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Chattanooga News, June 22, 1901
  Rev. Wilkes Flagg was born in Virginia about 1802. Before he was grown he was brought to Milledgeville, Ga., and there sold to Dr. Tomlinson Fort, who put him to work in a blacksmith shop, where be became an expert blacksmith, in charge of the shop, with two or three other smiths and their strikers.
  Dr. Fort's children taught Wilkes to read and write, so that he kept the books of the shop in which were entered its accounts.
  The laws of Georgia at that time prohibited any owner from freeing a slave except upon condition that the slave was removed from Georgia and not allowed to return. The law went further, and said that if any free negro in Georgia went into any free state and returned to Georgia to reside, he should be enslaved and sold, the informer to receive one-half of the proceeds of the sale.
   Wilkes enlisted the sympathies of the wife and children of Dr. Fort, who induced Dr. Fort to allow Wilkes to use the shop, after his ordinary day's work was finished, receive the proceeds of that kind of labor and in this way buy himself. It resulted in Wilkes buying himself, then buying his wife Lavinia and their only child Wilkes, Jr.; then he bought the shop, then he bought a house and, when the civil ward begun, had about $20,000 in money loaned, and was worth more that $25,000. On account of the laws above referred to he was compelled to do business and his money was loaned in the name of Dr. Tomlinson Fort until shortly before in died, in 1859, then in the name of Dr. George W. Fort, a son of Dr. Fort, until the close of the civil war.
  About 1855 or 1856, Dr. Fort took Wilkes with him as a servant through several of the free states of the north, and when he returned a suit was brought to sell Wilkes into slavery under the statues against free negroes going to the free states and returning to Georgia. Wilkes had been regarded as a free man of color at that time for nearly thirty years, and, until the trial of that lawsuit, few people knew that he was the slave of Dr. Fort. Wilkes was a democrat and yet an abolitionist. He was a Baptist preacher and, of course, didn't talk abolitionism from his pulpit, but didn't hesitate to express himself in that way.
  When Sherman was about to begin his march to the sea the Fort family entrusted to Wilkes their silverware and jewelry for safe keeping. He took it to his home in Milledgeville, buried it on his own lot in a cow stable, burning the stable to conceal evidence of the excavation and waited the results. When Sherman reached Milledgeville, Wilkes, who was the leading colored minister of Milledgeville, found himself in the hands of the soldiery, robbed of his own, a handsome gold watch, his house stripped of everything movable that a soldier would have, or destroy, tied up by the thumbs to be made to reveal where it was thought that he had hidden valuables entrusted to him and his life was saved by the accidental knowledge and interference of an officer of the federal army who came in just in time to cut him down where the soldiers had hung him.
  Wilkes never entirely recovered from his experience with Sherman's army. But he refused to reveal the place where he concealed what was entrusted to him, and restored all of it to those to whom it belonged.
  When the war closed Wilkes suffered as others did. His debtors, many of them, were rendered insolvent by the war. He collected what he could and soon was conducting his blacksmith shop and made money rapidly right after the close of the war.
  Wilkes firmly believed the hand of the Lord was in the abolition of slavery and that he was called upon to abandon all other business except to preach and to lead his people in this new life of liberty that they were entering upon. No one who knew Wilkes questioned his sincerity, his unselfishness and blind fanaticism.
  He bought a plantation near Milledgeville, one of the most valuable in that locality, located on it a colony, built a church in Milledgeville, known as "Flagg's Chapel" and lived long enough to test abolition and the present free negro, far enough to say that since he had seen freedom tried he believed that the United States did a grave injustice to the negro race by setting them free before they had been prepared for it by a proper education, religious and business. Poor old fellow, he worked hard and died insolvent, leaving the only home for his widow, Lavinia, who for fifty years had lived in luxury, an humble home provided for her by the congregation of "Flagg's Chapel."
  Recently his widow, Lavinia, died. From the Union Recorder, of Milledgeville, I clip the following:
  "Lavinia Flagg, widow of Rev. Wilkes Flagg, died at her home in this city last Wednesday. The funeral services, held Thursday afternoon at Flagg's Chappel, were largely attended. This church was named in honor of her husband and was very dear to her, and she was greatly beloved by the membership. 'Aunt Lavinia' was a good woman and had many friends in both races. She has gone to her reward after a kind and useful life of nearly a century."
  This closes a family of people of a class rapidly disappearing.
  Wilkes Flagg was a remarkable man, copper colored, about six feet high, with manners of a Chesterfield. Although a blacksmith, his early life had been spent waiting upon the table and he was one of the most accomplished dining room servants in Georgia. From Governor Wilson Lumpkin to Governor Joseph E. Brown, no governor in Georgia gave a state dinner at the Mansion unless Wilkes had charge of the dining room and the table. His language indicated that his associations had polished as well as educated him. His reputation for honesty, integrity and truthfulness was as good as any man's. Although he had bought himself, wife and child, no one ever questioned that he had earned honesty every dollar that he paid for them. He was respected in the community where he lived and when he died was honored by them.
  I do not recall any negro developed since the civil warm more highly respected in the community in which he lived that the Rev. Wilkes Flagg. TOMLINSON FORT.

Eileen Babb McAdams copyright 2004