Thursday, January 29, 2015

Longtown: A Reason To Celebrate African American History Month

Connor Keiser with pictures of
his Longtown ancestors.
On Thursday February 5th at 6:30 the Greenville Public Library will host a presentation by Connor Keiser on the history of Longtown Ohio. Many people have been to Longtown or have heard of it but most are unaware of its significance and rich history as the first free black settlement in Ohio. It was founded by Connor’s 5th great-grandparents James & Sophia Clemens in 1822.

The Clemens Family arrived in Ohio from Virginia with slave-owner Adam Sellers who freed his people and provided them with land. Other free blacks joined what became known as the Greenville Negro Settlement. As it grew, a school and several churches and cemeteries were established and it was an important station on the Underground Railroad.

The height of its population was around 900 people in the 1940’s. Many descendants live in the Muncie, Richmond, Indianapolis, and Dayton areas. A well-known tavern was opened in 1956 where Connor’s grandparents first met. Its baseball teams from the 1930’s onwards, the Longtown Tigers and Longtown Giants, were legendary!

Today the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society is raising money and awareness for the above named school which was founded by Connor’s grandfather in 1914. It was a manual labor school for all races and provided room & board. One church from 1856 is still active, the Bethel Long Wesleyan Church, holding services every Sunday. The Community Center also hosts an annual “homecoming.“

Connor is proud to continue the research his grandfather Maze Clemens started. He will have many interesting pictures and facts to share on the big screen TV in the third floor Meeting Room. You’ll learn how the name was changed to Longtown! Light refreshments will be served.

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