INDIANAPOLIS — Be it the past, be it the present, it is all one big story woven together into history. For homeowners near Bacon Swamp on the north side of Indianapolis, that history is right in their backyard. The location was once an integral piece of the Underground Railroad.
“You are dealing with a state with laws where you may not know where you are allowed to go inside and remain alive,” explains Sampson Levingston, a local historian, tour guide, and creator of the Through 2 Eyes historical online video series.
The swamp land was once owned by Hiram and Mary Bacon. The couple moved to Indianapolis from Massachusetts, a more progressive state at the time.
“Places like this aren’t often lived by, settled by, or have homes built on top of swamps. It’s a good place to hide and sneak as you were going through places,” details Levingston, “So the Bacon house was where The Donut Shop was.”
The business closed down last year, but the owners of The Donut Shop on North Keystone tell us they are aware of the properties history. An Indy Star article from 1931, written by Agnes M’Culloch Hanna, says fugitive slaves used to hide in a grain bin near the Bacon house.
“If Indiana was such this great place, and a safe haven, once you got here there would be no reason to keep going. When you get to this area of northern Indianapolis, this is a pivotal point ,and almost halfway through Indiana,” adds Levingston, “You are on up through southern Indiana, making your way up to Michigan or Canada. Freedom seekers would keep moving up into Westfield and Hamilton County with a bunch of Quakers. If you know anything about quakers, they played a huge role in the Underground Railroad.”
Levingston says there were more than 60 black settlements scattered throughout the state.
“Whether that’s Lyles Station, or whether that’s Lost Creek in Terre Haute,” details Levingston, “There are black people helping their own freedom along the way.”
Right now, Bacon Swamp is frozen.
“When we came out here, and we saw that it was frozen, I was like, ‘Hey, that is a neat connection.” A lot of freedom seekers would cross the Ohio River when it is frozen.”