One Westerville family defied Ohio’s miscegenation laws.
In 1880, Mary Holly Sunderland bought eleven acres near the intersection of Morse and Cherry Bottom Roads. An old schoolhouse became a blacksmith shop for her husband, Elisha, and they raised their children together. What made their family unique was that Mary was Black and Elisha was white.
We know very little about the nature of their relationship. In 1861, Ohio had miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriage and intercourse. The penalty was a fine of up to $100 (or over $2500 in 2022) and/or imprisonment for up to three months. Census records refer to Elisha and Mary as husband and wife, but a marriage record has not been located that indicates that they were legally wed. Regardless, they still chose to live openly as a couple and had 13 children together from the 1870s to the 1890s. This was a bold choice that could’ve led to social ostracization as well as serious legal implications. The state government repealed the miscegenation laws and other Black laws in 1887, an effort spearheaded by Black politicians.
A derogatory word that refers to interracial marriage, intercourse, or reproduction. Laws that enforced this kind of intimate racial segregation were called miscegenation or anti-miscegenation laws.
 Columbus Dispatch, 5/21/1880; Harold Hancock, ed., Nineteenth Century Westville (Westerville: Otterbein College Print Shop, 1980), 96.
 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com; Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004; Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
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