Hidden History: Tate Blanchard learns about his family's hidden history in Mount Pleasant

JEFFERSON COUNTY, OHIO - The Ohio Valley is rich in History, especially when it comes to one of our nations darkest times. 

One community, in particular, has a long past in helping fugitive slaves and freed slaves find better lives. 7News took a trip to Mount Pleasant to learn more and found out some fascinating things about the Blanchard family history. 

The unearthing of this story started one day outside of the 7News studio when a board member, Don Feenerty, with the Mount Pleasant Historical Society starting asking 7News anchor Tate Blanchard about the Blanchard family and their ties to Mount Pleasant. Tate didn't know much about the topic, but Don's wife Angela found the topic to be so intriguing that she jumped right into the research and she has taught me about my own family, "I do know that your grandfather's great-grandfather was Isaac," said Mount Pleasant Historical Society President, Angela Feenerty.

Angela discovered a letter penned in 1820, where William Flanner of Mount Pleasant writes to his cousin Josiah Parker in Northampton, North Carolina. It's in the contents of that later that a man named Isaac Blanchard is mentioned. Blanchard is, at that time, a freed slave from a plantation owned by Jonathan Blanchard in North Carolina, "In the letter, it talks about Isaac, who is reluctant to come because he doesn't want to leave his wife and his children there. Presumably, they were owned by someone else, but apparently, he did, because in that same year he's living right next door to the man who wrote the letter," Feeneerty said.

What many people might not know about our area, is that Mount Pleasant was a well-known place for blacks seeking a better life, especially those trying to escape the neighboring slave state of Virginia, "Just the fact that we had a free black community in this area was a draw for other freed blacks when they would gain their freedom they would come here, but they would also escape and it was a destination," Feenerty added.

In 1820 Isaac was enumerated in the census, living in Mount Pleasant, then in 1830 he had moved to Colerain, and then in 1840 he had settled in Flushing, where some of my family lives to this day, "When he was found on the census here we was with a woman, but no children, but three years later he gets married," Feenerty added.

Now when Tate walks down the streets of Mount Pleasant, he'll know for certain that I am walking in the same place that my once enslaved ancestors walked, seeking a better life.


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