Twentieth-Century Sundown Towns: The Carter Road Subdivision in Elkhart County
Just south of the Goshen College campus, the Carter Road subdivision has a good view of the pond created by the Goshen Dam. It is rather unassuming but serves as a reminder of Goshen's past as a “sundown town.” During the first half and mid-20th century, sundown towns restricted Blacks from living in communities across the Midwest such as Goshen. The Carter Road Subdivision had conditions and restrictions in the land deeds that stated, “No person other than a person of the Caucasian race shall at any time be permitted to own or occupy any portion of this real estate contained in this plat or subdivision, save and except that a domestic servant actually employed by the occupant of a dwelling on said real estate.” Threats of violence made it unsafe for African Americans to be in Goshen after night had fallen.
Free Blacks began migrating to Elkhart County starting with the Dean and Clyburn families in the 1840s. It wasn’t until the 1910s and 1920s that African Americans began arriving in large numbers. As part of the mass migration of African Americans from the South known as the Great Migration, Elkhart’s railroad companies recruited black farmhands from Kentucky and Tennessee to fill the worker gap left by men fighting in World War I. With men moving to Elkhart to work on the railroad, neighborhoods formed on the south side of the city of Elkhart. Goshen’s population remained mostly white and native born due to sundown town practices. In the 1890 census Goshen is listed as having 20 people of color. By 1920 census numbers list Goshen’s African American residents dropping to just 2. In contrast, in the city of Elkhart, the African American population grew as railroad companies recruited African Americans from the South.
Starting in 1936, Goshen promoted its exclusionary practices to court white people moving to and businesses investing in Goshen. For the next 15 years Goshen’s Mayor’s Office portrayed the town as a wonderful, law-abiding community largely due to the fact that it was all white and “there is no Negro population.” This, coupled with restrictive deeds like the ones used for the Carter Road Subdivision, are indications of Goshen’s history as a sundown town.
In 2015, Goshen City Council confronted this issue by unanimously passing a resolution acknowledging its past as a sundown town. Goshen remains among the few known sundown towns to publicly face and acknowledge its racist past.