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Henry County Genealogical Services

William Trail Sr. 1784 - 1858

An Early African-American Settler
Of Henry County, IN

   The following is a letter that was submitted to the Kennard Historical Society by Chlotile M. Trail, who was the great-granddaughter of William Trail Sr. who was born a slave on 23 May 1774 at Montgomery Country, Maryland and escaped to freedom in Henry County, State of Indiana. The letter is a very brief history of the Trail family, an African-American family that lived in Greensboro Township for many years, coming here in March of 1833. Chlotile mentions the four generations of Trails that lived in Henry County, that ends in the 1950s with the death of Leora Trail, who at her request, was buried in the Trail family cemetery just east of Shirley, here in Henry County, in April of 1950 at the age of 83 years.

   --By early 1800 many people found themselves in America, The New World. They came for freedom, a better life style and adventure but they were needed on al all levels to help develop the vast new land. The life styles of members of the various groups overlapped in many ways. William Trail, Sr. was born in America found and himself a necessary part of the economy but not independent. He was too aggressive to tolerate the lack of freedom and independence. With money in his pocket and a good horse, Trail started west. He, like many others, encountered problems but finally reached his goal and settled in the territory known since 1816 as the State of Indiana
   Connersville was the area in which further plans were developed. These plans included the seeking of his land of his own, marriage and a family. His wife, Sarah, of the McCowan family of Fayette County, became a very worthy companion. It was her idea that the land was plentiful and fertile enough to make a good living and raise a family without going farther west. Log cabins with flat logs were fashionable, so they built one with fireplaces and a porch. Nearby. They dug a well for water. Economics played a factor in the size of the family, so they had seven sons.
   William Trail, Jr., Archibald Trail, Sr., and Brasilla Trail were the sons known for many years at the original location. Four of the brothers served in the Civil War, two of the brothers, Sgt, Maj. Benjamin Trail and Pvt. James Trail gave their lives for the cause in the war of the Rebellion (Civil War.) the other two who served were William, Jr. and David Trail and that leaves brother Joseph Trail who was at home. After the Union was saved many were disgruntled, but others were able to realize numerous benefits. The remaining two sons, David and Joseph, left the State. It may be attributed to the father of William Trail, Sr., or one of his sons, that many Trails live in London, England. The English Trails have some of the same given names as the Indiana Trails.
   Brasilla Trail, of the second generation, is remembered for his "Wild Flower and Huming Bird Park" referred to as "Trail's Grove." Newt Trail, Clark Trail Leora Trail and Archibald Trail, Jr., (called Boss) were third generation. Boss Trail was the penman painter and artist. He painted houses and barns of the countryside. He painted many buggies and signs in his shop at Shirley. The business signs, many done in gold leaf, in Shirley and Wilkinson, were almost exclusively his work. In the second decade of the twentieth century, Trail the painter, could not endure the many existing conflicts and made his move to Chicago, Illinois, which provided a new and better enviroment.
   Arthenia and Chlotine Trail, daughters of Archibald and Edna Trail, are part of the fourth generation. They walked the railroad tracks to attend the old two-room eastside elementary school in Shirley. Both attended Kennard High School until 1922 and 1926. They continued their education in Indiana by attending and completing what was then referred to as Ball State Teacher's College in Muncie, Afterwards, they went to the East Coast to pursue their careers. The requirements for teachers continued to increase and as a consequence they attended Columbia University in New York City where degrees were awarded. Both retired in 1968 and have been living in Indianapolis. Their name Trail has been a part of Henry County and Indiana history for 186 years, or back to 1814, before Indiana became a State.
   Shirley, Henry County, Indiana and the surrounding area have much history that fits into National and World history. There is much about the land and its people that can be compared to and contrasted with some other lands and people of the world. The area is fortunate to be a part of the world's greatest Democracy that has the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for a foundation --.

Chlotile M. Trail

   NOTE: The following is a letter Miss Chlotile Trail sent to the Kennard Historical Society to be published in the book "More Tales of Greensboro Township. A Sequel" Published in 1998
   "I am Chlotile M. Trail and I graduated from Kennard High School in 1922. I am approaching my 92nd birthday on April 21, 1996. I am living in the Robin Reno Run Retirement Village in Indianapolis, Indiana
   I lived near the Trail's Grove, or the Wildflower and Hummingbird Park. This location was also the stop #24 on the Indianapolis to Dayton, Ohio Interurban Line, 2 miles west of Kennard.
   There were no schools buses, hot lunches or computers and classmates did not dictate our style of wearing apparel or hobbies.
   After graduation, the school continued to be meaningful, particularly when one was in position of having to submit qualifications, or to more fully understand other parts of the world that we had been taught about in history or literature.
   I went to Indiana State Normal, Ball State Teacher's College and Columbia University in New York City. I studied in the field of Elementary Education and Administration. I was able to advance normally from level to level as there were no deficiencies as far back as Kennard High School.
   I retired in 1968 after 35 years of interesting work on different levels. My retirement is from an interesting suburban area of Washington, D. C.
   To mention a few things, and how interesting to have been able to enjoy Buckingham Palace, Ann Hathaway's Cottage, the Coliseum, Windmills and Tulips of Holland, Rhine River, etc. which includes numerous places in other parts of the world. Henry County and Greensboro Township can appreciate its emphasis on fundamental skills, family relationships maybe end with today's term of much usage "Moral Values."
   At the bottom of my report cards, I can remember the grade for Deportment, which was expected to be as high or higher than the subject matter grades."

Chlotile M. Trail 1995

Note: Chlotine M. Trail passed away on Sunday, January 28, 1996 at the age of 91 years, two months short of her 92nd birthday
U.E.Bush, 2004

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