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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Historic Preservation & Archaeology > Learn About Topics > Underground Railroad > Underground Railroad Sites in Indiana > Underground Railroad Sites: Elkhart County Underground Railroad Sites: Elkhart County

Elkhart County - 1895Elkhart County was one of the first areas settled in Northern Indiana. Elkhart County is located in Northern Indiana, 150 miles north/northeast of Indianapolis, 100 miles east of Chicago and 50 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. The city of Goshen serves as the county seat. Elkhart County appears to have contained as many as six Underground Railroad stations, with the most prominent operated by the Hon. Charles L. Murray.

Image: Indiana 1895 - Color Landform Atlas/Ray Sterner
Available at:
Perry-Castañeda Map Collection - UT Library Online

Goshen, Indiana

Trial of the Slave Catchers
In April 1848, three slave catchers were tried for the crime of "riot" in Elkhart County Court House, Goshen, Indiana. The trial grew out of violence surrounding an attempted capture of an alleged fugitive slave in the village of Bristol in Elkhart County, just four miles South of the Michigan State line.

Joseph A. Graves, a tobacco farmer from Boone County, Kentucky, and two men were arrested in 1847 for allegedly with force and arms unlawfully and riotously assembling together to disturb the peace. In addition to this charge, they were accused of breaking down the door of Samuel Judson, the home at which fugitive slave Thomas Harris was staying.

The men were found guilty; they appealed their case to the Indiana Supreme Court. On June 4, 1849, that State Supreme Court held that the Elkhart County judges' instruction to the jury was in error. The Indiana law on fugitive slaves was void on the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower circuit judgment and remanded the cause for a new trial. There never was a new trial.