THE NEGRO PEOPLE.
pp. 760 - 766
history of the people of Knox county would
be far from complete without some account of
the negroes. In fact, when we come to
consider the different races that have homes
here, the negro race is of scarcely less
importance than any other one race.
Not perhaps on account of the work it has
done or on account of any place it has
filled in this county from an economic
viewpoint, but rather because its history
here is supplemental to conditions and
experiences which were at the bottom of a
civilization which had been developing in
one-half of the whole United States for two
hundred years. The influence of negro
slavery can be seen in old colonial life of
Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas and
wherever that life existed. It may be
difficult to imagine that the courtly
manners, the quiet dignity, the almost
limitless hospitality which characterized
the southern colonial gentleman had its
origin largely in the unrequited toil of an
inferior race. Of course climatic
conditions always play a part in moulding
the character of a race; but beyond all
this, the fact that the institution of
slavery gave leisure and therefore
refinement to the whole household still
remains. The financially successful
owners of slaves had much less to do than
their northern brethren who not only
contended with a more vigorous climate but
looked wholly after their own personal
matters upon which their subsistence and
that of their families depended. The
leisure that was enjoyed in the southern
colonial home was spent largely in the
entertainment of friends. The social
side of life was the principal element in
which he lived and the largest contribution
that came to this state of existence came
from the negro slave. This life had
been moulding the southern character for
But let it be said of the negro slave, that the
institution of slavery did not inure to the
sole benefit of the white men. The
negro received a certain benefit also.
Some of them lived on, comparatively, quite
intimate terms with their masters and
derived much intellectual benefit thereby.
And it would seem that in no other way can
we account for the phenomenal advancement of
the race since the limiting influences of
slavery have been removed. The
progress of the black man in the United
States has been almost as remarkable in the
last half century as the progress of the
Japanese in Japan and if we consider the
races from the standpoint of general
improvement and not the military side, we
may reasonably give the negro first place.
The number of homes that the negroes have
made for themselves, the farms that they
have acquired, the professions they have
adopted, the wealth they have gained, not
only as a people, but as individuals (some
of them are really wealthy), all speak most
hopefully of and for the future of our
Truly, then, a consideration of the negro race in Knox
county will be of especial interest.
This consideration, however, is attended with more or
less difficulty. The first comers left
little or no record of their doings.
Most of them have passed away and those who
are still living have rather poor or
uncertain memories, so
that anything like exact or authentic
accounts are hard to get. Generally
speaking, the negroes have been unskilled
day laborers in this county. Some have
been masons, some carpenters, and others
contractors. We are pleased to present
the following article by Mr. Lewis .C.
Carter, one of our most respected
citizens of the negro race:
THE NEGRO RACE
By Mr. Lewis C. Carter
Among the first of the negro people coming
to Knox county before the civil war were
Harry Van Allen and Susan Van Allen, his
wife. They came some time about the
year 1840. They were free people and
if they were ever slaves,
the writer never knew it. Being the
only colored people in Galesburg at that
time, they were very prominent.
Mrs. Van Allen was a member of the old
First church. Mr. Van Allen
died some time in the fifties.
Two children were born to them, Mary and Owen
Van Allen. Owen Van
Allen became a barber, following the
trade of his father. He is now living
in the west. Mary died some
Some years after the death of her husband, Mrs.
Van Allen was married to Mr.
Thomas Richardson, being his
second wife. Thomas
Richardson was also among the early
colored people of Galesburg. He and
his first wife, were about the second
arrivals in Galesburg of the colored people.
Mr. Richardson became a
prominent and useful citizen of Knox county.
His home was on the corner of West and
Ferris streets where the Galesburg Electric
Light and Power company's plant now stands.
The property passed out of the hands of the
Richardsons a few years ago.
Mr. Richardson was well known as
a good farmer and a very capable teamster.
He had eight children, four sons and four
daughters and all grew to manhood and
womanhood. The boys were Tilford,
Samuel, Benjamin and
Richard; the daughters, Angeline,
Janet, Clarissa, and
Prodine. Farming was the principal
occupation of the sons. They were well
known in the city and county for years.
Samuel owned property in the
northwest corner of section nine, Galesburg
township. As far as known, all of the
first family of children are dead.
Some of the grandchildren are living.
Alfred Richardson still
resides in this city. He has been a
trusted night watchman of the Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy Railroad company for
many years, and his devotion to duty has
given him an enviable reputation. It
is said of him that he is known to the
tramps who swarm in this part of the state
as a man who permits no lounging about the
company's buildings or yard. He has
served several terms on the police force of
the city with equal credit.
The Searles family was one of the largest of the
early colored families. The old
gentleman, Mr. Francis Searles, was
born in Steward county, Georgia, Mar. 8,
1772. He was a white man. His
wife, Mrs. Polly Searles.
was born in the same county and state and
was a colored woman. They left their
native state in the year 1847 and came to
Galesburg where they made their home until
he died, in 1875. For a time they
lived on South Chambers street. He
bought the old Chappell farm situated
one mile northwest of Galesburg, where he
was living at the time of his death.
His wife followed him a few years after.
Their family consisted of three sons and six
daughters and they all reached mature ages,
and they stood well among their people.
James Matteson Searles,
the oldest son, was an expert in
well-digging and laying sewer. His son
George W. Searles was a graduate of
Knox college. John Adams Searles,
the youngest son, moved to Kansas and
settled upon a farm belonging to one of his
sisters, where he died last year. The
other brother died in 1880. The
daughters were Mary Ann,
Jane Gensey, Betsey, Sarah,
Charlotte and Martha.
Four of the daughters are still living and
are well along in years. Mary
Ann lives on North Henderson street
and her name is Richardson. She
is the mother of Albert Richardson
above spoken of. Charlotte
lives at 473 South Chambers street where she
has resided since the death of her parents.
She was injured in a railroad accident some
forty years ago, by which she lost a leg and
an arm. She follows the trade of
dressmaker and earns
her living thereby. The older sister
runs a nine hundred acre farm in Kansas.
She is a widow. The youngest sister,
Martha, lives in Chicago. The
mother was a liberated slave before the war
and the children were all free-born.
Rev. Levi Henderson was the first negro minister
of Galesburg. He came in an early day
and his home was about No. 423 West Tompkins
street. Rev. Henderson
built the first colored church in Galesburg,
known as Allen Chapel on East Tompkins
street. Rev. Henderson
was a very devout man. The writer of
this article, at that time a runaway slave
boy, had the pleasure of living with him in
July, 1863. He died in the '70s and
his wife followed him a few years later.
Rev. McGill and his wife, Rachel,
were a very venerable couple. Mr.
McGill was one of the early pastors
of Allen chapel. He was a retired
minister of the denomination. He was
the father of seven children, two sons and
five daughters. One of the daughters
is living in Iowa. His son, Isaiah
McGill, was well known
in Galesburg for many years. He
followed the trade of brick mason and
plasterer. His son, Hiram
McGill, is now living in this city and
follows the trade of his father Isaiah.
Many families came from the south during and after the
war, which increased the colored population
of Galesburg and Knox county very
materially. Aaron Welcome and
his wife, Sarah, came in 1862.
He was a farmer and also followed the
carpenter's trade. In 1863 he, with
William Webster, John Davis
and several others, enlisted in the Union
army of the war of the rebellion.
There also came the following between 1862
and 1875: George Fletcher,
Thomas Roads and wife, Paul
Fletcher and wife, Abraham
Murray and wife. Perry
Cook and wife, Edward
Washington and wife, William
Stewart, William Laport, Peter
Lawsey, William Elsey
and brother, George Owens and
wife, John Brown and wife,
George Solomon, John
Hopkins and wife, Elijah
Slaughter and wife, John A. Logan,
James Lyons and wife, Moses
Jenkins and wife, James
Johnson and wife, Andrew
Anderson and wife, Thomas
Stevens and wife, Elias
Fletcher and wife, Jefferson
Turner and wife, James
McGruder and wife and Dennis
Fletcher and wife. Several sons of
Andrew Anderson are still
living in Galesburg and Charles
McGruder, son of James
McGruder, is now the janitor of Central
Primary school building.
The Gash family constitutes quite a large
circle. They came soon after the close
of the war. They were Jefferson
Gash, Anderson Gash,
William Gash, George
Gash, Harrison (Tip)
Gash, Sarah Gash, Mrs.
Craig, Mrs. Waters,
Mrs. Brown, Mrs.
Williams and George, her husband,
and Mrs. Hildridge, being the
brothers and sisters of the Gash
Among those who came to Galesburg about this time were
William Stewart and wife,
Levi Johnson and wife (the wife
being a sister of the Gashes),
Isaac Green and wife, Mrs.
Melissa Alexander (later Mrs.
Warren, who became a successful
nurse), Jesse Hazel and wife,
Henry Will and wife and
William Davis. Isaac
Green died Dec. 11, 1911, at the age of
76 years. He raised a large family.
Jesse Hazel was a soldier in
the war of the rebellion, was taken prisoner
and confined in Libby prison for nine
months. He is still a conspicuous
figure on our streets. William
Davis was also a soldier and a capable
plasterer and mason.
Most of the above persons spent their lives
in Galesburg and helped to develop the
resources of the city and county in their
respective vocations and trades.
Though their pursuits were in the common
walks of life, yet they were useful and
filled a general demand, some as farmers and
some as common laborers or mechanics.
Most of these people came from Missouri, but
Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana have each
furnished quite a number. Richard
Worthington, an old soldier, came
from Kentucky. He was very well to do
and was supposed to be worth $30,000 to
$40,000. He died recently, leaving one
son, Richard, Jr., and a
The negroes of the south, as a rule, were better posted
on the progress of the war than the poor
white people, for the reason that some of
their numbers were always with the better
educated class of the white people.
They were house servants and therefore heard
the newspapers read and heard war matters
talked over. The information thus
acquired was communicated to the colored
people on the farms at secret meetings held
by the colored people. At these
meetings the war situation was pretty
carefully considered. The question of
freedom was also much talked of. The
result of every battle fought, as reported
in the southern papers, was soon known to
the colored people. They knew the
details and whether the victory was
favorable to the master or to the slave.
The countenances of the white people were
carefully observed and if an anxious
expression was seen, the colored people knew
the news was good for them and bad for their
masters, and the reading aloud of the papers
told the story. Besides this source of
information there could always be found in
every community some white man or men who
sympathized with the slave, and these men
helped to keep the slaves informed of the
true conditions and really encouraged them
in hoping for freedom as the final result of
All of the above named families became property owners,
as well as a number of colored families not
mentioned in this article. Out of a
population of about twelve hundred colored
people, there are about 165 families who own
homes. Many of these homes are
comfortable and compare favorably with the
homes owned by the laboring classes of other
races. As it is with the white men,
the homes of the colored men improve as
their conditions improve and the race
generally developes as conditions grow
There are two churches in the city of Galesburg
belonging to the colored people, the African
Methodist Episcopal church and the Second
Baptist church. The total value of the
two church properties is about $20,000.
I am pleased to insert also the autobiography of Mr.
Lewis C. Carter, author of the foregoing
account of the negro race in Knox county.
I was born on the farm of Winder C. Dingle four
miles north of Palmyra, county seat of
Marion county, Missouri, and about fifteen
miles southwest of Quincy, Illinois, on the
I5th day of March, 1850. I was the
slave of Mr. Dingle, he having
purchased my mother about six months before
I was born. My mother had been the
property of his brother-in-law, Wm.
Kelly. Kelly had mortgaged all of
his property, including my mother, to a
money lender and slave dealer by the name of
Bill Thompson. Mr.
Kelly lost his property as the result of
a fast life and high living. At the
request of Mr. Kelly, my
mother was purchased by Mr. Dingle.
My life on the farm was passed about like
the average slave boy of that day. As
soon as I was large enough to run about I
busy as errand boy. I was also soon large
enough to look after the babies, both white
and colored. Later I waited upon the
table and drove the carriage for my mistress
on her visits around the neighborhood.
I also looked after the saddle horse.
At eight years of age I was put to plowing
corn and other field work in general.
Mr. Dingle had but a few
slaves, three men, Edmond, Bill
and Jack. When I was about nine
years old Jack was sold south.
Soon after Ned, as he was called, was
sold to a Dr. Geater in our
neighborhood. In 1861 Bill died
with lung trouble, leaving me the only male
slave, except a brother four years old.
I had three sisters on the place. There were
two other girl slaves.
Dr. Dingle had two daughters and four
sons. The sons had to work on the farm
the same as boys do in Illinois. He
also hired slaves from other farmers.
It was through the influence and assistance
of one of these hired slaves that I ran away
from my owner. The name of this slave was
Ephraim Easley, the uncle of William
Easley, the porter at the Galesburg
Business Men's club of this city.
Ephraim owned a horse which he sold to
the soldiers for $90. He had married
one of the slave girls. On Monday
night, July 14, 1863, he took his wife, one
of my sisters, the other slave girl and
myself and our plow horses and left for the
land of freedom. We left our horses in
the woods near Quincy all night in the rain.
We had ridden the horses (four of them) thus
far and there turned them loose, hoping that
they would find their way back to the farm,
and we learned that they were recovered
about a week later.
We arrived in Galesburg Thursday night, July 17, 1863.
We did not know where we were going to stop.
The bus driver took us to the home of Mr.
Henry Bailey, situated on East
Ferris street on the lot now occupied by the
Swedish Episcopal church. Mr.
Bailey proved to be an old
acquaintance of us all. He had
recently come from Palmyra. I remained there
a week. I worked for a Mr.
Stowell on the Knoxville road for
twenty-five cents a day hoeing corn. I
spent my first free money for a hickory
shirt, as I had but the one I wore on my
back. Shirts were high in those days,
the same could be bought now for twenty-five
cents. I lived a week with Rev.
Henderson, the colored Methodist
minister and then with Dr. Chapman,
who found me a home on a farm with Cyrus
Metcalf, living north of Mr. Chas.
A. Hinckley on Farnham street. I
went there August 7, 1863, and remained
until March 1, 1864, when Mr.
Metcalf moved to Ontario township onto
his brother Michael's farm
where I remained for two years. All
this time I worked for my board and clothes
as I had been disabled the winter of 1863-4
with rheumatism. That winter was a
very severe one, the roads were blocked and
drifted in every direction and my rheumatism
proved to be a very stubborn case for I was
in bad shape for several years.
Nevertheless, the two years spent in Ontario
were exceedingly pleasant and happy ones.
I had been given my first opportunity of
attending the public schools. I was
fourteen years old. Jan. 1, 1865, I
started to the Ontario school. It was
a happy day for me. My mother used to
tell me in slavery that in the north black
children and white would go to the same
school. I could
not realize it until I had seen it. I
nearly mastered three books the first three
months. Three months of schooling a
year were all boys got at that time, yet
they seemed to get about as much out of it
as they do now in nine months or a year.
Clothes was not the question in our
grandfathers' days. High heeled shoes
and peg-leg pants were not known.
Mr. Metcalf moved to Oneida in
the spring of 1866 and I hired out to Wm.
Stephenson for three months.
The remainder of the summer I worked for
Henry Leffingwell at Ontario.
He was a brother of Dr.
Leffingwell of St. Mary's school,
About the middle of August, 1866, I met Mr. S. H.
Ferris who lived in Galesburg. He
owned a farm at Woodhull. I finally
bound myself to him until 1 would be
twenty-one years of age. I was to have
board, clothing, three months' schooling
each year, one dollar a month to buy
collars, ties, take my girl to shows and
buggy riding, and one hundred dollars at the
end of my service. I had to figure
some to make ends meet. When I became
twenty-one I had overdrawn $2.35 of my
monthly dues, so that was taken off of my
hundred dollars. I took a horse
instead of the money. A year later I
sold the horse to a Mr. David
Cutter for $75. I finally had
to take two months' board for pay.
That was living high five years' work for
two months' board. All together I
obtained twenty-two months' schooling,
against nine years' schooling that the
average boy gets today. All of my four
boys received that or more.
I worked nine months for Mr. Ferris after
I was twenty-one. The last of
November, 1871, I went to work for Mr.
superintendent of the "Burlington" at
Galesburg. I worked for him five
years, then went into the grocery store of
Greene & Dore, June 12, 1876. I
remained with that store through five
changes of proprietors, covering a period of
seventeen and one fourth years. From
that house I took up employment with D.
C. Raymond & Son, for whom I have worked
over eighteen years, making over thirty-five
years in the grocery business.
In 1878, June 18th, I was married to Miss
Emily Louisa Alexander,
daughter of Mrs. Melissa
Alexander, a widow, who came from
Palmyra in the fall of 1864. They were
the slaves of Walker Loutham
of Palmyra. Her brothers, Ralph
and John, came with them.
Ralph Alexander was one of the
first mail carriers in Galesburg, appointed
by Hon. Clark E. Carr while he
was postmaster. To our union six
children were born, four sons and two
daughters, Eugene, Estelle,
Lewis, Jr., Eva,
Clarence and Harold. At
this writing all are living and in good
health. The oldest is thirty-two, the
youngest eighteen. We purchased our
home at 186 West South street of Hon. T.
J. Hale in 1881 and are living in the
same house at the present time. I have
always endeavored to lend my influence to
every cause that seemed good to me, and to
work as far as possible for the improvement
of the moral tone of the city, and I am
pleased to add that my wife has always been
an active associate and worker in all
efforts of this kind.
LEWIS C. CARTER
The fact that Mr. Carter has
spent thirty-five years in the grocery
business in this city with but one change in
location is a strong testimonial to his
honesty, ability and courtesy as a salesman
and the writer further states that during
all those years he has been personally
acquainted with Mr. Carter,
has found him all that one could expect from
a young man who has always displayed the
steady perseverance, industry and upright
character revealed in the foregoing
autobiography. That it is not birth or
education alone that makes a man is
conclusively demonstrated by the story of
Mr. Carter's life.