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Gilbert N. Porter (1842-1936)


Sold into slavery at age 11 in Marshall County, Tennessee, Gilbert Porter once received 760 lashes for running away to see his girl. Porter made three attempts to seek freedom, finally succeeding in 1863 when he met up with the 78th Illinois Regiment. During his time with the Army, he continued to make return trips to help other freedom seekers. His regiment engaged in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Porter was later entrusted with accompanying the body of Captain Robert F. Williams – who had been killed in action in August 1864 near Atlanta, Georgia – to his home in Carrollton, Ohio.


Gilbert Porter eventually moved to Massillon in 1869 and worked as a confectionery, peanut vendor, landlord, farmer, garbage hauler, and trustee for the John Hall Industrial School for colored girls (which opened in 1904). Porter often shared his stories with residents at cookouts, and in the Independent newspaper in 1929. Porter died in 1936 and is buried in Massillon Cemetery.


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