Sculpture honors runaway slave, Civil War hero outside New Albany church

Sculpture honors runaway slave, Civil War hero outside New Albany church
Lucy Higgs Nichols was a runaway slave and member of 2nd Baptist Church, where the sculpture is placed. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
2nd Baptist in New Albany played a role in the Underground Railroad and houses the sculpture of Lucy Higgs Nichols.
2nd Baptist in New Albany played a role in the Underground Railroad and houses the sculpture of Lucy Higgs Nichols. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WAVE) - A piece of commemorative art has been placed in New Albany to honor a runaway slave and Civil War hero.

Friends of the Town Clock Church facilitated the art to honor Lucy Higgs Nichols in front of 2nd Baptist Church on E Main Street, which was unveiled on Wednesday. Born a slave in 1838, Lucy gained her freedom in 1862 by escaping to the 23rd Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers, whom she worked for as a nurse for the soldiers during the Civil War.

She and the group went to Louisville in 1865, before she traveled to New Albany and later became a member of the 2nd Baptist Church. The limestone sculpture took around six months to create, thanks for a grant from Samtec Cares.

The church on East Main Street played a role in the Underground Railroad.
The church on East Main Street played a role in the Underground Railroad. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

“It’s always exciting to see something that you started come to fruition," Jerry Finn with FTCC said. "But just knowing her history here in the church, it brings tears to your eyes.”

In 1898, Lucy became one of the first African-American women to be awarded pension for her service as a Civil War nurse. She died in 1915 and is buried in New Albany, according to FTCC.

Lucy died in 1915 and is buried in New Albany.
Lucy died in 1915 and is buried in New Albany. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

“You can’t help but be proud of a congregation that said ‘slavery was wrong, we’re going to do everything we can to help abolish it, to call out this terrible scourge and sin in our community,'" Finn said. “And then have someone like Lucy who was a slave, who grew up a slave, her daughter was born a slave. And to run away and to help fight with the union to help those soldiers in their battle and then come back here to New Albany and be so involved in our community here. She was quite a lady.”

Friends of the Town Clock Church heads the ongoing maintenance, beautification and long-term plans for 2nd Baptist Church. More on their mission can be found here.

The sculpture was designed by artist David Ruckman, a New Albany native. It’s placed in the Gardens at the church.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.