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*On this date in 1818, we celebrate the founding of Longtown (Greenville settlement), Ohio.
The James and Sophia Clemens Farmstead is one of the oldest and last remaining agricultural resources in one of Ohio’s earliest Black settlements, Longtown (Greenville settlement). This farmstead was the home of James and Sophia Clemens, the founders of the settlement. Not only instrumental in starting the first school, they also donated land for the Wesleyan Church and established a cemetery for the community.
The Clemens were involved in the Underground Railroad, and the men in the family fought for the Union in the American Civil War. The records of the first landowners of Darke County, Ohio, show that James Clemens was the first free Black man to purchase land in German Township. Relocating from Virginia to Ohio in 1818, James and Sophia built a thriving farm business. Sophia’s maiden name was Sellers. She is believed to be the daughter of her and her husband’s enslaver, Adam Sellers of Rockingham County, Virginia. Several decades after the Civil War, historian William Siebert documented the people and places of the Underground Railroad.
According to a map he drew, Longtown (Greenville Settlement) was a stop in the Underground Railroad. According to Siebert’s manuscript, The Underground Railroad, he interviewed Col. David Putman of Palestine, Ohio in 1898. Mr. Putman stated, “At the Greenville Negro settlement was another station. The Clemens’ and the Alexander’s were the leaders in the movement there. These were Negro families.” The Clemens are listed as Darke County operators in Siebert’s book.
A number of freedom seekers stayed in Longtown for a time, attending the Union Literary Institute before continuing their flight to Canada. The Union Literary Institute was a vocational school founded by residents of the settlement and anti-slavery Quakers in 1845. At least on one occasion, freedom seekers entered the abolitionist community. When Black men were recruited for the Union, a number of locals joined the Massachusetts 54th, the first Black regiment of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). James R. Clemens, grandson of James Clemens, served as a private in Company A of the 8th United States Colored Troops infantry.
According to Black historian and civil rights activist W. E. B. Dubois, Longtown became a haven for interracial couples. The town is one of only two communities in Ohio to be considered tri-racial: persons of African American, European, and Native American ancestry lived here. The Clemens Farmstead, a two-story brick house, sits about 100 feet from Stingley Road, and the facade is a common bond brick pattern with classical Greek Revival details. The James and Sophia Clemens Farmstead is located at 467 Stingley Rd., in the vicinity of Greenville, Ohio. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The house is private property and is not open to the public.