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Steven J. Niven

wheelwright, politician, and postmaster, was born a slave in Athens, Georgia, to parents whose names have not been recorded. Little is known about the first three decades of his life, other than that he worked as a wheelwright for his master, a carriage maker. Davis learned to read and write while still a slave, skills that helped propel him to the forefront of black political leadership in Reconstruction-era Athens, alongside the tailor, William Finch.

Davis attended one of Georgia's earliest freedmen's conventions in Augusta in January 1866 and rose to prominence as captain of Athens's first black fire company. His reported “coolness and energy” in dealing with a major fire in Athens in 1866 was probably a factor in his election as one of Clarke County's two black delegates to Georgia's constitutional convention, which sat from 1867 to 1868 In the first elections ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...

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Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

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Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

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Tariqah A. Nuriddin

coachman and fugitive slave, was born in Stevensburg, Virginia, to a mixed-race woman named Lucy. He was the youngest of four children at the time of his birth. Charles's extremely light skin did not free him from the bondage that he was allotted at birth—a bondage that was also the fate of his mother and siblings. As an infant, Charles was sold in an auction lot with his family for the sum of $875 to the highest bidder, Peter Hansborough, who also happened to be Charles’ father. A wealthy and powerful member of his community, Hansborough had considerable influence and connections in early-nineteenth-century Culpepper. Hence, it was not easy for Nalle to escape his owner, but Charles Nalle was a resourceful man.

Compared to many of his fellow slaves Nalle led a relatively comfortable life as a coachman but he still was discontent that he remained an illiterate slave in ...

Article

Crystal L. Joseph Bryant

lawyer, assistant postmaster, businessman, and state legislator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to a slave father and a prominent white woman.

Sources suggest that Paige escaped from Norfolk by way of the Underground Railroad at the age of nine or ten, hiding in a vessel leaving the port. The waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries were often used as passageways to the North. Paige then traveled to Boston, where he made contact with the family of Judge George Ruffin, who had also moved from Virginia. Paige was educated in Boston, trained to be a machinist, and later returned to Virginia after the Civil War.

Considered to be one of the wealthiest African Americans in postwar Virginia Paige owned property in both Norfolk County and Norfolk City and had established an extensive law practice that included both black and white clients He served in the ...