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200 North Main St | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Collection Description

Milton Barton worked for Jesse Fell (founder and developer of Normal) and reportedly planted many of the trees at ISU. Barton was part Cherokee Indian, and his wife Lucinda was an African-American / Irish woman originally from Madison County. 

Milton’s son, William Carey Barton, was a sheet-metal worker and coppersmith and bought a house at 304 E. Cherry St. in Normal.  William’s son, Wilbur Barton, was the youngest of nine children and the only one to attend college.  Among the first black students to attend ISNU, he graduated in 1936 with a teaching degree.   Wilbur was captain of the basketball team, but for certain away games could not be seen with them team because he was black.  In World War II he served with the Navy three years as chief petty officer at Great Lakes and Navy Pier in Chicago.  With his college degree, Wilbur would have been a commissioned officer if he hadn’t been “the wrong color.” Wilbur could not use his teaching degree in Bloomington-Normal because there were no teaching opportunities for African-Americans.  Instead, he moved to Indiana and taught in segregated schools.  He taught junior high and high school in Indianapolis for 41 years before retiring. 

In 1994 Ed Jelks, former Illinois State University professor, led a team of seven volunteers in an archaeological survey and excavation of Wilbur Barton’s backyard.  Along with census and oral histories, material found at the site has been used to reconstruct and record what ordinary people were doing at the time.  Documents relating to this excavation are in this collection.

This folder contains legal documents, census photocopies, news clippings, correspondence, essays, as well as archaeological notes, reports, and tests.  Folders 1-10 are related to Barton family history and genealogy.  Folders 10-20 contain documents related to the archaeological excavation of the Barton property, and folders 20-23 are publications about the Barton house, maps of African-American residences, and miscellaneous house documents.  There is also one floppy disk and one mini cassette. 

Additional Barton house and family documents can be found in the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project collection in Box 5 Folder 6, Box 3 Folder 8, and other single documents in other folders throughout the collection.


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