Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stonetown Haven - A New Beginning

 Kentucky's slave history is a very unique one. As a border state we had both large slaveholders and a large number of abolitionists. Harriet Beecher Stowe witnessed her first slave auction in the northern part of our state. We were so split during the Civil War that we had two governments. It is therefore no surprise that our countryside is dotted with small freed slave communities that sprung up before and after the end of slavery. The sad fact associated with these small communities is their omission from local histories and history books. Not all histories ignore their existence, but they were not preserved nor noted for future generations in the same manner as early white settlements were once they were no longer inhabited. I am delighted to see this fact change as more groups are interested in restoring these little phoenix communities that rose from the ashes.

Yesterday, the public library in my community invited a local historian to speak about recent preservation efforts within our county. The Scott County Public Library drew over 50 attendees when Shirl Marks brought to light the restoration efforts surrounding an original structure in the former community of Stonetown. According to Marks the freed slave community in the Stamping Ground area encompassed several roads: Stonetown, Locust Fork, Main St, Woodlake, etc. Some of the local surnames associated with this former community were: Samuels, Patterson, West, Thomas, Fisher, Young, Phoenix, Fishback, Dudley, Carter, and Bell. She went on to explain that it was only oral history and family legend that explained the older structures that were abandoned and falling into oblivion.

After Shirl's family inherited one of the original structures, a group effort to restore this precious piece of history was set in motion. For the past three years a devoted group of volunteers has been working to restore life to this small structure which Shirl has named "Stonetown Haven".
The efforts have reached about a 70% completion rate and they hope to finish soon by placing a museum and information center inside. Once the efforts have been completed I hope to post another notice for those of you within the state or nearby that wish to support the new center. A celebration and grand opening will be planned soon.

Ms. Marks explained that the purpose behind this project is to "preserve the history of all its citizens". For anyone who thinks that history is in the past, I wish you could have watched the people in this room. Even though the structures were almost faded completely from the countryside, many of the descendants of Stonetown, Watkinsville and Pea Ridge are still living in these areas. Their ancestors had built these communities and their children were making sure those communities did not fade from memory. It was extremely heart warming to watch the descendants reminisce about the earlier generations and remember their neighbors from long ago. It was another reminder that history and preservation is not simply about the past, but ensuring our future is complete with the knowledge of how we arrived at our current destination, and how that past journey affects where we are headed.

I will post more about the organization and its efforts as soon as we get closer to their completion date. After the meeting about the preservation of Stonetown Haven, the second meeting of the newly formed African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky took place. Once they are a little more established I will post more about how to support them and how to join. If you are interested in getting involved with this group (and also as a way to get in touch with Shirl Marks), their e-mail is:  
CD 2/20/11



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