141 – Reconstruction 1865-1877

The decade after the war was the Reconstruction era. But that optimistic term defied the reality that there were both winners and losers.

Two generations of Jarvis families were living in southeast Indiana. How did they fare?

The Reconstruction Era was a period of government actions to re-integrate the confederate states into the Union and deal with four million newly-freed blacks. But government action wasn’t all. The South was beginning a climate of oppression of freed blacks.

Northern states were dealing with the profound changes brought on by the war. Many had prospered in the war economy. But some areas were not enjoying the economic expansion.

In Indiana, Indianapolis and the northern part of the state entered a period of economic prosperity. Southern Indiana’s economy was diminished as railroads replaced Ohio River commerce. In Jefferson County, where the Jarvises lived, the economy tanked.

The county fell into economic decline after the American Civil War, as industry began to shift from southern Indiana to the northern part of the state.

Jefferson County, Indiana – Wikipedia

Harvey and Sarah Jarvis (4G)

In 1860, Harvey and Sarah were living on Johnson Watt’s farm in Dearborn County. After the war, in April 1868, they purchased 20 acres at Hicks Ridge in Shelby Township and moved back to Jefferson County. Harvey and Sarah were age 65.

Jarvis families – late 1860s to mid-1870s

This was near where they had lived earlier in the 1850s, and near where several of their sons were living. James, Joseph, and Lafayette and their families were living nearby.

Son William was living just east of Cross Plains, next to his cousins Harvey, Jr. and John. That was about five miles away.

Son Milton and his family were living on the same farm with Harvey and Sarah.

This decade seems like a period of stability for the Jarvis families.

Joseph and Martha Jarvis (3G)

After the war, Joseph and Martha bought and sold several farms, all in Shelby Township, Jefferson County. From 1865 to 1875, they moved five times.

They were living near their extended families, Joseph near his parents and three brothers. Martha was living near her many Buchanan relatives.

From farm to farm

Their 1866 farm (No. 3 on map) was large – 131 acres. Unlike their earlier “difficult” farm, all these farms look arable. It seems Joseph was trying to make a go as a farmer instead of relying on income as a mason.

Whatever the case, they moved and bought and sold land frequently.

Their last farm (No. 6 on map) was a joint venture, bought in 1873 by Joseph and Martha (2/3 share) and Moses and Elizabeth Buchanan (1/3 share). Moses Buchanan was Martha’s brother. Moses was also a brick mason. But they must have intended to make it as farmers. It wasn’t a successful venture because the loan was foreclosed two years later in 1875.

Deed – foreclosure – Joseph and Martha Jarvis, Moses and Elizabeth Buchanan – 1875

Under the foreclosure terms, the Jarvises and Buchanans could retain possession until March 1, 1876. Where then?

More children

Children of Joseph and Martha Jarvis

At the outset of the war, Joseph and Martha had three children, including our grandfather Newton, born in 1855.

A daughter Lavina Miranda was born in 1863 during the war.

Census – Joseph and Martha Jarvis – Shelby Township, Jefferson County, Indiana – 1870

In the 1870 census, Harvey is age 40, Martha age 35. There are two more children – Luella and John. By 1877, the end of the Reconstruction era, two more children were born – Lillian Frances and George. Eight children in all during a 23 year span.


…it was not until after the Civil War that Indiana had a uniform, free, rural district school system in place…

Indiana’s Public Common and High Schools Multiple Property Documentation Form
School No. 2 – Newton, Charles, Miranda Jarvis

In the 1870 census, we see that Newton, 14, “goes to school”, along with siblings Charles, 12, and Miranda, 7. It had become the norm for children of farm families to attend school.

They probably attended School No. 2, in Hicks Ridge. It was just over a mile from their 1866 farm, and less than two miles after their 1869 move.

…the 1840 census showed that one of seven Hoosiers was illiterate (highest of all in the former Northwest Territory); that less than 18% of eligible children attended school; and that the rate of illiteracy was below three slave-holding states.

Farmers, who constituted the majority of the population, often saw little benefit in making education a necessity, since schooling seemed to train youth for a future in commercial enterprises rather than farming.

By the late 1870s, some 500,000 pupils annually were enrolled in Indiana’s common school system. In
1882 alone, Hoosiers staffed, equipped, and built 499 new schoolhouses.

Indiana’s Public Common and High Schools Multiple Property Documentation Form

Reading, math, spelling, and grammar were common subjects. Depending on the talents of the teacher, history or other studies might be offered. Chalk and tablets, instead of costly paper, were the norm for writing lessons.

Indiana’s Public Common and High Schools Multiple Property Documentation Form

The children’s grandparents Harvey and Sarah lived just a few yards from the school. I’ll bet the grandkids visited frequently.

Baptist church

Joseph and Martha were active in their Baptist Church. Milton and Mary Ann Jarvis were too. Probably the other Jarvis families were also members.

The church building was in Hicks Ridge, across the road north from the school, and just past the blacksmith shop from Harvey and Sarah’s home.

Here’s a brief history of the Center Grove (Hicks Ridge) Baptist Church. Martha Buchanan Jarvis’ grandfather Wilson Buchanan had founded the previous church in 1829.

Center Grove was the older name for Hicks Ridge. This church was founded as a Separate Baptist Church (This denomination still exists, but there appear to be no churches closer to the Indian-Kentuck area than Bartholomew Co.) and probably succeeded the Center Baptist Church. A letter dated “Canaan, May 14, 1922” in the records of the Jefferson County Library gives the date of the building of the Center Grove Baptist Church as 1859. The letter was written by John E. Harper.

On April 11, 1860, James and Emeline Risk (daughter of Wilson Buchanan, himself a messenger from the Center Baptist Church) sold a half-acre tract to the Center Grove trustees, William Campbell, William H. Whitham and James M. Campbell, in the NW1/4 SW1/4 Section 1 Twp. 5N Range 11E. (Jefferson Co. Deed Book 18 p. 170.) The 1850 census for Shelby Township shows a Henry Serber, age 40, occupation given as Sep. (probably Separate) Bap. Minister. He could have easily served the Hicks/Center Grove community.

The most thorough listing of members in official records came on June 27, 1874 when Center Grove trustees were elected. On the motion of Joseph Jarvis and M. Cooper, members named John Kerry (or King?) as Judge. Standing for election were James Thornton, Levi Lewis, Robert Lewis, Thomas Baker, Joseph R. Jarvis, Milton Jarvis, Casper Land, Michael Cooper. Elected were Thornton, Levi and Robert Lewis, Baker, Joseph Jarvis. J.J. Fleming was listed as moderator and David Buchanan as clerk (Miscellaneous Records Book 1 p. 291.)

Churches of the Indian-Kentuck Region

Milton Jarvis is Joseph’s brother. He and his family were living next door to parents Harvey and Sarah.

Henry Serber was the minister. David Buchanan may have been Martha’s father, but certainly a nearby relative.

Reconstruction ended in 1877

Where did things stand in 1877? The Reconstruction Era ended in 1877.

Harvey and Sarah (4G) were both age 74 in 1877. They were living with their son Milton and his family. But a move is in their near future.

In 1877, Joseph was age 47, Martha age 42 (3G). Their joint venture farm with Moses and Elizabeth Buchanan was foreclosed in 1875. They had to vacate by March 1, 1876. What’s next for them? A move.

Newton Jarvis (2G) was 22 years old. There’s a marriage in his future. And a move.

Nibbles Extra Credit

A truce – not a compromise, but a chance for high-toned gentlemen to retire gracefully from their very civil declarations of war.” By Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, 1877 Feb 17

The end of Reconstruction

There was widespread fraud in the election! In four battleground states, both parties declared their electors victorious. Both candidates declared victory and refused to concede. The conflict resulted in violence and even deaths.

Sound familiar? Yes, but this was the presidential election of 1876. Samuel Tilden won the popular vote over Rutherford Hayes. But in four southern states, each party submitted its own slate of electors. So neither candidate had the 185 electoral votes needed to win.

Congress established an Electoral Commission to decide the outcome. While the commission was meeting in late January and February 1877, backroom negotiations were going on. Southern Democrats agreed not to block the victory for Republican Rutherford Hayes in exchange for withdrawal of federal troops from the South and granting home rule to the South.

The commission awarded the four states’ votes to Hayes, and he won 185 to 184 in the closest election in US history. Hayes was sworn in on March 5, 1877.

Hayes removed US troops from the southern states, and Reconstruction was over. The Compromise changed the course of southern politics for the next 100 years.

From the late 1870s onward, southern legislatures passed a series of laws requiring the separation of whites from “persons of color” on public transportation, in schools, parks, restaurants, theaters and other locations. Known as the “Jim Crow laws” (after a popular minstrel act developed in the antebellum years), these segregationist statutes governed life in the South through the middle of the next century, ending only after the hard-won successes of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Compromise of 1877 – History.com

An interesting result of this constitutional crisis was the Electoral Count Act of 1887. It was instrumental in the procedures just used in the 2020 presidential election and January 2021 certification of electoral votes.

Congress would eventually enact the Electoral Count Act in 1887 to provide more detailed rules for the counting of electoral votes, especially in cases where multiple slates of electors have been received from a single state.

1876 United States presidential election – Wikipedia

Timeline 1865-1877


  • Image – Reconstruction – Reconstruction Panorama: Reconstruction post-Civil War scene advertising poster. Transcendental Graphics/G – ThoughtCo
  • Image – “The First Vote,” illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 16, 1867, showing African American men, their attire indicative of their professions, waiting in line for their turn to vote. A.R. Waud/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZ62-19234)
  • Census – Joseph and Martha Jarvis – 1870 – Ancestry.com
  • Census – Harvey and Sarah Jarvis – 1870 – Ancestry.com
  • Map composites – Harvey Jarvis and Joseph Jarvis – Shelby Township, Jefferson County, Indiana – Jefferson County, Indiana Plat Maps – 1876 – Jefferson County Historical Society, Madison, Indiana
  • Map composites – School No. 2 – Map of Jefferson County, Indiana – Madison, Ind. : C. Reynolds Cosby, 1900 – Library of Congress – https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4093j.la000152/?r=-0.385,0,1.77,1.047,0
  • Quotations and information about Indiana schools – Indiana’s Public Common and High Schools Multiple Property Documentation Form – Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology – https://www.in.gov/dnr/historic/files/schoolsmpdf.pdf
  • Quotations and information on Center Grove Hicks Baptist Church – Churches of the Indian-Kentuck Region – Robert W. Scott – 1999 – https://ruthh.tripod.com/chscott1.html
  • Deed – Harvey and Sarah Jarvis to Mary Ann Jarvis – Jefferson County Recorder’s Office – Madison, Indiana
  • Image of Tilden cartoon – “A truce – not a compromise, but a chance for high-toned gentlemen to retire gracefully from their very civil declarations of war.” By Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, 1877 Feb 17, p. 132 – Commons Wikimedia – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tilden_or_blood.jpg
  • Quotation about the Compromise of 1877 – Compromise of 1877History.com – https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/compromise-of-1877
  • Quotation about 1887 Electoral Act – 1876 United States presidential election – Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1876_United_States_presidential_election

2 thoughts on “141 – Reconstruction 1865-1877

  1. Brenda Teply February 20, 2021 / 12:22 pm

    I find it most interesting that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow rated a position in your timeline.


  2. Mark Jarvis February 20, 2021 / 5:04 pm

    Lol. Kick over a lantern. Start a fire. Or do some other shameless act of publicity, and you, too, can be on the timeline.


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