Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Preservation Petition 2021


I’ve written many blog posts about preservation. I can’t help but come back to the theme whenever I can. Blame it on 24 years living under the shadow of the Steeple Building, working in the Blacksmith Shop, or managing a post-colony house.


In all those years, I’ve seen a lot of progress made with repairing and strengthening the old colony buildings. But weather and the inevitable decline from entropy always manages to take their toll if maintenance is ignored.  


That is why Courtney Stone’s petition campaign is so worthwhile. Find out more about his petition and where to write your letters to by following this link:

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Banned Books 2021


Banned Books Week 2021 began on Sunday, September 26 and went to Saturday, October 2. The Rock Island Public Library and the Midwest Writing Center again sponsored readings from once banned books. I and the other readers participated this year via a Zoom connection. The book I chose to read from was Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. It’s the story of an eleven-year-old boy who was the first child born free in Buxton, a Canadian utopian society for escaped African American slaves founded by Rev. William King, a Scots-Irish/American Presbyterian minister and abolitionist. The Elgin Association bought 9,000 acres for the resettlement of American refugees. This work became important to me because of a possible family connection to Buxton, Iowa.


The history of the Canadian Buxton spanned the years from 1849 to 1871. The new settlers bought and cleared land, built homes and businesses, established schools and churches. The community was thriving before the American Civil War.


The Iowa Buxton was a coal mining town near Albia and the subject of Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa by Rachelle Chase. She described that community with the following quote:

“Some have called Buxton a Black Utopia. In the town of five thousand residents, established in 1900, African Americans and Caucasians lived, worked and attended school together. It was a thriving, one-of-a-kind coal mining town created by the Consolidation Coal Company. This inclusive approach provided opportunity for its residents. Dr. E. A. Carter was the first African American to get a medical degree from the University of Iowa in 1907. He returned to Buxton and was hired by the coal company, where he treated both black and white patients. …”


Most of those residents, 55%, were African American, leaving the Caucasian population comprised of many nationalities of European immigrants, with Swedes forming the largest segment. That is how my Swedish American mother-in-law came to have “No. 19 Buxton” written on her birth certificate. No. 19 signified the mine/mining shaft where her father worked.


I read both books hoping for a common thread linking the Buxtons and was disappointed. Canadian Buxton probably owes its name to a nearby town, while the Iowa Buxton reflected the family name of mine managers originally from Vermont. Still, the culture and atmosphere of both had remarkable similarities e.g., people being treated fairly and allowed to prosper. The decline of those communities did not come about by riots and violence. Without having more details, I like to think of them as good examples of what might have been.