5 Men From Pekin Were Present During Original Juneteenth in Texas
PEORIA (25 News Now) - Juneteenth commemorates the day the last enslaved Black people were told they were free.
2 years prior Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves, however word didn’t reach those in Galveston, Texas until 1865..
That’s when General Gordon Granger announced Order No. 3 which was supposed to give newly freed blacks “absolute freedom.”
“It’s not just a matter of ending slavery but the prospect of absolute equality between whites and blacks. which no one believed in back then,” says Jared Olar, a historian at Pekin Public Library.
General Granger wasn’t alone in Texas, he brought over 2,000 soldiers with him to enforce the order.
“Abraham Lincoln wanted to make sure there were regiments to represent the African Americans of the Union, so each state was expected to organize a regime of African Americans of what they call the colored troops.” Said Olar
Illinois put ads in the local newspapers to recruit men to volunteer. Those men would make up what would be later known as the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry
“The 29th Colored Infantry is part of the regiments that we know was in Galveston, Texas on the 19th of June in 1865 for the very first Juneteenth.”
Five of those men were from Pekin, Illinois
“Those we know who made it to Galveston were William Henry Costley, William J. Ashby, Marhsall Ashby, Nathan Ashby and Thomas M. Tumbleson. [The Ashbys] were all either brothers or cousins. Nathan Ashby, we believe his father was Dr. James Ashby, Fulton County’s first Physician.” Explained Olar.
Meanwhile down in Texas, historic records tell of a grand celebration and a good time during Juneteenth.
“Everyone at the time was just absolutely filled with joy like you can’t ever imagine.” Says Olar with a laugh.
It’s one of these 5 soldiers from Pekin, William Costley who’s freedom almost wasn’t secured if not for his mother Nancy’s own personal fight 24 years earlier.
It’s her story which put the seed to free those enslaved into then-attorney Abraham Lincoln’s mind.
“William Henry Costley or Bill Costley was the son of Benjamin Costley and Nancy Legins Costley and of course Nancy has a great amazing story.” Explains Olar.
25News will have continued coverage of Nancy Legins-Costley on Monday, June 20th.
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