Located where the foothills
of the Cumberland Mountains slope downward to meet the central plains
of Kentucky's bluegrass, Berea College was originally founded in
1855 by an abolitionist, Reverend John G. Fee, with initial assistance
from the American Missionary Association and a local antislavery
politician and well-to-do Madison County landowner, Cassius M. Clay.
Fee accepted Clay's offer of
a ten-acre homestead to move from northern Kentucky (Bracken County)
to southern Madison County to establish an antislavery church, the
Glades Church (1853).
Berea's school and church were
dedicated to Christian principles of anti-rum, anti-caste prejudice,
and anti-sectariansim but armed proslavery opposition forced the
Berea workers out of the state in the winter of 1859. As the Civil
War started, several exiled Bereans slipped back into Kentucky.
Among those returning was John
G. Fee who preached to and taught thousands of slave men volunteering
for the Union Army at Camp
Nelson (Jessamine County), Kentucky. After the war ended in
1865, Fee returned to his home in Berea and resumed his work of
building an interracial college and a new church, Union, based on
anti-caste principles of impartial love and Christian brotherhood.
He invited some of the African American families from Camp
Nelson to come to Berea to make a new life and get an education.
By 1870, several dozen families had arrived to help build the interracial
town, churches and Berea College. An estimated 200 black families
settled in the glades and valleys surrounding Berea.
Black Freedmen who migrated
to Berea after the Civil War were not concentrated into one area.
In fact, like white settlers, the freedmen lived on campus, as students,
and in all four directions. By following one or more of the tour
routes described, the visitor, or resident, will discover the rich
legacy of African-Americans in the Berea area.
In Fee's first interracial church
on the Berea Ridge, many members were African Americans and served
as deacons and on committees. Rev. Anderson Drawford, a black minister,
assisted Fee and also performed marriages among the freedmen.
The Congregational Church (Parrish
House) was an early site on the Berea ridge for Fee's Union Church,
whose members included the abolitionist faction who left the Glades
Church, while the proslavery faction remained.
Early Ladies Hall was a wood-frame
building that provided lodging; during the late 1860s. Most students,
black and white, boarded in town with families. Fairchild Hall used
to be called "Ladies Hall" and was modeled after a residence hall
for women at Oberlin College (Ohio).
Attending Berea College's 1885
Commencement, Roswell Smith, founder of the Century Magazine, donated
money for a new "Recitation Hall" which would be named in honor
of Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln Hall). It had 18 rooms for library,
classrooms, offices, laboratories, museums and society rooms.
Phelps Stokes Chapel (1904-1906)
replaced Gothic Chapel which burned in 1902. Gothic Chapel had replaced
the rough framed chapel that burned on New Year's Eve in 1878. The
College taught brickmaking classes and developed an apprentice program
that provided student employment for several years.
Berea College's faculty was
interracial. Black alum James S. Hathaway (Cx 1884, A.M. 1891) taught
Latin and mathematics for ten years before being denied a promotion
whereupon he resigned and accepted a professorship (and later a
presidency) at the Kentucky State Institute for Negroes in Frankfort
(now Kentucky State University). After Hathaway left, black alum
John H. Jackson (Cx 1874, A.M. 1883) held a professorship of pedagogics
for one year, becoming the College's last black faculty hired before
the 1904 segregation.
Berea's oldest student literary
society, Phi Delta, for men (1868) held weekly programs and was
typical of the student groups where Blacks and Whites shared activities.
Berea City-West "God Ain't Making
No Mo' Land": Land Ownership Plan for Freedmen Rev. John G. Fee
and wife Matilda Hamilton Fee helped to organize a plan to buy up
large tracts of land in order to resell housing lots to Berea's
newcomers based on a racially interspersed design, such that blacks
and whites would have each other as neighbors. While this plan was
most prevalent in neighborhoods adjacent to the College Campus,
numerous freedmen were able to buy land from the Fees and a few
supportive white landowners throughout the countryside.
By 1874, Berea had 74 white
families and 40 black families as landowners largely due to Fee's
emphasis on providing black settlers with land of their own.
Henry and Elzira McWilliams
Ballard settled in Berea at Fee's invitation as the Civil War ended.
Helping to clear the College's land and farming, Henry and Elzira
were able to buy property on Broadway North in 1882. Born into slavery,
some members of the Ballard family traveled to Camp
Nelson in 1865 for Freedom Papers since the 13th Amendment abolishing
slavery had not yet been ratified and slavery was still legal in
Kentucky because the 1861 Emancipation Proclamation had applied
only to slave states that seceded from the Union.
Black men, women and older children
not only worked as day laborers, servants, laundresses and cooks
but some also were skilled craftspeople, such as carpenters, brick
masons, printers, road contractors, trade merchants and farmers
who either owned or rented land. Sometimes the more prosperous black
farmer or business owner would hire whites as well as blacks.
Initially called Church of Christ
(Second), First Christian Church was organized in the home of Father
Fee in October 1895. Fee donated the site where the original building,
remodeled and enlarged many times, continues as home for the church.
In the belfry is the Freedmen's Bell which Fee brought from Camp
Nelson where the Bell had been used to summon Freedmen to classes
and to religious services.
Berea Memorial Park, at the
corner of Broadway St. N. and Jefferson St., is situated amongst
the former home sites of black settlers, such as the Edward and
Elsie Hagen Moran family, who named one of their sons "John G. Fee"
Moran due to their high regard for Rev. Fee.
Center Street was originally
settled under Fee's plan for racial interspersion in housing where
blacks and whites would have each other as neighbors. Among other
black families on Center Street were Rev. Anderson and Caroline
Crawford and their 15 children; Robert H. (Cx 1881-88) and Charity
Peyton (Cx 1870-87) Royston who were teachers at the Berea Colored
School at Pasco and Fee Streets.
Robert B. Doe came from Barnwell,
SC to become a student at Berea 1889, paying his way by being a
barber. He married and settled in Berea, building a small house
on the corner of Center and Forest Streets. Doe was a deacon of
Union Church while his wife Ella LaForte Estill Doe was a member
at Fee's second interracial church, First Christian. They reared
eight children, none of whom could attend Berea College due to the
1904 Day Law so several moved away to attend colleges in Frankfort
(KY), Ohio and West Virginia.
Several black families lived
in the Glades and, like William and Naomi Rash, were farmers and
literate. Two silent monuments to these black pioneers can be seen
today. Rash Rd., named after William and Naomi Rash, connects Ellipse
St. to Glades Rd. and runs parallel to U.S. Hwy 25 and Walnut Meadow
Pike (Hwy 595). The White Family Cemetery, located in front of Berea's
post office on Glades Rd., is a rediscovered black cemetery where
an estimated 400 bodies are buried.
Off Chestnut St., Boone St.
rolls downhill to cross Brushy Fork Creek and becomes Slate Lick
Rd. Black pioneers Stephen and Sylvia Hagan (Hagins) arrived at
night, looking for "Feetown", and missed the settlement on the Ridge
so they camped at the foot of the hill near the creek. In 1868,
they were able to buy five acres of that land from Joel and Nancy
Todd, Sr.. Among the black families who moved nearby were the Caleb
and Nancy Bernaugh family, and the Horace and Rebecca Ballew Yates
family. Horace was a Civil War veteran of the Union Army stationed
at Camp Nelson; a member
of Union Church and a literate farmer and landowner.
Off Chestnut, on South Broadway
lived the Miles and Zerida (Sarilda) Hagins Dudley family; Mile's
father, Oliver Dudley had bought three acres of land on Brushy Fork
Creek before he was killed by the Ku Klux Klan sometime before April
17, 1872. Other families in the Broadway and Boone St. area were
Robert and Sarah Ballard and their church, "The Church of God of
All Nations" (no longer in existence).
Another past church was Allen
Chapel, an African Methodist Episcopal church once located on Phillips
St. near the corner of Boone St. Members were baptized in the Brushy
Fork Creek that ran in front of the church.
Blacks were able to buy land
in three nearby communities, partially due to Fee's influence: Middletown,
Farristown and Bobtown. All of these areas were founded before the
Civil War, but it was after the War ended that freed families could
own land, get married legally and keep the profits from their own
First Baptist Church, Middletown,
was organized in 1894 by black settlers who used to walk barefoot
to New Liberty Baptist in Bobtown for Sunday services and other
activities. Before going into the building, they would dust their
feet and put on their shoes.
In Middletown, Charles H. Blythe
(Cx 1874-84) and his brothers owned various businesses including
a grocery store, rock quarry and road construction business. The
Blythes were so prominent that Middletown once was known as "Blythe
Town"; today, a short graveled street named Blythe Court remains
largely settled by descendants.
The founding of Farristown dates
back to 1835 and seems to have been named for the three sets of
Farris families who lived in the area: Charlie, Arthur (Berea student
in 1903) and Henry (Joe). Middletown is a few years younger and
acquired its name because of its location between Farristown and
Berea. Both areas are part of the historic "Black Valley" described
in 1866 by AMA minister and Berea teacher, John A. R. Rogers because
hundreds of freedmen, walking or in rickety carts, saw Berea as
their "land of promise."
Some other families in Farristown
were Freddie D. Ballard (a son of Henry and Elzira Ballard from
Berea), Anderson White (Union soldier, sergeant in Co. K. 13th Colored
Artillery, RAG), Baxter, Bennett, Broaddus, Chenault, Jenkins, Martin
Bobtown, the oldest of the three
towns, was named "Joe Lick" around 1769. There was an Inn (1806)
and a Post Office, which moved to Kingston in 1846. By 1872, the
settlement was named Bobtown in honor of a long-time African-American
resident, "Uncle Bob" Fitch.
The New Liberty Baptist Church
(1866) is the most visible African American landmark; both First
Baptist Church of Berea (Middletown) and Farristown Baptist Church
honor New liberty as their "mother church". New Liberty Baptist
was started by Rev. Madison Campbell (1823-1896), a slave who was
freed in 1863 and served as pastor to First Baptist Church in Richmond
and helped to start several small African American churches in the
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