Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Neighbors

February 6, 2014

Pat Smith: African American church was important

Greensburg — Richard Lewis was one of the signers of a petition circulated years before the occurrence of 1907.

That petition asked that African American children be able to attend school with white children. Richard Lewis’ son, David Robert Lewis, was born. Lewis graduated from Greensburg High in the class of 1879 with 25 other graduates. The class of 1890 had two African American students, Andrew Brooks and Elizabeth Wylie. There were only 18 graduates that year. Maggie Lewis graduated with 29 other students in the class of 1891.

Oscar Langston, another graduate of Greensburg High School attended college and became a dentist in Indianapolis. It should be noted that many residents of Greensburg, Decatur County and other counties and states did not graduate from high school in those days.

After David Robert Lewis (usually signed his name D. Robert Lewis) graduated from high school, he enrolled at Purdue University. He earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering and became Purdue’s first Black Engineering graduate. His senior thesis was titled “Highway Road Construction.” He went on to teach mechanical drawing at Virginia’s Hampton Institute for 12 years, before settling into a successful career as a real estate broker in Pittsburgh, Virginia.

Until 1894 African Americans in Greensburg had met for Christian services in private homes during the 1860s and 1870s, and later services were held in a room on the southwest corner of the square. In 1894 Cortez and Mary Ewing, Samuel A. and Abbie A. Bonner, Marine D, unmarried, Benjamin F. and Ellen E. Bennett, for the consideration of $280, sold to the African M.E. Church of Greensburg, commonly known as Bethel Mission Church of Greensburg, Lot 10 and the East one-half of Lot 9 in Jas. N. Anderson’s subdivision of Out-lots 1,2,3 & 4 of Thomas Hendricks addition to the town (now city) of Greensburg. (Deed dated May 4, 1894, recorded May 5, 1894).

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