About Calvin Riley, Executive Director of the George B. Vashon Museum
Riley, 66, is a retired English teacher who began collecting black memorabilia 40 years ago.
He bought the then-vacant building in the St. Louis Place neighborhood at 2223 St. Louis Ave. and in 2015 opened his museum.
This mansion was built for a prominent businessman and grocer, James Meagher in 1879.
“Many times people don’t know what things are collectible. When you clean out homes, people throw things away, and they don’t realize they’re throwing away history,’’ he said. “A lot of times, it’s just getting water damaged. Mold damaged.’’ (From STL Post Dispatch)
Behind the Legacy
George Boyer Vashon
Born July 25, 1824 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the third child and only son of an abolitionist, John Bethune Vashon.
Enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio
Earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with valedictory honors, becoming the college’s first black graduate.
Rejected from practicing law in Allegheny County. State law declared, “black men had no political existence” and could not be admitted to practice law in the State.
Passed New York State Bar making him the first Black attorney in the State.
Awarded a Master of Arts degree in recognition of his scholarly pursuits and accomplishments.
Immigrated to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he spent thirty months teaching Latin, Greek, and English.
George Vashon, as the state’s first Black attorney, opened a law office in what is today the oldest building in downtown Syracuse.
Wrote “Vincent Og’e”. His most notable literary piece.
Professor of belles-lettres and mathematics at New York Central College in McGrawville. Vashon was the third African American to hold a teaching post at a college or university.
Vashon married Susan Paul Smith and the couple had seven children.
Vashon taught at Howard University, becoming the university’s first black professor. He was also instrumental in establishing the Howard University Law School.
After leaving Howard University, Vashon taught mathematics at Alcorn University in Mississippi from 1874 to 1878. Vashon fell victim to the 1878 Mississippi Valley yellow fever epidemic and died on October 5 at the of 54. He was buried on the Alcorn University campus.
The Vashon/St. Louis Connection
St. Louis Schools Honoring the Vashon Namesake
Susan Paul Smith Vashon
George B. Vashon’s widow Susan Vashon, also an educator, moved to St. Louis, MO in 1882 five years after the death of her husband.
John Boyer Vashon, born in 1859, was the son of George B. and Susan Vashon.
John was a teacher and principal in the St. Louis Public Schools for 34 years. While principal of Colored School No. 10 in 1887 (also known as Cheltenham Colored School, and later Vashon Elementary School), he provided leadership to help organize a YMCA for African-Americans. Vashon died in 1924. (Wright)
VASHON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Colored School # 10
1877 – 1908
VASHON HIGH SCHOOL
Vashon was the second high school built for black students in the St. Louis Public Schools, The first was Sumner.
Vashon Intermediate School for Colored 1927 Photo by WC Person