I stepped onto the wooden block and peered in through the back window. I took in the one room cabin. Bed, table, wardrobe, fireplace. I had journeyed to Sheridan, a rural town north of Indianapolis, to see the 1828 log cabin of George and Hannah Boxley.
Why was I interested in the Boxley cabin in the middle of rural Hamilton County—there is nothing else around and no reason to come to the small town of Sheridan? Because George Boxley was a former slave owner, initiator of a slave rebellion, and abolitionist who was part of the underground railroad. (Clearly, his thinking radically changed somewhere along the line.)
I had seen Levi Coffin’s home and read about the migration of Quakers to the Fountain City (formerly Newport) area. I had heard about abolitionists in the Vincennes area and the Indiana Supreme Court decision of Mary Bateman Clark (and saw her historical marker at the Vigo County Courthouse in Vincennes). I wanted to see another station on the underground railroad and step on hallow ground.
Disappointed that I didn’t get to go inside the cabin that is on the National Register of Historic Places or hear a docent speak about the Boxleys, I trekked back to my car. Along the way I noticed Trump signs. Disturbing. Passing through a nearby town I saw a Confederate flag flown from a porch, alongside an American flag. Even more disturbing.
And then I remembered the incident in Sheridan’s July 4 parade—the incident that made national news and horrified me—that racist float. Suddenly the Trump signs and the Confederate flag made perfect sense. I was in a place where racism is alive enough to be so blatant.
How ironic considering that I had come to Sheridan excited to visit the home of abolitionists who manned a station on the underground railroad. My god, how things have changed. And how utterly depressing.