• Last modified 105 days ago (Feb. 15, 2024)


As the story originally was reported

Abuse of African American 145 years ago

A recent Memories column contained a brief mention of alleged mistreatment in 1879 of an African American worker in Marion County.

In honor of Black History Month, the Record did additional research in its archives.

The name and age of the victim were not found. However, these additional stories, many of them republished in other state newspapers, were located.

They are reprinted verbatim to convey the tone of the era:

Jan. 24, 1879

A man named Hugh Monroe, a resident of Grant Township, was arrested and brought to town last Sunday by Constables Wise and Pease, upon what technical charge we do not know but on the general charge of inhuman treatment of a colored boy in his employ.

The negro was also brought to town in a most pitiable plight. In our repertorial line, we called to see him at the residence of Dr. Glover, where his injuries were being attended to.

His hands and feet had been very badly frozen and emitted a fearful stench.

Dr. Glover informs us that amputation with the loss of the toes will certainly be necessary, and amputation of the feet possible if not probable.

It is charged that this condition of the boy has been caused by cruel treatment on the part of his employer, that he was forced out into the cold weather of the past weeks with insufficient clothing, in fact scarcely any clothing at all at times, and this too after his feet had been so badly frozen that he could scarcely walk and his hands frozen so badly that he could hardly use them.

These are the charges. Of their truthfulness, we know nothing.

We hope they are not true. We don’t want to believe there is a man in Marion County so lost to the common instincts of humanity as to treat a human being or even a dumb beast in the manner charged in this case.

The preliminary examination of the case commenced Tuesday before Esquire Gaver, with L.F. and C.W. Keller and M.D. Asher for the defense and County Attorney Reed for the State. At the time of going to press, the trial still progresses.

Jan. 31, 1879

The preliminary examination of Hugh Monroe for alleged ill treatment of a negro boy in his employ, mentioned in our last issue, occupied four days and resulted in the defendant being held in the sum of $500 [equivalent to $15,337.30 in 2024 money] to appear for trial at the next term of the court.

Six of the boy’s toes and six of his fingers have been amputated.

Feb. 13, 1879

Mr. Hugh Monroe, the man charged with maltreating that negro boy, called upon us last Saturday and desired us to correct the statement that his bond for appearance in District Court was fixed at $500; he says it was $300, which he thinks a material difference.

Our information was obtained from the Justice himself, but it seems the original sum was reduced to $300, of which we were not aware till informed of it by Mr. Monroe. We cheerfully make the correction.

Mr. Monroe also complained of injustice done him by the Record in our allusions to the matter at the time of his arrest.

Now, the Record always aims to treat everyone fairly, and although few journalists can resist the temptation to “color” and sensationalize occurrences like this negro case, the Record has never attempted to gain notoriety by aggravating the misfortunes of any man.

We had no intention to do the accused injustice, and we do not think a careful reading of our remarks can be fairly construed in that way.

We have only to add that if Mr. Monroe shall be able, upon his final trial, to establish his innocence of the grave charges against him, the Record will be most happy to record the fact.

May 2, 1879

At the recent term of the District Court, Hugh Monroe, the man accused of maltreating and abusing a negro boy, was found guilty and was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary.

W.F. Thompson, for stealing a span of horses from J.M. Corbett, got three years in the same institution.

March 13, 1880

Hugh Monroe has served out his time in the penitentiary and returned home. He is at work as brakeman on the railroad.

March 27, 1880

In justice to Hugh Monroe, we desire to say that he was pardoned out for good behavior and did not serve his entire sentence.

Last modified Feb. 15, 2024