It is documented that the first black family to settle in Anderson was the Monroe Williams family, who resided at Tenth and Chase Street. The exact date as to when the Williams family purchased their Anderson home is not recorded, but is believed to have been in the mid 1880s. A gentleman named “Sour Mash” Bill came to Anderson immediately after the Civil War, and was appointed turnkey at the Madison County Jail in 1868.
Between 1890 and 1900, the black population of Anderson continued to grow. Many came from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and found steady work at the Gould Rolling Mills, located in the Irondale area. Other prominent black Anderson residents during this time included Peter J. Blakemore, who served as city commissioner from 1905 through 1907. Joe and Dick Wadkins were the first black men from Anderson ever to serve on a jury.
The city of Anderson had its first black physician in Dr. James Ellis, who practiced medicine in the community until his death in 1904. After the passing of Dr. Ellis, many black physicians had offices and made house calls, including a Dr. Middleton who had many white patients. Dr. A.P. Hall was a chiropractor that practiced in the Citizens Bank Building before relocating to Indianapolis. After Dr. Hall’s departure, Mrs. Hattie Kirtley took up residence in his vacated office and operated her chiropractor business from there.
Alex Vance was the first known black business owner in Anderson, operating a barber shop on Main Street for several years. The Blakemore brothers operated a blacksmith shop for over 45 years, primarily ran by Peter J. Blakemore. His brother Marcus later owned an electrical shop that once was rated the best in the city. James Brock was a talented tailor and ran a thriving tailoring business for many years. John Wooten operated a grocery store on Madison Avenue and was one of the first black residents of Anderson to own an automobile.