A dedication ceremony will be held for The Old Beech Church from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
The ceremony will take place at The Beech Settlement, located at 10258 N. County Road 725 S. in Carthage.
The church was recently renovated and restored. The restoration was completed at a cost of $183,000, $100,000 of which came from a private donor in Indianapolis.
Funds were also donated by Rush County Heritage, the Rush County Historical Society, the Rush County Genealogical Society, the Rush County Foundation and the Indiana Historical Society. Indiana Landmarks also helped move the project forward by putting it on its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Sites in the state.
“It’s a very important part of Rush County history and a very little known part. It was a thriving community,” Vice President of Rush County Heritage Eleanor Arnold said. “It’s something people need to appreciate. We worked very hard to raise money for the restoration.”
Descendants of the church’s original congregation now hold a Homecoming Worship Service annually in the church. This year’s homecoming will be held the day after the dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Old Beech Church.
The community boasted 300 plus members at its peak. The settlement’s name stems from the many beech trees which surround it.
The Beech Settlement’s first inhabitants arrived in the late 1820s. The majority of inhabitants were free blacks and multiracial people who fled North Carolina and Virginia due to oppressive government acts against free blacks following Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831.
The location, which was officially settled in 1828, is the oldest black settlement in the state of Indiana. The settlers created the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1832, which is believed to be the first AME church in the state.
The settlement location was chosen because a Quaker settlement existed in what is now Carthage. Quakers were known for their strong anti-slavery beliefs.
The settlement had two churches, a school and a graveyard. The Old Beech Church and graveyard still exist today.
Arnold said many who lived in the settlement grew up and became teachers and professionals and moved away from the settlement, which helped attribute to its decline. Changing economic conditions are also attributed its decline.
The site was recognized by the Indiana Historical Register last July.
“Many people were not aware of the church. When they saw and heard about it, they realized how important it was,” Arnold said.