History of the Lost Creek Settlement

By the time Indiana was granted statehood in 1816, slavery had been banned in the state constitution. There were blacks in Vigo County prior to 1820, but they were unnamed in the 1820 census, and listed as "servants", in the households in which they served.

In 1820, a Supreme Court of Indiana ruling in Polly v. Lasselle freed all the remaining slaves in the state. One of those freed was Armstead Stewart. Armstead Stewart was born in 1783 in Dinwiddie, Virginia. He was a "free man of color" who was head of a Dinwiddie County household of 5 "other free" in 1810, and was taxable in Dinwiddie County, VA on 3 slaves in 1811, 2 in 1812 and his estate was taxable on 2 slaves and 3 horses in 1813. Armstead went missing and was presumed dead. He had been kidnapped by slave trader Daniel Durham, who transported him to Vigo County, and set him free by 1822.

Vigo County was formed in 1818, and in 1819 it began forming townships within the county. Nevins and Otter Creek townships were both formed by 1822, and the Lost Creek Township was formed in 1831. Linton Township, home of the Underwood Settlement, was formed in 1841.

The Lost Creek Settlement was an area of approximately 20 sq. miles, or 12,800 acres. It was located in the bordering areas of Lost Creek, Otter Creek, and Nevins Townships in Vigo County, Indiana. The migration of "Free Peoples of Color" to Lost Creek began in the mid 1820's and continued until 1860. The pioneers who came to the Lost Creek Settlement were farmers when they were in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, and they continued to be farmers in the Lost Creek Settlement. They bought land, which was basically woodland and marshy area. They cleared and drained the land by hand, to make it tillable, and able to sustain the needs of their families.

The free people who came to the Lost Creek and Underwood Settlements were tri-racial, a mix of Native American, African, and European. Paul Heinegg's research into the colonial history of the majority of the free African American families of Virginia and North Carolina, revealed several facets of American colonial history previously overlooked by historians:

  • Most families were the descendants of white servant women who had children by slaves. Over one thousand children were born to white women by slaves in Maryland and Virginia during the colonial period.

  • Very few families descended from white slave owners who had children by their slaves, perhaps as low as 1% of the total.

  • Many free African American families in colonial North Carolina and Virginia were landowners who were generally accepted by their white neighbors.

  • Free Indians blended into the free African American communities. They did not form their own separate communities.


Origins of the Lost Creek Pioneers

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well. During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. A listing of the Irish and Scots who were shipped to the Colonies and West Indies, having surnames in common with local settlers, can be found here: Emigrants in Bondage.

After the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745, many of the captured Scottish rebels were transported from England, and sold into slavery in the colonies, and the West Indies. The passenger manifests of 10 English slave ships which sailed in 1716, have been transcribed, identifying their Jacobite slave cargo.

Their wives and children were shipped seperately, and sold in the colonies and the West Indies, as well. The colonists began to breed Scottish and Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new mulatto slaves brought a higher price than Scottish and Irish livestock and likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. Children born to a slave mother were themselves, born "chattle slaves", which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if a Scottish/Irish woman obtained her freedom, her children would remain the property of her master. Thus, Scottish/Irish moms, even after being emancipated, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude. The children born to a mother after she had been freed, were born free.

By the law of partitus sequitur ventrem, a child born of a free mother was always free, no matter what its color or the status of its father, and many free colored people were of female Scot/Irish ancestry, and/or of female Native American ancestry.

It is important to remember that enslavement in the early colonies was not a life sentence, but was generally for a term of 7 years, per Biblical interpretation. The colonial slaves could actually bring suit against their masters if they felt mistreated, even though free blacks and mulattos had no statutory guarantees for their rights and liberties. As the number of white slaves decreased, laws were passed to stop the mixing of the races. Indians, and mixed-race people, were all considered to be, and to be treated as if they were black. These new laws prompted many of the free blacks and mulattos to migrate to states that had not yet passed these types of laws.


Colonial Maryland

In colonial Maryland there were a large number of free blacks and mulattos. Maryland was a state bordering Pennsylvania, which was a free state. The laws in Maryland required the free blacks to register with the court to prove they were free, and to provide their freedom document upon demand, by any white man. Many of the free blacks chose to move to Pennsylvania to avoid this type of harassment. Slave catchers became common after years of free blacks and fugitive slaves escaping to Pennsylvania. Many slave catchers would kidnap free blacks whether they were fugitive slaves or not, and take them back to Maryland.

  • Benjamin Bushnell was born in 1803, in Maryland. He was in Vigo County, Indiana before 1830.

  • Robert Foster, born in 1778, in Maryland, migrated across Pennsylvania by 1796, where his son George was born. George migrated to Ohio by 1820, before settling in Vigo County before 1840.

  • Edward Cooper was born about 1785 in Maryland, and had migrated to Lost Creek before 1831. Edward helped to change Indiana Law when he brought suit against the State of Indiana for a law requiring blacks entering the state to post a $500 bond. Edward won the law suit, paving the way for future families to settle in Vigo County in 1832.


Colonial Virginia

Relations between free blacks, mulattos and whites in colonial Virginia were very flexible at first. Free blacks, mulattos and whites often lived near one another, worked together, and socialized together. Blacks had access to the justice system and appeared to be treated equally by the courts. Some free blacks and mulattos even owned slaves and indentured servants themselves. The Bass, Chavis, Evans, Stewart, and Walden families were all slave owners in colonial Virginia. This may have been for financial reasons, or to assure their white neighbors that they were not going to assist neighboring slaves to either escape, or to rebel. At the same time, many enslaved Africans were allowed to earn money, keep livestock, and raise crops for themselves, and they sometimes took advantage of these economic privileges to purchase their own freedom.

The Anderson family was freed by manumission in 1712, in Virginia. They were the mulatto descendants of an European slave master, and one of his female slaves. They were forced to move to North Carolina where they could not interact with Virginia slaves. They intermarried with members of the Nansemond Indian Tribe and were issued certificates of Nansemond Indian ancestry by the Norfolk Court on 15 and 20 July 1833.

  • December 1662 - In a newly passed law designed to clarify conditions by which people are enslaved or free, the General Assembly declares that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.

  • 1681 - Legislation was passed forbidding the practice of mating Scottish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale. In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

  • April 1691 - The General Assembly passes An act for suppressing outlying slaves, creating penalties for unlawfully absent slaves, outlawing interracial marriage, and requiring all newly freed slaves to leave the colony.

  • May 1723 - As part of a long act devoted to the better government of Negros, Mulattos, and Indians, bond or free, the General Assembly declares That no free negro, mullatto, or indian whatsoever, hereafter have any vote at the election of burgesses, or any other election whatsoever. The law also restricts a master's ability to free his slaves.

The Lost Creek Settlement pioneers who originated in colonial Virginia were from the families of: Alexander, Anderson, Artis, Bass, Chavis, Cole, Estell, Evans, Goins, Harrison, Hill, Hucle, Manuel, Mitchell, Powell, Roberts, Stewart, Walden, and Waugh.


North Carolina

The Virginia free people relocated to North Carolina prior to the 1820’s, purchased land, and established households. In the early history of the state, the civil status of the inhabitants was largely regulated by condition rather than by color. To be a freeman meant to enjoy many of the fundamental rights of citizenship. Free men of color in North Carolina exercised the right to vote until 1835, when the constitution was amended to restrict this privilege to white men. The right of marriage between whites and free persons of color was not restricted by law until the year 1830, although social prejudice had always discouraged it. Another source of free colored people in certain counties was the remnant of the Cherokee and Tuscarora Indians, who, mingling with the Negroes and poor whites, left more or less of their blood among the colored people of the state.

The Lost Creek Settlement pioneers who originated in North Carolina were from the families of: Batton, Beacham, Boone, Jackson, Jasper, Larter, Malone, Norton, Patterson, Pettiford, Poston, Russell, and Tyler. The Allen, Bell, Hathecock, Manuel, Russell, and Underwood families settled in the Underwood Settlement.


NC Counties

By 1820, many of the families had moved near the Lumbee Tribal land base, which was sort of a sanctuary for Indians fleeing expansion by the European settlers. The Lumbee Tribe was an amalgamated tribe made up of refugees from various southeastern tribes. The Lumbee’s have bio’s on most of those families, which include the Allen, Anderson, Bass, Bell, Chavis, Cheatham, Cole, Evans, Goins, Malone, Manuel, Norton, Poston, Powell, Roberts, Russell, Stewart, and Tyler families.

The one premise that the Free People of Color had learned, was quite simple, If you don't work...You don't eat. America had not become a welfare state at that time. If you became a financial burden upon your family, or the community, then you could be legally bound out, i.e. indentured, enslaved. The price of freedom was personal responsibility.


With few exceptions, the majority of Lost Creek's pioneer settlers were from families that had been free since the colonial period in America.

Free ancestors of the Lost Creek Settlement[3]
Family Ancestor Date of Birth Place of Birth Freedom Source Lost Creek Patriarch
Allen Jane 1690 Norfolk, Virginia Free white female Arthur Allen b.1812
Anderson Kate 1670 Norfolk, Virginia Emancipated George Anderson b.1770
Bass William 29 March 1654 Norfolk, Virginia Native American female Jethro Bass b. 1787
Bell Elizabeth 1684 Lancaster, Virginia Free white female John Bell b.1777
Evans Eleanor 1660 Virginia Free mulatto Evans Family
Manuel Ephraim 1725 Virginia Emancipation Wyatt Manuel
Norton Chesley 1805 North Carolina Free white female Chesley Norton
Pettiford Archibald 1781 North Carolina Free Mulatto female Isaac Pettiford
Roberts Mary 1664 Virginia Free white female Ishmael Roberts
Russell George 1808 Orange, North Carolina Free White female Lost Creek Russells
Russell George 1752 Brunswich, Virginia Free White female James Russell
Shepherd John 1792 Kentucky Free White Thomas Franklin Shepard
Stewart Elizabeth 1695 Virginia Free White female Otter Creek Stewarts
Stewart Rebecca 1717 Virginia Free Mulatto female Lost Creek Stewarts
Underwood Christopher 1723 Virginia Free white female Mary Underwood
Walden William 1670 Virginia Free white female Walden Family

For a variety of reasons,the decision to move north was made. Those reasons included the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and an insurrection in 1831 led by Nat Turner where in retaliation, the state executed 56 blacks and militias killed at least another 100 blacks. Free blacks arrested in Southampton County after Nat Turner's Rebellion included Arnold Artist (Artis), Exum Artes, Berry Newsom, Thomas Haithcock, and Isham Turner. Artes, Haithcock, and Newsom were sent for further trial. The Lost Creek and Underwood settlements would become the new sanctuary areas.


The Exodus to Indiana

To get to Indiana from North Carolina, the migrants had to travel thru the Appalachian Mountains. Daniel Boone had carved out a trail thru the mountains from North Carolina thru Kentucky, which became known as the Wilderness Road.


Way Stations along the trail to Lost Creek


The Lick Creek Settlement

In 1811, Jonathan Lindley, an Irish-born Quaker, led a wagon train of emigrants from his section of Orange County, North Carolina to the Lick Creek watershed in the southern part of the Indiana Territory. According to one Lindley tradition, two hundred people went to Indiana in this caravan. A Quaker history indicates that seventy-five of them were members of the Society of Friends. Quaker records further reveal that more than thirty of the emigrants were close relatives of Lindley and that eleven of them were his children, some married and with their own families. Eleven families of "free people of color" were also a part of the caravan. Traveling with the Quakers offered some protection on their journey and the promise of supportive neighbors upon their arrival. Jonathan Lindley's oldest son, Zacharias, had settled in Lick Creek Valley two years before the arrival of the great Lindley caravan. Two years before leaving North Carolina, Jonathan had made a prospecting trip to Indiana and had purchased a large tract of land where Terre Haute now stands, but Indian discontent in that region caused this large caravan of emigrants to stop in the southern part of the territory.

area 8

The Quakers established the Lick Creek Settlement, in Orange County, where arriving black settlers, were welcomed and assisted. Sometime after 1820, the Anderson, Archer, Burnett, Chavis, Jasper, Roberts, Scott, Thomas, and Trevan families, settled there. They were classified as indentures who worked on the Quaker farms, and on community projects, for which they were paid. As more blacks came into the area they purchased land from the U.S. Government in what was called the Lick Creek African American Settlement area. Other names that the area has been called include Little Africa, South Africa, and Paddy's Garden. The first free blacks to purchase land in the Lick Creek area were Matthew Thomas in 1831, Benjamin Roberts, Peter Lindley, and Elias Roberts all in 1832. Others used these funds to purchase property in other settlements, such as Lost Creek.

The Owen County Settlement

Washington Township was one of the original townships, dating back to the county's formation. The families of Eaton Walden, Jarrel Walden, and Boin Roberts, all from North Carolina, were the first black settlers in Washington Township, arriving before 1825.

Richard Walden, son of Eaton, donated land in 1842 for the Walden Cemetery. Richard sold Lots no. 105 and 109 in November 1826 to Boin Roberts. Boin (pronounced Bowen), may have been one of the first Roberts to migrate to Indiana. Land records show that he bought several plots of land in Owen County, near the city of Spencer, in as early as 1825. Probate Court records show that he returned to Chatham County, NC in February 1830, to settle property claims with his family, after the death of his father, Ishmael Roberts. Before travelling back to Owen County, he obtained "free papers" in Chatham County on 1 March 1830 and recorded them in Owen County on 31 October 1831. The 1830 US Census for Indiana shows Bowen living in Owen County, from where he migrated to Lawrence County before 1850.

Other families who settled in Owen County were Bass, Boone, Evans, Goss, Harris, Larter, Mitchell, Pettiford, Powell, and Russell. By 1850, Marion Township's colored population was on the decline, after the Bass, Harris, Russell and Powell families all left for Vigo County.


Monroe County

Dixon Stewart was 1 of 70 black settlers listed in the 1830 Monroe County census. Dixon was the head of a household of 2. Dixon's brother Evan was head of a household of 8. Two houses over from Dixon and Evan, was the family of James Roberts, son of Ishmael, who was head of a household of 11. They had settled in Monroe County, Indiana in 1827. Dixon married Lucinda Roberts, daughter of Kinchen 24 Jan 1830, in Monroe County, where they had son Elisha on 16 Nov 1830.


The pioneer Settlers arrive in Lost Creek

The Society of Indiana Pioneers states that An Indiana pioneer is one who lived within the present boundary of an Indiana county on or before December 31, 1840.

The 1830 Vigo County Census

The first free people of color pioneers to arrive in Vigo County were the families of Joseph Artis, Jethro Bass, Isaac Baty, Benjamin Bushnell, Benjamin Cole, Joseph Patterson, Adam Riley, Armstead Stewart, and Mathew Stuart.


Indiana - Almost a Free State[4]

During the territorial period, and after statehood, Indiana discouraged the immigration of free blacks with laws requiring them to prove their freedom, register with local authorities, and provide sureties for their good behavior and economic independence by posting a $500 bond. In an effort to further limit black immigration, in 1831 the state provided that blacks who failed to comply with these laws could be hired out for six months or be expelled from the county. Edward Cooper, a free black, had moved to Vigo County after the passage of the 1831 law, but had failed to register under the law. A justice of the peace ordered that he be hired out, but the circuit court reversed this order, asserting that the 1831 law violated the state constitution's ban on involuntary servitude. Cooper was freed, but the State Supreme Court overturned the ruling. Thus, Cooper was placed in "involuntary servitude" without breaking any laws, costing the county any money, or threatening anyone. He had not sought public welfare, but he had not found people to vouch for him and guarantee that he would never become poor or that he would never be convicted of a crime.


The 1840 Vigo County Census

Anderson family members started migrating from the Lick Creek Settlement in Orange County, Indiana to Lost Creek, in around 1832. They were Able Anderson, David Anderson, Jordan Anderson, Jeremiah Anderson, and Lewis Anderson.

Roberts family members started migrating from Orange and Monroe Counties in Indiana, to Lost Creek, in 1832 as well. They were Kinchen Roberts, his brother James, brothers-in-law Moses Archer and Henry Trevan, and son-in-law, Dixon Stewart.

The 1840 census also documented the arrival of the families of Daniel Alexander, Isaac and William Chandler, James Chavis, Edward Cooper, George Evans, Williamson Harris, Alexander Jasper, Samuel Malone, Chesley Norton, Tazewell Stewart, and Wiley Walden.


In Indiana, blacks were denied a free public education, and could not legally attend public schools with whites even if they paid tuition and no white parents of school children objected to their presence in the school. As the Indiana Supreme Court noted in its subsequent interpretation of the 1816 constitution, "black children were deemed unfit associates of white, as school companions."

The Lost Creek Community built and supported it's own schools and churches. The first school in the Lost Creek Settlement was built in 1835, on an acre of ground donated by Kinchen Roberts at the intersection of Ft. Harrison and Hunt roads. The first teachers were Abel Anderson and Aaron Smith. There were a total of 3 district schools in the Lost Creek Settlement, with school #3 still in operation up until 1961, when Vigo County consolidated all of the county schools.


AME Church

Jethro Bass helped to establish the Lost Creek A. M. E. Church, located on Hunt Road, in 1839, where he served as one of its pastors. That land was donated by Sam Malone.

In 1850, Indiana started enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, which treated run-away slaves as if they were wanted criminals. This meant that bounty hunters could track run-aways into Indiana and return them to their owners in slave states. In 1851, when the Indiana General Assembly enacted its second state constitution, it included a provision, Article XIII, prohibiting any Negro or mulatto from entering or settling in the state. To enforce this provision, county clerks were ordered to register Negroes and mulattos already living in Indiana.

Abolitionists devised a network of safe houses, and tunnels, to ferry the migrants north, across Indiana, into Michigan and Canada. In Vigo County, Markle’s Mill, the Allen Chapel in Terre Haute, and the A.M.E. Church in Lost Creek were used as part of Indiana’s leg of the Underground Railroad.

The A.M.E. Church was destroyed by a fire in 1949, and was never rebuilt. A monument commemorating the church’s roll in the Underground Railroad, now stands in the SW corner of the church property.





The Roberts Cemetery

Kinchen Roberts owned 280 acres at the intersection of Hunt Road and Fort Harrison Road. In 1832, Kinchen’s son Banister, was the first to die in Lost Creek, and was buried on Kinchen’s property. In 1870, Kinchen’s son Reden, set aside 1½ acres of land, where his brother Banister and other pioneer family members were buried, for use as a community cemetery. This cemetery was commonly known as the Lost Creek Cemetery. However, most of the death certificates written after 1915 list this cemetery as the Shepard Cemetery, most likely because access to the cemetery was across property owned by Thomas F. Shepard, which was adjacent to Reden Roberts.

The cemetery was not subdivided off from the rest of Reden Roberts property, so after his death, and the subsequent death of his widow in 1928, the land was sold, and access to the cemetery was restricted by the new property owners. The cemetery was closed in 1929. The only recorded burial in the cemetery after it was closed, was that of Jemima Stewart Smith, in 1941. Her death certificate lists the place of burial as the "Sheppard Cemetery" [sic].

The Shepard property was sold in 1947, and the new land owners allowed their cattle to graze in the cemetery. The cattle displaced and/or destroyed many of the tombstones. In 1991, the current owners of what was the "Roberts" property, subdivided the cemetery off from the rest of the property. A fence was erected around the cemetery in 1993, and the cemetery was officially named the Roberts Cemetery, in commemoration of Reden Roberts.


The Stewart Lawn Cemetery

Seeing the need for an additional cemetery, community leaders, Paul Anderson, Matthew Hathecock, George Shepard Sr., and Zachariah Stewart donated funds to purchase 1 acre of land, north of, and adjacent to the Lost Creek Baptist Church, from Dixon Stewart Jr., in 1925. Additionally, Dixon Stewart Jr. graciously donated a second acre for the cemetery, and in 1945 an additional acre was purchased. The cemetery was named the Stewart Hill Cemetery. The first burial there was the infant son of Paul and Lucille Anderson in 1924. The first adult burial was that of Coleman Redmon, later in that same month. The cemetery was used initially for the burial of members of the Lost Creek Baptist Church, but later on was used for the burial of any county resident.

In 2017, the cemetery land title still bears the name of the Stewart Hill Cemetery, but it is commonly know as The Stewart Lawn Cemetery.



During the 1850’s, Wiley Walden and son Milton, owned about 1,100 acres, in Otter Creek Township, between the Wabash River and the Wabash and Erie Canal. There was a saw mill located on Milton’s property, next to the canal, where harvested trees were sawed into lumber, and sold across the state. The canal was used to transport material from Toledo, Ohio, on Lake Erie, to Evansville, Indiana, on the Ohio River.



The Lost Creek Missionary Baptist Church was built in 1850. A fire destroyed the church in 1868, and it was rebuilt in 1869. The church is located on Creel Road in eastern Vigo County. Rev. Lewis Artis served as pastor from 1850 to 1872. He was followed by Rev. William H. Anderson from 1872 to 1874, and Rev. George Anderson from 1874 to 1879, followed by Malachi Anderson, shown in the inset.

The church had a sizable membership from the Burnett community. Burnett was a coal mining community, north of Lost Creek, in Otter Creek Township. Post Civil War emancipated slaves, came to Burnett, and other surrounding communities, to find work. The church helped to bring the two communities together, by the mid 1900's.


Following the dedication of the new District No. 3 School building on December 2, 1945, the young people in attendance met and organized the Lost Creek Community Club for the purpose of providing wholesome recreation for the area. Officers elected included: Cleta Harris, President; Felix Shepard, Vice-President; Nola Shepard, Treasurer; Dorothy Ross, secretary; Walter Edwards and Bert Ross, Trustees. On April 5, 1946, the officers and trustees met with Nathaniel Tootle concerning the purchase of “The Hamilton Grove.” On June 9, 1946 a meeting was held at the home of Walter and Beulah Ross Edwards to decide upon the name of the newly acquired property. It was renamed the “Lost Creek Community Grove.” The original owner of the property was Sam Malone, whose daughter Elizabeth married Elisha Stewart, who in turn gave the land to their daughter, Mary A. Stewart on March 2, 1901. The six and one-half acre plot of land was purchased from Nathaniel Tootle, the widower of Mary A. Stewart Hamilton Tootle on November 16, 1946, for $500. The Warranty Deed lists Walter Edwards, Verdell Hathecock and Maynard Shepard as Trustees.


Only 6 relics remain today to serve as memorials to the Lost Creek Settlement. They are the Lost Creek Community Grove, the Lost Creek Missionary Baptist Church, the A.M.E. Church Memorial, the Russell Cemetery, the Roberts Cemetery, and the Stewart Cemetery in Otter Creek Twp.

The Lost Creek Missionary Baptist Church now has a congregation of 8 to 10 members.. It is still used for funeral services, and as a meeting place for family memorials. The Lost Creek Community Grove is used for family re-unions and other community events. The Roberts Cemetery and the Stewart Cemetery are inactive. The Russell Cemetery is used for Russell family member only.

Today, there are only 7 households in the Lost Creek Settlement, that are occupied by descendants of the original settlers.







References


1. The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves

2. Convict Voyages
    Jacobite Rebellion Ships

3. Paul Heinegg: Free African Americans

4. Indiana - Almost a Free State