Cheyenne Valley in the Town of Forest had one of the largest rural African American settlements in the late 19th century. We have also come to learn that many of those who came were descendants of Free People of Color, and many were descendants of Native People. Their histories intermingled with those of White settlers before the Revolutionary War in the land known as Virginia and continued on in what we now call Cheyenne Valley. There are still many residents in Southwestern Wisconsin who are proud descendants of this rich heritage. Yearly reunions celebrate their history and their present.
Wisconsin’s early defiance of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, requiring slaves to be returned to their plantations, encouraged freed slaves to come to Wisconsin. Aided by Quakers, nearly 150 African American settlers came to Cheyenne Valley and surrounding areas.
The Shivers family was one of the families to establish here. Thomas Shivers used the Underground Railroad to make his way to Cheyenne Valley. Alga (Algie) Shivers (1889-1978) was one of his children and became an integral member of the community. Many of the African American Settlers became known for building “round barns,” which were considered “novel and progressive” and were common in our area. Many round barns are still visible today.
Listen as descendants of Cheyenne Valley speak about their rich heritage.