While looking for some of his ancestors last spring, my cousin Peter Olivier found a packet of letters online written by my grandmother Pearl Reed (Cleage) from 1903 to 1905. They were for sale by Michal Brown Rare Books who “specialize in Americana, especially manuscript materials. We offer manuscript letters and archives, diaries, journals, personal and business correspondence from the 17th century through the 20th.”
By the time I found out that the letters existed, they had been sold to the University of Georgia in Athens. I thought it was strange because neither my grandmother Pearl Reed nor Homer Jarrett, the young man she was exchanging letters with, were well known. Homer seems to have saved every piece of mail he ever received. Eventually all of those hundreds of pieces (which included my grandmother’s letters) ended up being sold after his death, because in their entirety they give a unique picture of the era in which they were written.
I immediately got in touch with Special Collections Library at The University of Georgia in Athens. I was able to purchase scans of all 41 letters and envelopes very reasonably. I was very excited to have a look into my 19 year old grandmothers life through her letters. It was lucky that the University purchased them. I could never have afforded to buy them.
This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama. Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. All of the news items were found on Newspapers.com. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping. Click on any image to enlarge.
Rosa Nixon was a friend of my grandparents. One of her sisters married into the same family that one of my grandmother’s first cousins married into. She graduated in the class of 1906 at State Normal School for Negroes, as did Mattie Graham.
Miss Rosa Nixon Accepts Position In Baltimore
Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 20- Miss Rosa Nixon of this city, resigned her position as head of the Art Department of the local State Normal School on Monday of this week in order to accept a position in the Baltimore Colored High School. The resignation went into effect Tuesday, the 19th inst., and Miss Nixon will leave to take up her new work at Baltimore on Thursday morning, February 21st.
Miss Nixon is one of the leading art teachers of the race, having studied in the foremost art schools of the country. Her excellent work as a teacher, club worker and member of the local Red Cross Auxiliary in this community will be sadly missed and her host of friends here are loath to have her go to another field. Miss Nixon has been head of the Art Department in the Normal School here for several years, during which time she has enlarged and developed the department to a high standard of efficiency.
While looking through my grandmother Fannie’s photographs, I came across this picture of Rosa Nixon. I wondered who she was. On the back it says “Mershell C. Graham – Rosa. And then in my mother’s handwriting it says ‘Not related! – One of Daddy’s girls, I suppose – he didn’t marry until 1918.’”
Rosa Nixon was born into a family that started off after slavery with more advantages than most. Her grandmother Winnie Nixon, received land, livestock, furniture and money upon the death of her former slave master, William Owen Nixon of Lowndes County, Alabama in 1868. In 1870 she had real estate valued at $4,000 and personal property valued at $1,000. All except the youngest two of her nine children attended school. One of them was Rosa’s father, Alfred Nixon.
Rosa Nixon was born in September, 1889 in Montgomery, Alabama, the second of the four daughters of Alfred and Hattie (Clayton) Nixon. Hattie and her youngest baby girl, Zenobia died within a few months of each other in 1895. Zenobia was a year old. Hattie was 25.
Alfred Nixon worked as a porter and then as a bar tender. He remarried in 1901. He and his second wife, Mattie Coleman. They had three children together. One died. Two boys, Alfred Floyd and William O. Nixon were born in 1902 and 1904. Rosa graduated from Normal School in 1907. My grandmother Fannie and all of her cousins also graduated from this school, which went from first grade through high school.
Graduation At Normal School For Negroes
Program Includes Addresses by Tom Benjamin, Music and Addresses by Principal Paterson, and Several Friend of School
Twenty-four students, seventeen girls and seven boys received diplomas yesterday morning from the State Normal School for negroes (sic.). The graduating exercises included addresses by ten of the students, vocal and instrumental music, and remarks by Principal W.H. Paterson and friends of the school. The dominant note in each of the speeches made to the students and patrons of the school was that the negroes must educate their children, that they must supplement the work being done, by the State and that they must throw safeguards around the morals of their children as well as giving them assistance in securing knowledge.
Incidentally, the municipality of Montgomery was criticized for its failure to give negro children equal opportunity with white children in the schools and the lack of school room for negro children in this city was pointed out.
The closing exercises were held in the chapel, which is on the second floor of the main building. The twenty-four graduates formed a double semi-circle on the stage, which was decorated in the colors of the school, and the class of 1907. Sitting with the class on the stage were many of the negro preachers of Montgomery, including Bishop J. W. Alstork.
Simplicity marked the dress of the girls in the graduating class. They wore calico dresses. Frequent allusion was made to this simplicity of dress by Principal Paterson and the other speakers. The Principal said he had promised the girl students that he would provide the cloth if the girls would make the dresses and wear calico. they had readily consented and this simplicity of dress, he said, would be adhered to in the future. It was done, he said, in the interest of the poor parents of many of the student.
The graduating class consisted of Frederick D. Adair, Edna T. Barnett, Maris H. Brown. Dora D. Beverly, Melissa B. Culpepper, Mattie E. Graham, James B. Hatcher, Nora J. Holly, Olivia C. Hunter, Helen E. Jones, Adam J. Joseph, Queenie V. Lee, Gertrude R. Lucas, Rose H. Nixon, Alfred A. Poole, Sadie M. Richardson, Olivia A. Royal, Mary L. Sawyer, Rosa L. Shaw, Emmaline L. Simpson, Cornelius S. Sampson, Henry J. Todd, Charles D. Watkins, Ellen A. Wimbs.
According to the custom of the school, the ten students making the highest marks, prepared essays. Three essays were delivered without reference to manuscripts. They gave evidence of careful preparation and some of them were delivered with fine effect. None but members of the graduating class were on the program, which was as follows.
Piano Duet, “Jeunesse Doree” – (Smith)-Helen Jones and Rosa Nixon.
Salutatory and Oration, “The Christian Ministry” – James E. Hatcher
Oration, “Nature & Mysteries” – Emmaline Simpson.
Vocal Quartet, “Over the Hills at Break of Day” – (Geibel) – Olivia Royal, James S. Hatcher, Sadie Brown, Alfred Poole.
Oration, “The Conditions and Needs of Women Wage- Earners” – Hosea L. Shaw.
Essay, “The Leisure Class” – Olivia A. Royal.
Piano Solo. “Fanfare” – (Ascher) – Nora Holley
Oration, “The Genius of Japanese Civilization” – Olivia C. Hunter
Essay, “The Most Lasting Monuments” – Sadie B. Brown.
Vocal Duet, “When Gathering Clouds” – (Shuey) Sadie B. Brown, James E. Hatcher
Oration, “Has the Negro Race Made Any Real Progress?” – Charles D. Watkins.
Oration, “Women in History” – Helen E. Jones.
Piano due, “La Baladine” – (Lysberg) – Mary Sawyer and Dora Beverly.
Oration, “The Duty of the Hour” Rosa Nixon
Essay, “The Results of Fraternities” Harry J. Todd
Sojourner Truth Club Essay – Helen N. Jones
Valedictory. “Through Trials to Triumphs’ – Dora Beverly.
Presentation of Diplomas
“My Old Kentucky Home” – By the Class
Principal Paterson announced that Helen Jones had won the prize annually offered by the Sojourner Truth Club, an organization of negro women, for the best essay on achievements by the race. The Jones girl then went forward and read the essay written on “Self help.” It was also announced that Wilson Walker, Sadie Castle, Effie May Todd and Lena Davenport had won prizes for garden work.
At the conclusion of the graduating exercises, brief addresses were delivered by Bishop Alstork, Nathan Alexander and other friends of the school.
In concluding the exercises, Principal Paterson said the school now owned property valued at $30,000, and that plans were making for an extension of its work another year.
During the year just closed, the school enrolled 1,055 pupils.
Rosa’s father died in 1908. There are no death certificates in Alabama at that time but I found a notice of his death and funeral in the local Montgomery paper.
“The friends and acquaintances of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred F. Nixon, are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of the former, from the Old Ship Church at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1st, 1908.”
Alfred Nixon owned his house free of mortgage when he died in 1908. In 1910, Rosa and her older sister Eugenia were both teaching. The three youngest children were all attending school. Her step-mother was not working outside of the home. The step-mother’s mother also shared the home.
Rosa taught at art at State normal School. She was active in community and social activities, heading the Red Cross Drive in 1917. In 1918 the art department, under Rosa Nixon’s supervision, bought a potters wheel. The students were all excited and looking forward to making a plate each.
We have now reached the article that started this post. Rosa Nixon, now 28 years old and the head of the Art Department of State Normal School, is headed to Baltimore, Maryland to head the Art Department at the Colored High School there. She boarded with several other teachers. That summer she attended art classes at Columbia University in New York City.
In 1921 Rosa was appointed to head the Art Department of Dunbar High School in Washington DC. Over the years she organized trips to museums, art galleries and other places of interest to her art students. She also continued to expand her own skills with workshops and classes.
In 1929 Rosa married John Henry Hampton, a postal worker. She continued to teach at Dunbar although she and her husband maintained a house in Baltimore. In 1940, Rosa’s widowed older sister, Eugenia and her two sons, both young men, were living in a separate flat in Rosa and her husband’s house. In 1951, after 30 years of service, the school board retired her. It doesn’t sound like she went willingly. She was 61 years old. Rosa’s husband died in 1961. One of her nephews was living with her when Rosa died suddenly at the age of 81, on December 11, 1970.
Suddenly, on December 11, 1970. Rosa N., of 2004 North Bentalou Street, beloved sister of William and Alfred Nixon. She is also survived by three nephews, Samuel N. and William W. Phillips and Rene Alvarado, four nieces, Mrs. Joyce Davis, Mrs. Myrtle Lancaster, Mrs Laura Nixon, and Mrs. Camille Lee and other relatives.
Friends may call at the Charles R. Law Funeral Home, 802 Madison Avenue. Services on Tuesday, 12 Noon from St. James Episcopal Church, Lafayette & Arlington Avenues. Family will receive friends on Monday evening from 7 to 9 P.M. at the above funeral home. Interment Arbutus Memorial Park.
I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records and Military Records. The news item was found on Newspapers.com and Genealogy Bank. The photograph is from my personal collection.
For the past month, I have been lost in researching my cousin Anna Belle McCall Martin Martin Giampino’s life. My plan was to write her up for the second person in my 52 ancestors in 52 weeks series. Right now I am behind by about six weeks. While looking I found a third husband, an eighth child and her death, among other things.
One of these was a newspaper article that described a recital where Anna Belle McCall sang “Oh Dry Those Tears”. I realized that my grandmother Pearl Reed had sung the same song at a different recital. You can hear this song at the end of the post.
Twenty two year old Anna Belle sang in Montgomery in 1904. She had graduated from and taught at Alabama State Normal School, where the program was given. At the time she lived at home with her parents and siblings.
My grandmother Pearl sang in Indianapolis Indiana in 1909. She was twenty three and lived at home with her mother and brother. She sang with her church choir at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church on Sundays and regularly in community and church programs. Several years ago I found this news clipping among family photographs.
Sings in Concert at Simpson Chapel
“The violin recital of Clarence Cameron White will be given this evening at Simpson Chapel under the direction of the colored Y.M.C.A. Orchestra. He will be supported by the best local talent.
Poems of Blind Negro Poet Recited at Normal School
“A goodly crowd of representative negro citizens of Montgomery was present last night at the chapel of the State Normal School to participate in an “Evening with Poet McCall.” The entertainment consisted of recitations of some of the works of Montgomery’s blind negro poet interspersed with musical selections both vocal and instrumental.
The poems presented were well selected, embracing lyric, epic, didactic and satiric compositions of James Edward McCall and were rendered in a suitable and sympathetic manner by members of his race. The poet himself was present, seated among the audience.
N.H. Alexander acted as master of ceremonies and in a few introductory remarks dwelt upon the character of McCall’s work and stated that the object of the meeting was to pay tribute to the genius of one of their own race.
Also noteworthy were the remarks of William Phillips who gave a sketch of the life of the blind poet and spoke of the favorable appreciation his poems had met with both among his own race and the white people in Montgomery and elsewhere.”
Lyrics: O dry those tears and calm those fears Life is not made for sorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow
O lift thine eyes to the blue skies See how the clouds do borrow Brightness, each one, straight from the sun So is it ever with sorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow Then lift thine eyes to the blue skies Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow O dry those tears, life is not made for sorrow
words and music by Teresa del Riego
published by Chappell & Co. Ltd., London
While reading about Dr. Turner, who I talked about in Part 2 of this 3 part series, I became interested in the story of his wife, Leota Henson Turner and her uncle, Frederick J. Loudin. Frederick Loudin, although not a student at Fisk, became a member of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. They toured the United States and Europe singing Spirituals and other songs that came down from slavery, to raise money for Fisk College. When the tour ended and the Fisk singers were disbanded, Loudin decided to keep the group together as the Loudin Jubilee Singers and under his direction they went on a six year tour of Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma, Japan and sang before the crowned heads of Europe. (Aside – My father used to tell us that he danced before the crowned heads of Europe so I like writing that. He was joking.). Loudin’s niece, Leota Henson trained for two years in Germany as a pianist. She later joined the group and toured with them as their pianist. There are a lot of articles about the tour out there and they received almost universal acclaim with full houses and bravos everywhere. She kept a detailed diary of the trip and wrote a series of articles for The Gazette after her return.
There is a lot more to tell about Loudin – how his ancestors were enslaved in the north and free by 1850, how he became a printer but could get no business, how he went to Pennsylvania where he met his wife Harriett. I could talk about the time the group sang spirituals in the Taj Mahal. I could write about the relative lack of discrimination the singers faced everywhere else in the world and the overabundance of it they found in the USA. I could tell about his invention of the key chain and how for a short period of time he owned a shoe factory in Ravenna, Ohio. However, I am going to tell only one more story, which ties into my family.
While reading the book “Out of Sight – The Rise of African American Popular Music 1889 – 1895”, I came across the following passage on page 77 describing Frederick and Harriett Loudin’s home in Ravenna, Ohio.
“Facing one as they enter the beautiful stained glass door of the house, stands a clock similar in size and form to the grandfather’s clock of ye olden time, which is made of teak wood and was brought by Mr. Loudin from Burma. It was made in Rangoon at the government prison..by a Burma convict. The wood is almost as heavy as iron, and resembles the polished face of dark granite. A year and a half was requird to make it…The clock stands eight feet in height and is one mass of bas-relief, gods, dragons and various monsters…”
As I read it, I realized that I had heard this story before, it was one my Aunt Barbara Cleage Martin had told me several years ago about a clock that stood in my Cleage Grandparent’s dining room for as long as I could remember and which now stands in my cousin’s home. When I turned the page, there was a photograph of the very same clock!
At my Aunt’s 90th birthday party, I asked her how we came to have this clock in the family. She told me that Dr. Turner’s wife had been a pianist who played all over the world. While traveling in Burma, they bought this clock. When the Turners were leaving Detroit they asked my Uncle Louis to keep the clock for them.
My sister Pearl interviewed me in 2010 about my interest and findings in family history research. I talked about some of the stories I’ve blogged about – Dock Allen’s Escape, finding Eliza in the 1860 census and slave documents. I have found more information since the time of this interview – court records about the land case between the Turners, newspaper articles, and several Wills from slave holders who owned my Cleages and Turners.
It gives you a chance to hear my voice and my thoughts about how to start your research. I highly recommend being interviewed. I am enjoying listening to myself talk, for one thing. If you can’t find anyone to interview you, interview yourself! I think it makes a great addition to the legacy we are leaving for those following us.
2010 Story Corps interview with my sister Pearl asking me about my research and findings.
This year for my 5th A to Z Challenge, I used my 2Xs great uncle, Thomas (Ray) Allen’s pension file as the basis for my blog posts. Thomas served in the United States Colored Calvary during the Civil War. In his 115 page pension file, I was able to find family members, friends and veterans who served with him during the war, plus the name of the man who had enslaved him.
In spite of pledging myself each year after the challenge to prewrite my posts, I found myself once again doing last minute research and writing most of the posts on the day I published them. Towards the end of the month it came to me that I should pick a topic that doesn’t require research and is guaranteed to produce short posts. “Fleeting Memories” is the topic I am thinking about for next year. I have already filled a tiny notebook with them.
A big difference this year was the lack of a list including everybody who signed up where we could go and find blogs to visit. Instead there was a post each day where we could reply with our blog url, twitter with #atozchallenge and a fb page. Not to mention our own fb pages and google+. What worked best for me was visiting blogs I had enjoyed in previous A to Z Challenges and visiting people who commented on blogs I enjoyed . I ended up following about 30 blogs during the challenge, with one time visits to others. I visited as many of these as I could each day and commented. I visited those that visited me and I tried to reply to all comments on my posts. Looking back over my posts and comments for this year and years past, I received about the same number of posts this year.
After spending half the day wondering around among Joseph Sharp Yowell’s records and family members, I decided I would not even try to just write up his story. This will be the story of how I researched just about everybody that appeared in this year’s A to Z Challenge.
I found his name when I was looking through Thomas Ray Allen’s pension file for names to use in this challenge. “Yowell” was perfect for “Y”. Then I copied all the pages with his name. I am not using all of them in this post because some just have his name and there are others with more information.
Next I set up a tree for Joseph Yowell on Ancestry.com. I did this for all the people that I wrote about during this A to Z Challenge. That way, I find and save their records.
Below is a chart with various records I found for Joseph Yowell and how they relate to each other.
1. on the left, is a record from the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938. On the top right of the form they list his closest relatives. First is his brother Fletcher Sharp who lived in Lebanon, KY. The second is his cousin Mollie Bates who lived in Indianapolis. At the bottom of the form they mention his widow, Diana Sharp, who ordered his grave stone. She lived in Lebanon, Kentucky.
2. The pension card says that Joseph Yowell also used the name Joseph Sharp. It also has his widow’s name, Diana Sharp.
3. 1880 Census, Lebanon Kentucky. When I found a Joe Sharp in the 1880 census, I was not sure if it was my Joe (Yowell) Sharp. When I saw that he was living with Fletcher Sharp and his family and was listed as Joe Sharp, brother, I knew I had found the right Joe Sharp.
4. Marriage record of Diana Abell and Joe Sharp. Diana was named as his widow in the first document.
5. Death Certificate. In addition to telling us what he died of, it gives his parent’s first names. His father’s name was Major.
6. I followed Joseph’s brother Fletcher around in the records for awhile, then I looked at his wives. He was married twice. First to Ann and second to Nancy, both with the surname of Miller. I wondered if they were sisters, so I followed them around. I found Nancie Miller in the 1870 census living as a house servant in the large household of a white couple, William and Minnie Sharp. Also living there was 80 year old Major Sharp, probably Joseph Yowell’s father.
I did find his cousin Mollie living with her husband in Indianapolis but did not find Joseph living with them. I did find her family a few pages away from the Sharps in one of the census records from Kentucky.
I never found Joseph Yowell and Diana living together. He was listed as “single” in several records and as married or widowed in others, even though she survived him.
Joseph Sharp Yowell’s name – his father was Major Sharp and his owner during slave days was John Yowell. This name appeared on his military records, however I was unable to find a John Yowell who owned slaves in 1850 or 1860 in Taylor or Marion county.
Joseph Yowell appeared in the Indianapolis as “Joseph Yowell” in 1899. In the 1900 Census he appeared as Joseph Sharp. In 1910 he was in the Soldier’s Home and was Joseph Yowell in that census and in the records that he generated there.
Henry Wiley, younger brother of Kate Wiley, was born free in 1855 to Woody and Sarah Wiley. Soon after he was born, the family moved from Virginia to Athens Ohio. He was the middle child. Henry attended school along with his brothers and sisters and learned to read and write.
When his father Woody, died in 1873, Henry was 18. His father asked him to make sure that all his just debts were paid, he thought they could be paid by the sale of his horse and wagon, but if not Henry should pay them and get reimbursed from the sale of the land. He was left one of the beds and bedding, with the remainder of the household goods going to his sister Sarah. He also appointed Henry as executor and stated that the property be divided between three of his children, Henry, Sarah and Armintha, when Armintha came of age.
!n 1884, at the age of 29, Henry married 23 year old Polly Fish. They lived in Springfield, Ohio where they owned their own home free from mortgage. Henry was a brick mason, an occupation he followed for the rest of his life. Polly kept house. They had only one child, a daughter, Glenna Belle, born in 1885. Sadly, Glenna Belle died when she was just six years old.
He testified for her when she was applying for her widow’s pension on February 4, 1908.
“Henry Wiley aged 53 years of 34 W. Clark St. – Springfield P.O., County of Clark State of Ohio who being duly sworn upon his oath declares as follows: That he is a brother of Kate Allen, widow of Thomas Allen late a member of Co. D. 5th USCCav. (United States Colored Calvary) and that he has known her all of his life, covering all of her girlhood days: that she was married to the soldier Thomas Allen March 5th 1880, and that they lived together continuously as man and wife until the date of his death which occurred November 10th 1907 and that she never was married to any one prior to her marriage to the soldier Thomas Allen, and that they were never separated or divorced from each other, nor has she remarried since the death of her said husband Thomas Allen – His means of knowledge of above facts are from his being a brother of said claimant and about her or in touch with her during all of her life.”
In 1912 Polly was 60 miles from home in West Elkton, Preble, Ohio visiting her eldest brother James and his family, when she died. She had been there for two days. Cause of death was congestion of lungs with ??? mitral regurgitation. She was 50 years old. Her niece Janey was the informant.
Two years later Henry married Martha Johnson Edwards, a widow with six children. The children were pretty much grown by the time of the marriage with only two remaining at home by 1920, a 20 year old daughter who worked as a servant and a 16 year old boy who wasn’t in school or working.
Tragedy struck again in November 1925 when Martha’s son-in-law, Floyd Strawder hit her over the head with an iron bar and killed her. Her skull had been fractured. I expected to find him in prison in 1930, but he was living as a divorced (no surprise there) cement worker in a boarding house.
In 1933, Henry Wiley died at his residence of a heart attack, influenza being a contributory factor. Mrs. Will Jones was the informant and she did not have much information about him. He was 78 years old and was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery and Arboretum in Springfield Ohio, a 240 acre combined arboretum and cemetery.
As I went through Thomas Ray Allen’s pension file, I wondered why it was so difficult for him to get his pension raised when his medical reports showed how debilitated he was. There were those who thought that many of the veterans were not really in need of their pension money, that it was a drain on the Federal coffers.
I have shared some quotes below with some of the hows and whys of this state of affairs. After reading about Arthur Bull, another Civil War Veteran trying to get his pension, on the blog Molly’s Canopy, I realized that Thomas was fortunate in not having to travel long distances to a doctor as some of the rural veterans did.
“The Dependent and Disability Pension Act was passed by the United States Congress (26 Stat. 182) and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on June 27, 1890. The act provided pensions for all veterans who had served at least ninety days in the Union military or naval forces, were honorably discharged from service and were unable to perform manual labor, regardless of their financial situation or when the disability was suffered. The bill was a source of contentious debate and only passed after Grover Cleveland had vetoed a previous version in 1887.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Dependent and Disability Pension Act
“The biggest single change to the pension system came in 1890 with the Dependent Pension Act. Because most veterans did some kind of manual labor to support themselves and their families, and their ability to do so declined over time, political pressure for more help increased (as did the public pleading and private, desperate letters). The 1890 Act expanded eligibility to veterans who were disabled and unable to do manual labor even if that disability was not a direct result of the war. They just had to have served ninety days and been honorably discharged. The result was a huge increase in expenditures and numbers of veterans receiving a pension. More than a million men were on the pension rolls by 1893 and pensions ate more than 40% of the federal government’s revenue. One of the side effects of this legislation was a large number of men transferring their pensions from their previous disability pensions to these new service pensions because the new pensions paid more.” Civil War Pensions by Kathleen L. Gorman
“Those pensioners most often labeled as frauds were widows, especially young women who had married veterans much older than themselves, supposed “cowards,” and, in the Federal system, black veterans.” Civil War Pension…
“Eight U.S. colored regiments, as they were called during that time were founded here and three others were trained here. So roughly ten thousand African American men became soldiers at Camp Nelson. In 1864 and 1865. The significance of those recruitments, first of all, was that it was the beginning of the end of slavery in Kentucky. Second of all, these men made a significant contribution to the union victory in the Civil War. A number of regiments were involved in large and small engagements. A number of soldiers were stationed at critical transportation nodes where they protected garrisons, they protected bridges, they protected supply depots.
The Camp Nelson a refugee camp was started in December 1864. And it began, had kind of a mixed beginning because these refugees, who were initially the wives and children of the enlisting U.S. colored troops, were not really supposed to come in the camp, but soldiers brought them them in because they were afraid their owners, former owners would retaliate against them. They also were hoping that the wives and children would also gain their freedom. So, they brought them into camp with them. They set up a lot of shanties throughout the camp. And finally in November 1864, the commander General Speed Fry, ejected all of the refugees from camp. Took them in wagons up towards Nicholasville on a very very cold November day. Many of them were exposed to very cold weather through the night. And out of the four hundred that were ejected, roughly one hundred died within a few weeks of this event. This created a large uproar. And the Army changed their policy. And in December a month later, constructed what they called the come home for colored refugees. Their families, the families of the enlisting soldiers, came to Camp Nelson to escape slavery themselves. They escaped the immediate condition of slavery, and they also hoped to gain their freedom.”