The Roads (and Rhodes) of Westfield, Indiana
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
WESTFIELD, INDIANA - Indiana is known as the "Crossroads of America", a name that our state has earned due to the many roads that come and go within our borders. In today's world it's easy to get fixated on the roads that cars travel on. Although US 31 runs through Westfield, there were a pair of more important roads that rested in this Hamilton County community.
1.) The Underground Railroad
Years of Operation: circa 1780 - 1862
The Underground Railroad didn't officially receive its name until the 1830's. This network of secret routes, passage ways, and safe houses helped guide freedom seekers to freedom until the start of the American Civil War.
The Quakers were some of the most prominent conductors of the Underground Railroad and it was the Quakers that established Westfield in 1834. The map below shows the common routes used by freedom seekers during 1848.
2.) The Rhodes Family
Years in Westfield/Hamilton County: 1837-1844
In the year 1837, the Rhodes family used the Underground Railroad to escape slavery in Michigan for a new life in the free state of Indiana. The family ended up settling near Westfield, they were also very close Roberts Settlement, a community of free black people living in Hamilton County.
Through2Eyes video on Roberts Settlement
In 1844 the Rhodes family received a visitor, it was their former owner Singleton Vaughn. He was back to retrieve what he believed was his "rightful property". The people of Westfield rallied together to refuse to let this happen. A wagon that was carrying the Rhodes family to trial was redirected by a Westfield mob, the family escaped town and was never heard from again!
Vaughn was extremely upset and then sued some of the Westfield mob that helped the Rhodes' escape. They were found not guilty.
TEXT ON RHODE FAMILY HISTORICAL MARKER
In 1837, an enslaved family of three escaped from Missouri; settled six miles north of here 1839 with name Rhodes. In 1844, Singleton Vaughn arrived at their home to claim them; family resisted until neighbors arrived. Vaughn agreed to take family to Noblesville for trial. In route, a crowd stopped Vaughn, demanding the family be taken to Westfield.
Urged on by the crowd, driver of wagon carrying family sped to Westfield; family escaped before wagon reached town. Vaughn sued some in crowd, for interfering with his right to reclaim slaves. In Vaughn v. Williams, 1845, jury found defendants not guilty, finding Rhodes family had been freed when a previous owner moved them to Illinois, a free state.
3. The Monon Railroad
Years of Operation: 1847 - 1971
The Monon Railroad, also known as the "Hoosier Line", made a stop in Westfield, Indiana. By stopping in Westfield, passengers were able to travel to and from the area with ease.
Map of the Monon Route and Connections
Westfield, Indiana - Monon Train Depot
If one wanted to travel from Indianapolis to Chicago or vice versa, they had to make a stop in Westfield. And once some people got off in Westfield.. they never got back on.
The rails of the Monon have been converted to a trail that runs from 10th street in Indianapolis right up through Westfield. The trail passes through Westfield's Grand Park, the largest youth sports campus in the country.
Everyone is on their own road in life, traveling to wherever it is that we're headed. Despite the speed that life seems to be moving at, try to stop every once in a while, there's nothing wrong with appreciating where you're at... But just like the Rhodes Family, it's also important to know when to keep going.