of the early black history of Monroe City can be located
only through stories that have been handed down by word of
mouth from one person to another.
a story is one concerning the early life of Ace Donell, the
late father of Marie Donell, both of Monroe City. Marie
recalled the story that was told to
her by her mother.
Donell, at the age of 45, was one of the slaves belonging to
a Kentucky family named Judy during the Civil War. Most of
the Judys were extremely good to their slaves, but Willis’
son, Ace, had the misfortune at the age of eight to be
farmed out to Mrs.
Clementine Judy, who did not share the kindness of the rest
of the family.
small boy suffered many indignities at the hands of Mrs.
Judy, including being fed on the floor with dogs and cats.
Among his many hard tasks was carrying buckets of water to
fill all the barrels on the farm.
day, while Ace was at that job, two Yankee soldiers rode up.
The Union soldiers were called Redcoats in that area because
of the uniforms they wore.
Redcoats asked the small boy his name and what he was doing.
He told them of the mistreatment he had received, and they
offered to take him back to camp to be their water boy.
soldiers promised Ace that under no circumstances would they
turn him back to his mistress. Although she went to camp and
tried to force
him back, the Yankees protected him and kept him there until
the war was over.
the battles ceased and the slaves were freed, Willis went
after his son. Both of them as free men returned to the Judy
family who had been kind to
them. Along with the Judys, the Negro family then moved to
Missouri by wagon train.
grew up near Florida, Missouri and eventually purchased his
own 80 acre farm. He also bought the land where the Head
Start Center now stands, and other property west of the
married and had five children by his first wife. After she
died, he married again, and his second wife, Carrie
Mitchell, was the mother of Miss Donell and Ace Jr., who is
deceased. There were also three other children.
Sr. loved to play the violin, Miss Donell said, and often
played while she and her younger brother, Eddie, tap-danced
in front of Hawkins Grocery when they were small. “People
would throw money at us,” Miss Donell recalled,” and
sometimes we would make a whole fistful of money in one
was eight when her father died. The step-children encouraged
her mother to divide the young children among them, but
Carrie Donell was determined to keep the children and took
in wash to support the family.
“He never talked to me about the times when he was a
slave,” Miss Donell said. But his wife, Miss Donell’s
mother, handed down and kept alive his story of life as a