Tag Archives: runaway slaves

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 familysearch.org 9/13/2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 blackintoledo@gmail.com

GATLIFF family link


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1940 US Census, via familysearch.org; 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 freeafricanamericans.com 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 www.encyclopedia.com accessed on January 20, 2017

The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell www.archive.org accessed on January 20, 2017

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


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.

Early Black Toledoans 1850 Census

After creating the post “Early Black Toledoans 1840 Census” I became interested in reviewing other early census records of NW Ohio and SE Michigan.

I perused both the 1820 Census and 1830 Census of Monroe County, Michigan Territory due to Toledo, prior to its official formation, being a part of Michigan until the conclusion of the “Toledo War” and the it subsequently became an Ohio city.

I also decided to look up the 1850 Census and see if I could find more black/colored residents who may have been listed on 1840 like the NICHOLS/NICKOLAS family of 1840. I’ll write more about (very interesting) findings on the 1820 and 1830 censuses on a later post and after additional information, but wanted to share the data I pulled from the 1850 Census on this entry.

The 1850 Census was the first which listed out every household member by name and age. For those who worked (particularly males) it also listed an occupation.

Other information found on the 1850 Census was the state or origin of every resident, whether or not the resident was married in 1850, whether the resident could read and write, or if the resident attended school that year.

I created a spreadsheet of the black/colored families listed on the 1850 census, which I will post on this blog in the future along with the spreadsheet I made for 1840. Hopefully this will give other genealogist and local historians more information regarding the earliest black Toledoans or just provide some interesting reading material.

On the 1850 Census there were 43 black/colored families listed with a total of 121 residents within those families.

As on the 1840 Census, not all people were actually African American, many were multi-racial and there were whites who had married a black spouse who I included due to them being a part of the 43 families.

During this time period, the City of Toledo was not the same size and distance that it is today, as such, I included different areas that now make up the city. I was unsure of a few of the areas that were listed and I will have to research them more and if there are any changes to this data in the future I will update this post.

Some raw information from the 1850 Census is as follows:


  • There were 54 resident labeled as “black”
  • There were 62 residents labeled as “mullatto”
  • There were 5 residents who were labeled as “white” who lived with black or mullatto heads of households
  • There were 50 females
  • There were 71 males


  • The average age of all individuals was 21
  • The average age of males was 19.26
  • The average age of females was 23.14
  • The oldest male on the 1850 census was William NICKOLAS  who was 59 years old
    • Remember, he was on the 1840 Census as well as a black head of household
  • There were two females who were the oldest females – Peggy CRUMMEL and Alice LUCAS were both 60 years old
    • Note – There was a white male with the surname CROMWELL on the 1840 Census who was tallied as having a black female aged 36-55 living with him in his home.  Peggy CRUMMEL may have been a part of the CROMWELL household of 1840.
  • There were two males who were the youngest male babies in Toledo – James AMBROS and James KINES(HINES) were both 8 months old
  • The youngest female was Sarah WILSON who was also 8 months old


On the 1850 Census the residents were listed by residence in Wards and in certain townships that now make up the City of Toledo.  In 1850 there were 4 Wards.  Townships which are included in this tally are Manhattan (now North Toledo/The Old North End), Washington Township, Port Lawrence (downtown), and Oregon (includes current Oregon and East Toledo).

  • Ward 1 contained 24 residents
  • Ward 2 contained 22 residents
  • Ward 3 contained 0 residents
  • Ward 4 contained 67 residents
  • Manhattan contained 8 residents
  • Oregon contained 0 residents
  • Washington Township contained 0 residents
  • Port Lawrence contained 0 residents


There were 17 states/countries listed that residents stated they were from.  Please note that during this era, Toledo was a part of the Underground Railroad system and as such, many black or mullato (mixed with black or lighter skinned) residents who may have been escaped slaves, would have been hesitant to share their state of origin for fear of being recaptured and sent back to slavery.  Other research material I have read regarding Ohio and Pennsylvania relatives indicates that lying about their state of origin was very common for escaped slaves and that many of them would not provide a location.  This can be seen in Toledo’s black residents of 1850 being that 11 individuals stated that their place of origin was “unknown.”  Residents on later census records I have reviewed changed their states of origin on later census dates.

Below are only listed the top 10 places that black/mullatto residents stated that they were from:

  • 31 individuals stated they were born in Ohio (this included a large amount of children/babies)
  • 11 individuals stated they were born in New York (this included the large NICHOLS/NICKOLAS family)
  • 9 individuals stated they were born in Canada
  • 9 individuals stated they were born in Michigan
  • 8 individuals stated they were born in Virginia
  • 7 individuals stated they were born in Tennessee
  • 7 individuals stated they were born in Pennsylvania
  • 6 individuals stated they were born in North Carolina
  • 6 individuals stated they were born in Indiana

Some locations of note are as follows:

  • 1 individual stated that he was born in Massachuesetts
    • His name was Harvey FIELDS, a barber by trade
    • The 3 oldest FIELDS children (William, Julius, and Robert) were the only black/colored children who attended school in 1850.  They were listed as born in Canada.
  • 1 individual stated that she was born in Ireland
    • Her name was Mary Ann CAMPBELL a white woman married to James CAMPBELL a black man from Virginia working as a Drayman
    • They had 3 mullatto children on the census (Castillia, 7; William, 5; and Mahala, 2)


As stated above, women’s occupations were usually not described on early census records unless they were heads of household.  Though there were some single women who would have been considered heads of household in Toledo, their occupations were not listed.  Not all of the men had occupations listed either even though in 1850 all men aged 15 and older should have had their occupations listed.  Two men had occupations listed as “none” – George FRENCH an 18 year old mullatto and William NICHOLS/NICKOLAS who was the oldest man in the black/colored community in Toledo in 1850.

  • 11 men stated that they were a Barber
    • Black/mullatto men who were barbers during this period had a much higher rate of socio-economic mobility due to being businessmen.  They were some of the most influential and well off members of the black community though not all had the same amount of prestige.
  • 6 men stated that they were a Cook
  • 4 men stated that they were a Waiter
  • 3 men stated that they were a Drayman
  • 3 men stated that they were a Laborer
  • 3 men stated that they were a Teamster
  • 2 men stated that they were a Porter
  • 2 men stated that they were a Painter
  • 1 man stated that he was a Cooper

Some of the more interesting occupations only had one man who worked in that position:

  • 1 man stated he was a Musician
  • 1 man stated that he was a “Reseller of Old Clothes”
  • 1 man stated that he was a Store Maker
  • 1 man stated that he was a “Recef”
    • I have seen this occupation before on old census records but don’t know what it is so I will have to do some more research on this one
  • 1 man stated that he was a “Gurny”
    • I have also seen this one but don’t know what it was.  Information I have come across inclines me to believe that a Gurny was a man who carried things around or was a delivery man of some sort

Some other interesting items taken from this research was that the most popular surname amongst Toledo’s black/colored population was WILSON.  There were 2 households with the surname WILSON.  The second most populous was NICHOLS/NICKOLAS as was on the previous 1840 census.  There were 4 households with the surname NICHOLS/NICKOLAS.

The lone black/mullatto family that lived in Manhattan/North Toledo were called the LEBLEW family.  I am thinking that this is a mis-spelling and it may have been a French name.  The male head of household’s name was Arvill/Orville and he was a mullatto who stated he was from Canada.  He could not read or write.  He was married to a white woman named Jane who stated she was from Michigan.  Their household included 6 children who were labeled as both white and mullatto.  Many times the skin color of the individual dictacted whether or not a census taker labeled an individual a particular race.  The older children of the family were labeled as “white” – Margaret, 15; Mary, 12, and Cyril, 10.  The younger children were all labeled as “mullatto” – Tabatha, 8; Francis, 5; Catharine, 2.  The older children may have had lighter skin than the younger children or may have had a different father who was white.

One individual would not provide their first name.  His last name was DEASE and he was a Cook.  He stated he was born in “unknown.”  His wife – Celia DEASE provided her name and that she was born in Ohio.  Mr. DEASE may have been a runaway slave hesitant to give out his information.  Mrs. DEASE, due to being born in Ohio was more than likely free born so would not have had to fear the release of her name like her husband.

There was a MANLY family listed as well, which was very interesting being that the same family looks to have become “white” by the 1860 Census.  In 1850 the MANLY family, living in Ward 2 of Toledo was headed by “mullatto” Levi MANLY and his wife Sarah MANLY with their 4 children.  By 1860 Levi MANLY was living in Springfield and was a farmer and was listed as “white.”  The entire family was labeled as “mullatto” in 1850 by in 1860 they were “white.”

UPDATE:  Another interesting tidbit regarding this census is the entry for James E. FRANKLIN and his wife Clarkie FRANKLIN.  The information found stated that Clarkie FRANKLIN was initially Cynthia PETTIFORD and that she married James FRANKLIN on July 12, 1834 in Wake County, North Carolina.  James E. FRANKLIN stated he was from North Carolina.  He was 39 years old in 1850 and was working as a Carpenter.  He lived in Ward 1.  Additional reading for pleasure on the Afrigeneas website stated  about this family as follows:

James E. Franklin & his wife Cynthia Pettiford were married in Wake County, NC per mar. bond dated 12 July 1834. By 1850, they resided in Toledo, Ohio. Three known descendants are Anne (1839), Bill (1856) and Sarah (1857).

Cynthia’s father William Pettiford served in the Revolutionary War

Another interesting tidbit on this census for me personally was that there was a WHITFIELD family on the 1850 Census.  As indicated in a previous post, I have a line of WHITFIELDs on my maternal side.  I am not sure if this earlier line of WHITFIELDs are related to me and more digging will be necessary.  My early ancestor Elias WHITFIELD may have come to Toledo due to having a relative already living in the area.  The 1850 WHITFIELDs were headed by John WHITFIELD and his wife Hannah.  Hannah and the oldest of the WHITFIELD children in 1850 were all born in Canada.  John stated that he was born in Virginia but he may not have told the truth if he were an escaped slave.  I have done some earlier vital records searches on the WHITFIELD family looking up my known family members and I did find out that two of the 1850 WHITFIELD children died and were buried in Toledo.  Jacob and James WHITFIELD were the only twins in the black/colored community of Toledo in 1850 and were 4 years old at the time.  Information I have found has shown that Jacob WHITFIELD was one of the known Civil War soldiers from Lucas County, Ohio.

Some information about his service is below:

Jacob Whitfield was the third child born to John and Hannah Whitfield in 1846 in Ohio. In 1850, Whitfield was residing in Toledo, Ohio, with his parents and four other siblings.

At the age of 18, Whitfield enlisted on September 8, 1863, in Lucas County. He was mustered in on September 20, 1863, at Camp Delaware, Ohio. He was described at 5′2″ with black hair and eyes. He was a laborer.

In November and December 1864 Whitfield was hospitalized and entitled to back pay and a bounty. From January to August 1865, he was detached to the division’s ambulance train. He was mustered out on September 20, 1865 having received his last pay on that April. Whitfield was due a $100 bounty, and owed a sutler $35.

There is no further information about Whitfield after he was discharged. He possibly died in June 1866 and was buried in Forrest Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio. Plot: section OC, lot 39, grave 199.


UPDATE:  January 2017 – there were no updates to this Census for additional persons with inclusion of different areas referenced in 1870 Census post.  However, notes regarding some individuals listed are as follows:

Toledo Ward 2 15 Price, B. A. 35 M Black Musician Illinois Mentioned in Warren AME History (http://warren-ame.org/church-history/)
Toledo Ward 4 19 Rice, Henry 15 M Black Waiter unknown Mentioned in Warren AME History (http://warren-ame.org/church-history/)
Toledo Ward 4 29 Richmond, Alfred 30 M Mullatto Barber Tennessee Mentioned in Warren AME History (http://warren-ame.org/church-history/)


Below is a copy of the spreadsheet for the 1850 Census:

Family# Name Age Gender Race Occupation Birthplace Attended School Cannot Read Condition Ward/Township
1 Hall, William 26 M Mullatto Cook Unknown Ward 1
1 Hall, Eliza 37 F Mullatto New York Ward 1
2 Washington, Eli 0.67 M Mullatto Ohio Ward 1
2 Washington, Estera (?) 3 M Mullatto Ohio Ward 1
2 Washington, Henry 21 M Black Barber Unknown Ward 1
2 Washington, Josephine 21 F Mullatto Michigan Ward 1
3 Stanton, Nancy J 24 F Mullatto Tennessee Ward 1
3 Stanton, Henry 26 M Mullatto Barber Pennsylvania Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), John 1 M Mullatto Ohio Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), Anna 4 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), William A 6 M Mullatto Canada X Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), Junius(Julius) 8 M Mullatto Canada X Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), Robert 11 M Mullatto Canada X Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), Harvey 35 M Mullatto Barber Massachuesetts Ward 1
4 Frilds(Fields), Jane 35 F Mullatto Georgia Ward 1
5 Mitchel, Jane 35 F Black Unknown Ward 1
5 Mitchel, ______ 40 M Black Cook Unknown Ward 1
6 Franklin, Clarkie 39 F Mullatto North Carolina X Ward 1
6 Franklin, James E 39 M Mullatto Carpenter North Carolina Ward 1
7 Nickolas, George 38 M Mullatto Painter New York Ward 1
8 French, Julia 16 F Mullatto Canada Ward 1
8 French, George 18 M Mullatto None Canada Ward 1
8 French, Spencer 56 M Mullatto Teamster Unknown X Ward 1
8 French, Mary 57 F Mullatto Michigan X Ward 1
9 Rolp(Ross), Robert 23 M Mullatto Labor Unknown Ward 1
10 Nickolas, Wilson 17 M Mullatto Painter New York Ward 2
10 Nickolas, Elizabeth 18 F Mullatto New York Ward 2
10 Nickolas, Edward 22 M Mullatto Drayman New York Ward 2
10 Nickolas, Marlon 24 M Mullatto Drayman New York Ward 2
10 Nickolas, Calvin 27 M Mullatto Carpenter New York Ward 2
10 Nickolas, William 59 M Mullatto None Virginia Ward 2
11 Anthony, Maria 36 F Black Maryland Ward 2
12 Kines(Hines, James 0.58 M Mullatto Ohio Ward 2
12 Kines(Hines), Mary 5 F Mullatto Indiana Ward 2
12 Kines(Hines), Sarah 25 F Mullatto North Carolina X Ward 2
12 Kines(Hines), James 31 M Mullatto Teamster North Carolina Ward 2
13 Manly, William 2 M Mullatto Indiana Ward 2
13 Manly, Roxana 4 F Mullatto Indiana Ward 2
13 Manly, Malinda 5 F Mullatto Illinois Ward 2
13 Manly, Obadiah 15 M Mullatto Tennessee Ward 2
13 Manly, Sarah 24 F Mullatto Tennessee Ward 2
13 Manly, Levi 45 M Mullatto Teamster Tennessee Ward 2
14 Crummell, Jane 11 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 2
14 Crummell, Peggy 60 F Black Maryland X Ward 2
15 Price, Albertina 1 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 2
15 Price, Louisa 3 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 2
15 Stanton, Harriet 18 F Mullatto Tennessee Ward 2
15 Price, Caroline 27 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 2
15 Price, B. A. 35 M Black Musician Illinois Ward 2
16 Wilson, Sarah 0.58 F Black Ohio Ward 4
16 Wilson, Robert 2 M Black Ohio Ward 4
16 Wilson, Maria 22 F Black Conneticut Ward 4
16 Wilson, Francis 24 M Black Barber Pennsylvania Ward 4
17 Nickolas, George N. 27 M Black Barber Virginia Ward 4
18 Williams, Harvey 19 M Black Barber Michigan Ward 4
19 Rice, Henry 15 M Black Waiter unknown Ward 4
20 Graves, Ann 28 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 4
20 Graves, John 31 M Black Porter Virginia Ward 4
21 Van Pelt, Louisa 24 F Mullatto Ward 4
21 Van Pelt, Henry 34 M Mullatto Barber New York Ward 4
22 Walker, Nancy 26 F Black Mississippi Ward 4
22 Walker, Elias 30 M Black Barber Virginia Ward 4
23 Williams, John 24 M Black Waiter Virginia Ward 4
24 Alexander, Thomas 38 M Black Waiter Kentucky Ward 4
25 Matthews, Benjamin 23 M Black Waiter Louisiana Ward 4
26 Coleman, Alfred 26 M Black Porter Kentucky Ward 4
27 Watkins, John 25 M Black Cook Tennessee Ward 4
28 Rivers, Frank 30 M Black Barber Ohio Ward 4
29 Richmond, Marcus A. 8 M Mullatto Indiana Ward 4
29 Richmond, Catherine 28 F Mullatto Pennsylvania Ward 4
29 Richmond, Alfred 30 M Mullatto Barber Tennessee Ward 4
30 Bartlett, Elizabeth 22 F Black New York Ward 4
30 Bartlett, Anderson 30 M Black Cook North Carolina Ward 4
31 Whitfield, Robert 0.83 M Black Ohio Ward 4
31 Whitfield, Jacob 4 M Black Ohio Ward 4
31 Whitfield, James 4 M Black Ohio Ward 4
31 Whitfield, John W. 5 M Black Canada Ward 4
31 Whitfield, Ann M 7 F Black Canada Ward 4
31 Whitfield, Hannah 22 F Black Ohio Ward 4
31 Whitfield, John 26 M Black Recefs Virginia Ward 4
32 Dease, Celia 25 F Black Ohio Ward 4
32 Dease, ________ 28 M Black Cook unknown Ward 4
33 Nickolas, Charles 25 M Black Butcher unknown Ward 4
34 Lucas, Alice 60 F Black unknown Ward 4
35 Buck, James L 2 M Black Michigan Ward 4
35 Buck, Alice 5 F Black Ohio Ward 4
35 Buck, Miles 6 M Black Ohio Ward 4
35 Buck, Alice 26 F Black Pennsylvania Ward 4
35 Buck, Miles 40 M Black Barber Pennsylvania Ward 4
36 Campbell, Mahala 2 F Mullatto Ohio Ward 4
36 Campbell, William 5 M Mullatto Michigan Ward 4
36 Campbell, Castillia 7 F Mullatto Michigan Ward 4
36 Campbell, Mary Ann (White) 31 W White Ireland Ward 4
36 Campbell, James 33 M Black Drayman Virgina Ward 4
37 Pule, Franklin 18 M Black Labor Pennsylvania Ward 4
37 Smith, Nancy 22 F Mullatto Canada Ward 4
37 Smith, George 25 M Mullatto Store Maker Canada Ward 4
38 Smith, William 1 M Mullatto Michigan Ward 4
38 Smith, George 5 M Mullatto Michigan Ward 4
39 Ambros, James 0.58 M Black Ohio Ward 4
39 Ambros, Julia Ann 23 F Black unknown Ward 4
39 Ambros, James 35 M Black Reseller of old clothes Pennsylvania Ward 4
40 Lynn, Mary 33 F Mullatto North Carolina Ward 4
40 Lynn, Henry 38 M Black Cooper Virginia Ward 4
41 Wilson, Charles S 2 M Black Ohio Ward 4
41 Wilson, Lovejoy 3 M Black Ohio Ward 4
41 Wilson, George H 6 M Black Ohio Ward 4
41 Wilson, Henrietta J 9 F Black Ohio Ward 4
41 Wilson, Cassandria S 12 F Black Ohio Ward 4
41 Wilson, Frances C 14 F Black New York Ward 4
41 Wilson, Julia Ann 36 F Black Conneticut Ward 4
41 Wilson, William H. 42 M Black Grower(sp?) Maryland Ward 4
42 Griswold, Daniel 25 M Black Cook New York Ward 4
43 LeBlew, Catharine 2 F Mullatto Ohio Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Francis 5 M Mullatto Ohio Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Tabatha 8 F Mullatto Ohio Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Cyril 10 M White Ohio Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Mary 12 F White Ohio Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Margaret 15 F White Indiana Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Arvilla 36 M Mullatto Labor Canada X Manhattan (North End)
43 LeBlew, Jane 39 F White Michigan Manhattan (North End)
Total Number of Individuals 121
Number labled “Black” 54
Number labeled “White” 5
Number labeled “Mullatto” 62
Number of Mixed Race Families (white wife) 2
Average Age 21.00206612
Average Age of Males 19.26760563
Average Age of Females 23.14795918
Number of Females 50
Number of Males 71
Age of Oldest Male (William Nickolas) 59
Age of Oldest Female (Peggy Crummel & Alice Lucas) 60
Age of Youngest Male (James Abros & James Kines(Hines) 0.58
Age of Youngest Female (Sarah Wilson) 0.58
Number of children who attended school in 1850
(Frilds/Fields) children in Ward 1.   Father was only Mass born resident.
Number Older than 15 74
Number 15 or Younger 47
Ward 1 Residents 24
Ward 2 Residents 22
Ward 3 Residents 0
Ward 4 Residents 68
Manhattan (North End) Residents 7
Oregon (East Side) Residents 0
Washington Township Residents 0
Port Lawrence Residents 0
Birthplace of Canada 9
Birthplace of Conneticut 2
Birthplace of Georgia 1
Birthplace of Illinois 2
Birthplace of Indiana 5
Birthplace of Ireland 1
Birthplace of Kentucky 2
Birthplace of Louisiana 1
Birthplace of Maryland 3
Birthplace of Massachuesetts 1
Birthplace of Michigan 9
Birthplace of Mississippi 1
Birthplace of New York 11
Birthplace of North Carolina 6
Birthplace of Ohio 31
Birthplace of Pennsylvania 7
Birthplace of Tennessee 7
Birthplace of Virginia 8
Birthplace Unknown 11
Occupation of Barber 11
Occupation of Butcher 1
Occupation of Carpenter 2
Occupation of Cook 6
Occupation of Cooper 1
Occupation of Drayman 3
Occupation of Grower(Gourny) 1
Occupation of Laborer 3
Occupation of Musician 1
Occupation of Painter 2
Occupation of Porter 2
Occupation of Recep/Recef 1
Occupation of Reseller of Old Clothes 1
Occupation of Store Maker 1
Occupation of Teamster 3
Occupation of Waiter 4
First Most Popular Surname – WILSON (2 households) 12
Second Most Popular Surname – NICKOLAS (4 households) 9

Maternal Genealogy – JONES/ROBINSON Families

Some of my earliest ancestors to move to Toledo arrived in Northwest Ohio between 1860 and 1870.

Nancy JONES was born in 1859 in Bainbridge, Ross County, Ohio. She was enumerated with her family on the 1860 United States Census when she was 8 months old.

Her parents were Mary JONES and John Wesley JONES who was listed as an “ME Minister” on the Census record. I believe that “ME” stood for “Methodist Episcopal. My maternal line have been members of Warren AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church for many generations.

Nancy was the youngest child listed for Mary and John JONES on the 1860 Census. She had two older siblings listed as well. Her older sister’s name was Martha JONES and her older brother’s name was John JONES Jr.

John W. JONES Jr. was the oldest child. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1852. Martha JONES was also born in Pennsylvania but in 1854. Nancy JONES was the first of the JONES children born in Ohio.

John W. JONES Sr. stated on the 1860 Census that he was born in Maryland. He was born in approximately 1805. Mary JONES stated that she was born in Pennsylvania in approximately 1823.

I found Mary JONES and her three children on the 1870 Census living in Washington Township, Lucas County Ohio.  Washington Township is now a part of the City of Toledo.   On the 1870 Census there was another JONES child listed who was a younger sister to Nancy JONES. The youngest JONES child was named Francis JONES and she was born in 1860. I believe that they moved to Northwest Ohio around 1866. The Toledo Lucas County Public Library has a death record for a John JONES in 1867 but I am not certain that this is “my” John JONES due to the common name. However, he is the only John JONES listed in the death records between 1860 and 1870 and I am 80% certain that this is “my” John JONES.

During my genealogical compilation for this family, I was faced with many odd, in my opinion, difficulties. When you start out doing genealogy, one should start from the most current generation and work their way back. Luckily, Nancy JONES did not die until 1950 so my grandmother and her sister (my great aunt, who is still alive) knew Nancy JONES and they were able to provide me with a decent genealogical link to her that was easily verified via the census record information contained within familysearch.org.

My grandmother remembered Nancy as Nancy BAKER. She stated that Nancy, her grandmother, had lived with them for a time when she was a child. So going by that information, I looked up Nancy BAKER and basically hit a wall on this family that lasted for about 10 years.

In 2010 the 1940 census was released. I was not actively researching during that time due to regular life’s busy-ness so it wasn’t until around 2012 that I searched again for genealogical information. I looked up my grandmother on the 1940 Census since she was born in 1936. I thought it would be cool to have such a close link to historical information. My grandmother died in 2004 and I still miss her dearly and I was thinking of her at the time when I looked her up in 2012.

That query did pull up my grandmother, her siblings, including my great aunt who is still alive and their parents. It also showed that a Nancy BACKER lived next door to them which finally gave me a true connection to Nancy BAKER.

Many times on Census records surnames and given names are horrendously mispelled. Finding a Nancy, who was listed as approximately 80 years old in 1940 was extremely exciting for me!

From there, I found that Nancy had been living with a man named Stephen BAKER on the 1930 Census. At that time she also lived near my great grandmother. A big tip for people using Census records for genealogy is to peruse the entire handwritten page for neighbor’s names. Many times, people lived near their relatives or with their relatives and with today’s technology, if you search for a specific name, it will only provide you a printed, transcribed version of exactly what you were looking for so it is up to you to do additional digging.

After much research, I found out that Nancy was not originally married to Stephen BAKER. I had been looking for my 2nd great grandmother under the last name of BAKER due to thinking that BAKER may have been her maiden name. Instead I found out that Nancy was originally married to a man named James Edward ROBINSON.  Stephen BAKER was her second husband.

I found the death certificate of my 2nd great grandmother on familysearch’s database for Ohio Deaths. She died in 1941 from kidney disease. On her death certificate her mother was listed as Nancy JONES and her father was listed as James ROBSON. As with BACKER on the Census, ROBSON was written incorrectly. She was actually a ROBINSON.

This discovery allowed me to pull up all of the information regarding James Edward ROBINSON and Nancy JONES ROBINSON on Census records all the way back to 1900.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a solid marriage certificate for them. Due to Nancy being in Lucas County, Ohio on the 1870 Census, I know that she lived in this area. Lucas County kept pretty good records for deaths, marriages, and births long before most states started to do this consistently. I did find a marriage record for a James E. ROBERTSON and Amanda JONES for November 11, 1874. I am somewhat sure that this is James and Nancy ROBINSON. Throughout the years ROBINSON has been spelled in many variations including the following: ROBINSON-ROBSON-ROBESON-ROBISON-ROBERTSON and another crazy variation that I will speak of below, which caused another brick wall for me that lasted until this year (2015).

James Edward ROBINSON showed up in the city directory for the City of Toledo in 1876.

He death certificate states that he was born in Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania.  His father’s name was listed as Frank ROBISON and his mother as “Becky” only.

Upon further review of ROBINSON’S in Pennsylvania on the 1860 and 1850 census records, I found a James E ROBINSON on the 1850 census listed with his father Franklin ROBINSON and mother Ellen ROBINSON.  Even though Ellen differed from what was listed on James’ death certificate as his mother (Becky), I am 100% sure that Ellen was James E ROBINSON’s mother.  Many times the informant who fills out a death certificate did not know the name of the person who passed away.  Information I have found lead me to believe that Ellen ROBINSON may have died or separated from her husband Franklin by the early 1860s.  On the 1860 census, Franklin ROBINSON is listed with his son but this time the name was listed a Edward James ROBINSON.  On various census records throughout the years, James Edward was listed as Edward James.  I am certain that he was the same person due to always being listed with his wife Nancy and their children as either James E, James Edward, Edward, or Ed.  The switching of the first and middle name is actually what made me know 100% that this family was the ROBINSON family I was looking for.

I have yet to find any death records for Franklin ROBINSON or Ellen ROBINSON.  I did find an exciting tidbit regarding Ellen in an online scholarly article about the effect of the Fugitive Slave Act on blacks in Harrisburgh, PA, but I will save that for another entry.

Due to census records not providing much detailed information prior to the 1850 census, I am temporarily at another road block for this family.  An interesting tidbit I am currently looking into is the fact that Franklin, Ellen, and James E ROBINSON lived with Thomas and Dinah WATKINS on the 1850 census.  I am going to attempt to connect the WATKINS families with the ROBINSON family and I am hoping that they are relatives of Ellen and/or Franklin.

After moving to Toledo, James Edward ROBINSON married Nancy JONES.  They eventually had seven children – Francis (1876-1932), Edna (1880-1929), Edward (1884-1951), Florence (1892-1941), Fred (1894-?), Naomi (1894-?), and William Alton (1898-1917).

Florence ROBINSON was my second great grandmother.

James Edward ROBINSON died in 1910.

As stated above, Nancy JONES ROBINSON BAKER did not die until 1950.  She was 90 years old when she passed away.

One of the best finds I discovered just this year was finally locating James Edward and Nancy ROBINSON on the 1880 Census.  After searching through both electronic records at the library via micro film, on family search and ancestry.com via census records and via hardcopy 1880 census indexes at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, I was unsuccessful in locating this couple in Toledo or in PA or anywhere really.

I had decided this past summer to make a visit to the Newberry Library in Chicago since we make frequent visits there to see family.  I was initially only looking up a specific family that also was an early settler in NW Ohio – the WHITFIELDS.  I will write another post about that research later.  After finding the information I was looking for on the WHITFIELDs, I decided to look up other holdings of the library and they had a book which was loosely titled (going off my memory here, will edit later with the correct title) Blacks in Ohio in 1880.  It basically was a book that contained a list of all the black or mullatto or other “colored” residents in the state of Ohio on the 1880 census.

Within that book, I found all of my Ohio lines and due to there not being many black people in Toledo itself in 1880, I also saw a entry which listed a Nancy and Ed “BOBISON” who had older children who matched the names of the older ROBINSON children mentioned above.

I wanted to scream at the library!!  It was soooo exciting for me to see them in this book!  I had almost given up on this line and just chalked it up to not having any other way to research them.

Upon reviewing the 1880 “BOBISON” family it showed that they lived in a house with a Mary JONES and her children, John and Francis JONES.  This was how I found an entire new generation of the JONES family detailed above.

I am currently trying to connect the ROBINSON and JONES families to see if they both lived in the Harrisburgh, PA area.  Hopefully it won’t take another 10 years to find a connection.


The Story of Mrs. Julia King – Former Slave/Toledo Resident

During my research and due to my interest in black history, I discovered the Federal Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) slave narrative collection about 15 years ago.

During “The Great Depression” of the 1930s, President Roosevelt created the WPA in order to put educated Americans, especially in the arts, back into the workforce due to the extreme unemployment and economic conditions faced by Americans during this era.

Luckily, the WPA took an interest in recording the lives of black Americans who were former slaves.  The year 1935 marked seventy years since the end of the Civil War.  Those persons interviewed by WPA workers were primarily in their 80s and 90s.  Some were centenarians (aged 100 or above).   Two individuals who lived in Toledo and who attended Third Baptist Church were interviewed – Julia King and Hannah Davidson.  Both of their interviews provide a wealth of information about slavery, escaping slavery, and black history in Toledo.

Mrs. Julia King was approximately 80 years old when she was interviewed in 1937.  She was the wife of Toledo’s first black police officer – Albert King picture below.

Albert King

At the time of her interview, Mrs. King lived at 731 Oakwood Ave.  A search on googlemaps shows that her house has been demolished as an empty lot is now at that address.

She spoke of how both of her biological daughters died, one as an infant and one at 13 years of age.  Black children in Toledo had high mortality rates in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  During the time of the interview, Mrs. King lived with her adopted daughter Elizabeth KING KIMBREW (KIMBROUGH).

In her interview she spoke of how she was the first black “colored juvenile officer” in the city of Toledo.  She worked in this position for 20 years.  The first 3 years she did it on a volunteer basis and was not paid for her work.

Mrs. King’s maiden name was Julia WARD.  She was born in Louisville, Kentucky to Samuel and Matilda WARD.  She had a sister named Mary WARD who was about 1.5 years older than she was.  Her parents were slaves in Kentucky.  Her father ran away via the Underground Railroad to Canada and left her mother, herself, and her sister in Kentucky.

Later, Mrs. King’s mother also decided to run away and join Samuel in freedom.  Mrs. King spoke of how her mother was happy that on the day that she planned to run away, Matilda’s mistress decided not to take Mary to the market with her.  The mistress usually had Mary accompany her to the market.  Matilda was prepared to run away and leave Mary behind, but due to the mistresses decision, she took both Julia and Mary to freedom.

They made it all the way to Detroit via boat and then went up to Windsor to meet Mrs. King’s father, who had been working there as a cook. They eventually settled in Detroit and she spent her childhood there prior to moving to Toledo.

In her narrative, Mrs. King also relates lots of information about the conditions faced by slaves on their plantation and about a song her mother sang to her.  The WPA had a specific list of questions that they were supposed to ask their interviewees and one was to ask them to sing a song from their childhood.  During the 1930s there was a large interest in black folk music for anthropological study and the interviews reflect this interest.

Mrs. King mentioned that she was a member of Third Baptist church and was drawn to the church due to them having a requirement of an “immersing baptism.”  She also mentioned that she was involved with national colored women’s clubs and had met Booker T. Washington and his wife and had heard a reading of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poems in Toledo.  Dunbar lived in Toledo for about a year while he was ill with tuberculosis, an extremely common disease in the late 19th and early 20th century.  He would eventually succomb to the condition as did many of my own family members.

I loved Mrs. King’s interview.  Mostly due to the wealth information obtained from her recount of the escape from slavery, a topic which is now a heavy focus for historical research.  I also loved that she seemed to come alive to me, mostly due to my favorite quote from her interiew when she was asked about Frederick Douglass (as mentioned a man I thoroughly love)

“The only thing I had against Frederick Douglas was that he married a white woman.”  LOL!  I thought it hilarious that she exhibited the same feelings many people have about interracial marriages even today amongst older black women.

That said, Mrs. King seemed like a formidable woman.  She had been through a lot and it is amazing to me that she went to the same church that my family attended.  I had read Mrs. King’s interview prior to my step great-grandmother passing away and asked her if she knew Mrs. King and Mrs. Davidson, another former slave interviewed in Toledo.  She said she knew of them at church and had seen both but didn’t know them personally since they were older members and she was just a young woman during this time period.  It is fascinating to me that she knew actual slaves and I knew her.  She only recently died in 2008.  This goes to show that we are not as far removed from slavery as we think we are.

The Story of Mrs. Julia King – Toledo Ohio


A review of records from www.familysearch.org showed the following in regards to Mrs. King’s listed family members from her narrative:

Mary WARD born appx 1856 in Kentucky, died in Detroit, MI in 1891 – listed parents were Samuel and Matilda WARD (Michigan Deaths 1800-1995)

Julia KING born appx 1856 in Kentucky, died in Toledo, OH in 1938 (one year after interviewed – they made it in time!) – listed parents were Samuel WARD and Matilda MACALVIN, listed spouse Albert KING (Ohio Deaths 1908-1953) buried at Forrest Cemetery

Albert McKinney KING born 1/21/1851 in Toronto, Canada, died in Toledo, OH 1934

Samuel WARD born appx 1830, died in Detroit, MI 1890 (Michigan Deaths 1867-1897)

Matilda WARD born 8/3/1844, died in Toledo, OH 1916 lived at 731 Oakwood Ave, buried at Forrest Cemetery (Ohio Deaths 1840-2001)

Marriage record of Betty(Elizabeth) KING KIMBROUGH (spelled KIMBREW in the narrative) married on 8/12/1935 to Samuel KIMBROUGH both were divorced at time of marriage and this was the second marriage for both parties

Marriage record of Elizabeth KING married on 9/14/1928 to John LYTLE.  This was the first marriage of both parties.  Elizabeth KING listed as 21 years of age at date of marriage.

Marriage record of Albert KING and Julia WARD married on 10/20/1875 in Toledo, Ohio