Plans are underway for a permanent stone monument in downtown Pekin to honor the memory of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William Henry Costley.
In the past few years, Nance and her son William have been the subjects of multiple articles posted here at “From the History Room.” Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and Peoria is known to history as the first African-American to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln, through the landmark 1841 Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell. Her oldest son William H. Costley (1840-1888) of Pekin later went on to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War, serving in the 29th Illinois Colored Infantry, Co. B., and was present in Galveston, Texas, on the first Juneteenth in 1865.
Partners involved in this project include Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman, the City of Pekin, Pekin Main Street, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dirksen Congressional Center, and Abel Monument. Ackerman also credits research on Nance Legins-Costley and her family that has been conducted or made possible by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society and the Pekin Public Library’s Local History collection.
According to Ackerman, the memorial is being privately donated, and Abel Monument is now at work on it.
The monument will be four feet in length and three feet in height, and will bear a header inscription reading, “Tazewell County Remembers.” The names of Nance and her son William, and words of tribute to their lives, will be inscribed on the front and back of the monument.
Ackerman says the memorial is to be installed in the “pocket park” on the north side of Court Street across from the Tazewell Building, located between the Studio 409 beauty salon at 411 Court and the law offices of Joseph W. Dunn at 417 Court St.
Placement and dedication of the monument is to be on or near Juneteenth this summer.
This will be the second Central Illinois memorial devoted to memorializing the life of Nance Legins-Costley.
As was reported here last week, the life of Nance Legins-Costley is also commemorated on an Illinois State Historical marker currently on display at the Peoria RiverPlex facility.
That marker and two others were created last year for the planned Freedom & Remembrance Memorial that will be placed and dedicated this spring at the corner of South Adams and Griswold streets in Peoria. The purpose of the memorial is to honor the lives of the more than 2,600 Peorians (Nance among them) buried at the defunct Moffatt Cemetery that was located a very short distance north of that intersection.
Nance Legins-Costley’s life and that of her family forms a part not only the history of Pekin, where she lived from 1829 to the late 1870s, but also of Peoria, where she lived for most of the rest of her life from the late 1870s until her death in 1892. She and her husband and one of her sons were interred in Moffatt Cemetery.
But I am of the opinion that Nance and her story really belong to all of Illinois, since she was born in Kaskaskia, the old territorial capital (and later the first state capital), and later was taken to Springfield before Nathan Cromwell brought her to Pekin. She even lived briefly with one of her sons in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after her husband Benjamin’s death.
However, the real reason it can be said that Nance belongs to all of Illinois is the indomitable courage and persistence she showed in fighting to secure the recognition of her freedom – for her fight and her strength resulted in an important Illinois Supreme Court ruling benefitting not only her and her family but every other African-American held in indentured servitude in Illinois.
In my opinion, that’s definitely worthy of a monument or two – or more.
In June and July this summer “From the History Room” devoted some attention to the African-American family of Moses and Milly Shipman of Sand Prairie and Elm Grove Townships in Tazewell County, with special attention paid to the freedom lawsuits that Milly and some of her children and friends filed in St. Louis, Missouri, after they were kidnapped by human traffickers who wished to return them to slavery.
In particular, we delved into the life story of Pvt. Thomas G. L. Shipman of Pekin, son of Moses and Milly, who served as a sharpshooter in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War.
As we noted back in June of this year, Thomas first appears on record in the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 15 Aug. 1850, which show “Thos. G. L. Shipman,” age 16, “mulatto” (i.e., of black and white ancestry), living in the household of Harvey Green, 40, laborer, and Mary Ann Green, 27. Also living in this household were George W. Lee, 5, Juliett Lee, 4, Richard Toombs, 41, Charles W. Shipman, 23, and David Shipman, 24.
Through the excellent research of Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, and with the aid of Lea Vandervelde’s book “Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott” (2014), it has been determined that the Charles W., David, and Thomas of this census record were brothers. Vandervelde’s also points out (page 237, note 35) that after Milly’s death, Moses Shipman remarried in Tazewell County on 19 Dec. 1844 to a woman named Nancy Winslow.
The freedom suit files of Milly Shipman and her companions show that she and Moses had children named Mary Ann and David, who must be the David Shipman found in this census record. In addition, it is significant that Charles, David, and Thomas were living with Mary Ann Green, who is known from marriage records to have been a Shipman as well. Thus, she must be Moses’ and Milly’s daughter Mary Ann.
Tazewell County marriage records show that Mary Ann Shipman married a certain James Lee on 12 July 1843. Consequently, we can identify the George W. Lee and Juliett Lee of this census record as children of Mary Ann by James Lee. By the time of the 1850 census, though, Mary Ann was remarried to Harvey Green, for her first husband James perhaps had died. Mary Ann and Harvey later had a daughter Alice Green, as shown in the 1860 census (by which time Mary Ann had again remarried to Charles Granby, as shown by Tazewell County marriage records).
At this point, it should be clarified that Vandervelde (on page 95 and on page 237, notes 33 and 34) offers an incorrect suggestion regarding the identity of Mary Ann Shipman and her second husband Harvey Green. On page 95 of her book, Vandervelde identifies the 1850 census record of Harvey Green and Mary Ann (Shipman) Green as that of Harry Dick, one of the emancipated freedmen who was kidnapped by Stephen Smith in 1827, and Mary Ann (Shipman) Green. On page 237, Vandervelde says Harry Dick “appears to have changed his name to Harry Green. Harry Green, a black man whose age matches that of Harry Dick, married Maryan Dotson on August 9, 1842, in Jasper County, Illinois.”
The 1850 census record, however, does not mention a “Harry” Green, but instead shows a “Harvy” Green. Furthermore, the Mary Ann of the 1850 census record could not have married a Harry (or Harvy) Green in 1842, because she has been shown to have married James Lee in 1843 in Tazewell County. Although Harvey Green’s age and place of birth in the 1850 census record matches that of Harry Dick, that alone is not sufficient to identify them.
As an interesting aside, Mary Ann’s son George W. Lee later married Mary Jane Costley, daughter of Benjamin and Nance (Legins) Costley of Pekin and sister of Pvt. William Henry Costley of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. George himself also served in a colored regiment during the Civil War, but in George’s case he ended up being assigned to the 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, Co. H. Thus we see that Pvt. Thomas Shipman was related to the Costleys of Pekin.
Thomas was also related by marriage to the Ashbys of Liverpool Township, Fulton County, who provided four men to the 29th U.S.C.I. Peoria County marriage records show that David Shipman, who was Thomas’ brother, married Elizabeth Ashby on 28 Jan. 1849. From available records on the Ashby family, it seems most probable that Elizabeth was a sister of Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. G., one of four Ashby men of Pekin who served in Co. G. Nathan himself was very probably a son of Fulton County’s first African-American physician, Dr. James Ashby (1808-1850). Illinois state census records for 1855 indicate that David and Elizabeth had a son, born circa 1850, but nothing is known of that son’s identity.
After his enumeration in the 1850 U.S. Census, Thomas Shipman next appears in Peoria County marriage records, which show that on 27 June 1859, he married Martha Ann Powell, born circa 1840 in Indiana. Then the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 5 July 1860, show Thomas Shipman, 21, laborer, born in Illinois, with Martha A. Shipman, 20, born in Indiana, married within the year, and Franklin Shipman, 3 months old. Thomas, Martha, and Franklin are all classified as “mulatto” and unable to read or write. The 1863 Peoria City Directory lists Thomas as a laborer then residing at 77 S. Washington St.
Thomas laid down his life for his country in action near Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, on 31 March 1865. If he had lived, he would have accompanied his regiment to Galveston, Texas, in June 1865 to be present at the first Juneteenth. His widow Martha applied for a Civil War pension in his name on 12 May 1865.
Further research on the family of Thomas Shipman conducted by Susan Rynerson and myself has found that Thomas and Martha had two other children besides their son Franklin named in the 1860 U.S. Census. Those children are Nancy Ellen “Nannie” Shipman, born about 1862 in Peoria, and Thomas Eaton Shipman, born 24 Dec. 1864 in Pekin.
After obtaining a pension as a Civil War widow, Martha remarried in Peoria County in 1867 to a man named Jordan Rogan, who was born about 1835 in Louisiana. Thus, in the U.S. Census returns for Peoria dated 8 June 1870, we find Jordan Rogan, 35, plasterer, born in Louisiana, Martha Rogan, 28, keeping house, born in Indiana, Nancy, 8, goes to school, born in Illinois, and Thomas, 5, born in Illinois; and everyone in this household is identified as “mulatto.” That Martha’s son Franklin does not appear in this census record indicates that he must have died by then.
Martha’s second husband Jordan Rogan presumably died during the early to mid-1870s, because on 11 Dec. 1879 in Peoria County, Martha remarried to a man named Rufus S. Eastman, who was born in 1848 in Lincoln County, Tennessee, the son of David and Margaret (Crofford/Crawford) Eastman. This marriage record says Martha was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, a daughter of Eaton and Lillie (Harris) Powell.
It should be noted that Rufus’ surname is spelled variously in different records. In the 1879 marriage record his surname is given as “Easland,” but in the 1880 U.S. Census it is “Easton,” but in Springdale Cemetery records it is “Eastman.”
The U.S. Census returns for Peoria dated 5 June 1880 enumate the household of Martha and Rufus as: Rufus Easton, 45, cook at a hotel, born in Tennessee, wife Martha A. Easton, 35, housekeeping, born in Indiana of Virginia-born parents, Rufus’ step-daughter Nanie E. “Shipmun,” 18, assistant, born in Illinois, and Rufus’ step-son Thomas E. “Shipmun,” 13, born in Illinois. Everyone in the household is listed as “black.”
Rufus died on 19 April 1891 and is buried in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. His widow Martha survived until 14 Dec. 1899, when she died in Peoria and was buried two days later in Springdale. As for Martha’s son Thomas Eaton Shipman, he is listed in the 1893 Peoria City Directory as a musician living at 912 Sixth St. (which was then the home of Martha Eastman). Thomas died 15 July 1894 and was also buried in Springdale. It is unknown if Thomas ever married or had children.
Thomas’ older sister Nancy or Nannie married on 24 June 1880 in Peoria to Richard C. Hilliard, 28, white, born in St. Louis, Missouri, son of Ralph and S. (Holley) Hilliard. Nannie and Richard had an unnamed son on 16 Oct. 1880 in Peoria, but it is unclear whether that son was stillborn or died soon after birth, or perhaps later was given a name. No other children of Nannie and Richard are known, and it is unknown when and where Nannie and Richard died and are buried. Nannie was probable dead before May 1895, because Tazewell County marriage records show that Richard C. Hilliard, 41, of Springfield, Illinois, a hotel waiter, born in St. Louis of Ralph and Susan Hilliard, married in Pekin on 6 May 1895 (his second marriage) to Dora Jackson, 28, of Davenport, Iowa, born in Davenport of Rufus and Julia Jackson. The fact that Richard had been living in Springfield could be a clue as to where Nannie may have died and been buried. In any case, it is not impossible that Nannie and her brother Thomas had children who survived to adulthood and may perhaps have living descendants, but at this time nothing further is known of the descendants of Pvt. Thomas Shipman.
Vandervelde discusses another uncertain point regarding the Shipman family on page 95 of her book (cf. page 237 note 39): the identity of the George Shipman named in the 1845 will of Revolutionary War veteran David Shipman of Tazewell County. The will includes a bequest of the remainder of the estate to go toward the clothing of George Shipman when he became of age. As Vandervelde notes, the identity of that George Shipman is unclear. He could have been a younger, or even youngest, son of Moses Shipman, born perhaps of his second marriage to Nancy Winslow. Or he may have been a son of Moses and Milly who, like Thomas G. L. Shipman, was born after Milly’s safe return to Tazewell County.
Vandervelde points out that the 1850 U.S. Census provides two candidates for the George Shipman of the will. One of them is George W. Shipman, 13, mulatto, apparently working as a servant at Peoria House hotel – his name is listed directly under Hiram Williams, 25, black, a cook at Peoria House. They are the only two blacks shown in that census record as employees of Peoria House.
The other candidate in the 1850 census is “Geo Shipman,” 17, mulatto, a laborer in the household of George and Abigail Washington (who are identified in this record as “black”). Now, we have previously discussed this very census record in the context of the genealogy of the Ashby family, because this is the first time Pvt. Nathan Ashby is named in the historical record. Nathan Ashby, 14, and Mary Beverly, 16, were also living in this household at this time. We know from other records that James Ashby, probably Nathan’s brother, married a Beverly, and we know that David Shipman married Elizabeth Ashby. Thus, most likely George Shipman is a brother of David Shipman, just as Mary Beverly would be a sister-in-law of James Ashby, and Elizabeth Ashby would be a sister of Nathan Ashby.
Thus, we can be reasonably confident that this is the George Shipman of the 1845 will. Given the age of this George Shipman, he would be a son of Moses and Milly Shipman. That would make him an older brother of Pvt. Thomas Shipman. Further information on George has not yet been found.
In recent years, the lives of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) and her family have become much better known thanks chiefly to fresh light being brought to the subject as a result of the research of Carl Adams, who began delving into Nance’s story in the 1990s.
As we have related here at “From the History Room” more than once, Nance Legins-Costley is known to history as the first African-American slave to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln. First appearing in published Pekin historical accounts in 1871 (in William H. Bates’ original narrative of Pekin’s early history), Nance and her persistent efforts to obtain acknowledgement of her freedom later were briefly mentioned in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume. A much fuller (though far from complete) account was included in the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial (pp.6-7).
Apart from local historical narratives, prior to Adams’ research Nance’s story has been mostly relegated to relatively brief notices or passages in Lincoln biographies and studies. For example, John J. Duff devoted just four extended paragraphs to the story in his 1960 tome “A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer” (pp.86-87).
More recently, Nance and her story have been treated in a number of histories devoted to Lincoln or to the subject of American slavery.
For example, Lincoln scholar Guy C. Fraker addresses the case of Bailey v. Cromwell and McNaughton in a single paragraph on p.52 of his 2012 book, “Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit.” There Fraker offers a bit of polite criticism of the manner of telling the story of Nance and her trials “as a case where Lincoln’s role was to ‘free a slave,’” which Fraker says “is simply not accurate.” Rather, Fraker insists, “Nance’s gallant efforts to assert her free status, not Lincoln, resulted in her freedom.”
Fraker’s criticism is well received, because while Lincoln’s place in Nance’s story was very important in enabling her to secure the freedom that she always (and rightly) insisted was hers, this is in truth Nance’s life story rather than the story of how Lincoln purportedly set out to free a slave. From the standpoint of Lincoln scholarship, this case is significant as the first time Lincoln had to directly wrestle with the moral and legal issues related to slavery. But, as Adams himself agrees, from the viewpoint of Nance Legins-Costley this case was quite simply a matter of the greatest importance, because on it depended her freedom and that of her children.
As only to be expected in historians of the stature and scholarly diligence of Burlingame and Fraker, their accounts of Nance and Bailey v. Cromwell are accurate and informative.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use those two adjectives to describe the way in which the story of Nance is told in M. Scott Heerman’s 2018 volume, “The Alchemy of Slavery: Human Bondage and Emancipation in the Illinois Country, 1730-1865.” I have not had occasion to give a close reading to Heerman’s entire book, which appears to be a generally compelling study of the manner in which human servitude was practiced in the officially free state of Illinois. Nevertheless, regarding Heerman’s treatment in his book of the life and trials of Nance Legins-Costley, a number of serious factual errors seem to have slipped past his fact checker during the editorial process.
Heerman introduces Nance and her trials in his chapter 4 (pp.105-106), where he refers to, “The first case, Nance, a Negro Girl v. John Howard (1828).” More accurately, that was the second case. The long tale of Nance’s struggles to win her freedom began (as Heerman himself describes) the previous year, when Nance’s master Thomas Cox’s possessions (including Nance and her family) were auctioned off to pay for a debt. She did not wait until 1828 to protest her freedom, but already in October of 1827 we find the freedom suit Nance, a Negro girl v. Nathan Cromwell. The second case, against Howard, was filed due to Sangamon County Coroner John Howard’s role in selling Nance to Cromwell.
Heerman returns to the story of Nance in his chapter 6 (pp.135-136), but here we again find factual errors. Of Nance he writes (p.135), “Born in Maryland around 1810, she was brought to Illinois and converted into a registered servant.” U.S. Census records consistently show Nance’s place of birth as Maryland, and indicate that she was born circa 1813. However, Adams’ research into Nance’s family history shows that she was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, not Maryland. It was rather her master Nathan Cromwell who was born in Maryland, and presumably Nance, not knowing where she was born, herself came to believe she was born in Maryland as well. Her parents and siblings, who perhaps could have reminded her of where she was born, were sold away from her in 1827, when Nance was about 14. It was Nance’s parents Randol and Anachy (Ann) Legins, not Nance herself, who were brought to Illinois (by Nathaniel Green) – but they were from South Carolina, not Maryland.
Next, on the same page Heerman says, “In 1828, Nathan Cromwell sold Nance at public auction to John Howard. She disputed her sale before the Illinois Supreme Court, in Nance, a Negro girl v. John Howard (1828), . . . .” This is a remarkable instance of confusion on Heerman’s part. Howard did not purchase Nance; he rather oversaw the auction whereby Nance, an indentured servant of Thomas Cox, was sold to Nathan Cromwell. Heerman’s confusion seems to have arisen from his overlooking the earlier case of Nance v. Cromwell, and from misreading the court documents in Nance v. Howard.
Heerman once more returns to the story of Nance and her family in his concluding chapter (pp.166-167). There he correctly recalls that “In 1841, Abraham Lincoln helped to free Nance Cromwell from bondage in a local case, and during the war, her son William Costley took up arms.” But at this point we again encounter some very serious errors of fact.
Heerman proceeds to say that Nance’s son William “enlisted in the 26th Volunteers, and after fighting in Missouri and Mississippi, the company went to Virginia, where on April 9, 1865, Costley witnessed Lee’s formal surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.”
On this point, Heerman and his fact checker should have paused to consider how and why a black man, William Costley, would have served in a white Union regiment during the Civil War. Even more remarkable, on p.167 Heerman presents the photograph of a white Union soldier whose name, regiment, and company are written in cursive hand as “William Costley, Co. D, the 26 Ills Volls.” Heerman’s caption for this photo reads, “William Costley, son of Ben and Nancy Cromwell, age about twenty-one, Boys in Blue, Logan Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield Ill.” (The same photo may be seen at William Costley’s Find-A-Grave memorial.) This same image appears on the front cover of Heerman’s book.
In fact, William Costley was the son of Ben and Nancy Costley, not Cromwell. “Cromwell” was one of the surnames that Nance bore during her lifetime – specifically, during the time she spent as a servant and ward of Nathan Cromwell. (Before that, she would have been known as Nance Legins and then Nance Cox, and the Peoria County marriage records of her children also give her a maiden name of “Allen”.) In this case, Heerman made a simple mental slip, for in his book he usually refers to Nance as “Nance Cromwell.”
However, he clearly has misidentified the white soldier William Henry Costley (1845-1903) of Weldon, DeWitt County, Illinois, as the black soldier William Henry Costley/Cosley (1840-1888) of Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Nance’s son William (Bill) served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. – and although the 29th U.S.C.I. was present (along with the 26th Illinois Volunteers) at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Bill himself was not there, because (as his pension file says) he was wounded in action on April 1 and subsequently was sent to a military hospital. Bill recovered in time, however, to take part in the landing at Galveston, Texas, on 18 June 1865, and thus was present for the first Juneteenth.
Incidentally, Carl Adams believes the white Costleys of DeWitt County may have formerly been the owners of Nance’s husband Benjamin Costley – a fascinating possibility that I have not been able to confirm or disprove. All we know at present is that Ben Costley was a free black, born in Illinois, and first appears on record in the 1840 U.S. Census as a head of household in Tazewell County, where he and Nance married on 15 Oct. 1840.
As I mentioned above, generally speaking Heerman’s work seems to make for a compelling study of the way slavery perdured in Illinois despite laws banning it — and he rightly and very helpfully places the story of Nance Legins-Costley in its broader historical context. However, Heerman’s fact errors and misinterpretation of primary documents regarding the story of Nance and her family (matters with which I have had occasion to become familiar), give us reason to be cautious and critical regarding his treatment of historical examples elsewhere in his book.
Last week we reviewed the history of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, which was the State of Illinois’ African-American regiment during the Civil War. As we noted then, 11 men from Tazewell County served in the 29th U.S.C.I., eight of them from Pekin – and five of them were present with their regiment at the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas.
This week we’ll take a closer look at one of those 11 – namely, Thomas Shipman of Co. D, a sharpshooter who gave his life for his country during the Appomattox Campaign in the Spring of 1865.
Longtime readers of this weblog may find Thomas Shipman’s surname to be familiar, because previously we have here told the story of Moses Shipman of Elm Grove Township, Tazewell County, an African-American employee of a white Revolutionary War veteran named David Shipman.
Was Thomas Shipman related to Moses? We cannot be absolutely sure, but it is very likely that Thomas was one of the sons of Moses Shipman. The reasons it is likely are: 1) Thomas’ Civil War service records say he was born in Pekin in or around 1841, which is the right period of time for Thomas to have been a son of Moses, and 2) there was only one African-American Shipman family living in Tazewell County at that time.
Further information about Thomas can be gleaned from U.S. Census records and Peoria County records.
Thomas first appears on record in the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 15 Aug. 1850, which show “Thos. G. L. Shipman,” age 16, “mulatto” (i.e., of black and white ancestry), living in the household of Harvey Green, 40, laborer, and Mary Ann Green, 27. Also living in this household were George W. Lee, 5, Juliett Lee, 4, Richard Toombs, 41, Charles W. Shipman, 23, and David Shipman, 24.
This census record is significant, because it provides additional information that supports the identification of Thomas Shipman as a son of Moses Shipman of Tazewell County. To begin with, Charles W., David, and Thomas were almost certainly brothers. Next, court records located by Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society show that Moses Shipman had a children named Mary Ann and David, who must be the David Shipman found in this census record.
Another indication that Charles, David, and Thomas were brothers in the same family is that they were living with Mary Ann Green, who is known from marriage records to have been a Shipman as well. Tazewell County marriage records show that Mary Ann Shipman married a certain James Lee on 12 July 1843. Thus, George W. Lee and Juliett Lee of this census record must be the children of Mary Ann by James Lee. By the time of the 1850 census, though, Mary Ann was remarried to Harvey Green, for her first husband James perhaps had died. Mary Ann and Harvey later had a daughter Alice Green, as shown in the 1860 census (by which time Mary Ann had again remarried to Charles Granby, as shown by Tazewell County marriage records).
As an interesting aside, Mary Ann’s son George W. Lee later married Mary Jane Costley, daughter of Benjamin and Nance (Legins) Costley of Pekin and sister of Pvt. William Henry Costley of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. George himself also served in a colored regiment during the Civil War, but in George’s case he ended up being assigned to the 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, Co. H. So, our Pvt. Thomas Shipman was related to the Costleys of Pekin.
Thomas was also related by marriage to the Ashbys of Liverpool Township, Fulton County, who provided four men to the 29th U.S.C.I. Peoria County marriage records show that David Shipman, who was almost certainly Thomas’ brother, married Elizabeth Ashby on 28 Jan. 1849. From available records on the Ashby family, it seems most probable that Elizabeth was a sister of Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. G., one of four Ashby men of Pekin who served in Co. G. Nathan himself was very probably a son of Fulton County’s first African-American physician, Dr. James Ashby (1808-1850).
After his enumeration in the 1850 U.S. Census, Thomas Shipman next appears in Peoria County marriage records, which show that on 27 June 1859, he married Martha Ann Powell, born circa 1840 in Indiana. Then the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 5 July 1860, show Thomas Shipman, 21, laborer, born in Illinois, with Martha A. Shipman, 20, born in Indiana, married within the year, and Franklin Shipman, 3 months old. Thomas, Martha, and Franklin are all classified as “mulatto” and unable to read or write. The 1863 Peoria City Directory lists Thomas as a laborer then residing at 77 S. Washington St.
When the call went out from President Abraham Lincoln a few years later for the states of the Union to organize regiments of colored troops during the Civil War, Thomas Shipman was one of the African-American men of Peoria and Tazewell counties who answered the call of duty. He registered for the draft in June 1863, and his Civil War service records show that he enlisted in the 29th U.S.C.I. on 21 Sept. 1864 at Springfield, being assigned to Co. D.
Thomas’ service records show that he was a sharpshooter, and was present for active duty with his regiment for the remainder of 1864 and the first months of 1865. He thus would have fought in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in Virginia in October of 1864, would have served on the Bermuda Hundred front and before Richmond, Va., and took part in the Appomattox Campaign in late March 1865.
Thomas then made the ultimate sacrifice, catching a bullet to his skull at a location near Hatcher’s Run on 31 March 1865. His name is engraved on the Tazewell County Veterans Memorial on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn.
It is not known whether Thomas was buried in Virginia where he fell, or if his body was brought back to his widow and son in Peoria. His widow Martha did apply for a Civil War pension on 12 May 1865, however.
With the approach of the Juneteenth holiday, it is a fitting time to recall the story of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, which was Illinois’ only African-American regiment during the Civil War.
The history of the 29th U.S.C.I. was researched in depth and published in 1998 by military historian Edward A. Miller Jr., whose book, “The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois,” is included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 Jan. 1863. Afterwards, he requested that four regiments of African-American men should be raised. Eventually, 300,000 soldiers in 166 “colored” regiments were raised for the Union Army.
At first, enlistment was slow because of low pay — and because it was expected that captured black soldiers would be badly treated by the Confederacy (as happened at Fort Pillow in Tennessee on 12 April 1864 – about 300 Colored Troops were murdered by the Confederate forces after they had surrendered.)
The War Department set up the Bureau for Colored Troops to determine which white soldiers to commission as officers for the new colored regiments. Non-commissioned officers and privates were African-American. At first there was a stigma attached to being a white officer in a colored regiment, but the prospect of rapid promotion overcame the stigma. Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass made a visit to Peoria to encourage enlistment in the Colored Troops.
The 29th United States Colored Infantry Regiment was organized at Quincy and mustered into federal service on 24 April 1864. Lieut. Col. John A. Bross of Chicago organized the regiment and became its commanding officer. Bross formerly commanded Co. A of the 88th Illinois Infantry and was a veteran of the Battle of Stones River. His brother was a Chicago Tribune newspaper editor who later became lieutenant governor of Illinois. Because of his political connections, Bross endured mockery as not being a real soldier.
Ten companies were organized: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and K. The original captain of Co. B was Hector H. Aiken and the original captain of Co. G. was William A. Southwell.
In brief, the history of the 29th U.S.C.I. was: 1) Ordered to Annapolis, Maryland, 27 May 1864, and from there to Alexandria, Virginia; 2) Attached to the defenses of Washington, D.C., 22nd Corps, until June 1864; 3) 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, 9th Corps, Army of the Potomac, until Sept. 1864; 4) 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Corps until Dec. 1864; and 5) 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 25th Corps, and Dept. of Texas, until Nov. 1865.
Here is a more detailed service record and list of the 29th U.S.C.I.’s battles and engagements:
Duty at Alexandria, Virginia, till 15 June 1864. Moved to White House, Virginia, thence to Petersburg, Virginia.
Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond 19 June 1864 to 3 April 1865.
Explosion, Petersburg, 30 July 1864 – Battle of the Crater, a debacle with Union losses of 504 killed, 1,881 wounded, 1,413 missing or captured; Lieut. Col. Bross and Capt. Hector Aiken were both killed. The 29th U.S.C.I. alone suffered two officers and 38 enlisted men killed, four officers and 53 enlisted men wounded, and 33 enlisted men captured.
Weldon Railroad, Aug. 18-21.
Poplar Grove Church, Sept. 29-30, and Oct. 1.
Hatcher’s Run, Oct. 27-28.
On the Bermuda Hundred front and before Richmond till April 1865.
Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9. Present at the Surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Duty in the Dept. of Virginia till May.
Moved to Dept. of Texas May and June, and duty on the Rio Grande till November.
Mustered out 6 Nov. 1865.
The regiment lost during its service three officers and 43 enlisted men who were killed and mortally wounded and 188 enlisted men by disease – for a total of 234.
One of the most remarkable episodes in this regiment’s history is that it was present at the first Juneteenth. How that came about is that after Lee’s surrender, the South in general, and Texas in particular, needed occupational forces. Union soldiers were eager to go home, but many in the Colored Troops were willing to stay on the payroll.
Gen. Meigs, quartermaster, still had over 3,000 supply ships, so he put to sea the largest amphibious operation of the war, sending 30,000 troops of the 13th and 25th Corps to the Rio Grande. The port of Galveston surrendered June 5. The 28th Indiana, 29th Illinois, and the 31st New York units of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division USCT arrived at Galveston Bay on June 18.
The white units of 34th Iowa, 83rd and 114th Ohio and 94th Illinois all arrived within a few days. Over 6,000 men landed within a week, and the racial makeup of the soldiers in Galveston on Juneteenth 1865 was about half black and half white.
Pekin and Tazewell County provided 11 men to the 29th U.S.C.I., five of whom were present at Juneteenth. Those men are listed below, with the names of the Juneteenth eyewitnesses in boldface:
William Henry Costley, son of Benjamin and Nance Costley, of Pekin, Co. B
Edward W. Lewis, of Peoria, formerly of Pekin (married Bill Costley’s sister Amanda in Pekin in 1858), unassigned (served as an Army cook).
William Henry Ashby, of Pekin, Co. G
Marshall Ashby, of Pekin, Co. G
Nathan Ashby, of Pekin, Co. G
William J. Ashby, of Pekin, Co. G, fell sick 27 March 1865, in hospital most of the rest of his term of service, mustered out 6 Nov. 1865.
Thomas Shipman, of Pekin, Co. D, a sharpshooter, killed in the line of duty 31 March 1865 during the Appomattox Campaign. (Miller, p.148, says Shipman was killed 30 March 1865, but his service file says 31 March.)
George H. Hall, of Pekin, Co. B, fell sick 18 May 1865, in hospital most of the rest of his term of service, mustered out 6 Nov. 1865.
Wilson Price, of Elm Grove Township, military records do not list his company, or mention when or how his service ended.
Thomas M. Tumbleson, of Elm Grove Township, Co. B, discharged 30 Sept. 1865 at Ringgold Barracks, Rio Grande, Texas.
Morgan Day, of Elm Grove Township, Co. G, fell sick 27 March 1865, died of dysentery 6 Sept. 1865 in New Orleans, buried in Chalmette National Cemetery, Louisiana.
The four Ashby men from Pekin are mentioned by Miller on p.118 of his book. Morgan Day was an uncle of most of the Ashby men of Pekin through his mother Rachel. Thomas Shipman also was related to the Ashbys through his brother David Shipman’s marriage to Elizabeth Ashby, who was very probably a sister of Nathan Ashby. Miller again mentions Nathan Ashby on p.201, where he describes Nathan’s life after the war:
“Pvt. Nathan Ashby, one of several solders of that family from Peoria County, Illinois, was living largely on the pension he received in 1892 for rheumatism and lung disease. In a normal review by doctors employed by the pension bureau, his pension was discontinued in 1895 because Ashby was found to be able to perform manual labor. Although restored on appeal, Ashby suffered much without the income, and, when he died in 1899, he left his wife ‘two old mules’ and no other property.”
As related in previous posts here, the Ashby family was from Fulton County but later moved to Tazewell and Peoria counties. Nathan himself moved from Pekin to Bartonville, and was buried in the defunct Moffatt Cemetery in Peoria. As Miller tells in his book, Nathan Ashby’s hard life of poverty after the war was shared by almost all of his fellow soldiers of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry.
Most recently we included a short biography of Bill Costley in our extended account of the known ancestors and descendants of Nance Legins-Costley. Thanks to a recent genealogical discovery, that account can be augmented by the addition of another wife for Bill Costley and a daughter who was born in 1881.
Previously it was known that Bill, along with most of the Costley family (including his parents), moved from Pekin to Peoria in the early 1870s. Peoria city directories list Bill (usually with his surname spelled “Cosley”) in 1873, 1875, and 1876, showing him working in various Peoria livery stables (for he was a hostler and horse trainer). After 1876, Bill disappears from Peoria and is later found in Davenport, Iowa, where in 1883 he married a white woman named Margaret A. “Maggie” Hartman.
Bill and his wife Maggie appear in the 1885 Davenport City Directory, and are also enumerated together in the 1885 Iowa State Census, living at 320 Main St., Davenport. It is unknown if Bill and Maggie had any children, but in any case the following year Bill and Maggie separated and Bill moved to Minneapolis, Minn., where the 1887 city directory lists him as living at 212 S. 4th St. and working as a coachman. The next year, however, Bill succumbed to dementia and was committed to the state hospital in Rochester, where he died on 1 Oct. 1888 and was buried in the state hospital cemetery under the name of “William H. Crossley.”
Bill’s state hospital records say he had “some” children, but until now we did not know who they were. Now we know the name and date of birth of one of them.
Her birth record gives her name as “Emma Cosley.” She was born 20 July 1881 in Davenport, Iowa, and the birth record says her parents were “Wm Cosley,” 49, horse trainer, born in Pekin, Illinois, and “Mary Rebecca Cosley,” 29, maiden name “Webster,” born in Cincinnati, Ohio. The record says both of Emma’s parents were “black.” Emma was born at home, 215 Rock Island St., Davenport, Iowa, and she was her mother’s fifth child.
From the information in Emma’s birth record, I was able to find her parents in the 1880 U.S. Census, a year before Emma’s birth. The census record shows them living in Davenport, Iowa, in a boarding house. They were not yet married at the time, and Bill’s name is seven lines above Rebecca’s. Bill is listed under the garbled name “William Causby,” 46, horse trainer, born in Illinois, while Rebecca is listed as “Becky Webster,” 27, born in Iowa (apparently an error for “Ohio”).
I have not yet found a marriage record for Bill and Becky, but considering the date of birth of their daughter Emma, they probably married sometime in the latter half of 1880. As for Becky’s earlier history, it is probable that she is the “Rebecca Webster,” age 9, born in Ohio, the only black person in the white household of John D. and Mary W. Harris of Davenport, Iowa, enumerated in the 1856 Iowa State Census. So far I have found nothing else about Becky’s life prior to the 1880 U.S. Census.
I have also not yet been able to trace Emma Cosley’s life after her birth in July of 1881. The fact that Bill remarried to Maggie Hartman in 1883, just two years after Emma’s birth, indicates that either Becky had died by then, or perhaps Bill and Becky separated and divorced. If the latter, then it is possible that Becky later remarried, and her daughter Emma could have grown up bearing the surname of a step-father.
Since the 1890 U.S. Census records are unavailable (destroyed in a fire), if Emma grew to adulthood then it is likely that the next available record of her would be from the latter 1890s or from the 1900 U.S. Census, by which time Emma would likely be recorded with her married name.
For these reasons, it will be somewhat of a challenge to try to find further information about Emma Cosley. Even so, it is a welcome discovery finally to know the name of one of Pvt. Bill Costley’s children. In addition, these new discoveries show that Bill was living in Davenport by the time of the 1880 U.S. Census. This reduces the gap in the record of his life by three years – from 1876-1883 down to 1876-1880.
UPDATE — 12 Feb. 2022:
Further research on Emma Cosley has uncovered more information about her, including her full name, place of residence as a young woman, and her date of death and place of burial.
The key to tracking down more information about Emma Cosley was to identify the father of the four older children of Emma’s mother Mary Rebecca (Webster) Cosley of Davenport, Iowa. It is now known that Rebecca married an African-American named Charles H. Marshall on 28 Feb. 1867 in Davenport. Rebecca and Charles had four children, but it seems two of them died in infancy and their names are unknown. Their two other children were daughters named Anna Ella Marshall, born circa 1867, and Martha Margaret “Mattie” Marshall, born in Jan. 1869. On 13 May 1886, Anna Ella married Davenport saloon-keeper Linsey Pitts (1845-1913), a former slave who fought in the Union Army’s 60th Missouri Colored Troops during the Civil War. Rebecca and Charles became estranged and apparently divorced circa 1880, but later Iowa census records and city directories show that Rebecca kept or went back to her married named Marshall after she gave birth to Emma Cosley.
Emma was enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census in the household of her mother Rebecca (Webster) Marshall. Emma’s older sister Mattie Marshall was also living with them at the time. Interestingly, however, Emma is not listed in that record under the name “Emma Cosley,” but rather under the name “Nancy Marshall.” The record’s age and date and place of birth for “Nancy Marshall” line up with Emma’s known date and place of birth — and Rebecca (Webster) Marshall certainly gave birth to no other daughter at that time. It seems, then, that Emma’s full name was “Nancy Emma Cosley-Marshall” (which means she likely was named after her paternal grandmother Nance Legins-Costley). Since Emma’s father Bill had remarried to Maggie Hartman by 1883, and then had moved to Minnesota in 1886, where he died in 1888, it is probable that Nancy Emma never knew her father. She then would have been raised by her mother under her mother’s married name of Marshall rather than Cosley or Costley.
Sadly, Nancy does not seem ever to have married or had children. The Davenport death register shows that she died at the age of 22 (sic – she was 21) on New Year’s Day, 1 Jan. 1903, and was buried the next day in Oakdale Cemetery (now Oakdale Memorial Gardens), in Lot 145. Her newspaper obituary says:
“At her home, 330 West Fifth street, occurred the death of Nancy Marshall, a young colored woman, at the age of 22 years. She is survived by her mother, residing in Chicago, and two sisters, one in Clinton and one in West Superior, Wis. The funeral was held yesterday afternoon from the Boies undertaking rooms, with interment at Oakdale cemetery.”
We continue now with the genealogical account of the descendants of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892), known to history as the first African-American slave to be freed by Abraham Lincoln. The account below covers Nance’s children and their known children.
Amanda E. Costley, eldest child of Benjamin and Nance Costley, b. 3 July 1834 in Pekin, Ill., d. 5 Feb. 1900 in Peoria, Ill., cause of death: heart disease, dropsy and bronchitis; m. 24 March 1858 in Pekin, Pvt. Edward W. Lewis (son of Ambrose and Phillis Lewis), b. c.1831 in Petersburg City, Va., d. 1 April 1907 in Peoria, cause of death: dropsy; both Amanda and Edward were buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria (no grave markers). They had issue five sons, and also adopted a dau. Edward was a tobacconist and a cook. During the Civil War, Edward volunteered for the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry and served as a cook for the regiment. After Amanda’s death, Edward m. 2nd. (her 3rd. m.) 15 April 1903 in Peoria, Mary Victoria (Morgan) (Harper) Cornish (dau. of George and Mary Morgan), b. 25 Dec 1854 in Paris, Mo., d. 9 March 1927 in Peoria; buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria.
Margaret (‘Maggie’) Butcher-Lewis, b. 1858 in Mo. (biological dau. of (NN) and Phillis (Lewis) Butcher, d. unknown, m. c.1875 (NN), b. in Ky. She and her unknown husband had issue two sons. Margaret first appears as Margaret Butcher, age 1, in the 1860 U.S. Census for St. Louis with her mother Phillis, her maternal grandparents Ambrose and Phillis Lewis, and other relatives incl. Amanda (Costley) Lewis. “Maggie Lewis,” age 11, appears in the 1870 U.S. Census in the household of her uncle and aunt Edward and Amanda Lewis. She again appears in the 1880 U.S. Census with Edward and Amanda and their sons in Peoria, at which time she is listed as divorced, and as the adopted dau. of Edward and Amanda.
Edward W. Lewis Jr., b. June 1859 in Ill., d. 24 Jan. 1912 in Peoria, Ill., cause of death: tuberculosis; buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 1st. Nancy Waillis, b. c.1863, with issue one daughter; m. 2nd. 1893 Emma (NN), b. April 1862 in Ill. Edward was a musician. His 2nd wife Emma survived him.
William Henry Lewis, b. 6 Jan. 1961 in Pekin, Ill., d. 21 April 1926 in Peoria, Ill., burial in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 30 Nov. 1890 in Peoria, Ill., Emma Belle Turner, dau. of William and Ellen Turner, b. c.1872 in Ill., d. in or after 1928 prob. in Peoria, with issue one daughter and one son. Henry was a house painter and a wallpaper man.
Ambrose E. Lewis, b. 1863 in Ill., d. 4 Dec. 1937 in Peoria, burial in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 1st. 3 Oct. 1883 in Peoria, Ill., Anna Blumb, dau. of Peter B. and Eva Blumb of Peoria, b. 14 June 1861 in Peoria, d. 23 Jan. 1907 perhaps in Utah, issue if any unknown; m. 2nd. (her 3rd. m.) 14 June 1903 in Snohomish, Wash., Catherine Elizabeth (‘Kate,’ ‘Kathleen’) (Hunt) McKeal, dau. of Frank Stephen (“Frank Jr.”) and Rosella Lydia (Kirven) Hunt of Portland, Mich., b. 2 Sept. 1867 in Marquette, Mich., d. 19 Sept. 1935 in San Francisco, Calif., buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Colma, Calif. Ambrose and Kate had issue two daughters, but later divorced and Ambrose returned to Peoria by 1917. Ambrose was a musician. In the 1910 U.S. Census, Ambrose is enumerated as the head of a household in Tacoma, Wash., that included his cousin Jess B. Brandon (see below).
Jesse Lewis, b. 1867 in Ill., d. 15 Nov. 1877 in Peoria, Ill., buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria.
John Thomas Lewis, b. 12 June 1870 in Pekin, Ill., d. 14 June 1936 in Peoria, Ill., buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 7 Oct. 1893 in Peoria, Ill., Ida Jackson, b. Dec. 1868 in Ill., dau. of Jacob Jackson. John and Ida had no issue, and were divorced by the time of the 1900 U.S. Census. John worked as a whitewasher and a commission driver.
Pvt. William Henry (‘Bill’) Costley, eldest son of Benjamin and Nance Costley; b. c.1840 in Pekin, Ill., d. 1 Oct. 1888 at Rochester State Hospital, Rochester, Minn.; buried in Rochester State Hospital Cemetery under name “William H. Crossley”; m. c. 1880 prob. in or near Davenport, Iowa, Mary Rebecca (Webster) Marshall, b. July 1847 in Cincinnati, Ohio, d. unknown, ex-wife of Charles H. Marshall of Davenport, Iowa; had issue one dau.; m. 18 Oct. 1883 in Davenport, Iowa, Margaret A. (‘Maggie’) Hartman, dau. of Joseph H. and Mary Jane (Cox) Hartman b. c.1857 in Plymouth, Hancock Co., Ill.; issue of this m., if any, unknown. Pvt. William H. Costley was born in Pekin at 212 Amanda St. Under Illinois law at the time, he was considered an “indentured servant” from his birth because his mother was then classified as an indentured servant. His freedom was secured with his mother Nance and older sisters Amanda and Eliza Jane by the 1841 case of Bailey vs. Cromwell, argued before the Ill. Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln. Bill registered for the Union Civil War draft in June 1863. He enlisted in 19th Illinois Colored Infantry, Co. B, on 21 Sept. 1864 at Springfield, Ill.; was hit in the shoulder by shrapnel 1 April 1865; was present 19 June 1865 at the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas; mustered out at Ringgold Barracks, Rio Grande City, Texas, on 30 Sept. 1865. Bill is found on the permanent memorial to the U.S. Colored Soldiers Monument in Washington, D.C., twice — as ‘W.H. Corsley’ from the Adjutant General’s Report and ‘W.H. Crossley’ from a correction on his closed Pension File in the National Archives. Bill shot and killed Patrick Doyle 29 Nov. 1870 in Pekin to stop Doyle from beating his wife to death; indicted for murder but acquitted 24 Dec. 1870. He is listed in Peoria City Directories 1873-1876 as a hostler in Peoria livery stables. Bill moved to Davenport, Iowa, in the 1880s; filed for Civil War pension as an invalid 13 Oct. 1884; moved to Minneapolis, Minn., in April 1886. He was admitted 19 April 1888 to Rochester State Hospital, Rochester, Minn., where he died the night of 1 Oct. 1888. Hospital records say he was then separated from his wife and that he had “some” children, but only one of children has been identified.
Nancy Emma Costley-Marshall, b. 20 July 1881 in Davenport, Iowa, d. 1 Jan. 1903 in Davenport, Iowa, buried 2 Jan. 1903 in Oakdale Memorial Gardens, Davenport. Her birth record calls her “Emma Cosley,” but in the 1900 U.S. Census she is listed with her mother Rebecca and half-sister Mattie Marshall under the name of “Nancy Marshall.” She was probably named after her paternal grandmother Nance. It appears that Nancy Emma never married or had any children.
Mary Jane Costley, 3rd. dau. of Benjamin and Nance Costley; b. c.1842 in Alton, Ill., d. unknown, m. 1st. 25/28 Dec. 1866 in Tazewell Co., Ill., Pvt.George W. Lee, son of (NN) and Mary Ann Lee, b. c.1845 in Peoria, Ill., d. prob. by 6 July 1870 U.S. Census, no known issue, served in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry during the Civil War; Mary Jane m. 2nd. (also his 2nd m.) 2 Jan. 1873 in Peoria Co., Ill., Joseph Brandon of Peoria, b. c. 1837 in Virginia, and had issue two sons; Mary Jane m. 3rd. (his 1st. m.) 22 Feb. 1881 in Peoria, Ill., William Johnson of Peoria, son of Ed and Nancy (Apperatha) Johnson, b. c.1848 in Virginia, no known issue; Mary Jane m. 4th. (his 2nd. m.) 3 Jan. 1887 in Peoria, Ill., Benjamin B. Miller of Washington, Ill., son of Wiatt and Mina Miller, b. c.1819 in Kentucky, no known issue.
Jesse B. (‘Jess’) Brandon, b. c.1876 in Peoria, Ill., d. unknown; m. 1st. (NN); m. 2nd. 22 Aug. 1902 in Spokane, Wash., Susie Peone, b. c.1882 in Spokane, Wash., d. 17 Aug. 1903 in Seattle, Wash.; no issue. Susie is identified in the marriage record as an American Indian. She died of tuberculosis. Jesse m. 3rd. by 1915 prob. in Washington State, Amelia Thompson, b. c.1891 in Kansas, dau. of Bill and Hannah Thompson. Issue, if any, unknown. Jesse worked variously as a laborer, janitor, and smelter. In the 1910 U.S. Census, Jess is enumerated in the household of his cousin Ambrose E. Lewis in Tacoma, Wash.
Lulu Brandon, b. c.1878 in Ill., d. unknown. Lulu is enumerated in the 1880 U.S. Census as “male,” but “Lulu” is usually a feminine name, so that may be an error. No other record.
Margaret (‘Maggie’) Butcher-Lewis, adopted dau. of Edward W. and Amanda E. (Costley) Lewis, b. 1858 in Mo., d. unknown, m. c.1875 (NN), b. in Ky. She and her unknown husband had issue two sons. Maggie, age 11, appears in the 1870 U.S. Census with her adoptive parents and brothers in Peoria, Ill. She again appears in the 1880 U.S. Census with her adoptive parents and brothers in Peoria, at which time she is listed as divorced.
Abraham L. (‘Abram’) Lewis, b. Sept. 1876 in Kentucky, d. unknown; appears in Peoria City Directories 1898-1938; enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census in the household of his uncle Edward W. Lewis Jr. in Peoria, when he and his brother Douglas worked as barbers. For much of his adult life, Abraham was a driver or teamster for The Leisy Brewing Co. in Peoria. No other information. It is probable that Abraham was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.
Douglas W. Lewis, b. Aug. 1879 in Kentucky, d. unknown; enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census in the household of his uncle Edward W. Lewis Jr. in Peoria, when he and his brother Abraham worked as barbers. No other information.
Edward W. Lewis Jr., eldest son of Edward W. and Amanda E. (Costley) Lewis, b. June 1859 in Ill., d. 24 Jan. 1912 in Peoria, Ill., cause of death: tuberculosis; buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 1st. Nancy Waillis, b. c.1863, with issue one daughter; m. 2nd. 1893 Emma (NN), b. April 1862 in Ill. Edward was a musician, and also worked as a whitewasher. He lived at 521 Hale St., Peoria. His 2nd wife Emma survived him.
Child of 1st. m.:
Maud Lewis, b. 1884 in Peoria, Ill., d. 10 May 1887 in Peoria, Ill.; buried in Moffatt Cemetery, Peoria.
William Henry Lewis, son of Edward W. and Amanda E. (Costley) Lewis, b. 6 Jan. 1961 in Pekin, Ill., d. 21 April 1926 in Peoria, Ill., burial in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 30 Nov. 1890 in Peoria, Ill., Emma Belle Turner, dau. of William and Ellen Turner, b. c.1872 in Ill., d. in or after 1928 prob. in Peoria, with issue one daughter and one son. Henry was a house painter and a wallpaper man.
Lillian Dollie Lewis, b. 1893 in Peoria, Ill., died 23 Aug. 1903 in Peoria, Ill., buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria.
William Cecil Lewis, b. 6 March 1895 in Peoria, Ill., d. 19 Oct. 1934; pursued a science degree at Bradley Polytechnic, Peoria, 1916-1917; served in U.S. military during World War I from 29 June 1918 to 12 Jan. 1919; enumerated in 1920 census with his parents in Peoria, working as a musician; again a musician in 1922 Peoria City Directory; a paperhanger in 1932 Peoria City Directory. Unknown if ever married or had issue.
Ambrose E. Lewis, son of Edward W. and Amanda E. (Costley) Lewis, b. 1863 in Ill., d. 4 Dec. 1937 in Peoria, burial in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria; m. 1st. 3 Oct. 1883 in Peoria, Ill., Anna Blumb, dau. of Peter B. and Eva Blumb of Peoria, b. 14 June 1861 in Peoria, d. 23 Jan. 1907 perhaps in Utah, issue if any unknown; m. 2nd. (her 3rd. m.) 14 June 1903 in Snohomish, Wash., Catherine Elizabeth (‘Kate,’ ‘Kathleen’) (Hunt) McKeal, dau. of Frank Stephen (“Frank Jr.”) and Rosella Lydia (Kirven) Hunt of Portland, Mich., b. 2 Sept. 1867 in Marquette, Mich., d. 19 Sept. 1935 in San Francisco, Calif., buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Colma, Calif. Ambrose and Kate had issue two daughters, but later divorced and Ambrose returned to Peoria by 1917. Ambrose was a musician.
Madeline Lewis, b. 13 March 1901 in Saratoga, Carbon Co., Wyoming, d. unknown; m. 1st. 21 March 1919 in Portland, Ore., Chester E. Marabetta, b. 10 Feb. 1899, in Portland, Ore., d. unknown; issue one son; m. 2nd. by 2 April 1930 in Washington State Elmer Marshall Moore, b. 26 May 1893 in Kelso, Wash., d. 5 Dec. 1985 in Vancouver, Wash.; no issue from this marriage; Madeline is last seen in 1940 U.S. Census living with her son in Reno, Wash.; Elmer later m. 2 Oct. 1943 in Mason Co., Wash. (but cohabited with her as early as 1940 U.S. Census), Mabel Mae Hunter, b. 23 Sept. 1892 in Lanark, Ontario, Canada, d. 11 Jan. 1981, buried in Yale Memorial Cemetery in Ariel, Wash.
Evelyn Emma Lewis, b. 7 Feb. 1903 in Spokane, Wash., d. 21 Feb. 1978 in San Mateo, Calif., buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, San Mateo, Calif., m. 1st. 12 Nov. 1918 in Everett, Wash., Elmer Chester Larson, m. c.1900, d. 1952, buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Portland, Ore.; no issue of this marriage; m. 2nd. 27 Jan. 1930 in Chehalis, Wash., John Lee Edwards, b. 14 July 1905 in San Francisco, Calif., d. 14 May 1966 in San Mateo, Calif., buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, San Mateo, Calif.; issue one son.
This week “From the History Room” will commence a systematic genealogical account of the family of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892), known to history as the first African-American slave freed through the agency of Abraham Lincoln. As we have noted in previous posts at this blog, Nance and her husband Benjamin Costley (c.1812-1883) are known to have had five daughters and three sons. This account of Nance’s family begins with her parents and siblings, and we then will proceed from Nance herself through the generations down to our own generation.
Randol Legins, b. c.1772 in Laurens Co., S.C., d. c.1817 in Ill.; m. Anachy (‘Annica,’ ‘Anne’), b. c.1774 in Laurens Co., S.C. Randol and Anachy brought to Ill. 13 Apr. 1810 by their master Nathaniel Green, who then placed Randol under a 16-year contract of indenture and Anachy under a 25-year contract of indenture. Green and his servants lived at Green’s Old Ferry (Willard’s Ferry) in Union Co., Ill.
Ruben (‘Ruby’) Legins, b. c.1808 in Va., m. Elizabeth Hayse, b. c.1806 in N.C. Ruben and Elizabeth may be the R. F. Ligan, 41, and Elizabeth Ligan, 40, mulattos, in the 18 Oct. 1850 census returns for Sumter, S.C., listed with mulatto children Ann E. Ligan, 12, James R. Ligan, 5, Eliza J. Ligan, 2, along with James Hayse, 80, mulatto (prob. Elizabeth’s father).
Charles Legins, b. c.1809 in Cape Girardeau, Louisiana Territory (later Mo.). Circa 1813, at the sale of Nathaniel Green’s estate, John Earthman purchased the contract of Green’s indentured servant Charles Legins, 4, for $220, separating him from his parents and his brother Ruben.
Nance Legins, b. Dec. 1813 in Kaskaskia, Randolph Co., Ill., d. 6 April 1892 in Peoria, Ill., buried in Moffatt Cemetery, Peoria. [See next]
Dice (‘Dicey’) Legins, b. c.1815 in Kaskaskia, Randolph Co., Ill.; m. 24 Aug 1835 in Sangamon Co., Ill., Major Cartwright. Dice Legins-Cox and her older sister Nance Legins-Cox, indentured servants (slaves) of Col. Thomas Cox, were auctioned 12 July 1827 in Springfield, Ill. Dice’s contract was purchased by Sangamon Co. Sheriff John Taylor.
Nance Legins, daughter of Randol and Anachy Legins; b. Dec. 1813 in Kaskaskia, Randolph Co., Ill., d. 6 April 1892 in Peoria, Ill.; m. 15 Oct. 1840 in Pekin, Ill., Benjamin Costley, b. c.1812 in Ill., d. 4 Dec. 1883 in Peoria; Nance and Benjamin both buried in Moffat Cemetery, Peoria. Records starting with the 1850 census consistently give Nance’s place of birth as Maryland, but Ill. Supreme Court document say she was born in the Illinois Territorial Capitol building in Kaskaskia – Nance prob. came to think she was born in Maryland when she was a child servant in Illinois working for Maryland natives. In addition, in the marriage records of some of her children, Nance’s maiden name is given as “Allen.” Nance’s surname changed several times as she went from master to master, but “Allen” may have been a name of Nance’s own choice. On 12 July 1827 in Springfield, Ill., Nance Legins-Cox and her sister Dice Legins-Cox, slaves of the late Col. Thomas Cox, were auctioned by John Howard – Nance was purchased by Nathan Cromwell for $151, but refused her consent to the contract of indenture and was punished severely. She then challenged her servitude in a habeas corpus hearing in 1827 and in the Ill. Supreme Court case Nance, A Girl of Color v. John Howard (Dec. 1828), but was ruled to be the ward and servant of Cromwell, who brought her to Pekin in 1829. Cromwell sold Nance to David Bailey of Pekin, of an abolitionist family, but when Nance protested that she had never consented to indentured servitude, Bailey allowed her to live as a free woman in her cabin off the southwest corner of his property at Amanda Street, and he declined to pay off the promissory note to the Cromwell estate after Cromwell’s death in 1836 since Nance said she was free. The Cromwell family sued Bailey in Circuit court in Cromwell v. Bailey (1838) and won, but Bailey appealed the ruling to the Ill. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Bailey v. Cromwell (1841), in which his attorney Abraham Lincoln argued successfully in favor of Nance’s freedom. In his 23 July 1841 ruling, Justice Sidney Breese affirmed Lincoln’s legal reasoning that stressed the language found in the Northwest Ordinance and the Illinois Constitution, that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist” in Illinois. This reinforced Illinois’ standing as a free state and helping to close the indentured servitude loophole by which the institution of slavery was allowed in Illinois. A year before her case went to the Ill. Supreme Court, Nance married Benjamin Costley of Pekin, a free black with whom she had already had two daughters, Amanda and Eliza Jane, and a son, William Henry. (In the marriage record, Nance’s name is given as “Nancy Cromwell.”) Because Illinois law then mandated that the children of an indentured servant also were indentured servants, Breese’s ruling secured the freedom not only of Nance but of her children. She and Ben went on to have three more daughters and two more sons. The Costleys lived in Pekin (where she was known to the white settlers as ‘Black Nance’) until the 1870s, when they moved to Peoria, where Ben died in 1883. Nance is found living with her youngest son James Willis Costley in Minneapolis, Minn., in the 1885 Minnesota State Census, but records afterwards show her living again in Peoria with her eldest child Amanda and Amanda’s husband Edward Lewis in an upstairs apartment at 226 N. Adams St., where Nance died in 1892. She and her husband Ben, and their son Leander, were buried in the defunct Moffatt Cemetery on the south side of Peoria.
Amanda E. Costley, b. 3 July 1834 in Pekin, Ill., d. 5 Feb. 1900 in Peoria, Ill., cause of death: heart disease, dropsy and bronchitis; m. 24 March 1858 in Pekin, Pvt. Edward W. Lewis (son of Ambrose and Phillis Lewis), b. c.1831 in Petersburg City, Va., d. 1 April 1907 in Peoria, cause of death: dropsy; both Amanda and Edward were buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria (no grave markers). They had issue five sons and also adopted a dau. After Amanda’s death, Edward m. 2nd. (her 3rd. m.) 15 April 1903 in Peoria, Mary Victoria (Morgan) (Harper) Cornish (dau. of George and Mary Morgan), b. 25 Dec 1854 in Paris, Mo., d. 9 March 1927 in Peoria; buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria.
Eliza Jane Costley, b. c.1838 in Pekin, Ill., d. unknown. Listed as “Eliza Jane Costley,” age 12, second daughter of Benjamin and Nancy Costley of Pekin, in the 12 Dec. 1850 U.S. Census. She may be the Eliza Jane “Castle” who m. 18 Aug. 1859 in Tazewell Co., Ill., Cornelius Sheridan.
Pvt. William Henry (‘Bill’) Costley, b. c.1840 in Pekin, Ill., d. 1 Oct. 1888 at Rochester State Hospital, Rochester, Minn.; buried in Rochester State Hospital Cemetery under name “William H. Crossley”; m. c. 1880 prob. in or near Davenport, Iowa, Mary Rebecca (Webster) Marshall, b. July 1847 in Cincinnati, Ohio, d. unknown, ex-wife of Charles H. Marshall of Davenport, Iowa; had issue one dau.; m. 18 Oct. 1883 in Davenport, Iowa, Margaret A. (‘Maggie’) Hartman, dau. of Joseph H. and Mary Jane (Cox) Hartman, b. c.1857 in Plymouth, Hancock Co., Ill., issue of this m., if any, unknown.
Mary Jane Costley, b. c.1842 in Alton, Ill., d. unknown, m. 1st. 25/28 Dec. 1866 in Tazewell Co., Ill., Pvt.George W. Lee, son of (NN) and Mary Ann Lee, b. c.1845 in Peoria, Ill., d. prob. betw. the 6 July 1870 U.S. Census and the date of Mary’s 2nd. m., no known issue; Mary Jane m. 2nd. (also his 2nd m.) 2 Jan. 1873 in Peoria Co., Ill., Joseph Brandon of Peoria, b. c. 1837 in Virginia, and had issue two sons; Mary Jane m. 3rd. (his 1st. m.) 22 Feb. 1881 in Peoria, Ill., William Johnson of Peoria, son of Ed and Nancy (Apperatha) Johnson, b. c.1848 in Virginia, no known issue; Mary Jane m. 4th. (his 2nd. m.) 3 Jan. 1887 in Peoria, Ill., Benjamin B. Miller of Washington, Ill., son of Wiatt and Mina Miller, b. c.1819 in Kentucky, no known issue.
Leander B. (‘Dote’) Costley, b. c.1845 in Pekin, Ill., d. 6 March 1886 in Peoria, Ill., cause of death: lung fever, buried in the defunct Moffatt Cemetery, Peoria, Ill.; unexecuted marriage license 2 June 1873 in Pekin, Tazewell Co., Ill., between Leander Costley and Eliza Haines; m. 8 July 1876 in Peoria, Ill., Sadie Chavers (or Chafers) of Peoria, prob. dau. of James W. and Louisa (Gaines) Chavers; but not married long, as by 8 June 1880 U.S. Census Leander was living alone and listed as single. Issue, if any, unknown. Living at 575 Hale St., Peoria, at time of death.
Harriet E. (‘Hattie’) Costley, b. c.1847 in Alton, Ill., d. unknown; m. 5 Feb. 1878 in Peoria, Ill., Richard H. Taylor, b. c.1852 in Jersey Co., Ill., son of John C. and Mary (Trokey) Taylor of Jerseyville, Ill.; issue, if any, unknown.
Eliza Ann (‘Annie’) Costley, b. April 1850 in Pekin, Ill., d. unknown; unknown if she ever married; enumerated in Pekin in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses, and in Peoria in the 1870 U.S. Census as single and a domestic servant in the home of her oldest sister Amanda and Amanda’s husband Edward Lewis.
James Willis Costley, b. Oct. 1852 in Pekin, Ill., d. unknown; m. prob. Mary [Smith?], b. c.1863 in Arkansas, prob. dau. of (NN) and Hannah Smith; James moved to Minneapolis, Minn., by the time of 29 May 1885 Minnesota State Census, in which “James Cosley” is listed with “Mary Cosley“ (apparently James’ wife), “Hannah Smith” (apparently Mary’s mother), and “Nancy Cosley” (James’ mother Nance); issue, if any, unknown; James last appears on record in the 1910 Minneapolis City Directory, working as a porter and living at 1325 S. 4th St.
It was two summers ago that “From the History Room” was the first to announce the recent discovery of the death record and the final resting place of Nance Legins-Costley (c.1813-1892), who is remembered as the first slave freed by Abraham Lincoln. We now know that Nance, along with her son Leander and probably her husband Benjamin also, was buried at the defunct Moffatt Cemetery that was located near the intersection of South Adams and Griswold streets in Peoria.
In the more than two years since Nance’s death and burial record was found in the Peoria County Undertaker Records, a group of interested volunteers has begun a project to create a special memorial to honor Nance Legins-Costley and the thousands of Peorians who were laid to rest at the former Moffatt Cemetery.
As regular readers of this weblog will recall, Nance came to Pekin in the 1820s as an indentured servant of Pekin co-founder Nathan Cromwell. Even though Illinois was nominally a free state, under Illinois law at the time slavery existed in the form of indentured servitude. However, the law stipulated that a person could not become an indentured servant against his will, and Nance vehemently and steadfastly maintained that she never agreed to be anyone’s slave.
Three times Nance sought relief from the courts, and the third time was a charm. In the case of Bailey vs. Cromwell, in July of 1841 Lincoln argued successfully before the Illinois Supreme Court convened at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Springfield that Cromwell never had legal title to Nance’s service and therefore Nance and her three children were free. Justice Sidney Breese issued the ruling confirming Nance’s freedom on July 23, 1841. It was a significant legal precedent that confirmed Illinois’ standing as a free state and led to the end of indentured servitude in Illinois.
As we have recalled several times here, Nance and her husband Benjamin Costley and their eight children lived in Pekin until circa 1870, when they moved to Peoria. After Ben’s death in 1883, Nance lived for a while with her youngest child James Willis Costley in Minneapolis, where her oldest son Bill also lived during the 1880s. After Bill’s death in 1888, however, we find Nance back in Peoria, living with her oldest child, Amanda (Costley) Lewis, with whom she spent her final years. Nance passed away at home on April 6, 1892, and was buried in old Moffatt Cemetery.
Nance Legins-Costley and her kin were among the approximately 2,500 people from the Peoria area who were buried in Moffatt Cemetery during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among those interred there were 48 Civil War veterans, including Pvt. Nathan Ashby, formerly of Pekin, an African-American who served in the U.S. Colored Troops and was an eyewitness of the first “Juneteenth” in Galveston, Texas, in 1865.
Moffatt Cemetery was founded by Peoria pioneer settler Aquilla Moffatt as early as 1836, but was closed in 1905 and fell to ruin, and finally was destroyed in the 1950s and the land rezoned to light industrial. Although many of Moffatt Cemetery’s burials were relocated, the vast majority apparently were left in situ, and today are paved or built over – forgotten for many decades, their burial records lost. Only the names of the Civil War veterans buried there were remembered.
In 2016, however, Bob Hoffer of the Peoria Historical Society and Peoria County Genealogical Society made a significant discovery in his search for the grave of his wife’s great-grandfather Mans Nelson – he found and photographed the crumbling pages of the old Peoria County Undertaker Records, which include information on which cemetery a person was buried in. Thanks to those records, we again know the names of most of the approximately 2,500 people who were buried at Moffatt Cemetery.
In 2020, Hoffer and other citizen volunteers launched a project to create a memorial park near the site of the former Moffatt Cemetery, where monuments and markers would be erected to ensure that the people buried at the cemetery are, in Hoffer’s words, “Forgotten no more.”
Besides Hoffer, the core members of the volunteer team are David Pittman, a Peoria area community activist, Peoria Park District advocate, and member of the Executive Committee of the Peoria Branch NAACP; Carl Adams, a Lincoln historian who literally wrote the book on Nance Legins-Costley; Joe Hutchinson, a member of the Peoria County Genealogical Society and Officer in the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War; and Bill Poorman, a writer and media producer and Lincoln enthusiast.
The core team invites other volunteers and allies to participate in and support the project as well.
Their proposal is to convert a small area of land at the northwest corner of South Adams and Griswold – just south of where the cemetery used to be – into “Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park.” At the park will be placed special monuments to memorialize the remarkable life of Nance Legins-Costley, the Union soldiers who were buried in Moffatt Cemetery, and all of the other everyday Peorians who were laid to rest there, some of whom never had a grave marker to help people remember them.
In addition, an Illinois State Historical Marker will be placed at the park, telling the story of Nance Legins-Costley and how she and her three eldest children, Amanda, Eliza Jane, and William Henry, were freed from slavery in 1841 with the assistance of Abraham Lincoln. No more will Nance lie forgotten under a parking lot.
At this point, the Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park project is approaching the point where it can begin fundraising for the park and the monuments. However, donations can now be made to pay for the Illinois State Historical Marker, which requires private funds to pay for the creation and setting of the marker. Checks for the marker may be mailed to:
Illinois State Historical Society Nance/Lincoln Project (on the memo line) P.O. Box 1800 Springfield, IL 62705-1800
For more information on the project, visit the website at www.peoriafreedompark.org, or the project’s Facebook page, “Peoria Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park”.
For those who were unable to attend Pekin’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration at the Pekin Public Library that was co-sponsored earlier this month by the Pekin YWCA Coalition for Equality along with the library, below is a link to the program presented by Jared Olar, the library’s local history specialist, telling the stories of four Pekin men — Pvt. William Henry Costley, Cpl. William Henry Ashby, Sgt. Marshall Ashby, and Cpl. Nathan Ashby — who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War and were eyewitnesses of the first Juneteenth in 1865. (Besides Pekin’s four Juneteenth eyewitnesses, a fifth Tazewell County volunteer for the Colored Troops, Thomas Marcellus Tumbleson of Elm Grove Township, was also present at the first Juneteenth.)
Before the Juneteenth program, Jared Olar was interviewed by WCBU Peoria Public Radio News Director Tim Shelley about the same subject. Quotes from that interview are included in the following WCBU news report at their website. Twenty-minutes of the interview aired on WCBU during the local news half-hour on Friday at 6 p.m. (the eve of Juneteenth) in the middle of the “All Things Considered” broadcast. Audio of the entire 45-minute interview is linked on the WCBU website immediately below this article: