John W. Locks:
Little about John Locks' youth is known with certainty. Records about African Americans in the early nineteenth century are scattered and incomplete. The federal and state governments did not then record details of family life and death as they do now.
According to Locks' death certificate, he was born in Baltimore in 1819 or 1820. His obituary states that he was born into a free family of color in the city of Baltimore. His parents supposedly died when John was very young, leading to his indenture as a caulker.
On November 9,1845, John Locks married Ann Maria Fernandis the eldest daughter of a Brazilian immigrant, John Fernandis. Sadly, Ann Maria died on March 5, 1856 at the age of 34, leaving John Locks with five children: Stephen (9), Georgeanna (8), John A. (7), Joseph C. (6) and Theodore (3). Between 1857 and 1870 Locks married his second wife Mary Ann. They had no children together.
John W. Locks was a member of the Bethel A.M.E. Church. The church played a major role in his life. Not only was the church a place for worship, it was a social and political center. Locks served as a member of Bethel Church's executive board.
On March 7, 1884, John William Locks passed away in his home on 65 South Wolfe Street. Locks died of "hypertrophy of the Prostate gland," a condition that Locks had battled for over a year. Today, Locks' condition would probabaly be diagnosed as prostate cancer. Alexander Hemsley, Locks' longtime friend and business associate, served as his undertaker. According to his obituary, Locks' funeral was the "largest of its kind ever seen in that section of the city," and was attended by many of his lifelong friends, including Frederick Douglass. He left considerable wealth to his family. Locks' legacy to his community was even greater.
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© Copyright February 03, 1998 Maryland State Archives