Cleveland Park

An Octoroon in Cleveland

The residents upon Prospect, Erie, and Huron streets and that vicinity may have frequently met in their walks, or seen pass their doors, a bright, intelligent, active little girl, with long, black curls, a complexion not yellow or brown, but a combination of pure black and white, she being always accompanied by a grave and dignified colored servant of perhaps 45 years of age. There is a family history connected with that little girl which will not be uninteresting.

The girl is an Octoroon, and the daughter of a very wealthy Mississippi planter, who has a plantation about ten miles from Natchez, where his family of slaves number about two hundred. This gentleman is now about 80 years old, and the girl about eleven. She was the daughter of a favorite slave of his, and he desired to have her well educated and bro’t up away from the influences of slavery, for, while he is a large slaveholder himself, he is not blind to the disadvantages under which she would necessarily undergo if she were to remain in a slave State. For several years she has lived in a separate establishment in Natchez devoted exclusively to her use.

This year her father concluded to send her to the North to be educated. Accordingly, in April last his agent came to Cincinnati in search of a favorable location. He was referred, by Cincinnati parties, to Rev. J.C.White of this city, and came to see him accordingly. Arriving here upon a Saturday, he made inquiries the next day for Mr. W.’s church, and attended service there in the evening. It so happened that the Reverend gentleman that evening preached upon slavery,and those acquainted with his style, need not be told that his bold and scathing denunciation of the system was not calculated to prejudice a Southerner in his favor. The agent listened for a time, and left the church in high dudgeon.

Not caring to go back, however, with his mission unfulfilled, he called upon Mr. White the next day and explained the object of his visit. It was recommended to him that the best plan would be for the girl to go to Oberlin, into some pleasant family, and pursue a course of study at the college. This, however, he agent would not hear to. He had been entrusted to provide for his charge a house for herself. After one or two consultations, and examination of several houses, one was purchased of Mr. Clark, the former owner, for $7,000. It is situated on Prospect Street, east of Erie, the grounds extending through to Huron street. A young lady in the interior of the State was sent for, and offered $600 if she would reside in the house and take general charge of the girl’s education and training. Being unwilling to do so, unless her parents could reside here and board the girl and herself, she was not engaged, and finally a daughter of Mr. White was engaged to attend to the educational department. Special instructions were given that thorough instruction should be given in the common branches and in music.

The agent returned to this city with the girl and her attendants about the first of June. The family consists of herself and five servants, from the homestead of her father; the eminently respectable man servant above spoken of, who attends to the commissions of his young mistress, to the garden, etc.., and accompanies her in her walks; a foster mother or housekeeper; a cook and two maids, girls of about ten and fourteen years. The name of the man servant appears upon the door.

The girl is quick to learn, and of a tractable, simple disposition, not at all spoiled by having been made the pet and delight of her father. An ample amount of money was deposited in the bank for her use, and apparently the whole household have an abundance of funds. The agent also invested $30,000 in her name, in Cincinnati property. Mr. White was requested to exercise a general guardianship over the family, and thus matters move on, smoothly and pleasantly.

Source

Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: Douglass’ Monthly
Date: September, 1860
Title: An Octoroon in Cleveland
Location: Rochester, New York

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