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Cheyenne Valley

Museum Notes

by Kristen Parrott, curator
for the week of October 5, 2016

On Saturday, September 24, a new museum opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – the National Museum of African American History and Culture, operated by the Smithsonian. A slice of Vernon County history can be found in this new museum, in an exhibit called “Black Pioneers in the Old Northwest.”

Smithsonian exhibit 2016

Here visitors will see stories about five pre-Civil War free Black communities, including Vernon County’s own Cheyenne Valley, Town of Forest. It is represented by a photo of Wesley Barton and a brief history of the settlement he founded, Barton’s Corners, later called Burr. Wesley Barton was born in Illinois in 1818, and moved to the Town of Forest in 1855. His son Cornelius was the first postmaster of Burr, in 1870, which made him the first African-American postmaster in the Midwest, and possibly the first African American in the U.S. to establish a post office.

Harvard researcher Anna-Lisa Cox, who visited Vernon County in the summer of 2014 to study Cheyenne Valley, contributed to the “Black Pioneers” exhibit in the new African American History museum. She is currently writing a book which will feature the Barton family, due to be published in 2018. [Note: This book has now been published. Its title is The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality.] Vernon County history is getting some national attention!

Wesley Barton
Wesley Barton