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African Americans in the 1904 Boone County Recorder

Compiled for the African Americans in Boone County Project sponsored by Preservation Kentucky. All accounts from Boone County Recorder, Microfilm, Boone County Public Library, Boone County, Kentucky.

2 March 1904

  • A lively mix up is reported to have been a feature of the dance given by the colored folks here last Saturday night. Some of those who are said to have taken part in it were very much out of their place at the party, to say the least.

Compiler's Note (I believe) that there were whites attending the dance put on by blacks. On a personal level, poor whites & blacks had quite a bit in common, but it was not in the interests of well-to-do whites to see them cooperating or socializing (might end up voting together against the interests of those on the higher end of the economic scale).

19 October 1904

  • Petersburg, trial of Woody Hoffman, charged with throwing boulders through windows of T. B. Matthews & James and Ben Jarrell on the 8th of Oct. Many turned out. The defendant was released. The large crowd present…indicates the great interest the citizens of Petersburg are taking in the effort to ferret out the parties who stoned the residences mentioned above, and if expressions heard on the streets Monday are an indication, the guilty party or parties will be given the [supreme] penalty…of the law.

26 October 1904

  • Petersburg city meeting to discuss recent disturbances. Want to purchase bloodhounds & form secret committee (citizens won’t know who is a member). Those present expressed by vote a willingness to pay more in taxes to convict the disturbers of their peace.

Resolutions of the meeting: Whereas, certain persons, whether they live in town or in the country we do not know, have, by their unlawful acts, brought anxiety to some of our citizens, diverted to other places some of the business that might have come here, damaged some of our houses and caused a depreciation in the value of all of our property, therefore be it resolved:

  1. That every person in the community ought to feel, and to express on all proper occasions, the deepest indignation against those persons who have done us so much harm.
  2. That every person in the community ought to report to the city council whatever he knows that may help convict the guilty.
  3. That every person in the community ought to declare that he believes that the person who, under cover of darkness, annoys the people of Petersburg, should be punished so speedily that ‘he will not know who hit him’ and so severely that he will know, by an experience, not easily forgotten, the ‘the way of the transgressor is hard.’
  4. That we are DETERMINED that lawlessness shall cease in Petersburg. L. N. Early, Sec.

2 November 1904

  • J. Wood Hoffman (aka Woody) advertises he is selling stock, farming implements, farm produce, & kitchen furniture.

Compiler's Note It sounds like here, that Woody has done (or is highly suspected to have done) some of the damage in Petersburg but it can’t be proven by law so the community is taking its own justice on him. The article does seem to intimate that he is scaring people into moving (African Americans I would guess, but leaves it very vague how he, & possible others, have done that). It could be similar to the Dinsmore thing where he is damaging the property of those who employ African Americans & leaving notes behind – perhaps the rocks had notes attached to them . There is no direct reference to arson, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, although it wasn’t necessary if you are trying to scare people to death. I wonder where the arson part of the story came from.

J. Wood Hoffman to Charles Moore, Deed Book 47, p. 440, Microfilm, Boone County Public Library, Burlington, Kentucky. 13+ acres for $1200 cash, near Petersburg. Had received the land from J.H. Hoffman & wife, 19 April 1904. Woody signs with an “X”. This is clearly someone at the lower end of the economic scale, did not get much of an education, if any, & owned only a small parcel of land, which he probably got from his mother & father.

Others who sold land close by during the same time frame –

J. Frank Grant to Solon Early, p. 446, 27 October 1904; 2 lots for $25, described as “2 lots in Norris addition”. The Grant couple were living in MD, so I would guess these lots were being rented to African American families who wanted to get out of the area. Or could this be lots that were rented to whites who aided & abetted Hoffman? I would suspect the former because they are talking about an addition which may mean it is part of what whites called “Bucktown”. Grant is certainly willing to give the lots away for a very small sum of money – even back then, lots were usually worth at least $50 for taxation purposes, but perhaps two lots for $25 indicates they were part of “Bucktown”.

Margaret Schramm, Theresa & Charles Runk (Hamilton County) to Solon Early. On border of Hoffman land, 5 November 1904, for $450 (so this is a small parcel of land). Is Early benefiting too much from the upheaval? If so, what does that mean? Anyway, this could be land that was being rented to someone associated with Hoffman & the town wanted to get rid of them also.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration,, Provo, Utah. According to this census, Woody was the only son of John & Alice & was living with them in/near Petersburg in 1900. He was listed as twenty-five, but his father’s birth date (1862) doesn’t quite match up with that age. I am guessing Woody’s age is right but his father’s isn’t. Hoffman owned his farm free of debt & all three were born in Kentucky. His neighbors are Wm Stephens, John Berkshire, Mary Terrill, Smiths, and Elijah Grant. Interestingly, the family right before the Hoffmans, is Thos. Nettels (I think Nettles) and they are only renters (could be on the land owned by Schramm & the Runks). Julia Dinsmore had a Tom Nettles as a sharecropper on her farm I think in the 1880s/1890s. This could be the same one.

There were two James Jerrill’s in P-burg in 1900. One was on 3d & Grant Street, he & wife were both born in Kentucky, were childless and were in their fifties. He was a day laborer who was only employed seven of the last twelve months. The other was on Broadway & was a teamster. He & his wife were also childless & about ten years younger than the other couple. There were lots of Hoffman’s in P-burg. T. B. Matthews was the General Manager of the Distillery, had a 17 yr old daughter & wife, lived on Water St.

boone_county_recorder_1904.txt · Last modified: 2020/11/03 18:42 (external edit)