Thursday, June 16, 2011


            The above plaque, erected at the Ohio River Museum in 2008, is one of 24 for which Henry Burke secured funding from the Ohio Historical Society. (Two others were funded by the West Virginia Division of Archives and History.) All were made by Sewah Studios of Marietta, OH.
          The text reads, “James Davis (1787-1862) was born in Harmar (Marietta) and was the first documented African American born in the Northwest Territory. During his adult life, he became an Underground Railroad activist in Dayton, Ohio. David Putnam, Jr. (1808-1882), a great grandson of General Israel Putnam, was born and raised in Harmar where he later conducted Underground Railroad activities. Francis Dana (Barker) Gage (1808-1884), daughter of Colonel Joseph Barker, was born in Marietta and became a leading figure nationally with the Abolitionist, Temperance and Women’s Suffrage Movements. Faculty and students from Marietta College became active in the Washington County Anti-slavery Society when it was formed in 1836 at the college. Charlotte Scott, a freed slave living in Marietta at the time of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, suggested placing the Emancipation Monument in Washington DC to honor Lincoln. She donated the first five dollars to raise funds culminating in an 1872 dedication ceremony.”

                                James Davis (1887-1862), a Melungeon    
       James Davis, who is still fresh in the minds of many Daytonians, was the first Afro-American (Melungeon) born in the state of Ohio. He was born at Harmar Village, (Marietta, Ohio) on March 6, 1787. He came to Dayton when he was quite a young man, and soon became a leader in the community. He was one of the leading hunters in Ohio and had the credit of killing the largest bear of his day. He was also the leading violinist and barber in Dayton, and the first president of the American Sons of Protection, the oldest benevolent society for free blacks in the city, which he helped to organize in February, 1849.
       On November 6, 1811, he shaved General W.H. Harrison while the general sat upon a log. The next day the great battle of Tippecanoe was fought, and the red men of the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh killed upward of sixty men of Harrison's army with more than a hundred wounded.
       Father Davis, as he was called, was born to be conspicuous, and was a highly esteemed member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. He died a devout Christian January 17, 1862, aged seventy-four years, ten months and twenty days. He was laid to rest in the beautiful Woodland Cemetery where the remains of General Robert C. Schenek, a great Republican leader, and C. L. Vallandigham, a great Democratic leader, also lie. The citizens of Dayton always buried their dead together, regardless of race. 

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