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This Tour is a Walking Tour.

Progressivism in East Indiana

Created by Kevin Loudon on May 8th 2020, 6:39:56 pm.

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The Eastern end of Indiana has shown progressive ideals since early on in our history. It has held a strong part in the Underground Railroad and confronting women's rights. The Levi Coffin house served as a main stay in Eastern Indiana for runaway slaves, helping them cross over into free territory. East Indiana also held Indiana’s first women’s rights convention. It has served many generations of progressivism and shows the true ideology of the history of Indiana. Through this tour, the readers will see how powerful the impact of a few people can be. This tour will uncover the many events, places, and things that make East Indiana the progressive heart of Indiana. The Levi Coffin House was run by Levi Coffin and his wife, Catharine Coffin. They were both Quakers, highly supportive of abolitionism. They proved to be legendary along the Underground Railroad. In fact, “During the 20 years they lived in Newport, the Coffins helped more than 2,000 slaves reach safety.” In their time serving the Underground Railroad, they helped keep runaway slaves for weeks concealed from the outside world. From their home they would escape to place like Cincinnati and Jeffersonville. The Coffin’s were so well maneuvered that they did not have a single runaway slave caught that was stowed away in their home. The house even had an indoor well built for the excessive amount of guests they hosted. One of the people that stayed with the Coffin’s later shared her story in the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Due to these heroic stories, Coffin has been regarded as the President of the Underground Railroad. Although the house was originally constructed in 1839, it was later bought by the State of Indiana in 1970. Places such as this, stand to show how impactful one man can be and Levi Coffin did so as a Hoosier in Eastern Indiana. The struggle of making ends meet was a difficult task for many American settlers. Many of those, traveled the Old Trail Road with families and children in hopes of finding a better fortune. What we tend to forget are the women who were suffering along this trail. The pregnant mothers walking miles every day and the women who worked or fought for the men during wartime. The Madonna of the Trail is a group of historical statues that are to represent, “the balance of women’s strength alongside their softer maternal symbolism.” One of these Madonna of the Trail statues was placed in Richmond, Indiana. During this time, it was a major representation of values towards women. It was erected in 1928, which was a time when women were advocating heavily for equality. The Eastern side Indiana was already a progressive dominant area and was a location where women had suffered immensely. There were many women of Indiana that would do the dirty work of a man, but still managed to highlight their motherly intellect. Therefore, this statue to represent women strength is fitting to the location of Richmond, Indiana. The great city of Indianapolis was fighting for the statue to be erected there, but it was overruled and the statue was placed here in Richmond. During the early 1800s, the United States was trying to create a major highway to connect different parts of the country. It was called the National Road and the process of building it was begun in 1811. Finally, with a major highway in place, it made traveling much easier and allowed for business all along it. People could travel from Maryland to Illinois on one single road. This place, the Huddleston Farmhouse, became one of those businesses along the National Road. Built just off of the National Road, the Farmhouse served as an Inn for travelers. It provided a place to eat and rest for both the travelers and their horses. While the country began to change and adapt to the new world, the great state of Indiana did as well. This Farmhouse serves as a landmark for Eastern Indiana business. The Huddleston’s took the business opportunity of change and progressivism to make a life of their own. Today, the Huddleston’s Farmhouse is a museum for the National Road and gives visitors a look at how travelers of today have a drastically disparate life on the road than our ancestors. The women of the United States have been fighting for equality since the birth of the nation. It was not until the 1900s did they gain legal acknowledgment for their value. The women of Indiana were on the forefront of activism for their rights. Indiana women held their first women’s rights convention in 1851. In the city of Greensboro, Indiana a convention was called by the reform-minded Congressional Friends. It indeed had an effective purpose considering the outcome lead to, “resolutions for political, social, and financial rights for women.” The women took action two more times the following two years. The women formed the Indiana Women’s Rights Association in 1852 and then in 1853 held a convention demanding equality in politics. These women were revolutionary in their approach. They must be one of the earliest on the scene of women’s suffrage.