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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > Eleutherian College Eleutherian College

Eleutherian CollegeEleutherian College

Location: 6927 West SR 250, Lancaster. (Jefferson County, Indiana)

Installed: 2004 Indiana Historical Bureau, Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology, IDNR, African American Landmarks Committee of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, Inc., Historic Eleutherian College, Historic Madison, Jefferson County Preservation Council, Cornerstone Society, Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable, and City of Madison

ID# : 39.2004.3

Text

Side one:

College developed 1854 from Eleutherian Institute, founded 1848. Thomas Craven and anti-slavery advocates in the area created and supported the institution for education of students of all races and genders. This structure, built in the 1850s for classes and a chapel, was purchased for restoration 1990. Designated National Historic Landmark 1997.

Side two:

Eleutherian provided one of earliest educational opportunities for women and African-Americans before Civil War.

The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S.

Keywords

Underground Railroad, African American, Education, Women

Annotated Text

College developed 1854(1) from Eleutherian Institute, founded 1848.(2) Thomas Craven(3) and anti-slavery advocates in the area created and supported the institution for education of students of all races and genders.(4) This structure, built in the 1850s for classes and a chapel, (5) was purchased for restoration 1990.(6) Designated National Historic Landmark 1997.(7)

Eleutherian provided one of earliest educational opportunities for women and African-Americans before Civil War.(8)

The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S.

Notes:

(1)William C. Thompson, "Eleutherian Institute: A Sketch of a Unique Step in the Educational History of Indiana, " Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 19 (June 1923), 125. Thompson gives no evidence for the 1854 date, but the following items would seem to confirm that date. An article in the Madison Daily Courier, December 21, 1853 indicates that Eleutherian Institute is open to students of all ranks and colors and is flourishing. The education society owning the Eleutherian Institute is composed of all the members in good standing in Anti-Slavery Baptist churches which contribute annually to its funds. According to an 1853 Circular, the Institute had erected and completed a two-story stone building for a boarding house and preparations were being made for the erection of the main building. Circular, Eleutherian Institute, transcribed in Thompson, 126.

On May 1, 1855, Thomas and Rebecca Craven convey to trustees of Eleutherian College two parcels of land—one equals 6 1/2 acres, and the other, one acre. Jefferson County Indiana Deed Book 52, pp. 426-27. On March 16, 1849, Thomas Craven purchased 80 acres of land in Jefferson County Indiana, W1/2, SW1/4, Sect. 34, T5NR9E, for $1250. Jefferson County Indiana Deed Book 4, March 16, 1849; Jefferson County Indiana Deed Book 52, pp. 426-27.

William C. Thompson was the grandson of Thomas Craven. Williams's father, John taught at Eleutherian c. 1850 but left because of lack of money. After John died in 1856, William and his mother Lucinda Craven Thompson returned to College Hill where Lucinda taught at Eleutherian. Broadside, Eleutherian College, February 4, 1858; obituary, Lucinda C. Thompson, Oxford Forum, June 4, 1915.

(2)November 27, 1848 is given as the date of the first session at Eleutherian Institute. Thompson, 125; Madison Daily Courier, December 21, 1853.

(3)Thompson (p. 110) credits Thomas Craven with the idea to establish a school at Lancaster open to African-Americans. The inscription on Craven's tombstone at College Hill Cemetery reads, "A Christian Reformer. Philanthropist; with His Son Founder of The Eleutherian College. Open to all without regard to sex or color." Photographs provided by applicant.

(4)Madison Daily Evening Courier, March 25, 1856. Thompson (pp. 109-10) notes that the prevalence of anti-slavery sentiments in the Lancaster area made it a good place to establish a school open to African-Americans. The following summary describes briefly that situation. The organizations reflecting anti-slavery sentiment changed over time, but there seems to be a core group of people who kept the sentiment active. The relationships of organizations is not always clear.

In 1839, the Neil's Creek Anti-Slavery Society founded. Minute Book, January 5, 1839, Neil's Creek Anti-Slavery Society, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library, original and transcription. (Copies of transcription can be purchased at Historic Eleutherian Inc.) By 1844, the Society becomes active in organizing and promoting Liberty Party ideals and candidates. Minute Book, May 25, 1844-May 31, 1845, ibid. The last recorded minutes of the Society are May 31, 1845. Ibid. Circa 1846, the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church at Neil's Creek is founded; many of its members were listed in the Anti-Slavery Society. Blacks In and Around Jefferson County, 21, 22. Transcript of handwritten notes from information on file with the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library. Applicant indicates that the original notes have been moved to the Jefferson County Historical Society.

On January 12, 1850, the Anti-Slavery Regular Baptist Education Society met at the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church at College Hill. Only men were listed. Robert Scott, "College Hill Cemetery" (accessed July 25, 2003).

On June 8, 1850 the Anti-Slavery Regular Baptist Church at College Hill met at its regular place of meeting. Jefferson County Mortgage Book 2, March 1849-August 1850, (622). The Anti-Slavery Baptist Church at Neil's Creek most likely became the Anti-Slavery Regular Baptist Church at College Hill. Several members listed in Blacks In and Around Jefferson County, 21, 22 are also mentioned in documents of the church at College Hill and Eleutherian College.

According to an article in the Madison Daily Courier, December 21, 1853 the education society which owned the Eleutherian Institute was composed of all the members in good standing in Anti-Slavery Baptist churches which contributed annually to its funds. The connection between the Education Society and the church at College Hill is not clear. The Society could have been sponsored by all of the anti-slavery Baptist churches in the Association. It might also have just been a local organization to support the College.

On June 16, 1853, the Eleutherian Education Society organized by a group of women to provide "the Education of destitute children, particularly that unfortunate class whose color, in the eyes of the world, has seemed to be a barrier" makes an appeal to the Ladies of Indiana. An Appeal to the Ladies of Indiana, June 16, 1853, typescript, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

On November 12, 1855, trustees of the free Baptist Church at College Hill sold its house of worship to James Nelson for $150. The money was to be used to furnish the Eleutherian College Chapel. The free Baptist Church would then have the use of the College Chapel as a house of worship. Article of Agreement, November 12, 1855, recorded January 4, 1861. Jefferson County, Indiana, Mortgage Book 9, p. 175.

The College continued to be supported by area Baptist churches until 1870.

(5)According to an 1853 Circular, transcribed in Thompson, 126, the Institute had erected and completed a two-story stone building for a boarding house and preparations were being made for the erection of the main building. The December 21, 1853 Madison Courier reported that the Directors were making arrangements to erect a main building for the Eleutherian Institute.

According to the first Annual Catalog of Eleutherian College issued in 1856, as transcribed in Thompson, 127, the main building was partially completed; it was to "furnish a commodious chapel, rooms for literary societies and recitation rooms sufficient to accommodate 200 or 300 students." See also the Madison Daily Evening Courier, March 25, 1856. The Madison Weekly Courier, October 29, 1856 indicates that the Trustees of Eleutherian College "determined to complete the College buildings, and have contracted to that effect. Several of the rooms will be finished this fall."

According to a Broadside, "Eleutherian College, " February 4, 1858, the last room of the College building was "nearly completed." The Broadside indicates that the College had three sessions annually, offered a primary school, a College Department, and a Normal Department—which had produced 12 black students and 75 white students qualified for teaching.

(6) "Eleutherian College History" (accessed October 23, 2003). There had been changes in leadership and at least one attempt to revive the College, but the building was finally sold in 1887 to Lancaster Township. Thompson, 118-19.

(7)Historic Indiana: Indiana Properties Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 2003-2004 (Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, October, 2002), 26. It had been listed in National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Ibid. Eleutherian College is now owned and operated by Historic Eleutherian College, Inc., a non-profit organization established to restore and interpret the site. "Eleutherian College History."

(8)Under state school laws, no public schools admitted blacks until after 1869. Church-related private schools offered education to blacks. Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana (Indianapolis, 1957), 166-67. Only three schools offered education beyond elementary school to blacks. Union Literary Institute received a charter from the Indiana General Assembly in 1848; planning started in 1845. Eleutherian began in 1848, and its establishment brought negative responses from the surrounding area. Liber College in Jay County was established in 1853. Ibid., 173-81.