OSKALOOSA — Author Rachelle Chase will be returning to Oskaloosa with more information about Buxton.
Buxton was a small, unincorporated coal mining town bordering Mahaska and Monroe counties, was unusual for the 1900s in that African American and white residents lived and worked equally, side by side.
Chase, who has been researching Buxton for the past eight years, will be presenting her new book, ‘Creating the Back Utopia of Buxton, Iowa,” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Book Vault. This is her second book about the town. ‘Lost Buxton’ was published in 2017.
The book is filled with local historical documents and photos, including some from the Mahaska County Historical Society, John Jacobs and the Michael W. Lemberger collection.
According to a press release, Chase listened to recorded interviews of over 60 former Buxton residents, who described what it was like to live in the progressive town.
In one section of the book, Chase described the problems black Buxton residents faced when traveling outside their small town.
Attorney George Woodson, she wrote, had difficulties locating a place to eat and sleep in Oskaloosa and placed an ad in the Oskaloosa Herald that ran on Sept. 5, 1904, requesting “any first-class hotel or restaurant, a table, booth, stall, or place,” that would offer accommodations. “Respectability and pay guaranteed.”
Artifacts and remnants of the town of Buxton can still be found, including the house of a Buxton coal miner, which can be seen at Nelson Pioneer Farm.
For those who have purchased tickets, a “tea and tour” will be held at McNeill Stone Mansion Bed and Breakfast, which was owned by W. A. McNeill, part owner of the Consolidation Coal Company. The Consolidation Coal Company created the town of Buxton.
A press release about ‘Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa’ shared some facts about the town:
• Dr. E. A. Carter was the first African American man to get a medical degree from the University of Iowa in 1907. Carter returned to Buxton and treated its residents.
• Attorney George Woodson ran for file clerk in the Iowa Senate for the Republican Party in 1898 and lost by one vote.
• There was no forced segregation or Jim Crow in Buxton. In fact, if locals couldn’t accept that, they were told to move on by superintendent Ben Buxton.
• Approximately 55 percent of the population in Buxton were African Americans, until around 1914.