The Story of Green Chambers

Green Chambers, also known as Greenberry Chambers, was a slave in Barren County Kentucky. He had a wife Charlotte (Lottie) and five children apparently scattered among various slave owners. 

During the Civil War, Kentucky was a Union state and formed a regiment of U.S. Colored Troops. In July, 1864 Green Chambers escaped from his owner. After hiding in the woods for a time, he was enlisted as a private in Company H of the 115th U.S. Colored Infantry. His owner, Frank Chambers, received a certificate for the $100 bounty normally paid to an enlistee and $300 in compensation for his value.

In the fall of 1864 Chambers was severely injured while helping to erect a stockade at Fort Cynthiana, Kentucky, an injury that plagued him throughout his life. He was sent to a military hospital In Covington, Kentucky where he worked as a supervisor cook until the end of the war. 

In July, 1865 Chambers was discharged from the Union Army. He went in search his children, three of whom were found, (Green Jr. George and Sarah) and after some difficulty, were released from their master. The fate of his other two children is unknown. 

Although Green set out to find a better life for himself and his family, it was not a life easily found in post-Civil War Kentucky. The state refused to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. In September, 1865 Green, Lottie and their children left Kentucky and travelled by steamboat up the Mississippi River to Minnesota. 

Green purchased a farm in Anoka County near the present day Centennial School campus. Although the farm was profitable, in 1877 it was foreclosed on due to a $677.70  debt. The family then resettled on another farm, most likely in southeastern Blaine. Green Sr. served on the Blaine Township Board of Supervisors as a constable from 1878-1881 and as a road overseer in 1882. In 1870 African American men were granted the right to vote. An annual electoral register lists Green Sr. and Green Jr. as voters in the 1881 Blaine Township election.

In 1884, for reasons unknown, the family including Green Jr. and Sarah, moved to St. Paul. (George died around 1874.) Green Sr. received a Civil War pension of $48 per year. Lottie helped support the family by cleaning, washing and ironing. She died on December 3, 1884 of pneumonia and was buried at St. Paul's Oakland Cemetery, in what was called the African Section. By 1890 Green Sr., Sarah and Green Jr. had moved to 890 Juno Street in St. Paul. Green Sr. worked as a railroad porter to support himself. He died in 1898 of old age and was buried at Oakland Cemetery. Sarah and her husband Charles Bailey were also later buried there. Over time all four grave markers became unreadable. However because Green Sr. was a Civil War veteran, his grave marker has been replaced.

Back in the 1860s, Blaine was a very different place. It was the perseverance and determination of a former slave from Kentucky that helped set Blaine on its early course to permanent settlement.

Notes

This story was largely adapted from Circle Pines and Lexington, Minnesota: History of the 1800s to 2000," by Stephen Lee. The Blaine Historical Society owes Mr. Lee a debt of gratitude for his tremendous work in researching and compiling some of the shared early history of Blaine, Circle Pines, and Lexington. In 1847, this land included the current day cities of Blaine, Circle Pines, and Lexington.