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Marshalltown's African-Americans

January 21, 2013 - Mike Donahey
Monday’s story on the former Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church, 523 S. 5th St. in Marshalltown, which dutifully served generations of black families, was one of several featuring the county’s African-Americans to be published in the Times-Republican.

February is Black History Month, and fittingly, some of the county’s notable African-Americans and heritage will be that month’s Past Times cover story. Look for it in the Feb. 3 edition.

Tom Jennings, Wilmer Johnson, Roger Maxwell and the Spencers of Marshalltown High School are a few brought to my attention, courtesy of readers. Also Laurence Clifton Jones, founder of Piney Wood School in Mississippi, might have been one of the first blacks to graduate from MHS, according to local historian and researcher Jay Carollo. Queen Esther Weir was famous not only for baking at Stone’s Restaurant, but in her own right at Quennie’s Pie Shop.

In researching the Morrow church history, I learned many blacks immigrated north from Green County, Ala. circa 1917. The lure of good Iowa cropland for sale induced many, as they had recently endured a crop failure. It was the same lust for a better life which also brought thousands of Germans, Irish, Norwegians and other ethnic groups years before to till the soil.

Readers with knowledge of other African-Americans may submit information to me at 641-753-6611 or



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