Local History Topics
Watch the McIntosh Memorial Library video:
"African American Heritage in Vernon County"
Learn about the lives of early settlers Ashley and Ellen Shivers by the Enduring Families Project.
The Cheyenne Valley area near Hillsboro was Wisconsin’s largest rural African American settlement in the 19th century. The State’s early defiance of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and the later demise of the slavery system after the Civil War encouraged freed slaves to settle in Wisconsin. Nearly 150 African American settlers, with the assistance of the Quaker religious order, came to Hillsboro, where they successfully farmed. Many settlers became landowners, and a few, like Thomas Shivers who was born on a Tennessee plantation, owned large acreages.
The African American settlers socialized well with neighboring European immigrants, establishing some of the State's first integrated schools, churches and sporting teams. Thomas Shivers' son, Alga Shivers, was a notable builder, designing and constructing many of Vernon County’s round barns in the early 20th century. The advent of the automobile, and other elements of change, led to the gradual decline of the rural African American population.
-State Historical Marker located at Cheyenne Settlers Heritage Park.
Would you like to learn more about Cheyenne Valley and see the State Historical Marker?
Take a Driving Tour of Cheyenne Valley: