Eudora's Black Population

1860 to 1880

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Otho LewisOtho Lewis, Lawrence, pictured to the left, wrote a letter in 1992 about blacks in Eudora. A native Eudoran, Lewis went to school in Eudora in the early 1920s and said Eudora had an all-black baseball team in the early 1900s made up of the “Hacworth boys, Crump boys, Erving boys, Monroe boys, Ray boys, Russell boys, and Fortner boys.” For occupations, Allen Gatewood and Tom Johnson dug wells. Charles Harvey, Henry Rennels, William Harvey, Joe King, and Oscar Russel farmed and sold vegetables.Three of the Gatewoods, he wrote, were plumbers. Some older women, too, made quilts for income.

In discussing music, Lewis said Fern Perry, Nolan Perry, Tracy Harvey, Gwendolyn Perry, Charles Hackworth, Hazel Hackworth, Mabel Hatcher, Katherine James, and Naomi Kidd played piano. Fred James played the guitar, Henry Anthony the saxophone, Wash Ray the harp, and the Harveys, the mandolins. One aunt of Lewis was Rose Harvey, the daughter of Ebb and Sarah Lewis. With husband, Charles, Rose operated a popular café on Main Street during the 1920s. The Harvey family originally came to Eudora on January 26, 1863 with more than a hundred other slaves freed by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on Janaury 1 of that year. On his own decision, General James Blunt brought this group from around Van Buren, Arkansas, to a Douglas County area southest of Lawrence and was later court martialed for doing so, wrote the January 26, 1938 Lawrence Journal World and family histories.

Some early black residents, according to the 1870 census, were Sam and Laura Harris, Pleasant and Mary Hackworth, James Monroe, Dave Perry (born in Missouri at Lone Jack and came to Eudora during the Civil War with this parents and lived in Eudora more than 50 years before moving to Kansas City), Jim Crump, Dona and Matilde Ray, Oscar Russel, Fred James, Matter Ewing, Claude and Rose Harvey, Frank King (who died in 1917 and is buried in Eudora Cemetery), George and Ida Parm, Ebb Lewis, Oscar Bradford, William and Lulu Lewis, James and Barbara Logan, Nolan Johnson, Manda Jones, William Harvey, William and Neal Estelle, Ellen Anthy, Marshal Finley, and William Rennels (“the Deacon” and Eudora city marshal for two years. Otho “George” Rennels, a long-time surgical assistant at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the son of Burgess Rennels and grandson of William Rennels and also grandson of George McCoy and Illa McCoy, said in June 2005 that “Rennels” is often misspelled. George was named after his uncle, Otho Lewis.)

In 1870, for example, Milton Davis moved to Eudora. He had been born in Kentucky on Christmas day in 1834 and lived in Jackson County, Missouri, until 1861, before moving to Dallas, Texas. When Davis moved to Eudora, he drove government ox-teams across the plains. He lived in the southwest part of Eudora until his March death in 1917 and was survived by his wife, two daughters, and three sons, according to his obituary.

The 1880 census raises questions as to the racial heritage of Eudora’s “black” population, because many Eudora residents listed as black in the 1870 census such as the Hackworths were classified as “mulattoes” in the census 10 years later. A count of those couples or single parent households listed as mulatto includes George and Mary Walton, Walker Harris, Elijah and Mary Foertner, Edward and Martha Black, Frank and Annie Harris, Robert and Bellina Moore, Washington and Lily Crisp, Pleasant and Mary Hackworth, Lydia Monroe, Thomas and Emma Monroe, Sarah Coon, and Thomas and Maria Hernal.

Add their 47 or so children plus six single adult mulattoes listed in other home and the total is 74. Then, if adding the mixed race couples, including Maria Crump (mulatto) and James Crump (black), Julia (mulatto) and Charles (black) Mack, Rachel (mulatto) and Benjamin (black) Gwens, Mehalia (black) and William (mulatto) Clark, Josephine (mulatto) and Clark McFetous (black), Lizzie (white) and George Clark (mulatto), and their 24 children, the total grows to more than 100.

Mulatto was a category listing in the 1870 census, and, in 1890, the census defined it as “a person who was three-eighths to five-eighths black.” Was this the census taker's call? Did the families self-identify their race?  

Black families in the 1880 census included the Simpsons, Jacksons, Powells, Lees, Sparks, Edwards, Albrittens, Rays, Whites, Asques, Basels, Whitakers, Johnsons, and several others. The entire black population including adults and children numbered just over 200. Thus, the black population was almost three times the sizable mulatto population.

The Eudora Community Heritage states Dan Ray, see photograph on right, mixed cement for the 1903 school on Church Street. His wife, Matilda, was a midwife, the publication said, who delivered most of the black children born during this time.

Mrs. CrumpThe photograph on the left belonged to Mrs. Lee Crump, who said many blacks first came to Eudora with only the clothes on their backs to work for farmers, at quarries, and other occupations. Her own parents, Anthony and Maria Ewing, came from Edwardsville in 1889 to Fall Leaf where she was born.

In Eudora, Crump lived in the white pine lumber former carriage house of Charles Pilla and said most of the 30 to 40 black families had left Eudora by World War II. James Crump, a teamster, worked for Pilla.

Records from 1895 say 123 of the township’s 1,374 population were black; the city of Eudora’s 674 population included 108 blacks. Candidates for public office apparently wooed the black citizenry because the April 16, 1896 Eudora newspaper said: “In the filing of city marshall, the fur will fly. The colored men are determined to have some represented, and, in fact, it was promised to them. Thomas Johnson likely is to be their candidate. If appearances go for anything, the Mayor will appoint Benj. Deck, the white aspirant and present incumbent."

The article also said Dave Perry, another black, had “a line out” for the sexton position likely to go to Frank Schafer, the incumbent, and Matt Fortner, a black Eudoran, wanted the street commission position. It seems Charles Pilla, the current mayor, made the promises. When W. H. Robinson assumed the mayorship that year, none of the mentioned black citizens received a city position. Robinson appointed Frank Schafer, sexton, H. W. Meyer, street commissioner, and Henry Oberholtzer, marshall, a position he held a few months, then resigned. The marshall position then went to Thomas Johnson.

Blacks held their own celebrations and picnics. The “coloreds” had their own Fourth of July celebration in Moll’s grove. That was also the site of their annual Emancipation Day celebration in August when 300 blacks traveled from Lawrence to join the picnic and evening dance. Otho Lewis in a letter told of the picnic and said there was dancing “and all kinds of games played. In the evening, they would sit by the fire, pop corn, and make homemade candy.” Another highlight of the celebration was the baseball game between the Lawrence and the Eudora all-black teams. Politicians also visited the picnic.

They also attended the C.P.A. Picnic, the town’s main celebration. However, activities bear witness to segregation as evidenced by contests such as the “3- legged race for colored boys under age 16.” Baseball teams also were segregated. For example, blacks in Eudora were on the Eudora Pastime Club or the Kaw Valley Giants ─ separate from the white population. In 1896, a local white team formed and played the other town team, which was made up of black players in a game in which the white team won, 30-11.

The May 15, 1890, newspaper also mentioned another baseball game involving the two populations: “The little white boys played the little colored boys a game of ball in the afternoon in which young Americans defeated young Africa by a score of 35 to 6. The town newspapers mentioned “colored” events even up to the 1930s. For the word “colored” was used whenever a black person appeared in a story such as these two from 1897: “Mrs. Highwater, an old colored woman who peddles early vegetables” or Frederick Arkle, white, and Emma Dorsey, colored, were married.”

The black population attended Eudora schools along with the rest of the population and appeared in graduation classes for the first couple of decades seemingly without any controversy. Darlene Slapar in a scrapbook about Eudora schools, wrote that there didn’t appear to be any discrimination or segregation in Eudora schools. She wrote: “When there was agitation for a new school, Mrs. Lizzie Robinson, treasurer of the board and one of the promoters of the project reported that ‘we circulated five petitions and ran down several lies that I was going to work to have the Negroes separated from the whites. That would have been outrageous.’”

Other schools did appear to have some problems with Eudora’s black students. For example, early in the 1910 basketball season, Eudora lost a game to Hesper Academy and then to Kaw Valley when it played them at the Lawrence Y.M.C.A. The team blamed the loss on the other teams’ refusal to allow Eudora’s star player, Thomas Harvey, a black student, to be in the game.

However, on November 28, 1912, the newspaper ran this article: “Linwood High school and Eudora High school are not on ‘speaking terms’ at the present time. Linwood and Eudora High schools were to play a game of basketball last Friday afternoon, but when the Linwood players saw that two colored boys were playing on the Eudora team they agreed to play the game if the two colored boys were kept out. This agreement as rescinded by the Eudora boys and the game was called off. The colored boys objected to by the Linwood team are Thomas Harvey and Roscoe Crump, two of the cleanest and best players on the Eudora team.

Leslie Kimball said his family as did other black families gave up farming and moved to Lawrence after the 1903 flood in 1977 for the Lawrence/Douglas County African American Oral History Interviews. When asked about the flood, Kimball said: "I don't remember. I don't know. It didn't cause too much. Only them that lived down in the lower part there, they had to all get out of there and get up on the higher ground then. And then they had to take up something else. Ground during that time, they couldn't do anything with it. Isn't like it is now with the tractors, they can turn under and everything. Had to take up different things. Lot of them moved out of there. So many came to Lawrence there. That's the reason my folks came up to Lawrence here at the time. Got out of there and came up to Lawrence when I was ten years old."”

Copyright 2010. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.