Thursday, April 29, 2021

George Todd (Part 1): From slavery to Chariton

I set out earlier this week to track down as much information as possible about George Todd --- among the first Lucas Countyans born into slavery to settle here. That proved to be a complicated task that produced quite a bit of material, so I've decided to just plunge into the story without knowing how many posts it will take to tell it.

I've noted in earlier posts that there were no permanent black residents of Lucas County prior to the Civil War, but that soon thereafter a few families began to arrive in search of opportunity, as was the case with all pioneers.

George appears first in Lucas County records as a write-in candidate for city marshal during December of 1868. And then on April 3, 1869, he married Melvina (aka Elvina) Crowder here. George probably was 37-39 years old at the time and Melvina, age about 34 with a daughter, Mary, age 7.

The federal census-taker who came calling in Lucas County the next year found 17 men, women and children he considered "black" and 13 recorded as "mulatto" --- a total of 30. All lived in Chariton save one, a young man recorded twice, once in Chariton and once in Russell.

Recorded as black were Ann Wilcox, 28, born Mississippi, a servant in the Darius Wilcox household; Sally Thompson, 15, also born Mississippi, a servant in the George Lockwood household; Melissa Nance, 35, born Kentucky, a washerwoman with four daughters, Mary, Elise, Laura and Francis; William Mason, 39, a day laborer born in Ohio, enumerated with his wife, Priscilla, 40, and two others, Laura Price, 19, and William Price, 1, both born in Michigan; Rufus Allen, 51, a day laborer born in Virginia, and his son, Daniel, 18, a laborer born in Missouri; and the Todd family, consisting of George, Melvina, Mary and "Sis," George and Melvina's eldest daughter, Cora. Most of the families owned their own modest homes.

The mulatto families were those of George Scott, 30, born in Kentucky, no occupation given, and his wife, Susan, 34, also born Kentucky, and their four children, Napoleon, 17, born in Kentucky, and Anne, Mary and Walter, younger and born in Iowa; and Anderson Mason, 33, born Ohio and a barber, his wife, Nancy 28, and five children, Joseph, Mary, Charles, Wilkerson and Eddy. 

It was Daniel Allen who was enumerated twice --- once in Chariton with his father, Rufus, and again in Russell, where he was employed by (and living with) the town miller, George C. Boggs and his wife, Martha.

I've written about Anderson Mason before, primarily because he is identified as the first person of color to vote in an election in Lucas County --- during December of 1868, just a month after Iowans had ratified an amendment to the 1857 Constitution that removed the provision limiting suffrage to white males. You'll find "Lucas County's first black voter: Anderson Mason" here and "Anderson Mason and the right to vote" here.

As a footnote to that election, four of the black residents enumerated in the 1870 census had received write-in votes in the December 1868 election --- Anderson Mason and George Scott, eight each for mayor; George Todd, five for marshal; and Rufus Allen, eight for county recorder.


So how did George Todd come to be in Iowa in the first place? It's my opinion, an opinion only, that he arrived via the underground railroad ca. 1862-1863. That's based largely on the fact he appears first in Iowa records in 1863 in Henry County, a hotbed of Quaker abolitionist and Underground Railroad activity centered on the village of Salem. 

Iowa conducted a census during 1863 of all males subject to the draft for Civil War service. Among those enumerated in Henry County was "George Todd, 32, colored, laborer, single, born Missouri." That entry is dated July 30, 1863.

A month later, on Aug. 22, 1863, George enlisted at Mount Pleasant in what became Co. H, 60th Regiment of U.S. Colored Infantry. His age was entered as 33.

When George enlisted, his unit was known as the 1st Iowa Infantry, Colored, and its men were mustered into federal service at Keokuk on Oct. 11, 1863.  On March 11, 1864, the 1st Iowa was redesignated the 60th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. 

"Colored" units always were commanded by white officers and were assigned to support duties rather than combat. The 60th was assigned to various garrison duties in the Department of Arkansas during the remainder of the war.

George's service record, available through the subscription research site Fold3, shows months of exemplary service as a teamster for the regimental quartermaster department with temporary duty assignment now and then as teamster for the brigade quartermaster.

He was mustered out after two years of honorable service on Oct. 15, 1865, at DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, with the remainder of his regiment. A total of 1,153 men had served in the regiment during its existence and 344 died, the great majority of disease.

It seems likely that George returned to Henry County after the war although we can't be sure of that.

Anderson Mason was a U.S Colored Troops veteran, too, and had been operating a barber shop in Mount Pleasant before the war. So it's possible, but certainly can't be proved, that George came west to Chariton with or at about the same time that the Masons did.

The move most likely occurred after July of 1867 when the first passenger cars began to arrive at a temporary depot in Chariton following completion of the new Burlington & Missouri River rail line through the city. After 20 years of relative isolation, Lucas County now was open to the world.

More of this another time ....

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