August 12th, 1825 ~ April 26th, 1891
Underground Railroad Conductor
Shoe & Boot Manufacturer
Recruiter for the Union Army
Captain in the U.S. Army
Provost Marshal of Charleston, S. C.
Recipient of the Medal of Honor Graduate of Howard University
A Justice of the Peace of Washington D.C.
In 1829 the Ohio School law refused to allow freed African-Americans into the newly developing public school system. Because of this unjust law, various people and organizations began to open segregated schools for blacks. This was the case in Harveysburg, Ohioin 1831. Quaker Elizabeth Burgess Harvey, and her husband Dr. Jesse Harvey, built the one-room white-brick Black School on the north edge of Harveysburg. It was often referred to as the “East End School.” It is reputed to be the firstBlackSchool in Ohio.
Dr. Jesse and Elizabeth Burgess Harvey were well-known philanthropists, educators, and abolitionists. Their son Dr. William F. Harvey reported that hundreds of fleeing slaves passed through his family’s home in Harveysburg (Ohio Historical Society, Wilbur H. Siebert Collection, MSS116AV BOX59 11OH 026, March 24, 1898). In their other son’s many obituaries, the distinguished physician and surgeon Dr. Thomas B. Harvey of Indianapolis (see picture below), they are lauded as well as his grandmother “Betty” Burgess, Elizabeth’s mother, who brought her freed slaves to Ohio with her. For example, one of Thomas’ obituaries states:
“…His father, Dr. Jesse Harvey, a member of the Society of Friends, was a noted Abolitionist and philanthropist, an educator who aught the first school in Ohio to which colored children were admitted and a missionary among the Indians of Kansas, where he died in 1848. His maternal grandmother, Mrs. Burgess, a Virginian, when her father’s estate was divided, received her patrimony in slaves, whom she brought to Ohio and gave their liberty in a land of freedom. The mother of Dr. Harvey was, like his father, of Quaker stock and she fully sympathized with the latter in his humanitarian efforts and lived a life of self-denial that he might the more easily carry on his self chosen work for mankind. When he died the family were left in straitened circumstances and were obliged to practice the most rigid economy. Dr. Harvey’s means of literary education were restricted to evening reading, and early in life he addicted himself to a habit learned from his mother of studying far into the night. From his father he had inherited a natural inclination and talent for scientific research especially in the domain of medicine and surgery. In 1846, at the age of nineteen (for he was born in Clinton County, Ohio, November 29, 1827), he began the study of medicine, and he graduated from the Miami Medical College in the spring of 1851 and located at Plainfield, Indiana, where he remained ten years, building up a large practice and identifying himself with all the interests of the town. . .” (Pictorial & Biographical Memoirs of Marion County & Indianapolis, Indiana[Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing, 1893), pp. 201ff).
The abolitionist movement burst onto the scene in the 1830s. During these early days of the movement, one of the potent catalysts for the establishment of black schools was the benchmark anti-slavery event of the emancipation of all the slaves in the British Empireon August 23, 1833. Another catalyst were internal affairs within the United States, which affected the black population of Ohioand the North. For example, starting in 1826 the state of North Carolina passed severe laws against freed slaves living in the state. It feared that the presence of freed blacks would encourage enslaved blacks to revolt or seek freedom. The laws pressured free blacks to leave the North Carolina and many came to Ohioin spite of the severity of the Ohio Black Laws. Another catalyst was the founding of The American Anti-Slavery Society by William Lloyd Garrison. Within three years of its founding, Dr. Jesse Harvey established a chapter of the highly controversial American Anti-slavery Society in Harveysburg in 1836. In March of 1836 he is listed as secretary of a group of 17 members in Harveysburg (“Annual Report of the American Anti-Slavery Society,” May 10, 1836 [New York City: William S. Dorr, 1836), p. 97).
The Harvey family were very active in Friends meeting. They and other Friends in the village and in the valley, who had migrated to Ohio from North Carolina to escape slavery, were still in contact with Friends and family who had stayed in North Carolina and North Carolina Yearly Meeting, which assisted freed slaves to migrate north to the mid-west. There were also members of other churches in Harveysburg who were sympathetic to the abolitionist cause.
Many freed blacks had lived in the area of Harveysburg and Waynesville since the early days of settlement (ca. 1795-1805) and before; the earliest being Caesar adopted by the Shawnee Indians who lent his name to Caesar’s Creek valley and creek. A number of the freed blacks were brought by the early Quaker settlers themselves when they moved out of the south. Harveysburg’s destiny as a haven for Freedom Seekers was assured since it was well placed between two busy lines of the Underground Railroad; Caesar’s Creek valley itself and the Bull Skin Trace. Dr. Jesse Harvey, who was the first man to proclaim his abolitionist convictions in Warren County, would become one of many conductors in the area. His two sons, both physicians and Quakers, Dr. William Foster Harvey and Dr. Thomas B. Harvey, would continue as UGRR conductors when they settled inIndiana in the 1850s.
Although many Quakers lived in and around the village as well as a large number of blacks and mulattos, it must be remembered that not everyone in the vicinity was an abolitionist. Southwest Ohioduring the ante-bellum period was a battle ground between people of abolitionist and pro-slavery opinions. It was the ideological war before the war. Great care still had to be taken to protect Freedom Seekers who came through Harveysburg. However, up until the late 1840s and especially from 1850 on, the UGRR endeavor was, although illegal, the danger was manageable for the white conductors. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, it became extremely dangerous even in open-minded Harveysburg; bounded by abolitionists and conductors. African-Americans in the area were also active in the UGRR.
The local abolitionists themselves, during this later period, were divided between moderates and radicals who disagreed about how to deal with the scourge of slavery and this led to a conflict between them in the village itself in the late 1840 early 1850s. It was over the issue of having or not having a “black department” in the Harveysburg Academy (high school), which Dr. Jesse Harvey had founded in 1837. Many white parents didn’t want blacks to attend classes with their children in the Academy, nor even in a separate “department.” More radical Garrisonian abolitionists in the area demanded integration, hoping to make the Harveysburg Academy like the liberal-minded Oberlin Collegiate Institute which was founded in 1833 by Presbyterian ministers and admitted its first black student in 1835. This conflict over whether to segregate or desegregate indicates just how painfully controversial the anti-slavery movement truly was in the antebellum period even in the relatively open-minded town of Harvyesburg. Even among Quakers who generally agreed about the evil of slavery, there was considerable disagreement about how to rid the country of slavery and how to aid Freedom Seekers. For example, many conservative Quakers who wanted to avoid a civil war, espoused a slow form of emancipation (e.g. Colonization), and would not participate in the UGRR since it was an illegal activity. Radical Quakers in the 1840s would leave their Yearly Meetings and establish their own that approved of abolition and giving direct assistance to Freedom Seekers. Many churches weathered schisms and many schools dissension over abolition.
At the core of this troubling conflict was a young mulatto girl named Margaret Campbell. Some people in town had determined that she, although she looked like a white person, was black since she had a black grandparent or great-grandparent. One wonders if the young Orindatus S. B. Wall during this conflict would think that perhaps he might someday have a grandchild rejected from a white school? Did he, having been raised in a tolerant Quaker environment, hope for better for his descendents? Surely, he was living in hope and expectation for his race.
Dr. Harvey and his wife Elizabeth were moderate Orthodox Quakers. Their moderate approach to abolitionism had won the confidence of Stephen Wall to entrust his children to them. But now, the Harvey’s, who had for many years financed the Academy out of their own pockets to keep it open, were accosted from all sides by white parents, by black parents, and radical abolitionists concerning the schools enrollment of blacks. Before the final resolution of the issue, Dr. Harvey was appointed the superintendent of the Shawnee Mission and School in Kansas Territory in 1847. The Harvey family, including the children, moved to Kansas. The Wall children, now young adults, would have lived through the Academy conflict. Perhaps, this crisis over the Harveysburg Academy, as well as the death of Dr. Jesse Harvey, their benefactor, at the Shawnee Mission on May 12, 1848, encouraged them to move to Oberlin to seek greater educational opportunities and a more liberal environment.
According to the 1850 Federal Census many of the black/mulatto families living in Harveysburg had at least one older member who had been born in North Carolina:
- The patriarch of the Brantley family
- The Wall children (children of Stephen Wall, master)
- The patriarch of the Winslow family
- The matriarch of the Wallace family
- The Bennett family
- The matriarch of theDudleyfamily
- The patriarch of the Hill family
It is also quite possible that five of the seven children of Napoleon Wall, the oldest son of Stephen Wall (see below), who married Terry Goeren around 1840, could have attended the Black School during that decade.
Donations from the Harvey’s, from other Friends and supporters in Harveysburg, as well as the tuition paid by the families of the students initially funded the Black School in 1831. Sadly, the names of the earliest students of the Black School are not known. The records of the institution have never been found. Perhaps the black families listed above constitute some of the earliest patrons of the Black School. Jane F. Wales Nicholson’s following statement, found in her memoir, tells how Colonel Stephen Wall, a wealthy North Carolina plantation owner who owned at least five-hundred acres in Anson County and one-hundred slave and who was, probably, a slave dealer, contacted Dr. Jesse Harvey to provide a home and school for his mulatto children. Wall’s agents probably heard about Elizabeth and Jesse Harvey’s school through the Quaker network of yearly meetings and families living in bothNorth Carolina and Ohio.
Colonel Stephen Wall received an inheritance from his father who was the local Justice of the Peace and sheriff. He was also successful in his own right. By the age of thirty Stephen won a officer’s commission in the state cavalry hence his title. By thirty-five he had served two terms in the state senate (see “Western Carolinian” Salisbury, North Carolina, Oct. 14, 1823 and April 20, 1824). In 1827 Colonel Wall was a candidate for the clerkship of the Superior Court of Richmond County (Letter from John D. Eccles to Thomas Ruffin, vol. I [Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing, Co., State Printer, 1918], p. 413).
Stephen Wall brought five of his eight children to the Harvey family justbefore the Harveysburg Academy opened in 1837; six years after Elizabeth’s elementary Black School had opened its door. The presence of the Wall children and other black teens may be the stimulus for Dr. Harvey’s later attempt to have a “separate department for blacks” in his high school Academy, another school which he also founded in the village. However, Jane Nicholson continues speaking about the Black School without further specific references to the Harveysburg Academy (below):
A planter of North Carolina (Stephen Wall[i]), who also had a fishery on Poedee River, wishing to liberate some of his slaves, sent agents North to find a location, if possible, where they could be educated.[ii] He was recommended to Dr. Harvey who promised to open a colored school if they were sent to him. In the fall just before the opening of the high school, he came again and brought a number of bright young mulattoes, the children of three mothers and one father, their master. When they arrived Dr. Harvey and wife were in Richmond Yearly Meeting. The agent, anxious to see them and to attend the meeting also, went immediately to Richmond. He afterwards said that the meeting was the most impressive sight he ever beheld. He sat upstairs where he could see the entire congregation, and was charmed with the uniform dress of the large assembly. He admitted that the prettiest sight he ever beheld was the white silk and satin bonnets around the calm faces of the women.
These young colored people sent north for the purpose of being educated were the first to form the colored school. It was taught two years by Elizabeth Harvey. She had twenty-five pupils. Afterwards, Isaac Woodward took the school and after his death the first teacher had it again.
The father and former master came north to see how the children were doing. Their teacher told me, she had many long and full talks with him, about their condition and his own. He saw that these bright yellow young people would be outlawed by both black and white, that their social condition would be truly sad. “And whom do I have to blame for all this?” he said, “whom, but myself?” Seeing him thus moved, she ventured to ask him if he would not, someday, liberate all his slaves and provide for them. This, he promise to do. He was past the prime of life ~ had never been married, and had no near legal heirs. He went home and made the full promise, but he came north once too often, for the good of his laborers at the plantation. He had been the guest of Friends of moderate views. This time he saw hot abolitionists. They were holding a convention at Oakland, in the large anti-slavery shed, built on the farm of Dr. Brook. The speakers were employed by the New England Anti-Slavery Society, to come west and hold one hundred conventions, as near the border as possible. Many of the speakers as, Septimus S. Foster, Theodore Wald and others, had studied for the Congregational ministry and had left the pulpit for the platform; where their puritan training knew no mercy on what they thought to be wrong.
Dr. Harvey, fearing the southerner would be irritated against the north tried to dissuade him from going, but he went and was greatly exasperated. A second time he went around, for he said, “they are so furious, they might stab me in the back, and I will sell my life as dearly as possible.” This time, upon his return home, he destroyed the will he had made.[iii]
Stephen Wall on this particular journey to southwest Ohioin 1843 attended a huge rally in Oakland, a small hamlet 5 miles east of Harveysburg in ClintonCounty, on the property of Dr. Abram Brooke, a radical Garrisonian abolitionist. That year the annual meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society was promoting a series of a “hundred conventions” to be held throughout the mid-west. Oakland was the location of one of these “hundred conventions.” One of the traveling speakers at these conventions was Frederick Douglass. After speaking at one of these conventions in Cleveland, Frederick Douglas and the other speakers came to Oakland and the convention was held in Dr. Brooke’s “Liberty Hall.” Valentine and Jane Nicholson opened their home, which was located in the Caesar’s Creek Valley beneath Harveysburg, to the guests speakers. Douglass mentions Valentine Nicholson and Dr. Abram Brooke in his autobiography and states that thousands of people came to the convention and that it had a positive and wide effect. However, the powerful rhetorical combination of Frederick Douglass, Steven S. Foster (who would shortly marry the abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Abby Kelly), and Theodore Wald (who lead the “Lane Seminary rebels”) and their insistence on immediate emancipation was too much for Stephen Wall to tolerate.
Fortunately, he had second thoughts after his temper cooled and he did free his mulatto children and provided for their futures in Ohio. Why did he choose Harveysburg to send his children to? There were many attempts to establish communities and provide education of freed slaves in southern Ohio in the 1830s. Between 1819 and 1831, the ex-slaves of Samuel Gist struggled to settle first in Brown County and then HighlandCounty. The Highland County Gist Community was established in 1831 and was the longest lasting. The West Settlement of ex-slaves near Greenfield, Highland Co., Ohio grew up on ex-slave August West’s farm located in Fayette County. West and Presbyterian minister Alexander Beatty worked together to establish the community. A large settlement with a school was founded in northern Ohio in Mercer County in 1835 by abolitionist August Wattles. The settlement would be named Cartagena and August and Susan Perley Wattles established a school for colored boys in the community. Wilberforce College will not be founded until 1855. From 1856 to 1862, the school provided education for the mulatto children of southern planters. Wall’s options in the 1830s were probably radically unappealing to him and his agent’s suggestion to trust the moderate Quakers would have been much more acceptable.
One wonders if Stephen Wall was conscious of the intensity of UGRR activity in this area of Warren and Clinton County, Ohio. Would he have approved of Dr. Harvey’s dedicated UGRR work if he had been fully aware of it?
In 1835 another southern slave owner, 55-year-old William Hurd, from Georgiamoved himself and his three mulatto children to the area between Waynesville and Harveysburg. Harveysburg, approximately 45 miles north of Cincinnati would also be appealing because of its distance from the violence of the city. In July of 1836 there were severe riots lead by pro-slavery mobs in Cincinnati. Rural Harveysburg would provide protection from such events.
The mulatto children of Stephen Wall placed in the care of Dr. Jesse and Elizabeth Harvey and others in Harveysburg were:
- Orindatus Simon Bolivar Wall ~ son of the slave Pricilla Ely, b. 1825 ~ d. 1891
- Caroline Malinda (“Carrie”) Wall ~ daughter of the slave Pricilla Ely, b. 1833 ~ d. 1915
- Benjamin Franklin Wall ~ son of the slave Pricilla Ely , b. 1837 – d. 1869
- Sarah Kelly Wall ~ daughter of the slave Jane Ely, b. 1833 – d. 1886 (Jane and Pricilla were sisters)
- Napoleon B. Wall ~ son of the slave Jane Ely, b. 1819 – d. 1895
- John Wall ~ son of the slave Rhody (Rhoday), b. 1842 – d. 1912
- Albert G. Wall ~ son of the slave Rhody (Rhoday), b. 1843 – d. May 31, 1897
- Peter Wall ~ son of the slave Rhody (Rhoday), b. 1845, was born just before his father Stephen died. There is no evidence that Peter came to Harveysburg.
Orindatus S. B. Wall and four other children (Caroline Malinda, Sarah Kelly, Benjamin Franklin, and Napoleon) were freed by their father Stephen Wall when they were first sent to Harveysburg around 1837. Stephen Wall, who died eight years later on September 9th, 1845[iv], would complete the emancipation of his eight children through his Last Will and Testament, dated August 28, 1845. However, he didn’t emancipated two of the three mothers. Jane eventually was sent to Harveysburg. Stephen Wall didn’t free all of his slaves. He left his five children in Harveysburg $1,000.00 each, all the lands that he had purchased for them in Ohio, and $5,000 to help support their settlement in Harveysburg and the surrounding area. He entrusted Dr. Jesse Harvey with the responsibility to care for, teach and purchase land for his children (see his Last Will and Testament below). The 1856 map of Warren County (below) shows Harvey and Wall property adjoining[v]. The J. Harvey on this 1856 map is Jesse Harvey The J. Harvey property is part of Outlot #2, the lot upon which the Black School was built by Jesse and Elizabeth. After Stephen Wall’s death, his brother Mial Wall inherited the duty of looking after Stephen’s mulatto children inNorth Carolina andOhio. He did maintain communication with his nephews and nieces while they lived in Harveysburg.
Seven years before the Wall children arrived in Harveysburg, the 1830 Federal Census lists Jesse Harvey as having one freed male colored person (between the age of 24 and 35) living on his premises.[vi] In the 1840 Census Jesse Harvey (spelled as Hervey) has listed with his family two freed male colored persons (between the age of 24 and 35) living on his premises.[vii] The circumstances surrounding the earlier nameless freed slaves are unknown but the information does indicate the depth of the commitment of Dr. Jesse Harvey. It would be wonderful if we could reconstruct all the details of Dr. Harvey’s involvement in anti-slavery and the UGRR from 1830 till his death in 1848. Dr. William F. Harvey, in response to inquiries from Wilbur Siebert in 1898, said that he was one of the few living person who could remember his father’s activities in Harveysburg. He wrote, “If you would like to have a history of these early times and will let me know, I will write you some of the history” (Wilbur H. Siebert Collection-OHS; Letter from Dr. Wm F. Harvey, MSS116AV BOX54 03OH 061). Unfortunately, he never wrote the history.
The Quaker custom concerning their boarding schools was to provide homes for the outlying students (their room and board) in the homes of the Friends living near the school. There is evidence that Dr. Harvey also went to the
expense of building some kind of boarding house, too, for his students. The families the children and teens lived with would become their guardians. This was also the case with the Wall children in Harveysburg. We have a few details of the arrangements but, unfortunately, not all.
Caroline, “Carrie,” Wall (right) was Orindatus’ full sister. She came to Harveysburg when she was four years old. Being that young, she did not have any conscious memories of her enslavement.
She would marry the dynamic black abolitionist John Mercer Langston in Oberlin on October 25, 1854. The following is his account of Caroline and Harveysburg (Langston’s autobiography was written in 3rd person):
Among other places visited by him and in which he presented the claims and object of this association (to promote black education) was Harveysburg already named, a Quaker village where colored persons were treated with great favor and the members of a single family among them were given superior advantages of education and social contact. Here Mr. Langston met Miss Wall for the second time finding her family consisting ing of three brothers and one sister besides herself very handsomely located very kindly treated by the whole community with all the members of it accorded every educational and social opportunity possible Indeed if distinction were made at all with respect to them it was in their favor The father of this family Col Stephen Wall a very wealthy and influential citizen of Richmond County North Carolina had brought his children to this liberal Quaker village and having thus made them all free settled them in easy in fact affluent circumstances under wise and suitable guardianship for their education and culture So great was his constant interest in them and so ample the provision which he made in their behalf and so influential were those to whom he committed their business and education that they were treated everywhere in church school and the community as if they were children of its very best and most prominent family Besides finding Miss Wall a talented refined and pleasant person in appearance and conduct as he saw her at her own home in mastery and control of it with her brothers and younger sister respecting and honoring her authority while she bore herself with dignity self possession and propriety he discovered in her those elements of genuine womanly character which make the constitution of the true loving and useful wife He discovered too in her conversation and behavior that she was fully informed as to the condition of the colored people with whom she was identified in blood in her maternal relationships and deeply and intelligently interested in their education and elevation His subsequent association with her only deepened and confirmed this opinion and when the hour of his proposed marriage came he had little to do in the way of convincing himself as to the certainty of his future happiness could he secure her affections and hand His hopes and expectations are still in progress of happy fruition (From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol or the First and Only Negro Representative in Congress from the Old Dominion by John Mercer Langston [Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing company, 1894], ,pp. 141-142).
John Mercer Langston and Caroline Wall Langston were the great-uncle and great-aunt of the famous poet Langston Hughes. Caroline’s brother, Orindatus would get married the day after her marriage. Orindatus and Amanda A. Thomas of Cincinnati, an Oberlin student, took their vows in Cleveland,Ohio. Amanda was a very light mulatto. Their children would also have light complexions.
Twenty-eight year old Napoleon Wall, the oldest of Stephen Wall’s children, is listed as a mulatto and a farmer in the 1850 Federal Census and is then living a short distance east of Harveysburg on a farm in ClintonCounty, Chester Township. He would have been eighteen years old when he first came to Harveysburg. He was married to Terry Goeren Wall and they had six children: William (3), E. A. (1), Sarah Jane (8), Joseph (9), Albert (7), and Edward (4) (1850 Federal Census, Chester Twp., Clinton) Napoleon never moved to Oberlin, Ohio nor attended the college. By 1860 Napoleon and his family had moved to Clark County, Ohio. By 1863 they were living in Springfield, Ohio, and, by 1883 they were living in Columbus, Ohio where he died on December 3rd, 1895.
Napolean’s full sister, Sarah Kelly Wall (1833-Dec.12, 1886) graduated from Oberlin’s Ladies’s Literary Course in 1856. She became a teacher and lived with her sister “Carrie” and her husband John Mercer Langston in Oberlin until she married Abram Fidler, a stable owner of Chillicothe on May 7th, 1863. They had two children: Mary Cruett (12) and Wade Barnett (15). After her husband’s death, she remained in Chillicothe and became a prominent teacher in the Black Department of the public school system. Eventually she moved to Washington, D. C. and lived again with Caroline and John Mercer Langston until her death in 1886.
1850 was a pivotal year for the Wall siblings. In the 1850 Census of Harveysburg, “Datis” Wall (Orindatus), age 26, a shoemaker, is listed as a mulatto. His full sister Caroline (“Carrie”) Wall (b. 1833 – d. 1915), age 17, is also listed as a mulatto. The Walls begin their move to Oberlin, Ohio. “Carrie” was enrolled in the “Ladies Preparative School” of Oberlin College that same year.[i] Sarah Kelly Wall, age 16, is listed as a mulatto in the census, too. Sarah Kelly Wall (later Mrs. Abram Fidler of Chillicothe) was enrolled as a student at Oberlin College in 1850.[ii] All the Walls are listed in the 1850 Census as being born in North Carolina. Orindatis and Caroline are living with the white Jacob Randall family. Jacob Randall was a carpenter in Harveysburg. Sarah is living in the home of the white family of Dr. John W. Scroggs and his wife Sarah Roach Scroggs. Dr. Scroggs, both a physician and pharmacist, came to Harveysburg in 1847 and he and his family lived there for the next ten years. Mrs. Scroggs would remain a close friend of Caroline Wall Langston for many years. Orindatus took the responsibility of making sure his younger siblings attained a high education. He himself did not attend classes at Oberlin although he moved to the town in 1850 and became a prominent businessman and citizen there.
Orindatus’ full brother, Benjamin Franklin Wall, 1837-1869, was a student at Oberlin from 1853-1859 ((General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1833 – 1908. Including an Account of the Principal Events in the History of the College).
He migrated to British Columbia; to Salt Spring Island where he
died on May 22nd, 1869 (Genealogical Extracts The British
Columbian, 1861-69, Death Notices, Rootsweb – British Columbia: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canbc/newspapers/vic_news_bc61_69d.htm. Salt Spring Island was a haven for ex-slaves and mulattoes from California, for ex-slaves from Missouri, and for Hawaiians. Unlike their experience in the United States, the people of color that moved to Salt Spring Island were guaranteed citizenship, the right to vote, and black men could join the local military. Under the British homesteading system, blacks could work the land and then buy it at reduced cost.
John Wall (1842-1912), Orindatus’ half-brother moved to Oberlin and was a student. He left school to join the first black regiment. Twenty-two year old John Wall was the Color Sergeant of the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment. During the regiment’s attack on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863, John was severely wounded but the colors were taken up by Sergeant William H. Carney who took them to the top of the parapet. Wall returned to Oberlin after the war and worked as a mason, a house a painter, a plasterer, Wall-paper hanger, and was the town constable for fourteen years. In 1879 he married Fannie Mary Shanks and they had seven children. The members of the John Wall family were practicing Quakers. John Wall died in Oberlin on March 23, 1912.[iii] John Wall is buried in Westwood Cemetery in Oberlin,Ohio.
Albert G. Wall, another half brother of Orindatus, was also a student at Oberlin. He was enrolled in 1860-1862, and again in 1864-1865 (General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1833 – 1908. Including an Account of the Principal Events in the History of the College). He first joined the Ohio 73rd OVI, Company H. a white unit and fought in the battle of Cross Keys in what is now West Virginia. He was thrown out of the Company when it was discovered that he was a mulatto. Wall enlisted in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, Company G, when it was formed
and was wounded in battle (Source: Chillicothe, Ohio Register 1871, http://www.angelfire.com /oh/chillicothe/CivilWar.html). After the Civil War Albert G. Wall returned to Oberlin College. There he married Ella P. Fidler, Abram Fidler’s sister, in 1866 or 1867. By 1880 they are living on a dairy farm in the District of Columbia. They have four daughters: Catherine (12), Albertie (8), Gina (5), and Etta (2) (1880 Census, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: T9_121; Page: 165.4000; Enumeration District: 8). died May 31, 1897 at the Freedman’s Hospital in the District of Columbia. Pvt. Albert G. Wall is buried in Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Plot: Section 27 Site 897-B, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSvcid=97663&GRid=38023282&).
A number of other “mulattos” are recorded as living in Harveysburg in the 1850 Federal Census with different surnames as well as black families (Winslow, Wallace and Hill). A “May Wall” is four years old and living with the Winslow family. She had also been born in North Carolina.[iv] It is not clear whether May is another child of Stephen Wall.
According to Dallas Bogan, the following was found in Stephen Wall’s will:
“Mr. Wall, in his last will and testament, filed in 1846, set free the following slaves; “Little John and Albert, children of Rody, also $1000 from my estate. Also to John and Albert all the land I now own in the State, $5000 to Dr. Harvey to be laid out in land, $200 to Moses Burgers.”[v] (This is “Moses Burgess”, one of Dr. Jesse Harvey’s brothers-in-law).
There is evidence that the Burgess family was also involved with Stephen Wall and his children. There is the hint in Wall’s will above. Another piece of evidence that points to Burgess participation is found in the 1840 Tax Duplicate of Warren County, Ohio. Dr. Jesse Burgess, another one of Elizabeth Burgess Harvey’s brothers, deeded the east half ofLot # 13 in Harveysburg to Stephen Wall.
The two most accomplished of the children of Stephen Wall was Orindatus Simon Bolívar Wall and his sister Caroline, “Carrie,” who married John Mercer Langston. O. S. B. Wall was born August 12, 1825 in Rockingham, Richmond County, North Carolina and died in Washington, D. C. on April 26, 1891. Since most people couldn’t correctly pronounce his name, he went by “Datis” and by “O.S.B.” Actually, “Orindatus” is a made-up Latin-like name. It was common in the antebellum period for masters to give their slaves ancient Roman names or famous names as a cruel joke. His first name would be incorrectly written as “Oliver” during his indictment for his participation in the John Price Rescue at Oberlin, Ohio, also known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of 1858. That mistaken spelling was used as an excuse to have his case thrown out of court.
Both “Datus” and “Carrie” had optimistic personalities and possessed healthy self-esteem with senses of humor.
“Datis” was twelve years of age when he was sent to Harveysburg; the same year that Dr. Jesse Harvey’s Harveysburg Academy was opened, Sometime in the mid-1840s, when Datis” was in his late teens, Dr. Harvey tried to appease anti-black elements in Harveysburg with the “separate department for blacks” within the Academy. “Datis’” mother’s name was Priscilla or Prissy Ely, a sister of Jane, and one of Stephen Wall’s three slave wives. Priscilla was never freed, although her sister Jane was and moved to Harvysburg. It was reported that she said that her “old master” should have been “burned at the stake a long time ago.”[i] Although Stephen Wall was highly respected in the southern white world, even thought to be a kind and generous master of his slaves, it is refreshing to hear an assessment of his character from one of his own slave wives. It is, however, to his credit that, at the every least, he did show concern for and provided for his own mulatto children.
Heated arguments between the conservative and more radical abolitionist in Harveysburg came to a head over the integration of the Harveysburg Academy after Dr. Harvey and his family left for The Quaker Mission to the Shawnee Native Americans in Kansas Territory. It is not surprising that the freed blacks in the Waynesville-Harveysburg area would be more sympathetic with the Garrisonian radical Friends who advocated for a true equality for Blacks. A freed black man, wrote to the “Anti-Slavery Bugle” newspaper (February 25, 1848) the following bitter comments on the situation. He condemns the old Academy ofDr. Harvey and the new one, too, which can’t extricate itself from racial prejudice either:
“The abolitionist here, have often expressed strong desire to have the Black Laws of Ohio repealed. They have branded Dr. Harvey as anti-abolition, anti-Christian, etc. for putting us in a separate department of the school of which he was proprietor. I do not think they did Mr. Harvey injustice by such charge. Well, Harvey‘s school has come to naught! Another Seminary has been reared by those persons who spoke so hard against Mr. H. We thought when this building was being erected, an avenue was open through which we could ascend to the great field of intelligence. But, alas! What do we hear? No person that has one drop of African blood in him or her shall be permitted to enter this institution!
Did one of the Wall siblings write this anonymous letter? There is evidence that Orindatus remained in contact with Dr. Jesse Harvey’s two sons later in life. It’s not known who wrote the above letter, but the existence of such a letter probably underlines their growing desire to move on to a more tolerant and safer place. The letter does illustrate a common complaint of freed blacks that often their white benefactors still harbored racial prejudice even while attempting to help them.
The following short biography is found in The Town That Started the Civil War by Nat Brandt. Stephen Wall provided monetarily for his children’s higher education. All the children, except Napoleon and Orindatus, pursued a collegiate education at Oberlin College. Between 1850 and 1853, Orindatus arrived in Oberlin and began establishing his boot and shoe-making business. Caroline, Sarah K., and Benjamin F. were enrolled in the college. John and Albert G. would enroll in 1860. Sarah K. was the only one of the siblings to complete the requisite courses and graduated from Oberlin College.
All but one child came to Oberlin (Napoleon), and all his daughters and sons but Orindatus entered the Preparatory Department. In October 1854, sister Caroline, then a senior in the Literary Department, married John Mercer Lansgton. He and John Mercer swapped properties in 1856, Wall giving John Mercer a new two-story frame house on East College Street in return for a farm in Brownhelm Township. In the same month that Caroline married Langston, Orindatus married Amanda A. Thomas, a mulatto born in Virginia who was then living in town . . . He first opened a boot and shoe making business on East College Street in partnership with Rescuer David Watson. Current store is down from the Palmer House on the north side of East College between Main and Pleasant streets. Resides two blocks away on East College between the homes of Rescuers Henry Peck and Ralph Plumb. A heavyset, robust-looking man, well established in the community, having served at one time temporarily as a village marshal.[ii]
Captain Orindatus S. B. Wall would become one of the one hundred African-American officers during the Civil War. He became the first regularly commissioned African-American Captain in the U. S. Army. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor. O. S. B. Wall and his wife, Amanda Ann Thomas Wall (1837-1902), are buried in Arlington Cemetery,Virginia (see left.
When living in Oberlin, Ohio, O. S. B. Wall enthusiastically assisted in the Underground Railroad. He gained experience assisting both blacks and whites in the UGRR when living in Harveysburg. An event that stirred the entire nation occurred on September 13, 1858 in Oberlin. The United States Marshall of Oberlin arrested the fugitive slave, John Price. He was obliged under the notorious Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 to return John Price to his master. Knowing the anti-slavery sentiments of the citizens of Oberlin, he transferred Price to the nearby town of Wellington. This became common knowledge in Oberlin and a group of whites and blacks, thirty-seven persons in all, twelve of whom were freed blacks, rushed to Wellington to stop the removal of John Price and his return to slavery. They took Price forcibly, after negotiations failed, and returned him to Oberlin. They hid him in the home of the president of Oberlin College. They then secreted him off to Canada and freedom. Only two of the thirty-seven Rescuers went to trail, Simon M. Bushnell (white) and John Mercer Langston (mulatto). Both were convicted. The other thirty-five indicted were released, one of whom was Orindatus S. B. Wall.
The presence of the twelve indicted freedmen created a problem for the court if they were asked to testify. To allow black men to testify meant that black men had civil rights in defiance of social prejudice, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s decision that black people could never be citizens and had no rights, and the odious 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Orindatus S. B. Wall was the last to testify.
Orindatus S. B. Wall “affirmed” his testimony instead of taking an oath. This form of affirmation is a Quaker custom and reflects his Quaker upbringing (see, Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial by Steven Lubet [Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010 ], p. 263. He testified that John Price was a dark black man and not a “copper colored” black man which was how the fugitive slave being sought had been described in the arrest warrant.
Like his brother-in-law Orindatus, John M. Langston (1829-1897), was a son of a wealthy plantation owner in Louisa county, Virginia, John Quarles, and his mother Lucy Jane Langston was a freed slave with Indian and black ancestry. When his parents died he and his brothers were left independently wealthy. Due to the increasing pressure on freed blacks to move out of the south and due to education and employment opportunities inOhio, they moved toOhioand lived with a friend of their fathers inChillicotheuntil moving to Oberlin in 1838.
John M. Langston had an illustrious career:
- He was the first African-American to be elected to a public office.
- He was a city councilman in Oberlin and on the Board of Education.
- He conspired with John Brown to raidHarpers Ferrybut declined to participate.
- He led the National Equal Rights League in 1864.
- He was Educational Inspector for the Freedman’s Bureau.
- He organized the Law Department of Howard University in 1869 and served as Acting President for a while.
- He served as consul-general inHaiti.
- He was the president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate School
- He was the first African-American elected to a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1888.[i]
O. S. B. Wall and John M. Langston were successful recruiters of African-American troops during the Civil War. They did not participate in active field service. They recruited for the famous African-American regiments, the Massachusetts 54th and 55th. Two of the recruits for the 54th from Ohio were Orindatus’ own younger half-brothers, John and Albert G. Wall. Both brothers survived their service in the Massachusetts 54th. John became a sergeant serving until the end of the war. Albert was disabled and did not serve his entire enlistment.
Five hundred and eleven African-American Ohioans were enlisted in the 54th and 55th Regiments of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. A list of all the names can be found in “A Resolution to Honor African-Americans who Enlisted in the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments” introduced in the 129th General Assembly of the State of Ohio now in committee (see the 129th General Assembly webpage: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/res.cfm?ID=129_SR_219).
In 1862 six-hundred African-American volunteers, the famous Black Brigade, responded to General Lew Wallace’s call to hastily build the fortifications of a grateful Cincinnati when southern troops were threatening to invade Ohio. By the summer of 1863, Ohio newspapers were encouraging Governor Tod to enlist Ohio blacks into Ohio black regiments. Instead of fighting for Massachusetts and filling its quotas, black Ohioans should help Ohio fill its quota of soldiers. Meanwhile, Orindatus has raised forty-eight more recruits for the 55th Massachusetts. He received word that both Massachusetts regiments were full. He made arrangements for his recruits to stay with black families in Columbus while he petitioned Governor Tod to enlist African-Americans for Ohio. Governor Tod wrote to Secretary Stanton to request permission to raise African-American regiments and received permission on June 16th, 1863. By November of 1863, the 127th O.V.I. was filled. Governor Tod and ex-Governor Dennison conducted the flag presentation ceremony at Camp Delaware. (The Negro in the Civil War by Benjamin Quarles [Copyright 1953, by Benjamin Quarles] , pp. 192-193).
O. S. B. Wall and John Mercer Langston worked together again to organize the 127th O.V.I which became the 5th, U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment which was mustered in and trained at Camp Delaware in Delaware, Delaware County, Ohio. The organization of Camp Delaware sadly illustrates the racial prejudice that the recruited black troops faced. Camp Delaware was divided into two segregated camps. On the west side of the Olentangy River in 1862 was the camp for white troops of the 96th and 121st Regiments of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The second camp on the east side of the Olentangy River in 1863 was the site for mustering in African-American troops; The 127th Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry (later renamed the 5th Regiment United States Colored Troops) and the 27th U.S. Colored Troops. All other African-American units were mustered into service at Camp Delaware.
After the black regiments were raised, Orindatus was in Washington D. C. and called upon the Postmaster-General, William Dennison, ex-governor of Ohio, He asked Dennison for an opportunity to further serve the country. Soon after this at a Cabinet Meeting, Dennison inquired of Secretary Stanton the status of commissioning black officers. He recommended Orindatus S. B. Wall for a commission in the army. Stantonsaid that if Wall was a competent man he would certainly commission him. Orindatus was sent for and directed to meet with Secretary Stanton at the War Department. After a very satisfactory interview, Stanton sent Orindatus to a Colonel Foster who was suppose to examine him for the position of captain. Colonel Foster refused to do so until he was called by Stanton to meet with him and Orindatus to explain himself. Colonel Foster did comply and Orindatus S. B. Wall was commissioned a captain in the U.S. Army in 1865.
His appointment was received with acclamations of joy by his neighbors in Oberlin, where, later, he was at a public meeting, presented with an elegant sword. He served fro nearly two years as quartermaster in the Bureau for Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, where he displayed executive ability and business habits. He heard disputes and unraveled the feuds of refugees and freedmen, and having had charge of the abandoned property of the government at that point, when he was mustered out he was able to give a clean report of every dollar’s worth of it (A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 by George Washington Williams, LL.D. [New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1888], pp. 142-143).
The following quote about Orindatus’ honor in Oberlin is taken from They Stopped In Oberlin by William E. Bigglestone:
Oberlin honored his efforts in March 1865, when at a public meeting held in the college chapel; Professor Henry Peck presented him an eighty dollar sword with the scabbard inscribed, “God Speed the Right”.[ii]
After Orindatus’ commission, he briefly recruited for the 104th U. S. Colored Infantry. After this he was detached to service in the Freedmen’s Bureau and became the Provost Marshall of Charleston, South Carolina where he dealt with the complicated problems and issues of the newly freedmen and women. While they were living in Charleston, Orindatus’ wife Amanda was also working with the American Missionary Association. She was one of the first blacks to teach at the school which would eventually be named the Avery Normal Institute, which is now the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture, part of the College of Charleston (Women’s Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation by Kathryn Kish Sklar and James Brewer Stewart, The David Brion Davis Series, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition), [Yale University Press, 2007], p. 337.
When Orindatus was receiving his captain’s commission, John M. Langston was being considered for a commission as a colonel in a black regiment. Since the war ended soon after, Langston’s commission was dropped. The black officer corps was deliberately kept small, less than seventy-five. They were kept out of the lime-light and only freed blacks from the north received commissions, never ex-slaves freed during the war, nor through rising in the ranks. Even with these limitations the men who were commissioned continued after the war to make significant contributions to the Freedmen’s Bureau and by being teachers, doctors, and ministers and other professions (Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, Selected from the Holdings of the National Archives of the United States, Series II, Part I, The Black Military Experience by Ira Berlin, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland [Cambridge University Press, 1982 ], p. 311).
“Datis” Wall was never afraid of controversy whether between abolitionists and pro-slavery people or between members of a church disagreeing about the role of African-Americans in the United States. In 1869 he and another black man “from Oberlin” and a black woman applied to join the First Congregational Church in Washington D. C. This precipitated a nasty schism within the church specifically between its famous pastor, Rev. Charles Brandon Boyenton, and church founder and member General Oliver Otis Howard, the head of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands of the War Department who had appointed Orindatus S. B. Wall to the Freedmen’s Bureau. These two powerful men disagreed completely about African-Americans in American culture. Boyenton believed that the black race should remain separate but equal. General Howard (Howard University is named after him) was an integrationalist and agreed with Radical Republicans concerning the equality and citizenship of African-Americans. The Boyenton group tried to start their own church, “Central Congregational” but it was never fully recognized. Members of the Howard group hired Dr. Jeremiah Eames Rankin for their new pastor. Orindatus and the other man “from Oberlin” persisted in seeking membership and succeeded in integrating the First Congregational Church. Orindatus was the first man baptized during Rev. Rankin’s pastorate (see, “Centennial History of First Congregational Church, 1865-1965” by Everett O. Alldridge, http://www.fccuccdc.org/history/history.htm and the obituary of O. S. B. Wall in The Washington Post (1877-1954) April 28,1891).
After Orindatus and his family moved to Washington D. C. in 1867, he worked in the local field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau at the request of General Howard to help find land and jobs outside the District of Columbia for its indigent black population. His wife Amanda became a teacher in Washington. He also was appointed police magistrate of District #2 by the Board of Police. He had learned through his own life experience that mobility was a key to freedom and education for the black person. In his own case and his siblings’, their move to Ohio had changed their lives forever. In his work with the Freedmen’s Bureau he had encouraged black to seek greater freedom out of the increasingly violent south by moving north and west. However, he had also learned that freed persons needed to be politically astute and black men should know the Law. The ability to vote and the knowledge of the Law would provide a pathway to equality. He himself was unafraid to wield political power.
Because of police injustice shown toward blacks in Washington D. C., during a national convention of black men held in the city in January of 1869, the famous Rev. Duke W. Anderson of the African-AmericanFirst Baptist Church challenged the Capitol’s police and President Grant to appoint a black Justice of the Peace. On April 1, 1869, President Grant nominated Orindatus S. B. Wall Justice of the Peace. He would be able to hear small claims cases (The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Vol. 22, June 1, 1871-January 31, 1872, edited by John Y. Simon [Southern Illinois University Press, 1998], p. 304). At the same time Rev. Duke W. Anderson was also nominated as a Justice of Peace (An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington D. C. by Kate Masur [University of North Carolina, 2010] ,p. 159).
Orindatus enrolled in Howard University night school and graduated part of the second class of the Law School in 1869, which had been founded by his brother-in-law, John Mercer Langston. Langston had been the first practicing African-American lawyer in Ohio He had passed the Bar in 1854. Orindatus joined the Washington Bar in 1872:
THE LEGAL WORLD MOVES The Washington Chronicle of date under the above heading says In the court in General Term on second instant the first female ever admitted to practice in the courts was admitted on motion of Hon. AG Riddle. Charlotte E Rays, colored, who is referred to is a graduate Howard University and passed a very satisfactory course of study. It is reported that an application be made in the court on Saturday of week for the admission of Mrs. Belva A. Lockwood.
There was also admitted on the inst on motion of Mr. Riddle, R. Belcher, Edwin Belcher, CH Gardner, MM Holland, Geo W Mitchell, JM Murphy, James C Napier, John F Quarles, and OSB Wall, colored graduates of Howard University.
Hon JJ Wright a graduate of Howard University, subsequently Attorney General of Missouri and present associated with Hon AK Browne, was also admitted to on the 2d inst on motion of Mr. Browne. Mr. Wright has won high repute in profession and is a valuable addition the Washington bar (Chicago Legal News, March 23, 1872, Myra Bradwell, editor).
In February of 1871, a new territorial bill for the District of Columbia was passed by Congress. The re-organization of the burgeoning Washington included the establishment of an appointed upper house by the President, the lower House of Delegates would be elected, and the President would appoint the governor and the boards of health and public works. The police magistrates were replaced by a centralized police court. Orindatus gained the positions of tax assessor of the territory and sanitary inspector for the health department. On May 15, 1871 the new territorial assembly assembled in Metzerott Hall on Pennsylvania Avenue. Orindatus, the Justice of the Peace, administered the oath of office to the new legislators.
On June 14, 1871 Orindatus almost lost his life to an assassin. He was shot twice by James M. Davenport, a veteran of the war who had lost a leg and who now was a clerk in the Second Auditor’s Office at Treasury. A week before, a woman named Wright had visited the Justice of Peace in his office and complained that James Davenport had sold her a faulty stove. Justice Wall had visited James Davenport at his work to encourage a settlement. The next week Davenport came to Orindatus’ office and shot him point blank twice. At his indictment, James M. Davenport pleaded guilty of assault with intent to kill. In December of 1871, President Grant gave James M. Davenport a full and unconditional pardon. He did this on account of his meritorious service during the Civil War, his dependent family, his length of time in jail for the offense (approximately six months), and the fact that he was not in possession of his faculties at the time of the assault. John Mercer Langston also encouraged the pardon. We can assume from this that Orindatus did also (The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Vol. 22, June 1, 1871-January 31, 1872, edited by John Y. Simon [Southern Illinois University Press, 1998], p. 304). This is not surprising when the policy of the Freedmen’s Bureau encouraged a passive response to persecution in an effort to reassure Southern whites of the good intentions of freed slaves.
After his remarkable recovery from his wounds, Orindatus was elected to the House of Delegates. He would be elected to two terms in the House of Delegates to represent his primarily white district. Sadly in 1873 the economic panic devastated the black community in Washington D. C. due to the collapse of the Freedmen’s Bank. Then, in 1874 the representational form of District government was disbanded and replaced by a three man commission appointed by the President. The advancements made during the Reconstruction period were beginning to be dismantled. It would be during the difficult 1870s that Orindatus’ finances and good reputation would decline primarily due to a highly publicized and politicized scandal in connection with The Freedmen’s Hospital. Orindatus was accused of attempting to replace the hospital administrator with a more pliant one who would buy from the grocery store in which he had invested, and,. undue influence in the purchasing of supplies for the hospital for personal gain of himself and friends. The following letter by G. S. Palmer, M.D., Surgeon-in-Chief, in the congressional investigation summaries the problem:
“I have been constantly beset for more than a year yes for two years by O.S.B. Wall directly and indirectly to induce me to purchase supplies from him and to purchase supplies from persons recommended by him He has insisted that I should pay him more for the articles furnished by him than I could purchase them for from other persons and he has stated to me personally that unless I gave him 38 cents per gallon for milk when I was making a bargain with other parties to supply the same for 30 cents per gallon that he would make trouble for me. He has also made statements and offers to other persons if they would persuade me to give him the patronage of the hospital. I would respectfully suggest that the committee examine Dr CB Purvis on this point also William Hoover” (Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States for the First and Second Sessions of the Forty-Fifth Congress 1877-78 in three Volumes, Volume 1 contains Nos. 1 to 25 1st session and Nos. 2 p t 2 to 209 2d session, Volume 2 contains Nos. 210 to 512 inclusive, Volume 3 contains Nos. 513 to 546 inclusive [Washington Government Printing Office 1878], p. 286.)
Even Orindatus’ brother, Albert, who had settled on a dairy farm near the capital, was called to testify that Orindatus had told him that he would have more patronage for his milk when he had put a man in charge of the hospital whom he could control. Ordindatus’ view was that he was fighting a white aristocracy that was taking over black institutions and taking advantage of the black population. Because of this scandal, which had was heavily reported in the papers, Orindatus was not reappointed a Justice of the Peace in 1878.
During the better times of 1871, Orindatus built a home on a large lot north of Howard University and near the Freedmen’s Hospital. He built a large two-story wood frame house. His next door neighbor was John Mercer Langston’s home named Hillside Cottage. The Langston home became the social center for black intellectuals in Washington. The Wall home was also socially active. To give and example: in February 1885, Captain O.S.B. Wall and his wife Amanda hosted a dinner party in their home and present were George Washington Williams, Susan B. Anthony, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Lynch, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Douglass, and two ladies from Ohio (George Washington Williams: A Biography by John Hope Franklin [Duke University Press, 1998 , pp. 148-149).
In 1878 Ordinatus became the president of the Western Emigration Society dedicated to finding the District’s indigent blacks land and jobs in the west. In May of 1878 he petitioned the Senate for $75,000.00 “to enable the helpless poor of the our race in this section to locate as farmers on lands of the United States dedicated to homestead purposes.” By this time Washington was abandoning the values of Reconstruction. Voting rights were being ignored. Racial prejudice had become rampant. The black elite of Washington was turning to migration as a solution to inequality and oppression. The south itself had been devolving into violence and segregation. In April 1879, the Western Emigration Society changed its name to the National Emigrant Aid Society. Its goal was to assist the black immigrant who was already on his way from the discrimination of the south to the west. In May of 1879, Wall organized a mass meeting in Lincoln Hall to solicit funds to support the goals of the Society. Another mass meeting was organized this time with John Mercer Langston as the primary speaker. In November, fifty men, women and children from North Carolina appeared in Washington asking for train fare to Indiana from the National Emigrant Aid Society. Two weeks later 164 arrived seeking the same help. Orindatus once again organized another mass meeting with a fundraising lecture and a concert by local church choirs.
Colored Emigrants for Indiana ~ A special train of four cars filled with colored emigrants from Goldsboro N C arrived at the B & PRR depot en route for the west. Mr. O.S.B. Wall president of the Emigrant Aid Society of this district with other members of the society received them and made them as comfortable for the present as possible They are healthy looking and well behaved people. There seems to be about 170 of them of all grades and sexes. Quite a number of the party have paid their way to Indianapolis Ind. are able to pay through while there are probably some 20 or 30 who need assistance to be able to reach their destination which seems to be Indiana as that state is now encouraging that class of emigration. ~ Washington D C Star (Copp’s Land-Owner, Washington D. C., Jan. 1880, Vol. 6, #10).
Orindatus S. B. Wall, did not facilitate this process without considerable criticism. Some African Americans criticized the effort as an abandonment of the African-American goal of practicing their political rights where they lived. White Democrats were the most critical of Orindatus as “the colored manipulator of the Exodus Movement.” Republicans were supposedly supporting this movement to increase their political power in the various northern states involved in the migration and the railroads were manipulating the exodus to make a profit. They argued that Ordinatus was skimming the top of the profits.
On January 21, 1880, Orindatus was summoned to testify before the Congressional Select Committee to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States. They were investigating what was known as the Negro Exodus from the south in 1879, when approximately 1,500 blacks from North Carolina migrated to Indiana. Many other groups also migrated to other states such as the “Exodusters” of around 20,000 blacks moved to Kansas. The Democratic Senator from Indiana thought this migration was a Republican plot to secure the 1880 elections in the state for the Republicans. The North Carolina Senator believed it was a plot to divest his state of cheap labor. Orindatus was called to testify because he was the president of the National Emigrant Aid Society. The Society had funded the transportation of the migrants, i.e. the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tickets (see, At Freedom’s Edge: Black Mobility and the Southern White Quest for Racial Control, 1861-1915 by William Cohen [Louisiana State University Press, 19910, p. 195). From past experience, Orindatus had learned how to handle a hostile white committee.
According to the 1870 Federal Census, O. S. B. Wall was living in Washington D. C. with his wife Amanda and four of their children: Edward C. (13), Stephen Roscoe (12), Sallie (8), and Isabel Irene (5). He was listed as a police magistrate in the 1870 Census. In the 1890 Washington, D. C. Directory, O. S. B. Wall was listed as a “Lawyer” located at 5th and Pomeroy Northwest, east of 7th Street (house no longer extant). He also worked for the Federal Government. His second youngest, daughter Laura Gertrude, born in 1873, attended Oberlin College in 1889. Because of their light complexion, Orindatus’ children decided to “pass” as white. The descendants of O. S. B. Wall changed their name twice in the 20th century and that has caused some difficulty in tracing the family. The names chosen were “Gates” and “Murphy.”
The five children of Orindatus S. B. and Amanda Thomas:
- EDWARD C. WALL ~ Left his job at the post office in Washington and moved to Montreal, Canada, where he could pass as a white man. Edward married a French woman and lived and died in Canada. He was a sleeping car conductor on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, b. 1856 ~ d. 1922
- STEPHEN ROSCOE WALL ~ b. October 10, 1857 ~ d. May 22, 1934 m.
Lillie Ada Slee, a white woman who was raised by her Canadian mother in Massachusetts, around 1900 in Washington, D. C. Stephen Roscoe Wall changed his name to Russell S. Gates. He changed the family name after many years of fighting prejudice in the Government Printing Office and a nasty controversy over admitting his daughter, Isabel, into a white school inWashington, D. C. They had three other children: Roscoe, Ethel, and a baby which died early in life (see photo above right).
- SALLIE WALL ~ b. 1862 ~ d. 1933. Moved to New York. Changed her name to Helen Easton. Had no children.
- ISABEL IRENE “Bel” WALL ~ b. 1864 ~ “Bel” was a substitute teacher in the public schools in Washington but wanted to be an actress in New York City. Because she could pass over the color line, she was able to attend the Martyn College of Elocution and Oratory, which was restricted. She married the German engineer Gotthold O. Elterich who built railroads in the west. “Bel” lived in Greenwich Village and had a summer home in Freeport. They had no children. Gotthold died in 1907 while traveling in Europe.
- LAURA GERTRUDE WALL ~ b. September 1878, m. Edmonston Easton, educated at Oberlin.
The newspaper quotations below shed more light on the prominent life of Orindatus S. B. Wall and also his struggles as the “Jim Crow” attitude began to pervade Washington D. C. and the country:
“A NEW AID SOCIETY: At a meeting at Capt. O. S. B. Wall’s office last night, an association was formed for the purpose of assisting the destitute in the vicinity of Howard University. The association was named the Howard Hill Aid Society. Capt. O. S. B. Wall was elected president, Chas. N. Otey, vice-president; W. J. Simmons, secretary, and Prof Jas. M. Gregory, treasurer” (The Washington Post, March 1, 1879).
Orindatus occasionally experienced the disconcerting inability to speak when he wanted to speak while working in police court. Then on April 12, 1890, he stood up to speak but nothing came out of his mouth and he collapsed:
“STRICKEN WITH PARALYSIS: O. S. B. Wall, one of the best known colored lawyers in the city, was attacked in the police court yesterday morning with paralysis and fell to the floor. He was removed to his home, corner of Linden Avenue and Pomeroy Street, in a carriage, accompanied by Messrs. Hewlett and Ricks . . . Squire Wall, as he is know to all citizens of this city, is a native of North Carolina. He was brought up and education at Oberlin, Ohio, and has resided in Washington for about twenty-five years. He served in the Army during the war, and since then has held several offices under the District government, and when not in public life he has practiced his profession before the local courts. Mr. Wall is a large man, of a very light complexion, and, to judge from his face, is always in a good humor. He has many friends in this city among all classes of men . . . (The Washington Post, April 13, 1890).
He recovered but lingered for a year physically and mentally weakened by the series of strokes. He died on April 26th, 1891.
“DEATH OF A LEADING COLORED CITIZEN, WHO WAS A DISTINGUISHED SOLDIER: Capt. O. S. B. Wall, a well-known citizen of the District, died at his residence Sunday evening at 7:45 o’clock. On the 12th of April, 1890 he had a stroke of paralysis in the courtroom, and from that time his health has been feeble. The end was peaceful and without a struggle. Capt. Wall was born of a white father, Col. Stephen Wall, in Richmond County, N. C. in 1823. When he was twelve years old his father removed to Harveysburg, a Quaker settlement in Ohio, near Columbus. When he was twenty-six he went to Oberlin to educate his sisters, having previously learned the trade of a shoemaker and kept the only boot and shoe store in that town. During the Civil War he raised in Ohio, under the encouragement of Gen. Andrew of Massachusetts, soldiers for the first colored regiment of volunteers. He was the first and only colored man ever commissioned as captain. This was on March 3, 1865, in the Regular Army. It was done under the eye and by the direct orders of Secretary Stanton, a subordinate in the War Department at first declining to examine him. He was detailed to Charleston, S. C., as provost marshal in the spring of that year and he served till the war closed, receiving his honorable discharge February 5, 1865. During that year he settled in Washington and began the practice of law. He has held the following offices: magistrate of police precinct, representative in District legislature, notary public and justice of the peace. He was president of the organization, which assisted in the exodus of hundreds of colored people from North Carolina to Indiana. He was one of the colored men who insisted on membership in the First Congregational Church, just before the secession under Dr. Boynton, and the first man ever baptized in Dr. Rankin’s pastorate. In`1854 he married Miss Amanda Thomas of Cincinnati, who was studying at Oberlin. They have had eight children, five of whom are still living. Three brothers and two sisters survive him. One of the sisters is the wife of Hon. John M. Langston, member of Congress from Virginia. At a large meeting of colored citizens last night at Carson Hotel, Col. P. H. Carson presided with Charles S. Morris secretary, and resolutions on the death of Captain Wall, presented by a committee, Alexander G. Davis, Charles S. Morris, Walter Y. Class, R. Wormly, and John D. Powell, Jr. were adopted. The resolutions expressed profound sorrow at the death of Captain Wall, and pay a tribute to his service to the colored race in the public offices he held in the District” (The Washington Post, April 28, 1891).
The funeral service was held in his home on April 29, 1891. He was first buried in Graceland Cemetery[i] in Washington, D.C. but his remains were later removed to Arlington Cemetery in 1895.
The following is John Mercer Langston’s comments upon the death of his brother-in-law:
The circumstances connected with the death of Captain OSB Wall were such as to justify special comment upon his case. He had been practicing at the Bar regularly for some years winning not only a good name as a practitioner but making large gains by diligent and honorable management of his business. It was while standing before the court arguing a cause that he was stricken with paralysis. He lingered for one year broken in body and shattered in intellect most of the time helpless with his reason gone dying in 1891 profoundly mourned by his relatives friends and patrons. Naturally a man of sterling qualities of character improved greatly in all respects by his professional education and training he not only became a person of broad general influence but won the highest respect and consideration of those who employed him as their attorney and of those who knew him as a citizen neighbor and member of society (From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol or the First and Only Negro Representative in Congress from the Old Dominion by John Mercer Langston [Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing company, 1894], ,p. 306).
An interesting real estate detail is that Orindatus and his brother-in-law, John Mercer Langston, owned property in Harveysburg from 1852 to 1860. The lots in question were lots 53, 54, 64 and 63. They are probably the lots inherited by Orindatus and his sister Caroline Wall Langston from his father Stephen Wall. Dr. Jesse Harvey’s wood-frame Academy building sat on the north end of lot 54. This may indicate that, four years after Doctor Harvey’s death in Kansas in 1848 and shortly after turbulent controversies that closed the first and second Harveysburg Academies, Wall and Langston, tried to keep Dr. Harvey’s old school open for the black community. Since they were living in Oberlin at that time, maybe they just held these properties until bought by others to form a black church. It is known that the fabric of the old Academy building was used to build Zion Baptist Church (Warren County Deed Books: 32, page 79; 36, page 368; 36, page 603; and 38, page 495). Orindatus also owned outlots #4 and #5 on the northeast edge of town for a short time in the early 1850s (Warren County Deed Books: 32, page 79; 32, page 491; 31, page 197; and 32, page 491). In 1847 Orindatus also bought Lot 13 (east half) at a Sheriff’s Sale, which his father, Stephen had originally bought from Dr. Jesse Burgess. He sold it within a year to George B. Scroggy (Deed Book 29, page 71). By 1852 the Wall children had moved toOberlin,Ohio and the Jesse Harvey family had moved to Indian Territory inKansas five years earlier.
The African-American Zion Baptist Church in Harveysburg was established sometime after 1852. The African-American Zion Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio, the county seat of Warren County, was in 1854. Both were associated with “Big Zion”, the Zion Baptist Church in Cincinnati, which was founded in 1842 and was a vital station on the Underground Railroad.
Orindatus S. B. Wall stayed in contact with family and friends in Harveysburg. It was reported in the “Harveysburg Column” in the Miami-Gazette newspaper of Waynesville on June 21, 1876:
~~The Republicans here are joyful over the nomination of Governor Hayes for President, and there was a large and enthusiastic meeting held here last Saturday night, addressed by Captain O. S. B. Wall of Washington, D. C., and some of our home talent. The preliminary steps were taken for organizing a Hayes and Wheeler Club.
Because of the increasing prejudice, disillusionment, and violence of the “Jim Crow” era, the children and grandchildren of Orindatus S. B. and Amanda Thomas Wall decided to cross the color line. The saga of the Wall family is impeccably told in the book “The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White” by Daniel J. Sharfstein (Penguin Press HC, 2011). Sharfstein tells the story of the Walls family as well as the stories of the Gibson and Spencer families that also crossed the “invisible line.”
More genealogical information about the Wall and collateral families can be found on the two websites of by Sir Thomas Lewis Murphy:
Dr. Jesse and Elizabeth Burgess Harvey, other members of The Society of Friends, and people of conscience who lived in the Harveysburg area, even though they were in conflict among themselves over abolition, none-the-less, were able to apply their faith in the equality of all people as practically as they could. They made a difference in the lives of the African-American children placed in their charge back in the 1830s. Would that they could have healed the racism so very deeply embedded in our culture.
[i] Certificate of Death for Orindatus S. B. Wall, No. 77381,District of Columbia, Permit No. 77452, date of death, April 26, 1891
[i] Information taken from Electronic Oberlin Group: John Mercer Langston (1829-1897), http://www.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/OYTT-images/JMLangston.html.
[ii] They Stopped in Oberlin: Black Residents and Visitors of The Nineteenth Century, by William E. Bigglestone (Oberlin,Ohio: Gertrude F. Jacobs Publications Fund,OberlinCollege, 2002), p. 208.
[i] History of Harveysburg & Massie Township (The Harveysburg Community Committee), p. 9.
[ii] The Town That Started the Civil War by Nat Brandt (Syracuse University Press, 1990), pp. 122-123.
[i] Oberlin College. Oberlin. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Oberlin College (Oberlin,Ohio: James M. Fitch., MDCCCL. ) Page 24.
[ii] Oberlin College. Oberlin. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Oberlin College (Oberlin,Ohio: James M. Fitch., MDCCCL. ) Page 24.
[iii] Ibid., pp. 207-211.
[iv] 1850 Federal Census, M432_737, pp. 358-365. See, http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&gsfn=&gsln=Wall&sx=&f23=OH&f3=Warren&f4=&rg_81004011__date=&rs_81004011__date=0&f13=&f11=&f12=&f6=&f2=&prox=1&db=1850usfedcenancestry&ti=0&ti.si=0&gss=angs&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&fh=2.
[v] Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 54.
[i] Col. Stephen Wall was born March 26, 1791 inVirginia and died September 19, 1845 in Rockingham, Richmond Co.,North Carolina. He was the second son of Col. John Wall and his wife Martha Cole Wall. His siblings were James Wall (b. 1782) and Mial Wall (b. 1801). He never married. Stephen Wall is buried in theMiaWallFamilyCemetery in Rockingham, Richmond Co.,North Carolina.
[ii] Stephen Wall owned 61 slaves in 1830 (1830 Census, Rockingham, Richmond, North Carolina; Roll: 124; Page: 206). In 1840 he had 104 slaves (1840 Census, Black Jack District, Richmond, North Carolina; Roll: 370; Page: 235).
[iii] “Memories of Long Ago” by Jane F. (Wales) Nicholson (Originally published in the Western Star, Lebanon, Ohio in the December issues of 1885 and published again in the Miami-Gazette, Waynesville, Ohio ca. 1905), p. 19-20.
[iv] “Stephen Wall never married.” (MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS OF ANSON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA compiled by the Craighead-Dunlap Chapter DAR, Wadesboro, North Carolina, 1972, “Histories of the Webb, Wall and Cole Families” by Capt. W. I. Everett, deceased, 1927, page 138; located in the Rockingham – Richmond County Library, Rockingham, North Carolina.), http://awt.ancestry.com/cgi-in/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=capenoch&id =I21756&printer_friendly.
[v] Map of Warren County, Ohio from actual survey by P. O’Beirne, C.E., 1856.
[vi] 1830 Census, Harveysburg,Warren,Ohio; Roll: 142; Page: 263.
[vii] 1840 Census,Wayne,Warren,Ohio; Roll: 431; Page: 159.