More than 160 years ago, two members of the board of trustees of the town of
Newark, met and issued an order that all Negroes should leave within twenty-four hours. A constable was sent out to the black community to inform them of the order of banishment. A young black boy ran to the home of the third member of the board of trustees, A.E. Elliot, begging him to use his influence to circumvent the order. Elliot, his son, and Eddie Roye, went along to the Square where a large crowd had gathered, both blacks and whites. The entire Negro population was pleading that they should not be driven from their homes. Elliot did use his influence; he protested that such hasty action would create hardship on the people involved. His arguments proved effective and the order was postponed until it could be given more consideration. The postponement became indefinite and was never brought up again. Ohio
Trustee Elliot went about his affairs as usual, but young Eddie Roye must have walked away from the Square with a determination to find a land with freedom for "men of color."
The history of Edwards J. Roye and the history of
begin at about the same time. In 1810, just eight years after Newark was founded and surveyed, John Roye is recorded as having purchased a lot on the south side of the Square. Roye, said to have been born in slavery in Newark , came north with his wife Nancy and became a prosperous land owner. Their son, Edward J. Roye was born in a little house on what is now Kentucky Mount Vernon Road on Feb. 3, 1815. He was educated in schools, but nothing much is known of his early years. In 1822, his father sold his Newark Newark property and went to , leaving Edward and his mother behind. A letter dated April 14, 1829, from John Edward Roye, is in the Vandalia Illinois courthouse. The letter beginning, "Dear Son," leaves all the property John Roye had acquired in Illinois to his son Edward. Illinois
Several biographers say Edward Roye became a barber, which was acceptable occupation for a black at that time.
did not have a white barber until 1856. By the year 1832, Edward Roye had left his hometown and was enrolled in Newark Ohio University in . He went on to teach school at Athens Chillicothe in 1836 and after that he moved to , where he opened that city's first bathhouse/barbershop next door to the best hotel. Terre Haute, Ind.
By the time Nancy Roye died and was buried in the
Sixth Street cemetery in 1840, the mood of the country was changing. Colonizationists wanted to remove all blacks and send them to Africa. Whether due to changing in climate of the 1840's or to the scene around the Square that day in his childhood, Edward Roye decided to leave the United States for an African country, . On May 1, 1846, Roye sailed from Liberia New York and one month later landed in . Monrovia
His energy and intelligence soon made him a leading merchant and after acquiring great wealth, he returned to the
on his own ship. It is said he visited U.S. where he was entertained at a banquet for an event for Thomas Ewin, adoptive father of William Tecumseh Sherman. Newark
Years later Roye became chief justice, speaker of the House, and finally, president of
in 1871. He began a program of reconstruction for his nation intending to build new roads and schools. Liberia
For these purposes he needed money. Roye sailed for
England where he began negotiations with banks. The results proved ruinous, the terms of the loans were severe, among other things carrying an interest of 7 percent. Roye hastily agreed without consulting the legislature. London actually received about $90,000, while bonds were issued for $400,000. Liberia
The whole affair caused great resentment against him, and when he returned home he was accused of embezzlement. He then tried to extend his two-year term of president by edict, after the people rose up against him.
In October 1871, Edward J. Roye was deposed from office., He was brought to trial, but escaped in the night . His is believed to have drowned while trying to reach a English ship in
harbor, on Feb. 12, 1872. Monrovia
After many years the nation of
has taken another look at their fifth president. A building housing what was the True Wig Party headquarters is named in his honor, as well as a ship, a town, and several schools. Liberia
The Ohio Historical Society refers to
Edward James Roye as the "Ninth and Forgotten President from
While in a land far away from the
" land of Legend
he is known by some as the "Lincoln of Liberia."