African American rural settlements documented: 0
The nineteenth century African American population in Blackford County was minimal. In 1840 the federal census indicated a total of thirteen free people of color residing in the county distributed as follows: Washington Township, population 2; Licking Township, population 1; and Harrison Township, population 10. The ten individuals in Harrison Township lived in a single household headed by Jefferson Hill. The household included 2 males under 10; 3 males 10 to 23; 1 male 36-52; 2 females 10 to 23; 1 female 24 to 35; and 1 female 55 to 99.
In 1850 the overall black population in the county dropped to eleven with seven people residing in Licking Township and four people residing in Harrison Township. The Jefferson Hill household was gone from Blackford County. It would appear they relocated east across the county line to neighboring Jay County, Penn Township. By 1850 Jefferson Hill, a Virginia native was a 56-year-old farmer. The rest of the household included Delilah Hill, age 40, born in Ohio, three Hill children born in Indiana (Henderson, age 9; Eliza, age 6; and Lydia, age 3). The other members of the household were Sally Hill, age 24, born in Virginia; James Hill, age 19, born in Ohio; and Sibba Hill, age 83, born in Virginia.
In 1860 the Hill family was still living in Penn Township, Jay County, in a somewhat different configuration. Jefferson Hill was still farming, and Sibby (Sibba) Hill was still alive at 102! This was about a twenty-year age difference from the previous census.
In 1870 there are a total of 14 African Americans in Blackford County all residing in Licking Township. Audrey Werle’s 1870 Index of Heads of Households lists the following names: Larenzo Brooks, a 34 year old barber; Green Rodgers, 34; and James E. Frazier, 36, the latter two whom work on the railroad.
In the coming decades, there was evidence of racial isolation in the county. First, in the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan established a strong presence in the county. Masked and robed participants took part in large public rallies. Second, upon the 1940 death of the well respected executive and chief engineer at a corrugated paper company, George Stevens, residents of Hartford City were “numb with shock” to learn that the respected member of their community was not white.
“The Man Who Chose Loneliness,” Ebony Magazine, 13, no 7 (May 1. 1958): 101-110.
Blackford County Interim Report. Indianapolis, Ind.: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 2005.
Jay County Interim Report. Indianapolis: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1985.
Jay County, Indiana 1982: A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories. Portland, Indiana: Jay County Historical Society, 1982.
Montgomery, M.W. History of Jay County. Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, 1969. [1864 reprint]
Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana before 1900: a Study of a Minority. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons within District of Indiana,” 1: 352. 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: 124. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1872.
By Georgia Cravey, July 18, 2014