Hiram Young and Black History Month

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Brent Schondelmeyer and Alversia Pettigrew of the Jackson Co. Historical Society discussed Hiram Young and Black History Month.

Hiram Young was one of the leading manufacturers of wagons in Independence, MO for westward pioneers in the mid-19th century, notably the Forty-niners, and a successful African-American entrepreneur.

Young was born a slave in Tennessee in the early 19th century, and married while still a slave. He moved to Missouri, and at some point he purchased his wife Matilda's freedom; according to some reports he bought Matilda's freedom before his own, a common practice at the time because the children of a slave and a free person inherited the mother's status. In 1847, Young finally purchased his own freedom from his master, George Young, for $1,500.

After freeing himself, Young went into business building wagons. Missouri then being a slave state, Young purchased slaves of his own for his business, but he paid them regular wages of $5 a week, and allowed several of them to purchase their freedom eventually. By 1860, Young's business was producing 800-900 wagons annually, and some 50,000 ox yokes. The business's inventory alone was appraised at over $50,000, with a capital investment of another $30 to $35 thousand. Young was one of the most successful businessmen in Independence during the period 1851-1860.

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