DARKE COUNTY — The Union Literary Institute Preservation Society (ULIPS) has completed the installation of an historical marker and has received a significant grant.
ULIPS is a group dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Greenville Negro Settlement, which was the earliest settlement of African-American freedmen in Indiana (1822.) The settlement once covered ten square miles in both Randolph County, Indiana, and Darke County, Ohio and had nearly 500 inhabitants.
One of the settlement’s most important accomplishments was the establishment in 1845 of Indiana’s first school to offer primary through collegiate education to all students, regardless of race or gender at the time when public schools were not open to blacks. The institute was founded by a group of freedmen and their abolitionist, Quaker neighbors. The latter most prominently included Levi Coffin, known nationally as the “President of the Underground Railroad.” The Institute campus was a station on the Underground Railroad and is part of the National Park Service, “Freedom Trails” program, as is the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site in Fountain City, Indiana.
In November 2016, the ULIPS celebrated the installation of an historical marker at the site of the institute building on County Road 6005, northeast of Spartanburg, Indiana. The marker was fabricated to the standards of the Indiana Historical Bureau, a state agency that approved the text that appears on the marker.
The organization was recently awarded a $15,000 Heritage Support Grant. This is provided by the Indiana Historical Society and is made possible by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Terms of the grant require that the ULIPS provide a 15 percent cash match. The funds will be used to begin a project to preserve the remains of the 1860 Institute building. Future plans are to enclose the ruin within a pavilion that will portray the building’s original appearance. Matching funds are being provided by individuals, the Randolph Community Foundation, and the Randolph County Commissioners, who paid for a grant writer.
In Darke County, ULIPS owns the circa 1850 James and Sophia Clemens House, whose exterior restoration is being completed with an $18,000 grant from the Ohio Historical Society, aka “Ohio History Connection.” The group has also been awarded a $90,000 grant for the interior restoration of the house by the State of Ohio. James Clemens was the earliest Greenville settler to this settlement; he arrived from Virginia in 1818.
For more information on the group’s projects, contact Roane Smothers, ULIPS President by email at [email protected] or Craig Leonard, Grantsman by email at [email protected] or by phone at 260-222-3940.