Posted in African American, Logan, Research Tips & Tricks

Building a Freedman’s Schoolhouse in Rutherfordton

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An 1868 engraving of “James’s Plantation School” in North Carolina. This freedmen’s school is possibly one of those established by Horace James on the Yankee or Avon Hall plantations in Pitt County in 1866. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

I was listening to the Genealogy Guys podcast last week when they started talking about the new database of Freedman’s Bureau records made available by Family Search.

At the end of 2016, FamilySearch International, the genealogical arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, turned over a newly indexed database of records of the Freedman’s Bureau to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

The indexing was the fruit of the labor of more than 25,000 volunteers from all over the world. They created a guide to handwritten records of the Freedman’s Bureau, which was organized during the Civil War to help newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Volunteers indexed 1.5 million digital images and uncovered the names of nearly 1.8 million former slaves.

My wife’s GG Grandfather, George W. Logan of Rutherford County, NC was a progressive voice during the reconstruction era. You can read more about that in this previous blog post. I decided to see if he had any records in this database and I came across a few hits.

I was particularly impressed by letters that he, a local Freedmen’s Bureau Agent, and Freedmen wrote to the Superintendent of Education.

First, there was the letter written by local Freedman, asking the bureau for funds to secure the materials required to build their school.

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Rutherfordton, NC
Jun 19th, 1868

Rev. F.A. Fisk
Superintendent of Education  Bu. R. F&A. L.
Raleigh, NC

Dear Sir.

We the undersigned Freedman respectfully petition for Aid, to enable us to build a school house for the use of the Freedman of this place. Your the [?] of Wm Birnie Agent of the Bureau of [L?] N.C. That the Bureau would assist us in building a school house at this place. We have gone to ask and raised by Subscription about fifty (50) dollars for this object. There is no school here for the Freedmen of this county, and if we can receive sufficient aid in a [?] [?] from the Bureau, we can establish a school here of seventy five dollars, which we promise to carry on after the school house is built. 

The Freedmen will build the school house if the Bureau will buy the lumber, nails, glass, which will cost at least one hundred & fifty dollars. The money which we have already raised by subscription, will enable us to buy an acre of ground within the corporation of this town. Conceived to the Scholars, and the only place we could find that we could purchase for the school. We trust that the money $150 which we petition for herein may be granted us for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. We are unable to find a building which we can rent, and will therefore have to build a schoolhouse. 

Nelson Bryan
Louis Bryan
John Carrier
Vincent Michal

On the back of this letter, we see that these gentlemen enlisted the help of George W. Logan to write a recommendation on the character of the men and their ability to follow through with this request.

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Rutherfordton, NC
19th Jun 1868

Rev. F.A. Fisk

Dear Sir,

Within is a petition signed by several Freedman of our Village & vicinity for the purpose of raising funds to build them a school house and carrying on a school.

The Freedman whose names are hereunto attached are respectable, industrious & able & will no doubt aid properly in this business. I hope you will give this subject some consideration and if possible… [need transcription help here] … very much in need of education. 

Very Respectfully,
G.W. Logan

record-image_939d-x7c3-g-2

Rutherfordton, NC
Jun 19th, 1868

Rev. F.A. Fisk
Superintendent of Education  Bu. R. F&A. L.
Raleigh, NC

Dear Sir.

I cheerfully recommend to you formable consideration this application for Aid from the Bureau to enable the Freedman of Rutherfordton to establish a school. 

I have met with a number of the Colored people since I have been here, and they are very anxious to start a school. They have but little money, but are willing and anxious to do all they can, and if they had the assistance which is asked for, I have no doubt that a school will be sustained by them. They will build the schoolhouse themselves. 

Gen. G.W. Logan – who will gladly do anything within his power for the benefits of the Freedman has consented to secure and take charge of any funds for building the School house which the Bureau can grant for that purpose. The school house will be held in trust by the Colored people for Educating their Children.

Very Truly,
Wm Birnie

Agent Bu. R. F&A. Lands

 

record-image_939d-x7cy-n

Bureau Refugees FAL (Freedmen Abandoned Lands Office)
Superintendent of Education Raleigh NC June 27, 1868

Respectfully forwarded to Col. Jacob F Chur

with the recommendation that the Bureau make the expenditure of $150.00 to assist in the erection of a school building at Rutherfordton, when a copy of the deed of land whereon the building is to be erected shall have been deposited in this office. F.A. Fiske Superintendent of Education

During a Freedmen’s Convention held in Raleigh in October of 1866, F.A. Fisk said, “North-Carolina, in regard to free schools for colored people, has a good reputation to sustain. According to a recent report of the Bureau inspector of Freedmen’s schools, (whose office is located in Washington, D. C.,) she stands second in the number of such schools, and third in the number of scholars under instructions in them.”

For more information about the Freedman’s Bureau in North Carolina, I highly recommend you read this article. To start researching the newly released Freedman’s Bureau database, click here.

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Author:

Jonathan Medford is an experienced genealogist who specializes in researching North Carolina records. Contact him at jon@medfordgenetics.com.

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