History of the Lost Creek Settlement

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. All of these families who migrated to the Lost Creek Settlement were mixed race. The pioneers who came to the Lost Creek Settlement were farmers when they were in 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.

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. 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.

The Bushnell, Cooper, Derixson, and Foster families, originated in Maryland. It is assumed that they traveled across Pennsylvania and Ohio to reach Indiana. The Anderson, Bass, Evans, Manuel, Roberts, Stewart, and Walden families originated in Virginia. Those pioneers had relocated to North Carolina prior to the 1820’s, and prior to their migration to Indiana. The Bass were a Nansemond Indian-white mix. The Batton's and Underwood's originated from the Mississippi branch of the Choctaw Indian Tribe. DNA testing of the matrilineal lines of the Foster's and Underwood's, both show them to have a European female matriarch. These families migrated to North Carolina perhaps due to the apartheid laws which had been enacted in Virginia and Maryland, but had not yet been enacted in North Carolina. The locations of these pioneers can be seen in the map below.

NC Counties

The Anderson family were slaves who were freed by the 29 October 1712 will of John Fulcher in Norfolk County, Virginia. He left them 640 acres of land on Sewall's Point in Norfolk County. Probably in an effort to "prevent their correspondence with other slaves" Fulcher's executor, Lewis Conner, by a deed dated 20 October 1715, swapped their land in Norfolk County with 640 acres of land on Welshes Creek in the part of Chowan County, North Carolina, which later became Martin and Washington Counties.

By 1820, many of the families had moved near the Lumbee Tribal land base, which was sort of a safe-zone for Indians fleeing expansion by the European settlers. The Lumbee’s have bio’s on most of those families, which include the Allen, Anderson, Bass, Bell, Bullard, Chavis, Cheatham, Cole, Cooper, Edwards, Evans, Goins, Malone, Manuel, Norton, Poston, Powell, Roberts, Russell, Stewart, Sweat, and Tyler families.

The Exodus to Indiana

For a variety of reasons, including the Indian Removal Act and retaliation for an insurrection led by Nat Turner, the pioneer families decided to move North. 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.

It is said that as many as 110 families traveled together in a caravan from North Carolina to Indiana. Not all of the migrants came to Vigo County, and those who did, did not all come at the same time. 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".

Boin Roberts (pronounced Bowen), was one of the first to arrive into Indiana. Land records show him buying several plots of land in Owen County, near the city of Spencer, 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. He is said to have convinced some of his family members to return to Indiana with him. The 1830 US Census for Indiana shows Bowen living in Owen County. Many of his family were still living in Orange County, Indiana as late as 1870.

According to the 1830 census, the first of these pioneers to arrive in Vigo County were the families of Joseph Artis, Jethro Bass, Isaac Baty, Charles Baty, Celia Baty, Benjamin Bushnell, Benjamin Cole, Joseph Patterson, Armstead Stewart, and Mathew Stuart.

Dixon Stewart and family had settled in Monroe County, Indiana in 1827, and migrated from there to Lost Creek in 1832. The Anderson and Roberts families migrated from Orange County, Indiana to Lost Creek in around 1832 as well. By 1840, Anderson family members, Able, David, Jordan, Jeremiah, and Lewis, and Kinchen Roberts' family, along with his brothers-in-law Moses Archer, and Henry Trevan, had settled in Vigo County. In addition, the families of Daniel Alexander, Isaac and William Chandler, James Chavis, Edward Cooper, George Evans, Williamson Harris, Alexander Jasper, Samuel Malone, Chesley Norton, Adam Riley, Dixon and Tazewell Stewart, and Wiley Walden, had settled in Vigo County.

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.

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.

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

The 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.

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 1835, Kinchen set aside an acre of land for the 1st school to be built in Lost Creek. In 1870, Kinchen’s son Reden, set aside 1˝ acres of land, where Banister and others were buried, to officially be known as the Lost Creek Cemetery. After the death of Alvira Bonds Roberts, the widow of Reden Roberts, access to the cemetery was limited by the new property owners. Death certificates written after her death, 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. After closure of the cemetery, local elders agreed that the cemetery should be known as the Roberts Cemetery, in commemoration of Reden Roberts.

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. They weren't farmers, and they weren't land owners. Burnett had several saloons and brothels. Many people in Lost Creek looked-down upon the Burnett residents. The church helped to bring the two communities together.

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 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 5 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, and the Roberts Cemetery.

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 is 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.