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Boone County

African American rural settlements documented: 1

When Boone County was formed in 1830, it had 2 free persons of color, according to its 1830 census. One of the known early settlers was Woody (or Moody) Gilliam (Gillum) who came from Virginia.  Gilliam purchased a total of 160 acres of land two miles north of Big Springs in Marion Township in about 1836, after a brief stay in Rush County, Indiana. The Gilliam surname is also associated with the historic Roberts Settlement in nearby Hamilton County. 

Boone County's population of free colored people increased through the 1800s. The 1840 census lists 19 people and in 1850 there were 20, with the population increasing to 90 in 1860. By 1870, the first census after the end of the Civil War identified 240 people. The majority of these families lived in Sugar Creek Township and Thorntown, though there were also considerable numbers in Center Township and Lebanon. The surnames associated with these settlements include: Balenger, Brooks, Chandler, Derexon, Shad, Stuart, Anderson, Cummings/Cummings and Derickson/Dickerson. They came from North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. Audrey C. Werle's research identifies a settlement in Sugar Creek Township with Elizaville as its post office address.  A 1976 article in Boone Your County Magazine says that a colored school and an African Methodist Episcopal Church were built in Thorntown in 1866, and that a Negro Masonic Lodge was organized in 1868. Today all that remains of the settlement is a black cemetery on the west side of County Road 825 West, one half mile north of State Road 47. It was established in 1869.


Ancestry.com. "U.S. Federal Census 1820-1870," accessed June 20, 2014.

Bureau of Land Management. "Federal Land Patents," accessed June 20, 2014, http://www.glorecords.blm.gov 

Boyd, Gregory A. Family Maps of Boone County, Indiana. Deluxe Edition. Norman, Oklahoma: Arphax Publishing Co., 2007.

"Moody Gilliam: The First Colored Man in Boone County." Boone Your County Magazine, April 1977.

Stark, Ralph W. "Thorntown's Colored Cemetery Remembered." Boone Your County Magazine, September 1976.

Mathews, Mary Ann, comp. "Black History of Thorntown, Indiana." (Several undated articles located at the Thorntown Public Library- Genealogy Collection, Information File)

Walker, Marilyn S. Boone County, Indiana Cemeteries, Volume II. Lebanon, Indiana: self-published, 2004.

Audrey C. Werle, “Research Notes on Indiana African American History,” M 792, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.

By Dona Stokes-Lucas, June 20, 2014