Remembering black history in Van Wert County

In Van Wert County, some of the last areas to be home to the black community in the 1800's are still there, though those families are long gone.

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:32 PM
Updated: Feb 25, 2019 9:11 AM

VAN WERT COUNTY, Ohio (WFFT) - Linda Holden doesn't live in the area anymore, but she remembers what it was like in the 1950's.

"Julia and Betty were two of the siblings apart of the Brown family. They were in our class at school. We were a small school. In our day, they participated in everything. They were in all the activities. We weren't aware of any prejudices against them or their color, but when we went on our class trip, we attended New York City and Washington D.C and our superintendent and his wife Fern always accompanied the students on the class trip," Holden said.

Betty and Julia were black and belonged to the brown family the same family Harvey Brown belonged to. He was the oldest remaining relative to the last known black family there. He died at 78 in 2010 according to the Van Wert Times Bulletin.

Holden said it wasn't until that class trip that she witnessed segregation first hand.

"On the class trip, it was preplanned that superintendent wise and his wife would take Betty and some other classmates went with her.
They had activities for her to attend while we were attending the other activities. That was really our experience of knowing that there were places they weren't allowed in because in our community that was not the case," she explained.

In Wren, Ohio, not too far from Willshire, there's a historic cemetery where an old dirt road leads to once shared by two of the oldest black churches.

No one really knows what happened to the rest of the descendents, but those who live in Van Wert County refer to the local history book called "District of Greenwood to Wren" that tells of the first 318 freed slaves to live there.

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