Historic African-American community celebrates 150 years
VERSAILLES, Ky. (WTVQ) – It’s really a big family reunion.
Saturday, friends, former residents, and family members of Huntertown, a historic African-American community in Versailles, gathered to celebrate its 150th anniversary, and dedicate the land it stood on to a park.
Huntertown, established in 1871 by formerly enslaved people from Woodford County, stood on fifty acres of land. The community was active until about 2006, and the last home on the property was bought by the county in 2010.
Josiephine Carr, one of the oldest living residents of Huntertown, was born and raised in the community after her parents relocated to raise a family. Returning years later, she is thrilled that the rich history of the community is finally being preserved for generations to come.
“I just can’t explain how it feels to be here, I just can’t explain. No words could ever explain. I just wish the ones that have gone on could see. But they’re looking down. They’re looking down,” said Carr.
Plans to make the property a park started in 2018, but the idea started even before then. Sioux Finney, a now-retired Woodford County Schools social studies teacher, brought her students to the area to do research on the community. She made it a goal to return to the project once she retired.
“As a teacher and historian this just grabbed my heart. And I said ‘when I retire, I want to make sure this project happens,'” said Finney.
In collaboration with the University of Kentucky Department of Landscape Architecture, the park committee plans to build a park that interprets the community that once lived on the land.
“Those students were out here for an entire year interviewing former residents, researching and going through historical documentation, and they put together an incredible plan where we will interpret the community that once lived here,” said Finney.
Plans underway include building a pavilion on the spot where one of the original general stores once stood, recreate part of the Riney B. Railroad trail, and build a memorial to Black soldiers that fought in the Civil War from Woodford County.
It’s in an effort to preserve the history and educate the community.
“Not only will people know about it, they can come and witness it. They can walk around where relatives or friends or families lived. I think it’s outstanding,” said Michael Jackson, the grandson of a Huntertown resident.
The Kentucky Historical Society also unveiled a new historical marker to the park at the celebration.