On October 7th the 1835 Livonia City Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
On October 7th the 16th Class of the 1835 Livonia City Hall of Fame will be inducted in the historic chapel of Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church. At 7:00 the Master's of Ceremony, Alan Helmkamp and County Commissioner Terry Marecki, will join Livonia community leaders in introducing and inducting the Class of 2021.
The 1835 Livonia Hall of Fame was named after the year Livonia Township was incorporated. It was started by former Wayne County Commissioner Bill Joyner in 2005. who says that the six inducted this year are a great example of what Livonia has to offer.
"The thought of community is what created the 1835 Livonia City Hall of Fame, recognizing the disparate groups of the arts, education, philanthropy, service, volunteerism," he said. "This year is no exception, as the six being inducted into the Class of 2017 embody that sense of community — spokes on a wheel that, when moving together, take our hometown in a direction of which we can and should be proud."
FridayMusings will announce one of the Class of 2021 in each of the next six issues starting today with Alexander Wells:
Livonia's lone black civil war soldier
It was Cyrus Fuller, president of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society; his brother Edwin,
treasurer of the Society; and sister-in-law Harriet DeGarmo Fuller, vice president of the Society, who lived at 6 Mile and Haggerty and dedicated their lives to freeing all slaves.
Protected by these abolitionist families, a small but thriving black community existed in the
northwest corner of Livonia in the 1860s. John Speed worked for Dexter Briggs. Fannie Brown lived with the Cyrus Fuller family. Tillman McLebaad, Henry Bosley, and Franklin Brooks worked as farm laborers for Arthur Powers. John F. White, from Kentucky, and his wife Mary Jane from Virginia had a small farm in Livonia Center. Ruben Moore farmed near the Arthur Powers home for a few years before he became a coachman in Detroit.
Alexander Wells escaped from Wayne, Kentucky, and married Emaline, a runaway from Virginia. In 1860 they had a small farm and even recorded that they had a personal estate of $60. The Birn family, who was from Canada, lived with them.
By 1863 Congress passed the Conscription Act, drafting men to serve in the military for the first time in the nation’s history. Black men were anxious to fight for the Union, an
an opportunity which had so far been denied them.
On February 17, 1863, the Michigan Colored Infantry was formed in Detroit. 845 men from across the state signed up.
One week later Livonia's Alexander Wells enlisted, February 23, 1865. Judge Alexander Blue, whose home is now at Greenmead but at the time was on what we know as Middlebelt, just north of Schoolcraft, filled out the enlistment papers for Alexander Wells, who was illiterate and made his X on the paper. Wells’s military records state that he was 5 feet, 8 inches tall with black hair and eyes and dark skin. He received a $33.33 advanced bounty for signing up.
Judge William Yerkes worked to make sure every man received a bounty to support
their families while they were gone. Alexander left behind a young pregnant wife and two little girls.
The men who signed up did so as volunteers, not as draftees, and eventually over 1600 black enlisted Michigan men went to war, one of which was Livonia's Alexander Wells.
The troops were assigned to picket and outpost duty on Hilton Head, St. Helena, and Port Royal. When the need arose, they served bravely in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, receiving the highest commendation for holding the line under severe fire. They refused to leave the front line even when wounded.
The records show Alexander Wells was assigned to Company K. He mustered out on September 30, 1865, and was owed $2.17 pay, but he owed $6 for arms and equipment. The muster out payroll says under remarks: SLAVE Joined from Recruiting Depot.
He saw the end of the war, he helped rebuild and he left Charlestown with his company on board the ship “Starlight”. He would not live to see his baby daughter or his farm. On October 6, 1865, Alexander Wells died of malaria fever. He was buried at Cyprus Hill National Cemetery in New York on October 12, 1865.
Note: Research taken for this nomination came in part from an article appearing in FridayMusings and written by Livonia historian Kathy Bilger. With appreciation.