Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Richmond Family of Chariton

This is a story about Romulus Rufus Richmond and his wife Lillie Jones Green. 

Lillie was born in Missouri on July 4, 1862, the daughter of slave parents, but was buried in Chariton, Iowa.  Lillie's grandmother, Charity Green was born in Kentucky in 1800 and was sold several times as a slave.  Mrs. Green died at the age of 103 in Omaha, Nebraska.
In order for her father to escape from slave owners, he was sent further south.  Lillie managed to escape with her grandparents and five aunts and uncles.

On December 29, 1880 R.R. married Lillie Jones Green in Wisconsin.  The Richmond's came to Chariton in 1887 from Lancaster, Wisconsin.  Romulus and Lillie were the parents of ten children, Scott, Grace, John, Lillian, Joseph, Henry, Macco, Tom, Booker and Florence, also known as "Petey".  They made their home at 224 South 11th Street and she continued living in this home after Romulus past away.

Lillie worked as a cook for almost 50 years in the Burlington Depot Hotel and the Railroad Café, both in Chariton.

In addition to being a minister, Mr. Richmond was an inventor of some note.  He was the holder of 3 United States Patents including an automatic machine gun and 2 cemetery burial devices.

His first patent of April 2, 1895 was for an apparatus to lower or raise a coffin into a grave with the use of straps and cables.  

His second design, patented December 8, 1896, was an automatic rapid firing machine gun.  The gun was capable of firing 200 shots a minute. 

Another invention was a machine that cut and mined coal with the aid of cranks.  The machine did the work of three men.

Richmond's third patent was for a burial device and was awarded to him by the US Patent and Trademark Office on March 30, 1897.  This invention was used to separate the yellow colored earth from the black dirt, so the black dirt could be used on top of the grave.

These burial devices were of much help to Mr. Richmond during his tenure as sexton of the Chariton Cemetery.

Romulus R. Richmond died before 1910.  Several family members are also buried in the Chariton Cemetery.

Daughter Grace Shilton Richmond died in February 1904.  After graduating from Chariton High School in 1901, Grace became a teacher and taught in Missouri.  She died as a result of a cold that she received while attending the funeral of her fiancé who died in a mining accident.

John Richmond died in 1932 at the age of 47.  He was a WWI veteran and was gassed and wounded in battle.

Shortly before brothers Tom and Booker were inducted into the army during WWII, their sister Lillie Nevada Richmond passed away in January 1942.  Lillie was born October 7, 1888 and was a member of the Christian Science Church.

Henry was a Sgt. in WWII and served in France and Germany. He died in January 1946, following an automobile accident.

Macco Richmond served as Lt. in France for 2½ years in WWI.  A train east of Chariton hit him in February 1954.

Tom Richmond, like his brother Henry, was a mechanic.  He was also a WWII veteran.  He died at age 55 in September 1957.

Just 2 weeks after Tom died, Booker, the last living son of Romulus and Lillie Richmond, died in Des Moines just 26 days before his 53rd birthday.

Booker T. Richmond graduated from Chariton High in 1925 and went on to attend Coe College, Grinnell College, Marquette University and the University of Iowa Law School.  In 1930, he passed the state bar exams with the highest score of the 15 Iowans to take the test at that time.  He played basketball and football at CHS.  He was a member of the undefeated debate team at U. of I.  He practiced law in Mason City and Des Moines.  He was also a WWII veteran.  Booker was born just a few months before Booker T. Washington spoke at the Chariton Chautauqua in 1904

Florence Blanche Richmond was the last surviving child of R.R. and Lillie.  Many of us knew her as "Petey".  She died at her home on September 17, 1979 at the age of 85.  She was born in Chariton and lived all her life in this vicinity.  She attended school through the 8th grade but did not further her education so that she might help her mother and younger brothers and sisters of which there was a civil engineer, a school teacher and an attorney.  "Petey" never married.  She gave of her time and love to those who needed her; never expecting anything in return.  If there was stress or sickness in the neighborhood she was always ready to lend a helping hand.  She was a firm believer in God and read her Bible daily. 

The Richmond children stayed close with their mother long after their father died.

Lillie celebrated her 78th birthday in 1940 with a large party attended by her many friends.  She died in 1952.

I referred to a compilation written by Melody Wilson of the Chariton Historic Preservation commission in 2008, for this information.  It appeared in the Richmond Family History Book at the Lucas County Genealogical Society room in the basement of the Chariton Library.
From the Chariton Leader - Nov. 4, 1947

Ex-Slave Tells of Wisconsin Flight in the 1860's

Chariton Woman Tells of Early Experiences

Last summer Mrs. Lillie Richmond took her annual trip to her old home in Wisconsin. While
there a reporter for the Lancaster, Wis., Herald interviewed her and we are reproducing it with the permission of the publisher.

By Mrs. David Chichton

Lancaster, Wis. - Meet Aunt Lillie Richmond, an ex-slave and proud of it. Aunt Lillie was 85 on July 4 and she says, “All I know about slavery is what my folks told me. It’s kinda like something out of a story book.” But the familiar story told and retold among her own people, makes her heritage of freedom seem very precious. She was double proud also to have two of her sons in World War I and one in World War II.

Aunt Lillie’s home is in Chariton, Ia., where she owns a comfortable house earned by 25 years of cooking in Maggie Downard’s railroad café. When summer comes she gets a longing for her old home near Lancaster and there’s always a warm welcome waiting for her at the Bemtown township farm where three generations have lived, now occupied by her niece, Mrs. Dick Lewis.

History for Centennial

Mrs. Lewis is writing for the Wisconsin Centennial a history of her people, some of whom have been in Wisconsin ever since it became a state in 1848. Aunt Lillie is helping her with the little details which come to mind about her arrival as she sits and quilts or mends. “She’s a beautiful seamstress,” says the niece. “When she comes, I get caught up on my sewing like magic."

In Missouri, back in 1862 when she was born. Aunt Lillie relates, “Freedom was sort of in the
air, Black folks were sort of getting restless. Not that they weren’t treated all right. They had no complaint. I’ve heard grandfather say so many and many a time. It was just that they were restless and wanted to be on their own."

So they saved and saved, pennies, two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces and nickles and dimes, until one day, among them, they had $50. That was their stake, and a lot of money. That night, Grandfather John Green and Grandmother Lillie Green, and their five grown children, Hardy, Tom, Amy, Francis and Sarah, and grandmother’s brother, Tom Smith, struck out for the north and freedom, walking, all except baby Lillie, who was carried in her grandfather’s arms.

Their immediate destination was St. Louis, where grandfather had gone numerous times with loads of apples. After walking all night one of the boys, by “hook or crook, Aunt Lillie says, came up with a team and wagon. Elated, they piled in, but then troubles were not over.

They were helped here and there, by friends of the underground, but they also heard that the Bushwackers were on their trail. They made the best time they could but were beset with anxiety every mile of the way, for fugitive slaves were fair prey for a lawless element that roamed the countryside during the war years in Missouri.

Finally they reached St. Louis safely, Grandfather went to a man he had sold apples to for years and knew to be honest and friendly. “Grandfather said he wanted to ask a favor and the man said he would be glad to be of service, “ I want some one to see to it that this team and wagon is returned to the plantation,” Grandfather said.

“The man smiled and said, John, if you took a dozen teams and wagons it wouldn’t pay you for what you justly have coming to you.” But grandfather would have none of that and made the man promise to get the team back to the plantation, which he did.” Aunt Lillie said.

First Train Ride

The Greens boarded a train, the first they ever had been on. They landed at Dunleith, now East Dubuque. They spent their first winter on a farm near Bloomington. Some of the boys fought in the Civil war. In 1870 they bought the homestead now occupied by Mrs. Lewis and her husband.

Aunt Lillie’s husband, dead for many years, was Romulus Richmond. He studied for the
ministry and preached for some years. They had 10 children, whose raising fell largely upon Aunt Lillie’s broad shoulders. She is wise in the use of common medicinal herbs and homemade remedies. “I had to be,” the laughs,

When the children were old enough she went to work in the railroad café, where it was nothing at all to turn out 30 to 40 pies in the forenoon in addition to the regular cooking. Her smile was known up and down the line and there was genuine regret when she retired three years ago - Grant Co. Herald.

1 comment:

D.A. WILSON said...

This is a very good article. I am working on a piece about Romulus and Minnie Richmond (cousins wife) who were both founders and preachers in the Pleasant Ridge Community of African Americans in Grant County Wisconsin. Do you have any photos of Romulus? Maybe we could trade scans. Dennis Wilson, Grant County Historical Society - www.grantcountyhistory.org

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