Rockford’s rich Black History began in 1834 when a young 22 year old slave by the name of Lewis Lemon, made the journey from what is now Galena Illinois to what is now Rockford Illinois via the Rock River with his then master Germanicus Kent and a fellow explorer, later turned school teacher/farmer Thatcher Blake. It is also known that approximately 4 plus years later, Lewis Lemon was able to purchase his freedom from Germanicus Kent.

Very little else is really known about Rockford’s first black founder except the little that can be found about him in some of the old journals and books carefully secured in certain places and of course the fact that he was buried in what is now referred to as Greenwood Cemetery with an inscription on his gravestone that reads “Born slave–Died Free”.