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Madison County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

The 19th century African American population in Madison County was minimal. 

In 1840 the census shows a total of six free people of color residing in the county. (The enumeration is not available by township for 1840.)  In 1850 only three townships have African Americans living in them: Monroe: 2 persons; Van Buren, 1 person; Anderson Township (location of county seat, Anderson [town]: eleven persons.

By the 1860 census, Anderson Township’s African American population increases to fifty-seven.  The only other township with any black population is Lafayette with 2 African Americans.

In 1870, Anderson Township has the largest concentration of African Americans in the county: sixty persons. Six other townships have black population distributed as follows: 

Duck Creek, 10; Pipe Creek, 7; Jackson, 5; Lafayette 3; Union, 1; and Fall Creek, 2. Seven Townships have zero African Americans in 1870: Boone, Van Buren, Monroe, Richland, Stony Creek, Green, and Adams.

The 1870 Index of Heads of Households lists two African American farmers in Madison County: Frederic Gowens, Duck Creek Township resident, age 58, mulatto, born in Virginia and Abraham Wolford, Pipe Creek Township resident, age 51, mulatto, born in Ohio. Other surnames on the index include Robinson, Smith, Ford, Walden, Williams, Moore, West, Close, Cursey, Richardson and Covel. Additional nativity includes North Carolina, Kentucky and, Washington DC. The 1870 Index also includes ten white heads of households with one or more African Americans in the household.

According to a paper prepared by Esther Dittlinger, a librarian at Anderson Public Library, the first reference to black presence in Madison County was “An old Negro and his sister [who] moved into the Moravian Indian Village [1806]”. The man’s name was given only as Tom. His daughter had married a Native American. 

Dittlinger noted another early person of color, “Mam Tah” who came to Madison County in 1823 with the Tharp Family. Apparently she had been enslaved but remained with the Tharps after they moved to Indiana. She died at age 105 and was buried on the family farm known as the “Old Jackson homestead” located “on the hill between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets.” 

In 1843 Frederick Douglass came to speak in Pendleton as part of a tour of northern states by the American Anti-Slavery Society. Before Douglass could speak he was assaulted by a mob and sustained serious injuries. Sympathetic people came to his aid and Douglass was able to escape to a nearby farm where he was nursed back to health. This incident left “an indelible and unfortunate mark” on the history of Madison County as well as a permanent injury to Douglass.

Madison County historian Steve Jackson was unaware of any 19th century settlements. Quakers were present in small numbers in parts of the county and there was also activity associated with the Underground Railroad. The spike in African American population came decades later as a result of manufacturing, the auto industry in particular. Agents traveled to the South and recruited people to work in factories. Those workers established neighborhoods such as Hazelwood and Jackson Park on the west side of Anderson close to the Delco Remy plant. 

Over the decades, social isolation in Madison County surely played a role in the migration by blacks to Anderson from more rural locations in the county. The small black population that lived outside of the city may have shared the experience of such Anderson residents as Daisy Brown who moved to Anderson from Alexandria in 1950 after the death of her mother. “There was nothing to do over there in Alexandria. There was a lot more colored people over in this area so I moved here.”


Bailey, James Warren. A Brief History of the Negro in Anderson. [s.l.: s.n., 1938?]

“Blacks in Madison County.” Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.  V. 3, no 3, p120.

Dittlinger, Esther. Anderson: a Pictorial History. St Louis, Missouri: G. Bradley Publishing, 1990.

“Douglass Had Brush with Death” Madison County Historical Society. Accessed July 17, 2014. 

Forkner, John L. History of Madison County, Indiana.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1914.

Harden, Samuel. History of Madison County, Indiana from 1820 to 1874. Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, 1970. (Reprint of 1874 edition.)

“Hazelwood Residents Proud to Call Area Home.” [Anderson] Herald Bulletin, March 20, 1994

Madison County Interim Report. Indianapolis, Ind.: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1984.

Helm, Thomas B. History of Madison County, Indiana, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches. Chicago: Kingman Brothers, 1880.

Netterville, J.J. Centennial History of Madison County Indiana. Anderson, Indiana: Historians Association, 1925.

“A Stop on the Underground Railroad.” Madison County Historical Society. Accessed July 17.

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.


by Georgia Cravey
July 18, 2014