Uncovering History

Lisa Schumann

Genealogy paths sometimes cross in completely unexpected ways. Lisa Schumann, board member of the College Hill Historical Society and avid genealogy researcher, had a Eureka moment recently when, looking through records at the Campbell County, KY, courthouse, she came across a name that sounded familiar: Anthony Nelson. She’d heard that name before, and from the recesses of her memory dredged out the recollection that this name was among those in the Hamilton Avenue Road To Freedom story.


Arlette Merritt

 Arlette Merritt, vice-president of the Mt. Healthy Historical Society, had done family research years ago on the Nelson branch of her family, descended from the formerly enslaved Anthony and his wife Rebecca. Her family passed down stories of her ancestor Anthony’s life in early Mt. Healthy and his family’s role in harboring freedom seekers on their way to Canada. She didn’t know how they came to be in the southern Indiana township of York, Dearborn County, where they’re listed in the 1850 census as living with their grandchildren.
Lisa and Arlette Discussing the Nelsons

Lisa and Arlette Discussing the Nelsons

 Lisa presented Arlette with a copy of the 1815 court record of manumission that was the missing link–it appears that Anthony had been enslaved on the estate of  Hayden Nelson in Campbell County.
Anthony, who was born in 1785 in Virginia, may have spent some time in Cincinnati before moving to southern Indiana. Then sometime in the 1850s he moved with his family to then Mt. Pleasant (now Mt. Healthy), the center of a thriving Black community. Although we can’t be sure that this is the same Anthony Nelson, the circumstantial evidence is strong. Still, many questions remain: what happened to his children, who do not appear in the census records? Did Anthony buy his freedom, and what were the circumstances of his release from bondage? What drew Nelson to Mt. Healthy from Indiana? There are more pieces of the puzzle to recover, but this discovery of Nelson’s place of enslavement, and the date of manumission, is a piece that Arlette Merritt is delighted to have found.

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