Earlier this month, Col. Charles Young's former home in Wilberforce, Ohio, was dedicated as the Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.
And he just happens to have a loose connection to Fort Wayne.
Young is the first cousin of the late Robert R. Green, who lived in Fort Wayne and whose granddaughter, Judith Green, still lives here.
Judith Green said she attended the national monument dedication ceremony April 2 in Wilberforce, which is just east of Dayton. The gathering included a few other family members from Michigan and Ohio.
Green remembers hearing about Young from her family. She tried to do a college research paper on him about four years ago, but she couldn't find much information.
When she heard President Obama had issued a proclamation March 25 declaring Young's former home a national monument, she couldn't believe it. She got on the Internet to see what she could find out.
“That day, I was on the computer five hours because there was so much information,” she said.
At the dedication ceremony, she saw the national monument had a lot of information and displays about Young's military career. They didn't have much background on his family, which is why they were very interested in what Green calls “the book” — a family history compiled by her grandfather's sister, Pearl Williams, before her death in October 1976 in Fort Wayne.
Green said “the book” traces the family back to Charles Young's grandfather, Elisha Young, who escaped from slavery on a plantation near Maysville, Ky. Elisha Young eventually made his way to Canada, where he changed his name to John Green.
Judith Green said her grandfather Robert — who was a grandson of Elisha Young — grew up in Ohio and moved to Fort Wayne around 1922. He became a chauffeur for a wealthy local family.
“He would drive them from here to California,” she said.
He later worked as an elevator operator, first for many years at the Federal Building and for many more years — into his 80s — at the old Peoples Bank and Trust building in downtown Fort Wayne, she said.
He also planted the roots that sprouted her family.
She hopes to keep the family's history alive.
“I am just trying to pass the story along and educate others about Col. Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers.”
Army legendHere is a brief history of Col. Charles Young's career and accomplishments:
•Born 1864 to enslaved parents in Kentucky. In 1866, after the Civil War ended, the family moved to Ripley, Ohio, which is on the Ohio River east of Cincinnati.
•Young served nearly his entire military career with the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments, which often were called the “Buffalo Soldiers.”
•He was the highest-ranking African-American commanding officer in the United States Army from 1894 until his death in 1922.
•He served as the first African-American superintendent of a national park, overseeing Sequoia and General Grant (now Kings Canyon) national parks while commanding Buffalo Soldiers there before the creation of the National Park Service.
•His military service included serving on the western frontier, going into combat in the Philippines and riding with Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing as the U.S. Army went after Pancho Villa and his rebels in 1916 in Mexico.
•Young was the first African-American to serve as a U.S. military attache, first to Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and later to Liberia in Africa.
•His military career included being stationed at Wilberforce University in Ohio, east of Dayton, where he taught tactics and military science.
•Over his protests, he was retired from the army in July 1917 because of illness.
•He remained on the list of active-duty officers, however, and the Army called him back to help train African-American troops in America during World War I. He then served from early 1920 as a military attache in Liberia.
•He died Jan. 8, 1922, while in the neighboring country of Nigeria.
Source: Presidential proclamation on Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument