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From: <>
Subject: FW: Edward COLES (VA>IL) Manumitted his slaves July 4, 1819 1/4
Date: 15 Aug 1996 08:24:41 -0700


Hi all,

All of this info was taken from 3 sources: (Book): History of Madison County,
Illinois Published by W R Brink & Co., Edwardsville, IL; (Book) Centennial
History of Madison County, Illinois and its People 1812-1912 Edited and
Compiled by W.T. Norton, The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago & NY 1912; and
from a plaque in the hallway of the "Old Courthouse" in Edwardsville, IL
located at 1210 N Main St.

I work in Edwardsville and one day, while delivering a package, a plaque
caught my attention. I stopped to read it and was intrigued by the story of
Edward COLES and wanted to learn more about him. I have no link to IL other
than the fact that I now work there but, I hope this info will help someone
else to make a connection. I am still in the process of trying to locate the
names of all of the slaves manumitted by Edward COLES and when I do, I will
post that Information here as well. Hope you find this story as interesting
as I do!

1210 N. Main St. Edwardsville was the site of the first town Public Square.
Also located in the Square were the first jail, courthouse, clerks office,
land office, Indian Agency & Trading Post, stage coach route, hotels and
newspaper office.

This site (1210 N Main) was the location of the Donation Courthouse, so named
because its funding came mainly from donations. It was marked by the Illinois
State Historical society with these words: " Governor Coles & Slavery Site of
Courthouse where in 1824 political enemies convicted Governor Edward Coles of
illegally freeing his slaves."

Edward Coles was appointed first register of the Land Office by President
Monroe and was elected Governor of the state in 1822 from 4 candidates: 2
antislavery and 2 proslavery. While governor he was brought to trial for
freeing his slaves by a proslavery element. He was vindicated in 1827 when
the suit reached the IL state Supreme Court. Coles, who had come to IL from
VA had inherited 1000 acres and 25 slaves. His antislavery sentiments had
been strengthened thru correspondence on the subject with former President
Thomas Jefferson in 1814. It has been stated that
"No more notable letters than those passed between Jefferson and Coles exist
in the archives of antislavery literature." He is credited with keeping IL a
free state, donating his time, salary and much of his private fortune to the
cause. Not being able to free his slaves in his native state (VA), he chose
IL as his future home and Edwardsville as the place to free them. Freedom
papers were issued to his slaves in Edwardsville on July 4, 1819. Coles
bought homes and land for them in PIN OAK TOWNSHIP.

The Donation courthouse later became the Lincoln School for Negroes. Dates
as to the actual opening for the school vary but attendance statistics
confirm the existence of the school in 1877 when 29 children were in
attendance.

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