To the Editor:
Enjoying your article, “Life on the Hill” [West Newsmagazine, Jan. 9] I noted a few inaccuracies. Fortunately, we have the Wildwood Historical Society [WHS], staffed by volunteers, preserving history of our area providing education and genealogical resources.
Daniel Boone [arrived in 1799, died in 1820] was not a contemporary of William West, whose obituary in the Watchman Advocate newspaper, dated April 27, 1894, states that he was 60 at the time of his death, born in 1834. It reports, “…he had acquired his own home” as African American land ownership of over 100 acres was a rarity and an amazing accomplishment.
Meramec Township Plat Map of 1878, available for purchase from the WHS, lists many towns including Chesterfield, hundreds of homes and businesses, but shows the two parcels of land still owned by “Nicholas Gabriel Long, et. al” as West purchased the property in 1879.
Adjacent parcels of land show “James Ellis and P. Winstone,” two free men of color, as owners. The book Early Churches of Meramec Township, also available at WHS, gives the history of them purchasing land, transferring 1 acre to the Colored African Baptist Church, providing one membership core of the future Union Baptist Church to the Antioch Baptist Church property.
Another obituary of May 18, 1882, details, “Death of one of Washington’s body servants at Eureka. Lydia Adams, an old colored lady, died … age of 113 years … a native of Virginia being born … in 1769 … At the age of over 100 years, she would wager that she could throw the best man in the township three out of five … a constant attendant in George Washington’s tent during the Revolutionary War and … related very frequently many incidents of the great statesman … also had in her possession presents given to her by him … the oldest resident in the state.”
Researching African American history, we witness great accomplishments often amid great adversity.