Campaign seeks to preserve Fayette County’s Black hamlets

“A Sense of Place” is an initiative to raise awareness and preserve the rich history of the more than 20 Black hamlets in Fayette County.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - On Tuesday, Lexington community members gathered in Uttingertown to discuss fundraising to finish the restoration of the Cadentown School and Cemetery.

“The forty-plus homes that used to be here. It used to be a thriving community,” said Reverand Leon Slatter of Cadentown Missionary Baptist Church. They had a store; they had other facilities; they raised chickens, hogs, gardens, tobacco; you know that was a big thing. So, you know, it was home, man. A sense of place, you know.”

“A Sense of Place” is an initiative to raise awareness and preserve the rich history of the more than 20 Black hamlets in Fayette County.

Hamlets like Cadentown, located near Old Todd’s and Liberty Roads, were created by free African Americans after the Civil War.

Reverend Leon Slatter is a member of the A Sense of Place campaign.

“it just makes sense that people are aware historically about these communities even though some of them no longer exist.,” said Rev. Slatter.

A Sense of Place’s goal is to raise $500,000 s to preserve the Cadentown Schoolhouse. It is one of 5,000 Rosenwald Schools built throughout the South in the early 1900s designed to educate African American children. It is the only one remaining in Fayette County.

“25 years ago, it did have some work done on it, but since that time, without maintenance, it has fallen in some disrepair,” Rev. Slatter said.

Behind the school, there is a cemetery. Vegetation has taken over the burial grounds. Funds will be needed to restore the site.

Reverend Slatter says there are about 100 people buried in the cemetery, but the weeds hide their headstones. Bringing these headstones to the light of day is also part of A Sense of Place’s mission.

Historical black hamlets were once located out in the country, but now new development is constantly expanding, impacting the existence of the hamlets.

Cadentown has seen commercial development come into its territory, something Rev. Slatter sees as a threat to his community’s future.

“Somebody said ‘Progress: you gotta get used to it,’ but I don’t see progress on the homes on Second Street or any other historical neighborhoods in Fayette County,” Rev. Slatter said.

Reverand Slatter told us someone offered to buy his church., but he is not selling. He wants to preserve what is in Cadentown.

To date, the ongoing campaign has brought in almost $200,000 from a variety of other sources. Funds will also be used to create spaces the community can use and to create a permanent home for this history of Lexington’s hamlets.

Tuesday’s meeting is at 6 p.m. at Uttingertown Missionary Baptist Church in Lexington. The address is 2995 Royster Road.