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100 Years Ago


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Helen & Isaac Gilmore
Black History Advocates and Historians

Helen Dehlia Russell Gilmore is the founder and President of the Rossville-Springcreek Historical Society. She is also director of the Rossville Museum and Cultural Center. Helen is a granddaughter of Frances Rial (Ryal) Russell (a daughter of the freed Randolph slaves Isaac Rial and Mary White). Helen has written and published a 36-page booklet entitled, "The History of the Randolph Freed Slaves of Roanoke, Virginia who settled in Miami & Shelby Counties."

helenisaacgilmore.gif (18019 bytes) With the assistance of her husband, Isaac, Helen researched the court records of the predominantly black community of Rossville and decided to save and restore the run-down African Jackson Cemetery in Rossville. Together, they were able to locate the 120 bodies buried there through the aid of the original cemetery plat and court records. According to Helen, "When my hand got tired of writing, Isaac would write for me."

In 1986, the Gilmores took a trip to the John Randolph plantation in Goochland County, Virginia. They returned to Virginia the following year with twenty-four interested persons, white and black, who wished to connect with the Randolph’s history. These travelers included former Sidney Mayor Jim Humphrey and his wife, Louise. Owned by Dr. and Mrs. Charles Willis, the Randolph farm home was built in the 1800s. Descendants of Piqua’s Randolph slaves, who had returned in later years to Virginia, joined the local group for a ‘reunion.’

Helen contributed most of the Randolph slave support material for this teacher’s guide and has spoken to Shelby County students about slavery. The Gilmores worked for eight years to restore and furnish the one-story Rial frame house, and spearheaded efforts to place it on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first black residences in Ohio to be added to the Register. She and her husband’s efforts were profiled in a seven-page feature article in the June/July, 1996, issue of "Ohio Magazine".

 ''Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge

 

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