Rev. Horace D. Colerane built a house that was unique in Winchester.  It had a front porch with his name, in cut-out let­ters, under the eave:  “COLERANE 1883.”  He pur­chased a lot at a Master Commissioner sale for $100 and built the house in 1883.  The pho­tographs show the shot­gun house at 113 Second Street in 1976.  It was razed in the 1980s.

H. D. Colerane’s unusual front porch decoration
H. D. Colerane’s unusu­al front porch decoration

Horace Donia Colerane (1857−1922) was born enslaved on a farm in Jessamine County, Kentucky.  We know lit­tle of his ear­ly life.  His death cer­tifi­cate list­ed par­ents Morgan Colerane and Celia Brown.  Horace came to Winchester in 1875 and fol­lowed the occu­pa­tion of plas­ter­er.  (This was an impor­tant pro­fes­sion in the build­ing trades, as dry­wall had not yet been invent­ed.)  He mar­ried Betty Combs, who worked part-time as a laun­dress.  Of their five chil­dren, all died young except one son, Chester.

Horace had a fas­ci­nat­ing life sto­ry.  As a young man, he head­ed down a path of dis­si­pa­tion and self-destruc­tion but was able to get him­self turned around.  He became a beloved min­is­ter and one of the most respect­ed cit­i­zens in Winchester.  In 1908, Horace told his sto­ry in a Winchester News arti­cle, “Christmas in Dear Old Winchester.”  An abbre­vi­at­ed ver­sion of the arti­cle follows:

“It was Christmas eve in 1892, a cold driz­zling rain was falling, night was com­ing on, and there was a hus­tle and bus­tle in Winchester.  The rich in vehi­cles and the poor on foot were hunt­ing Santa Claus.

“Broke, not a cent, yet [I] have a spir­it in me to go home to wife and chil­dren.  My lit­tle girl [Jessie] met me at the door with let­ters to Old Santa.  She want­ed him to bring her a doll that would close its eyes.  My boy [Chester] want­ed a sto­ry book, some can­dy and fire crackers.

“My wife noticed the tears in my eyes [and] though I had thrown to the winds my earn­ings for the week, she sym­pa­thized with me.  I said I would try to bor­row some mon­ey, but she said she would rather I not.  I donned my over­coat and left the house.”

He hur­ried back down­town, and “the first man I had a con­ver­sa­tion with said, ‘Come by as you go home.  I have a quart of good old Taylor whiskey that I am going to give you for Christmas.’  Thank God I had the courage to say no.”

As Horace walked by West’s ten-cent store on North Main Street, a gen­tle­man stepped out and greet­ed him say­ing, “You have come down to see Old Santa for the chil­dren, I sup­pose.”  To which Horace replied, “I haven’t a cent.”

Colerane’s shotgun house at 113 Second Street
Colerane’s shot­gun house at 113 Second Street

“Oh, the milk of human kind­ness.  He ran his hand in his pock­et and said, ‘The chil­dren must have some­thing.  Take this, and let old Kris Kringle come to see them tonight.’  So say­ing he pressed a bill into the palm of my hand.  I turned to go home after thank­ing him [and] he admon­ished me against the wine cup that spoils men’s lives and men’s souls.

“A fawn nev­er moved with fleeter steps than did I, from George Brothers [saloon] cor­ner to my hum­ble cot­tage, not hav­ing as yet looked at my bill.  At home I passed on through to the kitchen.  My wife fol­lowed me and we looked at my bill.  It was a Five.” 

(Five dol­lars in 1892 would be worth about $150 today.)

“She put on a wrap, and we told the chil­dren to be good, and we would soon find Old Santa.  The lit­tle ones were remem­bered beyond their wildest antic­i­pa­tions by Old Santa Claus that night, and would you believe it, the same kind gen­tle­man who had giv­en me the mon­ey, sent us a nice Christmas turkey the next morning.”

In clos­ing his sto­ry, Horace encour­aged every­one to make all chil­dren glad on Christmas 1908.  He advised against spend­ing $100 on a present for one who per­haps would not appre­ci­ate it.  Instead, take that mon­ey and make 100 chil­dren glad who would have had nothing.

Horace enclosed a per­son­al note to the edi­tor stat­ing, “Mr. Perry, ’twas you who gave me the mon­ey and the turkey.  I can’t for­get it.  It was the sweet­est Christmas I ever experienced.”

Colerane family obelisk at Daniel Grove Cemetery
Colerane fam­i­ly obelisk at Daniel Grove Cemetery

The edi­tor, R. R. Perry, attached his own note to the sto­ry:  “H. D. Colerane is a col­ored man.  He worked for me many years.  He is a fine mechan­ic and received good wages, but as he says, spent it for drink.  A change came.  He quit drink­ing.  He is now and has been for a num­ber of years like a min­is­ter­ing angel to his peo­ple, hon­ored and respect­ed by all classes.”

Three years after that arti­cle, H. D. Colerane became a Baptist min­is­ter and preached reg­u­lar­ly at First Baptist and Broadway Baptist church­es.  Colerane was fre­quent­ly called to serve on local com­mit­tees and speak at pub­lic gatherings. 

His 1913 elec­tion to the city coun­cil from the fourth ward cre­at­ed a furor in Winchester.  Whites across the city protest­ed that a black man should not be allowed to serve in that office.  Seven of the nine coun­cil­men signed a peti­tion call­ing for his removal.  His lone sup­port­er, Dr. M. S. Browne, said Colerane was one of the best and straight­est men in Winchester, an hon­est, upright, God-fear­ing Christian man.” 

At the first meet­ing of the new coun­cil in December, Dr. Browne read Colerane’s res­ig­na­tion let­ter which stat­ed, “To best pro­mote the good, peace and pros­per­i­ty of the city, I here­by ten­der my res­ig­na­tion to take effect at once.”

(Colerane was not the first black elect­ed to the city coun­cil; that was George Gardner, a local coal deal­er who was elect­ed a few years ear­li­er but then did not “qual­i­fy,” what­ev­er that meant.  The first to actu­al­ly serve in the office—now called the city commission—was Rev. Henry Baker, 1980–1984.  He was fol­lowed by Carrie Hudson, 1983–1993, Margaret Seals, 1995–1996, and William Baker, 2008.  On Tuesday night, January 18, Joe Chenault became the fifth when he was appoint­ed to the city com­mis­sion to replace Ramsey Flynn who resigned in December.)

Colerane sold his house on Second Street to his son Chester in 1910 and spent his remain­ing years liv­ing at 2 North Burns Avenue, next door to Dr. John Tyler.  Colerane had been blind for sev­en years, when he passed away in 1922.  Glowing trib­utes appeared in the news­pa­pers.  He is buried beside his wife and chil­dren in Daniel Grove Cemetery.

  • Harry is a Mt. Sterling native who has lived in Clark County since1999. He has a pas­sion for the past and has researched and writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the his­to­ry of this area.