Ohio: Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Colonel Charles Young, 1919
Colonel Charles Young, 1919

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio, honors the accomplishments of Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922) and the illustrious service of the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The large two story brick house was built in 1856, and once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves escape to freedom.  In 1899, Colonel Charles Young bought the home and named it “Youngsholm.”  Here, Young lived with his wife, Ada, and raised a family.  Young traveled all over the globe up to the end of his life, but Youngsholm was his sanctuary. 

Born to enslaved parents, and faced with the obstacles of overt racism and stifling inequality, Colonel Charles Young became the highest ranking African American officer serving in the regular Army of his time.  Charles Young was born in May’s Lick, Kentucky in 1864.  That same year, his father escaped enslavement and in February 1865 joined the 5th Regiment, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery.  In June 1866, two-year-old Charles and his parents moved to Ripley, Ohio.  Charles thrived in Ohio, and graduated at the age of 17 with academic honors as a member of his integrated high school class of 1881.  After teaching elementary school for a few years and continuing his own education through tutelage and college courses, Charles was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1884.  Young was the ninth African American accepted into the prestigious military institute, and the third to graduate. 

Three months after his graduation from the military academy in 1889, 2nd Lieutenant Young was in charge of the 9th Cavalry at Fort Robinson, Nebraska to begin his military career.  Young was only permitted to lead African American regiments, nicknamed “Buffalo Soldiers.”  American Plains Indians who fought against these soldiers, specifically the 10th Cavalry, referred to the black cavalry troops as "buffalo soldiers" because of their dark, curly hair, which resembled a buffalo's coat, and because of their fierce nature of fighting.  Soon after, the nickname became synonymous with all African American regiments. These Buffalo Soldiers were part of the six all-black regiments, later consolidated to four, established by Congress in 1866 to help rebuild the country, and to fight the “Indian Wars” out west.  Though these men were only paid the low wage of $13 a month, they enlisted because of the better treatment they received in the military versus civilian life.  In addition to their regular duties, the Buffalo Soldiers also served as some of the first caretakers of the national parks.  As the leader of some of these men, Young was the first African American superintendent of a national park when his troops were tasked to manage and maintain Sequoia National Park in northern California.  The Buffalo Soldier regiments went on to serve the U.S. Army with distinction and honor for nearly the next five decades. With the disbandment of the 27th Calvary on December 12, 1951, the last of the storied Buffalo Soldiers regiments came to an end. 

Early in his career in 1894, Young received a detached service assignment as an instructor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University.  Young remained an instructor until 1899 when he began his university teaching.  During his time in Ohio, Young bought a large home, which he named “Youngsholm,” about a mile from campus.  Youngsholm would serve as a meeting place for friends and colleagues, including the world renowned poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Young’s close friend, W.E.B. Du Bois.  After marrying his wife, Ada, in 1903, it would also serve as the place Young raised his family.  Young referred to Youngsholm as his sanctuary where he raised a family, mentored a successive generation of leaders, and found intellectual refuge.

Young went on to serve with distinction in the Philippine-American war, became the first African American national park superintendent, was appointed as the first military attaché to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, served as the military attaché to Liberia two separate times, and trained African American recruits during World War I.  During his second appointment as the military attaché to Liberia, Young became gravely ill and died at the British hospital in Lagos on January 8, 1922.  Before his death, Young had risen to the rank of Colonel, making him the highest ranking African American officer at the time.

The Youngsholm house, located off U.S. Route 42, is the site of the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument today. In 2011, Omega Psi Phi Inc., and the Ohio Historical Society sponsored the Charles Young Historic Marker, and on March 25, 2013, President Obama designated the house as a National Monument. On May 10, 2014, the anniversary of Young’s acceptance to the U.S. Military Academy, the park and its partners unveiled markers on the grounds showing that the house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and highlighting some of Charles Young's impressive accomplishments. The national park commemorates the achievements and life of Colonel Charles Young as well as the achievements of the "Buffalo Soldiers." 

Over the years, the two-story brick house suffered from some minor structural issues. It is currently being made ready for people coming to see the home. Visitors can park in the small lot to the left of the house, and observe the house from the outside. Also to the left of the house there is a historic marker, embedded in stone, that describes the significance of the home and the achievements of Colonel Charles Young.

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is currently under development, and the house is not yet open to the visiting public.  However, interpretive programs and exhibits are being prepared.  For up-to-date information on the history and planning of the park, information on tours and information on volunteer opportunities, please contact the park staff.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, a unit of The National Park System that has been designated a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1120 US Route 42, Wilberforce, OH. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is not yet open for the visiting public, but interpretive programs and exhibits are being developed.  For more information visit the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument website or call 513-607-0315.

Last updated: July 31, 2017