African American rural settlements documented: 2
Five original African American settlers came to Grant County from North Carolina and South Carolina in the 1840s. Aided by Aaron Betts, a white Quaker from Ohio, Billy Clark (free), John Wright (free), Robert Smith, Robert Brazelton and Robert Brown established the first homesteads in Liberty Township south of Marion at the “Crossroads” (later known as Weaver). More African American families followed—some coming from Chillicothe, Ohio and Modoc in Randolph County, Indiana. Some chose to live in a settlement in Mill Township near Jonesboro dubbed Telltale. Sources report many of these families worked for David Jay, a white man.
The Weaver settlement grew with a steady stream of new arrivals. Two families prominent in the community arrived during the 1840s: the eponymous Weavers, free people from Orange County, North Carolina; and the Pettifoot/Pettiford family, also free people. By 1849 Weaver had its first church, Hill’s Chapel A.M.E. In 1854 the Baptists built a church as well followed by a Wesleyan church during the 1860s.
During the Civil war years, freed and escaped slaves came to Weaver. After the war formal schools were built and businesses such as general stores and blacksmith shops developed. According to news articles, Weaver flourished in the 1870s and 1880s with the population reaching nearly 2,000. Avenues for an active social life were available including lodges, a Grange, camp meetings, and other activities.
Grant County experienced a natural gas boom in the 1880s and many country citizens moved away from their farms enticed by employment opportunities. Despite the exodus, Weaver was still thriving with more than 100 black families in the early 1920s. Local sources describe the gas boom as a factor that changed the character of the general population of Grant County. Racial tensions heightened culminating in an infamous lynching of two African American men in August 1930.
Artis, Asenath Peters. “The Negro in Grant County,” in Centennial History of Grant County, 1812-1912, by Roland L. Whitson. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1914.
Boyd, Gregory, A. Family Maps of Grant County, Indiana. Norman, OK: Arphax, 2010.
Grant County Interim Report. Indianapolis: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1993.
Hoenig, Henry. “Council Has History to Share,” Marion (IN) Chronicle-Tribune, March 22, 1997.
Howland, Chick, “Pettifords Are Proud of Their Family History,” Marion (IN) Chronicle-Tribune, September 2, 1984, sec. B, p. 1.
“Indiana’s African American Settlements” Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Accessed June 20, 2014.
Kingman Brothers, comp. Combination Atlas Map of Grant County. [Chicago]: Kingman Brothers, 1877.
Miller, Jerry, “People of Color: Grant County’s Black Heritage,” Marion (IN) Chronicle-Tribune Magazine, July 9, 1978, pp 6-13.
Munn, Bill, “Young Black Settler Recounts Coming to Free State of Indiana” The Chronicle-Tribune.com Written April, 25, 2001. Accessed April 25, 2001.URL no longer active.
Neher, Leslie I, Field Notes, 1989. [Collected for Indiana Historical Society Archivist.] Also numerous compilations of similar notes available at Marion, IN, Public Library bound under titles such as Jonesboro, Indiana: a Collection of Historical Facts. Gas City, IN: L.I. Neher, 1988.
Neal, William, and A.C. Overman. Map of Grant County, Indiana. Cincinnati, Ohio: Middleton, Strobridge Co., 1860.
Stevenson, Barbara J., comp. An Oral History of African Americans in Grant County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2000.
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.
“Way Back When," Marion (IN) Chronicle-Tribune, September 9, 1990. [Photo of blacksmith shop, Weaver, Indiana]
Weaver, Thomas P. “Life and Works.” Free African Americans (Nineteenth Century Photos, Part 4: The Weaver Settlement). Accessed June 20, 2014.
“Weaver Cemetery, Grant County Indiana.” Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.
“Weaver Town: Interesting History of Its Origins,” Marion (IN) Tribune, 10 July 1901, p. 4.
Weintraut, Linda, “A Glimpse of the Past: Lyles and Weaver Settlements, 1850-1860,” Black History News & Notes, August, 1999.
By Georgia Cravey, June 22, 2014