GREENVILLE — Connor Keiser returns with an encore presentation on Longtown, Ohio, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. in the Greenville Public Library’s upstairs meeting room.
“We are honored to host Connor again and to celebrate Black History Month by learning more about this important community and our rich local history,” said a spokesperson.
The original “Greenville Negro Settlement,” later renamed Longtown, was founded by Connor’s fifth great-grandparents James and Sophia Clemens in 1822. Situated in Liberty Township, it was established as a strongly abolitionist farming settlement. Many people have heard of Longtown but most are unaware of its significance as the first free black settlement and one of only two tri-racial communities in the state of Ohio.
The Clemens family arrived in Ohio from Virginia with slave-owner Adam Sellers who freed his people and provided them with land. Other free blacks joined them and as the town grew, a school and several churches and cemeteries were established. It was an important station on the Underground Railroad.
The height of its population was around 900 people in the 1940s. Many descendants live in the Muncie, Richmond, Indianapolis, and Dayton areas. A well-known tavern was opened in 1956 where Connor’s grandparents first met. Its baseball teams from the 1930s onward, the Longtown Tigers and Longtown Giants, were legendary.
Today the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society is raising money and awareness for the above named school which was founded by Connor’s grandfather in 1914. It was a manual labor school for all races and provided room and board. One church from 1856 is still active, the Bethel Long Wesleyan Church, holding services every Sunday. The Community Center also hosts an annual “homecoming.“
Connor is proud to continue the research his grandfather Maze Clemens started and in the past year has uncovered even more interesting facts and pictures which he will share on the big screen TV.
“Please join us to learn more about our fascinating heritage,” organizers said. “Light refreshments will be served.”