Roberts Settlement is seeking to raise $100,000 through a capital campaign that will eventually bring an interpretive outdoor exhibit to educate the public about Hamilton County’s Black pioneer history.
Plans for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk were unveiled Feb. 23 at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Noblesville, where more than 60 people attended to learn more about the IMAGINE! Black Pioneers fundraising campaign. The settlement is on 276th Street just east of U.S. 31 in Atlanta in northern Hamilton County.
Roberts Settlement was established in 1835 by free people of color who migrated mostly from North Carolina and Virginia to escape deteriorating racial conditions. Their goals were the pursuit of economic, educational, and religious aspirations with greater freedom and fewer racial barriers, according to the Roberts Settlement website.
Visitors to the settlement can now find a chapel and cemetery, which organizers say represents a once-thriving community that continued to grow through the late 1800s.
More than $340,000 has been raised so far, and organizers are seeking an additional $100,000 for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk, which will include an accessible walking path and a “Morning Light” entry feature symbolizing exploration, discovery, opportunity and hope.
The Legacy Walk will take visitors through four separate themed stations: “Roots & Migration,” “Progress & Perseverance,” “Faith & Reverence” and “Legacy & Footprints.” Each station will include a title monolith, a bench and a graphic reader rail with interpretive content.
“The outpouring of support of this magnitude has been little less than amazing,” said LaVella Hyter, president of Roberts Settlement. “These donations allow us to move forward with a groundbreaking during our 100th annual homecoming in July with the intent to have the Legacy Walk open in late fall.”
Hyter said at the peak of the settlement, there were as many 300 family members and 2,000 acres with the chapel being built in 1858 that still remains today. The chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, Hyter said.
In July, officials will hold their 100th consecutive homecoming at the Roberts Settlement site. Hyter said she is appreciative of the donations that have been made so far toward the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk and remained optimistic that organizers would reach their goal through the public campaign.
“We’re hopeful that this will put this over the top,” she said.
Hyter noted that at one time, there were nearly 100 African American settlements in Indiana, with only a handful left. She added that those settlements were pioneers and noted that nearly 180 years later, Roberts Settlement is still in existence.
Hyter said when the public visits the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk, she wants them to learn about history, but to also come back.
“No matter what the demographics are of those visitors that will be coming in there, whether you’re hearing impaired, whether you’re visually impaired, young or old, you’ll be able to capture the essence of that pioneer experience that was so valuable that went on during that period of time,” she said.
For more or to donate to the campaign, visit robertssettlement.org/legacy-walk.html.