The early free black settlers in southern Illinois came here looking for opportunity. Many of them found it. Life on the frontier encouraged people to cooperate and work together, despite feelings about racial differences. This attitude worked to the advantage of free African Americans. Slavery ended in Illinois by 1845 and everywhere in the Union after the Civil War. Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, when all men were free, thowever, hey were not treated equally, as evidenced by the following newspaper article in the 28 Sep 1906 issue of The Jonesboro Gazette.

Fred PEACHER and Garfield EASLEY boarded the 9:19 train at Cobden Wednesday and came to Anna then went to Jonesboro, where the latter procured his marriage license. They then returned to Anna and as they proceeded to the depot, met some of the boys and tried to show them the platform was not big enough for all. This of course, aroused the ire of the boys and they at once gave the colored fellows orders to "vamoos." These orders they resented. PEACHER commenced the fight with John KIRKPATRICK, who, by the way, is said to be the leader, got him down and gave him a sound thrashing. When Charley HILEMAN, the depot baggage man, saw KIRKPATRICK getting the worst, he intervened and gave the nigger several blows. EASLEY had been an onlooker until this time, but drew his gun as if to shoot HILEMAN. John BROOKS one of the bystanders saw him and started after him. He ran up the railroad track a short distance, turned and fired his revolver. The effect was instantaneous and BROOKS stopped. The negro was captured a short distance from town and both of them were arrested, PEACHER on charge of assault and battery. His bond was fixed at $40 and was filled by someone from Cobden. EASLEY was charged with assault and battery and carrying concealed weapons and his bond fixed at $80. At the jail he denied shooting at BROOKS and said he had nothing to shoot with. One thing he seemed to regret was that it was to be his wedding night, but instead he must be in jail. The trial was fixed for Saturday.

Fred B. PEACHER married Lillie B. SYLER, who was born about 1891 in Sweetwater, Tenn., and their first-born child, Rosalind B. PEACHER was born 18 Sep 1912, in Cobden, where Fred was working as a mill hand.

Reflecting on the treatment of free African Americans in southern Illinois before and after the Civil War, one might conclude that it was a poor choice for settlement. Yet, at the time, there were no places in America where African Americans could be completely free from racism and discrimination. In fact, in most places in the South and North, laws and social prejudices forbade equal treatment until after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and1960s. As they did everywhere in the United States, free African Americans in southern Illinois confronted these prejudices. Several free African American families, such as the nine mentioned in this study, bought and cleared land for farms, operated grist mills, paid taxes, raised families, established churches and schools and in many other ways contributed to the settlement and taming of the Illinois frontier.



The Heritage of Blacks in North Carolina. Volume 1 (Charlotte, N.C.: North Carolina African-American Heritage Foundation, 1990)

Johnson County History of Families (Turner Publishing Co., 1990)

Wonderful Williamson. 150 Years of Progress (Marion, IL: Southern Illinoisan1989). Edward L. Annable, Poce County Illinois. Foraotten Records (1993).

Kathryne Alice Yost Boyd, Yost Family History and Their Descenants (1934).

Mrs. P. T. Chapman, A History of Johnson County. Illinois

Jewell Russell Cofield, Memories of Lake View (1976).

Sidney S. Condon, Pioneer Sketches of Union County, Illinois (Anna, Fl: The Gazette Democrat,1986)

Janet Cornelius, Constitution Making in Illinois 1818-1970 (Urbana: University Of Illinois Press, 1972).

Milo Erwin, History of Williamson County, Illinois, (1876).

Carolyn Cromeenes Foss and Judy Foreman Lee, Johnson County, Illinois. Early Marriages 18341877 (1992).

Augusta B. Fothergill and John Mark Naugle, Virainia Tax Payers 1782-1787 (Baltimore :Genealogical Publishing Company, 1986).

J. Bryan Grimes, Abstract of North Carolina Wills 1690-1760 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967).

Zae Hargett Gwynn, Abstracts of Wills and Estate Records of Granville CountY. North Carolina. 17461W, (Rocky Mounty, N.C. : Joseph W. Watson, 1973).

Norman Dwight Harrlis, The History of Negro Servitude in Illinois. and of the Slavery Agitation in That State. 1719-1864 (Chicago: A.C. Mcaurg & Co., 1904).

Weynette Park. Haun, Chowan County. North Carolina. County Court Minutes Pleas and Quarter Sessions 1735-1738 : 1746-1748, Book 2 (1983).

Weynette Park. Haun, Johnston County, North Carolina, Taxables 1784 thru 1820. Parts 1 & 2 (1983)

Weynette Park. Haun, Wake County. North Carolina- Court Minutes. Book V and VI (1985)

Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia (Baltimore: Clearfield CO., 1994)

Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Granville County- North Carolina. 1753-1868. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981).

Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Wake County, North Carolina. 1770-1866, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983}.

Janice Johnson, Franklin County, Illinois. Land Records. Book C (1995}.

James Pickett Jones, Black Jack: John A.Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995}.

Louise Mllam Julich, Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers and Patriots in Alabama (Montgomery, Ala. : Parchment Press, 1979).

Silas Emmett Lucas and Ella lee Sheffield (editors), 35,000 Tennessee Marriage Records and Bonds 1783-1870 Volume A-F, (Southern Historical Press, 1981}.

Daisy Roberts Malone, A group of Family Trees of the Early Settlers of Corinth Township. Williamson Qoun!y. Illinois (1939).

Asa Earl Martin, Ihe Anti-Slavery Movement in Kentucky Prior to 1850 (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1918}.

Mary Jo Moore, Letters From The Past (Eldorado, Ill.: Rocky's Printing).

Fred A. Olds, Abstract of North Carolina Wills 1760-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1983}.

William Henry Perrln (editor}, History Of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties Illinois (Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., 1883}

Clarence E. Ratcliff, North Carolina Taxpayers 1701-1786 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986).

John Reynolds, Pioneer History of Illinois (Chicago: Fergus Printing Co., 1887).

Rebecca Schmook, Gallatin County. Illinois Slave Register. 1815-1839 (Ekiorado, Ill.: Rocky's Advanced Printing, 1994)

Harriet Vaught, Gladys WIlliams, Ruby Stanley, Josephine Gates, Keith Wells and MaryJ. Hoderby, Cemetenes of White County. Illinois Volume 2

Juliet E.K. Walker, Free Frank: A Back Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier (University Press of Kentucky, 1983)

Virgil D. White, Index to War of 1812 Pension Files. Volume 1 (Waynesboro, Tenn. : National historical Publishing Co., 1989}

C.G. Woodson, Free Negro Owners of Ssaves in the U.S. in 1830 (Washington, D.C,: The Association for the Study of Negro Life & History, 1924)

Unpublished Manuscripts

"A Brief History of Rock Hill," (author unknown, written in the 1980s)

Shearhart family papers, compiled by Jay SHEARHART, 203 W. 3rd. Coffeyville, KS 67337-5503.

Obstetrics Records of Dr. Agnew, 1892-1921 (Jackson County Historical Society Archives). Page 98


Paul D. Dillow, "Michael Dillow Sr. Family," The Saga of Southern Illinois, Fall 1998 (XXV-3)

Helen E. Farnsworth, "Pioneer Families of Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois," The Saga of Southern Illinois, Fall 1976 (111-3)

Zelda Mathis, Audis Gould and Vivian Hester, "Some Johnson COunty, Illinois Cemeteries," The Saga of Southern Illinois, Fall 1988 (XV-3).

Rose Mary Orr, "An Ear1y Illinois Abstract," The Saga of Southern Illinois, Spring 1984 (XI-1 )

Mary Louise Simons, "Locklear Family Heritage," The Saga of Southern Illinois, Summer 1998 (XXV-2)

State Government Records:


        Illinois State Archives, Illinois State Public Domain Land Sale Listings

        Census 1818 state census of Franklin Co., Ill.

        1835, 1855 and 1865, state censi of Union Co., Ill.

        1818 and 1820 state censi of Union Co., Ill.

        North Carolina


        1786 state census Northampton Co., N.C.

Federal Government Records:

Census 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 and 1830 censi Northampton Co., N.C.

1800 and 1810 censi of Marllbrough District, S.C.

1820 census Johnston Co., N.C.

1820 census Stewart Co., Tenn.

1820 census of Franklin Co., Ill.

1830, 1840. 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880. 1900, 1910 and 1920 census, Union Co., Ill. 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880. 1900, 1910 and 1920 census Jackson Co., Ill. 1840, 1850 and 1860 censi of Gallatin Co., Ill.

1850, 1860; 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 censi Johnson Go., Ill.

1850. 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 censi, White Co., Ill.

1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 censi of Saline Co., Ill.

1900, 1910 and 1920 censi of Alexander Co., Ill.

1840 census Gibson Go., Tenn. 1840 and 1850 census of Crawford Co., Ark.

1850 census Stoddard Co., Mo.

1850 census of Scott Go., Ark.

1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census of Williamson CO., Ill.

1880 census of Posey Co.,

National Archives, Washington, D.C.

        Civil War pension file of Peter Dillow

        Civil War military file of Richard Bass

        Revolutionary War pension application of Arthur Allen

Couny Government Records:

        Union County, Illinois

            Negro Book A

            circuit court records 1818-1880

            Probate records 1818-1940

            marriage records 1818-1920

            Death records 1878-1920

            Birth records 1878-1910

            county commissioners court minutes 1818-1883

            circuit court records 1818-1865

            land records 1818-1908

personal property tax lists1839, 1846-1847, 1854, 1856-1859, 1861-1865, 1869-1870, 1873-1875, 1878-1879, 1882-1883

            land patentees and 1846 land owners

        Johnson County, Illinois

            marriage records 1834-1900

            birth records 1877-1910

            death records 1877 -1950

            probate records 1812-1900

            chancery court records 1878-1920

            criminal court records 1900-1920

            land records 1815-1890

        White County, Illinois

            marriage records 1816-1930

            probate index 1818-1976

            death records 1879-1923

        Jackson County

             marriages records 1850-1920

             probate records 1840-1920

            death records 1878-1920

            birth records 1878-1920

        Saline County, lIinois

            marriage records 1816-1910

            probate records 1848-1930

            death records 1879-1918

        Williamon County, Illinois

            marriage records 1839-1877

        Gallatin County, Illinois

            probate records 1830-1850

        Bond County, Illinois

            marriage records 1860-1913

        Franklin County, Illinois

            deed records1835-1850

        Massac County, Illinois

            Register of Free Negroes (located in back of earliest marriage book)

            circuit court records 1843-1867


        Jonesboro Gazette, 1849-1865

        Cairo Times. 1848-1862