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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Movers and Shakers

From a book about the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois, founded in 1817, John K discovered some interesting black history that included local families.

Because of frequent occurrences of assaults on the peaceable blacks settled in Edwards County, Mr. George Flower, a white landowner, friend and defender of these free black’s rights, proposed that a safe country should be found for them to relocate. The following spring of 1823, a group of blacks prepared to take their departure to Haiti. Provided with a good flat-boat, stocked with sufficient provisions for their inland navigation and sea voyage, well furnished with axes, hoes, and plows, this party of blacks left the mouth of Bonpas Creek, where Grayville now stands, with their freedom certificates signed by the clerk of the county, the secretary of state, and Governor Coles himself.

However, upon arriving in New Orleans, the mayor there placed the men in jail and threatened to sell them all as slaves unless excessive fees for paid by them to leave the country. Arguing that they were free inhabitants of the United States, and were peaceably pursing their way to a neighboring country without fault or crime imputed or alleged against them, failed to persuade him, and it wasn’t until Mr. George Flower paid this extortion demand, that they were free to continue their journey.

Among this group were three brothers, men of extraordinary stature, standing six feet four, and over. This family of Joneses, able-bodied men and good farmers, with two or three other black families, formerly lived higher up the Wabash River, north of Vincennes, and were mustered into the service of the United States by Gen. Harrison, who formed a black company to aid in defending the frontier during the war in 1812. The Jones brothers, Arthur, Abraham, and Joel were among those who emigrated to Haiti in 1823; they are well documented in the Shaker records at West Union, Indiana.

Austin Tann was an early black settler of Lawrence County, Illinois. His brother George Tann emigrated to Haiti in 1823. Austin and George Tann were sons of Anthony and Margaret Tann, members of the Shaker settlement on the Busseron Creek, in northwestern Knox County, Indiana. Of the six Tann children mentioned in Shaker records, three of them—William, Polly, and Charlotte—joined the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, when West Union, Knox County, Indiana, was disbanded in 1827. Austin and Sally (Cole) Tann purchased a farm in Lawrence County in 1821, from Edy Cole, believed to be his mother-in-law, as part of lands she had purchased at the Vincennes Land Office in 1817. Austin Tann lived about 7 miles west of the Shaker community at West Union and surely interacted with relatives and old friends there, being acutely aware of this emigration plan.

For those desiring to read more about this

The book, History of the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois, Founded in 1817 and 1818”, by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower”, by George Flower, Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, pages 265-269 can be accessed on line,

To read published letters of George Flower, Arthur Jones, and George Tann announcing their arrival and welcome in Haiti see: Western Sun & General Advertiser, Volume 15, Number 29, Vincennes, Knox County, Indiana, 4 September 1824, page 4:

To read another published letter by George Flower, including a letter from the President of Haiti inviting others to emigrate see: The Western Register and Terre-Haute Advertiser, Volume 1, Number 47, Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana, 11 August 1824, page 3:



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