Ralph Montgomery, slave who was freed in first Iowa Supreme Court case - census help needed

+2 votes

I am having a hard time finding census records for Ralph, who lived in the Dubuque, Iowa area from 1834 until his death in 1870. I have several sources, more about the court case than him, linked in the profile (which also needs a bio). I thought I would be able to find him on the census, but as yet have been unsuccessful. I have two possibilities for 1840, but I came up with nothing for the other years.

About the case for your interest: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/iowa-courts-history/civil-rights/

"The first of these cases was the very first decision of the Iowa Supreme Court—In Re the Matter of Ralph, decided July, 1839. In 1834, a Missouri resident named Montgomery entered into a written agreement with his slave Ralph. The agreement allowed Ralph to reside in the Iowa territory to earn money to purchase his freedom for $550 plus interest. Ralph went to Dubuque where he found a job working in the lead mines. Ralph failed to pay this amount and after five years had passed Montgomery sent bounty hunters to abduct Ralph and return him to Missouri. Ralph was brought before the district court by a writ of habeas corpus, and the proceedings were transferred to the Iowa Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. 

"The Iowa Supreme Court found that Ralph should pay his debt, but held that "no man in this territory can be reduced to slavery." The court rejected the argument that Ralph was a fugitive slave, reasoning that by allowing him to leave Missouri and reside in a free state, Montgomery could no longer exercise any right over him in the Iowa territory. The U.S. Supreme Court faced a similar question 18 years later when it decided the infamous Dred Scott (1857) case. However, unlike the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Ralph, the U.S. Supreme Court decision maintained the rights of the slave holder and ordered the slave returned. The issue of slavery would not be settled until the Civil War." 

WikiTree profile: Ralph Montgomery
in Genealogy Help by W Robertson G2G6 Mach 9 (95.1k points)

3 Answers

+2 votes

i found this:

A free man, Ralph returned to his diggings and eventually did strike several rich veins of lead – among them was the famed McKinzie lead “which yielded millions of pounds of mineral and resulted in mines of wealth.” Eventually, Ralph sold his claim for a good price, but “being of an easy, confiding turn of mind, he permitted himself to be swindled out of it.” Regardless of his worth, Ralph earned a position as a respected member of the tight-knit German/Irish community of Dubuque and was even invited to become a member of the prestigious Old Settlers Association.

The 1870 Times article described Ralph in his later years as: “[a] tall, slim figure, [with] kinky locks literally besprinkled with gray, [a] benevolent, shining countenance which seemed to be the abode of a perpetual smile, and a kindly eye which had the look of recognition to all.” After losing his fortune, Ralph spent his final years living in the County Poor House where he said, “The beef was poor, the coffee muddy, and the dishes dirty.”

Ralph’s died of smallpox on July 22, 1870, “having contracted the disease while nursing a sick patient.” After his death, “His remains, interred at the hands of charity, now lie in the Potter’s Field,” wrote the Dubuque Times. Ralph, along with many of Dubuque’s earliest settlers, was buried in an unmarked grave on a grassy slope in Linwood Cemetery.  https://juliensjournal.com/2017/03/05/trappist-caskets-in-the-matter-of-ralph/

by Sandra Vines G2G6 Mach 9 (94.8k points)
Thank you for the additional source. Most of this information comes from the Acton and Acton book, but this site is freely available.

However, I am still unable to find him on the census.
+2 votes

I found this. Not quite a census record ...

Name:     R Montgomery
Residence Year:     1867
Street address:     n Dodge w Boundary near city limits
Residence Place:     Dubuque, Iowa, USA
Occupation:     Miner
Publication Title:     Dubuque, Iowa, City Directory, 1867

Shareable record @ Ancestry

by Dave Ebaugh G2G6 Mach 1 (19.4k points)
+1 vote

I found this list of Iowa Census years


1880 federal census destroyed by fire in 1921. Of course that doesn’t apply here.


by Bryan Shannon G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)

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