My Contribution: I co-founded the Brotherly Love Lodge, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in Harrisburg. I was so politically influential that I even ran as an independent candidate for Harrisburg Mayor in 1872. In Philadelphia, I was the first person of color elected to the Common Council. I also played for the Harrisburg Monrovian baseball team in 1867 against the Philadelphia Pythians (whose roster included Octavius Catto).
My Legacy: I continued my parents’ legacy as a successful restauranteur and activist in Harrisburg before moving to Philadelphia, where I made a significant impact on local politics.
My work in co-founding the Brotherly Love Lodge continues to have relevance, as the Odd Fellows’ benevolent and socially engaged work leaves its mark on Harrisburg in a number of ways. My role as a political pioneer — a man of color who ran for and was elected to offices traditionally reserved for white men — continues to hold significance in a society where political roles are still assumed, primarily, by white men.
About Me: “While here he was quite prominent among colored men, being one of the founders of Brotherly Love Lodge, G.U.O.O.F., Mr. Chester was given charge of one of the public school buildings as custodian, and his influence was such that he was nominated for Common Council and elected by a large majority. He was the only colored man ever elected to this position in Philadelphia.” Harrisburg Telegraph, December 11, 1889.
Full Name: David R. Chester
Birth Date: August 11, 1835
Death Date: December 10, 1889. Buried next to wife, Amelia Chester, in Lincoln Park Cemetery in Penbrook, Pennsylvania.
Place of Birth: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1850 and 1880 Federal Censuses)
Places of Residence: 305 Chestnut Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (before 1879); 1041 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1879-1889).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resided near Eighth Ward; contributed to organizations and churches in the ward including the Odd Fellows Lodge.
Family Members: Father: George Chester. Mother: Jane Chester. Siblings: Thomas Morris Chester, Eliza Chester Zedricks, and Harriet Chester Copley. Wife: Amelia L. Chester White.
Occupations: Restauranteur (Harrisburg). School Custodian (Philadelphia). Common Council Member (Philadelphia).
Church Membership: Unknown — likely Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church.
Activism: Brotherly Love Lodge No. 896, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows; Tuesday Night Club (Philadelphia); Old Reliable Club of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
Connections: Thomas Morris Chester, Jane Chester, Amelia Chester, William H. Marshall, George Galbraith, and Eliza Chester Zedricks.