Hezekiah Ford Douglass, African-American orator

Hezekiah Ford Douglass was born a slave about 1831, in Rockbridge County, Virginia. In the late 1840s he escaped from Louisiana and came north. He was a great admirer of Frederick Douglass, with whom he often lectured, and took the same spelling of his last name in honor of him. “One contemporary described him as having ‘a physique so noble and a presence so attractive as to charm and interest the listener at once.’” (Roger D. Cunningham) On February 9th and 10th, 1859, both Frederick Douglass and H. Ford Douglass spoke in Rockford to...

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Rockford’s Greek Immigrants

Since declaring independence from Turkey in 1829, most Greeks survived by farming. In 1890, France decided to stop importing currants, one of Greece’s largest exports. Thus, the country was plunged into economic turmoil. This led to an immigration wave of Greeks into the United States, many of them settling in Rockford. Many families had to change their longer Greek names to ones that Americans could easily pronounce: Soteropoulous became Sotos; Pontosopoulous became Pontos; and Carafotias become Cary. The first Greek immigrant who arrived in...

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Rockford’s Courthouses

Rockford’s first court session  was held in the home of Daniel S. Haight on October 6, 1837. Haight was the sheriff and much of the county’s business took place in his home until the next year when a frame building was constructed to hold the Circuit Court. By 1874 the courthouse was too small and the city looked for an architect to design a new structure. Henry L. Gay of Chicago was chosen for the $165,000 project, and construction began. On May 11, 1877, with the new building close to complete, disaster struck. The 500 ton dome...

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