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Tippecanoe County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

A rural settlement was not identified; however a vibrant urban settlement/community existed.

Tippecanoe County was formed in 1826. The 1840 census lists 54 free people of color, many of them in the city of Lafayette.  By1850, there were 161 people recorded in the census.  After a slight decrease in 1860 (to 143), the population rebounded to 172 by 1870. William Findley was among the early settlers, coming from Ohio to Lafayette about 1837.  Samuel Webster (also from Ohio) became Findley's business partner and they were both leaders in the growing community. Findley would later move to Covington in nearby Fountain County, and he and Webster subsequently immigrated to the country of Liberia during the 1850s. Other early Tippecanoe County residents were named Allison, Brown, Burtch, Miller and Cummings, and they came from Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York and Indiana.  

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was central in the growth of the urban settlement, was organized in 1841. Members of its congregation participated in the Negro Convention Movement and during the Civil War the church held meetings to recruit black soldiers. The community also established a school for black children. Thomas Burgess was listed as a school teacher in the 1860 census (Anthrop).  Several Masonic and fraternal lodges were established as early as the 1850s and a Baptist church was built in 1872.  According to Anthrop, these free citizens of color held a variety of occupations.  In addition to being laborers, Anthrop notes that Tippecanoe County had many black barbers.  The Negro in Indiana (Thornbrough) identifies Lafayette as being a station on the Underground Railroad and having a small, but vibrant community.


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

Anthrop, Mary, Guest Editor. "Indiana Emigrants to Liberia." The Indiana Historian, March 2000. 

Anthrop, Mary E. "The Road Less Traveled: Hoosier African Americans and Liberia." Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Winter, 2007. 12.

Dehart, Richard Patten. Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, Volume I. Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen, 1909.

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

Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana before 1900: A Study of a Minority. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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