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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Joseph Belt Case’s Impact on NYC’s on Black Residents, 1848

By Richard White

“The case has caused a great deal of excitement among the colored population, the Court room and the avenues being densely crowded…” This was the reportage in New York City’s Morning Courier on December 27, 1848 concerning the case of alleged fugitive slave from Maryland, Joseph Belt, before State Supreme Court Judge, John W. Edmonds, at City Hall. The case intensified African American sentiments so much that they held a meeting on Christmas night to record their concerns.

The case arose from the seizure of an alleged runaway slave beginning on December 20, and the quick action the same day by Judge Edmonds to prevent his forced departure. Judge Edmonds’ hearings began three days later in order to allow attorneys time to prepare. In Gateway To Freedom (2015), Eric Foner describes Belt’s chief attorney, John Jay II, as emerging “as the city’s leading lawyer in fugitive slave cases”(page 112). Jay’s studious arguments, and Edmonds’ sympathy for Belt, resulted in the defendant’s freedom on December 29. However, “the colored population” did more than pack Edmonds’ courtroom. They staged a rally, which has been a neglected aspect of the Belt case.

Led by a civil rights activist, Jeremiah Powers, a protest meeting was organized in Terence Hall on Church Street on December 25, no doubt due to the pressing nature of the case. As Chairman, Powers orchestrated the writing a five-part resolution that underscored their anger, as reported the next day in the New York Tribune. Section 1, for example, emphatically declares that the kidnapping of Belt “is an alarming outrage upon all the social and civil rights and guarantees of the citizens of New York.” Section 2 states that the case “affects the security of every colored man, woman, and child in the City.” Sections 3 and 5 refer to the principles “of the process of law” and ”due process” in any case like Belt’s. However, when these two legal principles are ignored, then Section 4 mandates that “no colored person ought to allow themselves to be arrested as a slave upon any conditions whatsoever: at the risk of life itself….they should deem it a question of life and death, to be settled on the spot….” This pointed language entails no reading between the lines.

Edmonds’ decision to free Belt sparked a display of deep relief that was covered across this State. On December 30, for instance, the Geneva Gazette, described the final scene as follows: “[Belt] was borne in triumph from the City Hall by a large company of colored people who rent the air with acclamations of joy,” and apparently left the City. Due to circumstances in New York City at the time, a black man was not enslaved, and freedom prevailed.

About the author: Richard White's articles have appeared in Civil War History, The Journal of Negro History, and other publications.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

From Boyhood to the Battlefield and Beyond: Cherry Creek Seven at Verdun at the end of The Great War

By Sharon Howe Sweeting and Joanne Mansfield

CHERRY CREEK NY November 2016 

Kindled by the eyewitness accounts written by Private Donald D. Curtis to his father Edgar, we researched the other six lads traveling with the Buffalo New York Regiment called into service on July 15, 1917, and drafted into the US Army as the 106th Field Artillery on August 4, 1917. Our lads enlisted in June/July 1917 but most did not travel overseas until June 1918 following training at Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina.

A letter headed “Somewhere on the Atlantic” dated June 1918, describes the journey with the flotilla including the troop carrier, destroyers and smaller vessels and introduces us to the lads. First we meet Curtis’s friend Harold [Harold Blaisdell], and then Fowler [Laverne Fowler]. Next we meet Abbey [Charles Abbey], Dick [Richard Langworthy], Dub [Hobart James] and Hub [Ray Hubbard].

“We Cherry Creek fellows have been together a great deal, playing 500 [Rummy]. Our band plays twice a day – morning and afternoon. They are improving too. ” [Hub plays the bugle.]

“I hear they got a couple of submarines off the Jersey coast yesterday. They put up all the important news they pick up on the wireless. I see Harold a great deal. There is a Y.M.C.A. man on board so we can get books. You can’t get away from the Red Cross or the Y.M., they are everywhere.”

“Harold and I are sitting behind a life boat writing. We have a wonderful view from here. Just water everywhere but it is such a pretty color. . . . Probably Dad is up the lake fishing now. We might be sailing on Chautauqua now only this ship is about as wide as those boats are long.”

We expect to reach port either tomorrow P.M. or the next morning... We got up at 2.30 AM now that we are in the danger zone, because the submarine is the most active just before daylight. We have an Irishman on our raft who can neither read nor write but sings Irish songs and wishes for a bit of whiskey. “Well, we’ve had a peach of a trip. I feel fine but dirty.”

FRANCE September 26, 1918 

 “Dear Folks: I just haven’t had time to write for most a month. We are busy. I don’t even get a chance to wash. Just watch the papers for today or tomorrow. We’re well. I’ve been in. I got your letter no. 20 today but I haven’t time to write – only a card. Probably this will be faded by the time you get it. We hiked 20 miles one night. I’ve gone 48 hours without sleep two or three times. I haven’t slept in the last 48 hours. I’ve got a great deal to write but I haven’t the time now. Don’t worry. I’m fine.
Love Donald” 

COMPIEGNE, FRANCE 11TH Hour, 11TH Day, 11th Month, 1918 Armistice signed in a railroad car parked in the French forest near the front lines. Fini la guerre!

FRANCE, November 16, 1918 

 “Dear Folks: Well it’s over; Thank God! But we are still in the line; just sort of keeping an eye on the Jerry’s, you know, in case they don’t move quite fast enough.” “I am a lineman now and have to see to the communication line of the battery. No more machine gun now. I like this work fine; we get a lot of exercise walking and you know I always used to fool around with wires, etc. I got the pen O.K. three days ago. Did you ever get the German helmet I sent home? . . . Monday night word was received, you should see the rockets and star shells go up, it’s great. There is a stream of returned French prisoners going by here all the time. Oh the Jerrys are surely thru. Keep on writing because I’ll be here awhile yet. 
 Lots of love, Donald”

VERDUN, FRANCE November 24, 1918 Sergeant Laverne Fowler writes:

“Verdun it is and Verdun it has been, best known by the greatest battles fought there in the early part of the war [21 Feb to 18 Dec 1916, French prevailed] and later by the Americans entry in this sector, Verdun probably saw more action than any other front.

We detrained about Sept. 1 near the city of Bar-le-duc and started to hike in a northeasterly direction. This settled in our minds that it was Verdun and not Metz. Then on through Issoncourt, and Nixerville, Fromerville, and Bethlainville, our first positions. Here we received our first shelling and every one rather enjoyed the occasion. Several times here I went on ahead by Montzeville and Eames to the first lines and every thing was quiet. Our next position was on La Mort Hommes – Dead Man’s Hill. There we took part in the biggest and best barrage ever thrown over on any front. That started the ball a rolling and from Sept. 26 until the armistice, Verdun was no more a quiet sector. Then came Foiyes and Gercourt and then a long hike back to Nixerville, Charny, Beas, Vichyville and Brabant. Here we throw over our last big barrage and also received considerable fire from the Germans. Here they got one of our guns and strange to say I got it in the leg here also. The fellows kid me a good deal about the little gold stripe, the only one in the battery. This valley is known as the Valley of Death and the whole sector is Hell Gate. We moved once more and made some fine positions but never fired again.

I went ahead to Danvillers where Jerry made his last stand or stopped long enough to get his breath.

Here I found the concrete trenches which the Germans held almost sacred; but every thing went before our artillery fire, fields were plowed, forests shot down, roads and railroads torn up, trenches and batteries demolished. No man could have stayed there alive. Jerry retreated to his three last hills, we took a bigger and higher one opposite and the armistice was signed.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, all became quiet and I hope it always may remain thus. I was in at the finish and am satisfied. My work consisted in keeping the battery supplied with ammunition fuses and powder.”

FRANCE: Some Place, Thanksgiving [1918]:

Donald takes up the story: “Rec’d a couple of letters from you the other day. Abbey showed me the pictures of the effigies. I haven’t rec’d any yet but I presume you have sent one. LaVerne and I are going to church this A.M. I was down at Verdun, Sunday P.M. with Hub and Abbey, saw the fortifications and went through the cathedral and the College of Margaret. They certainly shelled the town some. You can read all about war but you can’t realize what it is until you see it. I guess we are going to have beef for dinner. I guess the turkeys don’t reach up this far. … Ray and I just came back from church. It was the first Protestant service I’ve heard since we were back in Camp de Longe. I guess they think there are just Catholics in the army. . . . It made me smile to read of your experience coming back from Mayville and the lights going out. Why up at the front, you never saw a light of any description and traffic that would make Main St. & Seneca in Bfo, [Buffalo] seem like a deserted village.”

VERDUN Salvation Army, December 7, 1918 “Dear Folks: I’m feeling great but anxious to get home. … I haven’t the least idea when but I’m coming.

We were reviewed the other day by the general of the American Artillery i.e., he is head of all artillery in the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) and he said that the 52nd Brigade was without doubt the Best in the A.E.F. How’s that? Sure, I know you and I have always said so.

We haven’t any horses how, but we are doing infantry drill. Battery F. is still considered and is the best battery in the Regt., and even the fellows in the 104th and 105th admit we have the best Regt.

The town [Cherry Creek] surely did well in that last subscription stunt. Never knew there was so much money there… 
Lots of Love, Donald“

Censored by W.S. --- 2nd Lt. 106 F.A.

FRANCE near LAVEL, Christmas “Dear Folks: Well, it is a great day after all. . . . I got your Christmas letter and money order today. The day is perfect, very little snow this morning. Last night I went to midnight mass. The church is just about 200 feet from where we are billeted in a chateau. Last night at midnight, we could hear the church bells ringing all around; you know here in France, the little villages aren’t more than 3 miles apart and each one has a very fine church. Of course I didn’t understand the service but I felt better just for going anyway. Several fellows from the battalion sang in the choir. . . . Here’s what we had for dinner: Roast Goose (all you could eat), Dressing, Brown gravy, Mashed potatoes, Onions, celery, oranges, figs, Nuts, Bread and Butter, Cocoa. Wasn’t that some great meal?

I’m feeling fine. I got a letter from Harold yesterday; he says he is going directly home from the hospital. He is feeling great. We are back with the good old 27th now. We aren’t with the army of the occupation, thank God! I want to get home! I’m going to spend the summer fishing, etc. And then next fall I want to go to Ann Arbor for law. This is all the news I can think of. 
Love, Donald”


And the boys came home.

Donald Delameter Curtis: Donald enlisted in Buffalo on June 19, 1917. He belonged to Battery F, 3rd Field Artillery (FA), New York National Guard (Battery F 106 FA at discharge). His grades were Private 1 class July 18, 1917: Private Aug 12, 1918. He served overseas June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919 and was honorably discharged March 31, 1919.

He was the Son on Edgar and Grace Delamenter Curtis born 14 April 1898 in Cherry Creek, Chautauqua County; married Octavine A. Long in 1921; father of four children. Died 8 January 1969 in Florida and is buried in Cherry Creek Central Cemetery.

In 1930 Don D. Curtis is an attorney in Queens, New York, with a young son and his wife Octavine.

Harold Alfred Blaisdell: Harold enlisted in Buffalo on July 3, 1917. He was assigned to the M.D. 3rd Field Artillery New York National Guard. (Med Det 106, FA) to discharge. He became a Private 1cl on October 17, 1917. He served overseas June 6, 1918 to April 15, 1919 and was honorably discharged on May 13, 1919. According to his obituary “he served overseas with the famous 27th Division as an artilleryman, going through the hell of St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne where he was severely wounded [powder explosion in German dugout]. Recovered.

He was the son of Alfred and Bertha Waite Blaisdell born in 1898 in Cherry Creek; married Florence Lenore Phillips in 1925; father of four children. Died 11 February 1964 “in a traffic accident while turning into his own driveway on Hunt Road” in Ellicott and is buried in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Lakewood. He had survived two World Wars and was a well-loved surgeon in Jamestown.

The 1930 Census lists Dr. Blaisdell as a surgeon living in Ellicott with his wife Florence and two children.

Laverne A. Fowler: Fowler enlisted 24 June 1916 in Buffalo and mustered 23 July 1917 as a Corporal with Company F 3rd Field Artillery, 1 October 1917 transferred to 106th F.A. He served overseas from June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919 as a supply Sgt. “keeping the battery supplied with ammunition fuses and powder.” Engaged in battles at St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Verdun and was wounded slightly on Nov. 3, 1918.

He was the son of Ruben and Edith Fowler, born 14 October 1895/96 in New York; married Helen in 1926; father of two daughters. Died 13 March 1964 and buried in Cherry Creek Central Cemetery.

In 1930 Laverne A. Fowler was a manager of a lounge company, living in Hamburg, Erie County with his wife Helen and a daughter.

Charles Newton Abbey: Abbey enlisted July 23, 1917 in Buffalo and was assigned to Company B 3rd Field Artillery New York National Guard; transferred to Co B 106th FA to discharge; Private 1 class Jan 1, 1919. He served overseas from June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919.

He was the son of Almon and Mary Ellen Farrington Abbey, born 26 September 1898 in Cherry Creek; graduated Cherry Creek High School June 26, 1916; presented a paper entitled “History of Historian and Prophecy of Prophetess” at graduation; married Florence J. Baker in 1924; father of two children. Died 27 October 1954 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County and was buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Salamanca.

In 1930 Charles N. Abbey is a farm bureau agent living in Salamanca with two children and his wife Florence.

Richard Oscar Langworthy: Dick enlisted July 3, 1917 at National Guard in Buffalo assigned to Company G Battery F 3rd Field Artillery New York National Guard transferred to Battery F 106th FA to discharge. He served overseas June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919 as a mechanic, motor pool and driving instructor Private 1 class December 4, 1917.

Son of Lewis and Ella Curtis Langworthy, born 14 May 1898 in Bradford, Pennsylvania; married Marion Patton about 1923; father of two children. Died 7 January 1949 in Natrona County, Wyoming and was buried in Highland Cemetery, Caspar, Natrona, Wyoming.

In 1930 Richard O. Langworthy is an accountant for a refining company in Caspar, Natrona, Wyoming with two children and his wife Marion.

Hobart Robert James: Dub enlisted 23 July 1917 at Buffalo, mustered 25 July 1917 as Pvt. Company B, 3rd Field Artillery. Grade was Waggoner (transported food and supplies to the front lines); served overseas from June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919.

Son of Albert and Sharlot Francis Davison James, born 12 May 1896 in Cherry Creek; married Linnie Beck in 1924; no children. Died 28 July 1975 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and is buried in Cherry Creek Central Cemetery.

In 1930 Hobart R. James is an accountant for a utilities company living in Franklin, Ohio with his wife Linnie.

M. Ray Hubbard: Hub enlisted July 30, 1917 at National Guard in Buffalo assigned to Company B Battery F 3rd Field Artillery New York National Guard; trans. to Btry. F 106th FA. Bugler and served as a camouflager on front line (camouflage the guns, dugouts and positions from aerial observation). Served overseas June 6, 1918 to March 13, 1919; discharged April 7, 1919.

Son of Elvin and Helen Hubbard, born 1 November 1896 in Cherry Creek; married Mildred White in 1925; father of one daughter. Died 28 January 1970 in Wyoming County, New York and buried in Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade.

In 1930 Ray Hubbard is a clerk for Standard Oil, living in Kenmore, Erie County, New York with his daughter and wife Mildred.

And so ends the tale of the Cherry Creek Seven: their military experiences, their civilian lives and finally their deaths and burials.


Eight typed, mimeographed letters given to the Cherry Creek Town Museum were rescued from a dumpster by Steven Hudson. Dating from June 1918 the letters from Donald D. Curtis were to his father Edgar Curtis, a Cherry Creek attorney. Edgar had Donald's original hand-written letters typed and mimeographed as he did with other documents.

The United States entered the war April 6, 1917 under the command of Major General John H. Pershing; more than 2 million US soldiers fought on the battlefields in France. Our soldiers fought in battles around Verdun, Argonne Forest and St. Mihiel in Dept. of Meuse, Lorraine in the north-east corner of France near the borders with Belgium and Germany, September-October 1918; these battles were instrumental in bringing the war to an end.

Abstracts of National Guard Service in World War I, 1917-1919, New York, State Adjutant General’s Office. New York State Archives, Albany, New York. (Original Data)

Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. (Original data)

New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919. Adjutant General’s Office. Series BO808. New York State Archives, Albany, New York. (Original data)

Source Records of the Great War edited by Charles R. Horne, 4 vols. National Alumni, 1923.

War Book of the One Hundred and Sixth Regiment Field Artillery, United States Army, 1917-1919; 106th Field Artillery, 52nd Brigade, Battery “F” 27th Division.
( for original pamphlet) 

About the authors:

Sharon Howe Sweeting, Cherry Creek Town Historian and Joanne Mansfield, Trustee of the Chautauqua County Historical Society