Notary Black History

”She cannot furnish evidence of her birth from the Public record because they were none kept in those days.”

-James Buchanan (J.B.) Maxwell, Firs Black Notary Public of Mt. Pleasant South Carolina, 1931

William Noland-Madison Wisconsin, 1857

William Noland-Madison Wisconsin, 1857

Notary, Baker, Barber, Musician, Veterinarian

 William Noland was born in 1811 in Binghampton, New York. Noland was the first black resident of Madison.  He arrived with his wife and children in 1850. 

After refusing to cut the hair of a customer who helped capture a fugitive slave he received public attention. 

In 1857, Governor Coles Bashford appointed him as the first black notary in Wisconsin, but he never served because Secretary of State David W. Jones refused to accept his notary bond due to racial discrimination.

The Democrats drafted him to run for Mayor of Madison in 1866.  He declined because of the Democrats; hostility toward equal rights. 

Noland was the first black to graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1875. 

Nathaniel R. Harper-Kentucky, 1878

Nathaniel R. Harper-Kentucky, 1878

Notary, Lawyer, Judge

Nathaniel R. Harper became the first Black lawyer, judge and notary of Louisville, Kentucky after moving there in 1870

He was one of the two Blacks licensed to practice law in Kentucky.  In 1878 Harper became the first black notary in the state. 

In Louisville he became the first black judge in 1885 to Louisville city court.  Throughout his career he fought for the rights of blacks to serve on state juries. 

Later he founded a law school that was eventually absorbed into the Central Law School. 

Harper was born and raised in Indianapolis.  He studied law in Detroit. 

James Buchanan (J.B.) Maxwell-Mt. Pleasant South Carolina, 1931

James Buchanan (J.B.) Maxwell-Mt. Pleasant South Carolina, 1931

Notary

He was the first Black notary of Mt. Pleasant around 1931.  One surviving notarized document, saved by historian Dorthy Fludd, he notarized on August 22, 1931 regarding a widow’s pension for Elizabeth Jenkins, whose husband Edmund served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

As part of the document, J.B. included an interesting sentence that sums up the difficulty of preserving local histories of African Americans during this era. ”She cannot furnish evidence of her birth from the Public record because they were none kept in those days.”

J.B. Maxwell was born in Slavery in 1854 in Flat Rock, North Carolina.  He and his parents were owned by James Maxwell.  After Emancipation they walked to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.