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

Vertrees, Peter

(born: 1849  -  died: 1926) 

Peter Vertrees was born in Edmonson County, KY. His mother Mary E. Skaggs was white, and his father Rev. Booker Harding was the mulatto son of Jacob Vertrees. Peter Vertrees was raised by his grandfather Jacob Vertrees and his wife Catherine.

Peter Vertrees served with the Confederate Army in the 6th Kentucky Cavalry during the Civil War: he was a servant to his uncle, J. L. Vertrees, a white enlistee who was a physician. Peter Vertrees left Kentucky to live with his uncle Judge J. C. Vertrees in Tennessee. He became one of the first students to attend Roger Williams University. He would become a teacher and a preacher, a respected community leader in Sumner County, TN.

In 1880, Peter Vertrees was a 31-year old widower living in Gallatin, TN, according to the U.S. Federal Census; his wife, Amanda L. Dowell, had died in 1872. He later married Sarah Head with whom he had three sons. In 1901 he married Diora Wylie (b. 1875 in TN), according to their Marriage Bond; the couple had three children, according to the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. They would later have two more children.

Peter Vertrees was principal of the South Gallatin School and for 60 years served as pastor of the First Baptist Church. He was actually pastor of more than one church,as well as  president of two benevolent societies that helped pay for medical assistance and burials. He opened schools for African Americans within the churches where he was pastor. He founded the East Fork Missionary Baptist Association with 28 churches in Tennessee. A historical maker honoring Peter Vertrees was placed at the corner of South Water and Bledsoe Streets in Sumner County, TN.

For more see the Negro Baptist History, 1750-1930  by L. G. Jordan; Autobiography of Peter Vertrees in Folklife Archives and a reprinted photograph, both at Western Kentucky University Libraries; and J. Jeffrey, "Vertrees diary featured in national publication," WKU Libraries Blog, 5/12/2016 [online].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Edmonson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Negro Baptist history, U.S.A., 1750, 1930
NKAA Source: Peter Vertrees Collection

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Vertrees, Peter,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 30, 2020,

Last modified: 2020-09-21 16:36:42