African American rural settlements documented: 0
Clay County was formed in 1825. There was one free person of color named Cannan Gowens (age range 55-100), listed in the 1830 census. Gowens may have had ties with the Gowens/Goins family that came to Indiana in the 1820s–1830s from North Carolina. By the 1840 census, there were 3 people of color. There were slight increases in the black population records:18 in the 1850 census, 22 in the 1860 census and 26 in the 1870 census, with most of the residents living in Brazil Township. Surnames of some of these early settlers were Emanuel, Minor, Hill and Jones. Their birthplaces included North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Indiana.
No settlements have been identified in Clay County prior to 1870, but in the 1880 census, the black population had increased to 298. An issue of the Brazil Register from 1883 reports a baptism that took place at the colored settlement in Cloverdale.
The earliest mention of a church with a black congregation in the county is listed in Coy Robbins' compilation of black settlements in Indiana affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church,1840-1845. There is a discrepancy about when the AME church or congregation was established. The History of Clay County (Travis) places the founding as 1898. The Baptist Church was organized about 1873 in a small village called Otter Creek, north of Brazil. The Otter Creek Cemetery which is located north on Highway 59 may be affiliated with the church. In 1881, this Baptist church moved into the city of Brazil where it still operates.
Ancestry.com. “U.S. Federal Census 1820-1870,” accessed June 20, 2014.
“Cloverland,” The Brazil Register, May 17, 1883.
Lu, Marlene K. Walkin’ The Wabash: An Exploration into the Underground Railroad in West Central Indiana. Indianapolis, Ind.: Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, 2001.
"Survey of County Black History Information," 1987. Vertical Files, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Robbins, Coy D., compiler. “African Methodist Episcopal Churches Located In Indiana Black Communities,” 1990.
Travis, William. History of Clay County, Volume I & II. New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1909.
Audrey C. Werle “Research Notes on Indiana African American History,” M 792, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.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, August 1, 2014