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Lyles Station, Indiana

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Lyles Station, Indiana

Lyles Station
Town
Lyles Station
Lyles Station

Coordinates: 38°22′13″N 87°39′33″W / 38.37028°N 87.65917°W / 38.37028; -87.65917Coordinates: 38°22′13″N 87°39′33″W / 38.37028°N 87.65917°W / 38.37028; -87.65917

Country United States
State Indiana
County Gibson
Township Patoka
Lyle's Purchase 1849
Elevation 400 ft (100 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 401
ZIP code 47670
FIPS code 18-45414[1]
GNIS feature ID 438427[2]

Lyles or Lyles Station is an unincorporated community in Patoka Township, Gibson County, Indiana. Founded by freed Tennessee slave Joshua Lyles in 1849,[3] the community was Indiana's first black settlement and the only one remaining today.[4] The community's schoolhouse was also the target of a major restoration and renovation effort around the turn of the 21st century, and currently serves as a museum to the history of the community.

History

Joshua Lyles, an African American, who is attributed with founding one of the earliest of Indiana’s black settlements, was born around 1800, in Henry County, Virginia, according to the Negro Registry of Gibson County, Indiana.[5] Numerous articles written about Joshua Lyles assert, without any evidentiary verification, that he was born a slave and freed when he reached 28 years of age.[6] Tennessee archival records reveal that Joshua and Sanford Lyles and their family were born free persons and were never enslaved, according to the attestation of Col. Joseph Hopson, recorded in the Montgomery County, Tennessee Court Minutes, Vol. 2, 1823-1824. After wandering for several years, in 1849 they bought land near the confluence of the White, Patoka, and Wabash rivers with the assistance of the Religious Society of Friends. They farmed for several years, over time expanding their holdings to well over 1,200 acres (4.9 km2). The Agricultural Schedule for the 1850 census indicates that merely a decade following his family’s arrival in Indiana, Joshua Lyles owned 60 acres of improved land, 260 acres of unimproved land, a farm valued at $500, and farm implements valued at $10. The value of his livestock was estimated at $247, while the value of the animals slaughtered was assessed at $99. The Schedule indicates that the previous year, in 1849, Joshua Lyles had 4 horses, 10 cows, and 50 swine. The Lyles farm produced 150 lbs of butter, 10 lbs of maple sugar, 60 lbs of honey, and 500 bushels of Indian corn.[7] [8]

Shortly after the Civil War, Joshua Lyles returned to Tennessee to encourage newly-emancipated slaves to settle in Indiana. As the settlement grew, Lyles donated 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land to the Airline Railroad; in exchange, the railroad built a train station, providing passenger and mail service to the settlement. The introduction of rail service speeded up growth, so that by 1913 in addition to 55 homes the settlement, with a population of over 800, was home to a school, two churches, and two general stores.

In 1913 unusually heavy rains caused the White, Wabash, and Patoka rivers to overflow their banks. Lyles Station's proximity to all three meant that it was exceptionally susceptible to this disaster. The floodwaters not only destroyed homes, but also drowned cattle—essential for Lyles Station's agrarian population—and rendered the railroad useless; Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was spared, however.

The community never fully recovered from this disaster, as most of the residents sought a less risky existence in the larger cities to the north and south, such as Evansville and Terre Haute. However, a school was built in 1919, and educated the remaining children of the community until it was closed in 1958 as part of a trend towards school consolidation.

As of mid-2007, only about six families remain in Lyles Station, nearly all descended from the original settlers. Wayman Chapel A.M.E. Church still holds regular Sunday services. The schoolhouse, Lyles Consolidated School, has been fully restored from its decrepit state and now serves as a living history museum.

Notable people

  • Aaron R. Fisher, World War I veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Alonzo Fields, first African-American Chief Butler of the White House, serving for 21 years under Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower.[9]

School


Lyles Consolidated School, the third school to be located in Lyles Station, was opened in 1919, and used until 1958. After decades of deterioration, it was restored beginning in 1997. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.[10]

Geography

Lyles is located at 38°22′13″N 87°39′33″W / 38.37028°N 87.65917°W / 38.37028; -87.65917, approximately half way between Princeton, Indiana and Mount Carmel, Illinois. A Norfolk Southern railway line runs along the north of the site.

References

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