From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Negro Construction Camp, Wilmore, KY

(start date:  -  end date: ) 

In 1930, there was a Negro Construction Camp located in Wilmore, KY, with 48 men, most from Alabama, with a few from Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. The men are all listed as laborers in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. The camp was located in the Lee Magistorial District No. 2. The census data for the camp was collected on April 14, 1930, Sheet 13A, by Robert W. Thompson. None of the men were veterans. Only 17 of the men could read and write. To date, there is still the search for data to help answer the questions as to what agency, organization or business brought the men to Wilmore, and what were the men constructing. During this time period, there were groups of African American men from Alabama who were recruited up-north to work in the coal mines in eastern Kentucky. But, there were no coal mines in Wilmore. The 48 men in the Negro Construction Camp were only recorded as being in Wilmore at the time of the 1930 U.S. Census; they were not in the 1920 or the 1940 census. The men made up more than half the total Negro population of Wilmore in 1930. Below are the camp workers' names, home states, and ages. Any additional information about the men, the camp, and the construction project, would be greatly appreciated.

1. Benson, Walter - 30 - single - from Alabama 

2. Bram, Joe - 40 - single - from Alabama 

3. Brazil, Levy - 35 - single - from Tennessee 

4. Brown, Bill - 50 - married - from Alabama 

5. Bryston, Gus - 38 - married - from Alabama 

6. Cantrel, Lee - 24 - single - from Georgia 

7. Coleman, Hosie - 30 - single - from Alabama 

8. Common, Moses - 40 - single - from Tennessee 

9. Conner, Hearbert - 25 - single - from Alabama 

10. Cook, Ernest - 23 - single - from Tennessee 

11. Dirgle, Arthur - 25 - single - from Tennessee 

12. Edmondson, John - 22 - single - from Alabama 

13. Ester, William - 23 - single - from Alabama 

14. Frazier, James - 28 - married - from Alabama 

 15. Gimble, John - 46 - single - from Alabama 

16. Godwin, John - 23 - single - from Alabama 

17. Head, Louis - 25 - single - from Alabama 

18. Huit, Dave - 45 - single - from Alabama 

19. Jenkins, George - 22 - single - from Alabama 

20. Jones, Frank - 55 - married - from Alabama 

 21. Jones, Jonnie - 30 - single - from Texas 

22. Jones, Virginia - 23 - single - from Alabama [male] 

23. Kennedy, Robert - 21 - single - from Alabama 

24. Kikes, Bud - 30 - single - from Tennessee 

25. King, Tom - 50 - married - from Alabama 

26. Lane, Albert - 39 - single - from Alabama 

27. Lee, Albert - 35 - single - from Alabama 

28. Lewis, Ben - 50 - married - from Alabama 

29. Lewis, Phillip - 25 - single - from Alabama 

30. Lipscomb, John - 23- single - from Georgia 

31. Love, Isaac - 25 - single - from Tennessee 

32. Nicholson, Orange - 27 - single - from Alabama 

33. Porter, William - 28 - single - from Alabama 

34. Radford, Steven - 20 - single - from Georgia 

35. Reynolds, Bill - 30 - married - from North Carolina 

 36. Rucker, Howard - 23 - single - from Georgia 

37. Sanders, Bozrie - 22 - single - from Alabama 

38. Shephard, Frank - 40 - single - from Alabama 

39. Shephard, Leon - 23 - single - from Alabama 

40. Smith, Charlie - 24 - single - from Tennessee

41. Smith, John - 51 - single - from Alabama 

 42. Smith, Sylvester - 40 - married - from Tennessee 

43. Teasley, John - 20 - single - from Alabama 

44. Thrasher, Robert - 27 - single - from Alabama 

45. Ward, George - 30 - single - from Florida 

46. White, Henry - 35 - single - from Alabama 

47. Williams, Charles - 23 - single - from Tennessee 

48. Williams, Ralph - 26 - single - from Tennessee 

*Additional information provided by Ken Rickard, Curator of the Wilmore Railside Museum: These men [in the Negro Construction Camp] were probably railroad laborers. The DG Beers map of 1877 identifies southwest Jessamine County as Precinct 2.  The current Magisterial District 2 includes the High Bridge area. That left me confident that the workers were in the area where the railroad work was underway. In 1930 and 1931 the Southern Railroad Company completed a "double tracking" project, which included abandoning some of the original 1854 - 1877 right of way and building new lower grade (more level) and straighter routes. According to E.M. Bell, Trains Magazine, December 2013, pg. 26, and Southern Ties Magazine, August, 1963, the original route was abandoned in 1930. The Lexington Leader newspaper has an article about the completion of a double track project, April 4, 1931, pg.1, cols. 2-3.  About five miles between Wilmore and High Bridge was abandoned, including a 500 foot tunnel, and the new, currently in use right of way was built, which includes a deep cut over which High Bridge Road (KY 29) now crosses. I believe the Lee Magisterial District No. 2 is the same as the current district no 2, which includes all the area between Wilmore and High Bridge. This would place the men's camp in the area of the work. While I cannot specifically prove these men were here for the purpose, it is most likely the case that they either worked for the railroad or for a contractor hired by the railroad to do this work.

Ken Rickard works as a volunteer under the supervision of the Wilmore Community Development Board. The Wilmore Railside Museum is housed in a 1950's era Southern Railway bay window caboose. There is a collection of railroad and local history artifacts, exhibits, photos and literature which tell the story of the Wilmore-High Bridge area.

Wilmore Railside Museum

335 E. Main Street 

Wilmore, KY 40390 

(859) 858-4411

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jessamine County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Wilmore, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Trains magazine (periodical)
NKAA Source: Ties: the Southern Railway System magazine (periodical)
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)

Social Bookmarking

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Negro Construction Camp, Wilmore, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed November 24, 2017, http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/3056.

Last modified: 2017-09-03 15:19:13