Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fulton's Black History: Mitchell Family

Fulton’s Black History: Mitchell Family

The 1860 census is one of the first records we have of the people living in Fulton, their ages, occupations, and offspring.
That first census lists Harvey Mitchell, age 28, born in Indiana, a barber and a mulatto. His wife, Beljamey was 27, born in Virginia and a mulatto. Twenty years later, the 1880 census lists Harvey Mitchell, 48, his wife, Jane, 46, and six children: Henriett, 18, Robert, 16, Jessie, 15, Nellie, 9, Harvey, 4, and Albert 2. All of the children were born in Illinois.

Fulton Journal March 22, 1910:
Mrs. Harvey Mitchell is Dead
Aged Colored Woman, Over Fifty Years a Resident of Fulton, Died Friday Evening

Mrs. Jane Strather Mitchell, who had been a resident of Fulton for over fifty years, died Friday evening, March 18, at her home in the north part of town, death having resulted from stomach troubles coupled with the infirmities of age.
Mrs. Mitchell was born in Kentucky, August, 1833, where she was bound in servitude until she was twenty-one years old. When she completed her term in servitude she left her southern home and came to Clinton, Iowa, where soon afterwards she was married to Harvey Mitchell. Since their marriage, they have made their home in Fulton.
Those who survive her are her aged husband, two daughters, Mrs. Tena Young of Fayette, Iowa; and Mrs. Nettie Epps of Los Angeles, California, and three sons, Jesse of Fulton, Harvey of Sioux Falls, S.Dak., and Albert of Peoria, all of whom were present at the funeral with the exception of Mrs. Epps.
The funeral services were held at the house Monday afternoon at two o’clock, conducted by Rev. Taylor of the African Methodist church, Clinton, with interment in the Fulton cemetery.

Fulton Journal: January 19, 1915

Death of Jesse M. Mitchell

Well-Known Fulton Barber Died Saturday Evening in Clinton
Jesse M. Mitchell, a life-long resident of Fulton, died Saturday, January 16, at the home of his wife’s parents in Clinton. He had been in failing health for several months, death resulting from Bright’s disease. About ten weeks ago, on the advice of his physician, he went to Agatha hospital in Clinton for treatment. He remained there about five weeks and then was taken to the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Henderson. The treatment did not benefit him, and after leaving the hospital he failed rapidly until the end.
Mr. Mitchell was born in Fulton about fifty years ago. Early in life he learned the barber’s trade with his father, Harvey Mitchell, one of the oldest residents of the city. When, several years ago, his father retired, Jesse purchased the shop and had since conducted it.
He leaves his wife, four sons, his aged father and two brothers.
The funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock with services conducted by Rev. Slater of the A.M.E. church, Clinton, and the burial will be in the Springdale cemetery.

Fulton Journal: September 6, 1918:

Harvey Mitchell, for over sixty years a continuous resident of Fulton and who since the death of his wife a few years ago had been living with his daughter in the north part of town, Wednesday left for Chicago to make his future home with his son, Harvey, Jr. For over fifty years Mr. Mitchell conducted a barber shop in this city. Of the names of the men that appeared in the city directory for Fulton for the years 1857 and 1858, Mr. Mitchell is the last survivor to move away.

Fulton Journal: July 8, 1924

Death of Former Fulton Resident

Harvey Mitchell, a former Fulton resident, passed away in Chicago Friday, July 4, at the age of one hundred one years, five months and six days. Mr. Mitchell is well known in this city, having conducted a barber shop in the building now occupied by J.C. Ernest, for many years. Mr. Mitchell came to Fulton in 1855. He is survived by several sons and daughters. The body was brought to Fulton Monday morning and burial was made in the Fulton cemetery beside his wife and several children. His sons, Harvey, Jr. of Sioux Falls, S. Dakota, and Albert, of Chicago accompanied the body of their father to Fulton.

Underground Railroad

Fulton Journal, Friday, May 25, 1917

Under Ground Railroad
Famous Method of Assisting Slaves to Canada Through This Section.

Hazelhurst, Ill., May 18, 1917
J.M. Eaton, Fulton, Ill.:

Dear Sir and Friend:--Your letter gave me much pleasure. We are not writing concerning a generation of our race that have passed away who were in any way superior to the average men and women that are now living. We can not tell whether we are making progress toward a higher moral and mental plane only by comparison with past conditions.
”The thoughts we are thinking our fathers did think;
From the stream we are drinking our fathers did drink;
We view the same scenes and see the same sun;
We run the same race that our fathers did run.”

You request me to state something concerning the Under Ground railroad, its plan of operation, etc.
Some twenty-five years ago I wrote for the Mt. Carroll Democrat a statement of the manner in which the abolitionists aided fugitive slaves to escape to Canada. I may have forgotten some names of agents, but the method of running the road is as fresh in memory as though it was but yesterday. Yesterday the news reached me from Iowa that one of the conductors on the Fulton and Byron section of the road, or, rather, from Eagle Point to Byron had passed over the “silent river.” His name was Frank G. Yeoman. This leaves but Charles B. Noble of Polo and myself that are living who dared to violate the fugitive slave law (as far as I know) in this part of Illinois.
The U.G.R.R. had no organization and was not bound together by oaths, bonds or written agreements. It kept no records other than what could be stored away in memory. No court could convict a “nigger’ thief of being associated with others in running slaves to Canada. And there were no fixed stations or even fixed routes of travel, and no general manager or treasurer, no time-table or compensation to conductors.
But you will understand its workings better if I describe my personal knowledge of scenes and events. Some of the parties named will be known to you, I think.
In 1855-6 I lived in Fulton, Ill. I arrived from England in 1849, and the first lessons in life in a free land were learned from “black abolitionists” and from Harriet Beecher Stowe. In Fulton I lived in the family of Frank Dodge, the village blacksmith, and worked for one season for Todd & Dement in their sawmill at the mouth of the cattail creck. The description of the escape of Eliza and George from Kentucky, the aid rendered them by the Friends (Quakers), who passed them along from place to place, always toward Canada, was fresh in my mind, and I was ready for business in that time if a chance offered. It came when I least expected it.
Frank was big-hearted, had been a hard drinker, was an ardent follower of John B. Gough, the great English temperance advocate. In later years and when he learned that the fugitive slave law forbade his giving aid or comfort to a slave fleeing from his master he became a radical abolitionist.
It was not uncommon to see notices posted up offering fifty or a hundred dollar reward for the arrest of run-away slaves. Deck-hands would escape on dark nights from steamboats, and many of the boats were owned by men who owned many of the boats’ crews.
My First Work on the Under Ground Railroad

It was dark, when Frank came into the house, and threatened rain. “Hank,” said he, “You know where Mr. Fairchild lives south of town?” “Yes.” “Well, I want you to make yourself useful. Go down to the river west of Fairchild’s house. There in the tall weeds and willows you will find two slave boys. Whistle softly and they will know you are a friend. They were brought over from the Iowa side this evening. Take them along the river bank to the willows where our fishing boat is tied in the creek above the old dam.
“Old ‘Pinkeye” Wright is watching for them, so you must work sly or you may get Franklin Pierce and his pack of two-legged blood hounds after you.
“Cross the creek and guide the slaves to the ‘Bluff road,’ and stay with them until a team and wagon comes along and picks up the black boys, then come home and tie the boat where you found it.”
“Pinkeye” Wright kept a tavern and was surrounded by a gang of patrons who were watching to catch fugitives. Mrs. Dodge put some bread and butter in a package for the slaves and all things worked o.k.
It was about midnight when the wagon arrived and nearly morning when the writer got to bed.
Why go to all that work to aid the “niggers”? will be asked
Whenever notices of runaway “niggers...
(Here four paragraphs of the Journal are missing.)
Sol Shaver was a counterpart of our John Brown, both in looks and acts. He was rash and we feared trouble, but the fortune favored us and the line through Whiteside, Carroll and Ogle counties was never broken by United States officials.
The writer took two of General Harneys slaves from Eagle Point to Byron when there was a $2,000 reward offered for them and men from Dixon, Oregon, Polo and Elkhorn Grove were watching every avenue they knew of, but followed the wrong clew.
Sol Shaver kept a free negro that he brought from Delhi, N.Y., and he borrowed another free negro that lived with Samuel Waterbury near Polo. In a double-seated carriage he placed the two “darkies” and after dusk he drove like Jehu through Old Town, stopping in Oregon a few minutes so that the loungers at the Schryver House could see them, then on the run toward the east. Couriers on horseback scattered the news that “Uncle Sol” had the “niggers” with him. It was a cheap lot of hounds that overtook “Uncle Sol.” In the meantime the black boys were goin east from Byron under the care of Jared Sanford.
It would take much time and space to record the many numerous events in Under Ground railroad work.”
Mr. Shaver carried a flag in his whip pocket at public gatherings. It was composed entirely of white stars on a blue field.
“Hey! old man.” The crowd would yell, “where are the stripes?”
“You idiotic ass,” Uncle Sol would reply, “the stripes are on the slave’s back.”
We call up in memory many of those grand old pioneers who settled upon the prairies when there was not a fence or furrow in sight. They gazed upon old Elkhorn Grove when it stood in all its native glory.—just as it had come from the hand of God. I recall to mind those pioneer men and women who braved public opinion by denouncing laws that held any portion of the human race in bondage.
It is a source of joy to me to know that I have lived to see the Stars and Stripes float over a free people. No longer are the children of a deceased planter, ranging in color from black to white and from mulatto to octoroon, sold on the auction block regardless of the tears of the slave mothers.
We, you and I, are nearing the sunset shore and soon others will fill our places, and we hope that our race will grow wiser and better by avoiding the errors we have made. I shall be eighty years old July 9. I am suffering nearly all the time from the wound in my right thigh caused by a musket ball November 3, 1863.
I hope to live to see the day when monarchial government is wiped from the earth. In the meantime:
I long to hold communion with all that is divine.
To feel there is a union ‘twixt Nature’s heart and mine,
To profit by affliction, reap truths from fields of fiction,
Grow wiser from conviction and fulfill each grand design.

Write when you feel like it. Yours very truly.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Some of Fulton's Irish Roots

Irish Roots

The Fulton Journals of 1905 record the Irish birthplaces of three interesting Fultonians. The obituaries of these people with Irish roots shed light on the personalities that made up this small town.
Michael Hargan: “Michael Hargan, who had been a resident of this county for forty-one years, died at his home in Fulton, Sunday evening, February 5, 1905, aged eighty years, two months and twenty-four days. The deceased was born in Killarney, county Kerry, Ireland, November 11, 1824. There he grew to manhood and February 10, 1859, was married to Miss Mary Curren. They resided in their native country until 1864, when they came to the United States and located in Fulton. Three weeks ago Mr. Hargan sustained a stroke of paralysis and owing to his advanced age he gradually grew weaker until the end came. All of his children were with him when he breathed his last. Mr. Hargan was a man of many excellent traits of character. He was devoted to his home and family.”

Margaret M’Gowan: Mrs. Margaret Riordon McGowan was born in the county Mayo, Ireland, December 25, 1823, and when eighteen years of age came to this country. In 1851 she was married to James McGowan at Saukville, Wis. Three years after their marriage they located in Albany and have been residents of this county the greater part of the time since. She is survived by five sons, Daniel, James, John, Thomas and Patrick and one daughter, Mrs. Nellie Crawford. The deceased is also survived by twenty-one grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. Services were a high mass at the Catholic church with interment in the Catholic cemetery north of town.

Rosa McAvoy McMahon: Mrs. McMahon passed away February 20, 1905, aged 76 years and 18 days. The cause of her death was pleuro-pneumonia from which she had suffered for the past two weeks. She had been born in Belfast, county Monahan, Ireland, February 2, 1829. When but 14 years of age she came with her parents to Prince Edward’s Island, where in 1851 she was married to Francis McMahon. After their marriage they remained in Prince Edward’s until 1869 when they came west and located in Fulton, where Mr. McMahon died April 12, 1894. She is survived by daughters, Ellen, Anna, Kate, and Irena, and three sons, C.C., Francis and John.

Commonalities: The three were born in the 1820’s in Ireland. They all died in February 1905 in Fulton and are buried in Fulton’s Catholic Cemetery. They were Roman Catholic with several descendants.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Concealment shoes at Fay home

Subject: Concealment Shoes

A major house remodeling has been taking place in Fulton, Illinois, in the 500 block of 15th Avenue. Interesting items have been found in the ceiling and walls including concealment shoes, stockings, letters, and more. Evan Davis of Fulton identified the four black shoes as “concealment shoes” and GOOGLE illuminated the find.

The house dates prior to 1855 when it was owned by Dr. Daniel Reed. He and his wife Cinda were major landowners in Fulton’s early history. They sold the house to Bradstreet Robinson in 1855. Robinson sold it to J.M. Fay. The Fay family owned it until 1939 when Frank Boonstra bought it.
Four single shoes were placed in the ceiling, probably during an early remodeling project rather than at the original construction time. Two shoes belonged to children and two to adult females. No buttons or ties remain. The practice of concealing shoes in a building is an old Western European tradition. The rite is thought to come from the prehistoric custom of killing a person and putting the body in the foundation of a building to make sure it holds together. Concealment shoes became a substitute for bodies.

Why shoes? Shoes take on the shape of the wearer’s foot, so it has been thought that the owner’s spirit remained in the shoe. June Swann, former curator of the Boot and Shoe Collection in England, writes, “It is the only garment we wear that retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer. The shoes have been used as a talisman to ward off evil spirits. People put them in houses to prevent evil spirits from entering.”

Abeltje Nauta Kolk Akker


In the town of Hornhuizen, the municipality of Kloosterburen on December 2, 1832, at 1 a.m. a daughter was born to Jakob Pieters Nauwta, age 27 and Margarita (Grietje) Tjaarts Bottema. Her name was Abelje. Her parents were dayworkers.

Abbie had two sisters. Remke “Annie” was born on April 6, 1837, in the Netherlands. She immigrated in 1864 and in 1865 married Peter Van Dyke(died 1906) who had been born in the Netherlands in 1828. Annie died in 1916 and is buried in the Fulton cemetery. The other sister, Jantje Jakobs (Jennie), was born Nov. 13, 1844. She married Dennis Feldt (Tonnis Veld) January 14, 1865, and is buried in the Fulton cemetery.

Abbie had a brother, George, born December 1, 1839, in the Netherlands. He moved to the US when he was 16 years old and was a captain of sailing vessels and steamboats on the Great Lakes. His obituary in 1923 said he had four brothers and one sister.

Abbie left the Netherlands in 1856 at the age of 24. She was identified as a servant girl. There are no other Nautas listed as traveling in that year. Who were the traveling companions for this single woman?

Abbie settled first in LaFayette, Indiana, and she was married there on July 8, 1857, at the age of 25 to John Kolk. Her name on the license is spelled Abetze Nota.

The minister officiating was Fredrick Koening, a Lutheran Minister. Abbie’s obituary says that she was married to Jacob Kolk who died in 1861 in Chicago. The first census done for Fulton was in June of 1860 and on that are listed:
John Kolk, age 40, daylaborer
Awell age 28
Margaret 9 months, born in Illinois
Child # 2: The obituary for John Kolk, son of Abbie and John, said that he was born November 22, 1860 in Fulton.

We think we know the following about Abbie’s first husband, John Kolk. Jan Jochums was born on December 5, 1817, to Jan Jochums Kolk, age 34, and Anje Berends. He had a brother born on September 25, 1822, Jacob Colk, who was born to Jan Jochums Colk, age 39 and Anje Berends. These births took place in Usquert, Groningen. They had two sisters, Jantje and Grietje. Jantje was born January 17, 1812, who married Harm Gerrits Heethuis in 1836. Grietje Colk was born February 14, 1821 and she married Lubbert Klaassens Werk in 1840.
Jantje 1812
Jan 1817
Grietje 1821
Jacob 1822
The last two dates cannot be correct because there is less than 9 months between the two births.

John Kolk’s immigration is thought to have occurred on April 30, 1852, when he and his brother traveled on the Victoria from Rotterdam to New York.

Husband # 1, John Kolk died in 1861 in Chicago. Rumors: He was found floating in the Chicago River. He was very good looking. He was a heavy drinker.

At age 30, Abbie was a widow, living in Chicago, with a one year old son and pregnant. Abbie gave birth to a second son, George Kolk, in Chicago on June 22, 1862. She was 30 years old. There is no record of Margaret, so the assumption is that she died.

In 1863, Abbie married John Akker (age 28) in Chicago. John Akker was born in Den Andel, Groningen on November 20, 1835. They moved to Fulton and lived their lives there. Children born to them were Ellen (Alice) in 1864, Margaret in 1866, Kate in 1868, Josie in 1871, and Seba J. in 1873. Abbie was 41 when Seba was born. John Akker died October 31,1892, at the age of 57.

In 1898, Abbie bought thirteen acres of timber in the northeast part of Fulton for $1400. “ December 6, 1898, George DeBey sold his residence in Fulton to Mrs. John Akker . The consideration was $2,000 cash.”

A directory of Fulton inhabitants in 1905 lists Abbie Akker living on Genesee and Bluff Streets. Also living at the same address were George Kolk (born in Chicago in 1862) and Alice Kolk (nee Boot).

On Saturday morning, Christmas Day 1915 at the age of 83, Abbie died in her home (Genesee and Bluff or 417 15th Avenue). Abbie was at the Christmas dinner table sitting next to 13 year old granddaughter, Sylvia, when she collapsed and died.

Living in that home in Fulton have been five generations of Kolks:
Kevin, Dan, Mike

Fulton Journal: December 11, 1914: Joseph Nauta of Holland, Mich. who represents a large Chicago publishing house was in Fulton a couple of days this week and visited at the homes of his cousins George and John Kolk.

Fulton Journal: December 11, 1914: Mrs. Abeltje Akker, who makes her home with George Kolk, was eighty-two years old last Sunday, and she is in good health and fairly active. Mrs. Akker is one of the oldest residents of our city, having located here over fifty-five years ago. A nice family dinner was given in honor of her birthday.

Fulton Journal: September 14, 1915: Mrs. A. Akker, an old and respected resident of Fulton, is confined to her home by a serious illness.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wedding at Mitchell's Store

Date: December 6, 2005
Subject: Grocery Store Wedding

Fulton Journal: November 21, 1916

First Marriage Ceremony

The grocery store of A.D. Mitchell & Son for a short time Monday afternoon passed through a sort of a transformation that was not observed to any extent by some of the clerks.

While waiting on a customer, W.H. Mitchell, the head of the firm and who last April was elected justice of the peace, was accosted by a man and woman. The man said that his name was George R. Freeman from Cedar Rapids, and the lady was Miss Effie Machamer of Lincoln, Neb., and that they were provided with a marriage license, which was procured that day in Morrison, and that they desired to be married. Will told them that kind of work was part of his business, and that if the intended bride and bridegroom could produce two witnesses that would identify them he would tie the knot in short order. The witnesses were called and the ceremony performed.

The bride then demanded a marriage certificate, and while this was being made out Officer Farley appeared with a letter from the bride’s mother to stop the marriage, arrest the bridegroom and to send the woman to Cedar Rapids. Squire Mitchell informed the police officer that nothing could be done as the couple had taken the vows prescribed by law and were now legally married. The marriage certificate was then completed and presented to the bride and the couple left for Cedar Rapids.

This was Mr. Mitchell’s first venture in this line of work, and he is now congratulating himself that it was not foiled.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

First Blog

In this blog, we will post information about the history of Fulton, Illinois. This community is located on the Mississippi River at the crossroads of the old Lincoln Highway and the Great River Road. It is a town with a rich history, and we are anxious to reveal it to you.