African - American Life - 1870's - 1880's

The above picture is of Rachel Young, the first black woman to obtain a marriage license in Kentucky.  She worked for years for the family of R. C. Wallace Sr. and buried in the Wallace family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery.
  Photo courtesy of the Kenton County Library.

A glimpse of life for average African - Americans in Northern Kentucky during the 1870's and 1880's
by Jim Reis

Source:  The Kentucky Post - January 18, 1993

Transcribed & Submitted by Nancy Bray, thanks Nancy!

They were not generals, legislators or celebrities.  They were people who lived, loved, worked and died without ever standing in the public spotlight.

Today's history column will relate what life was life for the average African - Americans who lived in Northern Kentucky during the 1870's and 1880's.  The perspective is based on accounts from Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati newspapers of the period.

April 11, 1871 - Samuel Taylor, a colored boy about 9 years old, left his home on Second Street near Scott on Saturday and has not yet returned.  It is feared he has drowned.

April 12, 1871 - William H. Parham, superintendent of the colored schools of Cincinnati, will address the colored people of Covington on Thursday night at the Methodist Church on Madison Street, between Second and Third, on the subject of education.

May 18, 1871 - A picnic for the benefit of the colored Methodist church of Covington will be held in Levassor's Woods on the Licking River about a half mile south of the city.  The steamer champion will leave the foot of Third Street below the Newport and Covington bridge at 10 a.m.  Peter H. Clark and others will make speeches at the picnic.

May 25, 1871 - A man named Bailey, formerly the slave of Col. Depew of Boone County, died recently in the county at the advanced age of 105 years.  He was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

July 14, 1871 - The colored people of Boone County had a barbecue at Walton yesterday, which was largely attended.  Col. W. S. Rankin of this city and others made speeches.

July 20, 1871 - A slander suit was tried yesterday.  The plaintiff was James Hardin and the defendant, Henry Milledon.  Both men are colored, Hardin, a cook at the Central Hotel, accused Milledon of stealing beef steaks.  The court ruled in favor of Milledon and ordered Hardin to pay $50 in damages.  As they left the courthouse, Hardin attacked Milledon, saying if he couldn't get satisfaction in court, he'd take it out of Milledon's hide.  After a short tussle bystanders broke up the fight.  Hardin was brought back into court and fined $1 and court costs, which he paid.

July 28, 1871 - The colored Methodist church on Madison Street near Second will be dedicated on Sunday, August 6.  Dr. Wiley of Cincinnati will preach the dedication sermon.
Meanwhile, the anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves in the West India islands will be  celebrated by the colored people of Covington on Tuesday next, August 1, by a procession through the streets and an excursion to Dickinson's Grove in Clermont County, Ohio, on the steamer Champion No. 7.  Arrangements for the demonstration were completed at a meeting held on Wednesday night at the United States courthouse.

July 31, 1871 -  A number of persons were baptized in the Ohio River at the foot of Greenup Street yesterday afternoon by the pastor of the colored Baptist church on Third Street.

August 2, 1871 - About 400 of our colored population celebrated the anniversary of freedom for slaves in the West India islands with an excursion to Parker's Grove.  Previous to embarking on the boat they marched through the streets with a band of music and a cannon.
Philip Baker, a colored man arrested in this city for shooting with intent to kill another colored man named Marion Sleet in Boone County about three weeks ago had his trial at Florence on Monday.  The court ruled the shooting was self-defense.

August 17, 1871 - The colored Methodists are unable to pay a balance of $1,000, which they owe on their new church building on Madison Street.  They will appeal to the white people of Covington to assist them in the matter.  The Rev. Adam Nunn, church pastor, will call upon our citizens this week for subscriptions.

September 8, 1871 - Miss Isabella Hudson has been appointed teacher of the colored school in Newport.

September 9, 1871 - G. B. Thomas, editor of the Colored Representative at Lexington, addressed a large audience of the colored people of Covington at the United States Courthouse on Thursday night on the subject of education.

October 21, 1871 - A 15 year old colored boy named William Tanner attempted to jump into a freight train while it was passing up Washington Street, Covington, yesterday about noon.  He fell under its wheels and was badly hurt.  Three fingers on his left hand were cut off and he received severe injuries to his head.

December 9, 1871 - Thomas McGeary, a white man indicted for cutting a colored man named Lafayette Ware on Madison Pike last September, pleaded guilty in court yesterday.  His punishment  was fixed at three months in the county jail.

November  29, 1872 - Isaac Black, janitor of the Covington Building, law librarian and an intelligent leader of the colored people of Covington, has applied for admission to the bar.

October 15, 1879 - Rev. H. B. Blackburn of Falmouth has been employed by the white Baptist Church, while at Robinson Station, to preach a year for them.
J. H. Baker, a colored man, shipped last night 1,150 pounds of bones to Cincinnati.  He gathered them up around Falmouth.

October 18, 1879 - Robert Forsen, Falmouth's colored barber, yesterday took a poisonous drug.  He had been to Cincinnati during the election and returned home Thursday evening.  Dr. Barbour is attending him.  His condition is a dangerous one.  He had been drinking freely.

October 27, 1879 - The girl who recently was in Cincinnati had returned home and is attending the colored school in Falmouth.  She said a colored woman from Cincinnati had come to Falmouth and employed her as a nurse.  While in Cincinnati a man attempted to force himself on her, but she screamed.  Unable to find anyone there to protect her, she went to police, who got her help in getting back to Falmouth.

October 30, 1879 - Many people traveled to Millersburg in Bourbon County for the annual colored fair. The most popular event was a night horse ride and a hunting party the next day.

December 1, 1879 - A short time ago a colored man named Martin Hood leased a small parcel of land from Henry Marshal and last Friday completed the erection of a dwelling house upon the same intending to move in with his family the following day.  But while Hood and his family slept some person or persons demolished the building, tearing it down from roof to foundation.  Hood has lived in this vicinity several years and those who have transacted business with him speak of him as a quiet honorable man.

December 9, 1879 - The colored  folks of Falmouth have a festival this week to raise money for the support of their school.  They say if they don't get help in some way their school will be discontinued.  There are about 100 colored children in Falmouth of school age and they draw in the neighborhood of $30 in public money.  So they have to make the supplement by subscription or otherwise.

December 25, 1879 - The colored folks of Falmouth had a Christmas tree of good size and at 9 o'clock they were singing and tieing gifts - such as would drive away hunger and cold.  There were to be seen no toys of any kind on their tree.

December 31, 1879 - An examination of the system of schools for colored students will probably find the matter has not been handled as the law requires.  The law says all taxes from deeds, suits and license from colored people --- minus attorney costs --- should go toward the finding of colored schools.  There are 151 colored male voters in Pendleton County and yet no tax dollars from such taxes, was reported collected during the past year.  Let there be a searching investigation of the subject and learn who is wronged and who has done the wrong.

January 23, 1881 - A small colored child of Frank Warner was badly burned this morning while standing in front of a fireplace in East Falmouth.

March 2, 1881 - Two old colored persons died in Walton during the past week --Henry Utz and Eliza Holden.  Both had been valuable in their day and since their freedom have conducted themselves in a becoming manner.

April 8, 1881 - Yesterday evening while two colored workman were getting out rock on the farm of Nathe Hastman, the ground gave way revealing an opening in the earth, which upon examination was found to be the entrance into a cave.  The men related the facts to others, who procured a lantern and upon going to the spot discovered the cave, the dimensions of it being about 40 feet wide by 80 feet long.  In the cave was found a large quantity of bones, supposed by some to be human bones.

June 19, 1881 - A two year old colored child of John Broadwell of Cynthiana got hold of a box containing about 15 pills and swallowed all but one of them.  The pills were made of morphine and valerian and the child died a few hours later.

June 19, 1881 - Intense excitement was created in Georgetown with the arrival of a telegram stating Will Fowler, a well known colored preacher from Scott County, had died while in Grant County.  Rev. Fowler had been in the community of Mason to preach and had spent the night with his 6 year old son at a nearby house.  The next morning he was found dead in bed.  The cause of death was unknown.  A delegation of friends traveled by train to Mason to bring Rev. Fowler's body back to Georgetown for burial.

January 17, 1882 - Dicky Curry was lodged in the Cynthiana Jail today to await action of the grand jury.  The colored man is accused of burglarizing the Berry Post Office last Saturday morning.

April 15, 1882 - During the spring term of court, Dick Curry and Grant Johnson each got one year in the penitentiary for grand larceny.  Frank Turley, also colored, got one year for hog stealing.

October 17, 1883 - A festival was given by the colored people of Walton last Saturday.  A difficulty arose and Sam Hite endeavored to cut his way through.  Thomas Hoard barred Hite's way, bringing his .38 caliber to bear upon the offender.  The trusty weapon performed its duty.  Hite still lives, but unable to move.

November 20, 1883 - A very serious accident happened in Burlington yesterday.  It seems a 12 year old colored girl was holding an infant near the fireplace, when the girl's dress caught on fire.  When she found her dress was on fire she first ran to lay the baby down on a bed and then ran outside the house.  By then most of her clothes were on fire.  A neighbor saw her and helped put out the fire.  The girl is alive, but severely burned.

Return to "Memory Lane"