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A Moment in History The life of

The Duncan Family

The story of the Duncan’s begins with a woman named Elizabeth Kelley, who went by the name of Betsey. She was born about 1829, most likely into slavery. Her death certificate says her father was J.O. Kelley, born in TN, and her mother was unknown Chaney, born in Virginia.

As of yet I have not found her on the1870 census. I have heard, but cannot confirm, that some blacks kept themselves off the 1870 census for fear of their freedom being reversed and they would be found.

The death certificate of her oldest child list the father as Solomon Duncan. All but the last chiild would have been born during slavery. I have not been able to find a possible owner for either Betsey or Solomon, but to have 6 children together Solomon would had to have been on the same property or close by.

Betsey had 6 children that I know of – all born in Missouri. William 1850, Aaron 1856, Felix 1859, Kelly 1862, Laura 1865 and Sarah 1869. It is Kelly’s son Samuel who married Elizabeth “Bertie”( Martin) Duncan of our cemetery; and son Arthur who with wife Rosa Deeds are the parents of our cemetery’s Lola who died as a 7 yr old, making her Kelly’s granddaughter.

It is not known if Betsey and Solomon ever married. I have found no record to indicate they did, but as slaves were usually not allowed to marry it would have been after the civil war. By the 1880 census she has married Jack Hardeman age 35 to her 51 and they are liviing at 49 Patton Alley in Springfield, MO. All the males on that census are laborers. Betsey was a cook and daughter Sarah was a nurse.

Betsey passed away in Springfield, MO in 1910 and is buried in Hazelwood Cemetery.

There is more to this story yet to be told if living descendants were to be searched for and found.

SIDE NOTE: Betsey is also the grandmother of Horace Duncan through her son William. In 1906 in Springfield, MO 18 yr old Horace along with another young man, Fred Coker, were accused of armed robbery and assault . It was proven by police that they were innocent, but while still in jail (the Calaboose on St. Louis Street) a mob broke in, kidnapped them and another negro named Allen and hung them on the square. It needs to be said that it was a white woman that falsely accused Duncan and Coker as her attackers. The woman was recently separated but not divorced from her husband. She was supposedly in Springfield looking for a job. I often wonder how a woman who lived 32 miles north of Springfield, near Bolivar, would even know the names of these two young men. Especially since one news article said they were wearing masks.

In 2019 a marker was erected on the square to commemorate the event and honor the innocent.