A community that evolved from the refugee camp at Camp Nelson, one of the largest recruitment camps for African American military troops in the South. These men, who were emancipated upon enlistment, brought their families with them in hope that they would also be freed or at least escape slavery. Interestingly enough, Camp Nelson also served as a recruitment camp for whites from the slave-holding states of Kentucky and Tennessee, making its existence both a contradiction as well as a microcosm of the American society of the times.

The army had not developed a policy on the treatment of refugees and the question of family members residing on the post was unresolved. This situation drastically changed in the summer of 1864, when General Speed Fry, the camp commander, began harassing and expelling black refugees from the camp and cooperating with slave owners by returning “their property.” This practice continued until November 1864, when the last refugees were expelled, many of whom died of exposure or disease during the winter.

Estill Station

A colony established by Monk Estill, Kentucky’s first known African American businessperson, in about 1782. Estill, who suffered under the system of American slavery and was later taken prisoner by the Wyandotte Nation, became a successful manufacturer of gunpowder.


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