History Dateline

1808   Enoch Harris is the first Black resident of Mt. Vernon at the time of Knox County’s incorporation  
1820   John and Judah Bird are granted custody by the court of an Indian child from the Stockbridge tribe, against the wishes of the Indian father, after its mother dies from a gunshot wound inflicted by a White man; the legislature, on the request of Hosmer Curtis, allows the Birds $50 per year for the support of the child  
1835   Thomas Snowden marries Ellen Cooper, the first recorded marriage of Black persons in Knox County  
1836   Mob attacks abolitionist meeting at Mount Vernon’s First Congregational Church  
1840-1860   Underground Railroad active aiding fugitive slaves in Mount Vernon and Fredericktown  
1848*   Black children first enter Knox County schools alongside White children  
1850-1875   Snowden Family Band performs regularly throughout central Ohio  
1865   Jerome W. Newman, at 18 years of age, enlists in Company E, Ohio 196th Infantry Regiment, Union Army, serving as a private near the end of the Civil War and becoming Knox County’s first Black Civil War veteran.  
1870   A meeting is held by local Black residents in the basement room of the East Vine Street Christian Church to discuss and plan the establishment of a local A.M.E. church; Rev. Beatty of Zanesville presides  
1870   Mount Vernon’s Black Zouave unit marches down Main Street to celebrate ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution prohibiting denial of voting rights on basis of race  
1870   Charles Lindsay, Rev. Morgan, and John and Austin Washington form the Mutual Aid Society to provide aid to “colored citizens in case of sickness and to defray funeral expenses in case of death”  
1871   Fisk Jubilee Singers perform at Mount Vernon’s First Congregational Church on their debut tour  
1871   Colored citizens organize and form a fire fighting company, parading in downtown Mt. Vernon to celebrate their feat  
1873   Construction of A.M.E. church begins; is completed in 1876 and named for Bishop A.W. Wayman; Rev. James A. Ralls is the first minister  
1877   Frederick Douglass, former slave and renown abolitionist, lectures at the Kirk Hall in Mt. Vernon  
1880   Black residents in Knox County reach a 19th century population high of 319, 1% of the county’s total population  
1881   Samuel J. Simmons graduates from high school, believed to be the first Black graduate of Mount Vernon High School; patriarch of county’s most educated Black family of the era; his children graduate from the high school around the turn of the century and go on to college  
 1883   Black Elks (Kokosing) Lodge established in Mount Vernon, remaining Knox County’s longest existing Black fraternal organization until its closing nearly 120 years later  
 1883    Thompson Cooper Lodge of the Knights of Pythias is founded; first presiding officer is Samuel J. Simmons  
1884   A number of colored people brought suit against the proprietors of a new skating rink for denying them access.  The suit, one of the first under Ohio Civil Rights Act, was brought by Mrs. Emma Smith, Samuel H. Walker, Fannie Graham, Ulysses Newsom, Hezekiah Curry, Melvina Walker, Ella Carter, Susan Butcher, William T. Jupiter, and Robert Carter  
1890*   Henry B. Curtis Lodge, No. 2767, G.U.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) organized.  Officers included: Noble Grand, S.J. Simmons; Vice Grand, H.C. Curry; P.N.G., Harrison Judy, among others.  Odd Fellows Hall located in McDermott building  
 1892    Amaziah H. Simmons and C.H. Smith open a restaurant in the Curtis House block of the Public Square and continue as partners for two years, when Smith sells his interest to Simmons, establishing what is believed to be the first Black-owned business in Knox County  
1897   A special C.A. & C. train arrived in Mt. Vernon with 462 members of the colored Baptist churches of Columbus for a picnic at Lake Hiawatha Park  
 1900    Harry Simmons becomes first Black student to play on the Mount Vernon High School football team; son of Samuel J. Simmons and 2nd generation high school graduate, he later graduates from Oberlin College in 1906 and suffers fatal accident while attending medical school  
 1900*    Viola Virginia Symons (Booker), 1895 graduate of Mt. Vernon High, becomes the first Black nurse in the county, paving the way for the Black nurses who followed: Ella Sophia Simmons, Gene Payne, Iva Dean Allen McWhorter, Emily Lindsey, and Zelma Lee Coleman  
1902*   Turner’s Restaurant (including ice cream parlor and pool hall) established at northwest corner of W. High and Mechanic Streets  
1903   Hezekiah Jackson, John Payne, B.F. Ferguson, and F.D. Washington, organized themselves into a company to be known as the Buckeye Quartet & Concert Company.  Mr. Washington was elected musical director and Mr. Ferguson manager  
1904   Baptist Mission formed by Black migrants from Circleville who come to work at the C & G Cooper Company; Elder Bryant presides  
1905   Black resident, George Copeland, falsely accused of murdering White woman; reportedly a lynching is narrowly averted before he is set free  
1907   Samuel L. Simmons unanimously chosen by colored voters of Mt. Vernon as a candidate for nomination as a member of the board of public service for the Republican primaries.  
1911*   Studio of W.L. Simmons at 110 E. Ohio Ave. and East End Gallery on Gambier Street, black photography studios founded by Willard Simmons and Gus Simmonds  

  1912

 

 

  The Grand Lodge meeting of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (G.U.O.O.F) and the Household of Ruth was held in Mt. Vernon in the McDermott Building.  Members of the colored orders from across Ohio gathered to conduct business and elect officers.  Following the meetings, a grand parade of several companies of the Patriachie performed, and the prize drill was held at Hiawatha Lake Park.  The evening ended with a grand ball at the K. of P. armory.  
  1914      Mt. Calvary Baptist Church is built under guidance of trustees J.H. Gipson, Frank Stevens, and Elias Byrd along with Pastor Grayson  
1916   Vernon Lodge No. 43, F.& A.M., elected the following officers for the ensuing year: W.M. – J.L. Booker, S.W. – Frank Turner, J.W. – James Reddix, Treas. – F. Stevens, Tyler – W.H. Turner, S.S. – Daniel Johnson, J.S. – John May, constituting Mt. Vernon's Black Masonic Lodge  
1916   A community chorus was organized among the colored young people of the city.  President, Viola Booker; Vice President, Dana Jones; Secretary Samuel Payne; Musical Instructor, Mrs. Vera Payne.  The purpose of the organization is to increase the knowledge of the art of music and singing  
 1917*  

Local Black women form the Twentieth Century Club and the Booker T. Washington Club, social and civic organizations for Black women; 17th Annual Convention of the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs met in Mt. Vernon, hosted by the 20th Century Club at the Calvary Baptist Church

 
1918   Ben Carter, a private in the National Guard, becomes the first Black soldier from Mt. Vernon and Knox County to be killed during World War I, September 1, 1918  
1918   "Local colored women’s petition granted to form an auxiliary chapter of the Red Cross to be known as the Wayman Chapel Auxiliary.  The elected officers are Chairman, Mrs. Bessie Newsome; Vice-Chairman, Mrs. Viola Booker; and Secretary, Mrs. Ethel J. Reynolds"  
1920   Ku Klux Klan acquires ownership of Hiawatha Lake Park, the present-day site of the Knox County Fairgrounds  
1920   Census reports show that there are 420 Black residents of Knox County, nearly 4% of Mount Vernon’s population is Black  
1920   One hundred local colored people went to Buckeye Lake to attend the reunion of the colored B.P.O.E. (Elks)  
 1920*   Chapter of National Association of Negro Musicians organized in Mt. Vernon  
1920-1935*   Local Black men form a semi-pro baseball team, the Mount Vernon Giants, playing games around the area as well as competing against renown Negro league teams; Team backer was Frank L. Turner, local businessman  
1920-1935*   Turner’s Taxi Service operates ferrying Black citizens around Mount Vernon when White-owned cabs purportedly will not carry them  
1921   Colored Women’s Glee Club produces and performs the operetta, “In India,” at the high school auditorium.  The performance was directed by Mrs. Viola Booker; Ethel Hammonds was the accompanying pianist

   1922

 

 

  Vernon Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, No. 56, was inaugurated and dedicated by the colored people of the city; this chapter was instituted on June 30, 1921.  Officers installed included James Reddix, Mrs. John C. May, Mrs. William Turner, Mrs. James Reddix, Mrs. Harrison Judy, Mrs. Joseph Booker, Mrs. Sherman Williams, Mrs. Samuel Caliman, Mrs. U.G. Reynolds, Mrs. Daniel Johnson, Mrs. George Keys, U.G. Reynolds, Mrs. John Richardson, and Mrs. H.K. Jackson  

  1926

 

 

Colored residents of Mt. Vernon organize a garden club in a meeting held at home of Mrs. C.J. Turner.  Officers elected were Mrs. Viola Booker, president; Fred White, vice-president; Mrs. C.J. Turner, secretary; and Mrs. John Richardson, treasurer

 
   1927     U.G. Reynolds and William Newsom purchased the Log Cabin restaurant  
  1930   The United States Census list the Black population of Knox County at 392 persons  
1930   Renowned singer Marian Anderson performs in Mt. Vernon, purportedly stays in home of Mrs. Anna Sites after being unable to find a room to rent; later returns after earning national acclaim to perform concert to a sold-out audience in 1939 at the Memorial theatre  
1932   Colored citizens form garden club.  Mrs. Viola Booker was elected president of the Mt. Vernon Colored Garden Club at the organizational meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Turner.  Other officers elected were: vice-president Fred White; secretary, Mrs. C.J. Turner; and treasurer, Mrs. John Richardson  
   1938             Several local colored veterans of the World War met at Earl Sharp's home and organized the Veteran's Pastime Club.  Attending the meeting were Edgar E. Frazier, Earl Sharp, Bob Sharp, Dan Hill, Cooper Jackson, Halbert Newsom, Mark Cann, Frank Glover, Seth Dean, Scott Blake, Johnson Mann, George Lewis, Hildreth Vaughn, Roy Carter and Wiliam Lewis.  Dan Hill was elected chairman, Earl Sharp secretary, and Cooper Jackson treasurer.  Edgar Frazier  
1938   Betty Ralls (Rouse Proffit) becomes first Black girl in the Mt. Vernon High School marching band  
  1939   Marian Anderson returns to Mt. Vernon to give a concert only weeks after her historic perfornance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people  
1939   Ben Carter Post 349 of the American Legion receives temporary charter; among applicants are Roy J. Carter, Dan Hill, Halver M. Newsom, Horace Rouse, Frank White, Frank Glover, and Henry Blake  
1941*  

White’s Tavern founded by Black resident Frank White on W. Vine Street, moved to corner of West High and Sandusky Street, a location later occupied by well known Mazza’s Restaurant

 
1950   According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 414 Black people call Knox County home  
1950   Decree passed by national YMCA that membership be open to all regardless of race, creed, or color; local Blacks had been employed as housekeepers almost from the local Y’s inception  
1951   Ben Carter Post 349 of the American Legion receives its permanent charter and is named after the first Black serviceman from Mt. Vernon to be killed in World War I  
1953   Apostolic Faith Church founded by Bill Brown, Edna Carter, Ina Mae Fredericks, and Ruth Hogan; congregation meets in members’ homes until space is leased on Howard Street; first pastor is Elder Ned Banks.  Church later moved to North Sandusky Street  
1953   City Tire Shop is established by Charles Chancellor on Ohio Avenue across from the Wayman Chapel AME Church and parish house; business was sold when he retired approximately 40 years later  
1963   Celebrated scholar Patricia Wynn graduates from Mt. Vernon High School, believed to be first local Black student named to the National Honor Society; attends and graduates from prestigious Radcliff College, Harvard’s women's coordinate college  
1964   Gilbert Newsom, after 4 years as school custodian, becomes the first Black teacher at Mt. Vernon High School (industrial arts); Audrey Holt becomes the first Black elementary school teacher in county when she joins the staff of Meadow Lane School in Gambier  
1966   Jim Byrd, 3 sport star and one of Mount Vernon’s most gifted athletes, is named All-Ohio in football, goes to U. of Cincinnati on football scholarship  
1970   Knox County Branch of the NAACP is established and boasts 65 members by end of its first year; Gene Fields is the chapter’s first president  
1971   Debra Sheffield becomes first Black girl chosen by student body as Forum Queen at Mt. Vernon High School  
1971   Charles Chancellor elected to Mt. Vernon Board of Education, first Black elected to public office in Knox County, serves two terms  
1982   Grace Lindsey, decorated track star, is named Mt. Vernon High School Homecoming Queen, first Black girl to be so honored  
1984   Duane Johnson becomes first Black coach in Mt. Vernon school system when he takes over track and girls basketball teams  
1990   Census reports show that 290 Black citizens reside in Knox County  
1993   Tamara Parson, president of her class, becomes the first Black student from Mt. Vernon to graduate from Kenyon College  
2000   Data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that 367 persons in Knox County identified themselves as Black or African American  

   2010  

 

  U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are 496 persons living in Knox County who identify as Black or African American; there are a total of 793 persons who claimed to be Black, either alone or in combination of two or more races  
    * Date approximated based upon best available information