African American Families of Early Grinnell

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US-GCS DCL Coll-293 Row G FAMILY African Americans

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African American Families of Early Grinnell


  • late 1800s - early 1900s (Creation)


Quantity: one grey letter-size document box

Arrangement: Alphabetical by family last name

Background Note:

Blackwell Family : Emma Blackwell (b.1861) attended Grinnell schools in 1870. By 1878 she worked as a laundress in Grinnell. In 1880 she married Cato Aberson (b.1858). A Grinnell Herald-Register article from 1931 described Emma Blackwell’s role in rescuing ranges and stoves from Herrick’s store during the Fire of 1889.

Craig Family: Antoine Gilbal (1785 – 1842) was a South Carolina plantation owner who immigrated to the United States from France. He fell in love with a woman named Jane, who was also his slave. In his will, he stated his dying request was to have Jane and their children set free and financially supported. The children were sent north to freedom before his death, but Jane remained by his side. After he passed, his brothers refused to set Jane free and she never saw her children again. Their youngest daughter, Eliza Jane (1841 – 1924) married George Craig (1842 – 1924) in Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1862. They moved to Grinnell in 1900.
Children: Theodora (Dora) Craig (1864 – 1947), Anna Catherine Craig (1867 – 1946), Eva Pearl Craig (1876 – 1962)

Edward Delaney: Edward Delaney (1786 – 1861) was born a slave in Maryland to the Hays family. After the War of 1812, the Hays family nearly lost their plantation and wealth. Their former neighbor Francis Scott Key used his influence in Washington to give the family life-leases on their property. Some of the Hays family were among the early settlers of Poweshiek and Jasper counties. Deborah Hays lived in a house on Main Street in Grinnell until her death in the late 1880s. She is buried in the Hays lot in Hazelwood cemetery with a D.A.R emblem on her headstone. A few feet away is a smaller stone which marks the resting place of Edward Delaney.

Des Moines Sunday Register 10 June 1928 - “Negro Slave is Buried in Grinnell Cemetery Near Graves of Owners”

Goode Family: Anna Catherine Craig (1867 – 1946) married Edward Goode (1860 – 1901) and they had one son together, Will Goode (1900 – 1972). After being widowed, she remarried Solomon Brown (1873 – 1953). Solomon Brown was a cook at Grinnell College in the 1920s and 1930s; in 1920 he married Anna, who worked as a hairdresser and podiatrist in Grinnell for 25 years.

Mumpford Holland: Mumpford Holland (1825 – 1916) was born into slavery to William Bush, who owned a tannery. When the Mexican war broke out, Holland was taken to war by Bush as a body servant. He later enlisted during the Civil War and served as a cook in the Union Army. In 1871, George M. Christian brought Mumpford from Davenport to Grinnell and hired Mumpford to work as a porter in the Old Grinnell House for many years. When he died, “Old Mumf” was rumored to have been 108 years old, making him one of the few centenarians in early Grinnell. In 2010, a memorial stone was added to Holland’s gravesite at Hazelwood Cemetery. He is one of two former slaves known to be buried at Hazelwood. Mumpford Holland had no surviving family, as his wife had been sold away from him while they were enslaved and he never saw her again.

See also: Grinnell Stories blog, “Centenarians in Early Grinnell” by Dan Kaiser

Hudson Family: Nelson Bedford Hudson (1883 – 1935) lived at 308 Main Street. He worked at a custodian at the Elk Club and was married to Ruby Bucker (b. 1900) in 1917. They had two children, Robert Hudson (b. 1900) and Dorothy Hudson (b. 1919).

Kiner Family: The Kiner brothers married the Western sisters. Charles Russell Kiner (1892 – 1961) married Frances Western (1897 – 1988) and they settled in Deep River together. Booker Kiner (1903 – 1996) married Alma Western (1907 – 1984) and they farmed the Lucas land in Ewart together for many years. Alma was best friends and cousin to Edith Renfrow Smith, who visited the farm frequently.

Lucas Family: Henry Lucas (1811 – 1886) was born a slave and during the Mexica-American War he was a servant to Capt. John Preston. In 1848 he had earned enough money to purchase his freedom for $700. He spent 3 years as a gold prospector in California, then purchased the freedom of his wife Lottie Smith (1821 – 1907) and children in 1851 for $1900. They moved to Montezuma in 1859, encouraged to settle there by Robert Morrison, a man Henry knew from the war. By 1866, Henry Lucas owned 320 acres in Pleasant Township near Ewart, Iowa.
Children: Cain William Lucas (1844 – 1880), Phebe Isibella Lucas (1846 – 1854), Walter Lucas (1848 – 1883), Charles Theodore Lucas (1863 – 1891), John Brown Lucas (1861 – 1946)

Union of Dora Craig and John Brown Lucas: Dora Craig married John Brown Lucas in 1883 and they moved to Grinnell in 1890, thus joining together the Lucas, Craig, and Renfrow families of Poweshiek County. Dora gave birth to triplet girls on December 9, 1895. The Lucas triplets, Mary, Rebecca, and Martha, are the first triplets to be born in the state of Iowa. The family lived at 511 Second Ave.
Children: Henry John Lucas (1885 – 1975), Bruce E. Lucas (1890 – 1982), Martha Ann Lucas (triplet, 1895 – 1970), Rebecca Lucas (triplet, 1895 – 1915), Mary Lucas (triplet, 1895 – 1903), Aaron JilBal Lucas (1899 – 1932), Violet Lucas (1887 – 1922), Anna May Lucas (1907 – 1994)

Emma Morgan: Emma Morgan (1851 – 1872) was born into slavery and arrived in Grinnell around 1867. She was born in New Orleans, where she was orphaned during the disruption of the Civil War. A Grinnell couple, physicians Ephraim and Rachael Harris, found Emma Morgan in an orphanage for colored children and adopted the young girl. Emma suffered a severe and protracted illness and died on June 3, 1872. She was one of the earliest African Americans to live in Grinnell. Today her Bible is preserved at the Grinnell Historical Museum.

See also: See also: Grinnell Stories: African Americans of Early Grinnell by Kaiser, Daniel. Ch. 1 “A Black American Most Fair in Early Grinnell”

Redrick / Tibbs Family: James Tibbs (b. 1878) and Lize Diggs Tibbs (b. 1879) are the parents of three children, including the eldest James ‘Jim’ Oscar Tibbs (1891 – 1941). Jim Tibbs shined shoes at the Sanitary Barber Shop, and advertisements ran regularly in the Scarlet & Black newspaper. Jim Tibbs’s shoe shine chair is today preserved at the Grinnell Historical Museum.

Robert Redrick (b.1866) and Mary Brown Redrick (b.1861) had five children: Julia Redrick, Robert Riley Redrick (1887 – 1945), Edith Redrick, Arthur Redrick, and Mary ‘Mamie’ Redrick (b. 1892 – 1973)

In 1919, Mamie Redrick married Jim Tibbs and they had six children together. In 1964, the Tibbs family left their home at 712 Elm Street and moved away from Grinnell. Some Grinnell College students found a number of letters and papers belonging to the family in the abandoned house and gave them to the Grinnell College archives, where they are remain to this day.
Children: Harold Daniel Tibbs (1920 – 2010), Albert Sylvester Tibbs (1923 – 1997), Winona Janet Tibbs (b. 1926), Shirley Marie Tibbs (1929 – 1993), Roberta May Tibbs (1931 – 1999), and Edward Lawrence Tibbs (1933 – 2002).

See also: Grinnell Stories: African Americans of Early Grinnell by Kaiser, Daniel H.
Ch. 8 “Mr. Tibb’s Shoe Shine”; Ch. 9 “The Wind-Blown Archives of the Tibbs Family”; Ch. 10 “The Hard Life of Widow Tibbs”; Ch. 11 “Love Letters in the Tibbs Family Archive”

Renfrow Family: See Renfrow Family Collection #279

Thomas Family: Carl Thomas (1928 – 1995) and Anna Mae Brooks (1933 - ) were one of the few Black families living in Grinnell during the 1950s. The couple had four children who were born at St. Francis Hospital in town, including a pair of twins. The oldest three children were featured in a Lang’s Dairy advertisement which ran in the Grinnell Herald-Register in 1955.

Children: Shelia Ann (1950 – 2013), Gregory Eugene (1952 – 1995) born at St. Francis Hospital, Leonard Macey (1953 - ) born at St. Francis Hospital, Twins Anthony Thomas ( 1955 - ) and Andrea Thomas (1955 – 2005) born at St. Francis Hospital, Jeffrey C. Thomas (1957 - ), Steven Thomas (1959 - ), Ricardo Brooks Thomas (1962 – 2000)

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Container List:
Folder 1 – Blackwell Family
Folder 2 – Craig Family
Folder 3 – Edward Delaney
Folder 4 – Goode Family
Folder 5 – Mumpford Holland
Folder 6 – Hudson Family
Folder 7 – Kiner / Western Family
Folder 8 – Lucas Family
Folder 9 – Emma Morgan
Folder 10 – Redrick / Tibbs Family
"The Ascendants of Albert & Virginia Nelson Tibbs" by Michelle Tibbs-Troxclair
PHPP photographs of Tibbs family
Folder 11 - Thomas Family
Folder 12 – African American History
-Grinnell City Directories list of Colored residents. Years: 1860, 1870, 1878, 1880, 1885, 1894, 1895, 1900, 1905, 1910, 1915, 1920
-list of African Americans living in the early Grinnell with addresses
-Grinnell Stories blog post "Grinnell’s First African Americans”

  • Research by Karen Groves of Black families in Poweshiek County
    -Obituaries for Solomon Brown, Oscar Monroe, and Lawrence Butler
    -GHR articles
    -The Iowa Griot Volume 3 issues 1 and 4: Newsletter of the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa
    -African American Historical Museum information
    -“Dr. Emerson's Sam: Black Iowans before the Civil War” by Robert R. Dykstra
    -Dan Kaiser book announcement for Grinnell Stories: African Americans of Early Grinnell

Folder 13 – The Black Experience at Grinnell College
“The Black Experience at Grinnell College Through Collected Oral History and Documents, 1863 – 1954” College paper by Stuart A. Yeager. Grinnell College, 1984

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See also: Grinnell Stories: African Americans of Early Grinnell by Daniel Kaiser

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Archivist's note

Name of Preparer: C. Neubert, V. Ruse

Date of Preparation: 7/19; 12/21; 9/22

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