Milton had a number of intelligent and dependable colored people long before the Civil War. Prior to 1849 they had organized a church congregation, and that year they bought the old frame Broadway school building, and moved it eastward to near the top of the hill, repaired it, and held their church services there. This building was not burned in the Milton fire of 1880.
These pre-Civil War people were mostly descendants of early slaves who had been freed under the laws of the state. A few had escaped from the South.
Robert Hector, who lived with his family for many years in Turbotville, had been a slave of David Montgomery until he was freed. John Bond, who lived on Vine street in Milton, and George Hector, who always carried the flag in Grand Army parades, were his descendants.
Among our early colored people were John Moore, who conducted a butcher shop for many years: Bob Tokum (Topen), who lived along the canal below Broadway back of where the Deaner Apartments are now. His small frame house stood beside an immense willow tree, and here old Bob would sit and watch the canal boats and whatever traffic was on Broadway. He lived to be very old, and was a familiar figure with his snow-white hair and heavy cane. He and his wife raised Al White’s wife. Two greatly respected persons were Buford Powell and his wife, who worked for the Pollocks for a great many years. After Governor Pollock’s mother died, they continued to live with the Governor’s sister in the stone house which burned in the Milton fire. He was a very religious man and served as the colored preacher in the Broadway church.
Milton colored men who served in the Union Army were George Hector, John Carter, David Johnson, George Smith, Richard Carter, Patrick Henry, William H. Gant, and Albert White. Nearly all of these were northern born.
Al White was a popular Milton barber for many years. His shop was on Broadway and was patronized by many of Milton’s business and professional men. He was a stout man and had such a hearty laugh that all who heard him, laughed with him.
Billy Gant was hostler and driver for Dr. U. Q. Davis, and later for Cyrus Brown. His wife was a Hector.
Another well-known man was James Palmer (Dandy Jim), who had a barber shop in Milton before the Civil War, and in later years gave instructions on the banjo and guitar.
Among Milton’s colored people who had been slaves were:
John Hailstock, who had been a slave in Charlottesville, Virginia. He served in Company D, First United States Colored Troops, in the Civil War. For more than forty years he was hostler and driver for Dr. James P. McCleery. He finally went to the Soldiers Home in Washington, where he died.
Billy Marshall, who worked for the Chamberlin family for fifty-six years, had been a slave in Virginia, and as a boy of twelve had taken care of General Robert E. Lee’s famous war horse, “Traveler.”
“Granny” Henry had also been a slave. She usually smoked a clay pipe, talked to herself, wore a short blue calico dress and white apron, and always wore a sunbonnet and men’s shoes. Every day she walked up River Alley to Dougals’ or Watsons’, carrying a basket on her arm. She powwowed, and many a youngster whom she knew had warts removed from their hands by their faith in the magic of her voodoo powers. Colored people had implicit confidence in her healing ability, and she apparently wrought wonderful cures.
Rachel Holsten was an escaped slave. She had two children, but she determined to escape and try to recover them later. By her ability to swim she got across a river and eluded her pursuers. She found her way to Wilkes-Barre, where she was taken into the home of General Wilson, who was a friend of the John McCormick family in Turbut Township, and when the Wilsons visited that family, Rachel accompanied them to look after the children. She liked it so much there that she wanted to stay, which was permitted, and when Miss Ann McCormick married John L. Watson, Rachel came with them to Milton. She was a splendid cook and domestic. The Watson house is now owned by Dr. Bolich. Rachel was never able to find her children. Older people remember her leading the Grand Army parades, carrying a huge bouquet. When she died, the Grand Army Post attended her funeral.
While the Emancipation Proclamation declared all slaves free, it did not give them the right to vote, and in Pennsylvania colored people were permitted to vote for the first time at the election of 1871.
In 1883, thirteen young colored men came from Chambersburg to live in Milton, among them being John Chase, James Forman, John Jordan, who drove for Dr. Charles H. Dougal for years; Charlie Forman, Laura Forman, who married Gus Moore; Frank Bradford, and James Craig, who worked for the Hull family for fifty years.
These colored people of the pre-Civil War era, and the period following, were faithful and trusted employees, and had the polite manners of the Old South.