The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society

The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society

"The connection to yesterday"



Slave masters who were fathers of enslaved children sometimes felt responsible for their mulatto offspring. Many freed them and purchased land for them in a free state. A highly populated valley, bordering the Greenville Creek, which extended from Southwest Ohio to Southeast and portions of Central Indiana saw an influx of African Americans prior to the Civil War (1840s to 1860s). However many found living conditions unbearable because of racial hostility and over crowdedness and they instead followed their former Quaker neighbors to portions of Southwest Michigan.

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Dorothy Butler

Dorothy_Butler: Photo courtesy of WMU Archives and Regional History Center,Kalamazoo, MIAn important stop on the Underground Railroad in Kalamazoo County was in Schoolcraft at the home of Nathan Thomas, an active abolitionist and stationmaster on the UGRR. The Schoolcraft station saw a great deal of activity during the decade of the 1840s, but because of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the numbers of fugitives passing through between the years 1850 and 1860 decreased dramatically. This law authorized a slave holder to reclaim any escaped slave who might have traveled north. Anyone witnessing the attempted capture of a fugitive was commanded as a “good citizen” to aid and assist in the execution of the law, so it was much more dangerous to attempt escape at this time. Nathan Thomas's daughter, Ella, in her account of the Underground Railroad, only remembers four persons passing through the Schoolcraft station during the decade between 1850 and 1860. One of those four was Dorothy Butler who escaped from Kentucky at about the age of seven with her mother, Nellie, and older sister Sophie. The three women were brought to the Thomas house by a Colonel Wheeler. Dorothy and her mother were then placed with the family of Delamore Duncan, president of the Schoolcraft and Three Rivers Railroad Company, who was known to take part in Underground Railroad activities. Sophie, the fifteen year old, was sent to live with Jeanette Brown, a sister of Parmela Duncan, who lived on a farm a few miles west. The small family went on to spend most of their lives in Kalamazoo County.

As described as an adult, Dorothy Butler was a “tall spare woman with a sallow complexion and blond kinky hair, a brisk manner, and a hearty laugh.” She lived in Kalamazoo most of her adult life, was employed as a housekeeper “in some of the fine homes,” and was considered a marvelous cook. Judging from information found in the 1880 census, Dorothy and Nellie must have spent some time living with Sophie and her husband, George Bass, in Decatur. George is shown to have served in the Colored Infantry, Company 1 during the Civil War.

Dorothy, or Dolly as she was sometimes called, appears in the census records of 1910 as working in the home of Albert and Dora Gates, residents of South Street in Kalamazoo. Gates was president of C.H. Dutton. an engine manufacturing company.

Source: “The Underground Railroad” – Schoolcraft, Michigan by Ella Thomas, Kalamazoo Gazette, January 4, 1932. Photo from the Archives and Regional History Collection of Western Michigan University.

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The Kentucky Raid

In August of 1847, forty slave owners came into Battle Creek in search of fugitives. Led by Erastus Hussey. the Underground Railroad stationmaster for Battle Creek, angry townspeople drove them out of town. Undeterred, the Kentuckians temporarily retreated to northern Indiana to regroup but then staged a full-scale raid in Cass County. They knew it was the site of a Quaker settlement where many had fled when they escaped enslavement. Catching the community unprepared, they surrounded the cabins and captured nearly all of the fugitives who had taken refuge in that section.

When they came to door of the slave cabin where two of the escapees were sleeping in the attic and demanded entry one of them recognized the voice of one of the slave owners. The runaways put up a fight and one of them managed to escape through the roof of the cabin. He alerted Steven Bogue, the Quaker who owned the farm. Bogue drove into Cassopolis to get help.

Although many of the fugitives were captured, they managed to hold the slave catchers off until Stephen Bogue returned from Cassopolis with a group of 40 men. The slave catchers were charged with destruction of property and breaking and entering and they were all taken to jail, along with the fugitives they had captured. The trial lasted several weeks, but the verdict was finally given that colored men were not property in Michigan! Curiously, during the days of the trial the jailed fugitives kept mysteriously disappearing between the courthouse and the jail until they were all gone! The slave owners ended up returning home disgusted failures.

After this incident some of the fugitives moved on and settled in Battle Creek. Battle Creek settlers included Thomas Henderson, William Casey, Perry Sanford, and Jo Skipworth. They had been aided by Erastus Hussey in their escape. Free blacks migrating into the Battle Creek area included Henry Y. Clark, the Lewis Jackson family, Hannibal Chase, Henry Lewis, Eliza Grayson, and the John F. Evans family.

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Perry Sanford

Perry-Sanford - Photo from the Martich Collection, Willard Library, Battle Creek, MI Perry Sanford was one of the many who escaped enslavement and reached southwest Michigan through the Underground Railroad. He was born in Greenup County, Kentucky. He was one of the fugitives who survived the Kentucky Raid in Cass County. He eventually settled in Battle Creek and worked at threshing machine companies there for over 35 years. He was active in the Strauther Lodge of the Colored Masons and highly respected in the community. He died childless at over 80 years of age in November of 1905.

Source: Martich Collection, Willard Library, Battle Creek, MI
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“Uncle Joe” Skipworth

Home of Uncle Joe Skipworth from the Martich Collection, Battle Creek, MI. Not much is known about Joseph Skipworth. It seems that he was well–liked in the community and was known as “Uncle” Joe. He resided at 64 Pittee Street, pictured here. Carrie, his youngest daughter, died at 15 in 1880. His wife, Emeline, was born in Camel County, Kentucky in 1827 and died in 1887 at 60 years old. He had three other daughters. He died in Battle Creek in 1881.

Source: The Martich Collection, Willard Library, Battle Creek
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Early African American Families

Among the free blacks migrating to Kalamazoo County were the Enoch Harris, Phillips, Fraser, Powell, Stafford, Peake, Robbins, and MacDonald families.
From 1861 to 1872 a school exclusively for black children was maintained in a building at North and Walbridge Streets. Included among the students were two adult former slaves who learned to read and write. After 1872, that school was integrated with other schools in Kalamazoo.
Gazette, Sunday, July 4, 1976

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John-J-Evans John J. Evans.The son of a slave and the plantation master who came North with his family and eventually settled in Battle Creek and became one of its leading citizens.

John J. Evans, a native of Cherokee, Georgia was a resident at 463 Maple Street in Battle Creek. He came to Michigan in 1845. His father was a white planter in Georgia and his mother a slave. When the Georgia legislature adopted a law expelling all free blacks from the state, his father brought John and his mother with four other children north to Indiana, where they lived until1846 when his father died. John came to Battle Creek and began working as a barber in an old wooden building with only one borrowed barber chair without a cushion or a footstool. He eventually owned a flourishing business, employing six other barbers as assistants. He also invented and manufactured an insect repellent, the “ Kill 'em Quick” Roach Destroyer. He was called the Booker T. Washington of Michigan. He was a delegate for the Colored Masonic Lodge convention in 1874 and attended the National Republican Convention as a delegate in 1892 and was vice president of the Young Men's Republican Club in 1904. He was also a Knight Templar. He was appointed a state representative to the world's fair in New Orleans. He died September 13, 1915 at Marshall, MI.

Source: The Martich Collection, Willard Library, Battle Creek

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Enoch and Deborah Harris

Enoch-and-Deborah-Harris (6K) Enoch Harris born November 15, 1784. His wife Deborah was born May 1, 1793. (Kalamazoo Telegraph, March 20, 1870.) If not the first, then among the first settlers in Oshtemo township and the first African American farmer in Kalamazoo County. The Harrises came to Kalamazoo from Marion County, Ohio in 1830-1831. Enoch Harris was the first man to turn a furrow for the cultivation of the ground in Kalamazoo County. They traveled in wagons bringing the family and farming tools. They settled first on an 80-acre farm where the village of Schoolcraft is now located. Several years later they moved to what is now Oshtemo township and assumed 40 acres of land that was passed on to his son Charles.

Enoch Harris's mother is thought to have been a slave and his father is reputed to have been someone who held a very high office in the U.S. government (according to oral history).
Enoch shot deer and bear on his own farm. The family established relationships with the Indians and never had serious troubles with them. At this time Kalamazoo was a village called Bronson and only five houses had been erected. Enoch dug the first grave in what is now Oshtemo township cemetery, the oldest burying ground in the county. He is also said to have assisted in the Underground Railroad.
Charles Harris, Enoch's son had been born in 1825. Charles never married and his sister kept house for him.
Kalamazoo Morning Gazette, Sunday, December 21, 1902

By June 20 of 1831 he had purchased land on Genesee Prairie in Sections 35 and 36 of Oshtemo township. It has been stated by such early residents as George Torrey, newspaper editor, and Ira Smith whose reminiscences can be found in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections of 1891, and the first history of Kalamazoo County published in 1869 that Harris brought apple seed with him which he raised in his orchard, the oldest in the county. In 1850 the Harris farm was valued at $4,000 (about $105,186 in today's money) in 1860 the farm was valued at $8,000 (about $197,491 in today's money).

Harris's daughter Louisa's marriage to Henry Powers in 1836 was the first recorded in the township. She was born December 20, 1815.

Enoch Harris died on March 21, 1870 at the age of 85. He is buried in the Genesee Prairie cemetery alongside his wife, Deborah who died on May 2, 1881. He is listed as having been born in Virgina, his wife in Pennsylvania. In his obituary, he is said to have been raised in Pennsylvania. According to the 1850 census one son was born to them in Ohio and 3 other children in Michigan. Mary Ann was born in Marion County, Ohio (?) 1828. She married Charles Hardimon in 1854. He died five years later. They had two children, Louisa and Enoch.

Enoch Harris and his wife moved to Ohio in the spring of 1814. They had been married in 1812 in Pennsylvania. He had been the first to erect a log cabin in South Bloomfield Township, Ohio. After five years they simply vanished from the area. Where they were between the time they left South Bloomfield and when they arrived in Kalamazoo County is not known.

At the time of his death, Enoch Harris left the following descendents: Deborah, his wife: children, Benjamin F., Charles E., Louisa Powers, Marinda G. Brown, and Mary Ann. Only five of 10 known children survived him. Four of the children passed before the parents – Zenas (1845) at 19, Daniel (1846) at 27, Sarah Ann (1850) at 18, Irad (1851) at 38. Three children had been buried in Ohio – Larina, Myran, and Enoch C.
"Enoch Harris - Negro Pioneer," Alexis Praus, Michigan Heritage, Winter 1960.

Source: Harris-Roberts family

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Virginia-and-Wesley-Phillip Photo from The Search for Freejoe

Virginia Harris Phillips

Her parents moved to Tennessee, 20 miles east of Memphis in Shelby County and remained there for the balance of their lives. When Virginia was a schoolgirl, her father sent her to Hanover, Indiana to school. While there, she met Wesley Phillips, and on Thursday, November 15, 1849, they were married. On Tuesday, September 2, 1862, Wesley and Virginia moved from Jenning County, Vernon, Indiana to Michigan and bought a farm seven miles west of Kalamazoo on West Main Street. Virginia died at home on Sunday, June 2, 1878 at 45 years old. Her funeral was held Tuesday, June 4, 1878 at home.


Wesley Phillips

Moved to Jennings County, Indiana when he was a boy. Not much is known about his father. His mother's name was Nancy Phillips and he had an older brother named Henry Phillips. On Tuesday, September 2, 1862, he and Virginia moved from Jennings County, Vernon, Indiana to Kalamazoo and bought a farm seven miles west of Kalamazoo on West Main street and lived there until his death. He died Tuesday evening, September 25, 1894 at 65 years old of bronchial consumption. Funeral services were held on Thursday, September 27, 1894 at West Oshtemo Church with Reverend Johnson of the First Baptist Church of Kalamazoo officiating. Professor George Whealens quartet furnished the music. He was buried in the Hill Cemetery in Oshtemo Township.

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William F. McDonald

Husband of Marsha Maria Phillips and father of Dolly McDonald. Carpenter and builder, a coachman for the Standard Oil Company, a member of the Allen Chapel A.M.E. church for more than 50 years and real estate broker. Also worked with wood and metal. Appreciated good horses. Died in 1947 and is buried in the Hill Cemetery in Oshtemo Township, Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo, MI.

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Dolly Abigail McDonald Brown Davis

Dolly-Brown-Davis Photo from The Search for Freejoe The family moved to Kalamazoo when Dolly was going into kindergarten and settled on 40 acres on West Main. Before her death in 1997, she was recognized as one of Kalamazoo's oldest native residents and can be seen as a woman who continued the tradition of hard work and industry initiated by those who came before her.

She attended Central High School where she participated in the graduation ceremony but did not receive a diploma because she lacked the physical education credit. Her mother would not allow her to participate in gym classes. She was awarded a high school diploma in 1991, however, after the Board of Education waived a physical education requirement.

Dolly was married twice. She married her first husband, Richard Brown in 1920 when she was 21. He was much older than she. Her second husband was Neil Davis, Sr. She had three children by her first husband - Betty, Richard, and Martha. Her daughter, Betty, was a librarian for 35 years. Her daughter, Martha, was the first black to graduate from the State High, the Western Michigan University high school, and became one of the first blacks to work at Bell Telephone in the early '50s. After Bell, she worked in the diet kitchen at Bronson, then in the office for Lear Siegler.

Dolly's mother had been a dressmaker with an interest in real estate and she followed in her mother's footsteps. She became a dressmaker and owned a great deal of real estate. She worked as a costume mistress at the Civic Theatre, and did custom sewing at Gilmore Brothers Department Store. She owned Brown's Tailor Shop at 703 N. Westnedge and sewed for many of the prominent people in Kalamazoo. At one time she made 125 outfits for a singing group from Western. She became a licensed real estate broker in 1977 and owned a large segment of property on West Main. She owned the house where the Carousel is presently located. It was purchased in 1909 for $2500. She purchased the entire corner for $1,000. At one time, she owned property that went to the corner of Arlington and three houses around on Arlington.

Dolly shared her expertise in dressmaking by helping women at Douglass Community Center who wanted to learn to sew. For about three years she and her daughter Betty would go on Thursday afternoons and teach them to make simple things like aprons and kimono dresses. She also belonged to a study club of about or 10 or 12 people who met once a month in each other's homes. They reviewed books, usually ones written by African Americans. Often articles from The Chicago Defender or the Detroit papers provided the topic of discussion.

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Gilmore L. Phillips.

He resided in Oshtemo until 1880, when he came to Kalamazoo to attend classes at Parsons Business School. At the time he was employed as a shipping clerk at Desenberg Wholesale Grocery during the day. He later began a life-long career in banks at the old City National Bank at Burdick and Main streets. He acquired the position of guard in charge of the safety deposit vaults. He was manager of Phillips Brothers Orchestra, played the violin, and assisted in choir work at the Second Baptist Church. He married Dean Proctor in 1887. Mr Phillips died of a stroke at his home in 1938 after a long illness. He was 75 years old. Funeral services were held at the Truesdale Chapel with Elder Clarence E. Deal officiating. Burial was at Riverside Cemetery.

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Joseph F. Phillips.

He was a cement block contractor in Kalamazoo and served as caretaker for Senator Stockbridge's home in his later years. He conducted the church choir for many years and played the violin. He was married to Mary E. Burton. Joseph Phillips died Monday, March 21, 1921 of stomach and heart trouble at age 71. The funeral was held Wednesday, March 23, 1921 at Truesdale Chapel and officiated by Reverend Lyons of Wabash, Indiana. The Green brothers furnished the music and burial was at Riverside Cemetery.

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Joshua W. Phillips.

He was a life–long barber at Michigan State Hospital. He also played the violin. He was married to Martha C. Wilson. He died on Sunday, May 2, 1937 of stomach troubles at Bronson Hospital at the age of 84. The funeral was held at Truesdale Chapel with the elder, C.E. Deal officiating. The burial was at Riverside Cemetery.

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Laura Phillips Fraiser.

She married Andrew William Fraiser, farmer. She was the mother of two sons and one daughter. She died in 1947. Place of burial is unknown. Her husband, William, died Tuesday, October 23, 1923 of stomach trouble.

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Martha Maria Phillips McDonald.

She was a dressmaker with an interest in real estate. She married William Franklin McDonald. She was the mother of Dolly McDonald Brown Davis. She was born Thursday, January 15, 1857. She died June 15, 1951 and is buried in the Hill Cemetery in Oshtemo Township.

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Sylvester Crayton Phillips.

He was a carpenter in Kalamazoo. He played the bass violin and was a singer. His favorite song was "Sleeper in the Down." He died Monday, August 18, 1919 of heart trouble. The funeral services were Wednesday, August 20, 1919 at Truesdale Chapel, officiated over by Reverend Lyons of Wabash, Indiana. His wife, Katherine, died of consumption on Friday, February 3, 1899.

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Fannie Phillips White.

She married Albert White, contractor, July 20, 1887. They had two sons and one daughter. Albert and Fannie owned a considerable amount of property in Kalamazoo, and the City Directory shows Fannie White as the owner of five acres in Oshtemo. Often people coming through town would stay in their home, as hotels were not open to African Americans. They had a formal parlor that was "off-limits" to the children, except for special readings or special occasions. Fannie was an excellent cook and the ministers loved staying there. An article in the book, The Progression of the Race, published in 1907, states, “His wife is highly esteemed by the white people, being a member of the Civic Improvement League, a strong organization of noted white ladies of the city. She is entertained in some of the best homes. No color is known to her family.”

She used that organization and other civic mainstream organizations to gather food and clothing baskets for people less fortunate than herself. She was an active member of the Women's Temperance Society and church beneficent organizations, vice-president of the Colored Baptist Women's Convention, a trustee of the Nannie Burs Girl School in Washington, D.C., and a charter member of the Needlework Guild of America (where she displayed her crochet work).

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Albert White

Albert-White Photo courtesy of Annette Taborn Albert White was born February 6, 1861 in Canton, Indiana to parents who had walked there from South Carolina . The family moved to Russiaville, Indiana when Albert was five. His father died soon after, and to alleviate the burden of four children, Albert's mother placed him with a farmer with whom he stayed and worked until he was fifteen. In 1876, at fifteen, he came to Michigan and worked on another farm for a year. He then settled in Kalamazoo and began working for a mason whom he convinced to teach him the trade if he agreed to work for nothing for several months. He apprenticed for seven years and then worked as a journeyman for two years. At that point he went into business for himself, employing both blacks and whites. Among the buildings he constructed were the Hawthorn Paper Mill, Riverview Paper Mills, Original Vegetable Parchment Mill, Illinois Envelope Factory, the Jewish Synagogue, Charles Clarage's Foundry and Machine Shop, part of Bryant's Paper Mill, two additions to the Kalamazoo Paper Mill, part of Nazareth Academy, St. Anthony's Home in Comstock, the high school at Plainwell, and four businesses in Hastings. Several of White's buildings can be seen in the book by local historians, Lynn Houghton and Pamela O'Connor, Kalamazoo Lost and Found, which documents many of the city's historic buildings

White and his wife Fannie resided at 421 West Ransom. He was a deacon at the Second Baptist Church for 30 years and a prominent member of the community. His biography and photographs of several of his buildings appear in the Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress. He is also listed in the book as an exhibitor of photographs at the National Half Century Exposition in Chicago in 1915. White died in 1930 at the age of 69.

Sources for the Phillips Family History: Phillips family record, Jeannette Taborn, 1995, and The Search for Freejoe by Ernest Edward Lacey.

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The Hackleys

Calvin-and-Lydia-Hackey Photos courtesy of Valerie Hackley Osborne The Hackley forbearer, the Reverend John William Hackley, had been a Baptist minister and a slave on the Virginia farm of John Hackley, husband to the first cousin of George Washington's mother. Reverend Hackley (Billy) became a carpenter and preacher, and had nine girls and seven boys. He and his family were freed circa 1830s and migrated to Ohio, then later to Niles, Michigan. His children became early settlers in southwest Michigan.

The Hackleys second son, John, became a barber and opened a shop in Battle Creek. He married Susan Belmore and their son, Edwin, born in 1859, became the first African American lawyer admitted to the bar in Denver, Colorado. His wife, Azalia Smith Hackely, was a well-known opera singer and social activist who believed that African American music could be used as a tool for social change. A memorial collection of her creative works has been on display at the Detroit Public Library since 1943.

Both their youngest son, Jerome, born in 1849 in Niles, Michigan, and his son, Bert, born in 1880 in Paw Paw, became barbers. Bert owned and operated a shop in Kalamazoo and lived at 1702 North Burdick with his wife, Della Smith, whom he married in 1901. Bert's oldest son, Donald, became a barber as well, but Donald's son Arthur and daughter Donna Hackley Powell became doctors. Donna was the first African American woman to become chief of medicine at the Battle Creek Veteran's Administration Hospital (1957–1983).

Donald's middle son Charles became an Income Tax Accountant and Mortgage Broker in Fort Wayne, IN. His son Eric, also from Fort Wayne carries on the family genealogical documentation tradition and curiosity.

Reverend Hackley's fourth son, Calvin, was the great grandfather of Valerie Hackley Osborn, presently a librarian with the Kalamazoo Public Library. Calvin was born in 1836 in Virginia and was raised in Niles. He served in the 13th United States Colored Infantry. His brothers, Asbery and Marcelus, served in the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry. Calvin and his wife, Lydia Ann, were farmers in Niles where they raised six children. Calvin and his second wife, Ann, moved to Kalamazoo in the late 1880s and he became a pony express man. They lived at 715 Michigan Avenue.

Travis Hackley, Calvin's youngest son, was a farmer in Lawton, Michigan. He married Frances King, the daughter of Alfred and Mary King, early pioneers in Paw Paw. Travis and Frances had nine children. Their youngest son, Valentine, was one of the first African Americans in Kalamazoo to establish his own janitorial service. He married Edith Conner, the great granddaughter of William Bright Conner, one of the first African Americans to settle in Covert, Michigan in 1866. Calvin and Edith's grandson (son of Harold Walden and Peggy Hackley Walden), Narada Michael Walden, produced albums for Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Jefferson Starship. He received the 1988 Grammy for Best Producer of the year.

Information provided by Valerie Hackley Osborne.

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The Kerseys

Elisha Kersey was married to Mary Phillips in Jennings County, Indiana. On the 1850 census they are shown to have 5 children - Caroline (8 years), Julia (6 years), Anthony (5 years), John (3 years), and Solon (1 year). The 1860 census shows the family in Kalamazoo with three more children - Ephraim (10 years), James (7 years), and Mary (5 years). The Kalamazoo City Directory for 1867-1868 lists the following Kerseys - Edward, a porter, living at Kalamazoo House; Edward F. Kersey, a laborer, boarding at 193 Kalamazoo Avenue, Ephraim, a porter, living at Kalamazoo House, Isaiah, a laborer, boarding at 193 Kalamazoo Avenue, and Mary, a homemaker, living at 18 Porter. Edward, Ephriam and Isaiah, this time listed as a mason, are all shown in the 1869-1870 directory.

Terrence Vick is searching for more information on Mary Phillips Kersey and Epraim Kersey in Kalamazoo. If you are able to assist him, he can be reached at .

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Calvin Sanders

Calvin Sanders Calvin Sanders, b.1848 d. 1926. His father, Levi, was one of four brothers and their families who traveled to Michigan as part of the group of slaves who had been emancipated in 1850 after the death of Sampson Sanders of Cabell Co. West Virginia. Calvin was two years old when he and his parents, Levi, and Jane came to Porter Township, Cass County Michigan. (Levi, Jason, Montique and Solomon) Sampson Sanders had provided them with freedom, forty acres of land, and a farm animal for their settlement in a free state. The Sanders' forty acres of fertile land was full of trees and with very hard work they cleared a small plot for a log house and farming. They found the harsh Michigan winters to be much different than the cool nights in West Virginia, but through prayer and help from family and friends, the Sanders maintained a presence in Cass County and the surrounding area for many years. Information provided by Maurice Sanders who has been involved in Sanders genealogy since 1970. He has collected many photos, letters, oral histories and artifacts. His book Descendents of Allen-Sanders (1985), documents the family history in stories and pictures. Maurice is Calvin Sanders's great grandson. For additional information on the Sanders descendents, you may contact
Maurice W. Sanders, at

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Jeremiah-Stafford Photo courtesy of Gwen Tulk Jeremiah Stafford, Sr. was born in 1794 in North Carolina and moved to Clyde Township, Allegan County from Randolph County, Indiana. He and his wife Annie and their children settled in 1850 on forty acres of government land. He later purchased forty more acres, although farming was not his true interest. He spent his time mainly in hunting and in the manufacture of hand-made shingles. He had followed the trade of cooper for more than twenty years in Indiana.

Jeremiah, Jr. was born in North Carolina in 1815. He and his wife Annie had fourteen children – George, Martin, Charity, Jeremiah, Jason, Lydia, Anna, Henry, Harriet, John, Rufus, Sarah, Abraham, and Lucy. Martin distinguished himself by being elected to the offices of drain commissioner and highway commissioner. He was a member and deacon of the Free Will Baptist Church and a Sunday school superintendent as well. He owned a hundred-acre farm. He died November 20, 1874

The third Jeremiah Stafford served in the Civil War as a member of the 102nd United States Colored Troops. He was born on March 18, 1849 in North Carolina and his wife Mary was born November 1, 1857, probably in Tennessee. He was known as the "Indian Doctor" because, having learned various herbal remedies from Native Americans, he traveled from house to house administering to the sick. It is not known whether he ever had formal medical training. Jeremiah died July 17, 1890 and Mary died May 28, 1928.

Jeremiah, the third's children were Jessie, a farmer, Anna, a registered nurse, Lucy, a housewife, Haywood who fought in the Spanish American war, Louis, and Rita (Writa), a housewife. Lucy was the mother of Gwen Tulk, who now lives in Kalamazoo and has acted as the family historian. Her mother, Lucy, was the youngest of Jeremiah Stafford's children. She attended school in Paw Paw and after her father's death she lived in Grand Rapids with her sister, Anna. After her marriage to Oliver Oscar Russell, she moved to Almena, where Oliver farmed and worked at the grist mill. The family later moved to Grand Rapids where Oliver worked at Steelcase, but due to the poor health of Gwen's sister, Wanda, the family had to return to Almena, and then to Mattawan where Oliver worked at the feed mill.

Source: Stafford Family History

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The Ampeys

James Ampey, born circa 1793 in Richmond, Virginia worked as an overseer on the farm of George Mendenhall. He married Dicey Haithcock, born 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1823. It is possible Dicey might have been the natural daughter of a plantation owner (Haithcock or Heathcock).They married when James was thirty and Dicey was fifteen. Shortly after their marriage, t hey moved to the Mendenhall plantation near Greensboro, North Carolina, where they had 3 children - William, born in 1826;

eliza_ampey_fergurson Eliza Isabelle, born in 1825;
mary_ampey (17K) and Mary Anna, born in 1829.

In 1829, George Mendenhall awarded James and Dicey their freedom and money and told them to go to Indiana where his uncle, Isaac Gardner, would help them. (The original of those freedom papers is on loan to the Indiana State Museum). They went to Indiana with one horse, a wagon, all of their possessions, traveling over 700 miles with their three children (all under 5 years old) in a wagon. Although they were free blacks, they were still subject to slave hunters seeking money for their capture. William, aged 3, died from Tick fever and was buried along the Ohio River. The family possibly traveled up through Virginia to Kentucky, possibly crossing the Ohio River into Ripley, Ohio. From there they traveled to Darke County, Ohio and then on to Fountain City, Indiana (Wayne County).

Isaac Gardner was contacted in 1830. They lived in Randolph County for some time and finally Levi Coffin deeded 4 acres on a land contract from 1839-1853. The Ampeys have the original document. The property was located a mile northeast of Newport (now Fountain City), New Garden Township, Wayne County, Indiana.

James and Dicey had a total of 13 children. The last was born in 1849. James went back to Ohio at some point and never returned. He possibly went to help others and was killed or captured.

George was a private in Company B, 28th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, Indiana Volunteers. He enlisted December 23, 1863 and was discharged in March of 1866.

The Civil War

In 1863, four of James's sons volunteered and served in the Civil War:

george_ampey George

and John served in the 28th Indiana Colored Volunteers. They fought in several battles in Petersburg, Virginia.

isom_ampey Isom Puckett and Thomas joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Thomas was killed in action at Morris Island (Fort Wayne, North Carolina).

After the War

In 1866, George bought land in Lawrence, Michigan (Van Buren County). Circa 1868, Isom bought 120 acres in Gobleville (now Gobles), Michigan (Van Buren County). John bought a farm in Cassopolis, Cass County. He had three children. He died January 30, 1918 in Paw Paw Township, Michigan at 73 years of age. Sarah Ampey came to Lawrence, Michigan in the spring of 1866 to live with Isom. Isom married Mary Combo on May 9, 1866. Most probably Sarah married soon after, possibly in 1867.

Sarah,_Georges_sister-sized (2K) Sarah, George's sister

Mary_Combo_Ampey_-_wife_of_ (2K) Mary Combo Ampey - wife fo Isom

isom_ampey_family Isom had nine children.

george_ampey_eliza_worrix George married Eliza Worrix and they had four children.

william_adah_ampey One of their children was William Ampey who was born, April 28, 1884 in Lawrence Township, Michigan. He attended Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Michigan and graduated circa 1902. He went on to take a short agricultural course at Michigan Agriculture College, now Michigan State University from 1905-1906. Three years later, he married Adah PansyRussell with whom he had three children.

William began his career in farming in 1907 when he bought his first parcel of farm land. The soil on this land was ideal for raising mint and he used the mint still that was located on the property to process the crop. He had great success with raising mint, but William did not content himself with this ordinary brand of farming. He had a strong creative and inventive streak. One of the things he liked to do was graft one kind of tree on to another, so that on his farm you might find a tree that grew apples on one side and pears on the other. He also liked to create better ways of doing things. When there was no electricity for their home, he devised a way to transform a hand pump into an electric pump.

william_ampey_home By 1910 William was able to purchase additional land and outbuildings and the house on this property became the family home until his death in 1980. The house, located on Paw Paw Road in Paw Paw, Michigan, remains in the family and is now occupied by his great granddaughter.

Other Ampey farms still in the family include Isom's in Gobles, purchased in 1868; George's son Elton Ampey's in Paw Paw, purchased in 1908; and Carl Ampey's, John's grandson, in Cass County, purchased in 1910.

Information and photographs from the Ampey family records compiled by Tom and Dortha Ampey and preserved by Sherman Ampey.

tom_ampey dorth_ampey (25K)

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The Wilson Family

Lottie-Wilson Lottie Wilson was born in Niles, Michigan in 1854. She painted a rendition of the famous picture of Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth with the same Bible President Obama used to be sworn into office. Her painting was taken from a photograph taken from the painting by the original artist, Frank C. Courter. Courter's painting was shown at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. It was then taken to Battle Creek and hung in the old Battle Creek Sanitarium. When the Sanitarium burned to the ground in 1902, the painting was lost. Fortunately, a local painter named Frank Perry had taken the photograph of the canvas and copies of his photograph could be purchased by the public. Lottie Wilson painted a copy of the photo. She presented her painting to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, and it was hung in the White House. Her painting now hangs on permanent display in the Niles, Michigan Public Library. Lottie also presented a painting of Charles Sumner to the Provident Hospital in Chicago in1892, and a painting of Booker T. Washington to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1894.

Lottie was a strong advocate for Civil Rights. She presented a proposal in 1899 to the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) regarding segregation on trains. Colored women were only allowed to ride in the smoking cars. Her proposal was defeated by Susan B. Anthony at that meeting in Michigan. In 1896 she was involved in the establishment of the Phyllis Wheatly Home for Elderly Colored Women in Detroit, and was also a trustee.

Lottie was the great granddaughter of Dennis Hill, a wealthy tanner from Pikeville,Ohio, who purchased eighty acres in 1842 in Michigan. Forty acres was located on the North East corner of Thirteenth and Lake Street, and the other forty acres was located in Cass County. Her mother was Henrietta (Hill) Wilson, the daughter of Henry Nelson Hill, the first born son of Dennis Hill. Her brother Gamaliel is Nelson's great grandfather. Her grandfather, Henry Nelson Hill, is his great great grandfather for whom he was named.

Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles, Michigan is the final resting place for Lottie Wilson, her children, her father, Calvin Wilson, and her mother, Henrietta (Hill) Wilson. The Barron Lake Cemetery located near Niles, Michigan is where her grandfather, great grandfather, and some aunts and uncles and other Hill ancestors are resting. Submitted by Nelson and Sharon Hill of Nottawa, Michigan

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Early Black Professionals

Charles Buck

Charles Buck was born in Mississippi and came to Kalamazoo in 1858. He was alone and penniless and the missionary societies of one of the white churches game him clothes and food. A black family took him in and cared for him until his mother came north. He began saving money and buying property in 1865 and eventually became a successful farmer and real estate broker. In 1915 he owned seven tenement houses and one store in Kalamazoo and three farms and tenements in Schoolcraft and Three Rivers. The Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress quotes him as saying, “My mother made me stay in the country. I shall never forget a whipping she gave me one spring when I secured work in the town instead of the country as she had told me to do. The next morning I hired out to a farmer.” It was this kind of training from her that he credited as being the reason for his success.

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Albert B. Cleage

Albert-B-Cleage Albert B. Cleage was born in Loudon County, Tennessee, May 15, 1883. He graduated from the Henderson Normal and Industrial College in 1902, from Knoxville College in 1906, and the Indiana School of Medicine in 1910. He was appointed as intern at the city dispensary at Indianapolis and served there as house physician and ambulance surgeon. He began private practice in Kalamazoo in 1912 as the first African American doctor and practiced and lived at 306 Balch Street.

He was an honorary vice-president of the Freedmen's Progress Commission in 1915.

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Eugene J. Marshall

Eugene J. Marshall was born in Detroit in 1881. He graduated from the Law Department at the University of Michigan and attended the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago. A noted orator, he won several awards and represented the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago in several debate competitions. He lived and practiced law at 415 W. Ransom in Kalamazoo. His wife was Mayme.

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