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The Barkshire and Edington families
The Barkshires and Edingtons were free African Americans living in Rising Sun, IN, in the mid-1800s. They ran stations on the Underground railroad for slaves seeking freedom.
Samuel Barkshire was born in about 1798, in Kentucky. He was a cooper by trade, and ran a safe house for fugitive slaves, many from Boone County. In 1840, he appears on the Dearborn County, IN census; his household has 10 free “people of color”. In 1850, Samuel’s household consists of Samuel, his wife, Frances, and 7 young adults and children who are listed as “Barkshire”, but may be other freed slaves, not his birth family.
Several of the children are listed as “black”, while Samuel, Frances, and others of child-bearing age are “mulatto”. There is also an elderly man, Thomas James, 93 years of age, black, born in Maryland who is in the Barkshire home at this time. He is listed as a pauper, and may have been freed when he became too old to work, as he cannot be found on any other census records in the area.
The Barkshire family helped abolitionist Laura Smith Haviland in her attempt to free the wife and children of escaped Boone County slave, John "Felix" White. Samuel was most likely the same Sam Barkshire who purchased land as a free man of color in the Hathaway Road area of Boone County in 1833. Because of the placement of this property, he was possibly helping slaves to freedom even while living in a slaveholding state.
Joseph Edington, born in 1812 in Virginia, ran an “eating house” according to the memoirs of Laura Smith Haviland. His wife, Mary, crossed the Ohio and ventured into Rabbit Hash in 1847 with Haviland to help get a message to John White's wife, Jane. Jane was enslved by the Stephens family, along with the couple's 5 children. Mary Edington is listed on the 1850 census as “mulatto” like her husband, but her birthplace is Pennsylvania. It's possible that she was born free.
It was a great risk for anyone to assist in slave escapes, particularly free people of color, who often risked being kidnapped and sold into slavery if caught.