The Underground Railroad House that Jacob D. King Built in Newark

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This post is in honor of all my King ancestors. Jacob D. King and his family, including my 3rd aunt Mary Thompson King, stood up against the evil that was slavery in 19th century Newark, NJ and triumphed.

 

Shortly after finding out that Jacob D. King, my 3rd great-uncle by marriage, built his Underground Railroad house at 70 Warren Street in Newark in 1830, Andrea and I set out to find out more about him and his family. After looking through probate records, census records, church records, and newspaper articles, we were able to piece together parts of his life.

One of the first things we found out, via his daughter Harriet Brown’s obituary in a New York Age newspaper article on 9/12/1912, was that the King family had been in Newark since the mid-1700s.

NY Age Newspaper 9/12/1912

However, my 5th cousin Eleanor Mire, who descends from Jacob’s daughter Martha, told me that King oral history has indicated that they were in New Jersey during King Philip’s War (1675-76). From our research, we have learned that King family was in Essex and Morris counties prior to the mid-1700s.

One of the things Andrea and I are doing now is researching the Essex and Morris county’ slave owners who are affiliated with our family — the Ogdens, Riggs, Thompsons, Camfileds/Canfields, Morris families among others. DNA is also confirming the links to these slave owners families. For example, Andrea’s uncle Robert  matches almost 20 centimorgans  with a descendant of Edward Riggs, an original settler of Newark. Newark was founded in 1666 by Puritans from Connecticut which means that our ancestors were probably there close to its founding which makes us one of the oldest African-American families to continuously reside in Newark, NJ from the start.

Jacob was born in Newark on April 6, 1806 to Lucy King. His father was the late sexton of Trinity Church in Newark and he died before Jacob was born. Unfortunately, church records did not record his name.

Jacob’s 1806 Trinity Church Baptism Record

He was one of 5 sons born to Lucy. The others being Abraham, John, Henry, and Charles. She also had a daughter named Venus. We believe that some of  Lucy’s older children were fathered by her slave owner, Abraham Ogden, as she named one of her her sons, Abraham Ogden King. 

Abraham Ogden’s Inventory featuring Lucy King

It should be mentioned that Trinity Church in Newark was founded by Josiah Ogden and was the Ogden family’s home church as well as Hercules Daniel Bize’s church.

Mary Thompson married Jacob King in 1829 in the First Presbyterian Church in Newark, NJ. At the time, my Thompson ancestors were members of the First Presbyterian Church and her marriage to Jacob reflects her family’s membership in his church. However, the King family were founding members of the first African Methodist Zion Church, later known as the Clinton Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church. This church was founded in 1822 by Rev. Christopher Rush, who was one of the first missionaries of the black Methodist movement.

NYPL Digital Collection, Schomburg Center

Bishop Christopher Rush was born in Craven County, NC in 1777. He escaped to New York City in 1798 and became a member of the A.M.E. Zion Church which gave him a license to preach in 1815. He was ordained as a deacon in the church in 1822 was also charged with founding an A.M.E. Zion church in Newark, NJ. In 1828, he became the Bishop of the A.M.E. Zion (aka Mother Zion Church) in NYC. I should also mention that my 3rd great-grandfather’s 2nd wife Rosetta Thompson’s father, Rev. John A. Dungey, was also a founding member of this church as well.

The A.M.E. Zion church, it should be noted, was known for it’s Underground Railroad activity. In addition to Jacob D. King and his family, later Black abolitionists of this church included Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Bishop Christopher Rush advocated helping fugitive slaves escape slavery and he charged the early A.M.E. churches with helping with this task. And they did.

In 1830, Jacob King bought land from Rev. Christopher Rush in the amount of $100. According to the deed, Rev. Christopher Rush was already a resident of NYC. I should mention that Jacob’s brother, John A. King, was a minster in the Newark A.M.E. Zion church.

Jacob D. King’s 1830 Land Deed

It is on this land that Jacob built an Underground Railroad house at 70 Warren Street in Newark. Jacob was a cooper by trade and two of his brothers were also involved in the carpentry field. Abraham was a carpenter and John was a planemaker, one of three African-American planemakers in the United States prior to the Civil War. Their brother-in-law Cato Thompson, was also a carpenter and we assume he learned the trade from his in-laws and also helped to build this house.

After I found the photo of Jacob’s house in Charles F. Cumming’s article, I went to the NJ Historical Society to see I could locate the actual article since Cummings didn’t give the date the article was published. I am so thankful for the staff at the NJ Historical Society, especially James Amemasor.  James has gone above and beyond in helping me find the documents needed for my research. He helped me go through a year’s worth of the Newark Sunday Call  newspaper. Thank God it was just a weekly paper!  On the first day of looking, I didn’t find anything after 5 hours of looking. But, when I arrived back home an hour later, James had left me a message saying that he thought the article on Jacob’s house was in the magazine section. So, I went back a couple of days later. It took a while, but we found the article and James was right. It was in the magazine section and it included 4 more photos! I am so glad I went to look for the source of the photo. I believe my ancestors were guiding me.

Here are the photos of the inside of Jacob’s Underground Railroad house in 1937, a year after Jacob’s daughter Ellen passed away. It should be noted again that this house stayed in the family for 106 years. I wish this house could talk because I would love to hear all the stories that could be told.

Full Sunday Newark Call Magazine Article, 10/3/1937

 

 

Newark Sunday Call Magazine, 10/3/1937

 

Newark Sunday Call Magazine, 10/3/1937

 

Newark Sunday Call Magazine, 10/3/1937

 

Newark Sunday Call Magazine, 10/3/1937

 

My 3rd great-aunt Mary Thompson King’s Dutch oven

Words cannot express how excited I was to see these photos. I ran home and had to tell everybody about this find.

One of my favorite photos is of my 3rd great-aunt Mary’s old Dutch oven. For too long, the role of  everyday, drylongso African-American women has been absent from the historical record as it pertains to the Underground Railroad. Yes, we know about the role of Black men and the role of white male and female abolitionists on the UGRR. But, what about the wives, daughters, and sisters of Black abolitionists?  Weren’t their roles just as important?

I am reminded of a post on my cousin Dawn Terrell’s  Answering The Ancestor’s Call blog, where she writes about an ancestor calling her out to be remembered. When I saw Mary’s Dutch oven, I know she was calling me out and reminding me that she, too, had helped fugitive slaves. We now know that it was Mary and her daughters, and maybe even her sisters, who cooked for the slaves hidden in the basement at 70 Warren Street. They probably also washed and repaired fugitive slaves’ clothes, helped out with childcare, comforted frightened fugitive slaves, and did other things that were typically defined as “women’s work.” I am so thankful for this photo. I may not have a photo of Mary, but praise God I have this remembrance of her and the important work that she was doing along with Jacob and the rest of my ancestors. Praise God indeed.

On a whim, I then went to the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture to see if I could find even more info on Jacob’s Underground Railroad activities. I came across The Black Abolitionist Papers, an account of Black abolitionists from the 1830s until the Civil War. In this multi-volume set, I found the names of both my Thompson and King ancestors. Regarding Jacob D. King, I found the following:

 

From The Black Abolitionist Papers

According to the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper, Jacob was a treasurer in a Relief Association which was a local organization, that assisted fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Weekly Anglo-American Newspaper, 10/15/1859

 

From the time Jacob built his UGRR house in 1830 until the 1860s, Jacob was non-stop in his abolitionist activities. I should also add that, in the article above, Thomas Washington was Jacob’s son-in-law, the husband of his daughter Martha. Hence, King black abolitionism was a family affair

Jacob passed away at 74 years old on 5/3/1880 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery  in Newark. He devoted more than half his life to fighting against the evils of slavery. He is a man who should definitely be remembered. 

28 thoughts on “The Underground Railroad House that Jacob D. King Built in Newark

  1. What a wonderful and rich history, that you have documented so well. I am delighted to know about the work of Jacob, his wife Mary, and all those involved in actively fighting against slavery. Documenting their stories is so important, and they are lucky to have you as the one to chronicle their contributions!

  2. You really told this story. You have an amazing piece of history tied directly to your family. Everyone took risks and did their part in the fight against slavery. This is going to reach so many people. Thank you for sharing it. You are doing your ancestors proud.

  3. This is such a well research and interesting post, I wish all the schools across the country would teach this history. Thanks to all these dedicated writers millions of people will be able to read this rich history and appreciate their ancestors. Thank you Teresa for sharing. Great job. Love all the photos.

    1. @Shapactek-
      I am trying to resurrect Jacob’s memory. I will be presenting at several libraries this year in celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary. Hopefully, I will do my family justice.

      Teresa

  4. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
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    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family saga novels in The Homeplace Series such as: “Back to the Homeplace”
    http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/
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    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist: http://www.indepthgenealogist.com/

  5. Very interesting blog! This past fall, I stayed with a friend in Delaware in her 1820 house on the banks of the Delaware river. She showed me a secret passage that looked like it originally connected on the third floor to the adjoining house. She believes that was used by the Underground railroad. It’s interesting to think that perhaps both her house and your ancestor’s house were different stops on the same underground railroad route.

    1. Cousin Charlotte, I went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. Our African-American Center was in a home that used to also be a stop on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowe didn’t live too far away from the Center back in the day. I am happy that such places still exist for history’s sake. Jacob’s house no longer exist as it was replaced by the downtown campus of Rutgers University. I was so lucky to find those photos.

      Teresa

  6. I so enjoyed your story; what a rich legacy you have. I am a descendant of an Underground RR conductor, John Buck of Orland, ME who credited his wife Sarah Thurston Buck for all his accomplishments. I am also descended from slave-owners, one being William Gilmore Simms who was born April 17, 1806 in SC, just days after your ancestor. I think of the two men living their lives, north and south–one keeping slaves and defending the institution, another dedicating his life to freedom and righting the injustice.

    1. Anne-
      Thanks for responding. Just think that we are here, as their descendants, to tell our ancestors stories, the good and the bad. Most importantly, we are here to speak truth to power about an unjust system.

      Teresa

  7. Teresa, you are giving me goose bumps over here my friend! Such excellent research– with news clippings, slave records, deeds, photos, and cemetery records — to back up your findings. This was an ideal post to kick off the start of 2014. EXCELLENT indeed!

    Happy New Year and Happy Ancestor Hunting to you!

  8. Teresa, you took me back home on this one. Phenomenal post on your uncle and the underground railroad house. Newark has such a rich African American history that goes untold to the people of the city. I know the area well ( the house may be gone), and the folks at NJ Historical Society are great. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post.

  9. Wow this is amazing. You have been so thorough with your researched and even more, have uncovered so much. I will be continuing to read your blog in the future. You give me hope to keep pursuing my own family history.

  10. Holly M Newark NJ. What an amazing story we have. It’s always a blessing to learn more of our rich and extraordinary history.

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