In 1857, when Nicholas Longworth and his wife Susan Howell Longworth celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, they had a commemorative book printed. The book contains poetry, and there are engravings of the Longworths. And then there is an arresting image of a man of color holding a white child.
That man was Nicholas Longworth’s longtime butler, Harvey Young. (The child was probably one of the Longworth grandchildren). Harvey Young was born into slavery around 1809 in Rockingham County, Virginia. His slaveholder was Judge Daniel Smith. Around 1829, Harvey Young’s mother purchased his freedom, and the two of them settled in Cincinnati in 1832. Young soon found work as butler to Nicholas Longworth.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, Nicholas Longworth was one of Cincinnati’s wealthiest and best-known citizens – a winemaker whose vineyards covered a large swath of the Ohio Valley. He lived in a mansion that we now know as the Taft Museum of Art, but it was the Longworth home first.
Longworth was popular in the African American community: he was the patron of artist Robert Duncanson, for example, and he was a benefactor of an orphans’ asylum for African American children.
Harvey Young worked for the Longworth family for forty years. In 1886, when Harvey Young was an old man and Nicholas Longworth was long dead, the Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed Young. Here is part of what he said
“I made thirty-four trips over the mountains with [Longworth] … and just as we got to the Astor House Mr. Longworth would say: ‘Harvey, here’s $50.’ Well you see I’m getting along comfortable. I saved my money in those days and I own my home at No. 46 New street, and I built and own the two houses Nos. 48 and 50. It cost me mighty little to live and I am just about as happy as I could be in this world.”
Harvey Young’s life may not always have been that happy. In our only image of him, his eyes convey more than a hint of melancholy, and when he died in 1888, at the age of 79, his cause of death was listed as, “Accident, exhaustion.” He is buried in an unknown grave in the United American Cemetery in Madisonville.
Harvey Young’s home at 46 New Street was just a block east of Broadway. Young’s home and the next-door houses that he owned show up on a fire insurance map from 1891, but by the 1920’s, the old houses had been torn down and replaced with larger buildings.