Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 12, 2014

Pat Smith: African Americans contributed much to Decatur County's history

By Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

---- — The African American families that lived here and continued to live here after the 1907 incident is irrefutable evidence that African Americans were not “run out of town.”

Proof can be found in the 1900 and 1910 census plus the Directories that were published every 10 years. What really happened will begin in next week’s column.

John W. and Anna Davis lived in the 500 block of South Broadway. John W. was a horseman for John E. Robbins. Anna died in 1957; John died in 1912.

John and Anna were in their 30s in 1907. One of their three daughters was Gertrude “Gertie” Longmyre, born in Lawrenceburg in 1896 but moved to Greensburg with her parents when a small child. Her husband Hugh Longmyre died in 1937. When Gertie died in 1979 her funeral was held at Porter-Oliger-Pearson Funeral Home with Rev. Robert Browning officiating. She was buried in South Park.

Greensburg Daily News reporter Jim Hall interviewed Gertie in 1979. She stated, “Dad taught Hugh all he knew about horse training. We made the rounds of county fairs in summer, training horses for the Robbins family.” She said, “Several colored people owned their own homes and businesses in Greensburg.” She remembered Julius Brooks and his barber shop.

Julius and Louise Brooks lived in the 600 block of East Washington. His barber shop was on South Franklin in the annex of the Decatur Hotel, originally Seitz House, (southeast corner of the Courthouse Square.) Brooks was also custodian for the Citizens National Bank and the First Presbyterian Church. Born in 1857, he died in 1927. His funeral was held in the Presbyterian Church. Louise died in 1934. They raised one daughter and his nephew Roscoe. He was 50 in 1907 and his wife was 48.

Gabranna Thurman lived on Lincoln Street north of the African Methodist Church. She was a widow and ran a beauty shop. She was 67-years-old in 1907. She was well known for saving the “combings” of the ladies hair and then making wigs out of the hair for dolls.

Orlando Hood, veteran (Co. E, 23rd USCI), and wife Irene owned their home in the 300 block of East North Street and lived there for nearly 50 years. Born in 1841, he died in 1914 and was buried in Soldiers Circle at South Park. He was 56-years-old in 1907. Irene died in 1929 at age 92 and was buried in South Park.

George and Jane Edwards had four children and owned their home in 600 block of West Washington Street. He was custodian at the Baptist Church and a long-time employee as a millhand of the Garland Milling Company. They had four children and one daughter became an accomplished organist. George and Jane were 44 in 1907.

Sallie Mitchell, George Edwards’ sister, lived in the 1000 block of North Anderson Street. Mrs. Cora Hood and Mrs. Quincy Edmonds were daughters. A son, Charles “Bud” died young.

Thomas Gaines lived in the 500 block of East Washington Street. He lived here during 1907 and died in 1917.

The Jim and Sarah Wright family (daughters Sallie and Mary) and Sarah’s two daughters (Maude and Eleanor Primm) by an earlier marriage lived on South East Street across from where the paint store is now.

Marion and Jane White lived on South East Street across from the Catholic Church. Born in Tennessee, he had only one leg, possibly from a Civil War injury. As chef at the then-ritzy DeArmond Hotel he served grand meals. In 1907 he was 44-years-old. He died in 1913.

William C. Irvin is listed as pastor of the African Methodist Church in 1900, by 1907 Jasper Silar (or Siler) was pastor of the church. He and his wife Cordelia were still here in 1910.

Samuel T. Evans is listed in Records of Indiana Volunteers in the Spanish American War 1898 - 1899. His name is listed under E, page 349. Evans and his wife Frances are buried at South Park Cemetery. Evans enlisted in the 24th U.S. Infantry which was “all Negro unit” during the war. He was chosen to assume charge of a detail of six men that were to take a message to the General of the Spanish Forces that demanded the surrender at Aparri in North Luzon. Evans was cited for bravery and is said to have been the first American soldier to set foot on Aparri.

Evans died at the Greensburg Memorial hospital in January 1944 and was buried in South Park Cemetery Jan. 11, 1944 by the Wenning Porter Funeral Home.