Overview:

African immigrants came to Washington County as free men, women and children, escaped slaves, or as servants to white settlers. In an 1803 statehood census, 337 African Americans were in the Ohio country. Slavery was not permitted in the Northwest Territory nor in Ohio when it became a state.

"Some early recordings [of black settlers] are of James Davis, born March 6, 1787 as the first African American born in Marietta, Ohio. He was later noted as moving to Dayton, OH and becoming a successful Barber, accomplished violinist, and founder of American Sons of Protection, the oldest African American self-help society." Black Demographics.com

During the Indian Wars, about 1791, a young colored boy, never named, was killed by Indians while he was out clearing land with Return Jonathan Meigs and Joseph Simmons. They were on the west side of the Muskingum across the river from Campus Martius when they were surprised. Simmons got an arrow to the shoulder but swam to safety, Meigs was able to out run them and reach Fort Harmar. The colored boy followed Simmons into the Muskingum but could not swim. He was captured and killed. Melzer Nye Memior

Shelbourn Films Image of Kitt Putnam

Detail: Christopher Malbone (aka Kitt Putnam) works the land.
Image Source: Shelbourn Films' "Opening the Door West" Slide Show

Shelbourn Films Image of Kitt Putnam voting


Detail: Christopher Malbone (aka Kitt Putnam) voting for Ohio Statehood Convention representatives.
Image Source: Shelbourn Films' "Opening the Door West" Slide Show

"Approximately 1800, Bazeal Norman Sr. a free man from Maryland was awarded by the War Department with a gun, a mule, an $8-a-month pension and land in Marietta, OH. In 1814, Richard Fisher is recorded as the first African American landowner in Ohio. He purchased land in Salem Township, Washington County, OH."Black Demographics.com

Christopher Malbone (a.k.a. Kitt Putnam), who had acted as a servant to General Isreal Putnam, became the first black man to vote. He voted for area representatives to the Ohio Statehood Convention but when Ohio ratified the constitution, Christopher/Kitt lost his right to vote. Parkersburg News & Sentinal

By 1810 the U.S. Census of Ohio listed 1,899 free black heads of households. In the 1820 Census: 4,723 and in 1830: 9,754. Ohio had 95 settlements where free black residents owned their own land by 1860. Only 2 of those settlements were in/near Washington County. Atlas Obsura

The Underground Railroad, assisted by both black and white citizens in Washington County, Ohio, helped blacks escape from Virginia on a few hundred feet away on the opposite bank of the Ohio River and, during the Civil War, whites and blacks joined the Union Forces to help defeat the South.

Obituary of an Ohio Slave Catcher

Page Top

Links:

Family Search.org: African American Resources for Ohio

Library of Congress: Journey Into Your Past: African American Genealogy Resources

Acess Genealogy: Ohio African American Genealogy

Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society

Black Demographics.com: Ohio’s African American Origin and History

Ohio History Central/Ohio History Connection/Ohio Memory

Ohio.org: Explore Ohio's African American History(PDF)

Southeastern Ohio Regional Freenet: African Americans in Southeastern Ohio

Atlas Obscura: The Forgotten Black Pioneers Who Settled the Midwest

National Underground Railroad Freedom CenterCincinnati, Ohio

Washington County Historian Henry Robert Burke (1940-2012)

Siebert, William H.,

Less We Forget: Soldiers, Sailors, & Officers of the Civil War and U.S. Colored Troops

Page Top