NoD: Jessamine’s Olde Hall Church

Camp Nelson
Hall Church – Hall (Jessamine Co.), Ky.

After the Civil War, many of the African American refugees who had been housed at Camp Nelson set roots in a small community nearby. Known originally as Ariel, this small community has remained through the years. Soon after the war, it was renamed Hall after Captain Theron Hall who had served as Chief Quartermaster for Camp Nelson and as superintendent of the refugee camp.

John Fee, who after the war purchased many acres of the Camp Nelson site, came to Camp Nelson in 1864. A minister and founder of Berea College, Fee worked with Captain Hall to establish this community for the refugees. While Hall favored the construction of barracks, Rev. Fee believed that cottages for the families would provide a more comfortable living. An agreement was devised that incorporated both structures types as well as a larger “home”. The community was built and many of its residents remained after the War — Fee sold his land at a dramatically reduced price to the former slaves in acre and half-acre lots.

Camp Nelson
Interior of Hall Church

Here, Rev. Fee also founded Ariel Academy, which was supported by the American Missionary Association, and the small church. The coed school was integrated until 1898 when whites stopped attending. By the 1920s, only girls attended.  Hall began to decline shortly after World War II, though there are some remains of its historic past.

This quaint church, built in the late 1800s, no longer has a congregation but is often used for community events. In lieu of religious scenes, a mural depicting the old double-barreled covered Camp Nelson bridge hangs in the front of the meeting house. The church was restored by the Jessamine County Fiscal Court in 2005.

Recently, country singer Shooter Jennings (Waylon’s son) shot part of the music video for “Real Me” at the Olde Hall Church, with additional scenes shot in both Greensburg and Campbellsville. “Real Me” will be on the to-be-released album, “Family Man” which is expected to be released in January.

Also, on the first Sunday in December, the Olde Hall Church is used for an annual community Christmas concert that features traditionally African-American church choirs. It is a great holiday tradition in a beautiful, historic setting.

Sources: Camp NelsonJessamine Co; LHLUIUC