HOOPESTON — Reece Thompson, the grandson of George and Connie Kult of Hoopeston, was one of two winners of the Indiana Landmarks’ 2020 Sandi Servaas Memorial Awards for preserving the 1836 Thorton Colored Cemetery near Thornton, Ind.
Thompson, a high school sophomore at the time, was looking for an Eagle Scout project in 2016 when he learned about the little cemetery and its significant heritage from a local newspaper.
Meeting with cemetery trustees, the local newspaper editor, library historian, state officials, county attorney and scout leaders, he was instrumental in forming the Colored Cemetery Committee. Gathering volunteers, collecting donations, securing permits and a corporate sponsor and writing grants for the project, Thompson was able to restore the little cemetery’s four stones, erect a new marker telling of the history and placing a decorative fence around the gravestones. He helped secure the $16,000 Indiana Historical Society Heritage Support grant to make the restoration possible to preserve the cemetery’s history.
Thompson went even further, locating and inviting the descendants of the four people buried in the little cemetery as guests of honor for the dedication of the cemetery in August of 2019.
In 1836, according to the history, Thorton’s black residents were not allowed to be buried within the city limits. Members of the Quaker community purchased the cemetery’s grounds to provide a resting place for them. The Thornton Colored Cemetery, located in Boone County, “is the only known African American cemetery, and one of the only tangible connections to the community’s Black heritage.”
Reece Thompson was honored September 12 at the Indiana Landmarks’ 2020 annual meeting.