Category Archives: Notable Black Toledoans

Notable Black Toledoans – George W. TUCKER and Dr. Alpheus W. TUCKER

My research of late has shown a lot of connections between my own ancestors who were early Toledo residents and the black communities in SE Michigan, in particular our larger city to the north – Detroit.   I’ve also discovered some connections to Detroit for some of our notable 19th century black residents.

In reviewing some of the black Toledoans who were mentioned as having been involved in Underground Railroad activities in local newspapers, it was noted in the post regard William H. MERRITT, that in 1858 the negroes of Toledo held a meeting to determine who would be the delegate sent from our city to the convention held in Columbus, Ohio.  The delegate chosen, per that news article was G.W. TUCKER.

George W. TUCKER was enumerated in the City of Toledo on the 1860 census.  It was shown that he was born in Kentucky around 1812 and had four younger persons, presumably his children, in his household.  Mary W., aged 23; Georgetta A., aged 18; Alpheus W. (or Alphonse) aged 16; and Caspar M. (or Cassius) aged 14.  In 1860 George was 48 years old and listed as a “mullatto.”  He was a Barber and owned real estate worth $300 and a personal estate worth $250.

In a review of George W. TUCKER’s life, I did not find much more about his residency in Toledo, except for the note below posted in the Toledo Daily Blade on December 30, 1858.

We are advised by the receipt of the proceedings of a meeting of colored people held at their school-house in this city, recently but which are too lengthy for our space, that a resolution was passed to send a delegate to the Under Ground R.R. Convention, to be held at Columbus on the 5th and 6th of January. Agreeable to previous arrangements a mass meeting was then held on Tuesday evening last, for the election of a delegate, resulting in the choice of G.W. Tucker. The officers of the meeting were W.H. Merritt, President, and M.H. Hawkins, Secretary

Per Toledo City Directories starting in 1864, TUCKER was not listed as a resident; however, George W. TUCKER “colored” was listed in the 1858 City Directory, which can be viewed via the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s online digital archive.  He was labeled as a “barber” and located at “Locust b Ontario and Michigan, east side.”  A review of death registers for the city showed that there was a “colored” man of the same name and age of George W. TUCKER who died in 1862 in the city. It appears that TUCKER moved to the city around 1850.

A quick google of his name brought up a connection between TUCKER and famed black Underground Railroad conductor from Detroit by the name of William LAMBERT.  LAMBERT lead a group of of primarily black men in an organization he called  “African American Mysteries:  Order of the Men of Oppression” also called the “Men of Mysteries.” He and other notable Detroit abolitionists were actively involved in transporting runaway slaves from Detroit to Canada during the antebellum period.  Per the text “The Underground Railroad in Michigan” LAMBERT was interviewed by a reporter in 1886 and spoke of how 60,000 men took the “order” and became members of his secret organization whose primary focus was helping those who “self emancipated” themselves to get to Canada.  Unfortunately his records detailing those transported to freedom and those who worked within “the order” have unknown whereabouts.  In the book mentioned above, it was noted that George W. TUCKER was an agent who handled subscriptions to a newspaper called “The Mystery” founded by Martin DELANY of Pennsylvania, another black abolitionist and Underground Railroad administrator.  TUCKER handled subscriptions for this paper in the Detroit area.

Other information reviewed regarding the history of George W. TUCKER uncovered that he was one of the 9 black/colored residents listed in Detroit’s first city directory published in 1837.  He was listed as a hairdresser and a barber many times in Detroit through the 1850s.  As noted above, he was listed in Toledo with his family in 1860.  It is unknown if he was engaged in activities related to the Underground Railroad in Toledo, but his association with other known UGGR Toledoans like William H. MERRITT and his mention of him being a delegate from Toledo to the UGGR convention make this very likely to be the case.

It seems that George TUCKER died in Toledo in 1862 of “consumption.”  He was listed as being 50 years old and buried at Forest Cemetery but a review of cemetery records does not show his name and year of death.  They may not have information that far back for the online records of the cemetery.

A review of the family of George TUCKER showed that his two son’s Alpheus and Cassius lived with a couple with the surname of HUBBARD in 1850 in Detroit when they were children.  I could not find George TUCKER on the 1850 census so he may not have been enumerated that year.

George’s son Cassius TUCKER moved back to Detroit after 1860.  He was listed as a “colored” barber in the City of Detroit directory in 1864 living on “Mullet bet Hastings and St Antoine.”  He was the only “colored” TUCKER living in Detroit during that year.

Cassius later married Eliza JOHNSON a Richmond, Virginia native.  A marriage record has not been found for the couple, but I believe they may have married in the metropolitan District of Columbia area considering that their first born child Beatrice TUCKER was listed as having been born in DC in 1865 on the 1870 Census.  The rest of their children in 1870 – Alberta, born 1867; and Octavia born 1870 were listed as having been born in Michigan.

The DC connection I felt was plausible considering that Cassius’  brother – Alpheus (or Alphonse or William A TUCKER) was living in the DC area in the 1860s following the Civil War.

Alpheus W. Tucker showed up in numerous queries due to being a physician who was was an early black physician working in Washington, DC after the Civil War.  Research into Alpheus showed that he and his brother Cassius grew up in Toledo and received their early education in the city.  More than likely they attended the segregated public school system of TPS or the private Colored School administered by Warren AME church due to them being children in the city prior to the 1873 desegregation of the school system.  Alpheus later went on to attend Wilberforce College between the years of 1861 and 1863.  One of his classmates included Dr. Charles Burleigh PURVIS, who was the son of two leading black abolitionist families in Philadelphia.  Alpheus attended the Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons and graduated in 1865.   Dr. Alpheus Tucker worked as a civilian surgeon during the Civil War at Contraband Hospital.  He also had a record listed in the District of Columbia’s Freedman’s Bureau Field Office Records as receiving a disbursement/payment for work after the war.  His payment was provided on October 21, 1865.  He was paid $100 for services rendered in a department called “A. A. Surgeon.”  Research showed that this was an abbreviation for “Acting Assistant Surgeon” and that persons listed usually were employed as civilians by the medical department working for the Bureau.   Alpheus married a woman named Martha Ellen WOOD on the 24th of January, 1867 and they had one daughter – Estella TUCKER.

A review of Alpheus TUCKER shows that as a black physician, he was limited in opportunities for employment primarily due to race.  Information obtained in the reference below regarding the history of the National Medical Association, shows that he and his black physician colleagues of DC often had to work for government positions or some other job during the day and practice medicine at night.  Due to race prejudice, black doctors were not allowed admitting privileges to local hospitals.  They also primarily saw black patients and due to the black population of DC being made up of primarily newly freed slaves, opportunities for a decent living as a black doctor were limited because many of their patients could not afford to pay for medical services.  Due to this a large percentage of black physicians obtained other degrees in other disciplines in order to be able to make a decent living during the period following the Civil War.

In 1869 Dr. TUCKER was mentioned in various newspaper articles from DC where he was listed as a member of the Republican Party and gave comments regarding local elections in the capital.  He was also the cause of a controversy in the medical community when he applied for admission into the District of Columbia Medical Society along with his Oberlin classmate Dr. Charles PURVIS.  Both men and fellow black physician Dr. Alexander AUGUSTA were denied admission due to “color phobia.”  Their request for admission was deemed a part of the “Trouble of 1869 to 1872” by a history of the National Medical Association. Information found showed that:

On the 9th of June, 1869, two colored physicians, Drs. C. B. PURVIS and A. T. Augusta, were proposed for membership in the Society. At the next meeting,
June 16th, they were reported as eligible. They failed, however, to receive the requisite number of votes to elect them. June 23rd, another colored physician, Dr. A. W. Tucker, was proposed; on the 30th he was reported as eligible, but failed of election.

As a response to not being admitted to the medical association, it was noted that TUCKER and his black colleagues took action and formed their own, integrated medical society:

In response to the rejection of Drs. Purvis, Augusta, and Tucker in 1869, the three Negro physicians and their supports formed a new integrated society which they named the National Medical Society (NMS). In December of that year, amongst much publicity in the local papers, the battle moved to Congress when the NMS appealed to Congress for the repeal of the MSDC’s charter. The grounds for the repeal, according to the NMS, was that the Society was acting in dereliction of its charter by refusing admission to all physicians in the District, regardless of color.

Dr. Alpheus TUCKER was enumerated with his wife and daughter in the WOOD household  in DC on the 1870 census.  Research into his work, shows that he worked in DC as a physician through 1878.  Between 1878 and 1880 he seems to have moved to Detroit, where his brother Cassius had relocated to in the 1860s.  Alpheus was listed as having died in Wayne County, Michigan  in January of 1880.  His widow and child stayed in DC where his wife and later his daughter worked as teachers in the public school system for black students in that city.   Martha E TUCKER his widow (shown below) was mentioned in the publication “The Crisis” as an employee of the DC public schools for 50 years.  She served as a teacher, principal and as a social worker.  Her daughter Estelle also became a teacher.

Martha WOOD TUCKER from “The Crisis” NAACP publication vol 22,  no. 1, pgs 22-23 May, 1921


Alpheus’ brother Cassius lived out his life in Detroit and died between 1900 and 1910.  I have yet to locate his death record but his wife Eliza JOHNSON TUCKER was listed as a widow by 1910 in the City of Detroit directory.



Toledo City Directory 1858 (accessed via TLCPL online digital archives 12/10/2017)

“The Underground Railroad in Michigan” Mull, Carol (see link above)

Ohio County Death Records – Death of GW Tucker, colored (accessed 11.9/2017)

District of Columbia Marriages – 1811-1950, Alpheus W. Tucker (accessed 11/9/2017 – see link above)

The Black Past – African Americans in Medicine in the Civil War (accessed 12/10/2017)

The Founding of the National Medical Association (accessed 12/10/2017)

The Crisis – Volumes 22-24 (short biography and picture of Martha WOOD TUCKER accessed 12/10/2017)

Early Black Toledo Families – DENT Family

I have always read that many of our early black Toledo families settled here due to being runaway slaves and escaping to their freedom.  Due to Toledo’s distance from the southern slave holding states and its proximity to Canada, I am sure that many of our early black residents were indeed fugitives seeking to own themselves and gain control over their own lives and provide their children with greater opportunities.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult at times putting together the stories of our early resident’s lives to confirm their history, especially if they were not well known and just lived ordinary lives.  For me, the lives of ordinary people are just as important and inspiring as the more well known, so focusing on some of our unknown early black Toledo residents has been rewarding.

Due to the difficulty of researching little known persons, I was excited to find an interesting bit of information about one of the families on my list to research – the DENT family lead by patriarch John DENT.

John DENT and his wife Sarah were first enumerated in NW Ohio on the 1860 census.  At the time, they had in their household four children – Mary, John, Julia, and baby George who at the time was the second youngest black resident in the city at age 2 months.  John was listed as a laborer from Kentucky.  Wife Sarah did not provide her state of birth, but I later discovered she was also from Kentucky.

Some digging into this family produced a source from the University of Kentucky Library system called the “Notable Kentucky African American Database.”  Within this link was information about the ancestry of a woman named Hazel THOMPSON GOMEZ who was the granddaughter of John and Sara DENT.  It states that John DENT escaped slavery by riding his horse into Ohio.

I was very excited to find this information that provided a link to one of our early black residents escaping bondage and finding freedom in our area.  I looked up the book from which this information was taken, which is titled “In Darkness with God:  The Life of Joseph Gomez, a Bishop of the AME Church,” by A. L. Gomez-Jefferson – a great granddaughter of John and Sarah DENT.   The book related John’s escape as follows:

Her maternal grandfather was John DENT, a former slave born in Paducah, Kentucky.  He had escaped from slavery by simply jumping on his master’s horse and “riding like hell” to freedom.  For a while  he settled in Ripley, Ohio, where in 1849 he married Sara Jane GRUBB, a young woman of African parentage who had been born in Sterling, Kentucky.  The couple moved first to Columbus, Ohio and then to Toledo.  Julia Ann, Hazel’s mother, was born in March of 1858, one of their twelve children.

A review of available source material showed that John DENT was living in Wayne, Fayette County, Ohio on the 1850 Census so he probably escaped slavery in the 1840s.  He was enumerated in the household of a woman named Sarah SMITH who also had Kentucky as her state of birth.  Due to this Census document, I believe that Sarah SMITH was the grandmother of John DENT’s wife – Sarah Jane GRUBBS.  This is due to the fact that also within Sarah SMITH’s household was a couple named John M and Emily GRUBBS and their children who were close in age to Sarah.  Them having the maiden name of Sarah as their surname and the other GRUBBS youths being close in age to Sarah, lead me to believe that Sarah Jane was the daughter of John M and Emily GRUBBS.

John DENT and Sarah Jane GRUBBS were actually married in Wayne County, Ohio in 1849, not Ripley, as stated above.  Ripley, Ohio was a known town with significant Underground Railroad activity and activists, so John DENT may have received assistance there and lived there prior to going an hour north to Wayne.   In 1850 a new Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the United States which required state governments and citizens to assist in the capture of runaway slaves so they could be returned to their owners and re-enslaved.  This law caused a lot of panic amongst black families both formerly enslaved and those who had long been free.  Black families during this era moved to what they considered safer areas when they could to avoid being re-captured and sent into slavery or to avoid being kidnapped and made a slave when they had never been before.  It seems the DENT family also fled southern Ohio after 1850 per the book noted above.  They eventually settled in NW Ohio, which was a safer distance away from slave catchers.

As stated above, by 1860, the DENT family lived in NW Ohio, in Oregon specifically.  They were enumerated numerous times between 1860 and 1910 in the city.  John DENT died on May 10, 1890.  His death record said that he died of a concussion suffered via a fall.  He was listed as being 80 years old on the death register, but due to his headstone shown below and other census documents, he was probably in his late 60s or early 70s as he was consistently labeled as being born between 1820 and 1833.  The document said he had been a resident of Toledo about 50 years at the time of his death and that he lived on “Bridge” street in the 6th Ward of the city.

A review of the book noted above provided a sad account of the death of John DENT.  The wife of Joseph GOMEZ, of which the book details his life (and is a great read for anyone interested in early black civil rights leaders) was named Hazel.  She was the daughter of John and Sara DENT’s daughter Julia Anne by  her second husband George THOMPSON, a man who apparently looked white and was of mixed race ancestry (European and Polynesian descent).  Hazel THOMPSON was light skinned and received some  cruel treatment from Sara DENT due to Sara’s personal prejudices against whites/people who were light skinned based on her experiences with whites and the circumstances of her husband’s death.  Page 39 of the text highlighted above, stated:

Ironically, Julia’s father, John DENT, died from a concussion received when he was thrown down a flight of steps by some Polish men during a racial incident.  After that, Julia Anne and her four children went to live with his widow Sara, who made life miserable for Hazel because she was of light skin.  Sara had no use for “yeller niggers,” and that included her granddaughter, who had the “blood of the men who killed her husband.” 

I have been slowly going through early City of Toledo death registers and have noticed a little more than a handful of black men who had been labeled as being “found drowned” or who were labeled as being “murdered.”  It made me wonder about the racial atmosphere in the city during the 19th century in the city and how it probably was much worse than what I had initially thought for black residents.

The text also highlighted the limited opportunities for employment that blacks faced nationwide in this era, whereas Julia DENT made sure to send her daughter to Wilberforce University in Ohio so that she would at least have an opportunity to be a teacher and not live as a domestic all her life.  Black women in America have a history of always having high employment rates due to the precarious economic situation of black families.  Both husbands and wives usually worked and helped support the family.  Both genders were limited due to their ethnicity – men were usually general laborers and performed the most difficult and dangerous jobs for less pay than white men in many cases.  Black women, including Julia DENT,  were usually domestic workers – maids, cooks, or washer women (doing laundry) and both men and women worked long hours.  Julia told her daughter, per the text, after Hazel came home from Wilberforce after only a week with homesickness that Hazel would have to go back because Julia wanted to ensure that :

“she could get an education and not have to work in somebody’s kitchen all her life.”


Julia Dent – Early Black Toledoan, mother of Hazel THOMPSON GOMEZ

Though John DENT’s death was and is tragic, it is heartening to me that he lived the majority of his life free, and not as a slave.  He took ownership of his life and endured tough circumstances in regards to race prejudice and even a tragic death, but succeeded in raising a large family in the city.  I’ve seen many obituaries of the DENT family in the Toledo Blade through even the 2000s and feel that there are probably still a significant amount of descendants of this family in Toledo.  Hopefully they are aware of the story of John and Sara DENT and take great strength and pride from the hard work and suffering of their early black Toledo ancestors who endured such tough times to give them an opportunity to better themselves today.

Will end with the fact that I am related to the DENT family by marriage through a 4th great aunt – Martha JONES DENT who married John DENT Jr., the brother of Julia DENT shown above.  So I was enriched by learning more about their lives while researching the family’s history.


In Darkness with God:  The Life of Joseph Gomez, a Bishop of the AME Church,” Annetta Louise Gomez-Jefferson

1850 Census – Household of Sarah SMITH (includes GRUBBS and DENT families) accessed via 9/13/2017

1860 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1870 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1880 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1900 Census – Household of Julia DENT THOMPSON  accessed via 9/13/2017

1910 Census – Household of Tena DENT ALEXANDER accessed via 9/13/2017

Death Record of John DENT died 10 May 1890 – Ohio County Death Records 1840-2001 accessed via 9/13/2017

Photo of Julia Dent – accessed via public images 9/11/2017

Cemetery Photo of grave of John DENT – Find-a-Grave – Forrest Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio – accessed 9/11/2017

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 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

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!

Early Toledo Black Citizens – William H. Merritt

William H. Merrit was first found in the Toledo area as being enumerated on the 1850 census at a local Inn in Lucas County, in the townshp of Waynesfield, Ohio in a business run by William Kingsbury. He was listed as a Barber and was 31 years old. On the 1860 census he owned property in Sylvania valued at $3,500, which was the most valuable property owned by a black man in the Toledo area in 1860. In his personal estate he held $500. William, in 1860, lived with his wife Elizabeth Merritt who was born in Ohio.
A review of early Lucas County marriage records showed that William H. Merritt Jr. was listed as marrying Elizabeth J. Ockray on July 24, 1851 and the marriage was performed by I. A. Newton in Lucas County.

Though it is difficult to piece together Mr. Merritt’s life from the small amount of resources available, perusing these records and various publications has shown that Mr. Merritt was an esteemed colored citizen of Lucas County and the City of Toledo. Mr. Merritt’s occupation was listed throughout the years (from 1850-1870) as a Barber, Hairdresser, and Wig Maker and during those decades he also housed other black/colored citizens of Toledo and Lucas County at his home and business address. Some businesses that were housed in his commercial location of 59 Summit Street, include the early photography studio of George Fields, Toledo’s first professional black photographer. Mr. Merritt also housed many young men and women who would go on to open their own businesses including various Barbers and Seamstresses/Dress Makers.

Due to a lack of available information, I could not solidly find anything regarding Mr. Merritt’s life prior to him moving to Northwest Ohio. A review of earlier census records was performed in order to check to see if any free black man named William Merritt may have been listed in Virginia. Since Mr. Merritt, per the marriage record on file in early Lucas County records stated he was WH Merritt Jr., it can be assumed that his father was William H Merritt Sr. On the 1840 Census there was a free man of color named Wm Merritt who lived in Brunswick County, Virginia with a family of 11 other free colored persons. There was also a white male on the 1840 Census in Brunswick County named Wm HE Merritt. He had enumerated in his household one free black male in the age range of Mr. Merritt of Toledo. He also had white family members and 6 slaves enumerated on the 1840 Census. Wm HE Merritt was also on the 1830 Census in the same county but had no free black household members and 9 slaves.

The most interesting hit in my research of the name “William Merritt” was that there was a reference to a William Merritt living in the Great Dismal Swamp of NC and VA in a book called “Swampers, Free Blacks, and the Great Dismal Swamp” compiled and abstracted by Harriette Thorn Kent. This was a very interesting tidbit of information since I have recently been reading about the black American “Maroon” communities of America. It is suspected that the largest settlement of black American Maroons (blacks who escaped slavery or indentured servitude and formed their own communities in hostile, hard to reach land areas) was in the Great Dismal Swamp. Archaeologists have found evidence that tens of thousands of black Americans lived alongside Native Americans in the swamp between the 17th century and the end of the Civil War.

Information regarding Mr. Merritt’s life in the Toledo area was found from a local publication regarding the Underground Rail Road history of Northwest Ohio and the Lathrop House of Sylvania. It showed that Mr. Merritt was involved as one of the 47 identified black/colored citizens of NW Ohio who participated and conducted activities of the Underground Railroad. It can be assumed that some of the individuals who lived with him in the 1850s and 1860s were participants in the Underground Railroad or conductors/assistants themselves. Mr. George Tucker identified as another black Toledoan involved in the Underground Railroad was also a Barber in the city.

An article published in the Daily Toledo Blade on December 30, 1858 stated as follows:

We are advised by the receipt of the proceedings of a meeting of colored people held at their school-house in this city, recently but which are too lengthy for our space, that a resolution was passed to send a delegate to the Under Ground R.R. Convention, to be held at Columbus on the 5th and 6th of January. Agreeable to previous arrangements a mass meeting was then held on Tuesday evening last, for the election of a delegate, resulting in the choice of G.W. Tucker. The officers of the meeting were W.H. Merritt, President, and M.H. Hawkins, Secretary

The information I did find on Mr. Merritt mostly involved his activities while living in the Toledo area. As stated he was a Barber and he owned valuable land in both the City of Toledo and in Sylvania. Mr. Merritt was a target of the 1862 Toledo Race Riot (I am currently working on a post regarding this riot based on local newspaper accounts during that era). Luckily the mob was persuaded to not ransack and destroy his residence on that day in 1862. It was stated that he lived on Erie St.

The Toledo City directory from 1867 through 1878 listed Mr. Merritt as “William H Merritt” and he had some advertisements shown in the directory. He was described as a “hair dresser and wig maker” with a business location at 59 1/2 Summit St and a residence at Jefferson and Erie Street in 1867. In 1874 his residence was at 88 Superior St. Both of these locations were in the heart of what is now Downtown Toledo and commercial buildings stand today where they once stood.

Per the 1860 Census entry, the Lucas County death register showed that Mr. Merritt died on December 9, 1879.