Facts About Lyles Station, Indiana’s Only Remaining Settlement Founded By Freed Tennessee Slave



Lyles Station, Indiana is one of the last remaining sites of one of the country’s earliest free African American settlements.

The town’s best years were from 1880 to 1912. It was founded by freed Tennessee slave Joshua Lyles. The town had a railroad station, a post office, a lumber mill, two general stores, two churches, an elementary school, and 55 homes at its peak. The town began to decline slowly after a catastrophic flood of the White, Wabash, and Patoka rivers in 1912. Its population of 800 at the turn of the century has shrunk to around 50 people, with nearly half descended from the original settlers.

Lyles Station began around 1840, when a generous Tennessee slave owner freed two brothers named Joshua and Sanford Lyles, gave them money, and encouraged them to seek freedom in a northern state.

They traveled up the Tennessee River to the Ohio River, then up the Wabash River to their destination in far southwestern Indiana, near the Illinois border.

The brothers walked two miles east of the Wabash River and purchased some government land. The brothers cleared their land and began planting crops. They eventually accumulated over 1,200 acres of fertile river bottomlands.

Following the Civil War, Joshua returned to Tennessee, where he encouraged newly freed slaves to join him in this Indiana Garden of Eden, where cantaloupes and tomatoes grew large and abundant in the sandy soil.



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