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Howard County

African American rural settlements documented: 2

Howard County was established in 1844.  The county had a healthy African American population that grew steadily from its first federal decennial population census taken in 1850; it registered 105 black people that year.  It enumerated 165 blacks in 1860 and 304 in 1870.  In both 1860 and 1870 about a third of the black population in the county lived in Ervin Township.  There were also large population numbers in Clay and Monroe Townships and the city of Kokomo (Centre Township).

Around 1840, the Rush Settlement was formed in Ervin and bordering Clay townships.  The settlement had a school and a Methodist church.  In the 1870 census, men surnamed Hardiman and Rush are listed as farmers.  Wm. Hardiman had land valued at $2,600.  The school, church and cemetery (located at 450 N.) were on Hardiman’s land. Although there were less than 25 blacks counted in all other Howard County townships, the 1850 Clay Township census enumerated 63. Prior to the establishment of the Bassett Settlement, Ervin Township listed only 16 African Americans in 1850.

During the 1850s, the Bassett, Artis and Ellis families left Parke County, Indiana, and established a settlement in Ervin Township. (The Bassett and Artis families were free African Americans who came to Indiana from North Carolina.)  At least 11 families lived in this area that became a small farming community of blacks sometime known as the Bassett Settlement or the Bassett and Ellis Settlement.  They had a school, church, cemetery (located at 950 W.), general store, blacksmith shop and a post office.  Some of the other surnames associated with the settlement include Canady, Griggs, Jones, Kirby, Mosely, and Wilson.

Zachariah and Richard Bassett served as ministers at the Free Union Baptist Church in Howard County.  The 1870 census list Bassetts, Artis, and Ellis as farmers.  Richard had land valued at $8,400 and Morrison Artis’s land was valued at $2,800.  In 1892, Richard Bassett became the third black person to be elected to the Indiana state legislature.  

According to Emma Lou Thornbrough, the Bassett and Rush settlements were located near the Poplar Grove Friends Meeting and both communities disbursed after the Civil War, with most residents moving to Kokomo (Howard County) or Logansport (Cass County). 

Further research needs to be done on a possible black settlement in Monroe Township.  Ishmael Roberts came into the county around 1850.  The 1860 census lists John and Thomas Roberts.  They appeared to have lived outside of New London in Monroe Township.  


Combination Atlas Map of Howard County, Indiana: Compiled, drawn and published from personal examinations and surveys, 1877. Knightstown, IN: Bookmark, 1976. 

Gall, Morris. The Negro in Howard County. Kokomo, IN: Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, 1970.

Hackett, Brian L. "Hoosier Freemen: Harboring Negroes in Antebellum Parke County." Indiana Trace of Indiana and Midwestern History, Summer, 2009. 

Slater-Putt, Dawne. “The People of Bassett-Ellis and Rush African-American Settlements Ervin and Clay Townships Howard County, Indiana, 1840-1920.” (Manuscript at the Kokomo Public Library, Kokomo, IN)

Snell, Ronald David. “Indiana’s Black Representatives: The Rhetoric of the Black Republican Legislators from 1880 to 1896.” Ph.D dissertation, Indiana University, 1972.

Tetrick, Ron. “Artis, Bassett, Colbert, Hall and Rush Pioneer African American Families of Howard County, Indiana,” 2008. (Manuscript at the Kokomo Public Library, Kokomo, IN) 

Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana before 1900: A Study of a Minority. Bloomington and Indianapolis: 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 Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1852

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population of Civil Divisions Less Than Counties; Table III State of Indiana,” 1:124 Eighth Census of the United States, 1860.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1862

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.

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

By Lishawna Taylor, July 30, 2014