Join us for an evening with the Enduring Families Project. Begun as a bus tour in 2018, this important and growing theatre project brings to life the stories of early African Americans who lived in La Crosse from its beginnings. The Enduring Families Project (EFP) mission is to broaden the narrative by the positive portrayal of the contributions, struggles, and perseverance of early local Black historical figures providing a venue for the development of understanding and respect between people in our community and a springboard for community conversations.
This program will tell the stories of Ashley and Ellen Shivers &Thomas Shivers:
- Ashley Shivers was born in Crocket County, Tennessee as a slave in 1859. At the age of seven, his mother passed away. He and his younger brother Thomas were fostered by a slave named Joana. After the Civil War, the young family met a freeman soldier by the name of Edmond Harris. He married Joana Joza, adopted Ashley and Thomas, and moved them north to Cheyenne Valley in Vernon County, Wisconsin. Ashley married Ellen Waldon in 1893. The Waldons were a strong family in Cheyenne Valley. After they were married, Ashley and Ellen moved to La Crosse, and established themselves within the community, and built a successful barber business.
- Thomas Shivers came to Cheyenne Valley in 1877 from Hayward County, Tennessee. This area is near Hillsboro, Wisconsin, in Vernon County. Thomas and his wife Millie (Revels) had four sons and a daughter. They lived on a 250-acre farm. At that time, it was the largest Black-owned farm in Wisconsin. Tom Shivers was a very progressive farmer, and many looked to him for guidance. He was the first in the valley to have a tractor, running water, and indoor plumbing. His son, Alga, designed and built many of the round barns in western Wisconsin. Cheyenne Valley was one of the few racially integrated areas in Wisconsin. Here Native Americans, Europeans, and African Americans lived together and helped each other as neighbors. The Shivers story, and that of Cheyenne Valley, is a unique setting that showed people could live, learn, and work together.
The Enduring Families Project is a program of the La Crosse County Historical Society. Learn more about the project here: https://www.lchshistory.org/enduringfamiliesproject