Flourishing in the face of adversity

While safer here than in the southeast U.S., laws and ever-present dangers still made it difficult for the Lost Creek settlers. They established a farming community with a church, school and cemetery, employing their own teachers when laws forbid white teachers to teach in the newly developing African American communities. Though still risky for these settlers in Indiana, the community nevertheless grew and flourished, and the people of Lost Creek maintained a successful tradition of owning and farming their own lands, thriving with the independence and growth that allowed them.  

The Lost Creek Settlement was formed beginning in the early 1800’s, when a small group of free African Americans courageously traveled here from Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina to settle in what is now Vigo County in order to escape the greater dangers of the pre-Civil War south. While “free,” the families traveling from North Carolina to Indiana faced huge dangers. The “freedom papers,” they carried offered some protection but they nevertheless risked their lives to settle here. The Lost Creek settlers were among the earliest non-indigenous residents in the county.

Photograph of the Dixon Stewart family provided by Dee Reed

The Lost Creek settlement is a vital part of the Vigo County’s shared history, with many of its descendants living and working in the area today. Art Spaces is working with descendants and other community members to create a piece of public art located in Deming Park to honor and educate views of the settlement, and share its influence on our community.

Celebrating Lost Creek – The Story of an African American Settlement will become part of Terre Haute’s Cultural Trail, formed in 2008 when Art Spaces and other arts and cultural organizations collaborated to honor individuals, groups and icons that have had a noteworthy impact on our community and well beyond, through works of public art. Collectively these artworks capture our city’s unique cultural history while building awareness of the cultural strength of our region. Those completed to date include a figurative sculpture of world renowned poet, Max Ehrmann; a bronze form honoring the composer of Indiana’s state song, Paul Dresser, as well as the Wabash River and Dresser’s song; and a sculpture celebrating phrases from the many works of internationally celebrated American writer, Theodore Dreiser.