African American rural settlements documented: 3
The rural black settlements in Randolph County included Greenville in Greens Fork Township, Cabin Creek in Union Township, and Snow Hill in Washington Township.
According to Richard R. Wright, Jr., the exodus of Quakers from North Carolina was a major factor in the settlement of African Americans in Randolph County. Deborah Rotman updates the research with a detailed study of the settlement of the county. She finds that many of the first black settlers had “strong connections to individual Quakers and Quaker meetings” in their areas of origin (most often North Carolina and Virginia, (p 29)). Further, much of Randolph County’s settlement was mingled with that of Wayne County (p 32). Both enclaves were strongly and actively abolitionist and much movement occurred between the two counties and in the area bordering the Ohio state line.
Rotman describes three main groups of immigrants:
1) Individuals and families with longstanding status as free people (p. 36)
2) Recently manumitted slaves (p. 37)
3) Fugitive slaves (p. 39)
A distinctive feature of life in Randolph County was the level of cooperation between the races. Emblematic of this attitude was the establishment in 1845 of Union Literary Institute. Founded as an integrated, co-ed, manual training school, the charter forbade discrimination. Students were admitted without regard to “color, rank, or wealth.” In addition to students from the immediate locale, families throughout Indiana and Ohio as well as other states enrolled their children. The school was a great hub for contacts among other Indiana counties such as Henry and Rush as well as students from outside Indiana. Thornbrough considered the school “the most significant and successful experiment in Negro education’ in Indiana (p173).
Also illustrative of progressive racial attitudes, Randolph was also one of only four Indiana counties to vote in opposition to Article XIII of the 1851 State Constitution [Tucker (p 134) Thornbrough (p 68) Rotman, (p52)]. Among other restrictive measures, Article XIII excluded “Negroes” from entering Indiana.
Sources report 1822 as the year that the families in the vanguard begin to arrive in Randolph County often relocating from interim residence in Wayne County, Indiana, and from Ohio. Family groups of Scotts, Alexanders, Outlands, Robbinses, Demorys/Demarys settled on some 1500 acres. Between 1822 and 1838, Wright reports that 2000 acres of land were entered by a dozen black families who migrated chiefly from North Carolina. Additional family names include Chanous (Virginia), Brown (Tennessee), Burden and Cotman (South Carolina), Benson (North Carolina) McKeon/McKown/McCown, Stokes and Tann.
The history of African American settlement in Randolph County is notable for its three large, prosperous communities: Cabin Creek, Snow Hill and Greenville.
Greenville, it should be noted, is part of a community that encompassed land on both sides of the Indiana/Ohio state line. The Darke County, Ohio, portion of the settlement is known as Longtown or simply Long. Greenville was the earliest of the three settlements, the first settler being Thornton Alexander. Alexander entered 300 acres of land in 1822. Born in Culpepper County Virginia, he was freed from slavery at age thirty-six. The Alexander family migrated to Greenville from Warren County, Ohio.
Cabin Creek was established about 1825 by John Demory who came with Lemuel Vestal from North Carolina. Demory is described by E. Tucker as a “free-born, half Frenchman.” He was born in Charleston, South Carolina and married Sarah Robinson in Anson County, North Carolina. The couple would eventually have eleven children and own eighty acres of land in Washington Township as well as a house and lot in the town of Winchester.
Soon after Demory’s arrival in Cabin Creek, Drew Taylor and his family settled on Eight Mile Creek and the Obadiah Anderson family settled in the southwest part of the county. Eventually Cabin Creek was home to “some eighty to one hundred families and several hundred people according to E. Tucker (p. 134). Writing in 1882, Tucker further notes that “the number has materially lessened” with many families “having sold their possessions and moved to locations more suited to their notions.” He reports that “thirty to forty families remain.” Additional family names in Cabin Creek were Scott, Crane, Ward, Terry, Cotman, Wilkerson, Chavis, Woods, Seeny, Outland, Skipworth, Woods, Smothers, Smith, Barber, Ladd, Jennings, Roberts, Barracks, Hill, Stafford, Perkins Sawyer, Hall and Watkins.
Snow Hill’s first settler was Gabriel Moore who arrived about 1838. Other settlers in Snow Hill were Copeland, Winburn, Small, Boon, Lawrence, Winn, Watkins, Culfer, Benson and Bragg. Tucker gives profiles of William and Michael Benson, both were born in slavery in North Carolina and arrived in Randolph County via earlier settlement in Wayne County.
Randolph County had the highest ratio of African Americans in the state in the period before the Civil War. Rotman reports that by the turn of the century the settlements had “virtually disappeared.” Tucker observes the population “dropping out to Grant County, Paulding County and to Michigan.” He also mentions “promising young men” who either are, or have been teachers who have moved to Kokomo and Noblesville.
Deteriorating race relations, changes in agriculture, land prices, and opportunities for employment, education and social life in more urban areas were major factors in the migration away from the communities that thrived during the 19th century.
A Brief History of Greensfork and Washington twp’s [sic], Randolph County, Indiana. [Lynn, Indiana]: Randolph Southern Historical Society, 1979.
Chace, J. Atlas of Darke County, Ohio, 1857. (Reprint) Philadelphia: S.H. Matthews Publishing, 1976.
Combined Atlas of Randolph County, Indiana: including 1865 wall-map [drawn by C.S. Warner, published] by C.A.O. McClellan & C.S. Warner: 1874 atlas by [D.J. Lake, published by] Griffing, Stevenson & Co. : 1909 plat book published by Northwest Publishing Co. : and historical appendix, information from early gazetteers and old photographs, and the 1876 Indiana atlas. (Reprint of atlases and map issued 1865-1909 by various publishers.) Knightstown, Indiana: Bookmark, 1980.
“Indiana’s African American Settlements.” Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Accessed July 10, 2014.
“James & Sophia Clemens Farmstead.” U.S. National Park Service. Accessed July 10, 2014.
Mcintosh, W.H. The History of Darke County, Ohio. Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1880.
Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing, 1991.
Plat Book of Darke County, Ohio: Compiled from County records and Actual Surveys. Des Moines, Iowa: Northwest Publishing Company, 1910.
Randolph County Historical Society, comp. Randolph County, Indiana, 1818-1990.
Randolph County Interim Report. Indianapolis: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1993.
Remembering Freedom: James Clemens and the Longtown Settlement. Produced by Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry. Directed by Kari Wilhems. 25.36 min. [2010?] . DVD.
Rotman, Deborah L. African-American and Quaker famers in East Central Indiana: Social, Political and Economic Aspect of Life in Nineteenth-Century Rural Communities: Randolph County, Indiana. Muncie, IN: Archaeological Resources Management Service, Ball State University, 1998.
Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana before 1900: a Study of a Minority. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Tucker, E. History of Randolph County, Indiana. Chicago: A.L. Kingman, 1882. [Especially Chapter X, “Colored People”.]
Union Literary Institute Board of Managers' secretary book. Original book housed at the Indiana Historical Society BV1972 / transcribed by members of the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society, Inc. Union Literary Institute Preservation Society, Inc., 2001.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons within District of Indiana,” 1: 352. 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: 124. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1872.
Wright, Richard R. Jr. “The Economic Conditions of Negroes in the North: Negro Rural Communities in Indiana.” Southern Workman 34 (March 1908): 158-172.
By Georgia Cravey, July18, 2014