African American rural settlements documented: 0
No rural settlements were found in Miami County. The Federal decennial census enumerated the following number of blacks: 4 in 1840, 12 in 1850, 32 in 1860, and 46 in 1870. The high census numbers are a result of a concentration of African Americans in the city of Peru, specifically in Ward 2. The Miami County Historical Society has a collection of vertical files dedicated to the African Americans that lived in the county.
According to local history books, the earliest black settler in Miami County was a young man named Wesley Cossey who worked as an interpreter for Francis Slocum. The first documented account of Cossey in the county is with a September 2, 1839 visit by the brother and sister of Francis Slocum. There is evidence that he could have been there earlier, however no connection has been solidified between Cossey and an earlier account of an interpreter working with John McClure at a trading post southeast of Peru. Other notable African Americans who established a sense of community in the county were the Moss family, who operated a barber shop in Peru. Alexander Moss campaigned for a black school in Peru, was instrumental in establishing an African Methodist Episcopal church, and acquired a significant degree of wealth through his various land holdings.
A transcript of an oral history with a lifetime African American resident of Peru, Alex Taylor, gives several accounts of a white businessman, Daniel Bearss, being an advocate for the rights of African Americans in the county. A few sources note that Bearss employed many African Americans on his farm when they would pass through Miami County on their way to Michigan or Canada. Taylor’s account notes that Bearss brought an Albert Green from South Carolina to manage his farms.
Crossland, Dorothy. “History of Wayman A.M.E. Peru.” Wayman A.M.E. Centennial Anniversary 1871-1971. Peru, Indiana: Wayman A.M.E. Church, 1971.
Flinn, Adrienne. “Alex Taylor recalls history of early black settlers in Peru.” Peru Tribune, February 11, 1975.
Hunter, D. Eckley. “The Colored School of Peru.” Miami County Sentinel, February 2, 1871.
Taylor, Alex. "Pioneer Negro Citizens of Peru, Indiana." Miami County Museum (Peru, Indiana), no date. (oral history)
U.S. Census, 1840: Population Schedules of the Sixth Census of the United States. Accessed July 15, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1850: Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States. Accessed July 15, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1860: Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States. Accessed July 15, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1870: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States. Accessed July 15, 2014.
By Andrea Sowle, July 24, 2014