Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Ohio

Simmons the bridge tender?

The official bond of Buckner Simmons, in the sum of $1000 (W.J. Warner and S.C. Kane sureties), as bridge tender was read from the President’s desk and approved. Subsequently the approval was reconsidered, whatever that may amount to, because somebody discovered that Mr. Simmons had never been even nominated to be a bridge tender. Evidently he was one of the innumerable army of office seekers who had a sure thing on an appointment and had taken time by the forelock got his bond, had it approved by the solicitor as to legality and sufficiency and chucked it in somewhere among council documents so that in the course of time it was dug up and blindly approved by the new council of civil service reformers and economists. Mr. George Warner asked how the bond came before the council. President Everett said he didn’t know but it came into his hands through the regular channel – not explaining what it was. Mr. Warner retorted that “it must be a great channel.”

Plain Dealer, Cleveland OH, 22 May 1877.

Striebinger House.

Image“For many years he was proprietor of the barber shop under the Striebinger House and also of one on Ontario street.”

Obituary of Moses Simmons, Cleveland Leader, 29 January 1900.

He was business first, last and all the time.

State Fair Entries.

The following are some of the entries in the First Department:

THOROUGHBREDS.

Moses Simmons, Cleveland, Gelding “Frank Greyson.”

Plain Dealer, Cleveland OH, 11 September 1863.

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WAS BORN A SLAVE

And Freed by His Master Half a Century Ago.

MOSES SIMMONS’ CAREER.

CAME TO CLEVELAND PENNILESS AND AMASSED A FORTUNE.

SHREWDNESS AND THRIFT

POSSESSED BY HIM, THOUGH HIS EDUCATION WAS LIMITED.

Earned His First Money by Cleaning Horses at Ten Cents a Head – A Member of Several Fraternal Organizations.

For forty-eight years the face of Moses Simmons, who died Saturday, was a familiar one in this city. “Mose,” as he was familiarly known, was a unique character. And well known in the public places of the city, partly on account of his portly figure and partly because of his genial disposition. He had the ability to make money. He was business first, last, and all the time.

Born a slave and held in slavery until twenty-nine years of age, when in a sudden burst of generosity his master freed him, Simmons was compelled to LOOK OUT FOR HIMSELF. So well did he learn the lesson of self-dependency that his fortune at the time of death is estimated at anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000. He was extremely reticent about his business affairs and made a confidant of no one. It is known that he owned valuable real residence property on Laurel street near Scovill avenue and also an interest in several fast horses. He was a lover of horseflesh and always owned one or more high steppers.

“Mose” Simmons was seventy-eight years of age when he died. He was born in Mount Olive, N.C., on the plantation of a man named Richards. His master sustained a reverse of fortune and “Mose” with the rest of the slaves on the place was sold to a trader. He had been a great favorite of his master, and the latter, as soon as he could secure enough money to purchase his former slave again, did so. Mr. Richards brought “Mose” to Philadelphia when the latter was twenty-nine years of age. In that city the spirit of abolition was becoming more and more pronounced and Mr. Richards freed him. Fearing that his master might repent of the generous deed, Moses determined to take advantage of his liberty and secretly left the Quaker City. He came direct to this city. On his arrival he found himself without means and very hungry. For days he wandered about the city and in search of food. He often told his friends of later days of standing near the kitchen of the late “Joe” Richards’ restaurant AND BEGGING FOOD.

He secured work at last in a stable on Academy street cleaning horses at ten cents per head. This was his beginning. By untiring industry and careful frugality he succeeded in making himself comfortable. He was naturally shrewd and possessed with an intelligence which made up in great part for his lack of a school education. He delighted to discuss politics and became a representative of his race in local affairs. He was appointed inspector of catch basins under Mayor Gardner’s administration.

As a horse trader Simmons was known all over the city and his bargains were always reported to work to his own advantage. He engaged in the saloon business on Michigan street for a time but abandoned it, as he found it contrary to his inclinations. For many years he was proprietor of the barber shop under the Striebinger House and also of one on Ontario street. Fortune smiled on him and he became a money lender for the colored people of the city. He also was known as a professional bondsman. At the time of his death he lived alone at No. 423 Erie street, where he had a small barber shop and also conducted a coal business. Although twice married, he was destitute of near relatives. For the last eleven years of his life he referred to live alone, becoming almost a recluse, raking interest only in his business affairs. His only deviation from this rule was to attend to the meetings of several lodges of which he was a member. He belonged to the colored Odd Fellows, Masons, and Knights of Pythias. In the colored Masonic fraternity he had taken thirty-two degrees. He belonged to the rank of the colored Knights of Pythias.

His last sickness was a few weeks’ duration, but it was only a week ago that he was unable to leave his bed. He shared his bachelor home with a young man, Fred Dixon by name, whose father had been Simmons’ intimate associate. It was in Dixon’s arms that he died. Mrs. Eliza Bryant, of no. 23 Newton street, and Miss Effie Simmons, of No. 16 Waller street, are his only known relatives. The funeral will be conducted from the undertaking rooms of Black & Wright Wednesday afternoon under the auspices of the fraternal organizations with which he was intimately connected.

Cleveland Leader, 29 January 1900.

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HACKED WITH A KNIFE.

MOSES SIMMONS’ HORSE ALMOST CUT TO PIECES.

The Owner Was Dying When His Barn Was Entered and the Animal Wounded.

A cowardly brute Saturday night, evidently in a spirit of revenge, went to the barn of the late Moses Simmons, of No. 458 Erie street, and cut and hacked a brood mare in a horrible manner.

Saturday night Moses Simmons died at his home. It was later than usual before any member of the family entered the stable to care for the horses. When Fred Dixon, a young man who lived with Simmons, opened the stable door yesterday morning, he heard one of the horses moaning. He hurried to the stall of the favorite horse, a large gray brood mare. She was lying in a pool of blood and was bleeding from many wounds.

Some time during the night some one entered the barn and with a large knife cut and slashed the horse Her hide and flesh were laid open nearly to the ribs on one side, and there were deep cuts all over her body.

Patrolman Kiel was called and was asked to shoot the animal, as she was suffering intense agony. The mare had been a pet and favorite of Simmons for some year.

No reason for this dastardly deed is known. The police will try to locate the brute who committed the crime.

Cleveland Leader, 29 January 1900.

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Legal Notice.

STATE OF OHIO, CUYAHOGA COUNTY, ss.  } In the Probate Court

Charles Bundy, as Administrator of the estate of Moses Simmons, deceased. } Plaintiff.

vs.

The Society for Savings, Maria Thompson and the Unknown heirs of Henry Simmons, of David Simmons and of Ferrebe Greenfield, respectively, deceased.  } Defendants.

Maria Thompson, who resides at Goldsboro in Wayne county, North Carolina, and the unknown heirs of Henry Simmons, of David Simmons, of George Simmons, and of Ferrebe Greenfield, respectively, deceased, heirs at law of Moses Simmons, deceased, will take notice that Charles Bundy, as administrator of the estate of Moses Simmons, deceased, on the ninth day of March, A.D., 1900, filed his petition in the Probate Court within and for the County of Cuyahoga, and State of Ohio, alleging that the personal estate of said decedent is insufficient to pay his debts and the charges of administering his estate; that he died seized in fee simple of the following described real estate, situate in the City of Cleveland, County of Cuyahoga, and State of Ohio, to-wit: — known as being all of the sub-lots Nos. 104 and 105 in James M. Hoyt’s sub-division of ten-acre lot No. 37 in said city, and together makes a frontage of 30 feet upon the westerly line of Sterling avenue, and extends in rear to Laurel street 148 and 3/12 feet in depth. That the said defendant, the Society of Savings, holds a mortgage lien on said real estate by virtue of a certain mortgage executed to it as mortgagee by the said decedent during his life time, dated November 4, 1894, and recorded in Vol. 959, page 509, of Cuyahoga County records, that the amount recurred by said mortgage is Five Hundred Dollars, as indicated in exhibit “A,” attached to said petition. That the last half of the taxes for 1899 are unpaid and are alien on said real estate. That it would be for the best interests of the estate of the said Moses Simmons to sell said real estate at private sale for the reason that the character and location of said property leads plaintiff to believe that he could sell the same for greater sum at private sale than at public auction.

The prayer of said petition is that the plaintiff may be authorized to see said real estate to pay debts at a private sale, according to the statute in such case made and provided.

The persons first above mentioned will further take notice that they have been made parties defendant to said petition, and that they are required to answer the same on or before the 12th day of May, A.D. 1900.    CHAS. BUNDY, Administrator as aforesaid.

March 9, 1900.     ALEX. H. MARTIN, Attorney.

[Sidenote:  The biography set forth in Moses Simmons’ obituary is peculiar in many particulars. First, his age is given as 78, though his death certificate lists it as 66. (An age within 0-5 years of those reported in census records.) Most startling, however, is the elaborate account of his alleged enslavement until age 29. Richards is an uncommon name in the Mount Olive area, and none appear in the 1840, 1850 or 1860 censuses of Wayne or Duplin County. That Moses was related to the large Simmons free family of color of Wayne County does not guarantee that he, too, was free, but all evidence indicates that in fact he was. He is listed in the 1850 census as an 18 year-old living in the household of Adam Winn in North Division, Duplin County. He was the son of Itey (or Ida) Simmons, who was free at least as early as 1854, when her son David conveyed to her a life estate in the land on which she was living. (Itey named David and Moses Simmons in her 1884 will – noting that she did not know if Moses were living – as well as the Maria Thompson named in Moses’ estate notice.) His kin Polly, Eliza and Buckner Simmons arrived in Cleveland in the early 1850s. Did he come with them? Why the myth of servitude? (And, speaking of myths, what happened to the fortune he was believed to have accumulated?)

P.S. Moses Simmons appears in dozens and dozens of Cleveland newspaper articles between 1863 and his death in 1900, with topics spanning his real estate and business dealings, his political maneuverings, his horses and his legal wrangling. Highlights: in 1877, an announcement for his bailbonding business; the same year, a notice that he was seeking divorce from wife Rettie, who had abandoned him; in 1884, an announcement for the opening of his tonsorial parlor; and in 1892, a report about a fire at his livery stable. – LYH]

Our oldest, best known and most highly respected.

Mr. Buckner Simmons, after an illness of ten years, died Tuesday morning. Mrs. Mary Simmons, better known to our old citizens as “Aunt Polly,” came to Cleveland 51 years ago with her two sons, and daughter from North Carolina. They settled in their present at 31 Newton street, and have lived there continuously since. Mr. Simmons was well-known and highly respected. His mother, aged 95 years, and sister, Mrs. Eliza Bryant, have the sincerest sympathy of the community. Funeral Thursday at 2 p.m., from the residence, Rev. J.M. Gilmore officiating.

Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 20 February 1904.

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Mrs. Eliza Bryant, aged 80 years, died May 13. Funeral from the house May 15, conducted by Rev. Ira A. Collins, assisted by Rev. W.T. Maxwell. Interment in Woodland Cemetery. Boyd & Dean, undertakers.

Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 25 May 1907.

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Mrs. Mary Simmons better known as “Aunt Polly” Simmons of 2188 E. 31st (Newton) St., mother of Mr. Buckner Simmons, deceased, one of our oldest, best known and most highly respected residents, died Monday night of old age and a complication of ailments. Mrs. Simmons was a North Carolinian by birth but came to Cleveland about 1860. Funeral Thursday afternoon from the residence, Dr. Chas. Bundy officiating, assisted by Rev. G.V. Clark. She was one of the church’s oldest members. E.F. Boyd, funeral director. Interment in Woodland cemetery.

Cleveland Gazette, Cleveland OH, 9 September 1911.

John P. Green.

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Hon. John P. Green was born in 1845 at New Berne, N.C., of free parents. As a boy of twelve years of age, he went with his widowed mother to Cleveland, Ohio. He was educated in the Cleveland public schools, graduating from the Central High School in 1869.

He was admitted to the bar of South Carolina in 1870. Returning to Cleveland, he for nine years served as justice of the peace. In 1881 he was elected member of the Ohio Legislature, serving three terms.

In 1897 he was appointed to a position in the postoffice department by President McKinley.He was also delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1872, in 1884 and 1896.

From D.W. Culp, ed., Twentieth century Negro literature, or, A cyclopedia of thought on the vital topics relating to the American Negro.

Courtesy of New Bern-Craven County Public Library. 

They emigrated for safety.

A company of sixty free negroes from North Carolina, arrived at Baltimore on Wednesday, who are emigrating to Ohio for safety.

The National Republican, Washington DC, 2 February 1861.

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FREE NEGROES ON THE WING. – On Wednesday last, sixty-three free negroes from Edgecourt [sic] county, North Carolina, crossed the Ohio river at Bellaire on their way to Zanesville. An old negro acted as leader of the party, holding the tickets, disbursing funds, etc.

Daily Dispatch, Richmond VA, 7 Feb 1861.

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NEWS ITEMS &C.

Sixty-three free negroes from North Carolina arrived at Zanesville on Thursday. They were from Edgecomb county, and had been ordered to leave by the whites of that section.

Fremont Journal, Fremont OH, 8 February 1861.

 

 

John Anthony Copeland Jr.

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John Anthony Copeland, Jr. (1834–1859) was born free in Raleigh, North Carolina, to John Anthony Copeland, who was born into slavery in 1808, and Delilah Evans, born free in 1809. Copeland, Sr. was emancipated about 1815. The family lived near Hillsborough, North Carolina, until 1843, when the family migrated to Cincinnati and then Oberlin, Ohio, where some of his wife’s brothers and their families also lived.

John Copeland, Jr. worked as a carpenter and briefly attended Oberlin College. As a young man, he became involved in the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society.  In September, 1858, with his uncles Henry and Wilson Bruce Evans, Copeland was one of the thirty-seven men involved in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue to free John Price, a runaway slave who had been captured and held by authorities under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. The men freed the slave and helped him escape to Canada.

In September 1859, Copeland was recruited to John Brown’s armed group by his uncle, Lewis Sheridan Leary. Brown led twenty-one followers, sixteen white and five black men, and captured the armory guards of Harpers Ferry, then part of Virginia, where they took control of the Federal arsenal. The raiders were soon pinned down by Virginia militiamen until U.S. marines led by Robert E. Lee arrived to apprehend them.

At Harper’s Ferry, Copeland and John Henry Kagi, a white raider, were to seize control of Hall’s Rifle Works. Kagi and several others were killed while swimming across the Shenandoah River to escape. Copeland was captured alive, and he, John Brown, and five others were held for federal trial.  Copeland was found guilty of treason and murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Six days before his execution, he wrote to his brother, referring to the American Revolution:

“And now, brother, for having lent my aid to a general no less brave [than George Washington], and engaged in a cause no less honorable and glorious, I am to suffer death. Washington entered the field to fight for the freedom of the American people – not for the white man alone, but for both black and white. Nor were they white men alone who fought for the freedom of this country. The blood of black men flowed as freely as the blood of white men. Yes, the very first blood that was spilt was that of a negro…But this you know as well as I do, … the claims which we, as colored men, have on the American people.”

Copeland’s family continued his struggle by taking up arms during the Civil War. His father served as a cook for the 55th Ohio Infantry, and his younger brother Henry E. Copeland served as a first sergeant in Douglass’s Independent Battery of Colored Artillery in Kansas.

Adapted from http://www.nccivilwar150.com/history/john-brown-nc.htm. Photo courtesy of Kansas Historical Society.

Eliza Simmons Bryant.

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ELIZA SIMMONS BRYANT (1827–1907) founded a home in Cleveland, Ohio, for elderly African-Americans, many, freed slaves.  The Cleveland Home for Aged Colored People, now known as Eliza Bryant Village, continues to serve some of Cleveland’s most vulnerable residents.

Eliza Bryant’s official biography asserts that she “was born in North Carolina to Polly Simmons, a slave, and her master. She was raised on a plantation in Wayne County. In 1848, Polly Simmons was freed, and moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio, where she purchased a home, with funds from her master.” It is more likely that, in fact, Eliza was born free to Polly Simmons, who was part of a large family whose freedom dated from at least the mid-18th century.  Her father may have been white, and may have employed her mother, but was not her master.  The 1850 census of the South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, shows: Polly Simmons, 47, her children Eliza, 23, Buckner, 21, and George, 18; plus Nancy A., 17, and Willie Grice, 15, and Rufus Daniel, 14; all described as mulatto. They are listed among a cluster of Simmonses, including 84 year-old Phereby Simmons, who may have been Polly’s mother.

Photo courtesy of http://www.elizabryant.org.  Wikipedia; US Federal Population Schedule.

North from North Carolina, no. 1.

On 4 October 1835, Henderson Artis married Nancy Wilkins in Northampton County.

In the 1850 census of Northampton County: Nancy Artis, 35, with children Narcissa, 8, William, 5, and Cherry, 3.

In the 1860 census of Jefferson, Logan County, Ohio: Henderson Artis, 43, wife Nancy, 36, and children Narcissa, 15, William, 13, and Charity, 12.  Henderson was a farmer and all were born in NC.

Determined to seek a home in the North.

A Semi-Centennial Anniversary. A pleasant company, numbering about forty persons, assempled on Monday afternoon, August 15th, at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Copeland, a little southwest of Oberlin, in response to invitations to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary or golden wedding of the host and hostess. Congratulatory remarks were made by Hon. James Monroe, and prayer offered by Dea. W. W. Wright, after which a bountiful supper was served. The presents consisted of about $50.00 in gold coin, two gold-lined silver cups, numerous floral offerings, and other articles.

John C. Copeland and Delilah Evans were married in Hillsboro, North Carolina, August 15th, 1831, and settled in Raleigh, the capital of the State, which had previously been the home of Mr. Copeland, and where he labored for seven years as carpenter on the State House. Mr. Copeland was born a slave, but at the age of seven years was made free by the will of his deceased master, who was also his father. Mrs. Copeland was never a slave. She is a sister of our fellow townsman, Mr. W. B. Evans.

In the year 1843 Mr. Copeland, Allen Jones and John Lane left North Carolina with their families, determined to seek a home in the North. Traveling with teams, they crossed the Ohio river at Cincinnati, and by the advice of Abolitionist friends, started for New Richmond, Indiana. When within five miles of that place they were hailed by a farmer by the name of Tibbets, a friend of the colored man, and invited to stop and rest. It being near the close of the week, they reamined over the Sabbath, and by invitation attended an Abolitionist meeting in New Richmond. Having been informed by the slaveholders of the South that the Abolitionists in the North were accustomed to capturing colored men and selling them into slavery, they were somewhat reluctant about entering the room where the meeting was held, but after much urging entered and took a seat near the door, where they could escape if indications of danger appeared. They listened to the speaking and were much pleased with their new-found friends, and greatly relieve in their minds to learn that the stories told them by the North Carolina slaveholders were untrue. Here they became acquainted with Amos Dresser; a graduate of Oberlin College, class of ’39, who advised them to locate in Oberlin, where the slave-holders would not kidnap their children as they were in a habit of doing along the Ohio river. With written directions from Mr. Dresser at to the route to be travelled, the three men mounted their horses and started for the colored man’s land of promise. As an illustration of the feeling of the people in regard to Oberlin at that day, Mr. Copeland relates that when within twenty miles of the place they stopped at a tannary to inquire the way, and were told with oaths that there was no such place, that it had “sunk.” Mr. C. replied that he “would go on and look into the chasm.”

They arrived at their destination on Sunday and were much surprised as they passed up the street to see two young men, one white and the other colored, walking arm in arm. They were greeted by some citizens, who inquired why they were riding on Sunday. They answered that they were seeking a home for themselves and families. One of their number was taken in charge by the late Dr. Dascomb, the other two by citizens.

They soon decided to make this their home. Messrs. Copeland and Lane returned to New Richmond for the three families, Mr. Jones sending word that he “had found a paradise and was going to stay.”

For thirty-nine years Mr. Copeland has lived in Oberlin and vicinity; has reared a family of eight children — two daughters and three sons still survive, all of whom have recieved a fair education. Laura A. has for eleven years been teaching in Indiana. Mary, who has also been a teacher, now resides with her parents. William is a lawyer in Arkansas, Henry and Frederick are carpenters, the former living in Kansas, and the latter in Oberlin. The eldest son, John, studied for a time in the college, and started for Detroit to engage in teaching but at Cleveland met with John Brown and became one of his associates in the ill-fated attack upon Harper’s Ferry in 1839, who executed along with the great martyr, and his remains turned over to medical students for dissection, the efforts of Hon. James Monroe and others to recover his body for Christian burial proving unavailing. A number of letters written by the young man while awaiting execution, are preserved by his parents as sacred mementoes.

Mr. Copeland is now 73 years of age and his wife 72. The generous response in the way of presents shows the esteem in which they are held by their friends.

Oberlin Weekly News, Aug. 19, 1881