Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

View All Posts

Feb 15

A New Home for the Newly Freed: Celebrating Greene County's Free African Americans by Amy Brickey

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 9:16 AM by Melissa Dalton

When the Northwest Ordinance was signed in 1787, it was declared that the newly created Northwest Territory would not be a slave-holding territory. While abolitionists were happy for the news, so, too, were the enslaved peoples of the slave-holding south who longed for freedom (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Anti-Slavery Medallion by Josiah Wedgewood, 1787 (PNG)
Fig 1. Anti-Slavery Medallion by Josiah Wedgewood, 1787

After Ohio was established in 1803, free-born African Americans could move into its various counties without fear of being enslaved, and manumitted African Americans did not have to worry about being re-enslaved. However, there was a catch. All African Americans moving into Ohio had to register with the court, whether they had been born free or emancipated. To register and secure freedom papers, an African American had to appear in court with a white witness (sometimes two witnesses) who would verify the applicant’s good character and swear that he or she would not be a burden on the county. There applicants also had to pay a fee to register in each county. The fee started small, at $50, but soon rose to $500. For perspective, $50 in 1803 is the equivalent of $1,112 today, and $500 in 1830 is the equivalent of over $13,000.

Greene County, like other counties in Ohio, received newly freed, and free-born, African American residents. As a matter of fact, the Archives has a wonderfully preserved manumission book from the Clerk of Courts that bears the names of some 125 free Blacks who came to the county between the years 1803-1845 (Fig 2). The free Blacks from the manumission book came from Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. In addition to this book, there are 59 more people listed in the deed records who were brought to Greene County to be freed. The deed records show these people migrating from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Fig 2. Greene County's Emancipation Records (PNG)
Fig 2. Greene County's Emancipation Records

While these emancipation and deed records recorded the names of free and manumitted Blacks, they did not record all of them. Indeed, an article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle, a Lisbon, Ohio, newspaper from 1858, reported that 49 slaves had been emancipated from Fayette County, Kentucky, bringing the total of free African Americans living in Greene County to 849 (Fig 3).

Fig 3. An article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle, Lisbon, Ohio, 25 Sept 1858 (JPG)
Fig 3. An article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle, Lisbon, Ohio, 25 Sept 1858

The actual county population versus the population reflected in court records for free Blacks is evident through maps I created using ArcGIS software online. I created a small map using the data from the manumission book and deed record information for 1803-1860 (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Map showing free Black movement patterns, 1803-1860 (PNG)
Fig 4. Legend for Map showing free Black movement patterns, 1803-1860 (PNG)
Fig 4. Map showing free Black movement patterns, 1803-1860

Using birth location data from 1850 and 1860 census records, however, I was able to create a much larger, and more diverse, map showing the origins of Greene County’s free Blacks (Fig 5).

Fig 5. Map showing free Black birth locations, 1850 (PNG)
Fig 5. Legend for Map showing free Black birth locations, 1850 (PNG)
Fig 5. Map showing free Black birth locations, 1850

Census data indicates the total number of free African Americans residing in Greene County in 1850 was 647. By 1860, the number had reached 1,470 Black or Mulatto individuals, thus the map illustrates an even more diverse within a ten year span (Fig 6).

Fig 6. Map showing free Black birth locations, 1860 (PNG)
Fig 6. Legend for Map showing free Black birth locations, 1860 (PNG)Fig 6. Legend for Map showing free Black birth locations, 1860 (PNG)
Fig 6. Map showing free Black birth locations, 1860

By 1860, almost 1,500 men, women, and children had come to Greene County to live as free people. Notable residents such as Reverend Thomas Perkins, steward and pastor of Wilberforce University’s church, came to Greene County after being a former slave in Mississippi. The parents of elocutionist, author, and educator Hallie Quinn Brown had both been enslaved – her mother was emancipated by her grandfather, who was white, and her father was able to save enough money to purchase his own freedom. Throughout the year, but especially during Black History Month, the Greene County Archives would like to celebrate Greene County’s African American communities, and recognize the hardships endured by these individuals. Stop by the Archives to see our current exhibit by the same name, which will be up through the end of March.

If you would like to browse our Manumission records, please visit our Flickr page at:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/127695569@N06/albums/72157648325339239

If you would like to see the story maps created for Manumission records found in Southwest Ohio, please visit: https://arcg.is/yXDeP0

For free Black census data story maps in Southwest Ohio, please visit: https://arcg.is/14j8fj0

Until Next Time…

References:
Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio) 25 Sept 1858, Newspapers.com
Anti-Slavery Medallion, Josiah Wedgewood. Image http://www.abolitionseminar.org/the-eighteenthcentury-atlantic-world/wedgwoodmedallion/.
Black Roots: Birth Locations of Ohio's Free Blacks in 1850 & 1860 from 11 Southwestern Counties, https://arcg.is/14j8fj0
Emancipation Record of Free Blacks, Greene County Archives
Tracking Freedom: Tracing the Origins of Ohio's Free Blacks from 1803-1863, https://arcg.is/yXDeP0


Comments

You must log in before leaving your comment