This Morning: Former slave turned military veteran to be memorialized in Delhi Township

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A ceremony will be held Tuesday in Delhi Township to remember the lynching of a freed slave and military veteran.

A marker will be placed by the Michigan Historical Commission at the former “Deadman’s Hill” designating John Taylor Memorial Park as a historic site.

According to history buffs, like Bill Savage, Taylor was a former slave.

Savage is a retired history teacher for Holt Public Schools.

He says Taylor was liberated and served with the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry before working as a farmhand in Delhi Township.

One day in 1866, Taylor got into an argument with the farmer’s family over wages.

Taylor was accused of attacking members of the family. Rumors spread they died, but later reports said all family members survived.

Savage says Taylor never got the chance to defend himself or tell his story of what happened in front of a judge.

A mob broke into the jail where Taylor was being kept and hanged Taylor, many believe at the park.

Savage says, it happened a few miles south but the rumors didn’t stop a nickname of “Deadman’s Hill” from spreading.

“I always thought it was disrespectful. I drove by the park every day for years on my way to work and one day about 20 months ago, they did this Equal Justice Initiative on 60 Minutes about this man who was trying to identify all of the former slaves who had been executed this way and it turns out one of the very first ones to happen was here. Or within a few miles of here,” says Savage.

Savage worked with Delhi Township to rename “Deadman’s Hill” in Taylor’s honor.

It’s now the John Taylor Memorial Park.

Today a commemorative marker in Taylor’s memory will be installed, marking it as a historic site.

What Savage calls some long-delayed positive recognition.

“I think it’s something that will stop and cause people to think and to reflect upon,” says Savage.

The ceremony will take place at the park on Cedar St. south of Holt Road at 1pm. Guests are asked to arrive around 12:30pm.

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