Margaret Lane Alley – Kentucky & Ohio

Margaret Lane Alley
On back of photo: Margaret Ally (colored) who was at Grandmother Peaslee’s wedding when she was married at College Hill in 1874. Often Margaret used to come over and make jelly for us.

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants. Most of them are not related to me.

Today’s post started with the photograph above. My friend Zann shared it with me.  It is one of the things that made me chose “Telling Their Stories” for my A to Z Challenge theme.

Margaret Lane Alley was the daughter of Allen Lane – Born 1810 in Kentucky (Click the link to see his story.). James Hardage Lane owned Allen and three others.  He set all of them free in his will. Margaret and her siblings were owned by someone else.  Who, I do not know. I spent most of today looking through slave censuses trying to figure it out, but the enslaved were not named in the slave censuses, just age, sex and color were given. Without names it was a guessing game and I gave up.

Margaret and her husband John Alley were both born into slavery in Kentucky. They were married in 1861 and relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio after they were free. Both of their children were born in Ohio.  In 1870 the family lived in College Hill, Cincinnati Ohio. John did day labor and Margaret kept house. Neither could read or write. Their children were five year old John, Jr. and three year old Louisa.

In 1880 the family owned their home on North Bend Road in College Hill.  John, Sr. was a laborer and could read, but not write. Margaret was keeping house. The children had both attended school the previous year and were literate. The census says that John, Jr. was out at service so he was also working.  Margaret’s younger brother, Thomas was living with them. He was a laborer, could read and write and had consumption.  He was thirty years old.

Betty Ann Smiddy  gives a description of their little green house and a bit of it’s history in her online book A Little Piece of Paradise… College Hill Ohio

“On the south side of North Bend Road not far from Savannah was a little green frame cottage,…. in which an African American family lived. We have learned that this lot was bought in 1880 by John Alley, Sr. from the College Hill railroad. … Mrs. Rosemary Forbes remembered of seeing a tall, thin black man who played a ‘squeeze box’ living in the green cottage, which had no foundation, only stones supporting the four corners.”

 In 1900 John was sixty. He had been out of work for 11 months during the previous year. Margaret was 61.  Their daughter Louisa’s two oldest children were living with their grandparents.  They had attended school. The youngest daughter was with her parents in Kentucky where Louisa’s husband was a minister.  The Alley’s owned their house free and clear.

In 1910 John Alley was 79 and no longer working. Margaret was 72. They were living in their house on North Bend Road.  Their son, John Jr, and his wife both died in 1904. Their twelve year old son, Frank was living with his grandparents.

Margaret Alley died on August 28, 1910.  She was 72.  John Alley died in 1917 in Indianapolis, Indiana where he was living with his daughter Louise and her family.  He was 86 years old.

Dr. Thomas's house which stands where Margaret and John's house once stood.
In 1935 the property was sold to Dr. Theodore Walker, who tore down the cottage and built his brick house on the site. He  was the doctor to the African American community in College Hill. Image from Google.

I wish I could have figured out where Margaret and her siblings were enslaved after their father was freed around 1840. That left them as slaves for over 20 years after he was free. I found the information in Census records, death records and directories on and Special thanks to Zann Carter and Lisa Schumann for their help.

7 thoughts on “Margaret Lane Alley – Kentucky & Ohio

  1. Were Louisa’s children helping to take care of Margaret and John? It seems odd that she had one child with her while the others were with their grandparents. Do you get the impression that Allen and the children were separated some time BEFORE the time when Allen was set free, thus explaining why Margaret was not freed?

    These stories are so very interesting, Kristin.

    1. Yes, the man who owned Allen only had 4 slaves through the decades and he freed all of them at his death about 1840. The children and their mother must have belonged to someone else in the neighborhood, but who?

      I think they were living there because the schools were better than the ones they would have in Kentucky. they youngest child was only three and not yet in school. I am only supposing because I didn’t have that information. The girls were 9 and 7 and attending school for 9 months. I would think they had chores around the house but as the grandparents were only 60 and 61, I’m hoping they were still active.

      I know in my own family relatives came up from the south to attend school in Detroit sometimes. Not as young as they were though.

  2. Interesting. I came across Margaret’s picture when I was looking around on different sites, in search of what may have happened to Mary Lane. Seeing that they relocated to Cincinnati, I tried to find her there, without success. I suppose that Margaret and Mary may have been related, since it looked like their fathers were listed together in a previous census in Kentucky. Hard to know for sure. I do like that picture- pictures just bring a story to life!

    1. I like pictures too. I wish i had them for all the people I write about. I haven’t been able to figure that out either. I also wish I knew where they lived both before and after their fathers were free.

  3. Kristin you might find this interesting (I think). Lisa works with me at The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in the Genealogy Library on Wednesdays. Additionally, I think that one of my former church members, is a descendant of this family. I think that I knew the Walker family; my friends who lived in that neighborhood for many years have moved. The older family members have passed away, they’d be in their late 90’s if still living.

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