African American rural settlements documented: 1
Lawrence County was established in 1818. The federal decennial census enumerated 15 blacks in 1820 and 59 in 1830 for the county. For the next three censuses, the number of blacks hovered around 100, and it escalated to 250 by 1870. The census also shows 45 black people in Marion Township in 1850 and that number is up to 109 by 1870. Perry Township has 17 in 1850, 32 in 1860 and it falls to 15 in 1870. Shawswick Township begins with 21 in 1850 and ends with 66 by 1870. Spice Valley has 14 in 1860 and 46 by 1870.
By 1870 most of the blacks who reside in Lawrence County claim Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and other southern states as their birthplaces. Family surnames in the county include Finley, Larter, Nelson, Preston, and Terrel. There appears to be a settlement in Marion Township that includes the following family names of individuals farming: Barnett, Finley, Isom, and Williams. In the county plat books, A. Isom owns land southwest of Mitchell in Marion Township. Anthony Isom receives a land patent for improving his land in 1841.
Martin Finley is born in Indiana in 1829 and is living in Marion Township when he registers for the draft in 1863.
More research needs to be done to identify other possible settlements of multigenerational African American pioneering families that owned land in other Lawrence County townships including Perry and Spice Valley. For example, Arthur Larter and his family are in the North Carolina census in 1850 and Perry Township, Lawrence County, Indiana in 1860. According to the Lawrence County abstract records for Perry Township, the family owned land in 1865. Information gleaned from the Recorder’s office shows the Larter family buying and selling land in 1864. Jennings Larter’s son, Leason, is born in Indiana in 1856, and Milton Larter’s daughter, Amanda, is born in Indiana in 1853, so it appears the family migrated sometime during the early 1850s.
1879 Atlas of Lawrence County, Indiana, and First Entries in Indiana Creek and Perry Townships. Bedford, IN: D.A.R. Spice Valley Township, 1969.
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,” M0792. William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
By Lishawna Taylor, July 28, 2014