In 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Bloomington was estimated at 84,067; in 1850, the total population for all of Monroe County was only 11,357. Of that number 27, less than 1%, were people of color. According to the population census, of that number here were 23 blacks and 4 mulattos. About half of the people of color, 15, were adults age 20 or older: Nolley, Murria and Sarah Baker; Abner and Mary Cramsen; Andrew and Jane Ferguson; Patience Locket; Linden Meads; Henry McCaw; William and Jenetta/Jinetta McClerkin; Hannah Sheppard; Dililia Walker; and Hark Wilson.
Of the adults, there were 7 men. Three of the men were farmers (Linden Meads, Henry McCaw and William McClerkin); 1 was a barber (Nolley Baker); and no occupation was noted for 3 men (Abner Cramsen; Andrew Ferguson and Hark Wilson, a resident of the poor farm).
Most of the people of color lived in or near Bloomington in Bloomington and Perry townships (21). There were also people of color in Indian Creek (1); Bean Blossom (1); Richland (1); and Clear Creek (3).
Surprisingly, nearly a third of the people of color (10) were natives of Indiana all of whom were age 20 and older. The remainder was born in Kentucky (4); Virginia (3); South Carolina (7); Maryland (1); North Carolina (1); and Africa (1).
Seven of the adults were heads of household: Nolley Baker; Mary Cramsen; Andrew Ferguson, Patience Locket; Henry McCaw; William McClerkin; and Hanna Sheppard. Some of the households consisted of a single individual. Seven of the people of color, regardless of age, were in homes where the head of household was white: William Bird was in the household of William Crum; Linden Meads was in the household of William Jones; Dililia Walker was in the household of Gideon Walker; Hark Wilson at the Poor Farm; Moses Bush in the household of Benjamin Mather; and Columbus, Duerad and Bonaparte Moss were in the household of Josiah Hovel.
Andrew Ferguson was the oldest person of color in Monroe County in 1850. He reportedly was born in Virginia 1755-1765, and was a private in the Revolutionary War for four or five years according to his self-report. Sometime between 1820-1830 he relocated to Indiana. He applied for a military pension in 1838 from Monroe County which was granted to him in 1839. In 1851, at the age of 96, he applied for military bounty land. Because he did not receive a favorable response, he resubmitted his application in 1855 but died before his request was acted upon. Although he never received any bounty land, he did own property in 1850 valued at $150 and was the only person of color that year to own any real estate. It is said that he was buried in an unmarked grave at Rose Hill Cemetery. In 1984 the Daughters of the American Revolution remedied that oversight.
Look for a database of Monroe County people of color 1850-1870 at the Indiana Genealogical Society (IGS) website. It is available to members only and includes: name, date of birth, place of birth, place of residence, color and census year for each individual. Because the database was only recently submitted to the IGS website, it may not be posted until September.
Blog post by Randi Richardson
- 1850 Monroe County, Indiana, federal population census.
- Transcription of the military pension application at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~aagriots/SC/Ferguson.htm