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Adams County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

The black population of Adams County was minimal in the nineteenth century. There were no African Americans in the county recorded in the United States Census prior to 1840 when 17 persons of color were enumerated. 

William Lewis owned a mill near Monmouth in the 1830s–early 1840s. His family accounted for 9 of 10 African Americans recorded in Root Township in the 1840 census. Records indicate that Lewis made the first of several land purchases on February 6, 1837. Lewis died in 1844. His holdings were sold and his surviving family was escorted to “Dallas,” a location that has not been identified. (It may have been in the state of Ohio.)

The other family enumerated in the 1840 census resided in Blue Creek Township. William Hill’s household included six people. Hill and his wife, Anna, were born in Virginia. By 1850 Blue Creek Township’s African American population increased by two for a total of eight persons. (Dick Heller lists eleven individuals by name in a history of the county.) Of the three children living with William and Anna, at least two were born in Ohio. An adult son, William Hill, Jr., born in Virginia, was living nearby with his Ohio-born wife and four children. William Hill, Sr. died in 1858.

The 1860 census reports a total of seven African Americans and by 1870 there are zero persons of color listed in Adams County.  Adams County has had a reputation as a “sundown location,” and Heller reports that the county newspapers were “violently anti-Negro.” As Adams County adjoins Ohio, perhaps African Americans made the choice to cross the state line to escape what was becoming an inhospitable environment.


Heller, Dick D.  “Blacks in Adams County” in 1979 History of Adams County. Decatur, Ind.:  Adams County Historical Society, 1980.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons within District of Indiana,” 1: 346. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1841.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Population of Civil Divisions Less Than Counties; Table III—State of Indiana,” 1: 122. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1872.

by Georgia Cravey, June 21, 2014