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1800's PDF Print E-mail

The 1800's

compiled by Amir Muhammad

The 1800s ushered in at least six Muslim personalities who transformed themselves into people known for practicing their faith, business skills, freedom, leadership, and knowledge.

In 1803, Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad and his family arrived in Georgia on Sapelo Island. Bilali Muhammad was a Fula from Timbo Futa-Jallon in present day Guinea-Conakry. By 1806 he became the plantation manager for Thomas Spalding, a prominent Georgian master. Bilali and his wife Phoebe had 12 sons and 7 daughters. One of his sons is reported as being Aaron of Joel Chandler Harris’ work, author of Uncle Remus and Br’er Rabbit stories. His daughters" names were Margaret, Hester, Charlotte, Fatima, Yoruba, Medina, and Bint. All his daughters but Bint could speak English, French, Fula, Gullah, and Arabic. Bilali was well educated in Islamic law. While enslaved Bilali became the community leader and Imam of at least 80 men. During the War of 1812 Bilali told his slave master that he had 80 men of the true faith to help defend the land against the British.

Bilali was known for regularly wearing his fez, a long coat, praying five times a day facing the east, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and celebrating the two holidays when they came. Bilali was buried with his Qur’an and prayer rug. In 1829 Bilali wrote a 13 page hand written Arabic text book called a "Risala"about some of the laws of Islam and Islamic living. The book is known as Ben Alis"Diary, housed today at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Bilali "Ben Ali" was the leader of one of America’s earliest known Muslim communities. It’s documented that in 1812 there were at least eighty Muslims living on a plantation controlled by Ben Ali from 1806 to the late 1830s. Bilali was known for regularly wearing his fez, a long coat, praying five times a day facing the east, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and celebrating the two holidays when they came. Bilali was buried with his Qur’an and prayer rug. 
 
Some of the descendents of the other Muslims interviewed were Ed Thorpe, Rosa Grant, and Lawrence Baker (Bakir). Rosa Grant reported that her grandmother Ryan would attend Jumah prayer on Friday she stated that ‘Friday was the day she called the praying day.’
 
During this period Muslims from Senegambia and Sierra Leone were generally, viewed by slave owners as a more intelligent, more reasonable, and more dignified people. They were valued for their expert knowledge of rice, tobacco, indigo cultivation, cattle, horses, and domestic service.
 
Harriet Hall Grovner, Bilali Mohammed’s great granddaughter, the grand daughter of Bilali’s daughter Bint (Bentoo) was known for practing Islam and praying until her death in 1922. She was known to have attended the First African Baptist Church on Sapelo Island. The Church was built facing the east, the members still pray towards the east, they bury their members facing the east, and within the Church the males and females sit separate.

In 1803, Salih Bilali (Old Tom) came from a powerful family of Massina in the Temourah district in West Africa. He was captured around 1782, sold in the Bahamas at first and then in the US around 1803. He lived from 1770-1846. He was sold to John Couper in the Bahamas and brought to St. Simon Island, Ga. From 1816-1840 Salih Bilali was the trusted head slave manager of more than 450 slaves of John and Hamilton Couper. It was reported by his master’s son, that while Salih was on his death bed that his last words were "Allah is God and Mohammed his Prophet."

One of Salih’s descendants was Robert Abbott, founder of the "Chicago Defender, "one of the nation’s first black newspapers. Another one of Salih’s descendants was named after him Bilali Sullivan who was known as (Ben Sullivan). Bilali (Ben) Sullivan purchased some of the original property from the plantation in 1914. He was interviewed about his life in the 1930s.

There are two well known Muslim communities of the Gullah Islands of St. Simon and Sapelo off the coast of Georgia. Bilali (Ben Ali) Mahomet and Salih Bilali ruled as plantation mangers and Muslim leaders. In America’s history there were Gullah Wars. Some of them are known as the Seminole Indians wars. The African-American language Gullah was initially developed by the enslaved African Muslims and non-Muslims in Senegal to help communicate among the various African tribes.

In 1805, a slave named Sambo who knew Arabic had escaped from a plantation on the Ashley River, in South Carolina. The announcement in the Courier on February 9, 1805 offered a reward of $5 for his recovery. It stated that he was about 5' 5", slender body and writes the Arabic language.

In 1807, Yarrow (Mamout) Marmood was given his freedom. Yarrow was enslaved and brought from Guinea, Africa before the American Revolution. Yarrow was given his freedom by Upton Beall of Montgomery County in the Washington, DC area. On April 13, 1807, Upton Beall’s deed was recorded that the Negro Yarrow was given his freedom because he was more than forty-five years old and that he would not become a bother to the County of Washington.

Two pictures of Yarrow exsits today, one painted by James Simpson in 1822 which hangs in the Peabody Room at Georgetown public library, and the other picture painted by Charles Wilson Peale in 1819 which hangs at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Yarrow Marmood was a property owner in Georgetown in Washington, DC. In the 1800 and 1810 census Yarrow’s name was listed as Negro Yarrow with a wife or elderly woman living with him. In the 1810 census Yarrow’s name was listed as Yarrow Marmood with one woman living with him. Yarrow had established a hauling business, owned real estate on what is now 3330-3332 Dent Place NW, and he had invested some of his savings in the stock of the Bank of Columbia. One of Yarrow’s neighbors and friend was another manumitted slave named Joseph Moor who became a respectable grocer in Georgetown.

In Washington, DC the 1820 census identifies Yarrow Marmood and Joseph Moore, both with families and free men. The census identifies Yarrow and a female family member and two other free people of color (blacks), Grace Almonds a family of four and Yarrow’s neighbor Charley Brown a family of three, and one slave. The 1820 census also has three other free blacks Obed Diner a family of five, Free Catty a family of three, and Nelly a family of two.

On April 12, 1844, Yarrow’s estate was administered by probate court in Washington, DC, under the name Negro Yarrow. Yarrow lived to be more than 100 years old. The dates of his birth and death have been record as 1736-1844.

In 1807, Hajj Omar Ibn Sayyid was captured at the age of 37. Omar was a Fula born in Fur Tur in present day Senegal. He was born from a Serahule family. Omar lived from 1770-1864. He had studied in Bundu, Senegal where he learned how to read, write, arabic, Islamic studies, and made Hajj in Mecca before his capture. Omar was enslaved in Charleston, SC where he labored for a short period of time before he escaped in 1810 to Fayetteville, NC where was caught and imprisoned. While in prison Omar persuaded James Owen, a general in the state militia and brother of John Owen (who later became Governor of North Carolina), to purchase him, which he did for $900.00. Omar was also known as Uncle Moreau.

Omar ibn Seia (Sayyid) wrote many items in Arabic while enslaved. He wrote his own autobiography in 1831, the Lords Prayer, the Bismillah, this is How You Pray, Quranic phases, and the 23rd Psalm. Omar’s latest known writing was in 1857, in which was the Surah 110 of the Holy Qur’an. In 1836 Omar’s ibn Seid wrote his manuscript in Arabic in 1831 to Sheikh Hunter. Omar’s manuscript had his autobiography and a summary of Quranic verses done in an admonishing way or as reminders from a Muslim man expressing a heart of faith in God’s power and mercy in all of lifes changes. This manuscript was sent to Lamine “Old Paul’ in 1836. Below is the translation of the Quranic verses or Omar’s Kutbah in how he viewed his life’s journal and enslavement.

”In the name of God, the merciful the gracious. --God grant his blessing upon our Prophet Mohammed. Blessed be He in whose hands is the kingdom and who is Almighty; who created death and life that he might test You; for he is exalted; he is the forgiver (of sins), who created seven heavens one above the other. Do you discern anything trifling in creation? Bring back your thoughts. Do you see anything worthless? Recall your vision in earnest. Turn your eye inward for it is diseased. God has adorned the heavens and the world with lamps, and has made us missiles for the devils, and given us for them a grievous punishment, and to those who have disbelieved they’re Lord, the punishment of hell and pains of body. Whoever associates with them shall hear a boiling caldron, and what is cast therein may fitly represent those who suffer under the anger of God.--Ask them if a prophet has not been sent unto them. They say, "Yes; a prophet has come to us, but we have lied to him." We said, "God has not sent us down anything, and you are in grievous error." They say, "If we had listened and been wise we should not now have been suffering the punishment of the Omniscient." So they confess they have sinned in destroying the followers of the Omniscient. Those who fear their Lord and profess his name, they receive pardon and great honor. Guard your words, (ye wicked), make it known that God is all-wise in all his manifestations. Do you not know from the creation that God is full of skill? that He has made for you the way of error, and you have walked therein, and have chosen to live upon what your god Nasûr has furnished you? Believe on Him who dwells in heaven, who has fitted the earth to be your support and it shall give you food. Believe on Him who dwells in Heaven, who has sent you a prophet, and you shall understand what a teacher (He has sent you). Those that were before them deceived them (in regard to their prophet). And how came they to reject him? Did they not see in the heavens above them, how the fowls of the air receives with pleasure that which is sent them? God looks after all.
 
Believe ye: it is He who supplies your wants, that you may take his gifts and enjoy them, and take great pleasure in them. And now will you go on in error, or walk in the path of righteousness. Say to them, "He who regards you with care, and who has made for you the heavens and the earth and gives you prosperity, Him you think little of. This is He that planted you in the earth, and to whom you are soon to be gathered." But they say, "If you are men of truth, tell us when shall this promise be fulfilled?" Say to them, " Does not God know? and am not I an evident Prophet? " When those who disbelieve shall see the things draw near before their faces, it shall then be told them, "These are the things about which you made inquiry." Have you seen that God has destroyed me or those with me? or rather that He has shown us mercy? And who will defend the unbeliever from a miserable punishment? Say, "Knowledge is from God." Say, "Have you not seen that your water has become impure? Who will bring you fresh water from the fountain?”
 
Another statement Omar made in his writings that showed his heart and righteousness was his opening statement. ‘In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. --Thanks be to God, supreme in goodness and kindness and grace, and who is worthy of all honor, who created all things for his service, even man's power of action and of speech.” The last point I want to make is that there was another Muslim who Omar knew, he was a scholar or Imam his name was Sheikh Hunter.

In 1808, Mathias Sawyer of Edenton N.C. owned an enslaved man named Mustapha. A white man named Arthur Howe convinced Mustapha to runaway. Their plan was to sell and resale Mustapha on their journey northward. Mustapha would escape each time and team backup with Howe. When they reached Richmond, Virginia they would depart company and Mustapha would head north.

In The War of 1812, Abraham joined the British Colonial Marines who had occupied Spanish Pensacola. Abraham lived from 1787-1870. He was well known as a very gifted individual, soft spoken, and intelligent. Abraham came to Pensacola, Florida sometime in the early 1800s. During his years in Pensacola, Abraham had been a slave of Dr. Eugenio Antonio Sierra, a prominent Spanish physician and surgeon. He was held in high esteem and worked as an interpreter, for he spoke several different languages.

Soon after the Fort Negro construction Abraham left out on his own. He soon gained a reputation as a businessman or a man after profit. Abraham became involved in trade with the Maroons and the Seminole Indians of the lower Suwannee River area. Gradually, he was accepted by the Maroons and became their foremost leader. The Seminoles had a high regard for Abraham.

Chief Micanopy, the top hereditary chief in the Seminole Nation, appointed Abraham as the "sense-bearer" or legal counsel. As the military leader of the Maroons, he was known by the name "Sounoffee Tustenuggee" which means "Suwannee Warrior." Abraham was married to a woman named Hagar. Abraham and Hagar had two sons named Renty and Washington. Abraham lived peacefully with his family and people in the villa of Pilaklikaha, raising horses, cattle, and growing crops.

After the first Seminole war Abraham and a delegation of Indian Chiefs went to Oklahoma in 1832 to inspect the land being offered to them in the treaty that was to move them out of Florida. The United States officials would not allow Abraham and the others to leave until they signed the treaty, which they did on March 28, 1833. Abraham opposed the move, therefore spending almost eight months at Fort Gibson. Abraham and several other leaders were opposed to the treaty after learning of its deception, thus the second Seminole war began 1835 to 1842. Abraham had fought in almost every battle of the Seminole Indians wars until 1837. However, in February of 1839 he moved to Oklahoma with his family and became a successful cattle rancher.

Abraham returned to Florida in 1852, ten years after the government officially declared an end to the Seminole war. The government had hired Abraham to take chief Billy Bowlegs, his father in-law, and some other chiefs to Washington, DC., in order to convince them to leave Florida. They met with Millard Fillmore who became President after Zachary Taylor died. The chiefs still refused to move to Oklahoma. They went back to Florida and disappeared in the everglades. Abraham went back to his ranch in Oklahoma where he died years later, sometime after the Civil War in 1870. He was buried in an unmarked grave in today’s Seminole county.

In 1818 Medina, Ohio was organized. It was originally called Mecca, later the name changed to Medina making it the seventh place on the globe at the time called Medina. Twelve other cities in America bear the name Medina such as- Medina, New York; Medina, Michigan; Medina, Wisconsin, Medina, Washington, Medina, Tennessee, and Medina, Texas are among them.

In 1828, Abrahim Abdul Rahman ibn Sori (1762-1829) was set free by the order of the Secretary of State Henry Clay and President John Quincy Adams. He was born in Timbo, West Africa (in present day Guinea). He was known as the "Prince of Slaves." He was a Fulbe from the land of Futa Jallon. Abrahim left Futa in 1774 to study in Mali at Timbuktu.

Abrahim was captured by warring tribes and sold to slave traders in 1788 at the age of 26. He was bought by a Natchez, Mississippi cotton and tobacco farmer, where he eventually became the overseer of the plantation of Thomas Foster. In 1794 he married Isabella, another slave of Foster’s, and eventually fathered a large family. In 1826 he wrote a letter to his relatives in Africa. A local newspaperman sent a copy to Senator Thomas Reed in Washington, who forwarded it to the U.S. Consulate in Morocco. After the Sultan of Morocco read the letter, he asked President Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay to release Abrahim Abdul Rahman.

In 1807, a coincidental meeting took place. John Cox, an Irish ship’s surgeon, whose life had been saved by Abrahim’s father many years earlier. John Cox recognized the Prince in the market, learned of his story, and began petitioning for his freedom. Twenty five years later in 1828 at the age of 66 Abrahim gained his freedom. Rahman had been a slave in America for forty years before he got his freedom. Rahman and his wife sailed for Africa in February 1829. The following September his former owner died. Foster’s heirs sold two of Rahman’s children and five of his grandchildren to the American Colonization Society (A.C.S), and they were reunited with his wife in Liberia.

In 1828, a Muslim named Sterling living in Hartford, CT met Abdul Rahman during his visit to the New England States.

In 1832, The Village of Mahomet, IL was laid out. Mahomet, IL was originally named Middletown. Sometime during the 1840s it was changed to Mahomet, IL.

In 1834, A Muslim woman named Sylvia appears in "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe,"by William A. Carruthers.

In 1834, in Tennessee, a Muslim by the name of Hamet Abdul is reported to have sought money to return to Africa.

In 1834, two Muslims by the names of Jupiter (Dawud) Dowda and Big Jack were reported by the American Colonization Society’s "The African Repository"to be well-known slaves in New Orleans. Big Jack was a plantation manager.

In 1835, Lamen Kebe known as (Old Paul) was liberated after having been in servitude in South Carolina and Alabama. Lamen Kebe was captured in battle and arrived in America in the early 1800s. He was from an elite class of Serahule who were trained to rule, advise, teach, protect, trade, translate, collect taxes, and travel. His family were the founders of ancient Ghana, and they were among the earliest converts to Islam south of the Sahara. His mother was a Mandinga. In Senegambia, he was a schoolmaster in the land of the Fulah before his capture. Lamen and Omar Sayyid corresponded with each other in 1835 in Arabic. Lamen (Old Paul) through Omar, provided Theodore Dwight, a member of the American Ethnological Society, with information of his native land and school system. Lamen returned back to Africa at the age of sixty in 1835.

In 1839, Oman’s ruler, Sayyid Sa’id, ordered his ship "The Sultana"to set sail for America on a trade mission. The ship touched port in New York on April 30, 1840. The voyage was not a commercial success. The ship’s commander, Ahmed bin Nauman bin Muhsin Al-k’abi Al-Bahraini came from Zanzibar. Ahmed bin Nauman bin Muhsin Al-k’abi Al-Bahraini’s photo hangs today on the third floor of City Hall in New York, NY.

In 1845, Osman Rockman died. His tombstone was found in Connecticut.

From 1845-1847 records of James Hamilton from the Hopeton and Hamilton Plantations in Georgia list many families with Muslim names, like the family of Billy (Bilal) age 50, wife Fatima age 41, and their children Mahomed age 17, and Hester age 15. Another family that was recorded was Bacchus age 51, his wife Kitty age 36, and their children Fatima age 5, and Adam age 3. Listed also was Jeffery a carpenter age 41, his wife Peggy age 36, and their children Quash age 15, Sarah age 13, Pender age 6, Ishmael age 5, Margaret age 3, and Belale age 1. There was another family that was lead by a man named Mahomet age 25, his wife Memba age 21, and one child named Jettafa age 1. There were people with the name Fatima, Solomon, Michael, Binah, Ishmael, Taywah, Balaam, Cuffy, Bella, Quamina, Amey, London, Baraca, Hannah, Cato, Abraham, Jemima, Tenah, Sambo, Billy, and Mingo appear more than three times in the list.

In 1846 Elkader, Iowa at the time a village in the Missouri territory was named after the Emir of Algeria Abd el-Kader. The Suez Canal may not have been built in 1869 if it was not for the help and influence that Abd el-Kadir had among the Arabs. President Abraham Lincoln also honored Abd el-Kader as a great humanitarian for saving thousands of Christians in 1860.

In 1848 Bridgeport, Connecticut was the home to the first house built in the US with an Islamic architect style. It was called “The Iranistan.” In 1848 P.T. Barnum, the famous circus entertainer had the house built after the ‘Royal Pavilion’ in Brighton, England in which P.T. Barnum had visited. The Royal Pavilion got it design style from the Muslims of British Islamic India. Today there is still a street dedicated to the Iranistan house called “Iranistan Avenue.”

In the early 1850s Mahomet, Texas was founded and by 1857 to 1916 they had a post office. In 1879 August Mahomet was the Postmaster. An historical marker state’s that some reports have it that the town was named after an Arabian Egyptian camel driver who came with 75 camels in 1856 and 1857 for use as pack animals for the US Government. While others suggest that the town belonged to an “Arabian Footpad” or Peddler who was an early settler and merchant.

In 1852, Osman known as "General Osman" became the leader of the North Carolina Dismal Swamp community from 1852-1862. Osman was a runaway slave from Virginia and lived in the dismal swamp. At one time the dismal swamp was partly owned by George Washington, the first President of the United States. The swamp was drudged out by slave labor in the mid 1700s.

In 1856, The United States cavalry hired a Muslim by the name of Hajj Ali to experiment with raising camels in Arizona. He experimented with breeding camels in the desert. He became a local folk hero in Quartzsite, AZ, where he died in 1903. He was known as "Hi Jolly", his tombstone is a stone built pyramid with a camel on top of it. Hadji "Hi Jolly" Ali (1828-December 16, 1902) was a Greek-Syrian specialist who was one of the first camel drivers ever hired by the US Army in 1856 to lead the camel driver experiment in the Southwest. Hi Jolly became a living legend until his death in Arizona.

He worked for the Ottoman armed forces and was a breeder and trainer of camels. There is no record of what his parents named him. Some sources allege his father was of Greek origins and mother was Syrian, reporting that he was born Philip Tedro and he took the name Hadji Ali after making the pilgrimage to Mecca. While other sources report his mother was of Greek origins and his father was Syrian. Hi Jolly's membership in the Army's Camel Experiment was not his first quasi-military adventure. Hi Jolly served with the French Army in Algiers before signing on as a camel driver for the US Army in 1856. Ali was one of several men brought over by the American Government who were to drive the camels as beasts of burden in transportation across what was then known as the "Great American Desert. " In Go West Greek George by Steven Dean Pastis, he reports that eight of the men, including Ali, arrived at the Port of Indianola in Lavaca County, Texas aboard the USS Supply.
 
The Americans acquired 3 camels in Tunis, 9 in Egypt, and 21 in Smyrna, 33 in all. Ali was the lead camel driver during the US Army's experimental US Camel Corps using camels in the dry deserts of the Southwest. After successfully traveling round trip from Texas to California, the experiment went bust, partly due to the problem that the Army's burros, horses and mules feared the large animals, often panicking, and the tensions of the American Civil War led to Congress not approving more funds for the Corps. In 1864, the camels were finally auctioned off in Benicia, California and Camp Verde, Arizona.
 
After the Camel Corps, Ali attempted to run a freight business between the Colorado River and mining establishments to the east using a few camels he kept. Unfortunately, the business failed and Ali released his camels into the Arizona desert near Gila Bend. In 1880 Ali became an American citizen and used the name Philip Tedro (sometimes spelled Teadrow) when he married Gertrudis Serna in Tucson, Arizona. The couple had two children. In his final years Ali moved to Quartzsite where he mined and occasionally scouted for the US government. He died in 1902 and was buried in the Quartzsite Cemetery.

In 1859, in Savannah, Ga, many slaves were sold from the Butler plantation in Darien, Ga. Some of the slaves sold were Muslims. It was reported that some of the women wore gorgeous turbans and one of them had a string of beads. At the auction a Muslim named Abel age 19 was sold for $1,295, and one named Hagar, age 50, was sold for $300.

In 1860, a Muslim lady known as "Old Lizzy Gray" died in Edge field County. Her obituary, appeared on the front page of the Edgefield Advertiser, on September 12, 1860. Her physician and owner Dr. E.J. Mims wrote that according to the best computations she was 127 years of age. She had four children in Africa before being taken prisoner. During the revolution she was a prisoner on board an English ship. Before her capture she was educated as a Muslim. As a slave she seems to have combined both faiths and became a member of the Methodist Church. She was known to have always said "Christ built the first Church in Mecca."

In 1860, Muhammad Ali ibn Said (1833 - 1882), known as (Nicholas Said) arrived in America as a free man. Muhammad was born in the Kingdom of Bornoo, West Africa near Lake Chad to a well-educated merchant family. Said was kidnaped and enslaved when he was 16. His first slave master was an Arab named Abdel Kader who took him to Tripoli and Fezzan. Muhammad was then sold to Alexander Menshikov, an aide to the Russian Czar, then to Nicholas Trubetzkoy with whom he traveled to many places during his years of slavery from Russia, Rome, Persia to France. In 1860 he left Liverpool, England with a man from Holland to travel to Boston, New York, Kingston, New Providence, Toronto, Quebec, and other places in North America as a freed man.

In 1861 he arrived in Detroit. Shortly afterward he found a teaching job and in 1863 Muhammad enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts colored regiment and became a Civil War hero. He served faithfully and bravely with his regiment as Corporal and then Sergeant in the South. Near the close of the war he was assigned, at his own request, to the hospital department, to learn some knowledge of medicine. His Army records show that he died in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1882.

1861-1865
During the Civil War the Union troops was burning down the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama when the librarian asked could he save some books. The librarian was told he could only save one book and that book was a George Sale 1853 English translation of the Holy Koran.

1864-1865 Max Hassan was another Muslim from Africa who fought in the Civil War. His war record shows he came from Africa and worked as a porter in the service. After Max Hassan’s service days he moved to New York where he worked as a White Washer and lived with his wife Emma (Lena) Hassan who was born in Germany. Together they had at least four children, two girls named France born in 1857 and Carrie born in 1859, and two boys Max born 1862 and Chas Hassan born in 1877. His son Max Hassan was living in New York in during the 1930s census as a white man.

In 1864
, a monument was erected in New England for a Mr. Smith and it is crowned with three slain Muslim’s heads who were slain by Mr. Smith. From the Isles of Shoals.

In 1864, Captain Harry Dean was born. He was the son of Susan Cuffe Dean whose brother was Paul Cuffe. Captain Dean’s family came from Quata, Morocco. For three generations the family were wealthy merchants in Philadelphia. Captain Dean found the first black nautical training school in America. Dean maintained his family’s Islamic tradition during his seafaring days on the ship "Pedro Gorino" and in southern Africa where he tried to build an African empire. He was also associated with the Muslim Mosque of London. In the United States he distributed Islamic literature in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington state.

In 1866, The Cherokee chief had a Muslim name, Chief Ramadan ibn Wati. Muslims were known to live among many of the different Indian tribes. They lived among the Seminole Indians, The Delawares, The Nanticokes, The Cherokees, and many others.

In 1869, a number of Muslims from Yemen arrived in the United States after the opening of the Suez Canal. Most Yemenis came through New York to Buffalo, and Detroit. Many Yemenis jumped shipped in San Francisco and settled on the West Coast.

In 1875, The first small wave of Muslim immigrants arrived, mainly from Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine). Some of the Syrian-Lebanese Arabs settled on Manhattan’s lower Washington Street and in Brooklyn across the East River around Atlantic Avenue and South Brooklyn. A smaller number came from the Punjab area of India.

In 1876, The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, attracted Arab merchants and peddlers, where they sold an assortment of merchandise, and some set up centers to import goods.

In 1877, Seven Algerian escapees from French Guyana were admitted by the Mayor of Wilmington, Delaware, and held as exiles.

In 1884, Sambo Swift died. He was born in 1811, and lived in Darien, GA. He was buried with his tombstone facing northeast. Engraved on his tombstone is a hand pointing with one finger up as the Islamic symbol of God’s oneness. This symbol was used by Muslims dating back more than 1400 years. It is believed that Sambo was one of the slaves left on the Butler plantation at the time of the great slave sale of 1859 in Georgia. Sambo was a carpenter and had at least three children named Abraham, Mollie, and Alonzo.

The Ben Ishmael Tribe was another group of people with Islamic roots. Reports state that around 1785 a number of freed and runaway Africans, along with poor white indentured servants fled Noble County, now “Bourbon” County, Kentucky and settled near what is today Indianapolis. They intermingled with the Pawnee and Kickapoo tribes and setup a nomadic life style. Their leaders were Ben and Jennie Ishmael, known as fine artisans and musicians. They taught polygamy, a nomadic existence, and racial mixing.  The Tribe of Ishmael, called the Ishmaelites, was a tightly knit nomadic community of Africans, Native Americans, and white descent. They were estimated to number about 10,000. By 1810 they had developed three villages Mahomet, Illinois, Morocco, and Mecca, Indiana. In James F. Cooper’s 1827 book, Prairie he speaks of Ishmael and other members of their community like Abraham, Asa, Abiram, Esther, Mahtoree and others. He writes, Ishmael said  “Peace!” stretching his heavy hand towards his kinsman, in a manner that instantly silenced the speaker. In Hugo P. Leaming’s book, The Ben Ishmael Tribe: a Fugitive ‘Nation’ of the Old Northwest, he points out that Cooper’s fictional Ishmaelites and the historic Tribe of Ishmael coincide in most particulars. Cooper calls his tribal chief Ishmael Bush as the name in reference to the wilderness he rules. He also said the tribe has been called by various names “the sons of skirting Ishmael,” (meaning skirting the settlements), “the sons of Ishmael,” “the tribe of wandering Ishmael,” (referring to their nomadic way of life), and “Grasshopper Gypsies.” Their annual migratory route was northwest from Indianapolis to the Kankakee River south of Lake Michigan, from their south through eastern Illinois to the area of Champaign-Urbana and Decatur, and due east, back to Indianapolis. The migration was repeated for years until the forced Indian removal in the 1830s.
 
In 1880 a Minister named O.C. McCulloch wrote, “The Tribe of Ishmael: A Study in Social Degradation in favor of castrating the men and separating the children and women.” In 1905 a bill was introduced in the Indiana Legislature, and in 1907 the first compulsory sterilization law in the world, a draconian eugenics law, in which was enacted in Indiana against the Ishmaels and forced many Ishmaels to flee Indianapolis for Chicago, Detroit and other cities.
 
From 1897-98 there was a monthly magazine called the “Ishmaelite,” from members of the Ben Ishmael tribe in Cincinnati, Ohio.
 
In Leaming’s book it sites following the Indiana plan and the community dispersal, that some members of the Tribe of Ishmael had an impact on the development of Black Nationalism and Self-Determination in communities of the cities of the Great Lakes region. He records many different testimonies; one was about a Moorish Science Temple member Mrs. Gallivant, who had joined in Detroit around 1920, when it was first introduced into the Midwest. She stated that she was an Ishmaelite who came from downstate Indian and Illinois, and that it was the Tribe of Ishmael after moving north who were among the first to assist in the establishment of Moorish Science in the Midwest in the 1920s. Hugo Leaming also points out one of the sayings of Noble Drew Ali, the founder of the Moorish Science Temple. That he was moving his National Temple from New Jersey to the Midwest because Islam is closer to the region. He also asked one to ponder about and re-look at the early name and phrase of the Nation of Islam, that we are members of “The Lost Found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America.” The Nation of Islam even had its’ headquarters first in Detroit then Chicago.
 
Leaming sites curious aspects of the old Midwest communities located on the Ishmaelite annual migration route. At the northern end is Morocco, Indiana, at the southern end Mahomet, Illinois, and at the end stage of their journey before going to Indianapolis was Mecca, Indiana. 

In Morocco, a few miles south of the Kankakee River near the Illinois border, the area is distinguished by small, long round-roofed cabins shaped like Quonset huts (or Hobbit houses), or dome shape roofs, which most of them today stand in the yards of newer houses and residences. Two other points he brings out is that a few miles northwest into Illinois is a small rural isolated village in the town called Pembroke, which has a Moorish Science Temple, and that a few miles northwest of Pembroke in Kankakee, is the smallest town in America to have a Temple of the Nation of Islam.
 
Mahomet, Illinois is the oldest settlement of Champaign County. According to Leaming in 1870 ten percent of the settlers of Mahomet township and the adjoining townships had unusual family names like Babb, Basore, Boormer, Chadden, Dalama, Gamel, Hamella, Hayar, Hissany, Lumen, Manser, Menealla, Nebeker, Osman, Pankar, Pusha, Tobaka, and Turk. He sites Islamic similarities in some of the names like Basorah for Barsa; Manser for Mansour; Osman for Usman, Babb is Arabic meaning gate; Lumen for Luqman; Hayar for Hagar; Aimen for Amin; Nebeker for Abu Baker; Booromer for Omar; and Hamella and Menealla with the compounded name ending with ‘alla’ for ‘Allah’.
 
A few years ago I had the blessing to travel to Mecca, Indiana and most recently I had the blessing to travel to Mahomet, IL before visiting the University of Illinois Urbana. Mahomet today is a small scenic little town 10-12 miles outside of Urbana, on the banks of the Sangamon River at the intersection of US 150 and Illinois 47. The Native American Kickapoo’s and Potawatomie Indians and members of the Ben Ishmael tribe were the first settlers of Mahomet. Mahomet is the oldest community in Champaign County. In 1830 Mahomet began being settled by Europeans. In 1832 the original plat was surveyed and drawn by Daniel Porter, which was not recorded until March 1836. He named the town Middletown because the town was between Danville and Bloomington. The town name was changed from Middletown around 1840 and went back to its original name Mahomet, because there was another town named Middletown in Illinois. Some say that the town was named after Mahomet an Indian Chief. In 1836 Amasa Crozier erected a small mill in Mohamet. In 1855 the Urbana Union news May edition expressed that Middletown, which Mohamet was called at the time, “excels all other towns in the county in the number and character of its public buildings.” They had two mills, two very good churches (the best in the county are there), and a large building occupied below as a schoolhouse and above as a hall for the use of the various orders that are in a flourishing condition. There was a person named Abdullah Miller and his family also lived in District #21 in Champaign County, Illinois. In the 1850 census there is listed one black person named James H. Dazey and one mulatto named James Rowe living in Champaign County in district 21. Many of the people living in the area in the 1850 Census were listed as people of color.

Mecca, Indiana was another township where the tribe of Ben Ishmael settled and migrated to. Mecca, Indiana was also called Mecca Mills which is three miles west of State Road 41and about five miles southwest of Rockville, which is on the Big Raccoon Creek not far from Wabash.

In the Federal Writer’s 1936 project report it states that the church that is spoken of, as Leatherwood is upon a dry and sandy hill, for this reason it was called the Arabian Church. It goes further and says that the people of the vicinity of the church came early each spring after the roads became passable to the store of Alexander McCune. Mr McCune would often make smart remarks about the Arabians who were coming on the annual visit to Mecca one of the requirements of the Mohammads’ religion is to visit Mecca the birth place of Mohammad (SWT), once a year.
 
The Federal Writer’s report also states that in 1832 Alexander McCune and Samuel Lowery built a sawmill on Big Raccoon Creek in Wabash Township. They were some of the early settlers into the area after the force removal of the Native American Indians and the tribe of Ishmael from the area. In 1855 McCune and Lowery built a flourmill near their other mills soon after the village was started. The Mecca Bridge is a covered bridge built in 1873 and in 1896 Edward Goff plotted the first lots for deeds of conveyance for which provided that “no intoxicating liquors should ever be sold thereon.” The purchaser who disregarded this provision forfeited his title to the lot. According to the Writer’s report there were at least 284 people between the two clay plants owned by the Dee Company and the Indiana Sewer Pipe Co. By 1900 the gristmill equipment was sold and the mill was converted into a store. The plants started closing around the 1940-41s during the depression. W. E Dee was the president of the bank of Mecca, which operated for twenty-five years and closed at the beginning of the depression. The report also speaks about two distinguished people in the person of William E. Dee and the Hickson ‘Hixon’ Family. Many of the families in Mecca had named one of their sons Aquilla. In the 1860 Census there was an Azanah Brown and his family and Saluda Hayth and her family were listed living in the area.
 
Another town named Mahomet is in Texas about twenty-five miles south of Lampasas, Texas. Mahomet, Texas was founded in the 1850’s and had a post office from 1857-1913. August Mahomet was the postmaster in 1879. Some say the town was named after a man named Mahomet who came to the United States with some other camel herders and seventy-five camels that were imported by the Government in 1856 and 1857 to be used as pack animals. While others say it was named after an Arabian peddler who was an early settler and merchant.  The Mahomet, Texas name has been associated with two sites in eastern Burnet County. A George Ater settled in the area in 1853, and named it Mahomet, Illinois. In 1855 a stage route was established from Austin to Lampasas and in 1857 George Ater was granted permission to open a post office location in his house. The post office remained in his house for twenty-five years. In 1882 the railroad had bypassed Mahomet by at least two miles. The post office was then moved to the house of Alex M. Ramsey in the Sycamore Springs community, which later became known as Mahomet in 1884. Mahomet had a steam cotton gin and a corn mill. By 1896 the mill had closed and the population had declined. By the 1980s the population has stayed between forty to forty-seven people.

There are:
29 towns and cities have the name Lebanon
19 towns and cities have the name Cairo
17 towns and cities have the name Egypt
13 towns and cities have the name Jordan
12 towns and cities have the name Medina
12 towns and cities have the name Palestine
12 towns and cities have the name Damascus
8 towns and cities have the name Mecca
7 towns and cities have the name Mina
6 towns and cities have the name Alhambra
6 towns and cities have the name Bagdad
6 cities and towns have name Arabia

4 towns have the name Andalusia
4 towns and cities have the name Jerusalem
4 towns and cities have the name Alger
3 towns and cities have the name Lebanon Historical
 
2 towns and cities have the name Alida
2 towns and cities have the name Algiers
2 towns and cities have the name Arabi
2 towns and cities have the name Aquilla
2 towns and cities have the name Turkey
2 towns and cities have the name Mahomet
2 towns and cities have the name Lebanon Heights
2 towns and cities have the name Sultan
2 towns and cities have the name Soudan
2 towns and cities have the name Sudan
2 towns and cities have the name Syria
2 towns and cities have the name Turkey
 
1 town has the name Africa
1 town has the name Africa Historical
1 town has the name Ali Ak Chin
1 town has the name Ali Chukson
1 town has the name Allah
1 town has the name Arab
1 town has name Arabian Acres
1 town has the name Babylon
1 town has the name Dafur
1 town has the name Dahomy
1 town has the name Elkader
1 town has the name Ishmael
1 town has the name Islamorada
1 town has the name Islamberg
1 town has the name Mahtomedi
1 town has the name Media
1 town has the name Mesopotamia
1 town has the name Morocco
1 town has the name New Medina
1 town has the name New Palestine
1 town has the name New Lebanon
1 town has the name Lebanon Junction
1 town has the name Lebanon Lake Estates
1 town has the name Lebanon Center
1 town has the name Lebanon Independent
1 town has the name Lebanon Springs

There are more than 500 names of places, villages, streets, towns, cities, lakes, rivers, etc . . . in the United States in which there name are derived from African, Islamic, and Arabic words. Places like Mecca, Indiana; Morocco, Indiana; Medina, NY; Medina, OH; Medina, TX; Toledo, OH; Mahomet, IL; Mahomet, Texas; Yarrowsburg, MD; Islamorada, FL, and Tallahassee, FL are found throughout America. There are at least two cities in Illinois named after Nubian Cities Argo and Dongola, Illinois.

In 1889, Edward Wilmot Blyden, a noted scholar and activist, traveled throughout the eastern and southern parts of the United States proclaiming the truth of Islam. Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832 - 1912) was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on August 3rd, 1832. In 1850 he emigrates to Liberia from America and by 1855-56 became the editor of the Liberian Herald. Blyden served for three terms (1864-1871) as Secretary of State of Liberia, and on three postings as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1877, 1879, and 1892-94.

In 1858 Blyden was ordained as a Presbyterian clergyman. By 1886 he resigns from the Presbyterian Church and becomes a Muslim, one of the first known freed Africans to revert back to Islam. In 1887 Blyden published his first book Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race.

From 1901-1906 Edward Blyden was the Director of Mohammed Education in Sierra Leone.

In 1893, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb (1846-1916) appeared at the First World Exposition Conference on World Religions in Chicago, where he delivered two lectures, "The Spirit of Islam" and "The Influence of Islam on Social Conditions." Among the audience was Mark Twain. Webb converted to Islam in 1888 while he was serving as the American Consul to the Philippines. He was also a Journalist. Webb is known as the first white American convert to Islam. In 1893, Mohammed found the first Islamic organization in America called "The American Moslem Brotherhood" in New York.

In 1897, The Federal government allotted free land, consequently Syrians started moving to Rugby and Williston, North Dakota. From 1899-1914 a total of 86,111 Syrians arrived in America.

In 1897, Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975) is born in Sandersville, Georgia. He became the leader of The Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975.

In 1899, Hassen Juma had settled in Ross, North Dakota with 160 acres of free land. By 1902 twenty families had followed his path from Birey, Syria. In the early 1920s they built one of the Nations first Mosque.

In the late 1800s many people and former slaves used the Islamic symbol of God’s oneness on their tombstones.

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