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Vanderburgh County

African American rural settlements documented: 1

Vanderburgh County was founded in 1818.  From the first federal decennial census for the county in 1820 to 1870, the recorded African American population increased from 3 to 2,151 people.  By 1840, there were over 100 black residents in the county, but like so many other Indiana counties, the black population census numbers fell between 1850 (227) and 1860 (127) and zoomed upward in 1870 (2151).  These numbers very much reflected the political mood of the state during the 1850s, and the outcome of the Civil War and the state’s close proximity to Kentucky in 1870.  Although there were comparatively large population numbers of African Americans in several townships, the majority (1427) were drawn to the city of Evansville in Centre Township after the war.

Daniel Lyles owned land near present day Burdette Park in Union Township.  The land was surveyed in 1856.  He had large property holdings. An African Methodist Episcopal church was established in 1850.  Trustees included William Bug, Ezekiel Gillespie and Henry Jackson.  The church no longer exists. Alfred Lilies also owned land.  This unnamed settlement appears to be connected to Lyles Station and other black rural communities in Gibson County.  Families in these settlements used variant spellings of the Lyles/Liles surname.

By 1870, there were also large masses of African Americans settled in Knight, Perry, Pigeon, and Scott Townships in Vanderburgh County. 

Bibliography 

Atlas of Vanderburgh Co.; Plat Book of Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties, Indiana. Evansville: n.p., 1975. 

Bigham, Darrel E. We Ask Only a Fair Trail: A History of the Black Community of Evansville, Indiana; Indiana University Press, 1987.

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 Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1852.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population of Civil Divisions Less Than Counties; Table III State      of Indiana,” 1:124 Eighth Census of the United States, 1860.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1862.

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.

Audrey C. Werle “Research Notes on Indiana African American History,” M 792.  William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.

By Lishawna Taylor, July 18, 2014