The Herald Bulletin

December 3, 2012

Honoring the Abolitionist in Pendleton

Post raising funds to install marker noting Frederick Douglass' visits

By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin

PENDLETON, Ind. — The area where social reformer Frederick Douglass planned to deliver a speech along Fall Creek in 1843 is to be memorialized with a state-issued historical marker, according to a Pendleton man who has been pursuing the designation.

The speech was interrupted when Douglass was attacked by a mob. Douglass was treated for injuries by Pendleton residents.

The installation of the marker is set for Jan. 14. However, the state is asking that the cost of the marker be paid by local donations.

A fund with the South Madison Community Foundation has been set up to collect $2,000 in donations, said Bob Post, of Pendleton. Post applied to the Indiana Historical Bureau about eight months ago for the marker.

“I’d been thinking about doing this for a number of years,” said Post, a Pendleton native who restores historic homes. “And just finally did it.”

Donations to help fund the installation fee can be made through the South Madison Community Foundation, 233 S. Main St., Pendleton, IN 46064 ( Post suggested that donors note the contribution as “Douglass sign” and donors will receive a receipt for the tax-deductible contribution.

The marker would be the fourth installed by the state in Madison County, although county officials have erected markers to note local events and places.

State markers in Madison County currently denote the presidential bid of Wendell Willkie in Elwood, the first interurban service in Alexandria and the 1824 massacre of Indians near Fall Creek. The Pendleton marker would honor Douglass’ controversial visit to a spot along Fall Creek.

“It was 1843. There were no trains. It took quite a struggle for him to get here,” said Post.

Dani Pfaff, marker program manager at the Indiana Historical Bureau, said the project was approved Oct. 12 by the Indiana Library and Historical Board and will commemorate Douglass, William A. White and George Bradburn.

IHB staff is completing research before drafting the State Historical Marker text for the incident at Pendleton, Pfaff said. Three final steps are required before IHB will order a State Marker, she added. Post, as the applicant, must raise the $2,000 cost of the marker. He must obtain signed permission from the landowner to install the marker and he must accept the final marker text as approved by the Indiana Library and Historical Board, Pfaff said.

The best-known of Douglass’ three visits to Pendleton was in 1843. The visit was for the purpose of delivering one of the 100 New England Anti-Slavery Society lectures that were to be made across the country to educate the citizens of the North against slavery.

Bradburn and White accompanied Douglass to Pendleton, according to the Pendleton Historical Museum’s Tim McClintock who wrote of the speech for The Herald Bulletin in 2009.

The speeches were to be delivered on a platform that had been erected in a grove on the west side of Colonel Parker’s house. Just as the speeches began, a group of men from surrounding communities attacked the speakers with clubs and eggs; the sympathizers of the lecturers could not prevent the attack. They fled the scene and were followed by the attackers.

Douglass made it to the south side of Fall Creek where the physical abuse continued. His wounds were dressed by local residents. Douglass returned to speak in Pendleton in 1876 when he visited with friends.

Among these friends were John Thomas Sr. and Mary Ann Swain who had made arrangements to attend the Centennial in Washington, D.C., and had the pleasure of Douglass’ company. Later, the two of them visited Douglass in Washington, D.C. During the visit, John Thomas Sr., who had been 6 years old at the time of Douglass’ first visit and had been splattered with egg during the assault, told Douglass that the captain of the mob who had attacked him on his first visit was anxious to meet him at Pendleton but was prevented by sickness. He wanted to ask forgiveness.

Douglass replied, “Why, I forgave him long ago.”

According to Thomas, Frederick Douglass’ final visit to Pendleton was in 1880.

Other memorial markers

A state marker memorializing a speech by social reformer Frederick Douglass would be the fourth installed by the state in Madison County. The other three are:

Location: Indiana 38, about one-half mile east of Markleville.

Nine Indians were murdered by white men near the spot. The men were tried, found guilty, and hanged. It was the first execution of white men for killing Indians.

Location: Southeast corner of Harrison and Church streets in Alexandria.

Charles L. Henry’s Union Traction Company, the first electric rail line specifically for interurban service, began operating on Jan. 1, 1898. It ran from Alexandria to Anderson.

Location: 19th and North J streets, Callaway Park, near Big Duck Creek in Elwood.

In Callaway Park Aug. 17, 1940, Willkie accepted the Republican party presidential nomination after a nationwide grassroots campaign. An estimated crowd of 250,000 was in the park and along adjacent streets.

Source: Indiana Historical Bureau