African-American Communities: Frazier Town and Stumptown
Pewee Valley has two primarily African American communities located on the outskirts of town: Frazier Town & Stumptown.
Frazier Town is an historical African American neighborhood that sprang up after the Civil War. It lies just beyond Pewee Valley's city limits off Rollington Road. It appeared first on the 1879 Beers & Lanagan Atlas of Pewee Valley as a small collection of about 10 homes and a "Colored Church" -- Sycamore Methodist Chapel -- directly behind George Fisher's farm.
Local lore suggests that the community was named for Bartlett Frazier, a freedman who at one time owned land there. Originally born in Louisiana, his first documented presence in the Pewee Valley area occurs in the 1870 census. At that time, he was living at Clovercroft, then the home of Milton M. Rhorer, and was one of three servants/laborers residing on the estate's grounds:
- Mary Canelton, white, age 14, domestic servant
- Jane Caldwell, African American, age 24, domestic servant
- Bartlett Frazer, African American, age 24, works in garden
His wife, Mary Boggs Frazier, whom he had married in 1863, was not living with him, and no trace of her in the 1870 census has been found. It was not unusual, however, for African American couples to live separately at that time. Most didn't own homes, and many were working as live-ins.
By 1880, the Fraziers were living together and had moved to two acres in Frazier Town. Bartlett was employed as a farm laborer and Mary as a laundress. His year of birth was estimated as 1840, and hers as 1836. Also living with them was eight-year-old Harrison Taylor, who took care of their house. He may have somehow been related to Mary. Her mother's maiden name was Cassandra Taylor.
The Fraziers owned that property until Mary's death on July 2, 1912. Bartlett had died before then. Mary was listed as a widow on the 1910 census and was working as a housekeeper. Although the Fraziers had two children, neither lived to adulthood. With no heirs, Mary decided to leave her land for the benefit of the community. A copy of her will, dated May 17, 1912, and witnessed by her physician and several of her white neighbors in Rollington, is on file at the Oldham County Courthouse. Thanks to Oldham County Clerk Julia K. Barr for providing the Pewee Valley Historical Society with a copy:
May 17, 1912
I Mary Frazier being of sound mind and body hereby make my last will and testament leaving all my property consisting of two acres of land and house and all furniture upon to the May flower temple No 99 after the Mortgage and accrued interest has been paid holder of the Mortgage being Mrs. Lavenia Watson Cooper* of Louisville. The temple having liberty to dispose of all the remaining property as they see fit after a tomb stone has been placed over the graves of my husband and self and after all other expenses has been paid.
Mary (X) Frazier
(Garrett S. Foley
(Charles Compton Witnesses
(E.E. Owen M.D.
*Lavenia Watson Cooper and her husband John were black undertakers in Louisville, with an establishment located at 1005 Chestnut Street. Presumably Mary used their services to bury her husband.
The Fraziers took leadership roles in Pewee Valley's African American community. Bartlett Frazier was one of the three original black trustees for the Pewee Valley First Baptist Church and Freedmen's Bureau school in Stumptown in 1869. Whether or not he was involved in the establishment and construction of Sycamore Chapel in 1873 is unknown. Mary was presumably active in the establishment and ongoing affairs of the May Flower Temple.
Over the years, they also sold part of their land to neighbors. On March 2, 1895, they sold Harriett Thompson, who was renting a house from them, the house and a half-acre for $250, recorded in Deed Book 29, page 299. On July 23, 1896, Mary sold a small tract to Letitia Berry for $15, recorded in Deed Book 30, page 106 at the Oldham County Courthouse. Small wonder that the neighborhood came to be known as Frazier Town!
By 1940, the Frazier Town neighborhood included 15 lots owned by African Americans and Sycamore Chapel. According to the ca. 1939 WPA Plat Map on file at the Oldham County Courthouse, the following blacks owned properties:
Tract Owner Acreage
2540 Walker Hardin 0.8 acres
2541 Romania Flournoy 1.55 acres
2542 Anita Flournoy 1.55 acres
2545 Lucy Berry 3.10 acres
2546 Sycamore Chapel 2.06 acres
2547 Herman Wood 1.05 acres
2548 Mary Oglesby 2.06 acres
2549 Masson Smith 1.32 acres
2550 Jennie Gales 3.67 acres
2551 Lucy Berry 1.83 acres
2552 Lucy Parker Heirs 3.67 acres
2553 Lillie & Will Sutton 2.06 acres
2554 Clarence Tinsley 1.83 acres
2555 Della Tinsley 1.55 acres
2556 Clarence Tinsley 1.83 acres
However, the largest landowner by far was local undertaker Milton Stoess, who owned Tract 2544, comprised of 21.63 acres. Stoess may have acquired title to the property as payment for services rendered by his funeral parlor in Crestwood.
Blacks residing in the neighborhood at the time of the 1940 census included:
The Pewee Valley First Baptist Church, built as a community church, served as the first meeting place of members of the Sycamore Chapel Methodist Church. In the early 1870s, members began to consider the possibility of constructing their own church building. Land was difficult to acquire. However, Mrs. Brenner of Louisville gave land for the new church. Sycamore Chapel was organized and built in 1873, and Reverend W. H. Evans served as first pastor. Officers included James Hinkle, Pollie Hinkle, Selby Lindsey and Rose Lindsey.