Monroe County, Illinois
From Arrowheads to Aerojets
(History of Monroe Co., IL):
When Phillip Renault left France in 1719 with two hundred mechanics and laborers, he stopped at San Domingo and bought five hundred Negro slaves for working the mines of Illinois which were supposed to abound in gold and silver. He founded the village of St. Philippe (St. Phillip) in the southern section of Monroe County. From this point he set out in search of the precious metals. His operation proved a disastrous failure.
By the year 1765, Captain Pitman wrote, the village of St. Philippe had been deserted except for the captain of the militia and about twenty slaves.
The assessment of 1816 for Monroe County shows that there were twenty-two slaves in the county. They were owned by Jacob Trout, Philip Rader, James McRoberts, John Jameson, Joseph Hogan, James B. Moore, George Ramey, each owning one slave; Mary Whiteside, Caldwell Cairnes, R. Mattingley and Shadrach Bond, each owning two; Solomon Shook, owning three; Joseph Beaird, owning four. The owners of the twenty-two slaves had to pay $1 per capita. The horses in 1816 were valued at .50 each. Thus, the slave property was not valued very highly in those days, if the tax per capita should be a criterion, because we may infer that two horses were equivalent in value to a slave.
We add here a short sketch of what the records of Monroe County have to say on the subject: A census of slaves residing in Monroe County was completed on January 30, 1817. The number of slaves reported was small-only thirteen all told. Joseph A. Beaird owned then a couple of blacks, Henry and Annaky, who were "indented" for a short 80 years; both will be "free" on January 30, 1897. James McRoberts' man George was also to be free but the date given was not clear. William Hogan's Negro servant must have been a man of letters, for he went under the name of "Doctor", and was to be free in 1857. He came from Georgia. John Jameson owned a "wench" of royal blood. She was named Dido, after the Queen of Carthage in North Africa. Freedom dawned for her in 1862 when she would be 61 years of age. Her cradle had stood in the blue-grass region of Kentucky. Richard Mattingley had two slaves, Henry and Harry, aged 23 and 20 years respectively; both were to be free when they reached their 54th year of age. R. B. Herring's man Harry was to be free in 1847. James B. Moore owned a family of a mother, two daughters and a son. The latter, enjoying the beautiful and significant name of "Boar," was 13 years old, and was to be free in 1839. Frederick Mason brought a six year old boy, named Hank, from New York, who was to be a free man when 21 years of age.
The taking of servants from Illinois to Missouri could not be done without consent of the servants, to be obtained before the County court, as given here:
ILLINOIS TERRITORY, ) ss.
MONROE COUNTY. )
This is to certify that Page, an indented Negro woman, the property of Henry Levens, personally appeared before the undersigned, one of the judges of the county court for the county aforesaid, and being examined separate and apart from her said master, voluntarily declared that she was willing to go into the Missouri Territory with her present owner.
Given under my hand and seal, this 12th day of July, 1817.
(SEAL) CALDWELL CAIRNS
The manumission of slaves had to be made a matter of record. Among those records is found the following queer entry, to wit:
Be it remembered that on this 18th day of March in the year 1820, Andrew Mitchell, born on the first day of October, 1776, stout and robust, weighing about 240 pounds and produced from under the signature and seal of the clerk of the circuit court of St. Louis a certificate of the following words, viz:
Territory of Missouri, St. Louis.
Know all men by these presents that I, Andrew Mitchell, of the same territory and county of St. Louis, do by these presents, of my own free will and pleasure, emancipate and from this date forever set free from me, my heirs, executors and administrators my "negrow" woman named Nance or Nancy and her four children, to wit, a girl named Lucy, a boy named Charles, a boy named Solomon and a girl named Cordelia, the said negroes to be henceforth forever discharged of all demands of servitude in the same manner they would have been if they had been born free.
In testimony whereof I have set my hand and seal, in the presence of witnesses, this 4th day of October, 1819.
(SEAL) ANDREW MITCHELL
TERRITORY OF MISSOURI, ) ss
COUNTY OF ST. LOUIS, ) Circuit Court Dec. 1819
Be it remembered that on the first day of December personally appeared in open court George Pitzer and Christopher M. Price and being duly sworn upon their oath say that they saw the said Andrew Mitchell sign, seal and acknowledge the same as his own act and deed for the purposes therein mentioned.
Given under my hand and seal at office of St. Louis, Dec. 8, 1819
(SEAL) ARCHIBALD GAMBLE,
The records do not explain, why the above was placed on record in Monroe County. The last "free papers" found in the court house were never made a matter of official record. A small slip of paper, 5 x 8 inches, sets forth the following:
MR. WM OMELVENY
The bearer hereof, Susan Battiste, has been raised by me and has served her time out and is now of age and is entitled to her free papers.
April 22nd 1847. JOHN DIVERS
The United States census of 1840 stated that Monroe County had eleven slaves-two male and nine female. By 1843 according to the county assessment list, slave property had increased in value. Slaves owned by Henry Wademan, A. W. Gardner, Cecelie Beaird, M. T. Horine, S. W. Miles, and A. Eckert were assessed at $1,350.
A QUEER INDICTMENT
Frederick Heidelberger was indicted May 1864, for bringing a Negro slave into the county. The evidence was that Heidelberger, although warned that he was violating the law, had smuggled a Negro slave, who had run away from his master in Mississippi and made his way to St. Louis, from that city to the county. The jury found Heidelberger guilty, and the court judge, Silas L. Bryan, fined him $100 and sentenced him to one hour imprisonment in the county jail. Heidelberger took an appeal, but it does not appear that the case ever came before the Supreme Court. It was lost sight of entirely. The fine and costs are still unpaid. Heidelberger died February 3, 1873, his estate was put under administration, and all his just debts were paid in full.
Stephen W. Miles came to Moredock Precinct, Monroe County, from Madison County, New York. He had one old Negro slave whose name was Fannie. She took care of the children as though they were her own, kept house, did laundry, cooking, etc. When she died, she was buried in the beautiful family vault at Eagle Cliff Cemetery.
One of the Negroes of Moredock Precinct was Rugus Merriman. His father, William Merriman, was a colored man whom Governor Shadrach Bond brought from Maryland. His mother, Abagail Warner, was a slave girl belonging to Judge Shadrach Bond. Rugus Merriman was born in the American Bottom where he spent his lifetime.
John Salathiel Divers brought slaves with him when he came from Baltimore, Maryland about 1822, to settle in Columbia Precinct. He first settled on a farm north-west of Columbia. Later on he lived on property at what is now Whiteside and North Main Streets in Columbia. There was a log house on the property which was used as slave quarters. There Mary Batiste was born in 1837-born into slavery. When little Mary was seven years old, she was sold to Edward Wilson for $100. Mr. Wilson gave the slave, Mary, to his daughter Sarah, when she wed Ananias "Pete" Divers, the son of John S. Divers, in 1844. When slavery was abolished, Mary was given her freedom, but she continued to serve the Wilsons until their children were grown. She was paid eight dollars a month. She then left the Edward Wilsons to marry John Merriman, also colored.
John Merriman's family owned land in the American Bottoms near Merrimac, but John and Mary lived on a farm nearer Columbia, where Gus Mosbacher now lives, Section 29, Township I South, Range 10 West. Later they moved to a small house where Elmer Linneman now has a service station at 1025 N. Main in Columbia. They had one son, John, Jr. Later they moved to Belleville where Mary worked for two Belleville mayors: Mayor Thomas and Mayor Duvall. John, Sr. worked for Colonel William R. Morrison in Washington, D. C. John Merriman, Sr. died in 1900; his widow, Mary Batiste Merriman, died in Belleville in the 1920's. Their son married a girl from Georgia and lived in Belleville. They had no children.
There were four negro families in the Mitchie-Valmeyer area. They were the Materson Breckenridge, the Gabriel King, the Andy Johnson, and the McGee families. Very little is known of the McGee family as they did not stay long in the area.
Materson Breckenridge was a slave of Thomas Jefferson Payne whose home was at the site of the present Theodore Lohkamp home in the Bottom south of Valmeyer. "Matt," as he was affectionately known to his many friends, spent
the first few years of his life during that unfortunate time before slavery was abolished. After the emancipation, he did clearing on the lands of Howard Payne and built his log cabin. In 1871 he was married to Mamie Williams, and to this union were born: Mrs. Charity Delmore, Mrs. Tillie Baker, Materson, Jr., Mrs. Laura Scott, and Miss Mamie. Matt and his family lived where Faygene Rippelmeyer lives today, on the Hardy farm. Breckenridge farmed independently and, with his family, lived in the same manner as any of the other farmers. He is said to have been a very good musician and could play a violin with great skill. He often played in local bands at dances and other public places. His children went to school at Harrisonville. Mamie never married and for a time she lived at Monroe City. When she died, she was buried in the Negro Cemetery at Valmeyer. Tillie married a man named Baker, lived in St. Charles, and came back to visit families who were neighbors to her as a child in Monroe County. Laura married John Scott, a minister from St. Charles. Materson, Jr., better known as Bud, died in Detroit in 1918. Charity had a son named Earl Zompier. She married a white man, John Delmore, and lived in Monroe City for many years. Earl grew up and went to school in the area. After his mother left Monroe City, Earl made his home with Lonnie Byers for a while. Then he lived with the Elmer Miles family for whom he worked for about five years before moving to East St. Louis. There he operated a service station on Piggott Avenue. He married and lived near his business. On August 12, 1941, in an attempt to collect an automobile repair bill from one of his customers, he was shot three times and killed. He is buried in East St. Louis. After Matt and his family moved to St. Charles, Missouri, he lived there only a year or so before he died. He was brought back to Monroe County and was laid out at Steve McCormick's Furniture Store at Valmeyer which was located on the site of the present Henry Niebruegge's garage. The body was buried in the Negro Cemetery at Valmeyer.
Gabriel King lived in the bottom, just south of Valmeyer, along the bluff. He lived in a large log house which had no floor. In the days of slavery, he was a "stud" or "buck" Negro. Slave owners brought their female slaves up to him. He later married and there were eleven children in the family. He farmed for a living, not one farm, but fields at various places. At the time he lived, the road went right by the bluff, between his house and the bluff, on the Maher land. Later the old log house was torn down and a cabin, the remains still stand, was built in which Gabriel's son, Matt King, lived. Another of Gabriel's sons, John, was a minister in Missouri. John died about 1912 and was brought back and buried in the Negro Cemetery at Valmeyer.
years ago Peter Woll befriended a little Negro boy, Andy Johnson, at Ivy
Landing and took him to his home. He and his wife reared the child and
he made his home with them for years. He learned to speak German and
mingled with the white children and later with the young people of the
area at socials and country dances. He lived with the Woll family until
he was married. He married one of Gabriel King's daughters and lived in
the Valmeyer area where his children went to school. The Wolls lived, at
that time, where Albert and Emma Altes live today.
of Randolph, Monroe and Perry Counties, Illinois, Philadelphia,
McDonough and Co., 1883.
of Materson Breckenridge"
Department Files, East St. Louis, Illinois
Submitted by Janet Flynn
Black Families of Monroe County