Jesse Harvey

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Harveysburg Free Black School.jpg
Dr. Jesse Harvey erected the first academy building at the east end of the village and went to considerable expense to furnish it with competent teachers and equipment from the east. He initially paid for the school, which lasted through harsh economic times for eight or nine years. He taught classes twice a week on history, languages and the natural sciences. Courtesy of the Mary L. Cook Public Library.

Jesse Harvey was an abolitionist in Warren County, Ohio during the 1830s and 1840s. He was responsible for founding the community of Harveysburg, Ohio.

Harvey was born on November 26, 1808, in Orange County, North Carolina. Harvey's parents were members of the Society of Friends, and in 1814, they moved to Clinton County, Ohio. The reason for this move was probably due to the Quakers' dislike of slavery. Jesse Harvey eventually studied medicine, including spending 1826 and 1827 enrolled at the Medical College of Ohio. In 1830, he opened his own medical practice in Harveysburg.

In Harveysburg, Jesse and his wife Elizabeth dedicated their lives to assisting African Americans. According to the couple's children, the Harvey home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1831, the Harveys also established the Harveysburg Free Black School, which was the first free school for African American children in Ohio. Elizabeth Harvey was especially concerned about the lack of free education for Ohio's African American children and convinced her husband to construct a one-room schoolhouse to assist African American children in attaining an education. While the institution is now known as the Harveysburg Free Black School, the school permitted any children of color to attend. Constructed of brick, the Harveysburg Free Black School remained in operation as a school until the early 1900s, when African Americans were finally permitted to attend historically white schools in the community. The school relied on donations, principally from the Grove Monthly Meeting of Friends in Harveysburg, to remain open. In addition to opening the Harveysburg Free Black School, the Harveys also established a seminary for white children in the community.

Jesse Harvey also actively assisted Native Americans. While in Ohio, Harvey made frequent trips to Wapakoneta, Ohio, the home of numerous Shawnee families. In 1847, he moved his family to Kansas to work with Shawnee natives at a Quaker mission. Harvey served as the superintendent of the Friends School and Farm for the Shawnee natives in the Kansas Territory. Shortly after arriving in Kansas, Harvey became ill. He died on May 12, 1848, less than one year after arriving in Kansas.

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