From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Edrington, Gustavus V.

(born: 1813) Gustavus V. Edrington was an escaped enslaved person  from Kentucky. When his holder attempted to take him back to Kentucky, the Brookville, IN, community came to his rescue.

Edrington had come to Brookville by way of Butler County, OH, where he married Malinda Jefferson in 1838. Malinda was born in 1823 in Ohio, Edrington in Virginia in 1813. They were both described as Mulattoes. Shortly after their marriage the couple moved to Iowa, a free state, where their four children were born. In 1850, the year their fourth child was born, the Edringtons moved to Brookville in Franklin County, IN. They are listed as free in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census. Gustavus owned a barbershop there.

Brookville was a fairly new town: the area had been inhabited by several American Native American tribes before the Moravian missionaries settled there in 1801. Franklin County was incorporated in 1811. Many families were drawn to the area when construction was started on the Whitewater Canal in 1834; it would become a major avenue for waterway transportation. And the population jumped again with the building of the Duck Creek Aqueduct in 1848. There were 2,315 heads-of-households in 1830 and 17,979 persons in 1850, including 115 free Blacks (nine born in KY) and 104 free Mulattoes (five born in KY).

Enslavement had been prohibited in the Indiana territory by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, but it allowed the reclaiming of fugitive enslaved people. Settlers from Kentucky and Virginia who held enslaved people ignored the ordinance, and the Indiana territorial legislature created laws that circumvented the ordinance, thus allowing for both enslavement and indefinitely indentured servants.

The abolitionist members of the legislature gained control around 1809 and were able to overturn many of the pro-enslavement and indentured servant laws.

Gustavus Edrington had been in Brookville about six years when his former holder and a posse from Kentucky arrived and identified Edrington as a fugitive slave; he was put in jail and was to be taken back to Kentucky and enslavement.

News of his capture spread fast, and when night fell, the men of Brookville went to the jail and released Edrington. They next found the men from Kentucky and told them to leave town or they would be hanged; the men left town. Edrington continued his barber business in Brookville until some time during the Civil War when he moved to Centerville, IN and opened a barbershop and soda fountain.

For more see "Slave hunters got rebuff at Brookville," Greensburg Daily News, 11/27/1936, p. 4; and "Bury me in a free land: the Abolitionist Movement in Indiana," by Gwen Crenshaw (an website).

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NKAA Source: Greensburg daily news (newspaper)

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“Edrington, Gustavus V.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-14 19:16:47