The following article was first published in the ISGS Quarterly, Volume 10, Number 1, p. 1-3, Spring 1978.
THE NEGRO IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, ILLINOIS
Walter R. Sanders, R. 3, Box 180A, Litchfield, Illinois 62056
In the various histories of Montgomery County there is little to be found on the Negro. There are no biographies; there is no mention of when the migration began to filter into the county--it is as if there were no colored population in the area. There is mention made of an eccentric character or two who lived in the county; there is mentioned that slaves were found in the early days of the county.
Therefore, other sources were searched and a few clues brought out areas where more information was found. The 1818 and 1820 Census of Bond County, from which Montgomery County was formed in 1821, show that Montgomery County families had slaves at that time. The same sources for the Census of 1825, 1830, 1840, 1850, etc. also indicate that slaves or free colored persons lived in the county.
One of the earliest written records of the Negro in the county is found in The Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois, by Christina Tilson, written about her life in the county in the 1820 period.
"I used to have black Eda come every week to do my washing, which she would stay and finish up unless she felt 'a hurtin' in her head' of 'mightily like ager,' and then she would leave her clothes in tubs and go 'hum,' the Finishing and cleaning up falling to my share." (p. 110)
In October, 1825, a child was born in the Tilson family, and Mrs. Tilson spoke of "still having old Black Lucy in the kitchen, but she could do nothing out of it. She could cook her three meals and bring them into the dining room and do the family washing. (p. 128). The next year, the October of 1826, I had promised Caleb and Lucy a vacation, or, as the Negroes called it, a 'long broad,' their term for a long visit." (p. 129)
In about 1826 the Tilsons decided to leave Hillsboro for a visit to the East; so they built a home for Caleb and Lucy to live in during their absence of some months. The home for Caleb and Lucy was close to the new Tilson home; the Tilsons left Caleb and Lucy with a barrel of flour, cornmeal, bacon, coffee and sugar sufficient for the six months they would be in the East.
Mrs. Tilson speaks of Caleb as a dangerous fellow when drunk. She then tells that when the state constitution was made, it permitted those who held slaves to retain them as indentured servants, or slaves, with the privilege of selling their indentures to others, or to send them down the river and to sell them for as much as they could get. Their children were to be the property of the masters with whom they were born until they were 18 or 25 years of age, and then they became free Negroes. Caleb and Lucy were the indentured slaves of Robert McLaughlin of Vandalia. The Tilsons often stopped at the hotel of McLaughlin, and Mr. Tilson asked to buy the indentures of Caleb and Lucy. Caleb was getting old and quarreled with the other Negroes. Caleb was sixty years of age, Lucy was thirty, and they still had about twenty-five years to serve. Mr. Tilson thought that he could better their condition and thereby secure Lucy as a cook, so he bought the indentures.
It seems that Lucy was to serve thirty years, and for her Mr. Tilson paid $500. For Caleb's indenture he paid fifty feet of plank from his mill--and so secured a quit-claim to both. Mrs. Tilson closed this episode at this point and nothing is indicated as to what happened to Caleb and Lucy after the Tilson visit to the East.
The 1918 History of Montgomery County, page 680, states, "that in 1823 the county commissioners passed an ordinance imposing a tax on Negroes and mulattoes." (County Commissioners Court Records, p. 18). This item consists of a list of various items to be taxed in the county: horses, cattle, clocks, negroes and mulattoes--tax to be 50¢ for every $100 of value. The article in the history continues:
"It is known that the VOLUNTIES (sic), Martin JONES, Henry HILL, and E. KIRKPATRICK, and perhaps others, owned slaves; at least five in the county being spoken of in some of the early writing."
This statement is partially correct (see 1818 and 1820 Census); for some of the names are. incorrect according to census, others had slaves who were not mentioned in the above statement. Hugh KIRKPATRICK, who lived in Montgomery County around Clear Springs area, had slaves in both 1818 and 1820 census records. From the 1882 Bond-Montgomery County History the following is found: "Hugh KIRKPATRICK had the following slaves registered December 18, 1817: Titus, age 10 years old; Jack age 6; Bob age 5; Haley age 2."
From Deed Book A, page 79, Montgomery County, the following order is recorded: "I, Nicholas HORNER of County of St. Clair, did in month of February 1817 in County of Montgomery, Ohio, emancipate and set free ISAAC, a man of color, then 21 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches who was held to service by me and I do further declare and make known that I am the only person to whom said ISAAC owes service and that I did set him free on the 9th February in said year of 1817;. . . . . Sealed 4th June, 1827 (signed) Nicholas HORNER."
In Montgomery County, Illinois is a marriage: Isaac HORNER, a man of color, married EDAH, a woman of color, March 9, 1829. This is ISAAC above, and EDAH is probably the one spoken of by Mrs. TILSON. ISAAC adopted or took the name of HORNER; he bought land in 1829 in the county; and by 1838 had died. Another marriage record states: EDAH, widow of Isaac HORNER, married Thomas WHITTEN, of color, October 9, 1838, Montgomery County. In one corner of Clear Springs Cemetery, there is a stone: "EDITH, wife of T. J. WHITTEN / Died Aug. 16, 1867 / age about 75 years / This Woman was Colored and Once a Slave."
Another very early source of information which is intriguing and leaves much to be answered concerning the early Negro settlers of the county is the record of the Hurricane * Church, located in the southeastern part of the county. These records begin with a notation of March, 1818, and continue through the years to about 1880, and in various dates mention is made of the Negro, as follows:
"April, 1818 . . . Agreed with men with wives bought over the river to be marryed at Joseph WRIGHTS when he gets Book. . . Agreed to bygone all members of Old Church about black souls. Agreed members to keep old blacks but not condone trading over the river. " (sic)
"Sept. 1818: Letter of Isaac HILL read said Sister CASEY Sister HARRIS Sister WALKER are Quadron born free and wed to their husband by laws of Kentucky. Voted these sisters to be alowed full fellowship and . . . " (sic)
"Nov. 1819. Agreed send letter to Isaac HILL i n Kentucky to tell the new comers not to bring negroes. We will not tolerate slaves in this new settlement or sell wives or keeping bed wenches. . . this is good land favored by God and can make Christian living without the curse of black slavery. We are firm in this matter and ones beleevin in slaves will not be welcom and will be run out." (sic)
Thus the Hurricane Church took a firm stand on slavery, but in the census records for 1818 Levi CASEY is listed as having one slave; in 1820 census Easton WHITTEN had one colored slave; Levi CASEY had one colored slave. In checking census records the following number of Negroes in the county may be obtained:
1818: 8 slaves (one family, Hugh KIRKPATRICK had lands in both Montgomery
and Bond Co.)
1820: 9 slaves
1825: 6 slaves
1830: 10 slaves
1840: 1 male slave; 5 free colored men; 7 free colored women
1850: no slaves listed as such; listed as 10 colored males; 8 colored females.
1855: 31 Negro males; 27 female Negroes; none listed as slaves
1860: 46 males; 52 females; total of 98
1870: census quite dim and most difficult to read; much of county impossible to read
so record is incomplete: 22 males; 20 females
1880: 72 males; 66 females
Through census records previous to 1850 the work of the Negro in the county was found to be either as a house servant, a farm laborer , or farmer. There was no industry of any size in the county previous to 1850. By 1860 many were still farming, but some of the men were barbers in Hillsboro, some were brickmakers, one woman was listed as a servant, another as a washerwoman.
In 1870 farming, farm laborer , and barbering make up the occupations of the Negro; but this must be incomplete because of the dimness of census reel . By the 1880 census farming still predominated, though the men were also engaged in barbering, farm laborers, waiters , work i brickyard, work in a mill , cook in a hotel . The women were found as housewives, washerwoman, general housework, waiter, cook in a hotel.
From this very brief study several points may be indicated. First , no colored family owned much land or was prosperous, none was in business except the barbers. One noticeable point concerning the race is their tendency to be moving constantly. Few Families seem to have put down roots and maintained a permanent residence in the counties; the few who did are the BREWINGTONS, CLAYPOOLS, SEARS. One of their moves concerned an attempt to improve their condition by moving to a country where they would be with people of their same race. A fairly large number of families moved to Haiti , but without exception every family came back to the United States, most of them resettling in Montgomery County. They found conditions much more difficult in Haiti and became dissatisfied with the difficulty in finding work, their housing, and their lack of freedom. So, with the exception of some half dozen families, the Negro must be called a floating population during the period previous to 1880. There was a great amount of intermarriage with people of their own race in adjoining counties.
*See ISGS QUARTERLY I:3, p. 37, VI:3, p. 157 for articles concerning Hurricane Church.
Acknowledgement: A big thank you to ISGS members Howard Manthei and Thomas MacEntee for scanning and transcribing this ISGS Quarterly article.
Source Citation: Walter R. Sanders, "The Negro in Montgomery County, Illinois," Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 1978), 1-3.
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