History Of Free Hill

The Center 

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  From the stories that are told: In a beautiful tree-covered mountain lies a unique rural black community made primarily of the descendants of slaves which settled on the hill well before the Civil War. “Free Hill” is located 5 miles northeast of the city of Celina in Clay County Tennessee. Free Hill was formerly part of Overton County and Overton county census reports from 1830 show the existence of two households on the Hill between 1815 and 1830.

Virginia Hill, a slaveholder from North Carolina, came to Celina and gave her slaves their freedom and 2,000 acres of rough hilly land. The former slaves called the mountain Free Hill, because Mrs. Hill freed them and because the land was mostly on hillsides. The area has since been referred to as Free Hill. Among the slaves was a free woman by the name of Betsy Manny and her son Rubin whom was a slave. Rubin married a housekeeper known as Sarah; together they had three sons Tom, Joshua, and Polk Hill. Virginia Hill gave Rubin 400 acres and divided the rest among the rest of the slaves.

The ex-slaves survived and prospered by rafting, logging, and farming. The women provided extra help by seeking day work. The residents of Free Hill withstood the nightriders who beat and ran off the males, while violating and raping the women, but against all odds, they continued to endure and overcome, farming the rough hills and valleys. Later runaway and freed slaves migrated to the area and inter-married. The residents built their own stores, clubs, and eateries.

Free Hill was once home for over 300 residents, now Free Hill is home for less than 100 according to current information. Yet there are still some who are the direct descendants of the freed slaves who made the rough, but picturesque hill top, their home.

Herman Burris 1983