Remembering Black Jim, a Civil War Veteran - Woven With Words

 

Rachel Ebling

 

In a shack near the old Fort Dietrich Snyder located in Bernville, Pennsylvania, lived a humble old man everyone knew as “Honest Jim” or “Black Jim.”  Born George Jackson, Black Jim was a Civil War veteran who enlisted in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and served in the 45th United States Colored Regiment, Company C. Black Jim fought battles in Petersburg and Hatcher’s Run.  Some time after the Civil War, Black Jim moved into the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania.

 

Black Jim was known around town for his work as a chimney sweep and for his easygoing lifestyle.  According to legend, Black Jim went everywhere with his pet crow perched on his shoulder.  While Black Jim cleaned a chimney, his crow waited atop the highest brick of the chimney for him to come out.  When Black Jim emerged from the chimney, he and his crow sang hymns of praise.

 

Black Jim was found dead in his shack in October 1899.  His will, which he had given to his friend “White Jim” Kline, contained a simple final wish: “Each year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, I ask you James C. Kline, and your friends to go to my grave and there place an American flag, the one I fought for, and which I honored during my lifetime, and also a cluster of flowers.”  Black Jim was buried in Zion’s Blue Mountain Cemetery in Upper Tulpehocken Township, a cemetery normally reserved for whites.  Black Jim’s final wishes were carried out, and in 1928 some of his friends founded the Jackson Memorial Association.

 

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@ 2018 Reading Branch #2289 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People