From the Book:
Guide to Indiana’s Historic Sites – South East Edition
Greetings, today I will talk about Eleutherian College, which is located near Lancaster Indiana in Jefferson County. The college provided one of the earliest pre Civil War venues for educational opportunities for women and blacks in Indiana. An historical marker located on Indiana State Road 250 near Lancaster notes the location of the school.
Title of Marker:
6927 West SR 250, Lancaster. (Jefferson County, Indiana)
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
Marker ID #:
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.
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.
Brief History by the Author
Founded by Thomas Craven in 1848, Eleutherian College became the first school in Indiana that accepted any student regardless of race or gender.
Thomas Craven (March 19, 1792 – August 21, 1860)
A native of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Thomas’ parents were blacksmith Thomas Craven and Emmetje Isbrants. The elder Craven served in the Revolutionary War. As a young man, the younger Thomas migrated to Indiana in 1812, after floating down the Ohio River in a flatboat and arriving in Cincinnati. He went to Franklin County to live. He served as a captain during the War of 1812, serving in a blockhouse in Indiana. He moved into Ohio in 1826 and, at age forty-five, entered Miami University. He achieved his lifelong dream of a college education in 1842. In 1848, he donated land in Lancaster, Indiana, Jefferson County to the Eleutherian College. He engaged in several fundraising trips later on to raise money for the institution. Thomas passed away in 1860 and is interred in College Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.
Founding of Eleutherian College
Founded by members of the Neil’s Creek Abolitionist Baptist Church with substantial help from Thomas Craven and Lyman Hoyt, the college opened in 1848. The word “elutherian” derives from the Greek word, “Eleutheros.” That word means freedom and equality. By 1857, the college enrolled eighteen black students, ten of whom were former slaves. By 1850 enrollment increased to 200, fifty of which were blacks. When public schools for free blacks opened, the school closed. Purchased by Lancaster Township in 1888, the Township operated it as a public school until 1938. The building still stands in Lancaster. It is a part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sponsored by the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
It is open to the public by appointment only.
Call 812-866-7291 for more information.
6927 W. State Rd. 250
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