New Zion

Historical marker #1938 commemorates the New Zion community in Scott County.

The roots of the African American community of New Zion stretch back to 1872 when two formerly enslaved men bought land on which to make their homes. Ultimately, the 23 acres that Calvin Hamilton and Primus Keene purchased were broken up into smaller plots and sold to other freedmen and freedwomen and a community known as Briar Hill sprang up. Later the hamlet’s name was changed to New Zion and residents built institutions including both a church and a school. 

In the nearly century and a half since its founding, generations of Kentuckians have called New Zion home. For instance, New Zion was the childhood home of Oscar Dishman, Jr. (1923-2000) who became a celebrated thoroughbred horse trainer and civil rights activist. Dishman was a successful horse trainer for more than four decades and worked with decorated thoroughbreds including “Silver Series” and “Golden Don.” He also took an active role in addressing injustices in Kentucky’s educational system by filing suit against the Scott County Board of Education in 1956 which contributed to the desegregation of public schools in Georgetown, Kentucky. In many ways, Dishman’s life reflected the opportunities and obstacles that black Kentuckians and black communities faced during the twentieth century.  

The marker reads:

New Zion

On Nov. 23, 1872, former slaves Calvin Hamilton and Primus Keene purchased 23 acres. They sold plots to other freedmen and formed black community of Briar Hill; it was later named New Zion. Keene sold land for community well, school, and church. Calvin Hamilton's home survives. Descendants of founders still live in New Zion. Presented by Scott County Fiscal Court.

The marker was dedicated on February 20, 1994.