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Putnam County

African American rural settlements documented:  0

A black rural settlement was not identified from 1820-1870, however an urban settlement was later established during the 1879 Exoduster Movement from North Carolina to Greencastle, Indiana and other cities and towns.

Putnam County was formed in 1821. The county's first census (1830) shows there were six free people of color, which quadrupled by 1840 (27) and 1850 (34) before dwindling by 1860 (19). This early population was distributed among Cloverdale Township and Union Township, as well as the city of Greencastle. From the 1870 census to the 1880 census, the black population jumped from 105 to 576 people.  John W. Lyda’s book, The Negro in the History of Indiana, identifies Greencastle as one of the urban settlements that benefitted from the black migration after the Civil War.  

The county's first black residents were reportedly Luke and Charity Townsend, two emancipated slaves from Kentucky who arrived about 1832. They also organized the first church for blacks about 1872; it would later become an African Methodist Episcopal Church. Heller’s data on landowners lists one Negro landowner in 1850, Thomas Peters, with real estate valued at $300. This family was from Kentucky and was later listed among those Indiana residents who immigrated to Liberia in 1854.


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

Gibbs, Wilma L., ed. Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays from Black History News & Notes. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1993.

Lyda, John W. The Negro in the History of Indiana. Terre Haute, Ind.: n.p., 1953.

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

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