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Tipton County

African American rural settlements documented: 0

Tipton County was one of the last counties to be organized in Indiana. It was created in 1844 from portions of Hamilton County and the Miami Indian Reserve.

The nineteenth century African American population in Tipton County was small. The majority of the black population was found in Cicero Township (1860, 23 persons; 1870, 37 persons) and in the town of Tipton (1860, 7 persons; 1870, 17 persons). Madison Township reported 7 African Americans in 1850 and 24 in 1870. Liberty Township enumerated 12 African Americans in 1860. Three of the six townships reported zero African Americans. 

Tipton County offers an interesting situation with the census and racial designation that may have resulted in undercounting of the African Americans. In just a superficial examination of a few records on Ancestry, it appears that some families enumerated in one decade as white (or at least without the letter W indicating white) and then enumerated as mulatto or black in other decades. Racial identity may have been fluid, or it is possible that the enumerator did not perceive the individuals as non-white. In other cases the census taker may have had poor handwriting and M’s for mulatto were not differentiated from W’s for white. Handwriting may also account for significant variants in the recording of names,

The Richard Goin/Going/Goins household, Madison Township, presents an interesting case. North Carolina born Richard Goin was a farmer. Ancestry links Richard to an 1840 record from the U.S. Land Office documenting the purchase of eighty acres in Tipton County. At the time of the purchase, he was residing in Hendricks County. His Virginia born wife Lakey and eight other individuals are listed as residing in Madison Township for the 1850, 1860 and 1870 census. Most of their children were born in Indiana indicating a significant length of residency in the state. The Goines are enumerated without a racial designation in the 1850 and 1860 census leading to the assumption that they are white. Also in 1860 the African American population of Madison Township drops to zero. In the 1870 census when the black population increases to twenty-four persons, the Goines are enumerated as mulatto rather than white.

In the case of the Tyner/Tanner family, a large family living in Cicero Township, King Tanner, head of household, is reported in the 1860 census as black, born in Virginia. His wife, Sarah is reported as mulatto born in North Carolina. Records indicate that King had married Sarah (nee Lawrence) in Henry County, Indiana. They have ten other individuals in the household, all born in Indiana and classed as mulatto. In 1870 the census taker transcribes the surname to Tyner and the handwriting is such that it is very difficult to differentiate between the letters M and W designating race. In 1870, Ancestry reports, probably in error, that King Tyner is white,. Bolden Tyner, age 28, is in the household in 1870. Ancestry links him to a record for Bolden Tanner who served in the Civil War with the 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.

Other African American family surnames in Tipton County include Perkins, Murphy, Nicholson, Linch, Jones and Mulvine. In addition to birthplaces of Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, other settlers reported Ohio, and New York.

Tipton County histories scarcely mention African Americans.  However they do report evidence of Southern sympathies at the time of the Civil War. These attitudes were counter balanced with pro-Union sentiment. When a rebel flag was raised from the courthouse in 1861, indignant citizens tore it down and threatened the “butter-nut element” with hanging. In 1863, with patriotism lagging, local chapters of Knights of the Golden Circle were formed. In the 1920s, Tipton County faced a new surge of nativism when the Ku Klux Klan enrolled 1622 members. This represented an astonishing 34.4 per cent of the native-born white male population making the Tipton Klan one of the strongest, most influential Klan units in the state. 

Allen Safianow noting the county’s small black population in the 19th century (seventy-eight persons by 1870), reports a mere four African Americans in the 1920 census, and none in the 1930 census. He continues, “The precise reasons for the decline…are unexplained, but racial prejudice was common. Blacks left because of greater economic opportunities in the cities or because of overt hostility and intimidation.” Sources acknowledge that the county’s reputation is one of being “inhospitable” to blacks including unwritten sundown laws. He concludes that “racism was something the Tipton Klan exploited rather than generated.”


Blanchard, Charles. Counties of Howard and Tipton. Chicago: F.A. Battey, 1883.

Century Landowner Atlas of Tipton County, Indiana. 1874. Reprint, Knightstown, Indiana: Bookmark, 1979. 

Kemp, Gretchen A. Tipton County: Her Land and Her People. Tipton, Indiana: Tipton County Publishing, 1976.

Pershing, M.W. History of Tipton County, Indiana. Indianapolis: Bowen & Company, 1914.

Safianow, Allen. “The Klan Comes to Tipton.” Indiana Magazine of History. 95 (September 1999) 3: 203-231.

Tipton County Interim Report. [Indianapolis?] Historic Landmarks Foundation, 2010.

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.

By Georgia Cravey, July 31, 2014