Home of Lewis and Katherine Easton
An elite Black family in Gilded Age Cincinnati
At 440 Hopkins Street, in the Betts-Longworth Historic District, there is an elegant three-story Italianate brick building, built around 1888. From 1898 until 1906, this was home to one of the most elite Black families in Cincinnati: the Eastons.
When Lewis Depugh Easton married Katherine “Kate” Thomas in July 1874, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that this match “has been the occasion of much pleasant gossip among the intellectual and really aristocratic portions of our colored society for some time past.” Katherine Thomas was daughter of well-known photographer Alexander Thomas, business partner to James Presley Ball in the firm of Ball and Thomas.
Lewis D. Easton (b. 1846) was an educator, at one time second-in-command at Gaines High School under Peter H. Clark. Easton was also an occasional correspondent for the New National Era and the Cleveland Gazette. His columns earned him a reputation as a “trenchant and original writer.” A high Masonic official in Prince Hall Freemasonry, Easton rose to the rank of Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Ohio.
Alice May Easton, the eldest child of Lewis and Katherine, was born around 1876. Alice Easton became the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Cincinnati. She graduated in 1897, just a year before her family moved into the house at 440 Hopkins.
The second child was Lewis DePugh Easton, Jr., born in 1877. In 1898, he married Mary Bolton. Later on, he would marry Elizabeth Moore Jones, one of the first Black women to graduate from Cincinnati’s College of Music.
The census of 1900 records the Easton family on Hopkins Street. The household included Lewis Easton, Sr., his wife “Ada” (Kate), four children (including Alice and Lewis, Jr.), and one daughter-in-law (Mary Bolton Easton). There were also five boarders, one of whom was the Rev. George Bundy of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church – the church to which the Eastons belonged.
Also present in the household were two servants, named Mary Payne and Kate Bell.
The Eastons entertained frequently. In a typical event from 1903, the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune reported that “A Martha Washington tea party for the benefit of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (colored) was held last night at the residence of Mrs. L. D. Easton, in Hopkins Street. Quite a crowd was present and a neat sum was realized for the church.”
In 1904, the eldest child, Alice May Easton, was married from home when she married Dr. Marshall F. Leland. The Hopkins Street home was decorated with white carnations and Southern Smilax, and the wedding party was elegantly dressed. After the ceremony, the young couple spent a honeymoon in the east before moving to Georgetown, Kentucky.
Cincinnati city directories list the Easton family at their Hopkins Street address through 1906, but they afterward dispersed. Lewis and Katherine Easton moved in with their friend John S. McLeod at his home in Hyde Park.