Language Translation
  Close Menu

Union Literary Institute

Location: 8605 East 600 South, Union City (Randolph County, Indiana)

Installed 2016 Indiana Historical Bureau and Union Literary Institute Preservation Society



Side One

Union Literary Institute was one of the first schools to offer higher education without regard to color or sex before the Civil War. It was established in 1846 by a biracial board, including free blacks from nearby settlements. At the time, Indiana laws did not allow blacks to attend the public schools. Students labored four hours a day in exchange for room and board.

Side Two

The school was supported by local and national donations, including land. Ebenezer Tucker was the first teacher, and notable attendees included Hiram Revels, the first black U.S. Senator, and James S. Hinton, the first black elected to the Indiana House of Representatives. In 1860 a two-story brick structure was built. The school was a noted Underground Railroad stop.

Annotated Text

Side One:

Union Literary Institute was one of the first schools to offer higher education without regard to color or sex before the Civil War.[1] It was established in 1846 by a biracial board, including free blacks from nearby settlements.[2] At the time, Indiana laws did not allow blacks to attend the public schools.[3] Students labored four hours a day in exchange for room and board.[4]

Side Two:

The school was supported by local and national donations, including land.[5] Ebenezer Tucker was the first teacher,[6] and notable attendees included Hiram Revels, the first black U.S. Senator,[7] and James S. Hinton, the first black elected to the Indiana House of Representatives.[8] In 1860 a two-story brick structure was built.[9] The school was a noted Underground Railroad stop.[10]

[1]Union Literary Institute. Board of Managers’ Secretary Book: From the Original Book Housed at the Indiana Historical Society, (The Union Literary Institute Preservation Society, Inc., 2001), 28; Ebenezer Tucker, “Union Literary Institute,” Anti-Slavery Bugle, June 18, 1853, 2, accessed; Indiana, An Act to Render Taxation for Common School Purposes Uniform, and to Provide for the Education of the Colored Children of the State, Laws of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis: Alexander H. Conner, 1869), 41, accessed Hathi Trust Digital Library; Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana Before 1900: A Study of A Minority (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1957), 173, accessed Internet Archive; “Eleutherian College” Indiana Historical Bureau, accessed; “Liber College” Randolph County Journal, June 24, 1858, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Announcement” Randolph County Journal, September 22, 1859, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles ; “College Corner,” Randolph County Journal, October 27, 1859, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; M.W. Montgomery, History of Jay County, Indiana (Chicago: Church, Goodman & Cushing, 1864), 189-204, accessed Internet Archive; Saint Mary-of-the-Woods-College, “History of SMWC,” accessed; “St. Mary’s Female Academy,” Vincennes Gazette, September 12, 1840, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Providence of St. Mary’s of the Woods” Semi-Weekly Journal [Indianapolis, IN]July 1, 1841, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Providence of St. Mary’s of the Woods,” The Wabash Courier, July 10, 1841, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Richard Gause Boone, A History of Education in Indiana (New York: D Appleton and Company, 1892), 83-85; Logan Esarey, A History of Indiana From 1850 to the Present (Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen & Company, 1918), 1011; Indiana University, “Our Favorite Story: The History of IU,” accessed; Purdue University, “Did You Know: Ladies Hall,” accessed; Purdue University, “…Or the Fire Next Time: A Timeline of African American History at Purdue,” accessed

The Union Literary Institute constitution, adopted in 1846, noted that “any distinction on account of colour, rank or wealth” would not be tolerated. Ebenezer Tucker, the Union Literary Institute’s first teacher (see footnote 6) wrote in the Anti-Slavery Bugle in 1853 that the school was open to “colored youth of both sexes,” and “three hundred colored youth” had thus far attended the school since its opening, making up ¾ of the school’s student body.

Under state law, no public schools in Indiana had to admit black students before 1869, when the law was updated to “All children of proper age, without regard to the race or color, shall hereafter be included in the enumeration of the children of respective school districts, townships, towns and cities of this State for school purposes.” For a deeper history of public education for African American students in Indiana, see footnote 3.

Only two other schools besides the Union Literary Institute (1846) offered education beyond elementary schooling to black students in Indiana: Eleutherian College, established 1854, and Liber College, founded 1853. See the Indiana Historical Bureau’s footnotes for the Eleutherian College historical marker for a history of the institution, which was created to support the education “of students of all races and genders.” The first footnote specifically supports the opening date of 1854 and footnote four notes its commitment to students regardless of race and gender. Two announcements published in the Randolph Journal can be used to date the opening of Liber College to 1853, the other school to offer higher education to black students. An article in 1858 announced the closing of the fifth academic year, and two others published in 1859 cited the opening of the 7th academic year. The October 29, 1859 article noted that students at Liber were accepted “old, rich or poor, black or white.” The History of Jay County gives a complete history of Liber College. The first public meeting to found Liber College occurred February 5, 1853. Members incorporated the Liber College Joint Stock Company on May 3, 1853. Its constitution noted that the college’s purpose was to “furnish to any person whomsoever the facilities of a common and collegiate education,” and thus allowed black students to attend.

There were a few women’s only colleges established in Indiana prior to the Union Literary Institute. Most were seminary schools and not coeducational, like the Union Literary Institute and Eleutherian College. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was founded outside Terre Haute in 1840, according to the institution’s website. It marketed itself as a college for “young ladies” in a few Indiana newspapers starting in 1841. Richard Gause Boone’s A History of Education in Indiana and Logan Esarey’s A History of Indiana From 1850 to the Present list the other following female colleges: Greencastle Female Seminary (1830), the Monroe County Female Seminary (1833), the Salem Female Seminary (1835), the Fort Wayne Female College (1847), the Rockville Female Seminary (1840), the Crawfordsville Female Seminary (1840) and the DePauw Female College (1845).

Many of the larger, well-established Indiana universities first admitted female and black students after the Civil War. According to its website, Indiana University first offered admission to women in 1867 and had its first black graduate, Marcellus Neal, in 1895. Purdue’s website states it first admitted female students in 1875 and names David Robert Lewis as its first black graduate in 1894.

[2] Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book: From the Original Book Housed at the Indiana Historical Society, (The Union Literary Institute Preservation Society, Inc., 2001), 9, 17, 25-26, 28; 1860 United States Census, German, Darke County, Ohio, roll M653_956, page 206, line 6, accessed AncestryLibrary; “James & Sophia Clemens Farmstead,”, last accessed September 15, 2016; 1850 United States Census, Greensfork, Randolph County, Indiana, roll M432_168, page 166B, lines 35 and 36, accessed AncestryLibrary;  E. Tucker, History of Randolph County (Chicago: A.L. Kingman, 1882), 133, 136, 139, 162 accessed Internet Archive1850 United States Census, Greensfork, Randolph County, Indiana, roll M432_168, page 153B, line 1, accessed AncestryLibrary; “Union Literary Institute,” The Anti-Slavery Bugle, 18 June 1853, 2, accessed; Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 48- 49; Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database General Land Office Records, digital images, record entry for Thornton Alexander, Darke County, OH, certificate no 175, accession number OH0240_.125, accessed U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management.

The Board of Managers of the Union Literary Institute first met on September 4, 1845 and elected William R.J. Clemens as President and Daniel Hill as Secretary. On April 19, 1846, the board decided at a meeting that the school would open on May 18, 1846 and presented a constitution. Their constitution noted they formed to create and sustain the “Union Literary Institute” for “the benefit of that class of the population whom the laws of Indiana at present preclude” from public school and higher education. It further stated that the institution would not tolerate “any distinction on account of colour, rank or wealth.” Founding board members at the first meeting were Nathan Thomas, William R.J. Clemens, David Willcutts, Eli Hiatt, Jacob Hackett, Henry H. Way, John Randle, Daniel Hill, Thornton Alexander, and Alfred Clemens.

Three of the founding board members, William R.J. Clemens, John Randle, and Thornton Alexander were all free black men from the area. William R.J. Clemens was the son of James and Sophia Clemens, of Darke County, Ohio in part of the black Greenville settlement that straddled the Indiana/Ohio state line between Randolph County, Indiana and Darke County, Ohio. William Clemens (age 40) lived in the same household as James (age 80) and Sophia (age 75) according to the 1860 US Census. All are described as “mulatto.” The 1850 United States Federal Census Record for John Randall [Randle] lists him as living in Greensfork Township, Randolph County, Indiana with his wife, Lydia. Both are categorized as black. E. Tucker (also the first teacher at Union Literary Institute, see footnote 6) quotes John Randle in “John Ranele, Greensfork, 1933” in the History of Randolph County. Randle briefly narrates his origins as a slave in Virginia, suing for his freedom in Indiana, and finally living as a free man in Randolph County. His wife Lydia is noted, as well as his position as one of the first trustees of the Union Literary Institute. Lastly, the 1850 U.S. census record describes Thornton Alexander as a farmer and head of household in Greensfork Township in Randolph County, Indiana. His race is listed as “mulatto.” Thornton Alexander is also featured in the History of Randolph County. Alexander was born into slavery in Virginia, but in 1816 his owner moved to Ohio and freed Alexander. He subsequently moved to Randolph County with his wife and nine children in the early 1820s and farmed land he owned.

These men lived in and near the three black settlements in the area. The Anti-Slavery Bugle noted in 1853 that the Union Literary Institute, was located “in a flourishing settlement of colored persons, numbering more than four hundred, of all ages,” close to other African American settlements in the region. Emma Lou Thornbrough describes in The Negro in Indiana these early free black settlements in Randolph County, which held the highest percentage of African American residents of any county in Indiana in 1860 (in 1850, it was the 6th highest). Thornbrough observes that African Americans may have been drawn to the area because of the high percentage of white, antislavery families, some which were active in the Underground Railroad.

Greenville was the earliest and the largest black settlement in the area, located on the state boundary in Randolph County, Indiana and Darke County, Ohio. It was started by Union Literary Institute board member Thornton Alexander. Thornbrough and Tucker report that Alexander bought land in Greensfork Township in 1822. Records with the Bureau of Land Management show that he made full payment and was issued a land patent for 79.20 acres in Randolph County on August 1, 1823. In addition to Greenville, the other two black settlements in the area were Cabin Creek settlement, which included parts of West River, Nettle Creek and Stoney Creek townships, and Snow Hill settlement, located between Winchester and Lynn in Washington Township.

[3] Indiana Constitution of 1816, Article IX, Section 2, accessed; Indiana. Act for incorporating townships and providing for public schools. The Revised Statutes of the State of Indiana, (Indianapolis: Douglas and Noel Printers, 1838), 509, accessed Hathi Trust Digital LibraryLaws of Indiana, 1840-41, 82 as cited in Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 163; Revised Laws of Indiana, 1843, 320, as cited in Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 164; Indiana Supreme Court, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined, 1853, 332-335, as cited in John Taylor, “African American Education in Indiana,” 3, accessed ; Indiana, Laws of Indiana, 1853, 124 and Indiana, Laws of Indiana, 1855, 161, as cited in John Taylor, “African American Education in Indiana,” 3, accessed; S.H. Smothers, “What Shall Be Done With the Negro?” The Students’ Repository 1.1 (July 1863): 5; Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends, The Discipline of the Society of Friends of Indiana Yearly Meeting (Cincinnati: A Pugh Printer, 1839) 62, accessed Hathi Trust Digital Library; Thornbrough, The Negro In Indiana Before 1900, 166-167; Tucker, History of Randolph County, 167, 172, 180; Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice (Philadelphia, PA: Quaker Press Friends of General Conference, 2009), 132-133.

The first Indiana constitution (1816) empowered the General Assembly to “provide by law for a general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a State University, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all,” as soon as possible. Thornbrough attests that since the law made education “open to all” some black children may have attended the first township schools, though these schools were few and far between. However, later laws implied such schools were open only for white children. An 1837 Act for Incorporating Townships and Providing for Public Schools explicitly gave “white inhabitants” of each township the power to establish and maintain public schools. In 1841, an act which allowed householders in each district to levy a special tax to fund schools, prohibited black and mulatto property owners to be assessed for such purposes. In 1843, Indiana passed a law that explicitly stated that public schools were open to white children only in the state. Even with these restrictions, some exceptions existed. Some African American children attended public schools in Wayne County, as long as their families paid a special tuition. In 1850, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against this practice and determined that the 1843 law confined public school attendance to white children only and African American children were not allowed to attend, even after paying special fees. In 1853 and 1855, the state of Indiana adopted two new laws that prohibited black children from education benefits. African Americans were not to be taxed for school finance as well. S.H. Smothers, African-American principal and editor of The Students’ Repository, the journal of the Union Literary Institute, emphasized that these laws were “the worst and most deplorable laws” in the state because they left African Americans out of public schools and without education. Finally in 1869, public education was open to children regardless of race (see footnote 1).

Therefore, African-American parents and guardians were largely responsible for providing education for their children. Private schools and teachers constituted much of the schooling for black students before the Civil War. Partnerships formed between religious groups, mainly Quakers and black communities, who worked together to arrange and maintain these schools. Quakers in Indiana believed that “oppressed people” should be “treated with kindness, and as objects of the common salvation, instructed in the principles of Christian religion, as well as in such branches of school learning as may fit them for freedom, and to become useful members of civil society.” They affirmed at their yearly meeting in 1838 that “Friends in their respective neighborhoods, advise and assist such of them [African Americans] as are at liberty, in the education of their children, and common worldly concerns.”

African-Americans also established and maintained schools on their own. Several founding members of Union Literary Institute were part of the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends. Ebenezer Tucker described the school in the History of Randolph County, as established by “the munificence, chiefly of some Anti-Slavery Friends,” and notes that trustees Daniel Hill (secretary) and Benjamin Thomas were Quakers in biographical articles on each.

For extended histories of education for black students in Indiana, see Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 159-167, and John Taylor, “African American Education in Indiana.”

[4] Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book, 17, 40; “Union Literary Institute,” Randolph County Journal, April 1, 1864, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Union Literary Institute,” Randolph County Journal May 20, 1858, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

At a meeting on April 19, 1846 the board decided that “students be admitted into the manual labor department at age 14. That they be required to labor 4 hours per day which shall be considered an equivalent for board and washing and required to pay at the rate of 2 dollars per quarter for tuition one third of which must be paid in advance.” Advertisements cited above promoted primary education classes, like spelling reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, as well as higher level classes in English, grammar, physiology, philosophy, chemistry, and algebra. The Collegiate department offered higher algebra, geometry, surveying, philosophy, astronomy, botany, geology, chemistry, Latin, Greek, as well as music, bookkeeping, painting, and French.

[5] Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book, 25-30, 64, 72, 99-101; John W. Bond, Nathan Thomas, and Daniel Hill, “Benevolence, Benevolence,” Free Labor Advocate, April 29, 1845, submitted by applicant.

At a meeting on October 2, 1846, the board adopted a full constitution with preamble. The preamble notes that “a number of benevolent Men and Women, have given lands and contributed money and goods for the purpose of building up and sustaining a Manual Labor School, principally to benefit that class of the population whom the laws of Indiana at present preclude from all participation in the benefits of our public school system.” It also stressed the continued need for “gifts, grants, contribution, Devises and Donations” to maintain the school.  On September 4, 1848, the board appointed Ebenezer Tucker as an agent for the institution to solicit contributions. The Board of Managers’ Secretary Book listed contributions and subscriptions for use of the Union Literary Institute the agent received on February 6, 1849. While most contributions were less than $3, one entry from a public meeting in Cincinnati valued at $19.25. On September 9, 1850, the Secretary Book recorded finances, as well as donations collected in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, Germantown, Providence, Rhode Island, Fall River, Nantucket, New Bedford, Boston, and Salem. Other contributions besides checks included gloves and axes. An article in the Free Labor Advocate also mentioned a donation of 150 acres of land in Randolph County for the purpose of educating “poor children of color.”

[6] Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book, 21, 34-35, 110, 113-114, 121, 170, 246, 285, 310; Tucker, History of Randolph County, 43.

Much of Ebenezer Tucker’s tenure as a teacher at Union Literary Institute is recorded in the institution’s Board of Managers’ Secretary Book. The board’s committee dedicated to procuring a teacher for the school picked Tucker, a graduate of Oberlin College, to be the first teacher at a meeting on June 2, 1846. The board granted Tucker a term of eight months, alongside a salary of $200. School was to commence on June 22, 1846 (pushed back from May 1846). On February 13, 1847, the board decided to keep Tucker as a teacher of the Union Literary Institute. In March 1851, Tucker took time off teaching after serving as principal for five years due to health reasons and instead became the traveling agent for the school for eight months. The institute paid for his expenses and he was allowed to keep 10% commission of all funds collected. On October 24, 1851 the board presented Tucker with terms in which he would be employed as principal of the institute for the winter term. By August 28, 1854, the board revealed that they were reluctantly parting with Tucker as a matter of necessity, not their own choice. They were satisfied with his “able and efficient manner in which he has managed the School ever since he has been connected with it.” Samuel H. Smothers, African-American editor of The Students’ Repository, served as principal for a short time in the 1860s before enlisting to fight in the Civil War. Tucker returned to teach at the institute in 1873 and entered a three year contract. In 1879, he had worked as principal for six consecutive years. On June 18, 1881, Tucker resigned and declined to remain a member of the board of the Union Literary Institute for health reasons. For more on Tucker’s position as principal of the institute, see the History of Randolph County.

[7] Union Literary Institute student list, October 16, 1848, submitted by marker applicant; Elizabeth Lawson, The Gentleman From Mississippi: Our First Negro Congressman, Hiram R. Revels (New York: 1960), 8-9; New York Public Library, “Hiram Revels Collection, 1870-1948,” Schromburg Center, Sc Micro R-6478, accessed; “The Colored Senator From Mississippi,” Harrisburg Telegraph [Harrisburg, PA], January 25, 1870, 1, accessed; “The Colored Senator From Mississippi,” National Republication [Washington DC], January 25, 1870, 2, accessed ; “The Colored United States Senator from Mississippi,” Pittsburgh Daily Gazette [Pittsburgh, PA] January 26, 1870, 2, accessed; Steven Case, “Hiram Rhodes Revels,”, 2009, accessed; Julius E. Thompson, “Hiram Rhodes Revels, 1827-1901: A Reappraisal,” The Journal of Negro History 79.3 (Summer 1994), 297, accessed “Revels, Hiram Rhodes,” History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives, accessed; United States. Congress, House Committee on House Administration, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 2008), 54; 1850 United States Federal Census, Cambridge City, Wayne, Indiana, roll M432_180, page 13B, line 26, accessed AncestryLibrary; “List of Letters,” Cambridge Reveille, October 12, 1850, accessed Indiana State Library microfilm collection;  Calvin D. Jarrett, “A Report: Black Congressmen 1865-1901,” Negro Digest 17.4 (February 1968): 17; “The Colored Senator from Mississippi,” The Leavenworth Times [Leavenworth, KS]22 January 1870, 2, accessed; “Credentials of Hiram Rhodes Revels,” National Archives and Records Administration, 595424, Credentials, 1789-1998, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789-2005, Record Group 46, accessed

A copy of a student list for Union Literary Institute submitted by the marker applicant dated October 16, 1848 contains an entry for “Revels, H.R.” However, it should be noted that several other sources indicate that Revels attended school in Union County in 1844. Elizabeth Lawson’s book The Gentleman From Mississippi quotes some of the fourteen page handwritten notes Revels possibly dictated to his daughter in 1897 about his life. He stated “I desired to study for a profession, and this prompted me to leave my native State and go to the State of Indiana, a free State, where I could attend schools of higher grades. The first school I attended in the latter State, was a Quaker Seminary in Union County. That school was largely attended by students of both races…Finding that it would be to my advantage I spent a year at a colored seminary in Darke county, Ohio.” These notes are located at the New York Public Library Schromburg Center in the Hiram R. Revels Collection. The finding aid for the collection describes these notes as “a biographical sketch written about him [Revels] in the first person which appears to have been written by his daughter, Susie.” The Cincinnati Commercial sent out an article about Revels after he became the first black senator for the United States Senate in 1870. It was published by newspapers across the country. These articles state that Revels attended a Quaker seminary in Union County, as well as “Darke County seminary.” Other secondary sources by Steven Case, Julius E. Thompson, and various others from the United States House of Representatives and House Committee on House Administration note that Revels attended Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Liberty, Union County Indiana, as well as Darke County Seminary for black students in Ohio. The location of the Union Literary Institute in Greenville, located in both Indiana and Ohio, is cause for some confusion in referencing the institute. Other references for the school include the “Greenville Institute” and “Darke County Seminary.” See footnote 8.

1850 U.S. census records place Hiram Revels in the area. He is listed as living in Cambridge City, in Wayne County, Indiana, situated between Randolph County and Union County. The Cambridge Reveille also listed “HR Revels” and “Hiram Revels” as having letters remaining in the post office in October 1850, which would become dead letters if not taken out within three months, indicating Revels’s residence in Cambridge City.  One secondary source, Calvin D. Jarrett, “A Report: Black Congressmen 1865-1901,” Negro Digest 17.4 (February 1968): 17 supports that Revels attended the Union Literary Institute.

Revels was the first African American to be elected to the United States Senate. See “The Colored Senator from Mississippi,” The Leavenworth Times, which celebrates Revels’s election as the first black representative in the U.S. Senate. Revels’s certification of election in 1870 from the Governor of Mississippi is at the National Archives.

[8] A Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana (Cincinnati, Ohio: Western Biographical Publishing Company, 1880), 93; Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana Before 1900, 298 ; Etta Russell, “Hinton, James Sidney,” in Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, David J Bodenhamer, Robert G. Barrows, and David Gordon Vanderstel, eds., (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1994), 683; Tucker, History of Randolph County, 133; The Victory,” The Indianapolis Leader, October 16, 1880, 2 accessed; John E Land, Indiana’s Representative Men in 1881: Containing the Biographies of the Members of the Senate and House of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis, IN: John E. Land, 1881), 24.

Much of what is known about Hinton’s education comes from secondary sources. A Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana, published in 1880, states that Hinton moved to Terre Haute, Indiana from South Carolina with his mother and father in 1848, around the age of 14. He first attended a “subscription school” for four years in Terre Haute, then went to a Quaker school at Hartford, Indiana for two years. Next he “went to Greenville, Darke County, Ohio where he took a course of collegiate training at the Greenville Institute, Professor R.G. Tucker at the time being president.” Emma Lou Thornbrough and Etta Russell repeat this story in The Negro in Indiana Before 1900 and The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis respectively.

The Union Literary Institute was part of the Greenville Settlement, which was located in two counties: Randolph County, Indiana and Darke County, Ohio. History of Randolph County notes that the Greenville Settlement, “lies on both sides of the Ohio line, with by far the largest part in Ohio. In Indiana, a territory about one mile by three is occupied, in Ohio nearly three miles square is covered by colored residents.” IHB staff found no mention of “Greenville Institute” as a separate institution from the Union Literary Institute in historical newspapers included on or Hoosier State Chronicles. The “Greenville Institute” was also not found in History of Randolph County, Indiana (1882) or A History of Darke County, Ohio (1914). Since the Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana also lists Hinton studying under R.G. Tucker, it is most probable that the Greenville Institute was the Union Literary Institute. R.G. Tucker is likely Ebenezer Tucker, the first principal of the Union Literary Institute, who was teacher roughly from 1846-1851, 1852-1854, and 1873-1879 (see footnote 6).

Hinton was elected in 1880 to the Indiana House of Representatives. See “The Victory,” The Indianapolis Leader which announces “Hon J.S. Hinton enjoys the distinguished honor of being the first colored man ever elected to the Legislature of Indiana.” Other secondary sources written by John E. Land and Etta Russel (cited above) also attribute this distinction to Hinton.

[9] “Another Heavy Contract,” Randolph County Journal, 19 May 1959, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book, 198, 204; “Minutes of the O.C.T.A.” The Students’ Repository, 1863-1864, 117, microfilm, Duke University Archives, printed in Deborah Rotman, Rachel Mancini, Aaron Smith, and Elizabeth Campbell, African-American and Quaker Farmers in East Central Indiana: Social, Political, and Economic Aspects of Life in Nineteenth-Century Rural Communities, Report of Investigations 51 (Archaeological Resources Management Services, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 1998), 48, 186.

M.A. Reeder accepted a contract to build the Union Literary Institute’s college building in 1859. On November 28, 1859, the Board of Managers noted in their Secretary Book that they were involved in “building a School House” and “William Beard Our Agent having in his hands a donation for the purpose of building Said House. On motion Resolved that he be instructed to make immediate collections and pay over all moneys by him collected to Joel Parker Treasurer.” In a meeting on August 25, 1860, the board reported that “the School House is now done at a cost without furnishing of $1471.70.” The Students’ Repository, the journal of the students and friends of the Union Literary Institute, described the school as “a large two-story brick, and it is well arranged,” in 1863. The Union Literary Institute Preservation Society describes the first school building before 1860 as a “two-story hewed log building and a two story frame building…the hewed log schoolhouse was about twenty-four feet square and contained classrooms on the first floor and a library accessible by a ladder on the second floor.” Archaeological surveys conducted by Ball State University in 1998 note that the first floor of the 1860 structure is all that remains of the original two-story brick building. The school became a public (and segregated school) in 1880. It closed circa 1914. In 1937, all surviving buildings and surrounding lands were sold to a private buyer.

[10] Tucker, History of Randolph County, 165, 196; Union Literary Institute, Board of Managers’ Secretary Book, 9, 29-30; “Efforts to Free Sisters from Bondage Caused Daring Slave to be Recaptured Many Times; Aided Others to Freedom,” Indianapolis Recorder April 18, 1942, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Levi Coffin, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad (Cincinnati: R. Clarke & Co., 1880), 333, accessed Internet Archive.

Ebenezer Tucker, the first teacher at Union Literary Institute, wrote in the History of Randolph County that members and supporters of the school were prominent figures in the antislavery movement in the county. He records John H. Bond’s recollections in the book. According to Tucker, Bond was a Quaker, Abolitionist, and Anti-Slavery Friend, and active in the Underground Railroad, as well as one of the Trustees of the Union Literary Institute. Bond is listed as attending the first Board of Managers meeting of the Union Literary Institute on September 4, 1845 in the Board of Managers’ Secretary Book. Tucker cites Bond recalling “Gangs of fugitives used to come to the Institute. At one time fifteen came in one company.” Bond also recalled that “fugitives would often stop and attend school for a while at the Institute. At one time there were ten at school together.”

The History of Randolph County also detailed the escape of Lewis Talbert, an enslaved man who ran away from a plantation near the Ohio River in Kentucky, came to the Union Literary Institute, and enrolled as a student. On a trip to try to rescue his sisters who were still enslaved, he reportedly taught other enslaved people he met how to escape via the Underground Railroad and several of them took his advice. An article in the Indianapolis Recorder in 1942 reported that the Union Literary Institute played a “conspicuous part” in the history of the Underground Railroad and that “fugitives would seek refuge on the campus from slave-hunters, and decide to remain a while and learn the rudiments of education before going further north.”

In the Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, Coffin mentions putting a runaway female slave “into the care of William Beard, that active agent for the Underground Railroad, who lived in Union County, Indiana and he took her to a colored school in Randolph County, called the Union Literary Institute, and there left her to attend school.” The Board of Managers’ Secretary Book notes that Coffin was appointed to a committee to select the members of the Board of Managers for two years at a meeting on October 2nd, 1846. He also donated funds for a boarding house for students.


Education, African American, Underground Railroad