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Porter County

African American rural settlements documented: 1

The Clear Lake Settlement comprised of a few families was located in Jackson Township. The surnames of those living in this settlement included Huston, Burdine, and Banks. In addition, four mulatto or black farmers lived in the Huston home with the surnames Griffin, Graham, Bourk, and Wanser. The settlement was established sometime during the 1860s, and none of the residents appeared to be land owners. Given the census records for 1870 and the 1875 Enumeration Record for Porter County, the three black families residing on Clear Lake, likely lived and worked on the land belonging to Mary Dunlap. However, the 1876 Porter County atlas no longer lists Dunlap as the owner of this land, and various evidence points to these black families moving out of Porter County. In the obituary for “Ben Buford Huston,” the writer states that Huston came to Porter County with the Dunlaps, and that the Dunlaps, “were refugees from Kentucky and in what was then almost wilderness they caused to be erected a residence of more than ordi-nary pretensions. Few private houses in the larger cities were more spacious and ornate in decoration, though we believe that financial troubles interned before the planes (sic) were fully consummated.”  Without having access to the exact location of the Dunlap land in section 24 around Clear Lake, it was difficult to find any existing buildings that would have been used by these families. Around the lake, most of the homes appear to be from the twentieth century, and a large storage facility takes up a major portion of the water-front. No historic markers for these families or the settlement were located. 

Clear Lake spans Porter and LaPorte County . There are connections between residents of this settlement the two settlements found in La Porte County. Alfred Burdine was born in La Porte County, to Emanuel Brown and Priscilla Burdine, who were both settlers to La Porte County during the 1830s. Emanuel is recorded as being one of the earliest set-tlers of La Porte County, when he came from Lynchburg with Joshua Brown in 1834. Emanuel is remembered as “the only black man in the little town, everyone [knew] his name, and very soon knew he was an ardent Methodist.” He settled near the Clear Lake Quaker community, which could inform why his son, Alfred, settled in the Clear Lake area. 

Buford Huston was born around 1840 in Kentucky and his wife Mary was born around the same time in Virginia. The four other laborers in the Huston home were from Mis-souri, Indiana, and Tennessee. All members of the Burdine household were from Indiana. Anderson Banks was from Indiana and his wife Elizabeth was from North Carolina. The life of the settlement was short, evidenced by the 1880 census data, which shows Alfred Burdine in Gypsum Creek, Kansas (where he is also buried), Anderson Banks in Cowley County, Kansas, and Buford Huston in La Porte County, Indiana.  The high population numbers for Porter County only appear in the 1870 census data. Julie Jessen’s research suggests that a lack of paved roads throughout the county made it difficult to transport goods to nearby urban areas, and discouraged investment by major manufacturers. In the few industries that existed, only a few African Americans could find employment. The 1840 census indicates 7 black or mulatto residents, 5 in 1850, 17 in 1860, and 39 in 1870.

Most of the research material about the Porter County settlements was found at the Ge-nealogical Department of the Valparaiso Public Library (VPL) and Indiana Landmarks Northwest Regional office.  Information was also obtained  from the LaPorte County his-torian, Fern Eddy-Shultz. The Recorders office in Porter County has turned over early land records to the Genealogical Department (VPL). 


Goldsworthy, Terry. “Was Freedom Dead or Only Sleeping?: The pre-1870 African American Rural Communities of the Kankakee River Valley.” Black History News & Notes, November, 1997. 

Hardesty, A. G. Illustrated Historical Atlas of Porter County, Indiana, 1876. Evansville, Ind: Unigraphic, 1979 (reprint).

Harrison, Wendy. “Wendy Harrison’s Family Page.” Ancestry.com- Family Tree Guide.  Accessed July 10, 2014.

“Indiana African American Survey of Historic Sites and Structures,” Library Collection, Indiana Landmarks State Headquarters, Indianapolis

Jessen, Julie K. “African-American Culture and History Northwestern Indiana 1850-1940.” Masters thesis, Ball State Univeristy, 1996. 

Obituary—"Ben Buford Huston." Westville Indicator, July 18, 1907. 

Office of the Recorder of Porter County, Indiana. 1875 Enumeration Record Porter County. [In LaPorte County Historian’s folder]

U.S. Census, 1840: Population Schedules of the Sixth Census of the United States.. Accessed July 10, 2014.

U.S. Census, 1850: Population Schedules of the Seventh Census of the United States. Accessed July 10, 2014.

U.S. Census, 1860: Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States. Accessed July 10, 2014.

U.S. Census, 1870: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States. Accessed July 10, 2014.

U.S. Census, 1880: Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States. Accessed July 10, 2014.

By Andrea Sowle, July 17, 2014