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Wheeling Gaunt (1812 - 1894)

 

In the tiny village of Yellow Springs, (population less than 4,000) in southwest Ohio, widows have received a gift the first week of December for over one hundred years. This gift of flour and sugar was left to the widows by a former slave who died in 1894. His name was Wheeling Gaunt.

 

Wheeling Gaunt was born a slaver around 1812 in Carrollton, Kentucky, a tobacco town where rivers, the Ohio and Kentucky, meet. It is believed that his father was a white man. 

 

His mother was sold to a slave trader and taken further south when he was four years old. He never saw or heard of her again. His owner, John F. Gaunt was a successful merchant and farmer, who had two sons a few years younger than Wheeling. These sons may have been Wheeling’s mentors and friends. 

 

The November 1841 will of John F. Gaunt identified Wheeling as “my Negro man slave Wheeling.” The will also listed “My Negro woman slave Louisa,” whom Wheeling later identified as his sister.  These were the only slaves listed in John F. Gaunt’s estate. The appraisal of these slaves on the estate inventory listed Wheeling’s value at $600 and Louisa’s at $400.

 

Wheeling purchased his freedom from the heirs of John F. Gaunt for the sum of $900.  This deed was probated in Carroll County Probate Court, Carrollton, Kentucky, on January 20, 1845. Wheeling believed that he was 32 years old at that time.

 

In 1847, Wheeling paid the balance of $200 on a mortgage on a house and lot in Carrollton, Kentucky.  That same year he bought Amanda Smith Knight (his wife) for the sum of $500 and a young lad named Nick for $200. The Bill of Sale for the purchase of Nick read “said slave Nick is to be emancipated and set free from all manner of servitude when he arrives at the age of 21 years.” 

 

The enumerator for the 1850 Unite States Census in the city of Carrollton lists Wheeling, age 35, Amanda, age 29, and Nicholas, age 9, sharing their home with a white family. Wheeling was the owner of the house.  Normally the owner of the home is listed as the head of the household, but in this record the white man was listed as the head of the household, but in this record the white man was listed as the head of the household.  The relationship between the two families is unknown. This 1850 census lists the real estate value as $1000 and Wheeling’s occupation as a Laborer.  His actual occupation has not been specifically determined. Some say “he earned his money selling apples and blackening boots.” However, Carrollton was a river town in tobacco country, which may have offered many opportunities for an ambitious laborer.

 

Wheeling continued to purchase real estate, mostly choice lots and building in what would become the commercial section of Carrollton. One parcel contained eight buildings at High and Fourth Streets. The signature of Alfred Gaunt (one of the sons of his former slave owner) appears on most of these transactions. Alfred’s signature is that of the attorney or the solicitor. The signature of Alfred’s cousin, Marshall Gaunt, sometimes appeared in lieu of Alfred’s. There may have been some sort of friendship between these three men.

 

On March 13, 1850, Wheeling signed emancipation papers in the probate court, freeing Amanda. The document read:

 

I Wheeling Gaunt alias (Wheeling, a free man of color) of Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky, for many good considerations and reasons, me here unto moving, hereby set free and manumit forever, my Negro woman Amanda Gaunt, alias Amanda, she being my wife, she is to have and enjoy all the rights and privileges and immunities of a free person. Witness my hand and seal this 13th day of March, 1850. His mark (x) signed and sealed—(note- he was unable to write his name). This document was recorded in the Probate, November 4, 1850.

 

The 1860 U.S. Census lists Wheeling’s age as 45, occupation Teamster, real estate valued value, $1,500, Personal Estate value, $3,000. Amanda is listed as age 38. Nicholas is not listed.  He would have been 19 years old and could have moved on, or he may have died. No death record was found in Carrollton. Also in this census one of the sons of the former slave owner John Gaunt continued to live near Wheeling Gaunt and operate a livery stable. They may have been in business together.

 

Exactly when and why Wheeling moved with his wife to Yellow Springs is unknown. Many freed slaves migrated to this area. Some came on their own, and others were manumitted an located in the area by their former owners or the administrators of the owners’ estates. Some were recorded in this village as early as 1835. Wheeling liquidated his real estate holdings in Carrolton in 1864 and bought his first real estate in Yellow Springs that same year. It is believed that he may have assisted the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the purchase of Wilberforce College in 1863.  Records reflect that Wheeling Gaunt donated a gift of $5,00 to Wilberforce College, a part of Xenia Township of Xenia, Ohio, a very short distance from Yellow Springs.  Wheeling continued to purchase real estate both in Yellow Springs and in Xenia (both in Greene County) until 1893. Greene County Record of Deeds lists thirteen different parcels, including house, lots, and farm acreage.

 

It is possible that abolitionist legacy of Horace Mann, the first president of Antioch College, who died in 1859, may have caused Wheeling to locate in Yellow Springs rather than in Xenia, the county seat of Greene County. Antioch College had some African American students enrolled in their preparatory school even though Yellow Springs public schools were segregated.

 

The 1860 census shows eighty-seven African Americans living in Yellow Springs. Their occupations included farming, hotel ownership, table waiting, barbering, laundering, housekeeping, janitoring, portering, and both male and female laborers.

 

Newspapers describe Wheeling as a proud and dignified man. He was well known by many outstanding Black men, some of whom sought financial assistance for their various projects. It is said that Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington knew him well. Also, many bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church were frequent visitors to his home. Wheeling’s wife, Amanda Knight Gaunt, died in 1888 and was buried in Glen Forest Cemetery, a public cemetery in Yellow Springs. Wheeling erected a large monument at her gravesite. In her memory he donated a bell to Central Chapel A.M.E. Church also in Yellow Springs. In 1890, he married Elizabeth Randolph Nichols of Xenia, Ohio.

 

Before Wheeling’s death, Bishop Daniel Payne, president of Wilberforce College, and several faculty members visited him and presented him with a cane which had the following words engraved theron: “To Wheeling Gaunt a benefactor of his race.”

 

On January 10, 1894, when his health began to fail, Wheeling informed Yellow Springs Council that he had deeded the Village a tract of nine acres located in the Southwest section of the village. He made one request: that the land should be rented to the highest bidder and the income be used to buy flour each Christmas for “Poor Worthy Widows.”  This was during a time when flour was more expensive than corn mean and was not found in many poor homes. Flour was purchased from mills or stores while corn meal could be ground at home. The deed further stated “Said Village Council is hereby appointed as Trustee to Collect the income derived from said real estate, which is to constitute a fund to be known as “The Widows Poor Fund; said fund … is to be invested annually in flour and distributed on the evening before Christmas Day among the poor worthy widows of Yellow Springs, Ohio.”

 

To accept the conveyance of real estate to the village of Yellow Springs from Wheeling Gaunt and his wife, the council rules required that an ordinance of this nature must be “read on three different days before passage.” But now, Mr. Gaunt was ill, and in view of this it was felt that action on the ordinance should not be delayed. So the council made a motion that the rules be suspended, whereupon the ordinance was read three times at that meeting.” Then a motion was made that the ordinance be adopted; the motion passed by unanimous vote.

 

Wheeling Gaunt died on May 9, 1894 without seeing his endowment in action. He was eulogized from Central Chapel A.M.E. Church and buried in Glen Forest Cemetery beside his first wife Amanda on Sunday afternoon, May 14, 1894.

 

His will listed the following beneficiaries: To his second wife Elizabeth, all his bonds, stock notes, and monies. All his furniture, horse, buggy, robes, harness, plows, and all rental income of his properties for six months. Also, occupancy of his residence on Walnut Street, Yellow Springs, free of rent for six months, and all the property he owned in Xenia, Ohio.  To the Colored Methodist Church (Central Chapel A.M.E. Church) the sum of $200. To Wilberforce College he left all of his real estate in Yellow Springs after a six-month period. A codicil to his will stated that he and his second wife had agreed that she should furnish a home and care for his sister Louise Chandler during her lifetime. This is the firs record that the “Negro woman slave Louisa,” identified by Wheeling’s former master, may have been his sister. Her whereabouts cannot be determined between the time that Wheeling purchased his freedom and the writing of his will. The estate inventory listed monies due from some citizens in Yellow Springs. During this period it was rare for African Americans to obtain loans or mortgages from local banks.  Purchase of homes, businesses, or expensive equipment was financed through trusting persons who had financial resources.

 

The Gift

In 1894, the village of Yellow Springs selected a committee to investigate the widows to determine the poor worthy widows. This committee was interracial. In its first year of existence, the committee distributed sixty-nine sacks of flour to the 23 neediest and most deserving poor widows of the village. Twenty-three widows had been selected as the most needy and deserving among the fifty or more that applied. There was just enough money for sixty-eight sacks of flour. The committee members bought an extra sack out of their own pockets in order to give each widow three, to make distribution equal.

 

Some widows questioned not being found worthy and needy. Eventually the word needy was deleted and all widows were offered the flour. Some widows declined the gift stating that they did not bake very often or that they did not wish to be identified as needy.

 

In 1966 the Village Council granted approval to the local recreation department to build a municipal swimming pool on th eland. The income from the pool is expected to provide the funds needed for the purchase of the gifts. The original intent of the land is closely monitored to insure the funds are available for the gifts. In 1975, the amount of flour was reduced to 10 pounds, and equal amount of sugar was given with the flour. Later, unbleached flour was found to be healthier thus replacing bleached flour as the gift.

 

Through persistent efforts of Ruth (Pat) Fields Matthews, the land was officially dedicated as Gaunt Park. It is a recreational park with a swimming pool, several lighted baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and a very comfortable rest area, especially designed as a tribute and memorial to Wheeling Gaunt.

 

In November 2017, flour and sugar was purchased for 111 widows and widowers.

 

There are no surviving relatives of Wheeling Gaunt. His will did request the sum of one dollar be given to any relative of his or his former wife Amanda should they appear. No record was made or has been made of such a gift.

 

Elizabeth Nichols Gaunt returned to Xenia and resided at 508 East Market Street until her death on February 22, 1905. She is buried at Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia, Ohio.

 

Sources: Phyllis Jackson, Minutes of Yellow Springs Village Council; Records of Greene County Probate Courts; Records of Carrollton County Probate Court, Carrollton, Kentucky; Files of Yellow Springs News; U.S. Census of Carrollton, Kentucky, and Yellow Springs, Ohio; Records from the Greene county, Ohio, Health Department; Records from the Archives at Wilberforce University.

 

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Therese Evelyn Marie Thomas Greene 

Therese Thomas was born January 12, 1930 in Washington D.C. Therese grew up on P Street in the North West section of Washington. She graduated from Dunbar High school in 1947 and completed Miner teachers college in 1952, with a teaching degree. Therese and Carl Greene met when Carl was earning his engineering degree and they married in 1952. Therese worked as a teacher in the D.C schools while Carl was overseas in the U.S Air Force. Therese and Carl Sr. relocated to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1953 and started a family with Carl Jr. and Cecilia. The Greene family moved to Yellow Springs in 1958 and Gerald was born in 1959. Therese had a par time job at Goes Playschool from 1965 through 1970. Her husband, Carl Sr. passed away in 1969. Therese restarted her teaching career at Mills Lawn School in 1970 teaching special elementary school. She attended Wright State University to earn her master’s degree in Special Education in 1977. Therese retired from Mills Lawn School after 20 years. In her later years Therese traveled to many places like North Africa, Europe, Caribbean cruises, Mediterranean cruises, West Africa, South African and England.

Therese was part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a member of the National Honor Society. Therese Evelyn Marie Thomas passed away when she was 88 years old in 2018.   

The Gudgel Family

 

In the 1890s James and Pearl (Benning) Gudgel gave birth to four children:

  1. John Winston Gudgel, affectionately known as “Winnie” who served as a longtime (47 years) cook at Antioch College. John and Geneva gave birth to two children, Veda and John W. Gudgel, II.

 

  1. Vernis Gudgel was a longtime musician in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance and recorded the song “Lovely Rainbow in the Sky” in 1935. Vernis studies piano under Professor Charlie Wallace. Prior to moving to New York City Vernis played the piano and the pump organ at First Baptist Church, Yellow Springs. He was married to Viola Pinkston, a native of Yellow Springs.

  1. Helen Gudgel was a longtime employee at Antioch College who was married to Marcellus Bass. They gave birth to two children, Vercenia and Norman. Norman, also known as Bud, was a five-time state champion in track at Springfield (Ohio) High School.

  2. Margaret Gudgel married Louis Goodson and they had one daughter, Joyce. Margaret was also employed by Antioch College and retired from Vernay Laboratories. She and her husband were very influential at First Baptist Church, Yellow Springs. 

 

Sources: John Gudgel

 

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Eliza and Dunmore Guwynn (1926 - ?)

 

Eliza and Dunmore Gwynn were two enslaved people from a plantation in Stafford County, Virginia. The plantation owner’s son, Moncure Conway, was a minister and abolitionist in Ohio. The Conways fled their Virginia plantation as the Union Army moved in.

As Union soldiers began to ransack the plantation, a soldier recognized Moncure’s portrait and his work as good abolitionist. The looting stopped. The Union Army instead turned Conway’s boyhood home into a hospital for the troops. Moncure’s father would be told the story by the wounded soldiers after a flag of truce was flown.

In 1862, Moncure received a note saying the Qwynns had made it to Georgetown, but that the rest of their enslaved family was still on the plantation. He resolved to bring them all to Yellow Springs. Moncure went to Washington D.C. where he got President Lincoln’s blessing and warned of the dangers of such a mission. Moncure knew of one childhood friend in Georgetown, an escaped slave named Benjamin Williams, who might help him to find the Qwynns. The Qwynns were found to have set up a candy store, but they were ready to move on and reunite with their family.

Despite all Moncure’s plans to find his father’s slaves in Virginia, when he knocked on Benjamin Williams’ cabin and announced his name there was a shout and the door flung open. The small house was filled with exhausted adults, sleeping children, their worldly possessions, and a sense of hope - all of Conway’s plantation slaves had made the walk from Virginia themselves.

Getting to Ohio would be difficult. Washington and Maryland were full of proslavery and Confederate gangs. The large group of Conway’s plantation families also posed a challenge; they could be mistaken as being enslaved to be shipped into Maryland. As the Conway-led group approached the train station, they were surrounded by curious bystander. Then as the Conway band whispered their destination to freedom, the hostile crowd became very joyful. That celebration was noted and by the time they reached the train station, the abolitionist crowd was replaced by a very angry anti-abolitionist mob. Viewing the mob the Railroad ticket agent would not sell Moncure tickets. When he saw Moncure’s military order that mentioned his “father’s slaves,” the agent mistakenly assumed Moncure was taking his group to be sold and was delighted to sell Moncure the tickets and gave them a whole car to themselves.

Moncure viewed Dunmore as the patriarch of the plantation group. Moncure wrote “he and his family were the colored gentry of the region…Eliza being near as chamberlain to suggest my role and support me in it.” Other names in the Conway party were Harrod, Hempstead, Cuffee, Morgan, and Taylor.

The group succeeded in reaching Yellow Springs. In 1862 Moncure Conway set up housing (known as the Conway Colony), for the group of 30 freed slaves to settle in. The ruins of the Conway House may still be seen in the underbrush on the hill heading down to the Grinnell Mill.

Sources: Jean Payne 

 

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Elizabeth Hamilton 

Elizabeth Hamilton was born on June 18, 1887 in Greene County, the daughter of Lee and Alice Lewis Sanford. She once worked as the cook at Antioch nursery school for many years in Yellow Springs. She died in October of 1994 at the age of 107. She was preceded in death by her husband Arthur Raymond Hamilton as well as six sisters and five brothers.

Sources: Yellow Springs News, October 3, 1994; Xenia Daily Gazette, October 3, 1994

 

 

[See Jane Cape’s records at Antioch on the nursery school as part of the Childhood development program]

James E. Hamilton Sr.

James E. Hamilton was born on April 12, 1879 in Yellow Springs. He retired from the section crew of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1949. He died on March 13, 1952 at the age of 72. He was survived by two sons, Raymond Leo of Yellow Springs, and James Edward, Jr. of Xenia, and a sister Jane of Yellow Springs.

 

Source: Adapted on March 13, 1952

James Edward Hamilton Jr.

James Edward Hamilton was born in Yellow Springs in 1907, the son of Minnie Thomas and James E. Hamilton. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and retired as a boiler repairman from Central State University. He was a member of the Golden Age Cenior Citizens Center. He died on March 4, 1994 and was survived by his wife Alma Craword Hamilton, son Charles E. Hamilton and daughter-in-law Gora L. Stevens, of Xenia, one brother-in-law Ross Endsley of Yellow Springs, three granddaughters, Majorie Wright of Suitland, Md, Reina and Koko Brown, of Xenia and one great-great granddaughter, Marah Brown of Xenia.

 

Source: Adapted March 5, 1994

Martha J. Hamilton 

Martha Jane Hamilton was born in South Carolina in 1874. She moved to Yellow Springs in 1909.  She died following an extended illness on November 20, 1953 at the age of 82 at the home of her son, Eddie Ted Hamilton, a Yellows Springs councilman. 

 

Source: Adapted from Yellow Springs News obituary, November 20, 1953

Minnie Anna Mae Hamilton

Mrs. Minnie Anna Mae Hamilton, 56, wife of Edward Hamilton, died at her home on High Street, Yellow Springs on August 17, 1941. Besides her husband, she was survived by her daughter Minnnie Louise, and sons James and Leo.

 

Source: Adapted from East End News, August, 1941, Mrs. James Harris

Raymond A. Hamilton 

Raymond A. Hamilton was born to Amzl and Joanne Montague Hamilton in Greene County on September 16, 1886. He spent most of his life in the Yellow Springs and Cedarville communities, and was a member of Cedarville AME Church, and a Masonic Lodge in Richmond, Indiana. For many years he was employed as an automobile mechanic. He had been in failing health for four years, and critically ill for three weeks before his death on April 5, 1953. He was survived by his widow Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton, a sister, Mrs. Lucy Allen of Xenia, and a number of nieces and nephews.

R. Leo Hamilton 

R. Leo Hamilton was born on February 19, 1913 in Yellow Springs to James Edward Hamilton, Sr. and Minnie Thomas Hamilton. He attended Village Schools and was a former member of First Baptist Church of Yellow Springs. He was employed by the DeWine & Hamma Feed and Seed Co. and at one time by Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He was survived by a brother James of Xenia, a sister Mrs. Louise Ross Endsley of Yellow Springs, and an uncle, Ernest Hamilton of Yellow Springs.
Source: Adapted from Yellow Springs News obituary, August 23, 1972

 

The Olga Harris & Bob Harris Family Journey 

Olga and Bob Harris were married in Philadelphia, PA in December 1960 and moved to Ohio shortly thereafter. Their first home, a small house in Dayton, Ohio was perfect for the two of them until their oldest daughter, Angela, was born in December of 1961. They moved from the small house to at two-bedroom apartment in Dayton, where they lived until their second daughter, Anne, was born in 1966.

By that time the couple was thinking about Angela and her school choices. They began to search for a house to raise their children in and began their search in Dayton, which was then very segregated. Housing choices were in short supply. As the days began to bring them closer to September and school, they began to get nervous. They applied at Miami Valley School in Dayton, and were accepted but the daily drive with two young children each day for a three-hour class did not seem feasible. So they kept exploring their options.

Carl Greene, an engineer of color at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), suggested that they come to Yellow Springs where he and his wife Teresa lived with their children. He told them how great the place was for living and schooling. The Harrises spent one Saturday riding around and checking out housing. By the end of the day they were convinced that this was where they would find housing and raise their children. It seemed too good to be true.

They subscribed to the Yellow Springs News and followed its housing market. They found and explored a few places, but did not find what they wanted. Time was getting short.  They found a small house that the children loved, but it was very tiny and they thought they would soon outgrow it.

One day they checked out a house that was 'for rent' and, lo and behold, it was the same house they liked but earlier thought was too small. They immediately rented it and moved in. It was a three-bedroom home on Lisa Lane.

The day the Harris family moved in was a wonderful experience; every neighbor came over and introduced themselves, bringing something: food, soda, simple things. That was an overwhelming experience and the kids immediately found friends – friends that remain their friends after more than fifty years.

The Harrises lived in the house from 1967 to 1969. When they were expecting our third child (their son Michael) they were again on the hunt for a larger house.

Again, a person at WPAFB invited Bob to join him at an auction for houses that had been foreclosed on. The only items were a house and an apartment building in Yellow Springs. Bob bid on the house against two speculators, and won the bid! The Harrises owned a house they had never seen the inside of – on a street less than a block away from where they lived;  so they knew the neighborhood. They moved in during August 1969, and their son was born in October of the same year.

The Harris children thrived in the Yellow Springs' school system; each graduated from Yellow Springs High to attend college and graduate: The University of Michigan (Angela and Anne), and Northwestern University (Michael).

Bob and Olga Harris retired from their respective jobs in 1994. He was an engineer at WPAFB and she worked for the Greene County library system.

Olga worked in the community, volunteering in the YS schools, and working as a substitute at the Mills Lawn Elementary School Library, and the Middle School's office. She also volunteered with the high school theater department, sewing costumes for productions. Olga’s professional work included library work in the Clark and Greene County Library systems, eventually accepting full-time positions in Fairborn and finally in Yellow Springs.

Bob worked as a researcher, contract manager, and technology supervisor at the Air Force Avionics Research Laboratory, WPAFB. He was active in volunteer-work in the village: YS Federal Credit Union (board member); YS Community Children Center (board member), YS Senior Citizen Center Executive Committee; and briefly part of the newly-formed YS Friends Care Center board. He and the late Ken Champney organized the early Yellow Springs' Chess Club which during the 1960s and 1970s taught and played competitive chess throughout Southwestern Ohio. Bob is the founder of the African-American Genealogy Group of the Miami Valley (OH) and served as its first president for more than six years. He is a long-time member of the Yellow Springs Men’s Group (a.k.a. James A. McKee Association).

Yellow Springs was the best choice for the Harrises. They were able to raise their children in a place that was accepting and offered them a good education. Yellow Springs offered them much more than any surrounding area.

 

Olga and Bob Harris

Ruth "Pat" Matthews Howard

Ruth Marie “Pat” Matthews Howard was born in Oberlin, Ohio on October 7, 1918. She was one of four children born to George Leroy Field and Marvyl Berry Fields. She met her husband Rev. Wesley S. Matthews at Wilberforce University when she was a freshman and he was a graduate returning for homecoming. It was he who nicknamed her “Pat” (calling her “Pat the Lamb”). She dropped out of college to marry him, and after he completed seminary at Payne Theological seminary, they moved in 1941 to Yellow Springs, where he had his first pastorship at Central Chapel A.M.E. Church. They were married for over thirty-five years.

 

Mrs. Matthews worked as a school teacher, secretary, and for the Yellow Springs News, where she was well known for her column “Chat with Pat.” A reporter with the Yellow Springs News in the 1940s, she was the first black person hired in a a downtown office. Her desk was by the front window and people walking past “made faces” at her, she said. Mrs. Matthews and her husband founded the first integrated community center in Yellow Springs in the 1940s, and the two helped integrate the local movie theater. While living in Springfield, Ohio in the 1950s, she and her husband were among the handful of black people who elected to send their children to Highland Elementary School, a formerly all-white school, immediately after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision calling for school integration.

 

Mrs. Matthews was active in the civil rights movement and was interested in the history of blacks in Yellow Springs, helping a class write a book on local black history, and interviewing older members of the black community. She served on the Human Rights Commission in Yellow Springs, and worked at Morgan Middle School in Yellow Springs. A strong believer in higher education, she returned to Wilberforce in the 1970s, graduating with a degree in education. After the death of her husband in 1979, she married Houston Howard, a Springfield pharmacist, and she moved with him to Clifton, Ohio, but retuned to Yellow Springs when he died five years later.

 

Through funding from the Scripps Foundation, Matthews Howard wrote down and taped the voices of the village’s oldest residents, to save forever the memories of history. Scripps money was financing a transportation needs study, and the foundation’s director Dr. Fred Cottrell asked that the oldest residents be interviewed to learn why they settled in Yellow Springs and what work they did. Matthews Howard heard reminiscences from Maurice Pemberton—who while not a senior citizen yet- shared his childhood memories with his grandparents, Squire J.T. Hornaday, an Antioch College graduate and for 30 years a Justice of the Peace, and Mrs. Hornaday, the first Negro member of St. Paul Catholic Church. Matthews Howard claimed to have been the first to publicize through her YS News column the fact that Wheeling Gaunt, the man who donated the land for Gaunt Park, was a former slave. She was instrumental in seeing that a stone was installed at the park to memorialize Gaunt.

 

Matthews Howard obtained information about underground railroad stops in the village and learned that a senator of pre-Civil War days used his influence to get the underground railroad to come through Yellow Springs instead of Clifton. The senator was a trustee of the newborn Antioch College, which was struggling to become established. Howard also made a map of Negro-owned business and lands of the 19th century. The lands covered about half of the village and its environs, showing large holdings by the Perry, Pettiford, Pinkston, and other families, as well as three haymarkets and other businesses typical of the day.

 

Matthews Howard died on April 21, 1996. She was survived by four daughters, Domina Matthews, Kriza Jennings, Westina Matthews, and Barbara Matthews, and a son, Wesley Matthews, II.

 

Westina Matthews Shatteen, Domina Matthews Page

 

Sources: Obituary for Rev. Wesley Matthews, Yellow Springs News, June 6, 1979; Obituary for Pat Matthewes Howard, Yellow Springs News, April 24, 1996; Memorial Service Bulletin, Dr Wesley S. Matthews, June 2, 1979; Mremorial Service Bulletin, Ruth “Pat” Matthews Howard, May 11, 1996; Pioneer Portrait, YS Senior Center, http://www.seniorcitizenscenter.org/YSSC_WesleyM.htm;The Matthews-Howard Family Papers MS-248, Department of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University, https://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collectionguides/files/ms248.pdf; Xenia Dailty Gazette, April 7, 1971, page 14

Charles Wesley Hatcher (1920 - 1972) & Elizabeth Hatcher

 

Coming to Yellow Springs

 

Charles Wesley Hatcher Jr. brought his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children to Yellow Springs, Ohio in the winter of 1955.  Charles had roomed there for months as he settled into his position as Personnel Manager at Vernay Laboratories. 

 

The Hatchers, like many African Americans of the time, were looking for a place to raise their children comfortably and enjoy the opportunities that White Americans with the same accomplishments naturally expected. Both Charles and Elizabeth came from strong family backgrounds, which encouraged success.

 

Charles was born an only child in Fort Worth, Texas in 1920, and when he was nine, he, his parents, his mother’s two sisters, their husbands and children moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. They were in search of better schools. Cincinnati was also the end of the railroad line that followed the route the three men in the family traveled in their jobs as railway postal clerks.  Railway post office clerks were considered the elite of the postal service’s employees.  For Black men to attain such a sought after position during this period was unusual. Eventually, all three families lived together in Avondale, a Black section of town, in a large house that provided a separate floor for each family.

 

Elizabeth was born in Cincinnati to Edmund and Esther Oxley in 1919, the youngest of three children. She wouldn’t meet Charles until years later.  She lived with her parents and two siblings on the West Side of downtown Cincinnati. St. Andrews Episcopal Church, where Elizabeth’s father was pastor, was the center of the Oxley’s lives. The church, located on the street behind their house, was connected to the nursery school that her mother, Esther, supervised.  Esther also ran an employment agency from the church, which brought together mothers of her day care children and employers who informed her of available jobs.

 

Charles was always industrious and from a very young age liked earning his own spending money.  In Texas, before he was eight, he sold The Pictorial Review to ladies in the neighborhood. At twelve he sold copies of The Pittsburgh Courier to people he knew and eventually developed a list of regular customers. When Charles was 14, his grandmother came to Cincinnati to stay with the family because she was ill.  The drugstore was supposed to deliver her medicine to the house, but it always arrived late or not at all. This problem gave Charles an idea.  He went to the drugstore early one morning and asked the owner if he needed someone to make deliveries. Impressed with Charles’ initiative, the pharmacist hired Charles for a job that he kept until he entered college.

 

Because of the racial discrimination existing outside their neighborhoods, support from their families as well as the people surrounding them were paramount to Charles and Elizabeth’s personal development.  St. Andrews became the base for many of the events important to Cincinnati’s Black community.  Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops formed there.  Speakers from Cincinnati and other cities came to talk at St. Andrews about topics of interest such as health and religion.  Since schools like the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music were not open to the Black community, Esther and Edmund opened a school at the church where both children and adults were encouraged to take music, dance and drama lessons.

 

Charles and all his family were members of the Baptist Church.  This as much as any of his experiences united him with Black traditions.  Charles’ family often entertained and offered lodging in their home to Black celebrities performing on the road who were barred from the White hotels and other establishments. Many places like movie houses, restaurants and swimming pools were restricted.  Family, community and neighborhood schools protected Charles and Elizabeth from these realities. Not until they entered White high schools did they directly feel the sting of racism.

 

Charles’s father had a running protest with the principal of the high school Charles attended because Black students were not allowed in the swimming pool. Charles Sr., an officer in the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP, believed it was his duty to condemn this discrimination.

 

For Elizabeth, high school was a place to go to fulfill academic requirements and then leave. She felt no warmth for her school because she as a black student was excluded from most extracurricular activities.  She could not join social clubs and resented being kept from swimming classes, a required part of the White curriculum. Sometime after 1937 when Charles and Elizabeth had graduated from high school and met at the University of Cincinnati, they along with others participated in organized, peaceful protests at the segregated movie houses in the city until the theaters were opened to Blacks.

 

Elizabeth was a full time student at the University of Cincinnati, and Charles took classes there in the evening while he worked at Christ Hospital during the day. Soon after Elizabeth graduated from the university in 1941, she and Charles married.  Drafted into the army during World War II, Charles chose to enlist in the Marine Corps. He served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he brought Elizabeth and their first-born, Charles Oxley (Chuck).  After the war, Charles moved the family to Cambridge, Massachusetts so he could attend Harvard Business School on the GI Bill.  He graduated in 1947 earning an MBA Degree.  The family returned to Cincinnati and in 1948 their second child, Laura, was born. The Hatchers lived in the Walnut Hills section of town, a middle class Black neighborhood at the time.  They designed and built a house on a dead end-street behind the Walnut Hills High School campus.

 

Chuck attended the neighborhood elementary school until seventh grade when he entered Walnut Hills High, his dad’s alma mater.  The Cincinnati Street Railway Company hired Charles as an Assistant Vice President. Elizabeth taught downtown on the west side serving the community where she was raised.  When in 1953 Hays/Porter, a combination elementary, junior high opened in the same section of town, Elizabeth accepted a job at Porter, the junior high, teaching physical education and science.  She brought Laura downtown with her everyday to attend Hays. Charles and Elizabeth with their children were settling into Cincinnati maintaining their extensive family and church connections.  They were planning to stay.  But Charles soon realized that his job was not satisfying his aspirations. He was stuck in a position with an empty title and a limited future.  So when a unique offer from Vernay Laboratories in Yellow Springs, Ohio came to him, he accepted it. He was not looking for prestige, and he wanted more than to just be a provider. He wanted his family to prosper and have access to the economic and social choices that would allow him and the people he loved to fulfill their dreams.

 

He believed Vernay Laboratories, a small, thriving company that manufactured rubber parts for the automotive and medical industries, would provide that opportunity. Hired as personnel manager with the promise of becoming treasurer someday, Charles would receive a good salary and the certainty that he could grow within the company. Sergius Vernet, founder and president of Vernay Laboratories, was a brilliant inventor who followed progressive hiring policies.    

 

When Charles moved his family to Yellow Springs in 1955, the Vernets, who spent winters in Florida, opened their house to the Hatchers. Charles had been staying in one room while alone in the town, and this offer would give the family a comfortable place to live while they searched for their own house. The Vernet mansion was set back on a street of modest homes a few blocks from Vernay Laboratories and in the mouth of Antioch College.  Some of Vernet’s neighbors were factory workers at the company.  Others were professors at Antioch. Still others were something else. Yellow Springs’ demographics did not limit relationships or where one lived in town.

 

The Hatchers found a simple, little house on West South College Street. Acres of field behind and to the west of their property contained only a tiny farmhouse in its center where Omar Robinson the black owner of those acres lived with his wife and child. That field would later become Omar Circle, a middle class predominantly black development of ranch style houses. The Howards, a Black family, lived next door to the Hatchers on one side, the Porters, a White family on the other.  The neighborhood was mixed. All the children in Yellow Springs went to the same schools. Chuck entered Bryan High in the middle of his eighth grade year; Laura entered Mills Lawn in the middle of second grade.

 

In the fall of 1956 The Yellow Springs Public Schools hired Elizabeth as a sixth grade teacher at Mills Lawn School.  She was the first Black teacher in the system since 1887.  Her class reflected the diversity of the town. The students were different races and nationalities.  Their parents were blue collar, white collar and professors at Antioch.  John Lithgow, the actor, was in her class. His father directed “Shakespeare Under the Stars” at Antioch.  Elizabeth was a creative teacher, and her students inspired her.  One of the activities during the year was the students’ own theatrical version of King Arthur’s Court.  The parents appreciated Elizabeth.  Some became close friends.  The Superintendent of Schools, however, did not like her being there.  He badgered her the entire year using her teaching methods as an excuse for his bigotry.  He would linger outside her classroom door or appear in her room without notice. Elizabeth had good teacher friends that supported her at the school, although the superintendent’s wife taught right across the hall.

 

Elizabeth developed a friendship with the young Black custodian at the school. He would stop in her classroom from time to time to talk with her.  His visits helped ease some of the tension. The next year, this custodian, James McKee, joined the Yellow Springs police, and a couple of years after that became Yellow Springs’ first Black chief of police.

 

The superintendent fired Elizabeth at the end of the school year. This developed into a town issue.  The Board of Education then fired the superintendent and rehired Elizabeth. The superintendent and his family left town, and to the dismay of many, Elizabeth chose to resign. Eventually, she commuted to Dayton, Ohio to teach. Later, she received her Masters from Wittenberg University. She became a counselor and then a principal in the Dayton School System. Although Elizabeth was more comfortable working in the Black community, she still appreciated Yellow Springs.  She understood that the strength of the town through its town meetings is what overcame and finally corrected the unfortunate situation at Mills Lawn Elementary. 

 

As personnel manager, Charles was always concerned with maintaining the ethnic and gender diversity of the company that Sergius Vernet had begun. He networked with   administrators in high schools and colleges in the area to find employees that would continue the tradition.  Elizabeth Hasty, an African American Yellow Springs resident and friend, was often Charles’ go-to person when she was a counselor at Xenia High School and then at Central State University.

 

Charles’ title had changed from personnel manager to director of administrative services but not until 1970 when Marie Treuer retired as treasurer at age 73, was Charles promoted to Vice President/Treasurer at Vernay.  After that, 65 became the mandatory age for retirement at the company.

 

Elizabeth and Charles were great friends of James and Eddie Dixon. In the seventies, during James’ presidency at Antioch College, Charles was put on the Antioch Board of Trustees. Throughout Dixon’s tenure beginning in 1959, the president had helped grow Antioch College into Antioch University with undergraduate and graduate campuses all over the country.  In 1975, his idea of changing one campus into an “international network” of campuses was quite controversial. As chairman of the board’s special committee on finance and management, Charles supported Dixon’s vision.

 

The Hatchers enjoyed success in their years in Yellow Springs, which gave them the opportunity to expand their experiences.  They purchased 250 acres of woods and farmland in southeastern Ohio.  They put a mobile home on the property and would go there on the weekends.  They loved hiking the woods.  They raised Black Angus cows for a while and later grew Christmas trees and a peach orchard on the land.  They traveled extensively, across the country and abroad.  In 1967, after Laura had graduated from high school, Charles and Elizabeth moved to an old house they had restored on fourteen acres between Yellow Springs and Xenia.  They filled it with the antiques they had collected through the years.

 

In 1987, two years after Charles retired from Vernay, he and Elizabeth moved back to Cincinnati.  They purchased a two-family home in Hyde Park, lived in half the house and rented out the rest.  They were there some years until they became independent living residents at the Deupree House, also in Hyde Park.  Charles passed away there in 2007. 

 

At this writing, Elizabeth, age 98, resides at Hyde Park’s Marjorie P Lee Episcopal Home.  One woman who cares for Elizabeth also cared for Elizabeth’s father, Reverend Edmund H Oxley, at the same Episcopal home where he died in 1972 at age 92.

 

Source: Charles B. Hatcher

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Charles Oxley Hatcher

 

When the Hatcher family moved to Yellow Springs from Cincinnati, Ohio, I was 13 years old.  I was glad to leave Cincinnati where our black community thought they were privileged, and I felt that I had little in common with them.

 

In Yellow Springs I felt freer and more in tune with black and white friends.   I spent most of my time with the boys my age, and there were only 2 black girls in my class. Although my father, his father and I had attended the AME church in Cincinnati on occasion, my mother’s strong Episcopalian heritage meant that we attended the Episcopal Church in Dayton.

 

My five short years in Yellow Springs were spent with work and lots of fun. I worked washing pots & pans at the Antioch Inn; I worked at a watercress farm just outside of the town and had a very successful business selling ice cream from a bike with a freezer. I played baseball with my father as umpire.  I went with a few other black friends to Chinle Indian Reservation on a work project sponsored by the Presbyterian Church.  I played lots of HS basketball with Charlie (Lazzie) Coles. We also had a Do Wop Trio (me, Phil Lawson and Dickie Brown) that became a quartet with Lee Morgan. I went to the senior prom with my white girlfriend with no incident. Of the 55 members of the 1960 Bryan HS class, 10 were National Merit Scholars – and I was the only black scholar.

 

From Bryan High School, David Romer and I went to Ohio State where we wanted to be roommates. The Ohio State University would not allow a white student (David) and a black student (me) to room together so we found accommodations in an international house. Ironically, David’s father had been Langston Hughes’ roommate at NYU.

 

From The Ohio State University, I transferred to Earlham College where I met and married Ruth.  We have 3 children (Charles, Robert and Corinne) and 3 grandchildren (Charlotte, Harrison and Annelline). 

 

I am retired from the Federal Government where I was a Fishery Biologist on the Great Lakes.

 

Yellow Springs meant freedom for me to be and do whatever I wanted to do in a protected and progressive (aside from the superintendent) environment.

 

Source: Charles Oxley Hatcher, 2017

 

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William S. Hawkins (1913 - 1980)

 

William S. Hawkins was born on December 1, 1913 in Atlanta, Georgia to Walter and Malinda Hall Hawkins. He moved to Yellow Springs in approximately 1945, and for many years owned Hawk’s Shoe Repair in Yellow Springs which succeeded a shoe repair business that had been owned by Black businessman James “Jazz” Johnson. He retired as an employee of Yellow Springs Instruments.  He died in January of 1980 and was survived by his mother, two daughters, LebraShaw and Darlene Hawkins of Dayton, a son William Hawkins, Jr. of Indianapolis, and seven grandchildren.

 

Sources: Adapted from Yellow Springs News, Xenia Gazette obituaries, January 14, 1980

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Cynthia Ann Regulus Holt (1935 - 2011)

 

Cynthia Ann Regulus was born on September 4, 1935 in Dayton to Lander and Ida Mae Patrick Regulus. She received her Bachelor Degree and an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Central State University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Dayton. 

 

She became an educator, first in the Yellow Springs School and served as principal of Yellow Springs High School from 1990 to 1995, and then became principal of Xenia High School. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; LINKS Inc; Friends of Payne; the Altrusa Group, WCPOVA (??), Dayton Duplicate Bridge Club; and Holy Trinity AME Church. 

She died on September 1, 2011, and was survived by her children David Spencer of Dayton, Tosca Battle of Xenia; her sister Nellie Regulus of Dayton and ten grandchildren.

 

Sources: Adapted from The Xenia Gazette, obituary, September 3, 2011; Yellow Springs News, obituary, September 3, 2011

 

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John (J.J.) Thomas Hornaday (1861-1944)

 

John Thomas Hornaday was son of Sylvester and Margaret Hornaday. He was born January 10, 1861 in a small cabin on an 80 acre farm owned by his father in Grant County, near Marion, Indiana. His mother died shortly after his birth, but his father, who lived until John as 16, guided his early development and instilled in him "a burning desire for an education."

 

At age 18, Mr. Hornaday bought a barbershop in Marion and worked as a barber for 1 ½ years, using time between customers to study. In 1881, John left Marion for Wilberforce College, but found himself short on funds and hired out as a barber in Xenia, Ohio. He arranged his hours so he could attend high school in Xenia. Following a relocation to West Jefferson, Ohio in 1882, where he pursued additional schooling, he migrated to Yellow Springs and opened a barbershop.

 

In 1884, Mr. Hornaday was married to Gertrude Wells, a student at Wilberforce form Cincinnati. Following his marriage, he studied at Antioch from 1885 to 1888. He joined Central Chapel AME Church in 1892, where he served 40 years as church clerk.

John was first commissioned as a Notary Public in 1890 and later served 20 consecutive years as Justice of Peace for Miami Township.

 

For a period, John Hornaday studied law while in the office of C. L. Maxwell in Xenia. He was not admitted to the bar, but he did open an office in Yellow Springs in 1890 where he engaged in the real estate business and was a Notary Public. Locals recognized him as an authority on pensions, and in 1890 he was given a special commission by the United States Secretary of the Interior to argue pension cases. The trustees of Wilberforce College also appointed him to act as real estate agent for the college.

 

Mr. Hornaday was a member of both the Masonic Fountain Lodge No. 35, and the Odd Fellows, where he became Grand Secretary of the Ohio District, Grand Lodge 24 of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows.

 

Source: Phyllis Jackson

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Joseph C. Hunter (1860-1936)

 

Joseph C. Hunter was proprietor of a farm of nearly 200 acres in Bath Township, on Rural Route 2 outside of Yellow Springs. He was born on October 10, 1860 in Williamson County, Tennessee. 

 

His parents were Jerome Lilla, a Cherokee Indian; and Dorcas Hunter, a slave of Henry Hunter. His mother died in 1897 and father (Jerome Lilly) migrated to Toronto, Canada. Growing-up on a farm in Tennessee, Joseph Hunter was schooled in the district schools and upon reaching adulthood he began farming. 

 

On December 27, 1883, in Union City, TN, Joseph Hunter married Ellen Johnson, the daughter of Lee Eddings and Sarah N. Johnson. The Hunters continued farming in Tennessee for 21 years; 16 of the years he also engaged in the threshing business. 

 

The Hunters migrated to Ohio in 1904 and settled in Greene County. The following year the Hunters purchased the farm outside of Yellow Springs where they pursued general farming and raised livestock.

The couple had 10 children: Savannah, who married William Edwards. They also farmed in Greene County, OH. Robert, who married Winnie Pettiford, and assisted his father in management of the home farm. Queen Esther, who married Clayton S. Mills (a blacksmith) and lived in Clifton, OH. Herman, who entered the medical profession in Nashville, TN; and served in the Medical Corp of the U.S. Army. Clay Evans, who graduated from Wilberforce College in 1917, became a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and became an attorney. Joseph, who assisted on the farm. Cecil, a graduate of Wilberforce University who became an attorney. Ruby, who graduated from Fairfield High School in 1918. Lester, who became a physician; and Waudell, who became a physician.

 

The elder Joseph Hunter owned 187 and 6/10th acres of land and specialized in raising Holstein cattle with a herd of over 30 head of cattle on his farm. He was an active member of the Republican Party; a member (along with his family) of Central Chapel AME Church; and the Colored Farmers Organization.

Sources: Phyllis Jackson, History of Greene County, Ohio; Hon. M.A. Brood stone.  Obituary file; The Greene Room, Greene County Public Library, Xenia, Ohio]

 

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A                                   

Adams, Lewis

Alexander, Mary J.(1937-2014)

Alexander, William E.(1934-2014)

Anderson, Walter F. (1915-2003)

B             

Ball, Jane (1929-2011)

Benning, Andrew Spencer (1926-2010)

Benning, Deborah (1947-2009)

Benning, Ernestine Martin (1928-2016)

Benning, Ralph

Blake, Doris Frances

Blackwell, Barrett Eugene

Blackwell-Hagans, Anna Clara

Brown, DeVeaux Leonora (1933-2018)

Brown, Myrtle Marie

Brown, Susie A. (1894-1984)

C               

Chappelle, William 

Childs, Norman 

Christian, John Bernard 

Conway Colony

Cordell,  Herman (1889-1963)

Cunningham Story

Curl, Joseph (1873-1943)

D               

Davis, John S. & Julia A.

F              

Felder, James

Felder, Betty Thomas

Fleming, John 

Ford, Paul Lawrence 

G             

Gaunt, Wheeling

Greene, Therese Evelyn Marie Thomas

Gudgel Family 

Guwynn, Eliza and Dunmore

H              

Hamilton, Elizabeth

Hamilton Sr., James E. 

Hamilton Jr., James Edward 

Hamilton, Martha J. 

Hamilton, Minnie Anna Mae 

Hamilton, Raymond A. 

Hamilton, R. Leo 

The Olga & Bob Harris Journey in YS

Hatcher, Charles & Elizabeth

Hatcher, Charles Oxley

Hawkins, William S. (1913-1980)

Holt, Cynthia Ann (1935-2011) 

Hornaday, John (1861-1944)

Howard, Ruth "Pat" Matthews 

Hunter, Joseph (1860-1936)
J              

Jacobs, Dennis R. (1937-2002)

Jenkins, Alyce Earl

Johnson, Anna Hull 

Johnson, James A. Jazz (1881-1945)

L           

Lawson, James Henry (1859-1925)

Lawson, James Elliott

Lewis, Frances

Lewis, Joe

Loving, Neal (1916-1998)

M           

Mason, Mary Catherine 

Matthews, Rev. Dr. Wesley S. 

N              

Newsome, Thomas (1930-1977)

Nutt, Ambrose (1920-2002)

P               
Page, Dawn
Perry, Donald Woodford
Perry Jr., Kingsley Eugene 
Perry Payton, Marie Adams

Perry, Patricia LeAnn

Perry, David

Phillips, Rev. Richard (1911-1977)

R              

Rice, Edward A.

Robinson, Joseph Douglas 

Robinson, Lee

Riddock, Louise

Roberts, Harvey & Berina

S                                                 

Schooler, William M (1873-1953)

Simpson, Alston

Simpson, Mary Gail

Simpson, William Bratton 

Smith, Frances Beal

Smith, Shelbert L.

Sparks, Helen White

Spyglass, James Elmer (1877-1957)

Stagner, William James (1898-1994)

Stewart, Wesley (1901-1988)

Smith, Daniel D. 

T              

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)

W            

Wallace, Charles (1895-1966)

Walker, Robert Anthony

Williams, Jefferson (1851-1933)

Willett, Vernetta

Wright, Sterling