Possible Underground Railroad Families Discovered?

In October 1929, my great uncle Julius Walter Long, who was known as “Walter,” married a woman named Laura Crosby. She had a 14 year old daughter named Violet. The following year, Walter’s brother, Rafael Matthew Long, who was 13 years younger than Walter, married Violet Crosby. Rafe was 20 years old at the time.

The strange marital relations, however, are not the most interesting aspects of the Crosby women. The 1930 census for Kansas City, Missouri, shows Laura’s birthplace as “Canada English.” Violet, who was living with Laura and Walter at the time of the 1930 census, was reported to have been born in Ohio.

The 1910 census shows Laura Crosby, birthplace “Canada English,” living with her then-husband George Crosby in Toledo, Ohio. George also said to have been born in Canada.

[The term “Canada English” referred to Anglophone Upper Canada, meaning primarily what is now Ontario as opposed to Francophone Lower Canada, which constitutes present-day Quebec.]

The 1870 census of Washtenaw County, Michigan, shows Lafayette Crosby born about 1838 and his wife Sarrah, living in Ypsilanti with their children, Martha, age 9; George, age 4; and Mary, age 1. Lafayette is reported to have been born in Ohio, while Sarrah is said to have been born in Kentucky. The first two children, Martha and George, are recorded as having been born in Canada.

George Crosby apparently met his wife Laura in the late 1880s, and they were probably married in Ontario. Unfortunately, I do not presently have access to the indexed Ontario marriage records. It may have been a rocky marriage, because according to census records, in 1900, George was back in Ypsilanti living with his mother, Sarrah, and a younger brother named Lafayette. But by 1910, George and Laura were back together living in Toledo. They’re shown in Toledo on the 1920 census with children Lillian, Isabel, Mary, Albert, and 4 1/2 year old Violet. Also living with them were Laura’s parents, Frank and Victoria Gaines. While Frank is said to have been born in Michigan, his father and mother are listed as having been born in Georgia and Kentucky, respectively. Victoria is reported to have been born in Tennessee; her parents are listed as having simply been born in the United States.

[Two interesting facts appear about the Gaines family. First, in the 1900 census, there appears a white woman named Victoria Gaines, born in Canada, who is a prisoner in the Toledo Work House. She is about the same age as the black woman named Victoria Gaines described as Laura’s mother in the 1910 census. Then, in the 1910 census, what appears to be the same Franklin Gaines is found in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is in the same county as Ypsilanti. There, his wife’s name is given as Sarah. A son, also named Franklin, is described as having been born in Canada.]

By 1929, however, George may have been dead, and Laura was married to Walter Long in Kansas City.

My speculation is that the Gaines family moved north into Michigan and later Canada before the Civil War. At some point, the Crosbys also moved north into Michigan and Canada. There’s probably a great story here.


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August 2006
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