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Elkhart County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

Prior to the 1870 federal census that listed 35 African Americans, there were 20 or less black people recorded on all previous censuses in Elkhart County. There is evidence of three black families residing in the city of Elkhart in 1860. Two of these families lived within a few blocks of each other, in the center of what was developing into downtown Elkhart. George Dean, originally from Maryland and his 5 family members, along with various apprentices, was listed at approximately the same location in three city directories from 1860 to 1885. Thomas Montgomery, originally from Canada, is listed as a barber in the 1870 census, but later, as often was the case with the earlier barbers, he became a physician toward the turn of the century. He initially was “boarding” at Jefferson St. and then Michigan St. (from the 1885 city directory), all within walking distance of the Dean residence. 

The Elkhart Historical Society and Museum in Bristol, Indiana has a vertical file committed to these and other later African American families in Elkhart County. 

Bibliography

Higgins, Belden & Company. An illustrated historical atlas of Elkhart Co., Indiana. Chicago: The Company, 1874.

Directory of Elkhart and Goshen. Elkhart, Indiana: J.F. Funk & Bro., 1874-1875. 

Loomis & Talbott's Goshen directory and business mirror. Detroit: George W. Hawes, 1860-1861. 

U.S. Census, 1850: Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States. Accessed: 6-10-14. 

U.S. Census, 1860: Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States. Accessed: 6-10-14.

U.S. Census, 1870: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States.  Accessed 6-10-14.

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

By Andrea Sowle, July 2, 2014