1878 Election Mayhem Documents Freedmen

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster


It is so very unfortunate that African Americans have such a great hurdle to overcome in reclaiming the history of their progenitors. Even though a vital record or a census can help you learn the names of forbears and where they lived, this minimal information is not sufficient enough to tell their story. Delve a little deeper in your search, and you may uncover the sweet finds that help you tell the story of your ancestor’s life.

As we researched the descendants of Joseph Blake (b. abt. 1830) from our last post, we could not help but wonder about the story of this farmer who lived through a tough time in American history. A host of his descendants were identified. When you look beyond traditional resources for records that reveal more, you may be amazed at what you will discover about your ancestor’s experiences.

After Federal troops were ordered out of South Carolina in 1877 by President Rutherford Hayes, Republicans lost the struggle to maintain order. On December 21, 1878 in the Second Congressional Court of South Carolina, Republican to South Carolina House of Representatives, Edmund William McGregor Mackey contested the election day proceedings of 1878 where he claimed that Democrats barred freedmen from voting and forced some to vote for Democrats. Mackey lost to Michael P. O’Connor, and he accused the Democrats of violence and fraudulent practices such as stuffing ballot boxes to secure a Democrat win. Mount Pleasant, voting precinct of Christ Church Parish in Charleston County, was one place this chaos was believed to have taken place.

Joseph Blake was one of the voters to give his deposition from Mt. Pleasant Precinct. Read through it to glean information about him:

Deposition of Joseph Blake Re 1878 Election.

Access the entire volume here: Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fourty-Six Congress 1879-’80 Volume 5, No. 40, Part I

Joseph Blake went to vote Republican on November 5th 1878, but he was handed a ticket with O’Connor’s name on it. O’Connor was contending for the same office as Mackey who was Republican. We can also compare the depositions of other Republican voters who lived near Joseph Blake to see if they actually cast a vote for Mackey or if they were deceived into voting for O’Connor:

Anthony Middleton

Joseph Campbell

July Forrest

Anderson White

Sharpen the Saw

Search Google Books using the following criteria in search of election resources between 1868-1878:

“Congressional Serial Set,” “Your ancestor’s name,”  “County, State”

If your ancestor does not come up in search results, search for the resource for the area where your ancestor lived. Let us know what you learn about election mayhem and your ancestor on the thread of the Facebook post for this article.

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