Thursday, December 16, 2010

Edwill Thacker - In the Matter of Thacker vs. Hawk (1842)

If you have studied the Thacker’s at all, you will have come across the story of Edwill Thacker. In his book, “The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio,” Stephen Middleton described the events this way:

A registrar in Gallia County denied Edwill Thacker a ballot because he was of mixed race heritage relying solely on anecdotal and circumstantial evidence. Thacker was visibly white and had lived as such in the town of Gallia for many years, where only a few individuals knew his true ancestry and no one would have automatically assumed that he was anything but white. The registrar knew it and refused Thacker a ballot. The common pleas judge sided with the registrar, charging the jury that if Thacker had any black blood he should be denied the vote.”1

Unfortunately, the depositions of the case, which may have proved quite useful in sorting out some of the lineage questions, were lost. Destroyed, misfiled, or in someone’s personal possession, the depositions were in fact missing prior to the filming of the court documents, so one avenue of research simply disappeared.

The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, Simon Nash for the plaintiff argued in part:

“As to the instructions of the court. I believe they are wrong. There are but three classes of persons - blacks or negroes, mullatoes, and whites, known to our laws. A black, or negro, is a full-blood African, or one nearer to that than a mulatto; a mulatto is one begotten between a white and a negro, or one nearer to that than to a white; and a white person embraces all which are neither black or mulattoes.

Our black law speaks only of blacks, or negroes, and mulattoes; these are prohibited from coming into the state, and from being employed, unless having given security. Persons neither blacks nor mulattoes can come into the state without restriction. The property of blacks and mulattoes is exempted from taxation for school purposes: none but white children our permitted to attend school A person neither a black or a mulatto, but having some negro blood, will then be taxed, and his children excluded from the school. The legislature never intended such injustice; they designed to permit the children of all to attend, whose property was subject to taxation to raise the school funds .” 2

To be labeled nonwhite was to lose not only the right to vote, but it meant the loss to one’s children of the right to go to school. It meant the loss of employment unless a security was given. To be labeled nonwhite meant a person was not legally allowed to come and live in the state of Ohio, unless a $500 dollar bond was posted and signed by two bondsman guaranteeing the individual’s “good conduct” It meant, in fact, you were not deemed a legal resident of the state. The registrar’s refusal to let Edwill vote, put all these rights into jeopardy.

The court ruled that the lower court’s ruling should be reversed because the judge’s original instructions were incorrect:  "the court did instruct the jury, that if the plaintiff had in him any negro blood whatever, he was not entitled to vote at said election." 2

It is unknown what effect this had on Edwill himself, his children or his extended family living in Gallia County.

However, for all intents, because Edwill was considered “more white” than black, he became legally, for that moment - white.

1 (Middleton, 2005)

2 (Stanton, 1873)


Middleton, S. (2005). The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Stanton, E. M., Reporter (1873). Report of Cases Aproved and Determined in the Supreme Court of Ohio in Bank, Volume IX. Cincinnati, Robert Clark & Co.

Quillin, Frank Uriah. The Color Line in Ohio: A History of Race Prejudice in a Typical Northern State, Ann Arbor, George Wahr, 1913.

No comments:

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed