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Fulton County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

Population data identified the following numbers of blacks in the federal decennial censuses in Fulton County: 1 in 1840, 2 in 1850, 6 in 1860, and 15 in 1870. 

Two years after the first documented white settler, William Polke, came to survey the Michigan Road (Old 31), he brought his family and the black family of Mose Burdine from Knox County, Indiana to settle 4 miles north of what is presently Rochester, Fulton County, in 1832. The Burdine family built a cabin by the creek east of the Polke home, and continued to work for the Polke family for many years. The Burdine family in Fulton County had connections with the Burdines that settled in LaPorte and Porter County. Though the connection is there, the sources are scant and fractured. Various sources cite that a Priscilla Burdine (who later married Emanuel Brown) was brought north by William Polke, and lived in LaPorte.  Manual and Priscilla’s son, Alfred Burdine, was a pioneer of the Clear Lake Settlement in Porter County. 

While no permanent settlement was found, the presence of Underground Railroad heritage in Fulton County is documented, including the participation of one of Fulton County’s few black residents, Jerry Barbour in Rochester.  


“First Colored Persons of La Porte County.” Charles Cochran Papers, La Porte County Historical Society Archives.   

Harrison, Wendy. “Wendy Harrison’s Family Page.” Ancestry.com- Family Tree Guide. Accessed July 10, 2014.

Manuel Brown and Priscilla Burdine’s original marriage license, February, 9, 1843, Book A, La Porte County, Indiana County Clerk’s Office, Courthouse.  

U.S. Census, 1840: Population Schedules of the Sixth Census of the United States. Accessed July 24, 2014.

U.S. Census, 1850: Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States. Accessed July 24, 2014. 

U.S. Census, 1860: Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States Accessed July 24, 2014. 

U.S. Census, 1870: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States. Accessed July 24, 2014.

By Andrea Sowle, July 30, 2014