Red Tour A: Indianapolis Station and the Underground Railroad

Click on the pin to find out more about the site.  

Click on the  picture  below to find out more about the site.

Site Description
 1. Bethel AME Church

Bethel AME Church, founded in 1836, is the oldest African American Church in Indianapolis and the second oldest in Indiana. From the earliest days, the congregation has been involved in social justice issues from education, civil rights to social welfare.  The original church building was located on Georgia Street during the antebellum era, and burned in July 9, 1864.This building is listed on the National Park Service “Network for Freedom,” for the congregation activities on the Underground Railroad. The congregation was involved in direct assistance of fugitives, promoting civil rights and for prominent leaders in the freedom movement.  This building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its connection with Indiana’s rich African American history, including the formation of the Indiana Association of Colored Women’s Club and the Indiana NAACP.
 2. Central Canal & African American Settlement

Black history reaches back to the earliest days of Indianapolis.  The first Black settled in Indianapolis in 1821.  By 1836 there was a small cluster of residences called “colored town.”By 1827, Indiana began to plan a system of canals, with construction on the Central Canal beginning in 1836. Central Canal was designed to connect Indiana’s capital to the world, but the entire system was never completed due to financial difficulties. On June 27, 1839, water was first let into the Central Canal, making the watered portion of the canal approximately eight miles in length.The Central Canal can be seen as a a “color line,” or a fault line between two worlds. For the Overall family, and other AME congregants, the canal came to symbolize racial violence, while simultaneously empowerment through land speculation and employment.

3. African American School & Lucy Jefferson Graham

The Indianapolis Station AME Church operated their own schools because Indiana did not provide public education for African Americans.  Early Sunday and Day schools were operated from the church building.By 1858, the church petitioned the city to allow use of an abandoned school building at this site.  Rev. Elisha Weaver championed the school, promoting it a as a boarding school in The Christian Recorder. The school hosted public entertainments by the students to show the white community how well educated the students were.One of the teachers at the school was Lucy Graham Jefferson, who went on to be an important community leader in Lyle Station, Indiana.

 4. James Overall House

This is the site of the home of the James Overall family.James Overall was a founding Indianapolis Station AME Church deacon. Overall helped to excavate the Central Canal and helped build the black community through land speculation along the canal.The Overall Family was attacked May 7, 1836.  Assisted by local attorney and Calvin Fletcher and  Constable Adam Smith placed attacker David Leach in jail for a short time for “violating the peace.”  Judge Wick in the May 7, 1836  Indianapolis Journal argued that the “natural rights of man” offered all men, even Blacks, some limited legal protections, including the right to defend their families.The Overall Family were leaders in the Black Community. James assisted Underground Railroad activist Benjamin Lougen in 1838, by providing him housing and food, before he traveled to  Hamilton County. Evidence suggests that his sons may have continued their work, assisting fugitives traveling by train through the city.  AJ, son of James, attended the first state Colored Conference, at the Indianapolis Station AME Church in 1842.  The family financially supported the founding of the AME newspaper The Christian Record. A.J. Overall went on to serve in the 28th USCT during the Civil War. 

5. Fourth of July Violence and John Tucker

Black pioneer John Tucker’s celebration of the Independence Day here in Military Park in 1845 led to White mob murder.  White newspapers expressed outraged by the arrest of two of the rioters, though more than a hundred people witnessed the attack.  Two white men were arrested and one  convicted of manslaughter, though the actual murder was never arrested.  In response, some Blacks started carrying clubs to protect themselvesSome Whites saw Independence Day as a “Whites only” holiday. African Americans developed their own freedom celebrations such as Emancipation in Haiti and later the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.

6. Second Baptist Church Fire 1851

Second Baptist Church, near this site,  was burned by arsonists in 1851 during debates over the Article 13 of the Indiana Constitution that would prohibit settlement of African Americans in Indiana.Indianapolis Station AME Church hosted the second Indiana Colored Convention in August 1851 to plan protests to Article 13 and renewed racial violence related to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Amendment. AME parishioners were concerned about their future. Indianapolis Station went as far as to obtain permission to sell its building due “unfavorable location.” While some parishioners moved, both congregations stayed, working to improve conditions in the city.Second Baptist Church was formed near this site in 1846, rebuilt after the fire in 1853 and grew slowly during the antebellum period.  After the Civil War,  the church membership grew dramatically.  Pastor Moses Broyles was important leader during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
7. Elisha Weaver & The Repository

This is the site of the Indianapolis Station AME parsonage where Rev. Elisha Weaver lived from 1857 to 1861 in the months before the Civil War. He was a nationally significant AME leader enhancing the Indianapolis congregation’s position nationally. In Indianapolis, he created an African American school, trained new preachers, founded The Repository literary magazine. After leaving Indianapolis, he edited the AME newspaper The Christian Recorder during the Civil War.

8. Home of Willis Brown and the Underground

This is near the home of Willis Brown, a carpenter and founding Trustee of the Indianapolis Station AME Church.  He assisted a slave family’s escape to freedom by housing them and helping them move to Hamilton County, to the Quaker settlement in 1845. He was a carpenter; literally help build the small Indianapolis African American settlement.
9. Home of Augustus Turner and the formation of Indianapolis Station AME Church

Augustus Turner’s obituary in the Indianapolis News, called him a “man of positive character and devoted himself to higher aims than Negros at that day usually thought themselves worthy to pursue.”  As a testament to his respect in Indianapolis, his funeral in 1880 was packed with both white and black leaders.More than simply offering his home for early meetings of the church in 1836, he served as a rock for the congregation during the critical process of building a free black community in Indianapolis.  Turner is remembered for his role in the formation of the Indianapolis Station AME Church, but should also be remembered for his steady presence as a class leader for more than 40 years serving as an inspiration for congregants of the success. His incalculable legacy was as a model of Black citizenry to the White men who came for a haircut and shave.

 Indianapolis Station and the Civil War

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