The Vigo County Cemetery is tied to centuries of African-American history


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Earlier this week, Stewart Lawn Cemetery received a $14,500 grant to complete several restoration projects around the grounds.

Cemetery board chairman Louis Ross said the efforts are important for what he called a landmark.

“It’s important to preserve that just for the essentials of preserving African-American history. It’s a landmark,” he said.

The cemetery is near where the Lost Creek Colony was located, one of Indiana’s first African-American settlements, and is home to hundreds of area descendants.

Local historian Dr Crystal Reynolds said caring for cemeteries is a tradition in many African cultures.

“First, it’s because of the ancestors. Part of African culture is that we have to honor our ancestors and as you know we are descendants of Africans,” she said. “One of the best ways to honor ancestors is to make sure the place where they rest, rest forever, is taken care of.”

Reynolds said cemeteries can also play a role in documenting history.

“Making sure our ancestors, we preserve their resting place, making sure we get to know our ancestors, and making sure we tell these stories about African-American culture are some of the reasons we preserve cemeteries. “, said Reynolds.

She added that tombstones can be a good window into people’s history.

“On tombstones, it’s an amazing way to learn history because every tombstone tells a story. It tells about the person, when they died, their hobbies, all the clubs they were in.

Ross said more repairs and projects are still needed around the cemetery. He said they have been accepting donations since becoming a non-profit organization and donations can be made on their website.

As Ross grew older, he understood the importance of cemeteries and the significance they hold.

“As you get older you realize what the graveyards used to be, and then who’s in the graveyard because one day I’ll be there so I wanted to make sure he’s okay maintained, and it continues.” said Ross.

Reynolds said it was important to learn from something with a deep connection to a historic colony.

“African-American history is everyone’s history. This is the story of the United States, this is the story of the world,” she said.


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