University Libraries and Archives – Part 2

SalliandnormanOne night I decided to peruse the internet and found a site that accounted for my second positive experience with University Archives. I was searching in the Kentucky Digital Library and ended up at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at The University of Kentucky website. There were no results for “Camp Nelson”, BUT there was a hit titled “History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project”. From reading about the locality, I knew that “Hall” was another name for the refugee slave community Camp Nelson and hoped I’d find a relative in the index. Right off the bat I found two Overstreets!

I used the contact form to see how I could access the interviews, since the index only gave call numbers. For weeks I heard nothing. I finally decided to call the Center and inquire about the interviews. It turns out that I had used the wrong method of contacting them. The employee I talked to was very helpful and informed me that they were in the process of transcribing the interviews. He also promised to have the person in charge contact me and possibly get me access to the audio content. A few days later I received an email and was given links to the two Overstreet interviews! I listened to Norman’s recording. Although the quality was pretty bad, I was overwhelmed to hear Norman say that he was related to Ed and Josie Overstreet! The recordings were from an oral history project from the mid 1990’s. This is from the History of Hall Kentucky Oral History Project website:

“History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project

This project provides information on the community of Hall in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The community grew out of the refugee camp established at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, in which John Fee, founder of Berea College, had a large input. The interviews are with people who lived in Hall or nearby communities such as Poortown or Camp Nelson on the Kentucky River. They include information about race relations, the history of settlement at Hall in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, work in farming and at the local distillery, and community organizations such as the Brass Band and the Camp Nelson String Band.”

Sallie Overstreet turned out to be Norman’s wife. There are still no transcriptions available, but I can see why, since I had a really hard time transcribing Norman’s interview myself.

On my trip to the community cemetery on Payne’s Lane last year, I photographed Norman and Sallie’s gravestone, without knowing exactly who they were. There are 19 interviews in the collection and I am sure I am related to a few more of the interviewees! This is an invaluable, FREE, resource, proving my point of the importance of University Library holdings.

Happy Listening!


University Libraries – underused and overlooked?

There is a first time for everything right!? I recently contacted a University archive for the first time, namely The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The archive houses papers that pertain to the American Missionary Association, but also works of art, photography and scholarly papers that document African American history, as well as the history of other Ethnic Minorities.

I was interested in records pertaining to the American Missionary Association, because of their preachers’ work at Camp Nelson. Two things prompted me to finally send an inquiry. A mutual blogger, Teresa Vega, commented on one of my posts mentioning Gabriel Burdett. He worked at Camp Nelson as part of the AMA and married my great-great-great-grandparents. Teresa encouraged me to contact the center, since she had received helpful information from their archives once before. I ‘sat’ on this info for a while and then I read a post about the importance of using University Libraries on Facebook by Tim Pinnick. Tim is an expert at researching African American Newspapers and lectures on Black Coalminers.

Finally, I emailed the center, explaining my interest in AMA activities and letters from Camp Nelson. I received a timely response and was given an index of men who had sent letters from that location. I chose three names from that list (Scofield, Hall and Burdett), that I recognized from reading the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and other literature. The referance archivist then looked them up and informed me that it would be at least 140 letters! He gave me a quote and I decided to go ahead and have the copies made. I spent around $80 dollars for 203 copies. I really hope to get more insight into the daily lives of my ancestors from these letters. The exchange was very friendly and the correspondance swift, although Mardi Gras delayed things a bit, but that’s New Orleans – I guess!?


This was part of the packet I received from The Amistad Research Center

I learned quite a few things from this experience…For one, blogging can really put the word out and connect you to people who can share their research experience. Also, even if you are not where the archive is, the reference archivists will most likely work with you. Lastly, there is a wealth of information in these archives that is waiting to be found! If you got the impression that accessing these types of holdings will only cost you, please read my next post about what I found for FREE!

Scipio, oh Scipio…

I am waaaaaay behind on my weekly posting goal, so I decided to use a few old Facebook postings to get me started on this newest blog post. To prevent confusion here are a few things to remember when reading the following:

  1. My great-great-great-grandfather was Ed Overstreet.
  2. He was enslaved by Philonzo Scipio Fitch (a.k.a. P.S. Fitch) since birth, according to his own account in his military records.
  3. It is unknown to me how my family got or why they kept the name ‘Overstreet’.

In September 2013 I googled ‘African American Overstreets’ and found some of my old message board posts/queries etc. Among those was an old response from a white Overstreet sending me to Afrigeneas to look at the slave data she had donated. I found this index entry:

Holmes County, MS – Will Book #1 Page 78 Will of B. CHELTON OVERSTREET Brothers – John Overstreet, William Overstreet, Comendes Overstreet, Cerestus Overstreet Sisters – Mary Morrison, Ardelia Morrison Executor – Thomas Trainor Slaves – Andy, Lewis, Dick, Prince, Mahala, Lee Dated 1848, Probated 1848 Witnesses – Morgan L. Fitch, Wellington Jenkins

I looked up the original on Familysearch and came up with a very bad copy.

"Mississippi, Probate Records, 1781-1930," images, FamilySearch (,344668501 : accessed 23 Apr 2014), Holmes > Wills 1833-1888 > image 71 of 617.

BC Overstreet will

Fortunately there was a transcription available due to the state of the original! I will need to go through the whole will myself, but I found a short summary on a Rootsweb page.

There was a Fitch as a witness to the will of Chelton Overstreet in Mississippi! I looked ‘Morgan L. Fitch’ up on and he was born in NY, just like the other Fitch. The town’s name: Scipio! P.S. Fitch’s certificate of death states his place of birth as – can you guess it!?- Scipio, NY. They could be related!

Some time in December, while decluttering my desktop, I (re)discovered a file containing documents for P.S. Fitch. I noticed an index of what seemed to be probate records from the 1800s. I could not remember when and where I had gotten the file from (SMH at myself…). I have a Mac, so I right-clicked and went to ‘get info’. The file was from 2009 and I had saved it from I decided to investigate and went to the site to see what record set this was from. I tried a regular search, but came up with nothing. Then I tried the ‘Catalog’ tab and searched for KY records. ‘Kentucky probate records, 1727-1990’ came up and they were available online!

I found my county, Jessamine County, then the Book, and finally scrolled to the page listed in the index. I ended up finding the enslavers will, from 1877. This was interesting enough, but didn’t yield anything of research value for the moment. I decided to look for some Overstreets. This entry for ‘Overstreet, Scipio (col)’ immediately caught my eye:

Overstreet, Scipio Probate Index

So, my Overstreet was enslaved by a Philonzo Scipio Fitch in Jessamine County. There was a colored man there named Scipio Overstreet, with a will in 1838. Also, there was a Fitch born in Scipio, NY, named as a witness in an Overstreet’s will in 1848!? Coincidence!? Who was this Scipio Overstreet? This is the transcription of the will:

I Sipio Overstreet a man of colour of the County of Jessamine and State of Kentucky being of perfect mind and memory. I do hereby make and ordain this my last will and testament. It is my will that my land and all other property which I own ( with the exception of my wife Mary and her two children Patsy Ann and Louisa) to be sold to pay any just debts or so much of it as will pay them. It is also my will that after all my debts are paid that my wife Mary shall be free. It is also my will that Mary my wife, shall have the aforesaid Patsy Ann and Louisa during her life and at her death the said Patsy Ann and Louisa shall be free. Lastly I do hereby appoint Thomas Overstreet Exor. Of this my last will and testament. As witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th of November 1838.                                                                                                                                          Sipio Overstreet s.



Aron -his mark- Murphy

Jessamine County [?] December Court 1838

I certify that the [?] last will and testament of Sipio Overstreet decd. was this day produced in court and proved by the oaths of T. Overstreet and Aaron Murphy the subscribing witnesses thereto to be the act and deed of the said Sipio Overstreet. Whereupon the same was ordered to be recorded which is done.

Att [?] B. Price C

This is where I am at still. I haven’t done any more research into the matter, but my guess is I will figure it out down the line.

Maybe the Fitch’s and Overstreet’s intermarried and that is how an Overstreet slave could have ended up as a Fitch slave with Overstreet as his last name. Overstreet slaves could have been left to the Fitch children (P.S. and his siblings for example). Maybe they kept this name to find family members that were separated from them, because of the death of an enslaver, or marriage of a daughter? This just goes to show that African American’s must research their families as well as their ancestor’s enslavers. Now that I mention it, P.S. Fitch was married to a Margaret Hanley Moss and Ed Overstreet’s mother was Celia Moss Fitch! The search continues…

Reading a book from the back can give you goose bumps…

I finally received my copy of  Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears a few days ago! When I get a new book I read the part about the author first. When it is a genealogy-related book I also check the index for my people’s names. Since the book is about a place I have pegged my Overstreet line at, I looked under “O” and to my surprise found an entry for Overstreet, W. S., page 375!

To put this into context I have to rewind to the end of last year. That is when after listening to a podcast about a U.S. Colored Troop regiment, I decided to check the military collections on again. I thought I would try looking for a sibling of my Edmund Overstreet.

According to a family reunion booklet I copied from my great-aunt, Edmund had a brother named William. In the booklet the children (11 in all) are listed by what could be the order of birth for boys and girls respectively. Edmund is first, William is second. From Ed’s military file I know he was 19 when he enlisted at Camp Nelson on 30 October 1864. Because of the birth order I assumed William to be a few years younger than Ed, let’s say he could have been around 17 that year.

So, I looked for William and found these three entries in the Descriptive Lists of Colored Volunteer Army Soldiers, 1864 on The list describes the names, rank, birth date & place, age, occupation, enlistment date & place, enlisting officer, enlistment period, eye, hair color, complexion, height, muster-in date & place, owner, remarks. These are the names, ages, birth places and owners of the Williams in the list:

Private Wm Overstreet 26  Jessamine, Kentucky Pattison John
Private Wm Overstreet 48  Jessamine, Kentucky Jno Hanley
Private W S Overstreet 16  Jessamine, Kentucky Fal Fitch
Snippet of Descriptive file found on

Snippet of Descriptive file found on

With this information I signed up for the free seven-day trial at Fold3. Again I found three William Overstreets, this time I saw copies of their actual military files, which named their units and included claims from owners.

Name Co Reg Branch Age Owner
William Overstreet I 124 USCI 26 John Pattison, Kenton Co
William Overstreet K 124 USCI 48 John H Hanly, Jessamine Co
William S. Overstreet K 124 USCI 16 Follansee / Philonzo Fitch, Jessamine Co

I think we have a winner! William S. Overstreet was 16 at the time of his enlistment. Philonzo Fitch was Edmund’s owner, according to the statement and claim in Edmund’s military file. I feel comfortable in assuming this is my great-great-great-grand-uncle!

With the name, birth and unit information I requested a digital copy of William S. Overtsreet’s compiled service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. This will take a few months I guess, but it will most likely be worth the wait!

So, why the goosebumps? After all this I opened page 375 of Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears to find this two paragraphs down:

I visited a small cemetery on a bluff with a view of the Kentucky River Palisades, not the big U.S. cemetery, but a village plot where the people of Hall have buried their dead for generations. Most of the older tombstones are weatherbeaten and unreadable, but one has a clear inscription: W.S. Overstreet, Co. K, 124 U.S.C.I. (United States Colored Infantry); a little “street” in Hall is named Overstreet Lane. He was one of the black soldiers who stayed at Camp Nelson with his family after the war was over.


Violence at Camp Nelson! Part 2

Following my last post I remembered I had a book about African Americans in Kentucky named A History of Blacks in Kentucky – From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891, written by Marion B. Lucas. And yes, that is where I had read the story about the school teacher Reverend Abisha Scofield, of the American Missionary Association, and John Burnside¹. The violence against blacks, particularly black soldiers and their families, is described in detail and left me thinking about what some of my family must have gone through, since I have confirmation that my 3xgrandfather and his brother, Edmund and William Overstreet respectively, both fought in the Civil War and enlisted at Camp Nelson.

Cover of my copy of this book

Cover of my copy of this book

This is the next letter pertaining to the incident in the Freedmen’s Bureau Records, written 2 December, 1866 and signed by J.G. Nain:


I have the honor to request that you send to Camp Nelson a detachment of troops to remain there for ten days, until Mr. Schofield can get his busines setled up. He has a great deal of business there in an unfinished condition, business pertaining to the claims of colored soldiers there widows [?] pay bounty, pensions [?], and he dare not remain there without the protection of the military.    I would suggest that he be protected there until he can get his business straitened out and then withdraw the books, ordering him to leave.   I think it would be much better for the freed men there to have him go, as he inspires them in a great many ways.

I have not seen Susan Luther to obtain any additional evidence in the Hick and Grant case.

I have learned where she is, and have sent for her. As soon as she reports, I will send you all the information I can get from her.

I think it should be immediately sent to Lou-ville, as the friends of the prisoners are there trying to get them released on bonds.

After the troops left Camp Nelson the harassment went on. So much so that the black preacher Gabriel Burdett had to aid the missionaries in escaping to safety.²

Last year I became a member of the Jessamine County Historical Society. I sent a look-up request to them a few weeks ago and received a letter stating that the marriage license of my ancestors Edmund Overtsreet and Josie Washington was special, because they had been married by Gabriel Burdett! Gabriel Burdett helped John G. Fee establish Ariel Academy, one of the early black schools in the county.

This proves to me that I have strong ties to Camp Nelson and makes me even more eager to keep digging into the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and anything else I can get my hands on from this locality. It’s a good thing I ordered that book about Camp Nelson….


Marriage License Edmund Overstreet and Josie Washington, signed by Gabriel Burdett

I would still like to see if there is a connection to the man left for dead after the violent icident at Camp Nelson: John Burnside. I do know that one of Edmund’s sisters married a James Burnside. Fortunately, I have a copy of a family reunion booklet containing the marriages of Ed and his siblings. Further investigation is needed on that lead. So much to do, so little time!

¹ Lucas, Marion B. , (2003). A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891. 2nd ed. U.S.A.: Kentucky Historical Society. p.193

² dto., p.194

Violence at Camp Nelson!

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.13.09 PM

NARA Microfilm M1904, Roll125, Target 11, Nicholasville (Agent), Letters sent, Volume (168) Nov. 1866-Oct1867

I have started transcribing the Nicholasville portion of the Records of the field offices for the State of Kentucky, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. In my first post Learning Curve: Freedmen’s Bureau Records I mentioned finding this record set for Kentucky on the Internet Archive. On page 675 of the PDF field agent J.G. Nain investigates incidents at Camp Nelson. Camp Nelson was a Civil War recruitment camp, but it was also a refugee camp for the families of Kentucky slaves joining the Union Army to gain their freedom. Page 675 of the PDF is page 1 of a letter from J.G. Nain to his superior concerning violence at Camp Nelson:

Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abandoned Lands

B [?]

2nd [ ? ] Lex [?]

Nicholasville Ky [?]

Rice            Brt Lt Col Ja’s H.

Sept 2nd Dist  [?]

Sir in obedience to your notes I preceded to Camp Nelson to investigate [?] outrages committed there upon the freed men of that place on the night of the 20th [?]  and have the honor to report the following. On the night of the 20th [?] a party of from 25 to 50 white men went to the house of Mr Schofield (white) who is the agent of the A[?] Mission and superintendent of freed men school at that place, and after gaining access to the house by smashing out one of the windows took Mr. Schofield and his son out and made preparation to hang them on flog [?] but upon their promising to leave the county immediately they released them. In the mean time they had [?] anything of any value to be found about the house.

They then surrounded the house of a colored man and commenced an indiscriminate fire of muskety through the windows (They all appear to have been armed with muskets.) The House at the time contained two men (colored) one of whom escaped by running off. The other stood his ground and made fight, returning the fire with his revolver, killing one of the [?] and wounding an other. The mob finally succeeded in gaining admission to the house and after

— Next Page—-

[first two lines are illegible]

He thinks he recognized several of them. However I do not rely much on his information as his testimony is very contradictory. The only two that he is positive of identifying were to my own knowledge not engaged in the affair, as one of them lives in Cincinnati, now, and the other one has been in Memphis Tenn. for a few months. He recognized the voices of three others, one living in C.N. named Ray Moss. Tilford Fane living near Potts Mill and Peter Merritt living near C.N. As far as I can see I think it will be difficult to identify any of the party as the colored people were as frightened that they could see nothing and those supposed to know anything are afraid to testify. When the party left they promised to return in  a few days, and threaten instant death to any of Mr Schofields family found at that place at that time.

In consequence of the said, the school there has been closed, the teacher being afraid to have any thing more to do with it.

As to sending troops there I don’t think it would amount to any thing unless we could get some information of the time to expect them again. They would certainly not return as long as the troops were there.

If we could keep a detachment there permanently it would ensure protection, but I presume that is at present impracticable.

I am very respectfully your obedient servant

J.G. Nain

This was so interesting to read, especially since I have family that must have lived at Camp Nelson. They at least have their burial sites there and I don’t mean the National Cemetery, although I have relatives there as well. I have heard the name “Burnside” in my tree somewhere and the story with the teacher rings a bell…More to come!