Edward J. Roye was a black businessman and politician. Roye opened the first bathhouse/barbershop in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Roye was born on February 3, 1815, in Newark, Ohio. He received his education in Newark schools, but very little else is known about his early childhood. His father sold his property in Newark in 1822 but he left Edward and his mother behind.
Roye became a barber and in 1832 enrolled at Ohio University in Athens. After graduation, he taught school in Chillicothe. He then moved to Terre Haute, Ind., where he opened the city’s first bathhouse/barbershop.
By 1840, the mood of the country was changing. Whites wanted to remove all Blacks and send them to Africa. It was during this time, Roye decided to leave the United States for Liberia.
After acquiring great wealth, he returned to visit the U.S. on his own ship. Years later Roye served as chief justice, speaker of the House, and finally, the President of Liberia in 1871. He began a program of reconstruction for his nation intending to build new roads and schools. In order to build, he needed more funding. Roye sailed for England where he began negotiations with London banks. The results proved disastrous, the terms of the loans were severe, among other things carrying an interest of 7 percent. Roye hastily agreed without consulting the legislature. Liberia actually received about $90,000, while bonds were issued for $400,000.
The whole affair angered many people and caused great resentment towards Roye. When he returned home he was accused of embezzlement. He then tried to extend his two-year term as President by proclamation, but the people rose up against him. Roye was eventually thrown out of office and later sent to trial, but escaped. Some people believed he drowned while trying to reach an English ship in Monrovia harbor, on Feb. 12, 1872.