Forest Home Cemetery

Historical Marker #2094 in Jefferson County notes the location of Forest Home Cemetery, one of the oldest African American cemeteries in Kentucky.

Forrest Home Cemetery would not exist were it not for one of the individuals buried there: Eliza Curtis Hundley Tevis. Born into slavery in Virginia about 1802, Tevis was brought to Kentucky by her owners, John B. and Thomas C. Hundley. One account claims that Eliza was a mistress of John Hundley. Whatever the relationship with the family, Eliza was manumitted in 1833, upon the death John Hundley.

Five years later, Thomas Hundley’s will provided Tevis with special benefits. It stated, "I give and devise to a yellow woman now living with me called Eliza or Eliza Curtis my house and lot on Green Street . . . together with the use of the alley adjoining the same for and during her natural life either to live in or rent out." In addition, Thomas Hundley provided Eliza with $2,000, a significant sum of money at the time. Eliza apparently used some of that money to purchase her sister, Mary, from the Hundley heirs.

Eliza married Henry Tevis, a free man of color, in 1843. The business-minded Tevis protected her assets by having a prenuptial agreement drawn up. The couple purchased forty acres in 1851 that had formerly been part of the Hundley plantation. As an antebellum free black couple, the Tevises were quite unique. Along with this property they also owned two lots in Louisville and six enslaved individuals. It is not know if those people were relatives.

After the Civil War, some of the Tevis land was sold or rented to newly freed African Americans. This area became known as Petersburg, named for a former slave of George Hikes who settled near the Tevis property. Being a religious woman, Eliza Tevis helped establish the Forest Baptist Church, the community’s congregation, in 1867. Two years later, when Henry Tevis died, he left the farm to Eliza, which only added to the personal wealth that she had accumulated prior to their marriage.

Eliza Tevis’s death date is not known for certain, but was likely in the 1880s. She was buried in a cemetery near her home that is thought to have once been a plantation slave cemetery on the old Hundley property. That resting place is now called Forest Home Cemetery and is a legacy of Eliza Curtis Hundley Tevis.

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