From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Kleizer, Louisa and Mary (sisters)

The following information comes from the unpublished manuscript, Tracking Free Black Women in Bourbon County: the Intriguing Case of the Kleizer Women, by Nancy O'Malley.

As part of a larger ongoing project to gather information about free people of color, particularly women, in Bourbon County, KY, the existence of two sisters, Louisa Warren and Mary Malvina Kleizer, was uncovered. They owned property and were businesswomen in Paris, KY, and both sisters eventually “passed for white.” They are thought to be the daughters of Bourbon County blacksmith Henry Kleizer, who  died intestate in 1836, probably on his farm of 147 acres on the Iron Works Road. The inventory of his estate included “1 Negro woman and 2 children” valued at $800. On July 4, 1836, Henry’s father, John Kleizer, acting on his son’s request, freed the woman, 42-year-old Jude, an African American, and her two mulatto daughters, 14-year-old Louisa Warren, and 12-year-old Mary Malvina. Sadly, Jude died of cholera in 1849.

On May 29, 1850, Louisa and Mary Kleizer purchased a house and lot on Main Street in Paris for $800 from William and Catherine P. Duke. The lot was part of in-lot 14 near the corner of Main and Mulberry (now 5th) Streets. The property corresponds to 428 Main Street where the City Club is now located. Louisa's 8-year-old daughter named Ellen Burch, a mulatto, lived with the two sisters. When they were censused in 1850, Louisa was 24 years old and was not listed with an occupation, nor could she read or write. Mary was 22 years old, also without an occupation, but was able to read and write. Ellen Burch had attended school during the year.

George W. Ingels, a white stable keeper, began a relationship with Mary Kleizer that resulted in the birth of four children by the next census in 1860. The two sisters, under the spelling of Cliser, are listed as living together in Paris and working as confectioners. Their real estate had increased in value to $1400, split between them, with a combined personal worth of $1000. Mary’s children included Jennie Elizabeth aged 8, Louisa aged 5, George W. aged 3, and Mollie aged 1.

In 1867, Mary and George moved with their children to Cincinnati, OH, leaving Louisa Kleizer and Ellen Burch in Paris. Williams’ 1868 Cincinnati Directory listed George W. Ingels as a partner in the firm Arnold, Bullock & Co. James L. Arnold, Thomas L. Arnold, W.K. Bullock and George W. Ingels were wholesale grocers, commission merchants and liquor dealers at 49 W. Front Street. In the 1869 directory, George was associated with J. L. Arnold in a coal dealership under the firm name of Arnold & Ingels. George W. Ingels appears in the 1870 census for Cincinnati, living with Mary, who assumed his surname as did their children. Mary and her children are all identified as mulatto in this census. Two more children, Hiram, aged 8, and Birchie (a nickname for Burch), a daughter aged 5, had been born in Kentucky since the last census.

In the 1870 census, Louisa Kleizer is a notions and fancy goods merchant in Paris, KY, and her daughter Ellen Burch was working as her clerk. The 1860 census indicated that Louisa had married within the year, but no evidence was found to indicate that she had a husband. She is not listed with a husband in 1870.

In October of 1880, George and Mary Ingels sold Mary’s half-interest in the Paris Main Street property to Louisa Kleizer for $900. Louisa was living by herself by this time and was listed as a widow without an occupation. No record of any marriage was found in the Bourbon County records for Louisa Kleizer.

In the 1880 census record, Mary is still listed as mulatto while all of her and George’s children are listed as white. The family lived on Hopkins Street and was still living there in 1890. Mary and George Ingels lived in Cincinnati for the rest of their lives. By 1900, they were living on Wesley Avenue, just a few blocks from their former home on Hopkins Street. The census taker incorrectly spelled their name as Engalls. George reported that he was 76 years old, born in February of 1824 and married for 47 years. He was a landlord. His wife Mary was identified as white rather than mulatto. She was 75 years old, born in February of 1825.

George W. Ingels died on July 23, 1901 and was buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. His “wife” followed him in death on May 24, 1907 and was buried beside him. [They could not have been legally married while in Kentucky since interracial marriage was prohibited, and they may never have formally solemnized their relationship. Interracial marriage was not legalized in Ohio until 1887. No marriage record has been found for George and Mary Ingels, although they clearly considered themselves married.] All of their children remained in Cincinnati and were buried in the family lot at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Louisa Kleizer’s whereabouts are unknown between 1881, when she purchased an easement along an alley on one side of her property on Main Street in Paris, and December 17, 1902, when she died in Massachusetts. Limited evidence suggests that she left Paris and moved to Springfield, MA, where her daughter Ellen Burch was living with her husband, a white man named Charles Knight, and their children. After the Civil War, he worked as an armorer at the U.S. Armory until his death at age 65 on August 9, 1904.

Ellen, who went by the name Ella, also crossed the boundary between white and black. Her husband was a New Hampshire native who fought in the Civil War with a New Hampshire company and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for meritorious conduct at the Battle of the Crater. Charles and Ella had three daughters, Clara Louise born in February of 1879, Sarah Elizabeth born in July of 1880, and Laura Gertrude born in July of 1883.

No record was found for Louisa Kleizer in the 1900 census in either Bourbon County or Massachusetts. Her death date was discovered in a deed filed when Ella Knight and her daughters sold Louisa’s property on Main Street in Paris in 1910. The deed stated that Louisa Knight had died intestate in Springfield “about four years” earlier. The place of Louisa’s death was incorrect in the deed; she actually died in Northampton, MA, about 15 miles north of Springfield,  but she was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield. Louisa's daughter Ella M. Burch Knight died in 1932, and she and her family are also buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Louisa’s death record confirms that her father was Henry Kleizer; her mother’s name is recorded as Julia rather than Judith with the surname Johnson.

Sources: website

Bourbon County deed books, County Clerk’s office, Paris, Kentucky.

Samuel B. Kleizer to Henry Kleizer, July 20, 1833, Deed Book Z, p. 616.

William and Caroline P. Duke to Louisa and Mary Kleizer, May 29, 1850, Deed Book 44, p. 332.

George W. and Mary Ingels to Louisa Kleizer, October 27, 1880, Deed Book 65, p. 54.

Charles Henry and Louisa Singer to Louisa Kleizer, need date, Deed Book 65, p. 363.

Ella M. Knight, Clara Louise Knight, Sarah Elizabeth Knight, and Laura Gertrude Knight to W.W. Mitchell and William Blakemore, February 19, 1910, Deed Book 96, p. 330.

Bourbon County manumission book, County Clerk’s office, Paris, Kentucky, deed of emancipation from John Kleizer to Jude and her daughters, Louisa Warren and Mary Malvina, July 4, 1836.

Historical Census Browser, 2004, Retrieved 13 November 2013, University of Virginia, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center (No longer in service; see the National Historical Geographic Information System.

Inventory of Henry Kleizer, Bourbon County Will Book K, p. 204, June 14, 1836, County Clerk’s office, Paris, Kentucky.

Federal censuses, Bourbon County, Kentucky and Hamilton County, Ohio; various years.

Find-A-Grave website for George W. Ingels family website

Paris True Kentuckian
October 4, 1871 Issue (original at the Bourbon County Citizen/Citizen Advertiser Office in Paris)

Sanborn Insurance maps, Library of Congress website

For more information contact

Nancy O'Malley, retired Assistant Director

William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology and

Office of State Archaeology

1020A Export Street

University of Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky 40506

Ph. 859-257-1944

FAX: 859-323-1968

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paris, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Paris True Kentuckian, The (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Kleizer, Louisa and Mary (sisters),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-01-05 17:07:27