Sisters to take part in historical marker dedication
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, along with many other organizations, will take part in the dedication of a historical marker for George Ward during a ceremony at 3 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 26.
The event will take place at 100 Dresser Dr., Terre Haute, at the north end of Fairbanks Park where Ward, an African-American, was lynched and his body burned by an angry mob in February 1901. The only lynching to take place in Vigo County occurred on Feb. 26, 1901, when Ward was taken from the county jail, hanged and burned for the murder of Ida Finkelstein.
Other sponsors of the event include the Greater Terre Haute NAACP #3068 and Facing Injustice.
“By acknowledging this horrific, racist lynching of Mr. George Ward, a resident of Terre Haute, we have an opportunity to open ourselves, all of us, to the stark reality of historical and current expressions of systemic racism,” Sisters of Providence Justice Promoter Sister Barbara Battista, SP, said. “We, along with our entire nation, have work to do. Our nation is in the midst of a racial awakening.”
Terre Haute NAACP President Sylvester Edwards said the historical marker will help area residents further understand the history of Vigo County.
“The marker for George Ward will enrich our community in knowing about our past, the good, the bad or the indifferent,” Edwards said. “It has to be known. We’ve taken responsibility of educating the community about our past.
“We’re righting a wrong that happened 120 years ago.”
On Feb. 25, 1901, authorities had received a description of Finkelstein’s assailant before she died and eventually arrested Ward one day later. Ward confessed to the crime, but the angry mob took matters into its own hands, surrounding the police department.
Ward was eventually moved to the county jail but the mob followed, breaking into the jail to take Ward. Reports indicated a blacksmith hit Ward in the head with a sledge hammer, killing him instantly, but the mob continued to drag him to a bridge over the Wabash River to hang him and then burn his body.
Edwards said he hopes many residents plan to attend the event on Sept. 26. Of the 18 documented lynchings to have taken place in Indiana, Vigo County was the first county statewide to acknowledge the injustice.
“I’m proud to see that justice has somewhat been served,” Edwards said. “For the rest of the state, we are the beacon, the vanguard, of what could be justice for the other 17 victims of lynching throughout our state. We have done a good thing here in Terre Haute. A number of organizations, sponsors, citizens and more … they came forth to right this wrong even though it is 120 years later.”
“We have individual work and collective work to do,” Sister Barbara added. “This takes years. As Father Bryan Massingale says, ‘Racism is a soul sickness.’ May the questions, the ponderings, the emotions sparked by this project help each of us build the courage to enter into meaningful conversations.”
Prior to the Sept. 26 marker dedication, Indiana State University Professor and local historian Dr. Crystal Mikell Reynolds will facilitate, “The George Ward Story: A Lynching in Terre Haute,” at 3 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 25, in the Vigo County Historical Society Museum. The historical presentation will include a special guest appearance by Terry Ward, the great-grandson of George Ward.