the museum of americana

a literary review

Emanuel Pinkston Loved to Vote — Poetry by Norbert Krapf

 
Emanuel Pinkston was born a free man
in Georgia in 1797 and married a woman
named Millie, whom he had to purchase,

along with his youngest son Stephen,
for $900 in 1850 to bring them to Indiana,
a free state. As an old man, Emanuel

loved to walk to Hunley Creek to fish,
which he did till he died. Emanuel,
who founded a Freedom Settlement

in the hills of Dubois County between
Huntingburg and Ferdinand and northeast
of St. Henry, never failed to vote

in any election and always voted
straight Republican, perhaps
in honor of Abraham Lincoln

and his Emancipation Proclamation,
which resounded to him from not so far
down the road where Abe was a boy.

Founder of what came to be called
the Pinkston Settlement, Emanuel
cast his last vote in 1884, when

Grover Cleveland was elected President.
Mr. Pinkston was the subject of much
publicity when he was brought to the polls

wrapped in blankets. The next year,
at the age of ninety-five, he died
on December 6 and his remains

were laid to rest in Pinkston Cemetery
on a knoll in the hills on a site which
cannot not be reached by car. When

I walked to that knoll with friends
on a cold but sometimes sunny
day on March 21, 2013, I saw

Emanuel Pinkston’s tombstone,
one of few still standing erect.
On May 24, 1888, Emanuel’s great-

granddaughter Ida Hagan, daughter
of Millie Pinkston and Ben Hagan, Jr.,
was born. Young Ida loved learning

how to read and write and began
to speak German fluently to the German
Catholics of Ferdinand when she worked

in the Post Office where Republican Swiss
Doctor Alois Wollenmann was Postmaster
and also in his Adler Apothek in the same

building and she studied pharmacy
with his help in the evenings and took
care of his two little boys whose

mother had died giving birth to
a stillborn daughter. Emanuel’s
great-granddaughter passed the exam

to become licensed as a pharmacist
after becoming the first black in Dubois
County to graduate from the eighth grade

and studied for a year at home and finished
a year of high school in Huntingburg, became
a Catholic after hearing the choir sing

Silent Night hauntingly at the midnight mass
in the Benedictine monastery in Ferdinand.
She married an Alabama porter named Sidney

Whitaker in Indianapolis in 1926 and moved
with him to Detroit where she became
friends with Mrs. G. Mennen Williams,

wife of the Governor, and advised her on
the purchase of African American art,
worked for the rights of porters

and for Catholic charities. Until she
died in 1978, the words Freedom
and Freiheit lay often on Ida Hagan’s

tongue as she remembered her great-
grandfather who loved to walk
and fish and vote and founded

a Freedom Settlement and left a tombstone
we must walk to find and a great-granddaughter
whose accomplishments we are still discovering.
 
 
 
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Former Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf’s B.B. King poem appeared in our first issue, and two poems from Catholic Boy Blues are included in “American Songbook” with guitar backing by bluesman Gordon Bonham. Norbert won the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Glick Indiana Author Award, and a Creative Renewal Fellowship from Arts Council of Indy, his poems were read on The Writer’s Almanac, and he has a poem in stained glass at the Indy Airport. His latest of twelve collections is The Return of Sunshine, about his young Colombian-German-American grandson.