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Bluffton African-American history comes to life

Including a Bluffton barber, college student

and performance of Fisk singers

A little known, interesting Bluffton fact is that the community has been home to African-America residents and visitors earlier than most people realize.

Recent discoveries found in Bluffton News microfilms prior to 1910 sheds light on this early history. This feature examines many of these residents and visitors.

Fisk College Jubilee Singers

On Dec. 11, 1896, the choir from Fisk College, Nashville, Tennessee, performed in the town hall. The news item reports that “this famous company was organized in 1880, and has had 10 years of continued success.

“Their music is so striking and melodious that their audiences are held spellbound and it is with difficultly that the singers leave the stage.

“Henry Ward Beecher used to delight to have this company sing for him in his church. They have traveled under the auspices of the Redpath Lecture Bureau and have just recently closed a 30- night engagement in Chicago.”

In an early story in the News, the concert was announced a free to the public and it consisted of plantation songs, etc.

John Quincy Adams

From the July 7, 1904, Bluffton News it was reported that John Quincy Adams, an aged Mexican war veteran, of Mt. Cory, has made application for admission to the soldiers’ home at Sandusky.

From a December 1904, Bluffton News comes this notice. The death occurred at the Hancock county infirmary Saturday of John Quincy Adams, a man with an interesting history. He was nearly eighty years old.

Deceased was a slave born, and in his early manhood served thru the Mexican war with his master. He also served in the Union army during the Civil war and was a pensioner. For many years he operated a barber shop at Bluffton, going later to Mt. Cory where he operated a shop for a long time.

From here he entered the Soldiers home in Sandusky. He was remarkably well informed man and was liked by all who knew him.

And later, this story: David Adams, of Findlay, a cousin of John Quincy Adams, the well-known former Bluffton barber, has promptly paid for his funeral.

John Sloan

The Dec. 29, 1910, Bluffton News published this story about John Sloan. “The student formerly attending Bluffton College is here for the week from Ann Arbor, Michigan. John is studying dentistry and is well pleased with his work.

Another story about Sloan stated that f or many years there was only one black man in Bluffton. He sold fresh-roasted peanuts, and took pictures of individuals and families to earn his way through college. His name was John Sloan, a lovable gentlemen know to all. His was one of the first workable cameras in Bluffton.

Sloan is in two photographs, the first showing the 1905 Bluffton College football team, of which he was a member. The second of the college class of 1907.

1904 parade

The photograph from 1904 involves a Bluffton parade, perhaps on the Fourth of July or in advance of a circus. A very close examination of the photo of this unknown band reveals it an African-American band.

Fisk Jubilee Singers performed in the town hall in 1896

1907 Bluffton College class - John Sloan a member

1905 Bluffton College football team - John Sloan a member

1904 African-American marching band in Bluffton parade

Enlargement of marching band photo



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