On June 28, Indiana Forest Alliance, Indiana Landmarks, and Saving Historic Orange County led a guided hike of historic Lick Creek African American settlement near the Buffalo Trace in Orange County, Ind., an area is due to be subjected to burning, logging and pesticides as part of the Forest Service’s controversial proposed Buffalo Springs “Restoration” Project.
Lick Creek Settlement, also known as Paddy’s Garden and Little Africa, was one of Indiana’s first free African American settlements with pioneers settling there before Indiana statehood. Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first Black US Senator and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, preached in the settlement’s church along with his brother, and church founder, Rev Willis Revels.
The historic Buffalo Trace runs through the heart of Orange Co. just south of the settlement. The Trace started in Clarksville, Ind. at the Falls of the Ohio and ran to the Indiana Territory capital Vincennes on the Wabash River. Thousands of travelers took the trail headed west during the early 19th century. Items of national significance connected to the Trace are numerous.
IFA Hoosier National Forest Program Director Steven Stewart says the national historical significance of the area only strengthens IFA’s commitment to protecting the area set to be disturbed by the US Forest Service’s Buffalo Springs proposal.
“We opposed the Forest Service’s plans to slash and burn these forests based on the environmental costs alone, but when you add the unique historical value of these African American settlements, it’s a no-brainer that we need an official designation to protect these historic and ecologically important lands,” Stewart said. “As a conservation group, IFA’s primary mission is to protect the forests, but as human beings we should all want to preserve such a unique historic site as this one as well. Much talk of the possible creation of a national monument or a ‘Little Smoky Mountain’ National Park has happened. It’s an exciting time for the preservation of our shared American culture and our public forests.”
Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program Director Eunice Trotter emphasized the site’s unique position in the history of the Hoosier State and how it relates to Indiana Landmark’s mission.
“Indiana Landmarks was founded to identify and protect landmarks important to the history of our state, and the Lick Creek settlement is a fundamental piece of Hoosier history,” said Trotter. “For the sake of present and future generations, this area must receive official protected status – and an immediate end to the Forest Service’s proposed destruction.”
Efforts to create a permanent status for protection of the Buffalo Trace and the Lick Creek Settlement are also being pursued by the Buffalo Trace Preservation Group, the Roberts, Thomas, and Bonds Historical Society and many others across the state.
Please find photos from the guided hike here.