Travel & Historical Articles:

Family History - Underground Railroad in Indiana

John Harper Carlile was my Great-Great-Grandfather (Grandfather's Grandfather), here is part of his story...

May Blount "This I remember about Grandfather: John H. Carlisle"

    "While Grandfather was deeply devout, he was very broad minded in religious matters, for his day and age, when so great weight was given to creed and dogma."

    "Grandfather did not go to the Civil War, he told me, because he had a large family. When men were being drafted in 1864, Uncle Philip (Philip S. Carlisle) who was 16 volunteered to go in his place so he remained at home. Grandmother was rapidly losing her sight, too, at this time."

    "I once asked him if he know anything about the Underground Railroad. He appeared very reluctant to talk about it, saying that no one was supposed to know anything about that. Later, he guessed no harm would be done as most people who had anything to do with it were dead. He never did name any other person who had been connected with it."

    "He stated he never even saw the man who brought the negroes, never more than two or three at a time, from Louisville. They always came at night. He kept them sometimes two or three days till he would get word it was safe to take them to Seymour Indiana. He also went at night. His passengers were put in the center of the wagon with hay or fodder piled around and over them. He kept a secret room in the end of the granary."

    "I asked him once if Grandmother knew about it. He said, 'Well she never said anything.' He also said he knew what he did was against the law, but he just could not bear to think of the poor slaves having to go back to a master who would beat them to death."

Notes on Underground Railroad: Louisville Kentucky to Seymour Indiana:

  • "Louisville's prominence as a major port on the Ohio River and as a terminus for overland routes from the Deep South made it a gateway to freedom for enslaved African Americans escaping from the interior of Kentucky Alabama Tennessee Mississippi and Louisiana."
    "Others escaped from Louisville to Indiana on the 'Jeffersonville' ferry and took the 'Jeffersonville' railroad to Seymour Indiana where they could make a connection to Cincinnati via the Ohio and Mississippi railroad. From The Encyclopedia of Louisville edited by John E. Kleber.
  • Map of various underground railroad paths, where you'll notice a railroad from Louisville through the Seymour region.
  • house (page 679, old link "" known by area historians) once played a role in the Underground Railroad, acting as one of many safe houses along the secret route to the north maintained by abolition sympathizers. A tunnel from the basement of the Carter house leads out towards the street, serving as an escape exit for runaway slaves.
  • Seymour Indiana is about 25 miles north of Vienna Township, Scott County, Indiana, where John Harper Carlile lived. Most safe houses were 10-20 miles apart, which was a reasonable wagon ride away.
    • Note: Given the above family account, it seems that John Harper Carlile may have been part of this railroad, but unfortunately I do not have any direct evidence that connect John Harper Carlile to the 'Jeffersonville' railroad or the Travis Carter house.
  • Underground Railroad in Indiana:
  • Indiana's Underground Railroad:
  • Underground Railroad Research in Indiana:

Notes on Carlile/Carlisle Lineage:
John Harper Carlile (in 1850 Vienna township census spelled Carlisle)

  • John Harper Carlile was born in Nov 5, 1820 in Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio, died February 9, 1908, buried (old link: "") Mount Plesant Cementary.
  • John Harper Carlile was son of James Carlile of Somerset Pennsylvania and Mary Ann Whitcraft of Cavin Ireland. Mary Ann Whitcraft's mother's was Elizabeth Harper and this family name may be the source of John's middle name.
  • John married Emily Zaring, The Carliles were early settlers of Scott County. They were Methodists. Some Methodists were staunch abolisionists.
  • He was a farmer in Vienna township, Scott county, Indiana (about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.)
  • He was the class leader at the Mount Pleasant Methodist Church for 40 years.
  • Seymour Indiana is about 25 miles north of Vienna Township, Scott County, Indiana.
  • John and Emily's oldest son was Philip S. Carlile's. Philip's Obituary lists his birth place as Gibson Township, and the 1850/1860 census listed the Carlisle home in Vienna township. I think we can assume they lived somewhere between Little York (Gibson township) and Scottsburg(Vienna township), which are about 6 miles apart. Family recollections say both Little York & Scottsburg.
  • Philip S. Carlile's Obituary also states: On May 21, 1864 at the age of 18, he in-listed to serve in the Civil War for 100 days, being a member Co. F. 139th Regiment Indiana Volunteers and he was honorably discharged Sept 29, 1864. He re-enlisted Jan. 27, 1865 for one year or the duration of the war, this time being a member of Co. H. 144th Indiana Volunteers. He was honorably discharged Aug. 5 1865. (note: I think the 16 vs 18 year old is just things being slightly mis-remembered or typo).
  • John & Emily's 7th child was a son named...

Woodford Nelson Carlile (in 1860 Vienna township census spelled Carlisle)

  • Born in Dec 22, 1855 Indiana, died Dec 26,1942
  • Married Catherine Ellen Howell
  • their son was ...

Jasper Leslie Carlile

  • Born in Dec 20, 1892 Indiana
  • Married Merle Smith
  • their son is ...

Robert Leslie Carlile

  • Married Olga Gize
  • their son is ...
  • Brad Carlile (me)