Local History and Genealogy

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"The Pioneer Colored Resident of Steuben County Crosses The River"

"Sketch of His Life - Born and Reared a Slave He Came North at the Close of the War, and Had Lived in Angola Nearly a Quarter of a Century".

"Daniel Webster, the well known colored man who had lived with Wm. G. Croxton, of Angola, for so many years, died suddenly last Friday night.  He had been in ill health for six months or more, but was able for the most of the time to be around and do light work, and his death was unexpected.  Only a few minutes before it, he assisted Mr.Croxton in unhitching and caring for the horse.  Mr. Croxton came home from the children's entertainment at the Opera House about 11:00 o'clock, and with his little granddaughter, had barely reached his house, having left Dan in the barn, when he heard calls for help.  Going at once to the barn, with other members of his household, he found his faithful old servant on the bed in his room, apparently in great pain.  He lost consciousness and died almost immediately, before medical aid could be secured.  Heart disease was the immediate cause of death.

For many years he was distinguished as the only colored resident of Steuben county, and it is safe to say that there is scarcely a man, woman, or child in all this region who didn't know "Dan", as he was familiarly called, by sight at least.  He was born of slave parents in Carroll county, Tennessee, about sixty years ago.   His real name was Bludsoe, that, as is generally understood, being the name of his master; but for some reason, probably an aversion for anything that could bring back recollections of slavery days, he assumed the name of Webster, by which he ad been known since the war.  He came north with Col. Carpenter, of Warsaw, at the close of the war, and lived in Warsaw with Ex-Congressman :Billy" Williams, and others for a few years; then he went to live with Capt. Jack Croxton, a brother of our fellow townsman, with whom he staid seven years.  Twenty-three years ago, he came to Angola to live with W. G. Croxton, and remained with him continuously until his death.

Born a slave, very little is known of his early life, or of his relatives.  He had a brother known as Kail Brown, who came north with Gen. Tom Brown at the close of the war and from him he got the name Brown.  Kail died in Winchester, this state, about two years ago.

  Those brought close to Dan in everyday life, would occasionally find him in a reminiscent mood.  At such times he would entertain them with stray bits of his early history and recollections of slave life, which he would relate with the vivid picturesqueness of style and quaintness of expression which are unmistakable characteristics of the Negro race and dialect, adding a peculiar charm to the narrative.  His earliest recollections were of his parents and their master, who it seems was a humane and kind-hearted man; of the time when the daughter of the master married an unworthy member of a proud and aristocratic family in Mississippi; of himseslf, then a sturdy lad, with two or three other slave boys, younger than himself, being given by his master to the daughter as a wedding present; of a long trip to their future home on a big Mississippi plantation; how his unfortunate mistress, like many another woman, soon discovered that she had been deceived and betrayed into an unhappy marriage; that her husband was a graceless profligate, heading an abandoned and dissolute life, which speedily terminated in the disappearance of the faithless husband and cruel desertion of the wife, who was left with her little colony of colored children, friendless, helpless, and destitute; of the appeal to her father for help and protection; of  the days of distress and privation which followed, until the slow methods of communication and travel of those days brought relief; how they all, heartsick and homesick as they were, shouted and cried for joy when they one day recognized the familiar form of the old master in the distance, coming on horseback for their deliverance; how the old master settled some necessary business matters, arranged to send his daughter home by a river boat, and then with Dan and the other little barefooted boys on either side of his horse, struck out over the mountains for their old home in Tennessee; how the old master would take first one and then another upon the horse with him, at at times would pile them all on while he would walk and rest them, during the long journey, until they finally reached their old home - a story so full of tender pathos and interest as to be well worthy of being woven into those delightful romances of southern life and customs which come from the graceful pens of Cable, Reed, and Harris.

Dan had a high and innate sense of honor which would be an ornament to many a man claiming a higher position in life than he.  Little children liked him; he was their champion and their comforter.  His inborn chivalry prompted him to resent a slighting remark made of any woman.  His courteous manners and uniform good nature made all who knew him his friends

For nearly a quarter of a century, he had lived in Angola with Mr. Croxton, and never was there more devoted, faithful and loyal attachment upon the part of any one than he had manifested in that long service.  He had become like a member of the family.  His death deeply moved Mr Croxton, who fittingly remembered his trusty servant with a funeral service and burial in every respect equal to that which would be given a near and dear relative.  Humble as was Dan's place in life, he met death while faithfully discharging his duty.  High or low, white or black, what higher eulogy can be paid to any man?

Funeral services, held at the Croxton residence Sunday forenoon, were attended by a vast concourse of people.  The floral tributes were profuse, the casket covered with beautiful flowers.  Rev. F. M. Kemper delivered a brief but most excellent address, and music was rendered by a quartet from the Methodist choir.  Mr Kemper's address was especially fitting and appropriate to the occasion, and many speak of it as the finest of its kind ever heard in Angola.  The pall bearers were Sam Shelton, Charles Vinson, B. Barber and B. Ensley - all colored - and they tenderly deposited the casket in the Croxton family vault in Circle Hill cemetery."

Angola Magnet June 17, 1898