Early Family Papers

Name of the Collection

The Earley/Early Family Papers, 1849-1951
Accession # 1981.01, 1981.02, 1982.01
.25 cubic feet

Provenance of the Collection

The contents were created by Henry, Charles Edward and Effie Jane Early (aka Earley). The papers arrived in three donations. The first came in 1981 within the large collection of historical documents donated by Robert M. Neal, a local historian in Mineral Point. Then, also in 1981, three ledgers were donated by Leonard and Ruth Peterson who acquired them at an auction. Finally, in 1982, Robert Neal's partner, Edgar Hellum donated a charcoal portrait of Effie, a photograph of Henry and various other papers. Mr. Hellum purchased the Early family home on Spruce Street in Mineral Point and it is believed that he found the papers in the house.

Biographical Background

Henry Early was born a slave in Bardstown, Kentucky on January 1, 1815 to enslaved African Americans, James and Jane. He was first known as Henry Tutt after his owner, Richard Tutt. He learned the trade of saddle making from Richard. Tutt gave Henry his freedom on July 5, 1841 in Greensburg, Kentucky. Henry is identified as a saddler by trade in the deed of emancipation. He is also described as a mulatto. Sometime after his manumission, Henry changed his last name to Earley. The name was spelled Early by his children.

Henry obtained a Letter of Recommendation signed by eight white men of Greensburg dated 1841. He carried this with him as a "passport” in addition to his manumission deed. (Neither of these documents survive.) He arrived in Mineral Point in 1842. In the 1850 Federal Census, Henry was single and living in Mineral Point where he worked as a “saddler.” At some point he met a young black woman, Mary Jane “Jennie” Smith, who was working as a maid in New Diggings, Wisconsin just to the south of Mineral Point. On August 1, 1866 Henry and Jennie were married at New Diggings and set up housekeeping there. Henry was 51 and Mary Jane was 29. On December 8, 1868 Charles Edward was born. On May 19, 1871 a daughter, Effie Jane was born. (There are no birth certificates on file for the children in either Lafayette or lowa counties. The birth dates come from later records.)

A third child was born about December, 1873 after the Early family moved back to Mineral Point. When the baby was 2 months old, Jennie died on February 18, 1874. Henry raised the three children in Mineral Point. The third child, whose name is not yet known, died in childhood. Henry, Charles Edward and Effie remained in Mineral Point until their deaths. They lived in a cottage at 120 Spruce Street. Neither Charles Edward, known as Ed, or Effie married.  Henry died at the age of 82 on August 3, 1897 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Mineral Point.

Charles Edward began working at the Mineral Point Zinc Company and rose to become an engineer. (The Mineral Point Zinc Company later became the New Jersey Zinc Company.) Effie, although very good in school did not work outside their home. A local story reports that she was encouraged to attend the Normal College in Platteville to become a teacher. She declined because she said no one would hire a black woman to teach.

Charles Edward died on May 19, 1942 at the age of 74. While no death certificate is on file at the Iowa County courthouse, the pension record in the Mineral Point/New Jersey Zinc Company Records confirm his birth and death date. He is buried with his father in Graceland Cemetery.

Effie continued to live in the family home until her death on October 16, 1951. She left a will with some small bequests to friends and the bulk of the estate going to Mary Elizabeth Adams in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Her death certificate is on file at the lowa county Register of Deeds. (The death certificate gave Effie's mother's name as Jennie Garing.) Effie is buried with her father and brother in Graceland Cemetery.

Scope and Contents

The papers were probably saved by Effie Early but this is not known for certain. The papers are now organized into three Series, one for each family member.

Series I, contains papers that were associated with Henry Earley/Early during his lifetime. They include property records - a deed and property tax records - as well as financial records from his business of harness making and leather repair. In 1885 an interesting document was produced for Henry in which his good character was described and affirmed by the signatures of 7 prominent Mineral Point businessmen, similar to the affidavit from Kentucky that is described in Henry's obituary. Within the accounts receivables are examples of Henry's signature. The cash journal was decorated and autographed by Effie when she was a child.

Series II, are the very few things belonging to Charles Edward. It does include a copy of a federal tax return for the year before he died. The paid receipts from 1926 seems to confirm that Edward owned a car. A memorial book from a funeral was kept which lists the pall bearers and the friends who attended Charles Edward's funeral. The date of his death is wrong and his name isn't in the front of the booklet, so the attribution to Charles Edward may be incorrect. Two financial ledgers are included in this Series. The purpose of these is uncertain. They may have been exercise books as Charles Edward learned bookkeeping. While not all the names are familiar to Mineral Point at the time of the accounts, some names are. This gives the impression that the accounts are for an actual business.

Series III includes a small number of items referring to Effie. Some postcards from the early 1900's were saved. One of Effie's school report cards is included. This does confirm her good grades and conduct in school. Her will which was probated after her death lists bequests giving an insight into the material acquisitions of a mid-20th century African American family. In 1949, Effie was baptized in the Methodist church of Mineral Point and her baptismal certificate was saved.



Box Inventory of the Collection

Box # Contents of Folders Date Span
Series I. Henry Earley/Early Papers
1 Paid Receipts 1846-1857
1 Cash Journal 1849-1856
1 Accounts Receivable Receipts 1850-1857
1 Property Tax Receipts 1851
1 Deed to Town Lot 26 1854
1 Account Book 1856-1858, 1872
1 Affidavit of Good Character 1885
Series II. Charles Edward Early Papers
1 Accounting Journal 1860, 1886
1 Accounting Journal 1860, 1886
1 Account Statement 1926
1 Federal Tax Return 1941
1 Funeral Memorial Booklet 1942
1 Probate Announcement in Newspaper 1942
1 Pension Notice 1942
Series III. Effie Jane Early Papers
1 School Report Card 1887
1 Letters Received (Postcards) 1909-1913
1 Baptismal Certificate 1949
1 Probate of Will


Collection Arranged by Shan Thomas, 2017
Finding Guide Written by Shan Thomas, 2018