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The African-American Strange family in Virginia and Warren County, Ohio

Harryette Mullen on 9 February 2005, 16 February 2005

9 February 2005:
I’ve compiled the following (partial) information on members of the African-American Strange family in Virginia and Ohio. My family apparently descends from the senior Reuben Strange who was freed in 1817. His son Reuben Strange (Jr.) had moved to Ohio by 1843 when he applied for a marriage license in Warren County. I have not determined whether Reuben Sr. also moved to Ohio. My branch of the family (descended from Nelson Strange and his daughter Hannah Strange Berry Wise) remained in Virginia until after the Civil War when they moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
I would be very interested in any further information concerning this family that might be found in Warren County records.

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updated brief biography by Harryette Mullen on
8 Feb 2008

Reuben R. Strange (c. 1814-1889) & Maria Smith Strange (c. 1825-1910+)

Reuben Strange (Reuben R. Strange), identified in census and military records as black, mulatto, or colored, was born c. 1814 in Bath County, VA. By about 1840 he had moved to OH where in 1846 he married Maria Smith (Maria Isabella Smith?). Their sons William and George were born in Springfield, Clark County, OH, according to their Civil War military records. Reuben was counted as a resident of Springfield, OH in 1850. In the same year his wife Maria Strange was counted in the household of her mother, Rose Smith, in Wayne, Warren County, OH. By 1860 Reuben and Maria headed their own household in Warren County, OH.

At least three members of this African-American Strange family were Civil War army veterans. Reuben Strange (c. 1817-1889) and sons William E. Strange (c. 1846-1886), and George F. Strange (c. 1849-1913) all served in the Union army. At least two of them, Reuben and William, also served in the Union navy on the USS Petrel, a tin-clad gunboat that was captured during battle at Yazoo City, Mississippi. In some reports of this battle, the black crew members are referred to as "contrabands" (formerly enslaved war refugees). Apparently some escaping slaves and war refugees were recruited "on the river."

Reuben Strange and William Strange were USS Petrel crew members; but they were both discharged from the US Navy Red Rover hospital ship before the Yazoo City battle. Reuben (wife Maria), William (wife Sarah), and George (wife Mary) all enlisted as privates in Ohio USCT regiments. They definitely were not "contrabands" but free residents of Ohio since about 1840. Reuben and William held the navy rating or rank of "seaman" while many of the war refugees were ranked at the lowest rating, "boy." Others were rated as "coal heaver," "fireman," or possibly "landsman" (inexperienced sailor).

Members of the Strange family applied for and probably received military pensions, with the help of Amos Huffman. Formerly a resident of Warren County, OH, Huffman enlisted in Co. C of the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was wounded in the thigh during battle at Stones, TN, resulting in amputation of his left leg. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Civil War veterans. After the war, Huffman served as treasurer of Clinton County, OH. He also worked as a clerk/attorney specializing in pensions in Wilmington, Ohio and later in Long Beach, California.

Reuben R. Strange and his son William Strange are buried in the Old Quaker Cemetery in Warren County, OH. Their graves have headstones and GAR markers. After Reuben's death, his widow Maria moved with their son George F. Strange to Wilmington, OH where both still lived as late as 1910. According to Warren County, OH death records, Reuben's parents are David Strange and Rachel Mann. Possibly Reuben's mother could be Rachael Mann, born c. 1780 in VA, who resided in Washington, DC, 1830-80 with her family, including pioneering educators John Francis Cook, John F. Cook Jr., and George F.T. Cook. Reverend John Francis Cook, Sr. (1810-1855), who had been a slave, was purchased and emancipated by his aunt Alethia Browning Tanner. Rev. J. F. Cook was the first African-American Presbyterian pastor in Washington, DC.

Alternately, Reuben's mother might be Rachael Strange (c. 1800-1870) who died of "consumption" or tuberculosis in Fauquier County, VA. Several African-American families with Strange surname have roots in adjoining VA counties of Frederick, Clark, and Fauquier. Free African-American household heads Reuben Strange and Judy Strange were residents of Winchester, VA in 1820. The father or grandfather of Reuben R. Strange in OH could be David Strange of St. Anne's Parish, Albemarle, VA, not far from Bath County, VA, birthplace of Reuben in OH. David Strange was counted 1810-40 as a household head and Revolutionary War veteran, born c.1762. In Albemarle County, VA known offspring of David and Elizabeth Strange include George (1780-1855) and John (1790-1867). Elizabeth Strange, born c. 1755, was a resident of Albemarle County, VA in 1850. Another David Strange, a free person of color, was counted (near Peyton Strange) in 1830 in Frederick, VA, where other FPOC household heads included Reubin (Reuben) Strange and Betsey Strange. Possibly David in Frederick County, VA is the father of Reuben R. Strange of OH.

Reuben's wife Maria Smith, born c. 1825, probably in LA, is a daughter of Rose Smith, born c. 1783 in VA.


Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia

Strange, Reuben (& wife Courtney) freed by Edward McGuire
Descendants: Courtney (m. Moses Leonard); Richard (m. Sarah); Reuben Jr. (m. Betsey)


Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia

Strange, Reuben (race not recorded)
Strange, Judy (race not recorded)


Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia

Strange, Richard, 36, laborer
Sarah, 37
James, 25, laborer
Reuben, 15, laborer
Angeline, 12
Wallace, 10
Richard, 7
John, 5

1850 Wayne Township, Warren County, Ohio

Strange, Maria, 27, b. unknown
William E. 4, b. OH
Lydia A. 2, b. OH
George F. 1, b. OH


Turtle Creek Township, Warren County, Ohio

Strange, Reuben, 46, laborer, b. VA
Maria, 35, b. LA
William, 16, b. OH
Lydia, 13
George , 11 (also with Rachel McGuire in Wayne Township, Warren County, OH)
John S. , 19
Anna B., 7
Charles C., 4
Calvin, 2


Rochester (Roachester), Warren County, Ohio

Strange, Ruben, 52, farm laborer, b. VA
Maria, 45, keeps house, b. LA
William, 25, farm laborer, b. OH
Mary, 7, at school
Calvin, 12, at school
Amos,16, barber

Greenway Township, Clarke County, Virginia

Strange, Reuben, 16, works on farm, b. VA


Greenway, Clarke County, Virginia

Strange, Reuben, 24, laborer, b. VA
(wife) Catharine, 17, keeps house, b. VA

Salem, Warren County, Ohio

Strange, Reuben, 67, laborer, b. VA
(wife) Mariah ,59, keeps house, b. TN
(son) John, 31, laborer, b. VA


243 Grant Street, 2nd Ward Wilmington, Clinton County, Ohio

Strange, Maria (wid), 86, own income, b. LA (Perhaps she lived on Navy widow’s pension?)
(son) George, 62, own income, b. OH
(d-law) Mary, 42, wash woman, b. OH

  Warren County, OH marriage records (groom and bride applications and marriages)
Reuben Strange and Elizabeth Moss applied for license in 1843 (p.78)
Reuben Strange and Maria Smith married in November, 1843 (p. 78)
Elizabeth Moss and Reuben Strange applied for license in 1843 (p. 58)
Elizabeth Moss and William Magee married in 1846 (p. 58)
  Warren County, OH Assessor Records Book 1, Deaths 1886-1907
Salem Township, p. 36
Strange, Reuben, son of David & Rachel (Mann) b. Va. d. 22 July 1889 age 75
  Warren County, OH death records, 1867-1881 and 1881-1904
Amos Strange, 1878, p. 416
Anna Strange, 1878, p. 416
? Strange, 1878, p. 416
Mary Strange, 1878, p. 416
Reuben Strange, 1889, p. 98
Rachel McGuire, 1895, p. 67
Anna McGuire, 1900, p. 67
  Warren County, OH guardianships, 1803-1916
Reuben Strange, 1854
Sarah C. Strange, 1883

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors

Reuben Strange, 39, mulatto complexion, height 5’ 8”
Home: Warren Co., OH
Occupation: farmer
Enlisted 21 Jan 1863 for one term
Rank seaman on U.S.S. Petrel – 31 March 18633; 30 June 1863

Ruben Strange
Company H, 27th Regiment, US Colored Infantry

William Strange, 18, mulatto complexion, height 5’ 8”
Home: Warren Co., OH
Occupation: farmer
Enlisted 22 Jan 1863 for one term
Rank: seaman on U.S.S. Petrel –31 March 1863; 30 June 1863
U.S.S. Petrel, a federal tinclad vessel

William Strange & George F. Strange (both were privates)
Company K, 5th Regiment, US Colored Infantry
Organized at Camp Delaware, Ohio, August to November, 1863

U.S.S. Petrel, Acting Master McElroy, U.S.S. Prairie Bird, Acting Ensign John W. Chambers, and transport Freestone steamed up the Yazoo River to operate with Union troops attacking Yazoo City. Coming abreast the city, Petrel was fired upon by a Confederate battery and sharp shooters. The river was too narrow to come about, so Petrel steamed past the batteries to avoid the direct line of fire. The 170-ton Prairie Bird, however dropped downriver out of range of the batteries. McElroy made preparation to join her, but on April 22nd, was again taken under attack by rifle and artillery fire and disabled. McElroy attempted to destroy Petrel to prevent her being taken as a prize, but was captured before he could successfully put his small wooden gunboat to the torch. Reporting the capture, Confederate General Wirt Adams wrote: I removed her fine armament of eight 24-pounder guns and the most valuable stores and had her burned to the water’s edge.”

FOOTNOTES: [a place to add additional information that you might want to submit]
16 February 2005 Harryette Mullen I've found a few more records for the Strange family in Warren County, OH: 1850 census record and additional military records. Apparently Reuben (Ruben) and two of his sons, William E. and George F. Strange all served during the Civil War. It seems that Reuben and William served in both the army (USCT) and the navy (on tinclad ship USS Petrel). I've pasted in the information below. So far I've found nothing on David Strange and Rachel Mann, parents of Reuben Strange.
4 June 2007 Harryette Mullen I don’t know if this is the mother of Reuben Strange, the VA-born African-American Civil War veteran in Warren County, OH; but I found the following record in the mortality schedule of the 1870 census for Scott, Fauquier, VA—Rachael Strange, born about 1800, died of consumption (African American).

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This page created 9 February 2005 and last updated 8 February, 2008
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