Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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John Louis Bell
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TitleJohn Louis Bell
DescriptionNotes taken by Knox College Professor of Sociology, J. Howell Atwood from an interview with John Louis Bell. Atwood posed a series of questions, which are not included in the interview notes, about the interviewee's life and about the African American community in Galesburg, Illinois. The interview was most likely conducted around 1934. Atwood conducted extensive research from 1930-1960 about the Galesburg African American community.
Business people
Business panics
Race relations
Named PersonBell, John Louis; Nelson, Mr.; Clark, Sim; Allen, Susan; Williams, Stoke; Johnson, John; Graves, John; Allen, Sheldon; Allen, Jim; Allen, Chet; Anderson, Joh; Barber, Ed; Paine, Tom; Dorsey, Frank; Monroe, Sam; Ingersoll, Abbie; Lockwood, Mrs.; Brown, Mr.; Root, Barnabas; Wilson, Burt; Fletcher, George; Breckenridge, Mr.; Freese, Rachel;
CreatorAtwood, Jesse Howell;
Time Period1930s
Date Created (original)1934
IdentifierJ. Howell Atwood Manuscript Collection (box 9)
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Date Digital2013-02-05
TranscriptJohn Louis Bell 1
1863 - Mar. 4.

Born Mobile Ala. Oct
24, 1847. Don't know when
but the folks moved to
Charleston Va & then back
to Marion Co. Mo. Oldest
sister was here a year earlier.
She made the way.


My master kept her hired
out - to a Swede farmer, Nelson.
Mother was hired out by
the 1/2 day for an English
woman. Mr. Nelson was down
in Mo. & he was vs slavery.
He said he'd help her to get
free. He gave her some book
learning. He helped then $100


to bring my mother & me
to Ill. Marion Co. borders
the river. Stole away at
night. Nelson brought us
across and left us about
2 1/2 mi from Quincy. He
said we'd meet some squads
of men, but said to fear no
evil. Mother wanted to give


the money back, but he
wouldn't take it. He asked
us to write him after we got
to Galesburg. We were plan-
ned for this town. My
aunt came 3 years before
my mother. My sister
had stayed with her. Mr.
Nelson came to G. [Galesburg] finally.


At Main and West - 2 doors
south is where we lived.
I was 16 - hired out at
$10 a month. The first
bldg. I saw was the Aca-
demy on the Square where
the Union Hotel was later.
Sister sent us the $100. At
Q. [Quincy] we went to the home of Sim


Clark - a colored man but
very light. Took the train
from Quincy. Never paid
Clark a cent.


Don't know


I was always hired
out till I was married
in 1873. She rec'd my
money. I bought 1/2 of
the old Raymond Hotel & moved
it here (378 Monroe) -
lived here ever since.


"East end" - 4th ward had
the biggest proportion & in
the "west end" - not so


Father was my master.
He was a Dutchman and
a preacher. I am glad
I was raised in the South.
Learned religion & civil
courtesies. I used to
have to take Father to church
& would attend - Baptist. His
name Ruffner (Robt.)


Suzan [Susan] Allen's grand-
father, Richardson,
was a preacher - 4th of July
& Xmas were great days. Stoke
Williams (Brooks & Abingdon) was
well known -- a barber at S.W. of Ch-
erry [Cherry] St & Main - a hotel.
John Johnson drove the bus
line for the Union Hotel.
Susan was prominent tho young.


A. M. E.


2nd Bapt [Baptist]



I think John Graves'
wife's family belonged to the
old First Church on the
Sq. [square]

No others recalled.


Had the Odd Fellows.
the Masons are going yet.
I stayed till it got so rotten
I got out.


Not known
Fletcher is the first I've
There were some, but it's
been so long. There was 1
in which each pd. a dollar
to save a person's home if it
was to be taken away. They had

a bldg at Simmons & Prairie
(no. east corner)
Sheldon Allen was the
head. His sons ran a
meat shop there - Jim &
Chet. Big trade. I
belonged. Some of the court
house talkers put it out.
Most of the old people belonged.
The young ones weren't "on the square [?]"


See no. 1


Old man Anderson
(John's father)
Ed. Barber (was constable)
down near Saluda
Tom Paine (out on the so.
county line - near Hedgepath place)
Frank Dorsey - north
Monroe (Sam's father)
worked on or ran other people's


When we first came it
seemed as tho they had no
respect of persons - they made
no distinctions.
More friendly then. The
colored race killed themselves;
it wasn't the white. I'm glad
I didn't get book learning.
It made many of them foolish.
The son of God was my color.


Mrs. Abbie Ingersoll
at Simmons & Cherry - north west
corner run a baker shop. She
took all that world come &
give them book learning.
Mrs. Collins SW Simmons & West
was a school teacher -- also
a Mrs. Lockwood did this


None for quite a
while. The R R Co. would
say when we asked for a
job - "We don't hire no
black people." My son-in-
law, Mr. Brown, is the only
colored man I know to work
in the mechanical dept. - since
1909. Have operated a machine
for over 20 yrs - derrick engineer.




1st Barnabus Root
sponsored by Mr. Holyoke --
brought as a babe from Africa
& returned
(Burt Wilson - Lombard)




Proud of those who
are upright - honest -
let your work be your bond--
what you agree to stick to
it. It's the only way of
prosperity. "If you believe
in me follow me & you shall
have everlasting life."


Those that are a god-
loving man and a god-
fearing man - they will
complete the groups


In '71 I was learning
masonry. I had got $.50
a day. Then I got $2.50 when
I was put to the master line
- about '72. No specially hard
time in '73 - had all the work
I could do.
Can't remember the panic
of '93 - always had work. Never

let an honest $ slip
by these hands.


In the So. [South] my young
mistress every day after school
would be playing with us. I
slept in the house in a trundle
bed under our mother's
bed. White children & color-
ed slept in the same bed.
Geo. Fletcher's grandfather
was Mr. Fuqued's overseer - look-
ed like an Indian (Mr. F. was my master's
father in law.)


Answered earlier
Cf. #13


Don't approve. God
created the water. He
didn't separate the
fishes - all kinds in there.


When they 1st started
they had a colored school at
Simmons & Academy (north
side). Mrs. Lockwood - later
Mr. Breckenridge taught
there. I gave $30 to Miss
Rachel Freese to teach me
to read the Bible. If I'd got
and ed. [education] I might have been a
bigger fool than I am today.
Physical Descriptionhandwritten on 4 x 5 in. pieces of scrap paper
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