Harrison County, Indiana
Contributed by Marsha Belty
Transcriptions Verbatim by Charee Harvey
FROM REPUBLICANS O
Thursday, June 9 and 10, 1870
Pursuant to notice the colored people of Harrison county, to the number of about two hundred assembled at the grove one fourth mile east of Corydon, last Thursday for the purpose of celebrating the ratification of the 15th amendment. Previous however, to repairing to the grove, the colored people assembled at their church in this place, formed into a
procession, and paraded the principal streets of town, led by the Excelsior Brass Band, which discoursed excellent music for the occasion. The Procession was on foot, horseback and in wagons. One wagon contained several little girls dressed in uniform, with Betty Perry representing the Goddess of Liberty. After parading the principal streets, the procession marched to the grove. About 11 o'clock a delegation from the country, headed by Littleton Mitchell as marshall, and preceded by a band, playing martial music, arrived and after marching through the principal streets also repaired to the grove. In a wagon in this procession were several little boys carrying a Bible, the Constitution of United States, hammers, planes, saws, rakes, etc., representing religious, political, mechanical and agricultural associations. At the grove addresses were delivered by Dr. Littleton Mitchem, Rev. J. W. Malone and Dr. D. W. Voyles. Everything seemed to pass off pleasantly and quietly and the colored people seemed to enjoy the occasion very much. A great many white persons were in attendance both ladies and gentlemen and of both political parties.
Commencement of the Corydon Black High School
A Corydon Newspaper
Jan. 31, 1918
In 18__ venerable old man and his devoted wife, becoming dissatisfied with the life of a North Carolina plantation, concluded that their duty is God and humanity would be the liberation of their slaves. Not wanting them to fall into the hands of the liberation of other slave owners, but to have homes of their own, and knowing of the government land open for homesteading to Indiana, also the Christian spirit and liberties that prevailed here at that time, concluded to lead them West to take claims for each family. After giving them free papers, he decided to live among them so as to enjoy the freedom of their conscience and the latter part of their lives and be their protectors.
Having laid their plans and disposed of their plantation, Mr. Mitchum called his slaves together, 107 in number, and gave each one his and her task to perform on the pilgrimage to the land of promise.
After making all necessary arrangements, those two sainted old persons are seen day after day mounted at the head of this singular caravan, leading it as Moses led the Isralites, night after night camping in the wilderness, surrounded by wolves and other wild beasts. After months of travel they reached Charlestown, Ind., where a few of the sojourners were left, then on to Floyd Knobs where some more were left, and ending the journey at Corydon with Bright Mitchem, Littleton Mitchem, Mace Mitchem, Mike Mitchem, Tom Mitchem, Harry Mitchem, George Cousins, James Finley, Lewis Finley, James Powell, Oswald Wright, John Welch, Joe Finley, Solon Carter and their wives, for whom he entered government land claims, he and his wife living with first one family and then the other until their death. Their place of burial is not definitely know, but in two grave yards, one located about four hundred yards southeast of the residence of C. W. Thomas on the Laconia pike, and the other on the old James Demoss farm, now known as the Michael Baez farm, all of our colored pioneers are buried except Uncle Jimmie Powell, who was buried in Cedar Hill cemetery.
From them the families of Lloyd Mitchem, Isaiah Mitchem, James Mitchem, John Mitchem, Vance Mitchem, Arthur Mitchem, Nathaniel Finley, Josiah Finley, John Cousins, Green Powell, William Powell, Andrew Powell and Eli Welch are direct descendants.
Three years before the war of the rebellion Leonard Carter, a descendant of a family at Floyd Knobs, took up his abode at Corydon, where he enlisted in the Union Army.
After the war a few more families were added to the colored residents from Meade county, Kentucky, namely the Perrys, Browns, Slithe, Scotts, Parkers, Hardaways, Cooks (Ashton), Lewises, Craycrofts, Johnsons, Stewards and Walkers.
From the old pioneers and the settlers from Kentucky we get the present colored population and the great population and the greatest problem to figure out is who is related and who is not. As this is a year of having this article has been abridged to save space, but I hope that the reader will gain a few facts that has been overlooked in speaking of the old pioneers of Corydon.
Interesting Historical Facts Connected
With His Long Life
Last week (March 8, 1920.) in Harrison County, Indiana at his home about seven miles from Corydon, death claimed Isaiah Mitchem who was perhaps from a historical point of view the most interesting colored citizen of Hooslerdom. Mr. Mitchem who was eighty-eight years of age at the
time of his death, was the son of Dr. Mitchem. In the year 1814 Dr. Littleton Mitchem in company with seventy-five servants, all owned by Paul Mitchem, an abolitionist, were brought to Indiana Territory and settled at Mauchport by their master. Dr. Littleton Mitchem with the seventy-five slaves were set free in that year by their owner who served as a director for the educational and industrial improvement of the freed colony until 1824 at which time he died at the remarkable age of 110 years. Paul Mitchem, declared to do all in his power to atone for the outrages of slavery sought to secure one William Vincent, also white to direct the life of the freed colony after his (Paul's) death, but the refusal of Mr. Vincent to take upon himself that responsibility left the free men to look after themselves.
Being among the earliest pioneers of the state one shouldn't wonder that the Mitchems of Harrison county were at one time of proprietors of considerable property.
Thirty-three years before freedom was declared Isaiah Mitchem was born a free person in Indiana. At the time of his death he was the owner of a 90 acre farm on which he
lspent by far 6the greater part of his life with his first and second wives and children.
In good manners and courtesy it may be said of the deceased that he possessed a quality that had no trace of slavery but still a quality that won for him the respect of the entire neighborhood which was practically the whole of Harrison County. His language reflected his eighty-eight years of freedom. It was but little provincial. Mr. Mitchem's home which stands along the rural highway, for many years has served as a museum for the hundreds of visitors who found their way to the homestead. It seemed to have been a singular habit of Mr. Mitchem to acquire relics. His collection had been gathered from man States of the Union and from foreign countries.
For more than thirty years the deceased was a Christian. His devotion to a Christian life led him a few moments before he died to sing beautiful hymns, namely - "Nearer My God To Thee" and "I Do Believe". The songs finished - with hands stretched forth as if to welcome, he uttered his last word, "Lord." There's no doubt that Heaven welcomed his spirit Home.
To mourn his love the deceased leaves a wife. Mrs. Mary Mitchem: daughters:--Mrs. Mary C. Jackson, of Louisville, Ky., Mrs. Lovelorn Cobin, Mrs. Ellen Skinner, Mrs. M. N. Bray of Louisville, Ky., sons:-Alexander Mitchem, James Mitchem, (of Indianapolis), Shadrach Mitchem, John R. Mitchem, (of Pueblo, Col.) Whitman Mitchem, (of Detroit, Mich.): brother Jasper Mitchem; eight grandchildren, ten great grandchildren and a host of friends. All the near relatives were present at the funeral except the son who lives in Colorado.
Funeral services, which were well attended by both white and black, were conducted at the home by Rev. M. C. Patterson, a white minister. Mrs. Minnie E. Donahue conducted the music. Interment was on the homestead land.
In the death of Mr. Mitchem the county has lost a very worthy gentleman and worthy citizen.
Corydon's Public School for Blacks
This annex was added to the Corydon Grade School in the fall of 1953. Two divisions of the first grade are in this building.
The annex, which was formally the Corydon Colored High School, is located on the North hill just about a square east of Bethel A. M. E. Church.
It is a large two-room frame building and is built on a high foundation of stone with a two-door entrance on the west side. It has a wide hall, with reasonable length. In this hall are places for boys and girls wraps, a drinking fountain, and two benches.
There are two rooms separated by a sliding partition running north and south in the building to the hall that extends from the west entrance in the second room on the east of the building.
There are 69 pupils in this building. They all come on busses from outside of Corydon, with the exception of pupils east of Maple and north of Chestnut.
The teachers are Mrs. Stanley Windell and Mrs. Carl Bickel.
Blacks celebrate the right to vote
One outstanding event blacks in Harrison County took place in June. 1870 with a big celebration of the anniversary of the 15th Amendment. Over 200 blacks assembled at their church in Corydon and, after an appropriate service, they were led by the Excelsior Brass Band and paraded through the streets to a grove one quarter mile east of Corydon where a fine program was held. One of the principal speakers was the county's own Dr. Mitchum.
Neighborly act for Polly Ann Mitchem
On February 2, twenty neighbors and friends headed by Rev. Jesse Shuck and Ora
Wiseman gathered at the home of Aunt Polly Mitchem and gave her a "wood choppin." Aunt Polly is past ninety and is cutting teeth and she wishes to thank all for thier kindness. Those present were: Rev. Jesse Shuck, Boyd Wiseman, Jesse L. Wiseman, Ray Keller, Albert Keller, Albert Deabm George Keller Jr., Ben Keller, G. Seipel, M. Dooley, John M. Dooley, John Snyder, Gay Gordon, Charlie Shewmaker, Wylle Rhodes, Ambrose Parker, Willie Kitterman and C. Rosenbarger.
The Bell family assists runaway Slaves
A runaway slave making his way north to freedom in Canada could borrow a set of "freed papers" from another black to faciliate passage. Court records reveal litigation pertaining to runaway slaves and person who helped them escape on the Underground Railroad, hiding them
by day and moving them by night.
One such incident that could have triggered the Civil War several years earlier involved the David Bell family of Harrison County. The Bells resided at Morvin Landing on the Ohio River, opposite Brandenburg, Ky. The Bells were supposed to have aided slaves in their escape from Meade County.
Urged on by irate Kentucky slave owners, Kentucky officials arrested David Bell and his son Charles and lodged them at the Bradenburg jail. The legal battle that ensued and the daring rescue of the prisoners by David'ss other sons Horace and John make exciting reading. This incident is covered in Volume I, pp. 78 to 91, of "The Life of Walter Q. Gresham."
Corydon woman plans to restore historic Summit Street School
Corydon's Maxine F. Brown announced plans Monday to purchase the historic Summit Street School (once called the "Colored School") at the corner of Summit and Hill streets from A. B. Haggard Jr.
The school will be restored, nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, and renamed in memory of Brown's aunt, Leora Brown Farrow, a black teacher who taught at the school for many years. Farrow died Friday at age 82 (see page eight).
The school will be called the Leora Brown School and will be used as a historic site and cultural center, Brown said. "It is believed that the school is the oldest standing black school in the state of Indiana," Brown said. School records show that bids were opened for construction of the school on June 22, 1891.
Farrow taught black elementary students until the 1950-51 school year when the decision was made to close the school. For several years afterward, the school was used to provide additional classroom space for the Corydon Grade School and also for the Harrison County Special Education Co-op program. The South Harrison Community School Corp. sold the Summit Street School and the old Corydon Junior High School building to Haggard in the fall of 1986.