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Hine, Ruth L. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 15, Number 3 (Fall 1968)

Noyes, Edward
A negro in mid-nineteenth century Wisconsin life and politics,   pp. 2-6


Page 2


A revealing insight into
the life of a man . . .
and the conscience of a state.
William H. Noland was one of
a handful of Negroes who stood
apart from their fellows in the life
and politics of mid-nineteenth cen-
tury Wisconsin. A resident of Mad-
ison for the greater part of a gen-
eration following 1850, Noland
was born free. It is not certain
where his birth occurred. The man-
uscript census of 1860 lists his
birthplace as Virginia; that of 1870
names New York. There is also a
report that he was born in Mary-
land. Whichever is true, Noland
lived in Baltimore before he ap-
peared in Madison. He was the
first Negro to establish permanent
residence there, for of six colored
Madisonians tabulated by the cen-
sus taker of 1850 none remained
in the place a decade later. Early
in his stay, the Madison commu-
nity labeled Noland with the title
and the healing art of the veter-
inarian. Available evidence indi-
cates that Noland succeeded in pay-
ing his way, and he reported per-
sonal property of modest value in
the census tabulations of 1860 and
1870.'
  The story of William H. Noland
includes more, however, than his
establishing residence in Madison,
Wisconsin, or his earning a living
there. Most significantly, Noland
strove for betterment of his people
at a time when their hopes for ad-
vancement were dim and far. This
was not all. Noland was first of
his race named by a Wisconsin
governor to state office, albeit the
minor post of notary public. When
Governor Randall calledfortroops
at the beginning of the Civil War,
Noland was quick to suggest re-
cruitment of Negroes. In 1866,
gained attention in his role as
champion of the oppressed inJuly,
1854. In March previous, Wis-
consinites had witnessed the arrest
of Joshua Glover, a fugitive slave,
and they were "stirred deeply"
when a mob freed him from cus-
today in Milwaukee.' It was
against the background of the Glo-
ver affair that Noland found his
way into public notice. On July
10, 1854, the Wisconsin State Jour-
nal reported that Noland, then
working as a barber, had refused
tonsorial services to an individual
known to have assisted in appre-
hending Glover. Noland informed
the man that "he did not shave
kidnappers or their underlings,"
and the fellow took his departure.
The incident was hardly of major
historical proportions, and news-
papers treated it lightly; neverthe-
A Negro in Mid-Nineteenth Century
"Professor", and it was by this
designation that he was commonly
known. I
  Noland pursued a diversified
occupational life in which resource-
fulness had more than an ordinary
part. He was a barber and the
concocter of dressings 'for the hair
and scalp. He was baker, grocer,
and ice-cream maker; he was man-
ufacturer of hominy and of rye
coffee as well as cleaner and dyer
of clothing. He was a musician
and band leader whose talents were
in perennial demand for dances
and parties. Towards the end of
his life, Noland pursuedchiropody
after the Democratic candidate for
the Madison mayoralty withdrew
and thus left no one to contest
incumbent Elisha W. Keyes's bid
for re-election, a curious turn of
events occurred on election eve
when certain Democrats sponsored
Npland-A Union party supporter
-as an opponent. In none of these
episodes did success come to
William H. Noland. A defiant Sec-
retary of State prevented the no-
tarial appointment; Governor
Randall did not respond to the
suggestion for recruiting Negroes;
and Keyes easily won re-election.
  Noland appears first to have
less, a Wisconsin Negro had
spurned a slave catcher.
  With equal firmness, Noland
held the conviction that America
was as truly the homeland of
black men as of white, and that
Negroes should not be deported
to colonies without their consent.
When Edmund Weir, a preacher
and one-time slave, pictured to
Madisonians the attractions of Lib-
eria as a habitation for American
Negroes, Noland was moved to
protest. Hecriticized sharply Weir's
statement that America was not in
verity the home of the colored man,
and he asserted that free Negroes
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