From the Book:
A History of Ohio County, Indiana
Listeners to this episode will learn the story of Samuel Barkshire, a manumitted slave, who formed the foundation of the Underground Railroad movement in Rising Sun Indiana. The story is included in my newest book release, A History of Ohio County, Indiana.
The Underground Railroad movement in Rising Sun revolved around a family of manumitted slaves, the Barkshire family. The sire of this family, Samuel, had been a slave held by Dickey Barkshire in Harrison County, Kentucky. After Dickey’s death his son Felix acquired him. Felix sold him to Joseph Hawkins. Hawkins manumitted Samuel in 1833, for the sum of one dollar. Samuel married Frances Newman, who was owned by Hawkins. The couple would have six children. Barkshire purchased 100 acres of land next to Hawkins only three month’s after Hawkins manumitted him, a monumental accomplishment.
Most manumitted slaves were elderly and well past their prime working years. Samuel was still young and stayed in the area, which was also unusual for a young, freed slave. By staying in a slave state, he risked kidnapping and a return to his status as slave. Any time a slave escaped, the white neighbors in the area would immediately cast eyes on free blacks living nearby, viewing them as accomplices in the escape. By staying in the area he risked many things.
Before moving to Rising Sun, Samuel had possibly been engaged in helping escaped slaves in their quest to find freedom while still living in Kentucky. The land he had purchased there bordered the Ohio River and proved a good conduit for slaves fleeing north. This was extremely dangerous for Barkshire, as if caught he was subject to severe punishment.
Sometime before 1840 the Barkshire family moved across the Ohio River to settle in Rising Sun, Indiana. Barkshire worked at the cooper’s trade in Rising Sun making many of the barrels used to ship goods on the river and to age whiskey at the numerous distilleries that lined the river. He also continued his work in the underground railroad, serving as a contact person. He and his family hid escaping slaves and passed along bits of valuable information. Barkshire’s wife and children were also intimately involved in the movement as was Samuel’s former owner, Nancy Hawkins. After his death, Samuel was interred at Union Cemetery in Rising Sun, Indiana.
An historical marker on the Ohio County Courthouse lawn honors the Barkshire family.
Interested listeners can find more information in the author’s new book, a A History of Ohio County, Indiana.
The book is part of the authors series, Indiana County Short History Series
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