April 18, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

#1 Source for Black Entrepreneur History

Samuel T. Wilcox – African American Real Estate Mogul, Hotelier & Grocery Store Owner During Days of Slavery

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Samuel T. Wilcox who became the owner of his own grocery store, real estate mogul and a hotelier prior to the abolition of slavery in the United States of America.

Samuel T. Wilcox was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia at around 1814, but during his youth, he grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and by the time he was an adult, he had become well known in the city.

Wilcox was one of the founders of the Iron Chest Company in 1839. Iron Chest was a financial institution that also dealt majorly in real estate. It was a completely built property made of three buildings and owned entirely by certain of Cincinnati’s affluent African American men. The money earned from the buildings came from white men who rented it out.

Samuel T. Wilcox was included in one of the hundreds of affluent African American men in the area, prior to the abolition of slavery. He owned the Dumas House, which was a hotel, and he also owned a major grocery store in Cincinnati.[1] He was the most successful Black man at the time in the groceries and wholesale industry, raking in what equates in today’s dollar as about 4 million[6].

His grocery store called Fancy & Staples Grocery, and it provided items such as cigars and wine, jellies and jams, vegetables and fruits, oysters, sardines, grits, teas, peas, flour and more…everything one may see in a modern day grocery store.

By the time it was 1850, he owned real estate of up to $20,000 which is approximately $400,000 in 2021[2]. In 1870, he was in his fifties and a restaurateur which was valued at $10,000 (approximately $200,000 in 2021) in Hamilton, White Pine, Nevada. His personal estate was worth $3,000 (approximately $60,000 in 2021)[3].

Below is a menu, or Bill of Fare, for the St. Patrick’s Ball Supper which showcases the variety of food prepared for consumption from Samuel T. Wilcox’s Butte restaurant.

Samuel T. Wilcox 1857Samuel T. Wilcox 1857 Fri, Mar 13, 1857 – 2 · The North Californian (Oroville, California) · Newspapers.com

Samuel T. Wilcox was also a Mason and founder of one of the lodges in Ohio while also active in founding the Grand Lodge and higher orders in Ohio.

Samuel T. Wilcox and the Story of His Bond/Marriage to Wife Louisa T. Wilson (Wilcox) Which Made the News

Samuel T. Wilcox met and married the lady who he was tasked with being guardian over for a Mr. T. Wilson who was a wealthy African American planter out of Natchez, Mississippi. Her name was Louisa T. Wilson. She was sent from Mississippi after gaining her freedom in order to attend a Catholic school in Brown County. Somehow along the way, it was reported that the two became very close, quoted as having an “intimate” relationship[4].

Some time along the way a man by the name of Enos D. King borrowed money from Wilcox in the amount of $500 with the promise of repayment, however, he wasn’t able to repay. Therefore, Wilcox gave him the offer of property in the amount of $1600, and he would allow King to put the owed $500 toward it. King agreed to the offer. King also noticed Louisa Wilson and grew fond of her.

They later married, however, King noticed that the relationship between his new wife and Wilcox was too close for his liking and that she was growing “cold” toward him. He then forbade Wilcox from visiting the home anymore and ordered him to leave his wife alone after finding letters at the post office that his wife had written to Wilcox, and he confiscated them.

The matter was settled, however, when King had to go out of town for weeks, Samuel T. Wilcox started visiting and seeing Louisa again, this time reportedly in public. King vowed to kill him publicly as he felt they had a “criminal connection” of intimacy[4].

It was on July 19, 1854 that King made his murder attempt on Wilcox when he and Wilcox ended up walking down the same road. King followed him and threw him to the ground, shouting “You have done me injury, and I am bound to have revenge.[4]” Wilcox had a pistol, and he prepared to shoot King as King pulled a knife. King stabbed Wilcox in his side, and they both struggled on the ground. King cut Wilcox all over his body and fought the gun from Wilcox. Then, he stood over him with both weapons in his hand as the public looked on yelling murder. A police officer came and pulled King away, arresting him.

Wilcox was taken to his hotel, the Dumas House. He was bleeding profusely, but he was well taken care of and stable from his injuries by near midnight.

At some point, Louisa T. Wilson became Wilcox, Samuel T. Wilcox’s wife, and on June 2, 1874 in San Fransisco, they had their only child together. The male child was named after his father – Samuel T. Wilcox[5].


Wilcox had become ill only for a short time and passed away in his home. At the time of his death, he was the Steward of Central Pacific Railroad Company steamer named “Julia”.


  • [1]Pacific Appeal, Volume XIV, Number 38, 12 May 1877
  • [2]Year: 1850; Census Place: Cincinnati Ward 1, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: 687; Page: 52b
  • [3]Year: 1870; Census Place: Hamilton, White Pine, Nevada; Roll: M593_835; Page: 509A; Family History Library Film: 552334
  • [4]Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, New York), 20 July, 1854, Thursday, page 2
  • [5]California Department of Public Health, courtesy of www.vitalsearch-worldwide.com. Digital Images.
  • [6] https://libertywritersafrica.com/african-american-history/how-samuel-t-wilcox-acquired-wealth-by-building-a-grocery-empire-never-seen-before-in-america-before-slavery-was-abolished/