Thursday, March 3, 2011

Putting My Darby Ancestors in Context

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia - Cincinnati in 1841
As mentioned in the previous post, the Darbys emigrated from England to America in 1841. As a life-long Cincinnatian, I was shocked when I saw this picture.  In 1841, the Miami-Erie Canal was completed.  What shocked me was the realization that the canal basically made an island out of the central core of the city.  Cincinnati is a basin city surrounded by beautiful hillsides.  For half a century, almost the entire population lived in the city basin, reinforced by the hillsides and the canal.

Wikipedia describes Cincinnati in the 1840s this way:
By 1840, Cincinnati had grown from a frontier settlement to the 6th largest city in the USA. It was a city of contrasts, with prosperous neighborhoods and squalid, violent slums. Many of the businessmen who controlled the city were interested in good relationships with the slave-owning states to the south of the Ohio River, and were hostile to abolitionists and blacks. The Ohio constitution denied blacks the franchise, and the Black Laws imposed further restrictions. Black children were denied education in the public schools, although black property holders had to pay taxes to support these schools. Black immigrants to the state had to register and provide surety. A black could not serve on a jury, testify in legal cases involving a white person or serve in the militia. However, drawn by the economic opportunities, the black population had grown from 690 in 1826 to an official count of 2,240 out of a total of 44,000 citizens by 1840. Many of the blacks had jobs as craftsmen or tradesmen, earning good wages for the time. Many owned property.
With the city's rapidly-expanding and ethnically-diverse population, trouble just needed a spark.  It came in the form of an extreme drought that resulted in the lowest water level ever recorded for the Ohio River.  The low water level threw many immigrants who depended on the river for their livelihood out of work.  Over a period of several days, several white people (largely Irish) attacked the black population.  For a fuller discussion of what occurred, click on this link.

Jonathan Darby
So here was the "Promised Land" the Darbys, Bickerdykes, and Sidebottoms encountered. This Queen City of the West was just getting started.  This period was just before the large German immigration that was to take place after 1848 as well as a large Irish influx that was to take place during the Potato Famine -- each group fighting for its place at the table.

I've included a Pedigree Chart so my family and readers can better understand my relationship to the Darbys and the generation that chose to serve in the Civil War. In addition to Mary Elizabeth Darby's husband Britton, and her brother, Joseph, brother Robert Darby also served. His story has a bit of a twist. He will be discussed in the next post.

Photo Credit for Jonathan Darby:  Martha Darby Rutter

1 comment:

  1. Kath I just love reading your blogs. I always learn so much.
    Betty A.


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