Volunteer Colored Troops to tell their Civil War story

Pike County Historical Society pays tribute to the local Davis-Bailey family and their sacrifices for the nation

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  • Beatrice Bailey and her son Milton (Photo provided)

  • Ken Serfass (pictured) will be Ulysses S. Grant in the re-enactment (Photo provided)

  • Sarah Davis

  • Abraham Davis

"In a time when racial barriers were all too prominent, the story of how the Davis-Bailey family persevered is truly remarkable."

— The 3rd Regiment Volunteer Colored Troops will be traveling from Philadelphia to Milford to tell their story.

These volunteers have a special connection with the Columns Museum, which will host a Civil War Encampment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. The museum houses the Davis-Bailey Collection, which includes artifacts from the only black family to live in Milford borough during that era.

The volunteers from the mostly black regiment preferred to die as free men than live as slaves. So they served their country, with many losing their lives and proving that statement.

Generations of perseveranceAbraham Davis served in the 11th Regiment Volunteer Colored Troops, Heavy Artillery Division. His wife, Sarah Davis, used money from Abraham’s Civil War pension to buy a family home on High Street in Milford. Four generations of her family would live there: daughter Phebe Bailey, granddaughter Beatrice Bailey, and great-grandson Milton Bailey. The Pike County Historical Society provides the following history in its tribute:

"Sarah’s move to Milford raised a few eyebrows at first. The family had many obstacles to overcome and did so with grace and dignity. Phebe moved in with her aging mother and quickly endeared herself to those neighbors who would let her. In a time when racial barriers were all too prominent, the story of how the Davis-Bailey family persevered is truly remarkable.

"Phebe’s daughter Beatrice had a way with people like no other. Many Milford residents remember her fondly, and it seems she taught many of Milford’s finest how to drive! A story often told that embraces her character relates how she was seated at the old Vandermark Hotel’s bar when a man came in and asked where the 'colored section' of town was, and Beatrice replied, 'You’re looking at it!'

"Beatrice had a son named Milton who proudly followed in his great grandfather’s footsteps and enlisted in the Army. He was sent off to Korea, never to return. The family and many residents were devastated by the news of Milton’s being declared M.I.A. and eventually of his presumed death. Milton died a hero, saving the lives of his compatriots. He was issued a Purple Heart and United Nations Medal."

'Last letter home'The Columns includes a large selection of the historical society's Davis-Bailey family photographs and memorabilia. The society also has Milton’s Purple Heart and other medals, and the poignant letters Private U.S. Army Milton Bailey wrote home to his mother and grandmother.

"When reading the letters, it is an emotional experience and hard to get past the one on which someone, perhaps Phebe, wrote 'our baby’s last letter home,'" says the historical society.

"Of all the family stories I have had the privilege to learn in my many years here at the museum, it is that of the Davis-Bailey Family that touches my heart and soul the most," said museum Director Lori Strelecki. "The family album, portraits, and letters from Milton paint a picture not easily forgotten, and are welcoming to the stranger looking at them. The faces and words draw you into their lives, and it is a place you are better off for having been.”

Related story:"Four generations in Milford": http://bit.ly/2pxhx7A

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