Historical Marker #2375 in Scott County notes the location of Stonetown, one of a number of Kentucky African American rural communities that formed in the years following the Civil War.
When the Civil War ended, many of Kentucky’s freed slaves either relocated to larger cities or established rural community villages. They did this in order to escape persecution from whites who wanted to control them, as during slavery, and who wanted to limit their social, political, and economic opportunities. Especially in the countryside, enclaves of friends and extended family provided a level of safety and sense of solidarity against white postwar aggression. Numerous communities in central Kentucky such as Sleettown in Boyle County, Maddoxtown in Fayette County, and Stonetown in Scott County, emerged in the last three decades of the nineteenth century for these very practical reasons.
As Reconstruction drew to a close, however, and as measures intended to aid the freedmen (including the Freedmen’s Bureau) ended, African Americans became increasingly frustrated with their chances for advancement in the former slave states. Some sought better fortune by moving west to Kansas. In fact, some of the first southern African Americans to move to the Sunflower State (later called the Exodusters) were Kentuckians.
The largest and best-known settlement of Kentucky African Americans in Kansas was Nicodemus, located in the northwest part of the state. Nicodemus was founded by blacks who arrived in 1877 and 1878, and many of them were from Scott County communities like Stonetown. On March 23, 1878, W.R. Hill, a white minister who recruited blacks to go to Kansas, wrote Kansas governor George T. Anthony, praising the Scott County migrants. "The Nicodemus Colony from Scott Co. Ky all leave here this morning for Nicodemus and Graham Co all in good spirits and with teams, stock, farming implements, provisions & so do not look like a begardly set as has been represented," he wrote.
Ella Boney, born in Henry County, Kentucky, in 1869, moved with her family to Kansas when she was just nine years old. She remembered, "One of the biggest events of the year for Negroes in Kansas is the Emancipation Proclamation picnic every fourth of August. We celebrate four days in a large grove just outside of Nicodemus, and Negroes come from all over the state." Like Nicodemus, many of these communities were founded by Kentucky African Americans.