Descendants Of Freed Slaves Reunite In Indiana

Roberts Settlement Once Had 800 Residents

Descendants of freed slaves who fled to Indiana to escape oppression reunited for an annual celebration this weekend.

The Roberts Settlement Reunion drew about 300 people from across the country to the Roberts Church and Cemetery grounds near Arcadia on Saturday.

Most are descendants of a freed slave named Elijah Roberts, who migrated west from North Carolina.

He and three relatives found their way to Hamilton County in the 1820s where they settled the community.

"My great grandfather was Elijah Roberts. He came north here north of Westfield because of the Quakers, and he was told about this undeveloped territory out here," said Milton Baltimore Jr. "President Martin Van Buren gave him the deed to the land. I have the original deed at home."

Baltimore is one of only two relatives of Roberts who still own land on the original settlement off 276th Street.

Descendants said the annual reunion is inspirational for the adults, but also for the children, who have the opportunity to learn about their family history.

"Out of this whole clan has come doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, professional people, people that are skilled with their hands," said Robert Hayes, who married into the family. "What it does for these younger kids you see here, it shows them what can be accomplished with fairness faith and fortitude."

The settlement once had about 800 residents, with many homes and a school. Only a tiny chapel and family cemetery remains on the site now.