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 familysearch.org. 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:
1840 CENSUS HOUSEHOLDS
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)
1840-1850 LUCAS COUNTY MARRIAGES
Marriage record of Henry WASHINGTON and Josephine PERRY, June 12, 1845
1850 CENSUS HOUSEHOLDS
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
1860 CENSUS HOUSEHOLDS
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)
1860-1870 LUCAS COUNTY MARRIAGES
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
1870-1890 LUCAS COUNTY MARRIAGES
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.”