Montclair, African American Hamlet in Shelby County, KY

Montclair Timeline

 1868 – First Land Purchase from Nancy Lyon’s Heirs  on Hickory Run: William Firman, Harvey, Russell and Jerry Bullitt. Originally a 138-acre farm, the land had been divided among heirs. Nancy Lyon had the dower portion of the estate. When she died her heirs sold the land to Freedmen. The Bullitt family purchased the largest share of land, 29 acres.

 1869-1871 – Further land purchases by Freedmen Slaves: Lindsey Johnson, Charles Edwards, William Todd, Robert Cole, Harvey Jones, James Evans, Adam Kelser, John and Mary Canady, and Wilkerson Bullitt.  Hamlet first called Evansville after James Evans

 1869 – Simpsonville Baptist Church gave permission for its black members to organize a separate church. Trustees were Jerry Bullitt, Wilkerson Bullitt and Beverly King, all residents of Evansville. They purchased lots 55 and 56 in Simpsonville where Liggett & Platt factory is  located along the L&N railroad tracks and built the Negro Baptist Church. Services were held there until 1946 when the congregation built a new church at Montclair.

 1872 – William and Mary Firman gave land for the community to have its own Graveyard on a hill south of the railroad. Civil War veterans were buried there. The last burial was Beard Brown.

 1877 – Louisville and Southern Railroad purchased land from Wilkerson and Jane Bullitt for $200 and laid railroad tracks in back of Evansville. (see Transportation 1888)

 1880-1920 – Lots subdivided and new families moved into Evansville – George and Mary Washington, David Alexander, Lewis and Angeline Logan, Anson Clair, William O’Bannon, Washington and Elizabeth Swingler, Beverly King, William Colbert, George and Jack Ballow, Adam Owsley, Albert Lancaster, Harrison Reid, Mr. Gruber, Allen Martin, William Colbert and Mary Fields.

 1888– Louisville Southern Railway service to Shelbyville, Harrodsburg, Lawrenceville, and Louisville was available via the Railway that through a series of mergers became the Norfolk Southern.

 1910-1930 – Interurban transportation connected Evansville/Montclair to Shelbyville, Simpsonville and Louisville via the tracks that ran along Old Shelbyville Road. One interurban station was at the corner of Scott Station Road and Shelbyville Road.

– When the interurban began service, the name was changed from Evansville to Montclair.

– Interurban streetcars were the major source of transportation from Evansville to Simpsonville. The cost was seven cents per round trip.

 1912 – Lincoln Institute opened a boarding school for African American high school students in three buildings at Lincoln ridge in September, Shelby County students sent by contract from the School Board.

1911 – Log school at Evansville consolidated with segregated Simpsonville elementary school.

1915 – Shelby County School Board took over responsibility for all black schools. Contracts let to Lincoln Institute carpentry department to building the Lincoln Model School for Simpsonville and Montclair elementary students. This graded school (1-8) was run by Lincoln Institute with advisory responsibility from Kentucky State College in Frankfort. Students from Monclair traveled by bus.

1940 – The Model School at Lincoln Ridge was closed, and a new two-story school was built at Montclair by the National Youth Administration (NYA) and the students at Lincoln Institute. The Montclair School accommodated all the African-American students in western Shelby County until desegration of the Simpsonville Elementary School in 1956.

1946 – The Negro Baptist Church at Simpsonville was moved to Montclair, because so many of its congregation lived there. While the new church was being built, services were held at the Montclair School across the road. The new church was renamed New Greater Baptist Church.

 20th Century at Montclair:

Small businesses – Mr. and Mrs. George Smith owned a restaurant and grocery. Another small business was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Clifton O’Bannon. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Cochran, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Ford and Mr. and Mrs. Griff Hinkle also had businesses.

Medical – Montclair did not have a doctor resident. But Dr. Maurice Rabb served many in the community with house calls or by visiting his office in Shelbyville.

Funerals – Montclair residents used the R. G. Mayes Funeral Home in Louisville and Mr. and Mrs. George Saffell of Shelbyville.

Music – Montclair had lots of musical talent, especially the Lancaster Family. And some residents belonged to groups that performed in other counties and outside the state of Kentucky.

Sports – Montclair had skilled sportsmen such as the Stoners and Marshall families.

Icon – One of the most influential people in the Montclair community was Rev. Charles Davis. He was pastor at Centennial Baptist Church at Christiansburg/Hinesville. Rev. Davis was well known for wearing his black suit, white shirt, and necktie, most of the time. He was also a gifted singer.

 Sources: Griot Maureen Ashby, Lincoln Insitute archives, Shelbyville Public Library Local History Room, Shelby County Historical Society.

Diane Perrine Coon

Left side of photo old Simpsonville Baptist Church right side of photo of colored Baptist Church at Simpsonville