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TILLEY, MADISON

TILLEY, MADISON (1809-30 Oct. 1887), black political leader and businessman, was born in slavery, escaped to Ohio as a young man, and ca. 1837 came to Cleveland, working as a boatman and teamster. According to his PLAIN DEALER obituary, Tilley "obtained a fair education and accumulated considerable property" in Cleveland. By 1840, he was one of only 5 AFRICAN AMERICANS in the city owning taxable property. He worked as an excavating contractor with 20 wagons, 40 horses, and an integrated workforce at times numbered 100 men. He acquired property in the Haymarket district and left an estate estimated at $25,000-$30,000. Although reportedly illiterate, Tilley became an aggressive leader in the city's black community, using his forceful personality and public-speaking ability to promote the value of the ballot to blacks. He changed political views several times during his career, beginning as a Whig, later becoming a Republican, and finally switching to the Democratic party. He was one of the local delegates to the 1854 NATL. EMIGRATION CONVENTION held in Cleveland. By the time Tilley died at his Hill St. home after a long bout with dropsy, he had gained the respect of both blacks and whites. The CLEVELAND GAZETTE noted the "vast attendance of both white and colored" at his funeral, while the Plain Dealer praised him as "a man of unusual force of character, of rare judgement, and of great moral courage." Tilley and his wife, Rachel (d. 1879), had 6 children: Alexander, Hattie, Alice, Thomas, Mary, and Josephine. Tilley was buried in the ERIE STREET CEMETERY.