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Harveysburg, a village with a rich history of education and freedom, is home to the first school for African American and Native-American children in Ohio.

Harveysburg, Ohio, is a small village in Massie Township, Warren County, with a rich history of education and freedom. William Harvey, a Quaker merchant, founded the town in 1829. The village received its name from a merchant in Cincinnati who told William Harvey to add burg to his name and call the place Harveysburg.

William Harvey acquired some of the land, initially part of Colonel Abraham Buford’s grant. Colonel Buford, a notable figure during the American Revolutionary War, received a land grant as recognition for his service instead of a pension.

The grant, totaling 500 acres, was issued to Buford in 1793. Harvey developed 47 lots for a village that thrived from its inception.

Among the early businesses were grist mills, a tin shop, a hardware store, a blacksmith shop, and a large pork packing plant. Notably, William Harvey also owned a dry goods store in the village. 

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Harveysburg Free Black School
Front of Harveysburg School (Photo by William Fischer Jr., December 6, 2009)

The Harveysburg Free Black School

The story of Harveysburg School begins in the mid-19th century. At a time when racial segregation was the norm, this school emerged as a sanctuary for African American children. Founded by local abolitionists and educators, it symbolized hope and opportunity.

Elizabeth Harvey, wife of Dr. Jesse Harvey, set out to educate African American and Native American children in the area. The Harveys built the Elizabeth Harvey Free Black School in 1831, Ohio’s first school for African American children. The first class initially had 25 pupils and was taught by Elizabeth Harvey.

Over time, the school’s name evolved, eventually becoming the Harveysburg Free Black School.

The Harveys and the Grove Monthly Meeting of Friends members supported the school. The Harveysburg School was also significant for relocating enslaved children to Harveysburg for education and supporting minority education in Ohio and the Northwest Territory.

Related Article: Explore Black History in Kentucky

Civil Rights Era

As the civil rights movement gained momentum, Harveysburg School stood at a crossroads. Until the early 1900s, the building served as a school for African American children, even though Ohio law had prohibited racial segregation after the 1880s.

The school welcomed students of all backgrounds, fostering friendships that transcended prejudice. Harveysburg School became a microcosm of an America where unity triumphed over division.

In 1909, due to a decline in student enrollment, the Harveysburg School ceased its operations and closed its doors.

The building was sold and held privately for most of the 20th century. In the 1970s, efforts supporting its preservation culminated with help from the National Park Service and Ohio Historical Society.

Related Article: African American History in Cincinnati

Harveysburg Free Black School Marker
Harveysburg/Harveysburg School Historic Marker (Photo by William Fischer, Jr., December 6, 2009)

Historical Marker

The historical marker commemorates the historic Harveysburg School and the Quaker village of Harveysburg, founded on part of Colonel Buford’s Land Grant.

The marker calls on the importance of preserving historical landmarks and the significance of the Harveysburg School in educating minority children.

Today, the building that once housed the Elizabeth Harvey Free Black School serves as the home of the Harveysburg Community Historical Society and their community museum, preserving the legacy of this pioneering educational institution.

Sources

Harveysburg / The Harveysburg School Historical Marker (hmdb.org)
Historical Society fundraises to highlight Ohio’s first school for Black children (wcpo.com)
Harveysburg Free Black School (wikitree.com)
Harveysburg Community Historical Society (Former Elizabeth Harvey Free Black School) – Clio (theclio.com)
Pension Application of Abraham Buford (revwarapps.org)
History — Village Of Harveysburg

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Written by William Fisher

William Fisher is a dedicated writer at The Voice of Black Cincinnati, focusing on workforce development, jobs, community events, and local history. With a deep appreciation for Cincinnati's rich heritage and vibrant community, William's work offers invaluable resources and insights, helping to connect residents with their city's past and present opportunities. His expertise and dedication make him a vital part of the team. Connect with William on LinkedIn to explore his work and impact on the community.

1 comment

  1. My mother and her siblings were fostered in Harveysburg on a farm in the early 30’s. The family who fostered them was named Carter. They were the only family that my mother had a positive fostering experience with,

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