Posted By: Marilyn Holmes (email)
Date: 12/27/2011 at 17:10:36
In connection with a story about Edward Delaney, former slave, who is buried in Hazelwood cemetery near his "white folks," one is reminded irrestistibly of another former slave who lived for many years in Grinnell. Really, no story about Edward Delaney is complete without mention also of Mumford Holland, a familiar figure, known generally as "Mumf" to townspeople and college students of the late nineties and thereabouts.
"Mumf" was a tall, gangling Negro, with a golden smile, industrious, sober and a friend to everybody. He was by way of being a town character during his long years of residence here. For the following information regarding him we are indebted to Mrs. O.F. Parish and the Grinnell museum.
"Mumf" was brought to Grinnell by George M. Christian in 1891 to work in the old Grinnell House, which once stood on the Rock Island tracks across the street south from the Monroe hotel. He was born a slave near Princeton, Ky., and was sold many times. He married and his wife was sold away from him and he never saw her again.
When the Mexican War broke out he went to the front as body servant for his master and at the opening of the War between the States he served another master in the same capacity. He was captured and then enlisted as a cook in the Union army, finally being mustered out at Davenport.
Mr. Christian knew him in Davenport as a good worker and when he needed a porter for the Grinnell House he brought "Mumf" to Grinnell.
No one knew his age, but it was estimated at the time of his death that he was 108 years old. He owned his own home in south Grinnell and was buried from the Uncle Sam's club. His funeral service was conducted by Rev. E.W. Cross, assisted by J.B. Lucas. For many years he was a member of the Salvation Army.
In the long history of Grinnell it occurs to us that "Mumf," the former slave who made for himself so large a place in the community, is entitled to his humble niche. He should not be forgotten.
MORE ABOUT MUMFORD
As a result of running a picture of Mumford, the old Negro, in the paper the other day, we know more about him than we did, including his last name. It was Holland. A letter which just blew in from H.O. Shaw in Rock Rapids says that Mumford was a member of the Salvation Army in the early nineties and it is his best recollection that he was registered under that name. "He claimed to be an old man," writes Mr. Shaw, "but when asked his age would say 'One hundred or one hundred fifty' which left doubt as to his real age, but in the 90's he was credited with being in his eighties. I recall with pleasure my association with him."
Mrs. S.J. Pooley recalls that George M. Christian was responsible for bringing Mumford to Grinnell originally, she thinks from Davenport, and Mr. Pooley recalls that Mumford was janitor of the old First National bank when Mr. Pooley was employed there as a bookkeeper back in 1892, just after he graduated from college. That is, S.J. graduated, not Mumford.
We are glad to hand on additional information about the unusual character of early Grinnell.
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