FreeJoe Day

FreeJoe Day

July 18, 2018, declared as  FREEJOE DAY in the city of Germantown, TN and Shelby County.

Joseph H. “FreeJoe” Harris was born into slavery on July 18, 1796 in Goochland County, Virginia. In 1829, he became a Baptist minister and was emancipated on September 5, 1832.

He journey west, on a wagon train, led by two white plantation owners, Samuel and Richard Leake and settled in Eads, Tennessee with his wife Fanny, a slave of Samuel leake and their children.

Shortly after his arrival, he purchased the freedom of his wife and a daughter born on the wagon train from Samuel Leake. He and his wife Fanny were the parents of 13 children. Some were born in slavery and some were born free….in Tennessee.

Knowing that slavery was based on the status of the woman, his success as an architect, innkeeper, minister, stagecoach owner, sheep herder and farmer, allowed him to purchase the freedom of his daughters….born in slavery.

An early pioneer of west Tennessee, he and his wife Fanny became the first couple of color (# 904) to marry in Shelby County, on April 18, 1835.

He was the first architect of color to come to Shelby County where he built the oldest brick structure which is still standing called the ” John Gray House”, a historical home located in Germantown, TN.

He established Gray’s Creek Baptist Church on February 15, 1843 in Eads, TN. The first and oldest African-American Church in rural Shelby County, TN. His favorite bible verse came from the book of James, 1:16, “Do not err my beloved brethren”.

He did rehab work in 1850 on “Greenlevel”, an antebellum-style house in Collierville, TN., a house that’s on the National Register.

He was the first man of color to handle the U.S. Mail and serve as an agent of the U.S. Government during the Civil War. In addition to his ownership of a stagecoach line, he also owned a StageCoach Inn in Eads.

After the Civil War, he started a school at his church to teach the freed slaves how to read, write and do arithmetic.

Now Therefore, I, Mike Palazolo, Mayor of the city of Germantown, TN.,on behalf of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and citizens of this great city, do declare July 18, 2018, as  FREEJOE DAY in the city of Germantown and call upon all citizens to recognize and remember this historical figure and his accomplishments.

Now, Therefore, I, Mark H. Luttrell Jr., Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, do hereby proclaim this day of July 18, 2018 in honor of FREEJOE DAY and I call upon all citizens to recognize and remember this historical figure and his accomplishments.

Mayor Mike Palazolo, Mr. Lacey, Marie Pizano,MVP-3 Entertainment and Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr.

Mr. Lacey, Author, Publisher, Genealogist & Curator

Mrs. Mary Brignole, a friend & supporter and Mrs. Clara Elaine Briscoe-Lacey

Mayor Palazolo, Mr. Lacey and Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr.

The John Gray House is in the background.

Pictures taken by Alan Kirkpatrick

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