-by Greg Hoots-
Editor’s note: I’ve had the great fortune to become acquainted with some of the descendants of John and Ellen Page, formerly of Topeka, Kansas, and I have to say that they have all been, without exception, honorable, very intelligent, well-read, generous and unassuming. In researching the family’s history, I found the published obituaries of the Kansas pioneers, and I can see that these are family traits. John and Ellen Page taught their children and grandchildren by example, and their extraordinary character is reflected in these two published tributes to their lives.
The obituary of John Dover Page appears in the May 10, 1917 edition of the Eskridge Star, Tribune and Independent, published by Frank Frost. Ellen Forte Page’s obituary appeared in the January 7, 1916 edition of The Topeka Plaindealer, an African-American newspaper published in Topeka between 1899 and 1931. As in death, Ellen Forte Page’s obituary proceeds John Page’s obituary, both printed in their entirety, including their headlines.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to Joyceann Gray who has so generously shared this extraordinary photo of the Page family.
The Close of a Useful Life, “Grandma” Page, Pioneer, Passes to a Higher Life
Mrs. Ellen Page was born in Port Royal, Robinson County, Tennessee, in 1837. Her maiden name was Ellen Forte. She had four brothers and two sisters. She was married fifty-six years ago to John D. Page, at Port Royal, Tenn. As a result of this union, thirteen children were born, ten of whom are living. About thirty-five years ago she came with her husband and family to Kansas and settled in Topeka, where she has lived ever since.
Early in her married life she professed a hope in Christ, joining the Baptist church, to which faith she has clung with exceptional regularity and fidelity. She was a member of the Benevolent lodge for about 30 years.
Born a slave, she came to believe in the highest freedom. Born in ignorance and superstition, she encouraged and fostered learning among her children, seeing that they all received a liberal education. Surrounded by prejudice and hatred, she emerged loved and respected by humble, and though a woman unlettered in the arts and sciences, she was pronounced by a learned man to be a genuine philosopher.
Her reasoning faculty was most acute, her judgment profound and concise, her language simple and direct. In appearance, distinguished, her facial expression angelic. Wherever she went, a halo of glory adorned her head, and she scattered the sweet perfume of peace in her pathway. It seems that the God of Heaven had rewarded her thousands of noble acts of sacrifice by a long, gentle, sweet, helpful life of happiness and love. She saw every child grow to maturity. She saw them all succeed, and some distinguish themselves. Finally, she loved God with all her soul and strength.
She was a remarkable woman and an unusual mother, a tender wife, a peaceful neighbor, a powerful Christian. Her thoughts were as pure as the driven snow and her life was one of lofty spiritual grandeur. None knew her but to love her. Her life was a clear mirror, from which she was reflected the ideal wife, mother, church member, neighbor and citizen. Beloved by white and colored, and adored by all who met her.
She leaves a husband, seven sons, three daughters, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren to mourn their loss.
The funeral was held from the Second Baptist church Wednesday, December 29, 1915. Rev. Henry, pastor, assisted by Dr. C. G. Fishback, conducted the services. Interment was in the Mount Auburn cemetery.
The following children from out of the city were present: Mr. Wm. Page and Mr. and Mrs. Tillery of Chicago, Ill.; Mrs. John Pegg, Omaha Neb.; Mr. Richard Page and Prof. and Mrs. G. A. Page, Kansas City, Mo.; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Page, Eskridge, Kan.; grandson, Mr. Emmett Page, Eskridge, and Miss Ollie Henderson, Kansas City.
John Dover Page Dies
John Dover Page was born in Logan County, Kentucky, about 1825 and died in Topeka, Kans., May 4, 1917, aged 92 years. His mother was Matilda Page, his father Richard Page, both slaves. His father was a man of marked ambition, pride, and independence, having in the dark days of slavery, with patience and perseverance saved sufficient money to buy his own freedom and that of his wife and daughter, Hariette.
John D. Page was the oldest of six children, five boys and one girl. In 1856 he married Ellen Forte of Robinson County, Tennessee. To this union came thirteen children, ten of whom are living today.
Mr. Page was a slave for forty years. When at an early age of eighteen years, his ambitious mind led him to take up the shoemaker’s trade, little did he think but greatly hoped, that one day he would be considered the best boot and shoemaker in his section.
In the year 1880, Mr. Page moved to Kansas from Port Royal, Tennessee, where he had so far reared his family of nine children, in order that he and his faithful wife might give their children the best educational and industrial conditions for preparing them for life.
The family settled in Topeka, Kansas and bought a home at 914 Clay Street, where they have resided since, having purchased in addition much valuable land in Wabaunsee County.
Mr. Page joined the Baptist Church 47 years ago and was baptized into the Baptist faith to which he has tenaciously clung through the vicissitudes and turmoil of this uncertain life. Very early in his Christian life he was made a deacon in the church and almost throughout his entire Christian career he has served in such capacity.
As a skilled mechanic, he was without a superior and few equals; his services extended into the families of all classes, and in the days of reconstruction, he became noted amongst the foremost white men and planters as a finished boot-maker.
Mr. Page was a man of rare talent and powers of reason coupled with a sort of prophetic judgment. Often, he remarked that he loved to study human nature, and it is certain he reached a proficiency in this line, remarkable for a man of his literary attainment. He was a great reader of current news and one of the closest students of the Bible in church circles.
He was strictly orthodox believing in the fundamental tenets of the Baptist Church. He was a man of keen observation, rare choice of words, even in his most ordinary conversation; careful in dress; exact in deportment, a lover of good humor and lively company. He, like his deceased wife, was never so happy as when surrounded by his host of children and listening to their stories of past experiences. As a parent, he was in possession of certain traits of character which inspired respect and obedience.
He stood for the solid, substantial advancement of his race and at all times deeply interested in its welfare.
Had he been trained in letters, he would have been a writer of books of philosophy, had he been trained in military affairs, he would have been a general; had he been trained in the school of politics, he would have been a senator. As God would have it, he was not so trained but was schooled in adversity and slavery and came out a polished gentleman, a genuine Christian, a remarkable father and a respected citizen.
He leaves seven sons and three daughters with a great number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews and one brother, Isaac, who lives in Guthrie, Kentucky. The children are Richard Page, Wyoming; Wesley Page, Eskridge, Kans.; Joseph Page, Eskridge, Kans.; William Page, Chicago, Ill.; James Page, Pittsburg, Pa.; Mrs. Mary Pegg, Omaha, Nebr.; John D. Page, Jr., Topeka, Kans.; Mrs. Minnie Tillery, Chicago, Ill.; Miss Helen Page, Topeka, Kans.; Gaitha Page, Kansas City.
The funeral services were held last Sunday at Topeka, and was attended by a large number of relatives and friends. Wesley Page and family, and Joseph Page and family motored from here to Topeka to attend the funeral.