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Monroe County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

Monroe County was formed in 1818. Free people of color were in the county as early as 1820, with 8 settlers listed in the 1820 census. By the 1830 census, there were 70. The 1840 census shows a considerable decline, with just 13 people. This number doubled in the 1850 census, with 27, though Heller's table of Negro landowners for 1850 does not list any for Monroe County. In the 1860 census, there were 25 people, and by the 1870 census that number had ballooned to 259 –the majority of them had come from Kentucky and resided in Richland Township and Bloomington. This coincided with the forming of some organizations to support this growing community. A Fraternal Lodge of the Good Templar was organized May 24, 1869.  An African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1870, and the Second Baptist Church organized in 1872.

The surnames of early black families included Baker, Cornet, Ferguson, Goins, Roberts, Stewart and Woodfork, representing Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.  A noted early settler was Andrew Ferguson. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War who was born in Virginia in 1755. He purchased 80 acres of Monroe County land from the federal government on July 22, 1823 and appears to have stayed until his death circa 1856.    


Ancestry.com. "U.S. Federal Census 1820-1870," accessed June 20, 2014.

Bureau of Land Management. "Federal Land Patents," accessed June 20, 2014,

Heller, Herbert Lynn. "Negro Education in Indiana from 1816 To 1860." PhD diss., Indiana University, 1951.

Gilliam, Frances V. Halsell.  A Time to Speak: A Brief History of the Afro-Americans of Bloomington, Indiana 1865-1965. Bloomington, Indiana: Pinus  Strobus Press, 1985. 

"A Lodge of Good Templars Organized By Colored Citizens." Progress, June 16, 1869. 

African Methodist Episcopal Church Deed, 1870. Monroe County, Indiana Deed Book 1, page 280, accessed at Monroe County History Center Research Library.

City of Bloomington, Indiana, comp. "African American Walking Tour Brochure." (undated)

Additional Information

A Monroe County History Center volunteer and the South Central District Manager of the Indiana Genealogical Society was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We spent hours at the History Center reading over court cases, that I thought involved William Paul Quinn and would shed some light on a possible earlier origin of the AME Church in Monroe County. The City of Bloomington has developed “A Walk Through Bloomington’s African American History” tour which she served as my guide. 

The information noted below was abstracted by Randi Richardson from multiple documents associated with the pension application  of Andrew Ferguson, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Digitized images of the documents were found online at www.fold3.com. There is no evidence that stated Andrew is buried in Monroe County.

On August 16,1838, Andrew Furgison (sic), age 73 as of July 1838, and a resident of Monroe County, Indiana, applied for a pension. According to that application , Furgison was colored and a native of Dinwiddie, Virginia. He noted that he and his father, Andrew Perley (difficult to read) were taken prisoners by the British and whipped with cat-o-nine tail. Subsequently, they ran away and joined the American soldiers. Andrew served as a private between four to five years in the Revolutionary War for Virginia, first under General Green and later under Capt. Harris. During the course of his experience, he was wounded several times. On September 10, 1839, Andrew was granted a pension for his service, No. S 32,243. It was sent to Bloomington, Indiana.

On January 8, 1851, Andrew Ferguson of Monroe County, Indiana, applied for bounty land. At that time he reportedly was 96 years old. He applied again in 1855. William Edmonson and David Smith wrote letters on his behalf. In May 1856, he was sent a certificate  for 160 acres, but by that time he had died, reportedly in the latter part of 1855. His wife had died a week previous to Andrew's death, and there were no known heirs that survived.

The certificate was returned with a letter of explanation. In that letter it was noted that Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson were paupers living at the expense of the county at the time of their deaths.   

By Dona Stokes-Lucas, June 20, 2014