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Francis, Abner Hunt ( ? -1872)

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shortly after the census of 1850 Abner Hunt Francis and his wife Lynda arrived in Portland, Oregon. Soon after their arrival the Francis family was targeted for judicial expulsion based on a territorial black exclusion law adopted in 1849. In September 1851 Judge O.C. Pratt ordered their departure within four months. A petition drive was mounted by Portland residents to convince the legislature to allow an exemption for the family; 211 individuals signed the petition. After extensive debate the legislature tabled the request and never revisited the issue.

A.H. and Lynda Francis continued to live in Portland until their voluntary departure in 1860. Undoubtedly the accidental repeal of the 1849 exclusion law in 1853 contributed to their ability to avoid expulsion. From late 1853 until the adoption of a black exclusion article in the Oregon statehood constitution in 1857, it was technically legal for blacks to live in the territory. As legal residents before the adoption of the constitution, theoretically, they remained legal residents after 1857.

While in Portland, Francis owned and operated a successful mercantile business at the corner of  Front and Stark streets. By 1860 he had amassed in real estate and personal property a fortune estimated at $36,000.  In 1860 Francis migrated to Victoria, British Columbia, perhaps motivated by the presence there of James Douglass, of mixed racial ancestry himself, who was governor.   Francis fared less well economically in Victoria, having to declare bankruptcy in 1862, but from his arrival until his death there in 1872 he was a recognized leader in the black immigrant community in political and social activities.

Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise a History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 (Portland: The Georgian Press, 1980).


Portland State University

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