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Robert C. Hayden

Nathan Francis Mossell was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the son of Aaron Mossell, a brick manufacturer, and Eliza Bowers; both parents were freeborn African Americans from Baltimore, Maryland, who had moved to Canada to escape racial discrimination. When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, Aaron Mossell moved his family back to the United States. In 1865 they settled in Lockport, New York, a small town near Rochester.

In Lockport the Mossell children were assigned to a separate all-black school. Mossell's father successfully petitioned the Lockport Board of Education to close the all-black school, and Nathan and the other black children were allowed to attend integrated schools. The Mossell family's home life was highly religious: his father donated the bricks for the first African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in Lockport.

After graduation from high school in Lockport in 1873 Nathan Mossell moved ...