Thursday, February 8, 2018

Huston Hollow Populated by Black Friday -- Lucasville Connections


Gus Hill at Huston (Houston) Hollow

The predominantly African-American community of Huston Hollow (Houston Hollow) was established in Scioto County, Ohio around 1830. It was located eight miles north of Portsmouth. A storied narrative known as Black Friday describes a forced expulsion of much of Portsmouth, Ohio's black population who fled north to take refuge and residence at Huston Hollow. The mass removal in 1831 accounted for much of the population of African-Americans in this now nonexistent community.

In order to understand conditions in Ohio in the early 1800s, one must consider that although slavery was not allowed in Ohio as part of the Constitution of 1803, Whites did not treat African-Americans as equals. A river crossing into this Free State did little to guarantee equality and even less to secure the free pursuit of happiness. Enduring prejudice and many forced hardships, Blacks led a perilous existence in Southern Ohio. For slaves, freedom was achieved in Canada, still hundreds of miles away.
Black Laws

As a result of these sentiments, as early as 1804, Ohio legislators had enacted so-called “Black Laws.” The Congress of the Buckeye state became the first legislative body in the country to enact such laws, intended to restrict the rights of free blacks. Two groups supported the measure: white settlers from Kentucky and Virginia, and a growing group of businessmen who had ties to southern slavery. All of them despised blacks. The legislation forced blacks and mulattoes to furnish certificates of freedom from a court in the United States before they could settle in Ohio. All black residents had to register with the names of their children by June 1, 1805. The registration fee was 12 and a half cents per name.

It became a punishable offense to employ a black person who could not present a certificate of freedom. Anyone harboring or helping fugitive slaves was fined $1,000, with the informer receiving half of the fine.

On January 25, 1807, the laws in Ohio were toughened. The registration law provided that, within twenty days of their entry into Ohio, African-Americans were required to enter into a five-hundred-dollar bond with two property holders and that these free-holders, if called upon, would be required to apply the funds to the welfare or liability of the emigrant. Other Black Laws barred African-Americans from enrolling in the militia, serving on juries, and attending public schools. The Black Laws remained in effect until 1849.

For evident reasons, the Black Laws and other policies deterred African Americans from settling in Ohio. Still, some did under great duress.
Black Friday

On Friday, January 21st, 1831, the following notice appeared in the city's paper, the Portsmouth Courier:

The citizens of Portsmouth are adopting measures to free the town of its colored population. We saw a paper, yesterday, with between one and two hundred names, including most of the house-holders, in which they pledged themselves not to employ any of them who have not complied with the law. The authorities have requested us to give notice that they will hereafter enforce the law indiscriminately."

According to historical accounts, eighty African American residents of the city were then expelled under the threat of enforcement of the Ohio "Black Laws." Accounts say “one hundred or two hundred householders in Portsmouth” signed a paper demanding the move.

These blacks were runaway slaves and their locally born sons and daughters, who for whatever reason, decided to stay in Portsmouth rather than seek freedom in Canada. Lacking proper papers, they were forcibly deported from town.

Nelson Evans, the author of A History of Scioto County, Ohio, called this deportation “Black Friday” in an account under the heading of “Relics of Barbarism.”

Evans' account reads: ”A Black Friday. On January 21, 1830, all the colored people in Portsmouth were forcibly deported from the town. They were not only warned out, but they were driven out. They were forced to leave their homes and belongings … The town authorities had been worked up to the point of agreeing to enforce the savage and brutal 'Black Laws' of Ohio.”

Historian Andrew Feight, Ph.D., confirms Black Friday was actually the second recorded expulsion of African-Americans from the area. He wrote ...
The earlier expulsion having been lost to time, overlooked by Evans, is to be found in the records of Wayne Township, where Portsmouth was located at the time. Here, one finds the story of the 'first negro exodus' in the minutes of the Township Trustees. At their meeting on the 2nd of March 1818, the Trustees authorized a special payment to Warren Johnson, the township's constable. The treasurer was ordered to pay him '$4.18 for the fees in warning out blacks and mulatto persons of the township….' At the time, enforcement of the 'Black Laws' fell to the local police force, the township constable.”

Many of the African-Americans took refuge in Huston Hollow. There is evidence that many established roots there. The community soon became a critical link in the Underground Railroad, which was extremely active in Scioto County. Entering Ohio from Kentucky at Portsmouth, slaves were brought across the Ohio River by riverboat under Captain William McClain. Oftentimes this conductor delivered his human cargo to J.J. Minor, an abolitionist, who would take them to the Lucas or Love families in Huston Hollow. Joseph Love and Dan Lucas, both African Americans, lived in Huston Hollow and were said to have been the most active operators at the station.

Then, the fugitives followed the Scioto River to Waverly and to the free black community called P.P. Settlement in Pebble Township. Pike County conductors moved them to Ross County usually through Bourneville to Frankfort and then west of Circleville. Finally, the fugitives would be taken north to Franklin County. Then, they took flight to Canada.

Huston Hollow remained small in size during its existence, averaging less than one hundred residents. By the mid 1900s, Huston Hollow had lost its identity as a separate community. With whites increasingly showing African Americans tolerance, many African Americans began to find acceptance in traditionally white communities.


Black Laws of 1807.” Ohio History Central.

Nelson Evans, the author of A History of Scioto County, Ohio, 1903.

Andrew Feight, Ph.D. "'Black Friday': Enforcing Ohio's 'Black Laws' in Portsmouth, Ohio.”

Andrew Feight, Ph.D. “The Origins of the African-American Community of Huston Hollow.”

Huston Hollow, Ohio Ohio History Central.,_Ohio.

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