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Jefferson County

African American rural settlements documented: 2

Jefferson County was formed in 1811, and recorded early settlement by African Americans, many before statehood.  According to the U.S. Federal Census, in 1820 there were a total of 112
free people of color. The black population continued to rise-240 in 1830, 429 in 1840, 568 in 1850, 512 in 1860 (a slight decrease) and a sharp increase of 1105 in 1870.  One early resident of Jefferson County was William Hood. In 1818, Hood applied for a pension for his Revolutionary War Service. As a sixteen –year –old slave in 1769, he had run away from his owner. By 1800 he was in Rockingham, North Carolina.  He settled in Jefferson County, Indiana, sometime before his marriage to Kitty Debois on August 9, 1812. Hood died in 1829; his descendants were found in Jefferson and Jennings counties by 1830. Some of the early surnames listed in Coy D. Robbins’ Black Pioneers in Indiana 1830, includes Bolin, Evans, Gray, Griffin, Jackson and Stafford. In 1850, there were 46 black landowners whose real estate was collectively valued at $35,480. (Heller)

One of the earliest rural settlements in Jefferson County located about 2–3 miles north of Hanover was Graysville. When an English traveler Edward S. Abdy toured Madison, Indiana in 1834, he met John and Melinda Cosby (Crosby).  Melinda informed Abdy that they had come to the area about 1821, after living across the river in Kentucky- in fear of kidnapers, who had been stealing children of free people and selling them down south. Abdy identifies the settlers as coming from Virginia and Kentucky. Some were liberated slaves, others had bought their freedom and the rest were originally freeman.  There were a total of eleven families, with a population of 129.  John Cosby had two farms consisting of 137 acres. Graysville also had an active church, school, and several cemeteries.

Another known rural settlement was located in Hanover Township.  Beatty and the Hume families from Kentucky are two surnames associated with this community. Matthew Hume’s story is told in the WPA interviews of former slaves living in Indiana. Hume had been born a slave in Kentucky; it was about a year after the Emancipation Proclamation before he knew he was free. On January 1, 1865, he crossed the Ohio River at Madison.  Hume and his family became active members of the Hanover African Methodist Episcopal Church and donated property for the construction of a new school that was completed in 1871. Information concerning the earliest evidence of an AME Church in Hanover is in 1842, taken from Minutes, Indiana Annual Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church 1840-1845, as published in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Magazine, George Hogarth, editor. The church remains active today. There are several cemeteries associated with this settlement.

Although not considered a rural settlement, the Georgetown District located in Madison, just blocks from the Ohio River is known for its Underground Railroad activities. Georgetown was settled during the 1830s. Georgetown boasts of several churches that served the African American community of Methodist and Baptist faiths, in addition to a school, a fraternal lodge and businesses. Some of the surnames associated with Georgetown includes: Andersons, De Baptiste, Harris, Booth, and Carter. 


Abdy, E.S. Journal of a Residence and Tour in The United States of North America from April 1833, to October 1834.  Vol.2 London: John Murray, 1835.

Ancestry.com. “U.S. Federal Census 1820-1870,” accessed August 12, 2014. 

Baker, Ronald L. Homeless Friendless, and Penniless: The WPA Interviews with Former Slaves Living in Indiana.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press: 2000.

Bureau of Land Management, “Federal Land Patents,” accessed August 12, 2014, 

Coon, Diane Perrine. “Reconstructing the Underground Railroad Crossings at Madison, Indiana” Master Thesis, University of Louisville,1998.

Furnish, Mark A. "A Rosetta Stone on Slavery's Doorstep: Eleutherian College and the Lost Antislavery History of Jefferson County, Indiana." Ph.D. diss., Purdue University, 2014.

Heller, Herbert Lynn. “Negro Education In Indiana From 1816 To 1860.” Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1951.

Lyda, John W. The Negro In The History Of Indiana. Terre Haute: 1953.

National Park Service Website. "Network to Freedom. Madison, Indiana, Essay." Accessed 2014.

Putt-Slater, Dawne Research. The Genealogy Center- Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN

Robbins, Coy D., ed. Black Pioneers in Indiana. Bloomington: Indiana African American Historical and Genealogical Society, 1999.

Robbins, Coy D., ed. Indiana Negro Registers 1852-1865. Maryland: Heritage Book Inc., 1994.

Thornbrough, Emma Lou, The Negro in Indiana Before 1900: A Study of a Minority. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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

Wright Richard R., Jr. "Negro Rural Communities In Indiana." Southern Workman Vol. 34: (March 1908).

Cord, Xenia. “Rural Settlements in Indiana before 1860.” Black History News & Notes, February, 1987.

By Dona Stokes-Lucas, October 31 2014