Freedomland Cemetery, Floyd Co., IN
New Albany Township
Floyd County, Indiana
From the mid-1800s to approximately 1915, the "Colored People's Burial
Grounds" (as it was known on the deed records) in Floyd Co. Indiana was
the primary burial place for Floyd Co.'s Black population.
New Albany was a major stop on the Underground
Railroad. To survive the crossing of the Ohio at New Albany meant
that an escaped slave had reached freedom. However, many of these
slaves who reached Indiana's beckoning shore did not survive their ordeal
and many of them are reported to be buried here at the "Old Colored People's
This was also the primary burial place for New Albany's Black population
throughout the latter half of the 19th Century.
The site, in excess of 4 acres in size, is literally covered with ancient
graves. A conservative extimate is that there are 300 people buried
here. Because of the enormous size of the cemetery and the density
of field stone markers, some believe the actual number is a good deal higher.
3rd and 4th grade classes at S. Ellen Jones Elementary School have adopted
this cemetery as their community service project. They have invested
a tremendous amount of effort researching the history of the site and as
well as coordinating community-wide efforts to clean up the long-neglected
The goals accomplished by the children have have impressed so many members
of this community. Just a few of the learning activities through
service in which they have been involved are:
The 80 students of the 3rd and 4th grades from S. Ellen Jones Elementary
School are working in conjunction with the efforts of Tom Cannon (the New
Albany Township Trustee), the legal owners of the property (the New Albany
Civic Club), Al Nelson (a local stonecarver), community service workers
provided through the Floyd Superior Court and members of the Southern Indiana
Genealogical Society (SIGS), the Clark County Cemetery Preservation Committee
and the Indiana Pioneer Cemeteries Restoration Project, as well as many
other individuals with an interest in preserving this site.
The students formed committees and wrote a proposal for a grant to legally
rename a local cmetery, work with a local stone carver (Al Nelson) to design
and chisel naming stone and markers, research the history to the time period,
and genealogy research. Students will hopefully work with an archeologist
next year to create a plat plan of the cemetery and begin placing markers
along with continuing to clean up the 4 acre site. Students will
continue to research to create a historical book.
The students researched at the New Albany/Floyd County Library in the Indiana
The students studied Pioneers and the Civil War with field trips and guest
The students studed Laura Ingalls' literature and an introduction to creating
a Family Tree.
The students were visited by genealogist Mary Stauble, who discussed genealogy
with them and offered tips on creating their own Family Trees. She
also shared information about Lucy Nichols who the students have become
greatly interested in this year.
The students were awarded a $______ grant from _____________________!
The students set goals and then formed committees to complete their tasks
for a Community Input Meeting to get suggestions and input to rename the
The students practiced letter writing, thank you notes, addressing envelopes,
using a telephone book and using proper telephone etiquette.
The students practiced public speaking through interviews and presentations
to the public.
The students received an Introduction to small businesses with "Once Upon
a Company", and then came up with an idea to create a factory using
the whole school in order to make and sell necklaces to raise money for
their cause. The emphasis being on the distinction between profit-making
and non-profit organizations.
The students studied limestone, which is Indiana's #1 natural resource.
Indiana is known as the "Capital to the World" for limestone. This
study was important to use since we used limestone for the naming stone
and grave markers.
The students studed technology through the use of the computer to design
the 74''' by 24'' stone sign, using the word processor for their letters,
notes and messages created and printed by the students.
The students designed and chiseled the naming stone and markers with the
help of Al Nelson.
The students have had the experience of working with township officials
(Tom Cannon and Don Harshey), the New Albany Civic Club, the community
at large and Glenn Hancock (an attorney) to legally change the name of
the cemetery from "The Colored People's Burial Grounds" to "Freedomland
The students learned mapping skills by working with an archeologist's survey
to design and create paths for the cemetery. These paths have already
begun to take shape.
The children's first actual workday at the cemetery was Wednesday, May
10, 2000. The 80 students were joined by New Albany Mayor Regina
Overton, Bob Lane (Director of Parks and Recreation), Don Harshey, Pam
Peters (local historian and author) and a host of others.
These remarkable students and their teachers (Ms.
Julia Samples, Ms.Deanna Campbell, Ms. Mickey Hicks, Ms. Anita Seybold
and Ms. Amy Harper) on Saturday, May 13, 2000, combined their efforts 20
or so other people, working tirelessly for hours raking, cleaning and setting
out paths through the site.
the May 13th Community Day, quite a few previously undetected buried fieldstone
markers were discovered, including the one pictured here.
The vast and overwhelming majority of the hundreds of graves found here
are marked only by fieldstone markers. A few are marked with "conventional"
markers, but all of them are broken.
With the permission of the New Albany Civic Cllub, the students have
chosen to rename this site "Freedomland Cemetery", to honor "the history
of our community and realizing there lies a land of freedom for all."
During our time at Freedomland Cemetery on May 13th, Jack Briles and
I had the pleasure of uncovering a beautiful buried stone, covered by at
least 4 inches of composted leaves and forest debris. This stone
probably snapped off its base as a result of the tilting of its base, caused
by the heaving of the earth during the cold winter months. The base
rests nearly horizontal to the ground. The stone was found face down
beneath the soil. It is in spectacular condition and will be very
easy to repair.
Picture #1 above is the stone before excavation began; notice the base
and the stub of the stone in the lower righthand corner. The second
picture is the stone after it was excavated and flipped over as
it fell and was buried face down; notice the impression of the stone in
the black dirt. The third picture is the stone of Maria CHRISTOPHER,
still wet from being washed and gently cleaned. Click on any of the
pictures above for a larger image. Maria's stone (which features
a rose that has fallen from its stem), bears the following inscription:
We'll keep you posted as the students from S. Ellen Jones Elementary School
progress in their plans to make the care of this cemetery a perennial project
for their successor students.
"Maria, wife of John Christopher, a resident of Little Rock,
Ark. Died Jan. 31, 1861; aged 28 years.
"Dearest sister thou hast left us. Here thy loss we deeply
feel. But tis God that hath bereft us. He can all our sorrows
May 14, 2000