledo’s first black professional photographer.  George FIELDS was mentioned in this blog in the post about one of the known UGGR administrators in the city of Toledo – William H. MERRIT.  George was Toledo’s first black professional photographer and moved to Toledo after 1860 and his professional address was located in the same building with William H. MERRITT.  Throughout the various census documents George was listed on, he stated he was either born in Georgia or Alabama, which leads me to conclude that both and and Harvey were either the children of escaped slaves or people who had been free people of color who lived in the southeastern region of the US and who subsequently, moved away from their home states.  George, unlike Harvey was listed in the City of Toledo directory starting in 1867.  A clue to there being a familial relation between Harvey, and photographer George FIELDS was the fact that per the 1868 Toledo directory, Robert – Harvey’s son,  and George FIELDS lived at the same address of  743 Erie Street.

Another clue was that in 1880, Robert FIELDS was counted in the household of Joseph and Lucy GARRETT.  He was labeled as their “grandson” along with his younger sister Mary FIELDS who was listed on the 1860 Census with him and their parents.  Within the GARRETT household was also 18 year old Olivia FIELDS and 17 year old Otis FIELDS.  These were the children of George FIELDS, Toledo’s first black photographer mentioned above.  Due to both sets of FIELD’s children being labeled as the GARRETT’s grandchildren, it was assumed that Robert and Mary were cousins to Otis and Olivia.  George FIELD’s first wife’s maiden name was Mary GARRETT (George married Mary GARRET on January 13, 1861 in Greene, Ohio) and these were her parents – the grandparents of Otis and Olivia.  It is uncertain if Robert and Mary’s mother Jane was the sister of George’s wife  Mary,  or if George FIELDS and Harvey FIELDS were brothers and the GARRETTs,  called Robert and his sister Mary their grandchildren due to them being cousins of their biological grandchildren.  Another relationship between these two families is that Harvey and Jane could very well have been the parents of George FIELDS.  They were old enough to be his parents and I’ve yet to find documentation of who George’s parents were.  Robert may have lived with George per the directory in 1868 due to them being brothers.  Due to that his children in the GARRETT household in 1880 may have been the nephew and niece of Robert and Mary FIELDS.

Robert FIELDS was also listed on the 1890 US Veterans Census where he stated he served with the regiment and company listed above.  Initially I was unsure if the Robert FIELDS listed on the veterans census was the same as the one I was researching, but a review of the city directory from 1888 to 1905 showed that Robert FIELDS was a Painter who lived at 524 Cherry Street in Toledo, which is at the corner of Summit and Cherry in downtown Toledo.  He lived with Mary and Otis FIELDS,  who were also listed on the 1880 census with the GARRETs as “mullatto.” This confirmed that Robert FIELDS was the veteran also listed on the 1890 Veterans Census.

In 1910 he was still listed as a Painter and was living with his sister Mary FIELDS at 645 State Street in the Canton Avenue district of Toledo.  This was one of the neighborhoods where a substantial amount of the black population resided until the 1930s until more began moving into the Pinewood District, currently called “Central City.”  Robert FIELDS was listed as 69 years old in 1910.

In 1920 Robert was shown residing in the Montgomery County, Jefferson Township National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soliders.  He was listed at being 80 years old at the time.  The last pension record I have on file for him below showed that he died on December 31, 1923 at the National Soldiers Home in Virginia.

He was buried at the Hampton National Cemetery.  Below is a picture of his grave

I could not find much info at all in regards to younger brother William FIELDS.  However, there was records of another, younger “colored,” Robert FIELDS who was born in approximately 1865-1866 and who died in Toledo in 1906.  On his death record, his father was listed as William FIELDS and the document said that this younger Robert was born in Petersburg, VA where William FIELDS’ regiment fought in the Battle of the Crater.

Harvey and Jane’s youngest child Mary FIELDS died at the age of 75 in Toledo in 1933.  She had been a resident of Toledo her entire life.  Towards the end of her life she was a patient at the Toledo State Hospital.  Upon her death, she was buried at the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, where it was noted that she was the sister of Robert E. FIELDS.

The other children of Harvey and Jane FIELDS listed on the 1850 Census, I could not find much information about.  In 1860 they had a son named John who was 11 years old that year.  Some queries on John FIELDS showed that someone with that same name died in the City of Toledo on December 30, 1883 of bronchitis.  However, some further digging showed that this was John Brewster FIELDS the youngest son of George FIELDS, the suspected brother or son of Harvey FIELDS.  However, there was also a record of a John H FIELDS in the Toledo directory during the 1900s.  In the directory John H. FIELDS was labeled with an occupation of Porter and he lived in various locations including Missouri Street (now Pinewood Street) and Wisconsin streets through the 1890s.  This John FIELDS lived with George in 1899, a year before George’s death, so this may have been the same John FIELDS who was enumerated with Harvey’s family in 1850.

Another son of the couple – Julius/Junius (or Lucious) I could not locate any additional information.    On the 1860 Census, he was listed as a “Sailor.”  His name never showed up again in the City of Toledo.  I also could not find any information about daughter Anna FIELDS.

It is currently unknown if there are any descendants of this FIELDS family still in the Toledo area.




1850 US Census, via; accessed 3/31/2017

Ohio Civil War Roster, Ohio Genealogical Society search engine, accessed 3/31/2017

Fighting for Freedom:  African Americans in the Civil War.  The Ohio Historical Society, accessed 3/31/2017

189th Regiment Ohio Infantry roster; accessed 3/31/2017

1910 US Census, via; accessed 3/31/2017

1920 US Census, via; accessed 3/31/2017

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, via; accessed 3/31/2017 (Death Certificate of Mary FIELDS)

Early Black Toledo Families – GATLIFF/GATLEFF

As was shared in the post regarding basketball legend William (Bill) McNeil JONES, his parents were William A. JONES and Jessie L. GATLIFF.  Both the JONES and GATLIFF families lived in the Toledo area prior to 1900 before the Great Migration got into full swing and the black population of Toledo swelled like many other Midwest industrial centers.

I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the families of early black/colored Toledoans and due to my curiosity regarding those families from my transcriptions of the 1840 through 1900 census information (I am currently working to transcribe the 1900 census).  Unlike other persons I mentioned in this blog, a majority of these other black/colored individuals and families weren’t well known in the community.  However, the history of regular people’s lives is just as important and interesting as more well known persons and a review of the family of Jessie GATLIFF is well worth sharing some information.

Jessie L. GATLIFF/GATLEFF  was born in Chillocothe, Ohio in approximately 1882.  Her parents were John H. GATLIFF/GATLEFF Jr. and Amanda GOINS/GOINGS/GOENS.  She was the second of three children born to John Jr. and Amanda.  She was the middle child between older brother Clark and younger brother Everett James.

The GATLIFF/GATLEFF family had lived in Chillicothe since approximately 1870.  John H. GATLIFF/GATLEFF Jr. was originally born in Rockcastle County, Kentucky  and was the son of John H. GATLIFF Sr (1823-1910) and Cynthia GATLIFF (1824-1913).  This couple threw me for a few loops in researching them due to both Cynthia and John Sr. having the same surname.  A review of Milton GATLIFF/GATLEFF’S death certificate – a son of John Sr. and Cynthia, and due to a clue revealed in a book about Cynthia’s mother Rose, it was shown that John Sr. took the surname of his wife when they were married.  Due to that, I have not been able to track his family back further than John Sr.  On his death certificate, shown below, his parents were unknown.

Cynthia GATLIFF/GATLEFF was also born in Kentucky in approximately 1824.  Her mother Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF was held as a slave and had to sue for her freedom in the courts of Kentucky.  It took her nearly 20 years but she was eventually set free.  As a free woman, she was enumerate on the 1850 census in Rockcastle County, Kentucky with some of her children and grandchildren.  Rose was born in Virginia in approximately 1772 and was the daughter of a “mullatto” allegedly of mixed European and Native ancestry.  She was described as having blond hair and blue eyes.  Her case was based upon her stating that her mother was a native American and therefore she could not be held as a slave.  In the late 18th century, indigenous people were no longer considered slaves and if she had been born to a Native mother, she would automatically be free.  According the book “Rose, a Woman of Color:  A Slave’s Struggle for Freedom in the Courts of Kentucky,” by Arnold Taylor, Rose, through her attorneys claimed that she was made a slave through illegal maneuvering.  Jenny, Rose’s mother thought that she was putting Rose into an indentured servitude period, it was Rose and her attorney’s position that instead, Rose was instead enslaved.  Documents were drawn up labeling her as a slave.  The prosecutors alleged that due to the records of Virginia, as they discovered paperwork that supported that Rose was sold as a slave as a girl, that she was indeed a slave.  They also alleged that her mother Jenny was not a Native American and instead a mullato with some negro ancestry.  Many witnesses were brought forth for both Rose’s and the state’s case.  Her attorney’s position was, that of course the persons who profited off of Rose would take advantage of her position as a mullatto child of Indian and white ancestry and make her a slave for their benefit, so the jury should not accept that the documents of Rose’s alleged status as a slave should be believed.

The book above was very interesting and gave a good genealogical account of Rose’s family, including her mother Jenny and her suspected father who was a white man that Jenny worked for. It also discussed that one of Rose’s daughters – Nancy GATLIFF/GATLEFF had been freed due to winning a case in Indiana, whereas her owner had taken her to that “free” state for more than 6 months and left her there.  Nancy also won her case.  One of the arguments against Rose, ironically was that since Nancy was freed due to Indiana’s laws regarding slaves, that Rose herself, must legally be a slave and not eligible to be freed based on her mother’s ancestry.  Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF died died a free woman around 1870 and at that time most of her children moved to Ross County, Chillicothe, Ohio including Cynthia and John Sr.

Due to John Jr. and Amanda being listed on the 1880 Census in Ross County, City of Chillicothe and because both Jessie L, born in 1882 and Everett, born in 1885 had birth records on file in Ross County, it can be determined that John Jr. did not move away from Ross county until after 1885.

John Jr. was one of 10 known children of John Sr. and Cynthia GATLIFF/GATLEFF.  Two of his brothers – James and Frank GATLIFF showed up in the Toledo City Directory in 1892 and 1895.  By 1900, John Jr. and his sons Clark and Everett GATLIFF/GATLEFF were living  in Toledo.  Clark GATLIFF was also listed in the city directory in 1899 so we can conclude that members of the GATLIFF family moved to Toledo between 1890 and 1900.

Per the census document below, John Jr., Clark and Everett were living in a boarding house in 1900 located at 132 N. Erie Street.  That address is now a parking lot located near the corner of Erie and Jefferson Ave in downtown Toledo.  In 1900 John Jr. was working as a laborer.  His oldest son Clark was a Porter in a barber shop  while younger brother Everett, who was only 14, had “At School” listed as his occupation. By 1910, Jessie was also living in Toledo and was married to William JONES.


There was never a record of Amanda GOENS/GOINS GATLIFF in Toledo and I have yet to find a death certificate for her.  John Jr. re-married in 1914 to a woman named Martha YOUNG.  He is last found in genealogical records on the 1920 census where he lived with his second wife Martha.  John Jr. died in Toledo in 1921.   His last known residence was 580 Norwood Ave, which was listed as his residence on both the 1920 census and his death record in 1921.  That address currently is just an empty lot very close to interstate 75 in Toledo and the home probably was demolished to make way for the freeway.

John Jr.’s daughter Jessie GATLIFF married one of my 4th great uncles – William Allen JONES on April 27, 1907.  Together they had nine children, eight lived to adulthood.  Both Jessie and William were active members of Toledo’s black community from the early 1900s until their deaths in the 1950s.  Jessie’s obituary labeled her as a “Church and Organizational Leader” and listed the many organizations that she worked and lead during her lifetime.  Her obituary is listed below.  She died on April 18, 1959:

As stated earlier, Jessie was the mother of William (Bill) McNeill JONES one of the first black basketball players who integrated professional basketball.  Her youngest child – Elizabeth JONES WILSON died in Toledo in October of 2014.

Additional information regarding the brothers of Jessie GATLIFF JONES was also discovered, including an obituary of Everett James GATLIFF whose daughter Dorothy GATLIFF BROWN was hired as one of Toledo’s first black female police officers in 1946.


Below is a lint to a short family tree of the GATLIFFs.  Please note that these particular descendants of Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF are the Toledo branch.  If there is any inquiries about this family please email me for a complete tree at

GATLIFF family link


1850 US Census, via; accessed on 3/3/2017 (Household of Maragret GATLIFF)

1860 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of Cynthia GATLIFF)

1870 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF)

1880 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017  (Household of John GATLIFF)

1900 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF)

1900 US Census, via; accessed on 3/31/2017 (Household of Albert SPEAD – boarding house)

1910 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of Cynthia GATLIFF)

Ohio Deaths  1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – death record of Cynthia GATLIFF

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017  – death record of John GATLIFF Sr.

1910 US Census, via; accessed on 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

1920 US Census, via familysearch.og; accessed on 3/31/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF Jr.)

1920 US Census, via; accessed on 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – death record of John H. GATLIFF Jr.

Michigan Marriages 1868-1925, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – marriage record of John H. GATLIFF Jr and Martha A YOUNG.

Ohio County Marriages 1789-2013, via; accessed 11/15/2016 – marriage record of William A. JONES and Jessie L. GATLIFF

1930 US Census, via; accessed 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

1940 US Census, via; accessed 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

Toledo Blade Obituary Index, via Toledo Lucas County Public Library 2/28/2017; Jessie L JONES published April 20, 1959

Toledo Blade Obituary Index, via Toledo Lucas County Public Library 2/28/2107; Everett James JONES published January 20, 1953

Toledo Blade; “Blazing a Trail” published 2/26/2003

Black Culture Series – Education and Intellectualism

As was hinted upon in the second part of this series regarding The Black Family, education has always been a focus of the demographic.

Since the 1970s educational statistics for the black demographic have greatly increased regarding high school graduation rates and college entrance and matriculation.

Unfortunately these positive gains are many times overshadowed by pervasive, negative depictions of blacks in media which serve to show black Americans as a demographic that lacks a desire to lift itself via education and hard work. A historical, cultural view of education and intellectualism in black America, however, refutes this depiction as a false stereotype.

As has been shared in this series and in this blog, black Americans have lived in this country for centuries as a majority enslaved population and minority “free” status. Both enslaved and free blacks sought an education due to the understanding that knowledge is power and has the potential to create vast opportunities for the individual, family, and community at large.

Unfortunately for many centuries black Americans were denied the opportunity to be educated. Many are aware that it was against the law in southern states to teach slaves to read. This was due to the belief that it would make a slave unwilling and unsuited for life content to be held as property. Free blacks in many areas were also denied the right of an education. They were “free” in name only and even though they were forced to pay taxes, they were not allowed to participate in society as “free” men and women.

Many “free” and slave states had laws that stated that black children were not allowed to attend public schools. Those families who could afford to do so would hire teachers and tutors to educate their children. In many free communities, the families would also would bind together and raise money for land and buildings to create their own schools. Often these private schools for black children were held in the local black church if one was available.

Here in Toledo, the Warren AME church in the 1850s began a private school for black children.  Due to the low population of blacks in the area, they were unable to sustain the school.  Local blacks in Toledo, including father Garland WHITE paid for private tutors when they could afford to do so.

In 1870 Mr. WHITE filed suit against the City of Toledo due to them excluding his daughter from attending the school in the ward of his residence.  As shared in the post regarding the History of the Toledo Public School district, the city integrated its schools starting in the 1870s.  Per a newspaper article published on March 3, 1871 in the “Weekly Louisianian” a black newspaper published out of New Orleans, LA – Mr. WHITE filed suit against TPS because of its segregation policy that excluded his daughter from attending the school in his ward.  The article, shown below, stated he owned property valued at $10,00.00 yet his daughter, due to her race,  was denied the right to attend, even though  he paid property taxes that supported that school.  More research is required but it can be concluded that since TPS integrated in 1873 that Mr. WHITE won his case.  This occurrence in our local area is one of many similar stories that shows the historical dedication to educational opportunities that black families have consistently maintained.

Many are aware that slaves were not allowed to learn to read as shared above.  Because of it being taboo, many blacks who were enslaved in the south had a yearning for knowledge and a desire to be educated and to educate their children.  They were aware, following the Civil War that being uneducated was to be at a disadvantage.  They were much more likely to be victimized due to a lack of literacy.  Many of the North’s black teachers, schools, and social/community organizations, galvanized around providing educational opportunities for newly freed slaves.  Abolitionist societies also formed new goals of sending white, former anti-slavery activists to the south to educate the newly freed slaves.  The federal government, during the Reconstruction period, opened “Freedman’s Schools” for black people to attend.  These schools were filled with blacks seeking an education.


Due to the lack of public education in the south for poor white children, even they were allowed to attend those schools during the Reconstruction era.  By 1870 there were nearly 2000 Freedman’s Bureau Schools in the south. They served to educate both children and adults.  Information obtained during the Reconstruction era showed that the areas with Freedman’s schools had a literacy rate, ten years post Reconstruction, that was 6 points higher than areas that had not been fortunate enough to have a Freedman’s school in their community.   Examples of this dedication to acquiring knowledge can also be observed by studying the lives of more famous black  historical figures – two of which were recently in the media:  Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

One of my favorite black men in history is Frederick Douglass.  As many are aware, he was born a slave.  When he was young the wife of one of his masters taught him the alphabet until her husband told her that doing so would ruin him.  Fortunately, she had succeeded a bit and his thirst for knowledge was born.  Young Douglass tricked white boys into teaching him to read and he would later go on to escape slavery and become the most well known black abolitionist in America in his era and even today.  After his escape from slavery and the publishing of his widely read “Narrative,” many whites could not believe that he had written the text himself due to the belief that blacks could not learn to write as eloquently as Douglass.  The “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” was written only seven years after Douglass escaped slavery.  He was one of the first to prove that skin color and ethnic origins was not a factor in intelligence and the ability to learn – a desire for knowledge and a dedication to that desire was all that was needed for him to become one of the most famous black activists in American history.

Dr. William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B) DuBois is also a very well known black intellectual.  Dr. DuBois was born in 1868 to parents who had been free people of color.  He was the first black man to receive a PhD from Harvard University.  He also published one of the first historical studies on the role of blacks in a political era entitled “Black Reconstruction in America.”  His later work “The Philadelphia Negro” was the first sociological study of urban black Americans.  His longevity as a researcher, activist and writer is impressive and at its core he always exhibited the fact that black Americans, when not limited by intense race based prejudice and oppression, would have similar socio-economic successes in life as other American ethnicities.    Many who have heard of Dr. DuBois are usually aware of his views that are believed to have differed substantially from those of Booker T. Washington, in that he favored what was then called a “classical” education for black students instead of only an “industrial” education focused on specific trades.  This debate lives on in regards to both of these men and their educational philosophies and it is important to note that both Dr. DuBois and Washington believed that blacks were able to be educated in the same ways as whites and other Americans.  That if taught, blacks would learn, that racism and oppression were a factor not only in educational opportunities but also in economic and commercial opportunities.  And especially if knowledge was desired, it would be consumed.  Their differences primarily centered around politics, economics and opportunity, not a disagreement on the ability of black Americans to learn.

In summation, this modern era whereas more black Americans have completed an education than ever before, is a true testament to the cultural aspects of a dedication to education.  This attitude regarding education – that it is a means to an improvement in the condition of one’s life, has never faded in black America and is at an all time high.  Of course, like all socio-economic issues, education is an area that is still a subject of hot debate and where there are many ideas about ways to increase the quality of education in order to have more positive economic outcomes based on a particular type of education.  These debates harken back to those of Dr. DuBois and Washington mentioned above and are a lasting legacy of the culture’s focus on education within the black demographic.

Black Culture Series – The Black Family

I decided to start the series with what I feel is the root of black culture and that is the black family as a unit in America.

From the earliest decades of their existence in the colonies, black families have not always followed the typical “nuclear family” structure.  This is due to the fact that slavery and even for the free black population, indentured servitude and overt oppression, created barriers for black Americans in creating what is thought of as traditional two parent homes.  Slave families, as many are aware,  were routinely broken apart.  For the free/indentured families in early colonial American history,  many could face punishment as a result of a pregnancy due to the subsequent disability and being unable to work and inability to fulfill their service requirements.  Black indentured women who became pregnant  could also potentially be sold to another master as punishment, which could end the relationship with the father of the child.  “Free” children born to a black indentured mother could also receive an indenture period of up to 28 years and to be bound out to serve a different master other than that of his/her parents, sometimes very early in life – toddler or preschool aged.

As a result of these sorts of experiences, black families have always been based on both the traditional couple when those relationships could be maintained, along with an extended familial community, inclusive of, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and extended cousins who have always taken a heavily active role in family activities and especially child rearing throughout black American history.

Along with blood relationships, black Americans have a tradition of adopting non-related blacks into their family, who take on the role of additional kin. Children who were separated from their mothers would be adopted by this extended community, one created based upon the oppression faced by the demographic and the need to bind together and assist each other in difficult circumstances.  Together the biological family and the extended kin form the basis of what is commonly called “the black community.”

I frequently state to people in conversation in real life and online that there is not one single”black community.” The family and extended kin faced similar and different obstacles depending on the laws and attitudes about race in the geographic areas of where they were settled. However, universally, both before and after the Civil War, no matter the area of which they settled black Americans faced intense race based discrimination all over the country. This shared experience is what I believe constitutes the phrase “the black community” being used in a more generic form. The community, is an extension of the family, and as a result, many black Americans feel a familial connection to the entire demographic based on this shared history and the culture of binding together to be strong in the face of adversity shown to them based on race/ethnicity.

As stated in the introduction to this series, on the role of Family in black America I wanted to focus on some of the defining events of the demographic. The Great Migration began around 1910 and didn’t end until around the the 1970s. The vast movements of black Americans from the agricultural south to the urban industrial centers in the northern and western parts of country did not weaken the traditional aspects of the black family as described above. During this time period parents would potentially have to be split up for a period from their children other family members  or extended, unrelated kin would readily volunteer to fill the gaps left by those seeking better opportunities. An example of this cultural phenomenon is evident in the childhood of my own great grandfather Talmadge Traynum. Below is a picture of him as a little boy in approximately 1912-1914.

Talmadge TRAYNUM (approximately 1912-1914)

The Traynum family participated in the earliest wave of the Great Migration. Talmadge’s grandfather – Robert Traynum Sr. (also shown below in 1916 with his second wife Annie Williams and younger sister Mary Traynum) and his daughter Naomi moved from Anderson County, South Carolina to Toledo, Ohio around 1918-1919, not too long after these pictures were taken.


In 1910 Talmadge, his mother, his grandfather, and his aunt and uncle –  Gertrude and Fletcher Dixon,  along with his cousin Mary, lived in the same household with each other. By 1920 Talmadge was living with his Step-Grandmother – Robert Traynum’s second wife – Annie shown in the picture above (his first wife Elizabeth Greer died around 1900) and with his aunt, uncle, and cousin mentioned above. He also lived next door to the Greer family headed by Willis Greer aged 68. I believe that Willis Greer was Talmadge’s maternal grandfather. So as a child of 12-13 years of age, his mother had moved north.  The extended family tradition, which was already established within his family unit came into play.  He was in the care of a step-grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin to play with and potentially another set of his grandparents next door to look after him. This tradition of the extended family looking out for children of the community is an important, longstanding cultural aspect of black America.

Between the end of the Great Migration and the new Reverse Great Migration, which has seen a huge amount of black Americans moving back down south due to, again, economic opportunities along with the country’s evolution on race and the end of legalized racism, many social conditions have been studied within the demographic that has allowed various people to assume that black Americans are not “family oriented” as a demographic in America.  One of the main statistics cited to prove that black people are not “family oriented” is that of “Out of Wedlock Birthrates” of blacks in America versus white Americans.  Since the 1960s there have been numerous studies and media stories about the damages of  single parent homes and especially of female led single parent homes in the black community.  A sense of nostalgia is shared and claims that “black people were better off” before the 1960s, and especially before the rise of feminism, are frequently mentioned in conversation, and online by both black and non-black individuals.

These people overlook the fact that marriage rates and out of wedlock births have always been higher for black Americans, usually three times higher, for blacks versus whites based in part, on the social conditions of black Americans starting in the early colonial period shared above.    A review of census information from 1850 per reference (1) below indicates that nearly half of black children enumerated lived with only one parent and that those children had a higher rates of living in an extended family situation versus white children.  Talmadge Traynum born in 1907 was born out of wedlock, yet his mother had a rather large support system of extended family, including both male and females who served as care takers and role models in his life as a child.  Due to living with his aunt and uncle, Talmadge benefited  from that traditional  nuclear family.  He also benefited from the relationship with his mother and grandfather.  Steven Ruggles in his work “The Origins of African American Family Structures” showed, based on historical research, that  black families starting in the 1880s, were much more likely to have single parents and live in an extended family situation in comparison to white families.

What is now called the “Reverse Great Migration” began almost immediately after the Great Migration ended in the 1970s.  Due to the defeat of Jim Crow and better economic opportunities, black Americans began moving back to the southern United States in large numbers, primarily to  growing, major metropolitan areas.  This Reverse Great Migration started in an era where focus on out of wedlock birthrates began to be seen as a major factor in a variety of social ills.  I’m sure many have read about all of the negatives that children born to single parents are “at-risk” for including being a criminal and imprisoned, having high drop out rates, being a teen parent, having psychological problems, trapped in a cycle of poverty, and the list could go on and on.   This statistic is used primarily to show that there is a “breakdown” of “the black family” even though historical research shows that single parenting and extended families have always been around in black America and are an embedded part of black culture.

The representation of black children suffering from single parent home, many times overshadows the role of the extended family in the lives of black children.  Per the reference (2) a high degree of extended family and non related kin networks seen in black families causes black single parents and and even married black couples, over all economic classes, to have much better coping mechanisms with dealing with the stresses of raising a family.  Even those who are poor and in an inner city community are much more likely than white single parents to have a large extended family support system that helps with child rearing responsibilities.  This extended family situation in many ways diverts the “at-risk” lists that are frequently written about in media.

Many times, statistics regarding poverty, educational achievements, and crime rates are used as “proof” that black Americans are not focused on family or that family is not an important part of our culture.  Yet people who make these claims fail to realize that poverty for black Americans was nearly 70% in 1960 – today poverty rates are about 25%.  They have declined by nearly 50%.  Educational achievement and high school graduation rates have increased dramatically for black American youth.  In the 1960s only about 50% of blacks had a high school diploma, today young black females graduate at a rate of 86% – equal to that of white America as a whole.  Black males graduate about 68% of the time.  Over 50% of black high school graduates go on to college.  In 2014 over 70% of black high school graduates went on to attend college.  Crime rates have fallen to historic lows since the 1980s and 1990s and especially have within the black demographic.  If the black family was declining or had lost its cultural tradition of upholding the value of an education, then all of the above trends would be worse than they are today.  The strength of the black family over the centuries, including parents, all of our aunties and uncles (shout out to my aunties and uncles who had a huge, positive impact on my own life) and our grandparents and great grandparents and cousins and “play” family have greatly contributed to the upward trajectory of black America since the end of the climax of the Civil Rights Movement.

In the decades since overt oppression and discrimination were lessened to a substantial degree, and this did not occur by any large amount until the 1970s and the enforcement of Fair Housing laws,  the black community and the black family have done well on most statistical factors.  Is there room for improvement – of course, I believe there is always room for improvement.  But the fact that the above statistical factors have improved for black America –  even amid the trials of  increased out of wedlock birthrates, the  final fight to end of a majority of institutional discrimination, the crack epidemic, and the ongoing drug war are a testament to the strength of the black family and the cultural importance of extended familial relationships in black America.



(1) Ruggles, Steven.  “The Origins of the African American Family Structure” American Sociological Review, 1994, Vol 59 (February :136-151)

(2) Wallace Gorum, Jacquelyn.  “Black Single Parent Families:  Coping and Functioning.”



Black Culture…What is Black Culture?

Hopefully this post will not seem controversial.   I feel that this post and a subsequent blog series which will be ongoing over a period of time,  will be relevant to the vast nationwide (and even worldwide) online community.  It seems people have a lot of ideas about what “black culture” is in regards to dysfunctional behavior, crime, the stereotypical view of what interests all or a majority of black Americans are “into,”  our musical tastes, speaking patterns, and others.  Many people, including friends, associates and unknown posters online frequently make false, stereotypical perceptions about what it means to “be black” and seek to define “black culture” as culture-less or totally encompassing of negative, criminal behaviors.  When these individuals are asked to define “Black Culture” they usually have no response except crime and a perceived lack of education by black Americans.

This post  is be the first in a series about “Black American Culture.”  I choose to use “Black American” as a description for myself and the demographic, though I have no objection to the label of “African American.”  My personal view is that I am an American who happens to be black.  Blacks in America have a unique, distinguished sub-culture that is almost entirely different from any African cultures (which are many) on that continent.  While I do not look down upon any African tribal cultures, I also recognize that not having an African culture to “own” does not mean that I am culture-less or that my culture as a black American is in any way “less” meaningful than those of the African continent.

With this series, I hope to educate readers about the fact that blacks in America do have a defined, beautiful, longstanding, inspiring culture. Our culture is just as good as any African culture.  Our culture is not steeped in dysfunction or in anyway inferior to any other ethnic or racial group on this planet.

This first part in the series will focus on the definition of “culture” and which cultural elements, attributes, and traditions are prominent in Black Culture in America.

Culture – Merriam Webster

a :  the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b :  the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also :  the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <Southern culture>

c :  the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line>

d :  the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on print culture><Changing the culture of materialism will take time … — Peggy O’Mara>

The above highlights the 5th definition of the noun of “culture” from Merriam Webster.  This definition will be the focus on the discussion of Black Culture in this series.  As shown above culture can be summed up to being the historical characteristics, behavior, activities, and practices of a particular group – in this case that group would be Black America.

As I have explored just by focusing on black Toledo via my genealogical research, there are many specific characteristics, behaviors, activities and practices that have been displayed by blacks in this area that coincide with the above for blacks in other parts of this nation.

My genealogical research has lead me to people and places in Black America and in America in general, that I had never known about.  They have been shocking, inspiring, agitating, and comforting.  I personally believe that I love genealogical research so much because it truly shows the commonality of all humans in this country especially in relation to being an American and in the desire to live a life of freedom.

Based on my studies, Black Culture is made up primarily of the following elements (in no particular order):

  • Creativity,
  • Faith,
  • Family,
  • Social Uplift/Activism,
  • Education and Intellectualism, and
  • Courage in the face of adversity/Determination

Below is a snippet of information that will be expanded upon in greater detail over the course of this series:


Nearly all forms of “American Music” were either created by or heavily influenced by black Americans.

Literature, from the oral and written tradition have had a huge impact on developing and defining black culture in relation to sharing the experiences and rich cultural background of black Americans

Visual and Performing Artists have also had a huge impact on disseminating what it means to “be black” in America.

Within black America there have always been debates about the creative aspects of the demographics – whether artists should create their art with the “race” in mind or whether artists should only focus on their art as a means to express their experiences of being black in America or just “being” and individual who happens to be black.  This internal debate shall also be explored in the series.



In America today black Americans are considered the most religious demographic in the country.  About 90% of black people in America state that they are adherents to a particular religious faith or are “spiritual” in some way.  Faith has played an important part of the attitude of perseverance prevalent in black American culture.

Since the end of the Civil War in particular, there have been debates in black America about the role of religion and whether or not it is predominantly good or predominantly bad for the demographic.

The series will explore the current religious leanings of the black American public and trends in the adherence to particular religious faiths or denominations.  It will also explore those black intellectuals (both lesser and well known) and their religious faith.


Black Americans in this country, even during the trying centuries of slavery, have always had a deep connection to our families and close knit communities.  I would dare say that all black Americans would understand the concept of a “play” family where you bring a beloved friend into your life as a “sister” or a “brother” or a “cousin” and even reference these people in such a way that people like myself, a black American who does genealogical research, are always surprised to find out that “Auntie _____” actually was just your grandmother’s best “sister-friend!”

The series will explore the importance of family for black America and look at ways at how family has changed from the mid 20th century forward as a result of the Great Migration, the now Reverse Great Migration and other movements and events in between.  It will also look at the ways in which recent historical epidemics such as those with drugs of health conditions have had an effect on the black family.


This aspect of black culture is one that is the most widely known about due to the dramatic climax of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movements in America in the mid to late 20th century.

Today social activism in many ways has changed dramatically since the 20th century.  This portion of the series will focus on the roots of activism in the black community, from the earliest beginnings of this country, to the present and the use of technology.  It will also focus on the lesser known role of black women in social uplift and activist organizations.  The role of economics as a part of social uplift will also be examined.


It is commonly written and spoken about online, in media and via personal conversations that black Americans are not dedicated to educational advancement, even though statistical analysis from the 1970s does not prove this assertion.  Instead the results of standardized tests or in the past IQ tests are used to show a seemingly lack of education and intelligence amongst the black demographic.

The series will explore this history along with exploring some of the better known intellectuals and black artists who have spoken and written on this subject.


Black Americans as a demographic have always been determined to enjoy all of our American freedoms as defined by the constitution.  This spirit of perseverance is evident in our demographic from the earliest eras of our country’s history and is a defining part of what it means to be black in America. Even when faced with overtly oppressive laws and social treatment, throughout the history of black America, a dedication to equality and courage in the face of adversity has been a prominent feature of the demographic.

The debate about what it means to “make it” as a black American will also be discussed in the series as it relates to our present time period.  What are the end goals of moving forward for the demographic?   What are we moving forward to?


James Madison BELL – “Bard of the Maumee” – Poet and Friend to John BROWN

James Madison Bell around 1900

Listed within the 1870 Census post was James Madison BELL who after more newspaper digging, I discovered was a well known abolitionist and poet who moved to the city of Toledo in 1865.  Mr. BELL is considered one of the most well known black poets of the 19th century and primarily focused his pieces on the abolitionist cause.

In 1870, Mr. BELL was living in Ward 8 in the City of Toledo. He was called Madison BELL and was listed with his wife Louisa and his 7 children, the youngest named George BELL was born in July of 1870.

James Madison BELL was purportedly born in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1826 which was the location of a large concentration of free people of color in Ohio.  However, on the 1850 Census, Mr. BELL indicated that he was born in Virginia.  A review of a previously mentioned site lists a free “BELL” family in Virginia and James Madison BELL may have been a descendant of this family and may have come to Ohio as a child.  As was shared in my VINEY-VIRES post many free Virginia blacks moved out of the state in the 1820s and 1830s.  BELL may also have been the child of escaped slaves.  Other than the 1850 Census every other document I located, stated that he was born in Ohio.

Mr. BELL moved from Gallipolis when he was a teenager to Cincinnati, Ohio where he trained as a “plasterer.” Plasterers created the old lathe and plaster walls that are still standing in many old Toledo homes and elsewhere across the country.   He also attended the Cincinnati High School for Colored People at night, which then was associated with Oberlin College.

James later married Louisana SANDERLIN in Cinncinnati.  In the 1850s he moved to the Chatham-Kent area of Ontario, similar to many of my own ancestors who eventually ended up in Toledo.  The emigrationist to Canada are the subject of a lot of my research of late.  There are many theories about why free blacks in the US moved to Canada but the most logical one that many historians agree upon is the fact that the 1840s and 1850s were very hostile to free black people in regards to many laws that were created that placed burdens on black families or that stripped them of their right to vote.  Another reason for the movement of many of these African Americans is that they may have been run away slaves from long before the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed.  This law required free states to assist in the capture of runaway slaves and many blacks who had run away and started new lived in “free states” feared they may be re-enslaved so went to Canada in order to be assured of their and their children’s freedom.

For those who were not runaways and whose family was either emancipated via Gradual Emancipation that took place in many northern states, or those who were descendants of indentured servants who were never enslaved, they still faced highly oppressive conditions in the US that contributed to their decision to leave this country.  Many states made free blacks pay a tax just to live in those states, yet would not allow them to sit on a jury, to file a complaint against a white man, or even own a weapon.  In some states,  educating black children was against the law as a result of these discriminatory laws even if they were free born.  States even passed laws stating that free blacks who left the state for 90 days could be legally enslaved upon re-entering the state, which caused a loud outcry from black activist during that era since many of them had family in other states and would face enslavement if they ever moved then needed to come back to visit or take care of relatives.  Many free people of color became fed up with the  discriminatory laws and instead left the states that were most hostile, including Indiana, Pennsylvania (due to the threat of kidnapping primarily), Maryland, and Delaware.  I’ve discovered that a large amount of free people of color moved to the Chatham-Kent area, called “Canada West” in order to be assured that their rights as free men would be protected.  Much of the historical research I attempt on the community of blacks in SE Ontario primarily leads me to sources that focus on escaped slaves and rarely mentions the issues that free blacks faced in the US and what drove them to resettle in Canada, but I’ve discovered that a large amount of the families in the Chatham-Kent area actually were free people prior to moving to that area and not recently escaped slaves.

James Madison BELL  and his family were amongst those who chose to leave Ohio and immigrate to SE Ontario.   During his time in Canada, he hosted John BROWN the famous abolitionist who, today is well know for his failed insurrection attempt at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859.  Prior to instigating the raid, John BROWN stayed at the home of James Madison BELL in Chatham while planning the attack on Harper’s Ferry.  Mr. BELL gave an interview to a journalist in 1889, thirty years after the failed raid occurred.  As is referenced in the article, Mr. BELL lived on Indiana Avenue, in the Pinewood District, currently called “Central City.”  Further information obtained from Census records show he lived at 559 Indiana, which is near the corner of Indiana and City Park Avenues.  He lived across the street from the site of the current Warren AME Church, of which he was a member.  A link to the entire interview is in the reference section of this post, but a snippet of the interview is below.  It was interesting to me to note that prior to beginning the interview, the journalist commented about how well Mr. BELL spoke, something that alluded to the past and continued stereotyping of black Americans via media.





An Interesting Reminiscence of the First Break Toward Freeing the American Slaves.

A correspondent of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, writing from Toledo, Ohio, says: Among the forty-five persons who attended the secret Convention, at which John Brown presented his famous Provisional Constitution and Ordinances, at Chatham. Ontario, May 8, 1859, was James Madison Bell, a colored man, and at that time a resident of Chatham. Mr. Bell was then a bright, energetic man of about 32 years, and was intimately connected with John Brown during his stay in Ontario, and, in daily intercourse with him, became quite familiar with all of his plans. Mr. Bell is now a resident of this city, and one of its most respected citizens. He resides on Indiana avenue, and conducts a large plastering business. A Globe-Democrat representative called upon Mr. Bell at his home, and found him ready and willing to tell nearly all he knew about John Brown. He is a good scholar, and an easy and interesting conversationalist, using the most correct language, of which he seems to have a perfect control

Only a few questions were needed to start Mr. Bell, and, his memory working as he went along, he seemed to take as much delight in telling as the reporter did in listening.

“I first saw Mr. Brown in the spring of 1859,” commenced Mr. Bell, leaning back in his large arm chair and closing his eves, as if to stimulate thought. “He came to my house at Chatham, Ont. — Canada West we called it then — and presented a letter from Wm. Howard Day, colored, a friend of mine, a graduate of Oberlin, and afterward for some years a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature. “The letter was dated at Toronto, a few days previous, and simply introduced the bearer as John Brown, asking me to do what I could for him during his stay in Canada.

After Brown’s raid, BELL moved to California and lived there until after the war concluded.  He then moved to Toledo and made Toledo his home for the remainder of his life.

After the Civil War, Mr. BELL was active in fighting for the Civil Rights of black Americans.  Contrary to what many people today believe, the  “Civil Rights Movement” started immediately after the Civil War, not in the 20th century.  Those who were ardent abolitionists prior to the war, became heavily active in the fight for civil rights of newly freedmen and women.  Mr. BELL was active at Warren AME Church here in Toledo.  He was the Sunday School Superintendent between 1870 and 1873.  He also traveled the country in the winter “off season” of his construction and plastering work.  He was known as a great orator and often read his poems while delivering speeches about the need for the acknowledgement of the rights of black people in America.   His wife is believed to have passed away in 1874 and Mr. BELL  was listed as a widower by the 1880 Census.  I have yet to find his wife’s death record but will continue to search.

The early pastor of Warren AME Church and subsequent Bishop – BW Arnett convinced Mr BELL  to write down his poems and publish a collection of 27 poems, which was published in 1901, titled “The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell.”  Mr. Bell died in 1902.   He was considered one of the main voices of black America during his lifetime and was one of the most well known black poets in the country.  He was called the “Bard of Maumee” due to his residence being in Toledo.


Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 60, Number 126, 16 Jan 1889 accessed via California Digital Newspaper Connection on January 20, 2017

Life of James Madison Bell accessed on January 20, 2017

The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell accessed on January 20, 2017

1850 Census – Household of James Bell – Cincinnati, Ohio Ward 11


Toledo’s First Black Doctor – Dr. James FIELDS

After reviewing the 1860 Census for the black and colored population, I made an edit to that post for additional suburban communities of Lucas County due to not including them with my initial transcriptions. One family included in the additional citizens lived in Maumee, Ohio at the time and was the FIELDS family.

In 1860 the FIELDS family was headed by James FIELDS. James FIELDS was listed as a “Doctor” on the census, which was interesting considering the nature of his stated employment. He would be the first known black American doctor working in the Toledo area if the entry was correct regarding his occupation.

One of my favorite, boring hobbies includes reading old newspapers online. Recently, I was VERY excited to find an obituary of James FIELDS that was published in a newspaper called The Elevator out of San Francisco, California. This publication was a “negro” publication, meaning it was a black owned and published newspaper in the 19th century. These early negro publications were the infancy of what is now called “the black press.” They focused on major issues of the day and were primarily written by black journalist and funded by black advertisers and subscribers. Unfortunately, Toledo itself did not get a black owned newspaper until the mid-1900s but due to the size of the city, residents of Toledo, including former residents of the city were mentioned in various black newspapers of the 19th century.

The obituary of Dr. FIELDS was published on June 12, 1868 and an image of the obit is included in this blog post. A transcription, which provides wonderful insights about Dr. FIELDS’ life is below. The obituary was written by one of the journalist on staff of The Elevator and provided many interesting details about the personality and life accomplishment of Dr. FIELDS. Unfortunately, I could not ascertain who wrote the obituary, but if I discover the author, I will edit the post with his name.  UPDATE:  I quickly found out who wrote the obituary and published newspaper The Elevator – he is one of the founders of the black press – Philip Alexander Bell

As someone who loves to read about black American history, I was especially pleased in reviewing this obituary and thought it was something others may enjoy. Dr. FIELDS as is mentioned in the obituary also was disabled due to having had a leg amputated as a child, so he would probably be the first black and first disabled doctor to have practiced in our area. He also was a writer, a member of various organizations and he attended the Free African School in New York, City, one of the few places in the early 19th century that black children and teens were able to receive a high quality education in NYC. It was an organization founded by white benefactors, including Founding Father – Alexander Hamilton. The Free African Schools were later absorbed in the NYC public school system for black children. Dr. FIELDS later moved to Adrian, Michigan with his family where the obituary stated he died.

A perusal of records on verified that Dr. James Fields died in May of 1868 and was a resident of Adrian, Lenawee County at the time.  Prior to moving to Maumee, Ohio in the 1850s, he was enumerate on the 1850 US Census living in New York City, Ward 1 with his wife and son.

Of interest personally is the fact that there were other FIELDS families in Toledo around the time that Dr. FIELDS moved to the area.  It is unknown whether or not Dr. FIELDS is related to these other families, one of which included George FIELDS mentioned in a previous post as being Toledo’s first professional black photographer.

One of his former associates, mentioned in the obituary Dr. James McCune Smith was the first black doctor to run a pharmacy in America and was a staunch abolitionist and heavily active in working to obtain the rights afforded to black Americans in this country.  He founded the first national, longstanding civil rights organization for black Americans called the National Council of Colored People in 1852.  It can be assumed based on the alumni of the class of Dr. FIELDS that FIELDS  was also involved in the abolitionist movement and early Civil Rights Movement of the late 19th century following the Civil War.  His classmate Dr. James McCune Smith was also the physician at the Colored Orphans Asylum in 1863 during the height of the Civil War and when the New York City Draft Riots occurred (as is alluded to in the film “Gangs of New York”).  In this riot, hundreds of free New York City black citizens were attacked, including the orphanage for black children, which was burned to the ground.


By a paper received from Mr. John A. Fields, of Adrian, Michigan, we learned with sorrow the mournful intelligence of the death of his father, Dr. James Fields, who died on the 6th of May ultimo.

Dr. Fields was one of our oldest and dearest friends. He was born in the city of New York, September 20, 1805, where he resided until about fifteen years ago, when he removed to Toledo, Ohio and from thence to Adrian. When about twelve or fourteen years of age he had the misfortune to lose a leg. It was caused by the maltreatment of a physician, who mistook a simple bruise for an ulcer, and by his injudicious treatment it ultimately into a white swelling, and when too late more competent medical advice was consulted and amputation was necessary to save his life.

Being thus maimed and incapacitated for arduous avocations, he became studious, and having acquired all the education then imparted in the New York African Free School (where the writer hereof was a fellow classmate), he sought private tuition, and finally became a thorough English scholar, and also acquired considerable knowledge of the classics.

In 1830 he was one of the founders of the Philomathean Literary Society. We were seven. After a lapse of forty years, four of us survive – Rev. John Peterson, Ransom F. Wake, of New York, Robert Banks, now of St. Paul’s, Minnesota and ourself. We have had to chronicle the deaths of three of our early associates in that institution – Dr. David Ruggles, Wm. L. Jeffers, and now James Fields. Of the others who became immediately connected with us, Dr. James McCune Smith, Rev. Isaiah G. Degrasse and Henry Nott are numbered with the dead. Robert McDougall and Theodore C.B. Vidall still survive.

At the time of the assassination of Elijah P. Lovejoy at Alton, Ill, in November, 1837, James Fields pledged himself that he would never drink ardent spirits until slavery was abolished in America, and we believe he religiously kept his promise.

In 1842-3, in connection with Messrs. Peter Ogden, T.C. B., and U. B. Vidal, G. T. Downing, Henry Smith and a few others, he established the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, for which a charter was obtained from England, the Independent Order of America having refused to admit colored members, or grant a charter for opening a separate Lodge. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows is now a flourishing institution, numbering perhaps twenty Lodges. In 1846 he went to Bermuda, W. I., and organized two Lodges of the Order on that island.

James Fields was a Calvinistic Presbyterian, a member and for many years clerk of Shiloh Church, of which Rev. Theodore S. Wright was pastor. He was a fine writer and a deep philosophical thinker. He contributed frequently to the Colored American, and the essays of “Uncle Ben” were always welcome to our columns.

He was always devoted to the study of medicine, and before leaving New York he became quite proficient in the Botanical practice. Believing he could find a larger field and a wider scope for the exercise of his talents, he emigrated to Ohio, where he was very successful and became favorably known as the Indian Doctor.

Thus has gone to his long and silent home one whom we have known and loved for more than half a century. For over two-thirds of that long period we were almost daily companions. Since our separation we have maintained friendly correspondence, not frequent, but always loving and affectionate. He has lived to a good old age – long beyond our expectations. He was for many years afflicted with a disease of the heart, which at last terminated his existence. Far away in the boundless prairies of the Peninsula State, my heart is in the coffin with my friend.

Copy of original obituary:

James Fields Obituary file


African American Newspapers (accessed via home with library card from TLCPL number and pin on 1/18/17) database – Elevator, published as The Elevator (San Francisco, California)06-12-1868Page [2]

New York, 1850 federal census, Household of James Fields via

Find A Grave Memorial – grave of James Fields via

Michigan Deaths 1867-1897 via (line number 32)

Wikipedia – James McCune Smith (see link above)

University of Chicago Press – The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 (see link above)

Alton, Illinois in the Civil War – Biography of Elijah  P Lovejoy (see link above) NOTE:  Elijah P Lovejoy was a white abolitionist who was attacked by a pro-slavery mob and killed based on his work to help free the slaves in the USA

NOTE many of the individuals mentioned in the obituary were well known black abolitionists and if readers are interested information should be queried about them as many of them have amazing life stories!