First African American Settlement

Black History Month

The Wabash Valley has a rich history involving African Americans. A lot of people might not realize that prior to the Civil War, there were several hundred thousand free people of color in this country and in the South.  In the 1830’s a small group of those, free people, left North Carolina and traveled to the Indiana frontier.  They were in search of their American dream.

Spend a little time with Dorothy Ross and her daughter Dee Reed and the stories begin to flow.  They are the descendants of the first African American settlers in this part of western Indiana.  Their ancestors came to the area before the Civil War.

Back in the 1830’s in North Carolina, six free families of color wanted a better life, so they sent a scout to eastern Vigo County and the scout told them that the area was full of roaming fat hogs with knives and forks in their backs. In other words, the area had food and land to raise crops.

On their journey west, the settlers had to carry papers stating they were free.  Eventually, those six families, papers in hand, settled on the land where the Ross farm is located today.  In fact, Mrs. Ross has the deed from 1835 signed by President Andrew Jackson.

The family trees of those original settlers include people from many walks of life.  Including the former U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone, Cynthia Shepard Perry and Barbara Sizemore the former superintendent of the Washington D.C. school system.

But all of the achievements by so many descendants were made possible by those six brave families who settled the Indiana frontier.


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