Welcome to our second installment of blog posts dedicated to the life and legacy of Wheeling Gaunt!!
When we left off we had learned about Gaunt's early years as a slave in Kentucky and how he eventually purchased his freedom as well as the freedom of his wife, Amanda and a family friend named Nick. The couple eventually made the move to a village in southern Ohio by the name of Yellow Springs.
Once settled in the town, Gaunt went to work utilizing his notable entrepreneur skills to provide for the family. Not much is documented about exactly how Gaunt made his money but we do know that he often bought and sold properties. Gaunt did have some tenants on these properties and even in one documented case in a census, Gaunt is listed as the tenant himself because the census taker made the misjudgment of thinking that a black man could not have such a position at that time.
On March 9, 1889, Amanda was documented as having passed away after 50 years of marriage. Gaunt erected a monument for her that marks her grave that still stands today. Gaunt would eventually marry again but Amanda and Wheeling are now buried side-by-side. Gaunt would survive her by 5 years before his death on May 10, 1894 is documented as passing away in the night.
Upon Gaunt's death, he willed that money would be given to the local black methodist church, $7,000 would be left to his second wife, Elizabeth, the remainder of his estate would be given to Wilberforce University and that on the event of his death 9 1/2 acres of his property would be auctioned off to the highest bidder each year and that the flour grown and harvested there would be handed out every year during the Christmas season to the "poor, worthy widows" of Yellow Springs "regardless of their race".
The tradition of the Christmas flour continues to this day an has been the subject of several stories and articles nationwide. Some minor changes have impacted the tradition but it is still strong and nurtures the joy and Christmas spirit of the entire Yellow Springs community. Originally, the amount to be given to the widows was 25 pounds of flour every year but with the transition of the 9 1/2 acres becoming what is now known as Gaunt Park, the tradition grew to incorporate the handing out of sugar as well as flour. Now every year, the widows and others who are in need are given 10 pounds of flour and 10 pounds of sugar.
Below are some pictures taken from Antiochiana in the Olive Kettering Library showing the Christmas Flour tradition in action over the many years:
**The history of Wheeling Gaunt has been provided by accumulative sources, such as S.Deal, P. Adams, D. Bailey, Thomas Gaunt, P. Jackson, P. Matthews, R. & S. Parker, S. Sanders and pictures are provided by A. LavenderNees.**