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Orange County

African American rural settlements documented: 1

Lick Creek Settlement, now located within the boundaries of the Hoosier National Forest, was a very early Indiana African American settlement that was researched and documented by Coy Robbins and others. The Forest Service offers a good summary describing how, led by Jonathan Lindley, eleven families traveled with sympathetic Quakers from North Carolina to establish homes in the Indiana Territory which seemed to offer legal protection from enslavement. According to the U.S. Forest Service, Lindley settled in Orange County in 1811. The 1820 Census enumerated 96 African Americans in Orange County. 

Robbins notes the first African American landowners were William Constant and Charles Goin who patented land in Paoli Township near Syria. The largest number of settlers of color however, located south of Chambersburg. He identifies Mathew Thomas as the first to buy land, soon followed by Benjamin Roberts, Elias Roberts, Peter Lindley and David Dugged. By 1855 the settlement, called variously Little Africa, South Africa and Paddy’s Garden, now known as Lick Creek, reached its maximum size of 1,557 acres. The surnames Burnett, Thompson, Locust, Isom, Chavis, Clemens, Chandler are found in addition to the surnames Roberts, Thomas, Lindley and Dugged.

The harsher racial attitudes of the 1850s led to a law which required African Americans to register with their county clerk, and Orange County followed this law, recording 141 African-Americans. The vast majority signed up during a five month period in 1853; however, it is estimated that approximately half the African American population did not register.

In 1860, the African American population of Orange County numbered 260 people. Approximately one third resided in the settlement of Lick Creek in Southeast Township. Methodism had an early presence in the community. In 1837, church met on land owned by Ishmael Roberts. Later, Thomas and Matilda Roberts deeded land for Lick Creek African Methodist Episcopal Church, which operated from 1843 to 1869.

As early as 1862, many African Americans began to leave Lick Creek. In September of that year, seven families sold all their land, a total of 539 acres. At the end of the Civil War, the sharp decline continued. By the early 1900s there were no African Americans remaining. The exodus is still considered somewhat of a mystery. Some possible causes include a boom of industry and employment opportunities in nearby cities, the rise of anti-black organizations, and increasing racial tensions. The last resident of Lick Creek, William Thomas, sold his land in 1902. Churches and cemeteries remain in the area that can offer more clues to researchers.

There are possibilities that other settlements were established, such as Stamper’s Creek, but more research is necessary.


“African American Research in Orange County.” INGenWeb. Accessed June 20, 2014.

Orange County Historic Sites and Structures: An Interim Report. Indianapolis, Ind.: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, [2006?].

“Field Studies at Lick Creek African American Settlement.”  U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service. Accessed June 20, 2014.

Indiana State Museum. “Lick Creek African-American Settlement: Investigating the Past trough Archaeology; Lesson Plan.” U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service. Accessed June 20, 2104.

“Indiana’s African American Settlements” Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Accessed June 20, 2014.

“Lick Creek African American Settlement.” U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service. Accessed June 20, 2014.

“Lick Creek African American Settlement.” U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service, Hoosier National Forest. August 2012.

“The Lick Creek Settlement: An Indiana Nineteenth Century Biracial Community.” Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources. Accessed June 20, 2014.

Robbins, Coy D. Forgotten Hoosiers. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Press, 1994.

Robbins Coy D. “Lick Creek Settlement: An early Black Community in Orange County (Part I).” Black History News & Notes, February 1982.

Robbins Coy D. “Lick Creek Settlement: An early Black Community in Orange County (Part II).” Black History News & Notes, May 1982.

Sieber, Ellen and Cheryl Ann Munson. Looking at History: Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest Region 1600 to 1950.  [Washington, D.C.?]: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1992.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons within District of Indiana,” 1: 360. 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: 128. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1872.

By Georgia Cravey, June 22, 2014