African American rural settlements documented: 0
Montgomery County was formed in 1822. The 1830 census shows that there were 9 free people of color living there, and an 1834 letter written by a Presbyterian Church missionary in Crawfordsville refers to the “dark race” that she is teaching. The free population continued to increase each decade - 94 (1840), 143 (1850), 150 (1860) and 167 (1870) the population was consistently higher than in surrounding counties. The majority of these early residents lived in the city of Crawfordville or Union Township and came from Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland and New York, as well as a Peter Smith, born about 1796 in Africa. Though no rural settlement was identified, a vibrant community existed in the county during this period.
Church records from 1841 show an African Methodist Episcopal Church with 20 members. Heller’s 1850 landowner lists shows 8 Negroes, with real estate valued at $2,500 total. Montgomery County's 1853 Negro and Mulatto Register (which is at the Crawfordsville District Public Library and was not included in Coy D. Robbins' compilation) refers to families with names such as Askins, Fry, Higgins, Johnson, Jones, Kern, Ketchum and Smith. Oral history indicates that the AME church and its neighbor John Speed were both involved in Underground Railroad activities. Indiana Landmarks recognized both the church and Speed's cabin as being historically significant. The State of Indiana placed a historic marker at the original site of the Speed Cabin in 1995.
Ancestry.com. "U.S. Federal Census 1820-1870," accessed June 20, 2014.
Beckwith, H.W. History of Montgomery County. Chicago: H.H. Hill and N. Iddings, 1881.
Cantrell, Martha. Article on Speed Log Cabin. Crawfordsville District Public Library, August 2000.
Heller, Herbert Lynn. "Negro Education In Indiana From 1816 To 1860." PhD diss., Indiana
“Indiana African American Survey of Historic Sites and Structures,” Library Collection, Indiana Landmarks State Headquarters, Indianapolis.
"Register of Negroes and Mulattoes, Montgomery County, 1853." Crawfordsville District Public Library, Crawsfordsville, IN.
Riley, Julia Ann. Transcribed Letter of August 15, 1834, Crawfordsville District Public Library.
Robbins, Coy D. Black Settlements in Indiana Affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1840-1845. Compiled from Minutes, Indiana Annual Conference, African Methodist Church, 1840-1845, as published in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Magazine, George Hogarth, ed.
Audrey C. Werle “Research Notes on Indiana African American History,” M 792, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
By Dona Stokes-Lucas, July 18, 2014