Celebrating Black History 2018

My Amazing Ancestors

The Binga Family

William W. Binga | 3rd Great Grandfather

Binga Row, S.W. Corner of Hastings at Rowena (Now Mack Ave.), abt. 1890 2

  • Born into slavery in Greenupsburg, Greenup, KY |1817 – 1890
  • Escapes slavery from Newport, Campbell, Kentucky in 1836 with extended family and friends
  • Fought along with his cousins under the leadership of Josiah Henson to protect Windsor, Ontario, CA in the Rebellion of 1837 & 38
  • William settles in Detroit, MI in 1844, marries Adelphia Seymour-Powers and has a large family
  • He works as a barber and property owner who builds two multi-unit row houses known as Binga Row. Read about it here

Some of the locations William W. Binga worked as a barber in Detroit, 1840’s & 50’s.

Binga Row tenement locations, William Binga’s last home in Detroit (Beaubien St. at Ohio), barbershop locations 1870’s – 80’s and slave plantation locations.

Moses William Binga – Son of William W. Binga & Adelphia Powers – 3rd Great Uncle

  • Born free in Detroit, Wayne, MI 1851| Death Unknown
  • Moses works as a barber and hostler (likely moving locomotives in and out of the roundhouse)
  • Moses is an inventor who keeps a shed on St. Antoine Street in Detroit to work on mechanical projects
  • He marries and relocates to Cincinnati, OH, having two daughters
  • Moses invents street sprinkling apparatus that is patented on July 22, 1879

Martha Binga, Gordon, Winchester – Daughter of William W. Binga & Adelphia Powers – 3rd Great Aunt

  • Born free in Detroit, Wayne, MI | 1856 – 1936
  • She works as a tailoress/seamstress in Michigan and St. Paul, MN
  • shortly after the death of her first husband, Martha marries John Randolph Winchester and the couple relocates to Chicago, IL
  • Upon arrival in Chicago, John works as a janitor and Martha is an astrologer and fortune teller who publishes a monthly horoscope magazine and cookbook with tips for life and household management
  • Martha and John establish a successful real estate brokerage firm and loan office
  • Martha is the first African-American woman to establish an employment agency in Chicago, IL, and in 1909 assists 7,000 people in obtaining employment

Jesse Binga – Son of William W. Binga & Adelphia Powers – 3rd Great Uncle

  • Born free in Detroit, Wayne, MI | 1865 – 1950
  • Jesse assists his parents in their respective business ventures as a child and young adult, later working as a barber
  • He drops out of high school and for two years studies constitutional law while working as a paralegal, with African-American attorney Thomas R. Crisup
  • He travels the western territory between 1885 and 1893 as an itinerant barber, Pullman porter and real estate speculator.
  • His parents, wife Frances Scott-Binga and son Bethune D. Binga join him in St. Paul, MN in the late 1880’s
  • He settles in Chicago, IL in 1893, establishing a fancy fruit and vegetable business at 12th and Michigan Avenue, from which he operates a shoe shine stand and huckster wagon.
  • The Binga’s divorce, Frances and Bethune return to her hometown Chatham Kent, Ontario, CA
  •  In the late 1890’s, Binga establishes the J. C. Binga & Co. realty enterprise
  • By 1907, known as a defiant “block buster” Jesse Binga becomes a prosperous Chicago real estate broker offering rental units, real estate, loans, insurance, lease negotiation, property exchange and property management services
  • After nearly a decade of dogged determination and controversial business dealings, Jesse Binga becomes a noted businessman who’s often referred to as a financier, capitalist and real estate mogul
  • In 1908, he founds the first African-American owned bank in the northern United States (Jesse Binga Banker, Private Bank).
  • In late October of 1910, Binga closes a 30 year leasehold agreement on a block of storefront apartment buildings with capitalist Henry Botsford.  Located on State between 47th and 48th Streets, the formidable income property is promptly dubbed Binga Block, a holding of 26 stores and 54 flats and by 1920 he owns the massive structure.
  • In 1912, Jesse Binga marries wealthy socialite Ms. Eudora Johnson, the sister of John “Mushmouth” Johnson.
  • Later, with financial help from his wife and obtaining a State charter he opens the Binga State Bank in 1921
  • Jesse Binga builds the Binga State Bank and Binga Arcade buildings

Binga Private and State Banks:

Eudora Johnson, Johnson Family Home, Brother John “Mushmouth” Johnson & Mother Ellen Johnson.

Binga Real Estate, building construction and Associated Business Club & Exchange.

William H. Binga – Son of Joshua Binga & Lucia Benjamin – 1 Cousin 4X Removed

  • Born in Detroit, MI  | 1869 – 1950
  • William is a phenomenal outfielder, adept at all defensive positions and a dependable batter
  • His athletic skill and defensive performance capabilities provide him membership on several famous Negro League teams including Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis
  • The Indianapolis Freeman refers to William H. Binga as, “the only third sacker (baseman) and surest hitter in the country”
  • After signing with the Page Fence Giants, the Jackson Daily Citizen dubs Binga “the colored phenomenon of baseball”

Read the HOUR Magazine article about the Negro League Baseball Grave Marker Project, bestowing William H. Binga’s gravestone in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Cotillier Family

John Cotillier Jr. & William H. Cotillier – Sons of John Cotillier Sr. & Elizabeth Berry – 3rd Great Uncles

  • John Jr. born a free Negro in Richmond, Henrico, VA | 1843 – 1915
  • William born a free Negro in Pennsylvania | 1852 – 1889
  • Arriving in Detroit, MI in 1865 John Jr. works as a painter and by 1870 he’s a cook on board a Detroit river boat
  • During the 1880’s John Jr. and brother William  H. Cotillier operate a restaurant, boarding house and barbershop across from the F & P M Rail Road Depot in Saginaw, MI
  • In the 1880 Census, William H. Cotillier is listed at 403 Potter Street with his wife Mary Catherine, one servant, 2 barbers and 8 other boarders

The restaurant/boarding house is to the right of the large brick buildings across the street from the railroad yard.

Elizabeth Cotillier, Butler, Palmer – Daughter of Thomas B. Cotillier & Adelaide Binga – 2nd Great Aunt

  • Elizabeth is born free in Detroit, Wayne, MI | 1863 – 1940
  • She marries civil war veteran, cook and saloonist Charles A. Butler in 1889
  • She works along with her husband serving food and drinks at 78 E. Fort Street in Detroit. Wayne, MI
  • In 1890 they purchase a three story building at 63 Atwater East, operating a lodging house and restaurant (It is also their home)
  • Charles dies in 1894 and Elizabeth sells the lodging house/restaurant to the owners of the Saloon next door. 63 Atwater E. becomes Union House.
  • Sometime between 1895 & 1896, Elizabeth purchases another lodging house with Saloon at 221 Atwater East (It is also her home)

The 63 Atwater lodging house is to the right, just behind the larger Lawrence Hotel. The 221 Atwater Lodging house is across from the railroad yard.

James Charles Cotillier Sr. – Son of Thomas B. Cotillier & Adelaide Binga – 2nd Great Uncle

  • Born in East Saginaw, Saginaw, MI | 1880 – 1946
  • James worked as a day laborer, stock-man, salt packer, chef, machinist, locksmith, Insurance agent and real estate employee
  • While living in Detroit, MI James writes the music and lyrics to the song “The Fighting Yankee Boys” and has it published on July 23, 1919
  • In 1923, James marries Bessie Cantey in Chicago, IL and in 1928 their son James C. Cotillier Jr. is born
  • James and Bessie operate a hardware store at 4451 South State Street in Chicago, IL

The Robinson Family

William Alfred Robinson – Son of Robert L. Robinson & Charlotte Binga – First Cousin 3X Removed

  • Born in Saginaw, MI | 1870 – 1952
  • He attends Saginaw public schools and graduates from the law school at Howard University
  • For 21 years, William works with The Department of the Interior as a clerk for the United States Pension Office, while also practicing law
  • He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on July 31, 1893, at the age of 23. Ten years later, he is admitted to practice in the Court of Appeals (same place) on February 5, 1903
  • William marries Harriet M. Gardner, also a lawyer, on April 4, 1904 in Washington, DC
  • He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States of America on December 16, 1908
  • In December of 1914, he travels to Chicago, IL to establish a second law office
  • Later, William and Harriet operate law and real estate offices and later purchase a home at 2925 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago, IL
  • In 1919, he’s selected as part of a group of elite black Chicago professionals, for the incorporation and State charter of Binga Bank
  • In 1921, he is elected to the board of directors of Binga State Bank
  • He remains in Chicago for the rest of his life, having large property holdings and conducting a law practice
  • At the time of his death, he is the oldest practicing African-American attorney in Chicago, IL

The Binga Family Self-Emancipation/Slavery Escape

• Anthony Binga Sr. was born a slave in about 1817 on the Bucknel Plantation in Greenupsburg, Greenup County, Kentucky. Anthony’s immediate family included his father Daniel Binga Sr., mother and three children. His older brother’s name was Daniel Binga Jr. and his sister’s name was Hannah Binga (mother’s name unknown).
• Sometime in 1822, 5 year old Anthony, his mother and two siblings were sold to Gen. James Taylor Jr. owner of the Bellevue Plantation in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky. Anthony recalled that he and his family were well treated by both masters, but that he always desired to be free.
During the summer of 1836, Anthony and his brother Daniel Binga Jr. were sent to do business for General Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Just outside of Louisville Daniel Jr. found a purse on the road containing $500 dollars. Over the next few months, during weekend family visits and camp meetings the Binga family and friend Horace Hawkins planned their escape.
• Mr. James Williams, an acquaintance of Daniel Binga Jr. living in Cincinnati, OH purchased provisions for the journey, including a team of horses, a wagon, weapons and a jug of whiskey.
• The group of 15 people escapes slavery: Daniel Binga Sr., wife and 3 children – 5, William W. Binga, an unnamed cousin and their families – 7, Horace Hawkins and his sister – 2, and Wash Burgess -1
In late September of 1836, the group obtained passes to attend a camp meeting, but instead embarked upon their escape from slavery. The group met a ferryman at the banks of the Ohio River who took them across to Cincinnati where the wagon team awaited. The first night they swiftly drove the wagon team 50 miles northeast to Springfield, Ohio. After watering the horses and foraging for food, they moved on to Columbus, Ohio where the horses gave out. They promptly purchased another wagon team from a Quaker farmer for ten dollars, moving on to Sandusky, Ohio. Their arrival at Sandusky had taken three days travel time.
On the fourth day they boarded the steamboat Michigan, operated by Captain Willibur who took them to Toledo, Ohio where the steamboat ran aground. On the sixth day, the group transferred to the steamboat Phoebus soon arriving at the port of Amherstburg, Ontario to a crowd rejoicing as they disembarked to freedom.


About C. Rae White

I'm a proud 6th generation Detroiter, a creative who loves working with my hands and a fashion fanatic with a thing for shoes, bags and jewelry. I'm a family researcher who loves discovering the details of my ancestors lives. Thanks for stopping by!
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6 Responses to Celebrating Black History 2018

  1. Still reading…I’ll come back to return to read the rest but wow, impressive research work!

  2. Your family has owned a lot of property…have you been able to physically go and see what stands there now? Impressive to know you had inventors and pioneers running through your bloodline. I mean one of your aunts helped to employ 7,000 people! That is amazing. I didn’t even know electric cars were in use back then and for her to be so adept at handling it. Then to top it off to have the First African American Bank founders to be someone in your tree…I am astounded. You have to be so proud. This stuff needs to be in a museum (is it?). You have to start writing to officials in chi-town, motor city, etc if they aren’t.

    • C. Rae White says:

      I’m so amazed! I’m so happy to have the ability to more easily find this information. Back in the day, it would have been so much harder to dig this stuff up. It does make me feel good to know my ancestors were able to have productive and fulfilling lives. I hope to go to the National Archives in Washington DC, the Schomburg Center for Research in Harlem and Chicago to see Jesse Binga’s house and go to the locations where his buildings stood. The Amhersburg Freedom Museum in Canada has a few things regarding my Binga ancestors.

  3. rcotillier says:

    C. Rae White, this is great information. I guess I’m your cousin (maybe 10x times removed LOL) my Great Grandparents were James and Bessie Cotillier Sr. and my Grandfather was James C Cotillier Jr. Love your work!!!

    • C. Rae White says:

      Greetings cousin! It’s great to hear from you! You so funny!!! It looks like we are 4th cousins (1st cousins, 4 times removed). Your grand father James Charles Cotillier Jr. is my 2nd cousin (1st cousin, 2 times removed). Thanks for the compliment, family research has been a passion of mine since 2008.

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