Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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A Rambling Sketch of Some of Our Earlier Colored Residents
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TitleA Rambling Sketch of Some of Our Earlier Colored Residents
DescriptionA reminiscence purported to be from George Lawrence that appeared in The Home Towner, a supplement to Galesburg Post newspaper in January 1934.
Named PersonRichardson, Samuel; Gash, Frank; Barber, Mr.; Searls, Francis; Turner, Jefferson; Milburn, Sam; Barquet, Joseph; Williams, Stoke; Williams, George; Fincher, Mr.; Henderson, Lucretia; Henderson, Mrs.; Chappell, Leonard; Chappell, Phylira D.; Kite, John; Neil, Susan; Richardson, Thomas;
AuthorLawrence, George; Love, Charlie; Brown, Zack; Henderson, Levi;
Time Period1930s
PublisherThe Galesburg Post
Date Created (original)January, 1934
IdentifierLocal History Collection
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Date Digital2012-07-24
The Hometowner Page 9

A Rambling Sketch of Some of Our Earlier Colored Residents
(Contributed) [handwritten:] Geo. Lawrence

This article is not
intended as con-
stituting at all a
complete history,
but in many of the
essential parts it may recall
some of the earlier colored
people who lived in Galesburg,
their position and some of
their descendants.
Galesburg was settled by pi-
oneers from Oneida County,
New York, who came here al-
most to a man and family
thoroughly permeated with
the anti-slavery sentiment. I
have no authority for saying
that any colored residents
came earlier than 1850, though
the college was then thoroughly
established here and was about to
graduate its first class, but the
underground railroad was then be-
ginning its more active operations
and Galesburg was one of the
well-known stations along that
In all probability even prior to
the underground railroad, colored
people undoubtedly drifted here
finding a welcome amongst the
earlier settlers. But the main
source of operation, as I think it
is generally understood, was by
means of the railroad when the
extension was made of what is
now the Burlington, as far south
as Quincy, Illinois. Its then Su-
perintendant was generally be-
lieved to have been the moving
cause of a great many colored re-
fugees from Missouri, especially
in the neighborhood of Palmyra
and Hannibal.
The Negro was to very many of
the early settlers entirely un-
known, many of them never even
having seen one. I remember at
one time hearing a man, after-
wards a judge of the supreme
court of Arkansas, telling of the
first sight he ever had of a colored
man. He was living with his par-
ents in Granville, Illinois, where
at one time the Committee had de-
cided to locate Knox College, and
was sitting alone in the kitchen
where a trap-door led into the cel-
lar. The trap-door slowly raised
and a colored man came up
through it. A nervous prostration
was almost brought on.
There were, however, from time
to time, a number of colored fam-
ilies who reached Galesburg. One
family bought up a quarter section
of land a few miles northwest of
the city, while Sam Richardson,
also colored, bought a tract of
land nearby, the possession of
which he retained for many years
and raised a large family of chil-
dren, some of whom, I think, are
still living.
In the early days as they came
singly or a few together, settle-
ment was not in any one locality.
I recall one family living on Acad-
emy st., just north of Main, on the
west side. Another family lived

column 2

on the northeast corner of West
and Ferris sts. A few others, nota-
bly the Gash family, which was a
large one, lived over on West
South st., and the last of the bro-
thers, and I think there were 8 or
10 originally, passed away only a
few years ago, leaving children
who still survive him.
In the east part of town, a Mr.
Barber came, a very large and
able man. The Searles family also
came from the Kentucky regions
and lived on West South st., just
east of Depot Creek, which was
then quite a stream flowing from
the region of the old switch yards.
It has been all since levelled and
the creek obliterated, and is now
built upon.
In the early days these people
met with a courteous reception at
the hands of Galesburg settlers.
No distinction was made in many
regards, growing out of the color
line. I recall distinctly one lady
who lived with her mother, who
was an accomplished seamstress.
In those days it was quite the cus-
tom when the week for sewing
came to employ her for a week or
possibly more in making up gar-
ments for the entire family for
the winter or spring to follow. She
was a member of Dr. Beecher's
church; held and occupied a pew
there with her mother, and there
was absolutely no distinction in
the treatment by families employ-
ing her on account of her color.
She ate at the same table and re-
cieved the same courteous atten-
tion that any other seamstress
would. She was a woman of ster-
ling quality and very generally
liked. Her name was Francis
Frank Gash, one of the original
Gash children, was at one time
major-domo of the old Seminary,
now known as Whiting Hall. He
was a well-bred, courteous gentle-
man, always very carefully dressed
and he remained in that capacity
for many years. He succumbed la-
ter to tuberculosis. He had a plea-
sant smile for everybody and was
consulted and generally took
charge of all social details in con-
nection with the old Seminary be-
fore the additions were built.
Another character that was well-
known about town was Jefferson
Turner. Jefferson was an oddity in
his way. He was the constant at-
tendant upon one of our promin-
ent citizens, since deceased, as a
young man, and later made his
living by collection of papers and
rubbish upon the streets, but was,
in fact, a born philosopher. A
good story is told of Jefferson go-
ing into Bancroft and Land-
strum's store with a half dollar in
his hand. He asked Mr. Charles
Bancroft, one of the genial clerks
in the store, if that half dollar was
good. Mr. Bancroft bit it and rang
it uon the counter and said: "Yes,
Jefferson, it is perfectly good;
what makes you ask that?"
"That was given me by Mistah

column 3
_____ (naming a prominent
citizen) and you know, Mistah
Bancroft, he isn't in the habit of
throwin' half dollars aroun' I
thought he was trying to fool me
perhaps, but it may be he was in
Mr. Milburn was another of the
earlier colored residents who
lived in the east part of town, and
who, from the very first, had been
making a good living for himself
and family out of his perseverance
in growing better vegetables than
anyone else. One of his successes
was his watermelon patches. The
Board of Trustees of Knox College
had, during Dr. Bateman's term,
occasion to rent Allen's pasture
on Main st, a ten-acre tract for an
athletic field, and when the execu-
tive committee met and the report
showed the leasing of this ten
acres, Dr. Bateman, who was very
punctilious in conducting a meet-
ing, asked for information regard-
ing Allen's pasture. He could not
locate it. One of the trustees sug-
gested that it was right next to
old man Milburn's watermelon
patch. Still the doctor said very
carefully that that gave him no
further information as he had
never seen Milburn's watermelon
patch, to which Col. Clark E. Carr
"Perhaps Dr. Bateman has
never visited the watermelon
patch in the daytime!"
I think all the Milburn family
have passed away. Sam, the older,
was quite a politician and was for
many years employed in Washing-
ton in the printing department.
In those days the big day for
the colored folks in Galesburg,
which were not numerous, was the
first of August which represented
the emancipation of the slaves in
the entire British Empire in 1835,
I believe. That was a day for
wide open oratory on the part of
an occational white speaker but
very largely of colored men.
One character I recollect who
must have been an early settler,
was Joe Barquette. He lived in a
little brick house immediately
back of what is now the City Hall
and was by occupation a plaster-
er and mason's attendant. Bar-
quette [Barquette] was really a talented chap,
his misfortune being an excessive
love of the "bowl that inebriates."
I do not know the history of that
little house. It was brick and ov-
er the wall was a grown apple
tree. It might have been the early
residence of Henry Ferris, who
lived in a large brick house facing
north on Simmons st., from the
early sixties.
The barber shops, with the sin-
gle exception of the one at the
Burlington station controlled by a
German, were all in the hands of
colored people. Stoke Williams,
George Williams, Mr. Fincher,
Charlie Love, Zack Brown, all
kept clean and successful barber
shops. This was in the days when
people were proud to have their

column 4

own mugs and their names upon
them, and the literature for wait-
ing customers was the Police Ga-
zette and other like publications
Some of these mens accumulated
considerable property, but their
shops have all been filled by white
barbers, I think, excepting possi-
bly some outlying shops in out-
side districts, with little or no pre-
I have no reliable data upon
which the Negro Methodist church
was established, but I very well
recall who must have been the
very early, if not the first minis-
ter of that denomination. He was
Mr. Levi Henderson, whose wife
and daughter owned and lived in a
house on Tompkins st., two or
three doors from its intersection
with Academy st on the north
side. the lot extending back to the
alley. In the extension house lived
Grandma Henderson, who was a
type. She smoked a pipe and pre-
pared her own meals in her own
way. They had a barn in the rear
of the lot, kept chickens and a few
pigs, of which Grandma was the
overseer and must have shared in
their benefits. She always wanted
to join in the conversation going
on in the minister's part of the
house and when his wife was occu-
pying too much of the time, would
stop her with the remark -- "Hush,
Lucretia, let Grandma talk, ", and
Lucretia "hushed." Mr. Henderson
was a typical clergyman to look
upon. Always wore a long-tailed
coat and high collar; was as black
as a crow, and was very dignified;
a good man and a successful pas-
tor. I cannot imagine him, how-
ever, as being very successful in
an animated revival season, but
this was more than made up by
Brother Jacobs, who came upon
the scene in the later sixties. Bro-
ther Jacobs could preach and sing
and exhort all over the church
was wise enough to stick to the
old plantation songs. He was with-
al a very genial and straightfor-
ward man.
Since beginning this sketch
I have ascertained that on May 11,
1847, one, Francis Searls, re-
ceived from Leonard Chappell and
Phylira D. Chappell, his wife, a
deed to 120 cares of land in Gales-
burg [Galesburg] twp., and a timber lot of six
acres in Henderson twp. This was
the Francis Searls to whom I have
referred. On March 15, 1848, Sam-
uel [Samuel] Richardson received from
John Kite and wife, deed for 20
acles, the NW. quarter of Sec. 9-
11-1, and still earlier conveyance
is found of date, Sept 1, 1845,
from the Trustees of Knox Manual
Labor College, Knox County, Ill-
inois, to Susan Neil. This was for
Lot No. 5 Blk 9, in the City of
Galesburg, being at the corner of
West and Ferris sts., and Susan
Neil seems to have been married
to Thomas Richardson, who was
a kin to the Richardson above
mentioned. The consideration paid
for this lot at that time was $15.
For the 20-acre lot, $20 per acre,
and for the 126 acres to Francis
(Turn to Page 16)

page 2

A Rambling Sketch of Some of--
(Continued From Page 9)

Searls, $900, which would indicate
a consideration of between seven
and eight dollars an acre.
In closing, I understand a very
interesting fact has been revealed
by the class in Sociology in Knox
College. This class has made a
careful survey during the year
of the ownership of their homes
in the city by both white and col-
ored people, and their research
has demonstrated beyond doubt
that a larger percentage of color-
ed people own their own homes,
small though they may be, than
can be said of the white people
living in town.

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