The Sugar Creek Township community in rural Boone County was once a thriving and free community for Black Southerners who had moved north in the early 1850s. Today, all that remains of that community is a small cemetery on the outskirts of Thorntown, Indiana.
While he was still in high school, O’Neill Public Safety Management major Reece Thompson read an article in the Lebanon newspaper about the town’s only Black cemetery. It was on a plot of land originally purchased by the Quaker community and given to the town’s Black residents to use as a burial site. At the time, Black people were not allowed to be buried within town limits.
Through the article, Thompson learned the cemetery had fallen into disrepair.
“It’s the only African American history left in Thorntown and is believed to be one of the less than 10 African American cemeteries remaining in Indiana,” he explains. “I think that’s a pretty important thing. That community helped build the town. People often don’t recognize their own town’s history, but the early Black pioneers and this cemetery are a giant piece of Thorntown’s past.”