African American rural settlements documented: 1
Newton, Indiana’s youngest county, yielded evidence of a small, rural African American settlement in McClellan Township. The first evidence of this unnamed settlement is the 1870 census, which shows 19 members with the surnames Morgan and Porteonus living next to one another, as farmers. All of these families were born in Indiana. Later census data shows that the Morgans stayed in this area and various black families joined them.
The 1916 Atlas of Newton County shows George’s wife Emma, owning 90 acres in section 25, which the 1910 Census suggests as having a relatively low land value, estimated at $8,600 (no land deed has been found). This is likely because of the heavy marshes that dominate the land. This section, known as the Willow Marsh area, borders the Indiana-Illinois border line, and today the “Morgan-Tracy” cemetery is the only physical evidence indicating that these families once lived on that land. Many of the residents of this settlement are buried here, including some of the later families that joined the Morgans. Because of the unyielding nature of the land that the Morgan’s owned, it is likely that the family worked on a nearby farm. Marriage records reveal that the brothers James and George Morgan married Elisabeth and Emma Portteus (possible relation to James Porteonus?), who may have been sisters given their matching surnames. Joseph Hiestand’s archaeological report states that this land was part of the, “… shore ines and sand knobs of the marshes.”
While not much else is known about these families, Gerald Born, the director of the Beaver Lake Museum and Two Rivers Reference Library has recalled what he knows about these black families. Born had a personal experience, remembering that one of the Morgan family members lived and worked at his grandfather’s homestead, the Linderholm Farm, during the 1920s and 1930s. He said the individual was treated like a member of the family, as were all of the Morgan family members. He stated that his grandfather had grown up in the Quaker community. Later in life, while Gerald was running an antique store, descendants of the Morgan family, who later moved to Michigan, came back to learn about their family history and he was happy to tell them what he knew. The Morgans lived in this area until 1922, when Emma died and the land was passed on to her daughter Cora (Morgan) Tracy, who was later buried there, along with other members of the Tracy family.
Outside of this cluster of families in McClellan Township, the numbers of African Americans in the county are small. the threat of hostile Indians and the lack of roadways made settlement in Newton County difficult. The 1840, 1850, and 1860 census show no African Americans living in the county except a Joseph Jones, who in 1850, worked in the home of Jacob Wright. Gerald Born is able to recall his own personal memories of early county history, and the usual slate of genealogy resources can be found at the Morocco Branch Library.
Andreas, A. T. Map of Newton County: Map of White County. s.l.: s.n., 1876.
Born, Gerald M. et. al., comp. Cemeteries of Newton County, Indiana, 2 vols. Kentland, Indiana: Newton County Historical Society, 1996.
Hall, Susie and Beth Bassett. “Morgan Tracey Cemetery.” Directory of Cemeteries - Newton County, Indiana. Accessed June 25, 2014.
Hiestand, Joseph E. An Archaeological Report on Newton County, Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1951.
Index to Marriage Records, Newton County, Indiana, 1860-1920, Inclusive. Kentland, Indiana: s.n., 1968.
Standard Atlas of Newton County, Indiana: Including a Plat Book of the Villages, Cities and Townships of the County ... Patrons Directory, Reference Business Directory. Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co, 1916.
U.S. Census, 1840: Population Schedules of the Sixth Census of the United States. Accessed June 25, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1850: Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States. Accessed June 25, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1860: Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States. Accessed June 25, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1870: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States. Accessed June 25, 2014.
U.S. Census, 1880: Population Schedules of the Tenth Census of the United States. Accessed June 25, 2014.
Note: The headstones for the Morgan Tracy Cemetery are few, and no marker exists that would indicate the history of this family in the county.
By Andrea Sowle, July 18, 2014