|Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-25 15:24Z by Steven|
Joey Garrison, Metro and Political Reporter
The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee
The community is called Free Hill, or often Free Hills, and this unincorporated enclave in tiny, poor and otherwise mostly white Clay County is one of Tennessee’s last remaining black settlements that freed slaves established.
People in this county along the Tennessee-Kentucky border — about two hours northeast of Nashville — tell the story of a white slave owner named Virginia Hill of North Carolina who bought the property to free her slaves and give them a secluded place to live.
Historians aren’t certain about all the facts or years, and what might be part folklore, but documents prove that free blacks had settled at Free Hill before the Civil War…
History is the lifeblood of Free Hill. Surnames like Page, Burris and Philpott on the gravestones of the Free Hill Cemetery are some of the same names that carry on today.
And the story of its founding explains the unlikely occurrence of an African-American community arising in an area that is officially in Appalachia.
Accounts of Free Hill residents vary. They almost all begin with a North Carolina slave owner named Virginia Hill, whom most say came to a forest near the Cumberland and Obey rivers sometime before 1840, purchased 2,000 acres and set her slaves free.
Some say the slaves took control of the land themselves. Others say the slaves that Virginia Hill brought were her four biracial children, and that she was seeking to avoid a scandal.
They took her surname Hill — a name that is documented as the earliest African-Americans in Free Hill — and named the community after her.
The story goes that Free Hill became known as a safe haven for runaway slaves leading up to the Civil War and for freed slaves after the war. The names Free Hill and Free Hills have interchangeable meanings: descendants of the Hill family or a hilly area where freed slaves lived…
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