African Americans in Southern Ohio

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FANNY DEMINT An ex-slave who made her way as a free woman

Fanny Demint came to Ohio as the former slave of Thomas Worthington. She remained one of the favorite servants of the Worthington family, but supplemented her income by taking in laundry. She was the mother of eight children and owned a house in Chillicothe. Her fame as a cook spread throughout the Chillicothe, Ohio settlement and she was asked to prepare the food for the very best dinner parties held in the state's (Ohio) first capital.

Fanny was a charter member of the Quinn Chapel AME Church, the first AME church west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Her "husband" Robert Manns, was also a Worthington servant. She died in 1824.

SARAH WOODSON EARLY, an educator and Temperance advocate

On November 25, 1825, Sarah Jane was born to Thomas and Jemina Price Woodson, the youngest of eleven children. The family then lived in Chillicothe, Ohio. According to family tradition, her father Thomas was the son of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. The family moved to Berlin Cross Roads in Jackson county in 1829, where they established a settlement of African Americans.

It appears that Sarah was a brilliant individual. At the age of five years, she memorized large sections of the Holy Scriptures and could sing some of the hymns of the church at age three. She joined the Berlin Cross Roads African American Episcopal Church in 1840.

Sarah, like other members of her family attended a school "for colored children" in Berlin Cross Roads. She attended this school until she was fifteen, and then went to the Albany Academy in Albany, Ohio. After finishing her studies at the Albany Academy , she transferred to Oberlin College and graduated in 1856.

After graduation from Oberlin College, she taught school in a number of communities in southern Ohio. In 1859, she was hired by Wilberforce University to teach English and Literary Studies. She was the first woman of color to teach there. The faculty at that time was mainly male and white. She taught school in, Chillicothe Circleville, Portsmouth , Zanesville and in Berlin. Sarah served as the principal of the Hillsboro Colored Schools and then became the principal of the Colored School in Xenia, Ohio. She held the position in Xenia until the close of the Civil War. She was persuaded by the Freedman's aid Society to journey to Hillsboro, North Carolina to be the principal of one of the largest Colored schools in that state. It had been impossible to keep male principals here. However, she successfully headed that school though there were many difficulties and dangers.

She met a Baptist minister, Rev Jordan W. Early, whom she married on September 24, 1868. The two newlyweds left Ohio for Nashville, Tennessee, where she taught school and her husband pastored a church. The couple moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1870, where she was the principal of one of the public schools in that city. In addition, Sarah helped her husband in the work of pastoring a church by teaching Sunday School, leading prayer service and by raising funds for the support of the church. She taught a total of thirty-six years and eighteen of them in Tennessee.

She was interested in the Temperance Movement that swept the nation in the 1880's. In 1886 she was elected superintendent of temperance work among the colored people of the Southern States by the National Women's Christian Union (WCTU) and in 1890 she was appointed by the National Temperance Missionary Society as a lecturer. She traveled and lectured throughout seven states in the next four years.

At the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Sarah Early was named "Representative Woman of the Year."

She and her husband continued to live and work in Nashville until his death in 1903. Sarah died at the age eighty-three in 1907. They had no children.


Katz, William Loren, Black Pioneers: the Untold Story, Atheneum , a division of Simon and Schuster. New York. 1999.
Majors, MA M. D., Noted Negro Women Donohoe and Hennberry, Chicago. 1892. Re-release by Arthur W. McGraw, Columbus, Ohio. 1997.
Scruggs, L A, AM, MD. Negro Women of Distinction, Raliegh, North Carolina, 1892
Woodson, Minnie Shumate. The Woodson Source Book ,Washington D.C. 1978.
Smith, Robert, Family data base, 1996.
Interviews with members of the Woodson family.
Records of the Oberlin College, 1905.
Records of Birth for Ross County, Ohio. .
Lewis Woodson
1805-06 Pittsburgh Gazette obituary places his Birth as 1801 says he was born a slave and was purchased by his father at age 19. Obituary that seems to be more accepted in the Christian Recorder says he was born in Greenbrier County Virginia in 1806. [Recorder Christian 1878]
1819-20: A member of Class # 9, of the white Methodist Church listed as " collered" a notation of "with" is written after his name. After a close examination it is not possible to determine the date he joined.
1820 Listed on Tax records for Greenbrier County Virginia.
1820 His name and Thomas Woodson are both listed as "Persons of Colour" His future wife Caroline Robinson is listed in the back of the book.
[Source: A Record of the Names of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Town of Chillicothe 1818.]
1821 Underground Railroad work when he went to Jackson County Kentucky to retrieve young male slave illegally taken from Chillicothe back into slavery. [Source: Christian Recorder and Memories of Odell Cox 1930]
1823 Married Caroline Robinson in Chillicothe [Source; Ross Count Marriage records]
1826 Taught School in Chillicothe [Source: Christian Recorder 1878]
1827 Organized African Benevolent Society of Chillicothe (February 20)[Source: Scioto Gazette]
1827 Taught school in Columbus
1828 Ordained by Rev. T. Lawrence [AME records
] 1828 Parents moved Milton Township, Jackson, Ohio [land records Jackson County CH, Ohio]
1828 Wrote a letter discussing the movement of people of color to a tract of land for settlement and his feeling that the tract is too small for farming purposes. [Source: Freedom's Journal January 31,1829]
1829 Lewis Woodson-- Franklin County, Ohio Montgomery Twp.,
age 24-35, 6 persons in the household. [Source: US Census]
1830 Present at Ohio Annual AME Conference in Chillicothe
1830 Organized Pittsburgh Antislavery Society
1831 Granted a license to solemnize marriages in Scioto County, Ohio his home is listed as Pickaway County. [Source: Probate Courts Records Scioto County Court House.]
1832 Minister at Zanesville, Muskingham County Ohio Church AME [Source: OGS Quarterly list of Ohio Ministers.]
1833 Pittsburgh Businessman and minister
1836 Traveled to New York "in search of the national convention which had been postponed. He traveled with Martin Delaney. [Source: Father of Black Nationalism, Floyd Miller CW History 1971]
1838 Listed as an Agent for circulation of The Colored American "of Jackson, Ohio" [Source: The Colored American Sept. 15, 1838 NY, NY]
1850 Letter to convention organizers in Cincinnati expressing his regrets in not being able to attend the convention. [Source C G Woodson The Mind of The Negro].
1850 Called Leader in the Black community in Pittsburgh. He was a leader in educating the young of his community. He continued his involvement in the Anti-slavery movement. [Pennsylvania Heritage, by Ann Wilmouth]
1856 Founding member of Wilberforce University near Xenia Ohio. Pledged $100.00 to help get it (the school) started. [Source: Recollection of Seventy Years, D Payne, special collections room, Wilberforce University.]
1866 In April present at the Ohio AME Conference which convened in Chillicothe, Ohio [ Christian Recorder, February, 1867]
1868 Presided at a number of marriages in Chillicothe, Ohio [His mother Jemima died this year] 1878 Died in Pittsburgh January 14

Carrie Williams Clifford was a member of the Niagara Movement, a forerunner of the NAACP. She founded the Ohio Federation of Women's Clubs. Carrie was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1862, but shortly after her birth the family moved to Columbus, Ohio.

She married William Clifford , a African American member of the Ohio General Assembly (Legislature), they moved to Cleveland, Ohio and then to Washington DC. In addition to her political work, she was a poetess and writer.


Mamie Fox was the daughter of Squire Fox, a former slave who came to Chillicothe Ohio. Mamie was one of the first female graduates of Chillicothe High School. She published many of her poems in a popular literary magazine, the Ringwood Journal. She worked for a time as the secretary to the president of Wilberforce and then went to North Carolina where she became a teacher and taught in the freedman schools.


Born in Ross County Ohio, in 1862, Emma Reynolds was the first woman of color to be admitted to Northwestern University School of Medicine. She completed her degree and and first practiced medicine in Texas. However, in 1902 poor health forced her to return to Ohio, where she continued to practice medicine until her death in 1917. She is buried in Huntington Township in the family cemetery of her sister Mary Reynolds(Thomas) Davis.


Born in Virginia about 1794, David Nickens came to Ross County Ohio with his parents Edward and_______in 1806. He seems to have been educated in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nickens worked actively in the Underground Railroad movement and evidence indicates his house was stop on the Underground Railroad. At age 30, in 1824, he organized the First Anti-Slavery African American Baptist Church of God in Christ of Chillicothe Ohio! He was ordained by local ministers from the Baptist and Presbyterian Churches in July of 1824 becoming the first African American ordained minister in Ohio.

A dispute over slavery arose in one of the African American Baptist churches in Cincinnati and Nickens was called to help organize a new church in 1836. Union Baptist Church on Baker Street was founded. While in Cincinnati, Nickens and the Weld-Wattles organization, white abolitionists, worked to reform education for African American children in that city.

Nickens died in 1838 at age 44. His wife, Serena, and family moved back to Chillicothe and finished out their days there.


William and Charles Langston were sons of Lucy Langston, a slave on the plantation Of Ralph Quarles of Lousia County, Virginia. Lucy was freed by her owner prior to 1829 and her sons Charles and William were freed then sent to Ohio in 1830, where they made a living as carpenters and major domos of the Dunn Family.

Lucy Langston and Ralph Quarles were the parents of a son born in 1829. The boy was named John Mercer Langston.

When John Mercer was four years old, his father died. John Mercer was sent to Chillicothe, Ohio to live with Col William D. Gooch who a had been an executor of the Quarles will. Gooch owned a sizeable farm about a mile south of Chillicothe on the Ohio Erie Canal. His brothers met him in Virginia and accompanied him from part of the way on the trip from Louisa County to Chillicothe,

John was educated in the white schools of Ross County along with Col. Gooch's daughters.

In 1839, the Gooch family decided to leave Ohio and make a new home in Missouri. The family intended to takr John with them because he was considered a part of the Gooch family. However, William Langston, John's half brother, afraid for his brothers live because of the political climate in that state stopped the Gooches from taking John out of the state of Ohio.

After the Gooches left for Missouri, John went to live with the straitlaced Presbyterian deacon, Richard Long. The Long's were stern hard workers and John found this family much different than the Gooch family. It was this family John learn how to work.

He went to Cincinnati to attend a private school for African Americans. After returning to Chillicothe, William became his guardian, though John made his home with local barber, Harver Hawes. He then went to Oberlin College. He attended Oberlin at age 14. Two years later,John taught school in an African American settlement near Chillicothe. He was paid ten dollars a month for three months. He graduated from Oberlin in 1849.

John became the first person of color to pass the Bar and become a lawyer. He was the first man of color to be elected to public office in the state of Ohio. John, finally, was the elected to Congress of the United States from the State of Virginia.


John Bowles was born in Lynchbrug, Virginia, in 1826 and came to Chillicothe about 1840. In 1848 he married Sarah Bryant in Ross County. In the 1850s, there was no formal public education for African American children. John started a school in Chillicothe for this purpose. The school was housed in the First Baptist Church at that time located on Second Street and paid for mainly by subscription.

Bowles served as a pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chillicothe, where he was called to the pulpit in 1848 and served until 1866, twelve years . He brought with him his skills as an educator and musician, While we are blessed in our modern churches with organized choral music, such was not the case in the 1850s.

Rev Bowles organized a choir at First Baptist, possibly the first. This singing group became known throughout southern Ohio for its superb music.

Adding to Gods Kingdom was a priority for Bowles, he assisted by his father in Law, Rev. George Bryant, conducted a revival, the first in First Baptist Church History. And 90 souls found Christ.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Bowles and other felt the call to actively oppose slavery, however. Men of Color were not permitted to serve. When the state of Massachusetts extended a call for men of color, Rev. Bowles enlisted on March 27, 1864, where he served in the Massachusetts 55 as Chaplin until June of 1865.

He came back to Chillicothe and First Baptist to teach and pastor. He left First Baptist in 1866 to serve churches in Cincinnati and Xenia where he died in 1874 or 75.

(Record of the Service of the Fifty-Fifth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Printed for the Regimental Association (Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, July 1868; repr. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press (Black Heritage Library Association), 1971). Page 101 The authors are usually referred to as a committee of the regiment's officers, but most of the account was drawn from the diary of Col. Charles B. Fox. )


Born in Charlottesville, Virginia in 18--, the son of David Isaacs and Nancy West. David Issac, a jewish shopowner while Nacy West, a mullatto earned a living as a baker. Tucker married Anna Elizabeth Fosset, former slave of Thomas Jefferson. They move to Ross County Ohio and raised a family. Tucker earned a living as a painter and glazier.

Tucker and Ann-Elizabeth were workers on the Underground Railroad. Tucker was known to have forged free papers for escaping slaves.

Tucker was the brother-in-law of Eston Hemings, who was the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.


Mahala Ann was born a slave in Virginia in the year 1824 to Allis Lynch. They were owned by Isaac P. Davis (born December 8, 1797). According to family oral tradition, Isaac owned a sizable plantation in central Virginia and several slaves. Mahala, one of his slaves, bore her master five children the first of which was born in 1848. She named the child Martha. Her picture can be seen on the front page of this site, along with her daughter Julia Carr. After the death of Davis's white wife , he brought Mahala, their five children, Mahala's mother Allis Lynch, sister Sarah and various other slaves to Ohio where he freed them. He gave each freed slave two acres of land and built a house for Mahala and the children.

In 1857 Isaac married his former slave. A total of thirteen children were born to this union. The children were Martha, Virginia A., Isaac S, John M (Twins), Thomas D., Hector S., Benjamin, Vicotria, William N., Hugh (Twins) Sarah M, James R and Samuel Russel (My grandfather). John, Thomas and William were ministers of the gospel in the Baptist Church.

Mahala has been remembered as a great cook and mother. People of Color from the settlement of Chillicothe would journey out to the Huntington Hills to participate in fox hunts and horse races. Mahala always saw that there was plenty of delicious food prepared for the visitors.

Those who knew her said that she was very proud of her children especially her sons. She was a woman of deep religious convictions and a member of the historic Eden Baptist Church. Mahala died in 1896 Though born in slavery, she died a free woman!!!.

©Copyright 1996