In mid-March, Jerome Parchman, Historian for the Clarksville Montgomery County African American Legacy Trail, and I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Carr Johnson, a descendent of Reverend Horace Carr (b. 1812), who was the founding minister of Mt. Zion Baptist Church (est. 1867) at Port Royal after the Civil War. Mr. Johnson, the great-great-great-great grandson of Rev. Horace Carr, told us about the history of his family, and what he long-believed was a myth about his relative being the topic of a book about pastors after the Civil War. Then, one day, decades ago, his sister found the book in the Library of Congress, “Pioneer Colored Christians” by Harriett Parks Miller. Not only did the book include their great-great-great-great grandfather’s history, but it included interviews with neighbors and friends in the community of Port Royal. The book was written by a White woman who was interviewing her Black neighbors and community members. As a product of 1911, some of the book’s commentary contains racial stereotypes. Yet, the book provides information about the Black community and first-hand accounts of Port Royal that are nowhere else to be found. Reverend Carr’s widow, Kitty Carr, is interviewed for the book. She was born a free person in 1815 in Virginia, but at age six, her mother gave her away as a gift to a White woman, who brought her to Tennessee. She was later able to establish her freedom with the help of White friends at Port Royal. Other Carr family members and Port Royal community members are interviewed in the book. The book also describes the locations of homes, churches, cemeteries, and community happenings. Mr. Johnson gave a copy of the book to me and Jerome, and he informed us that we could now find it online. Indeed, the book is published by several publishers since it is in the public domain. You can find it for free on Project Gutenberg here.
Mr. Johnson offered to lead me and Jerome to a cemetery where Reverend Horace Carr and his sons are buried, along with many other Black citizens of Port Royal after the Civil War. The cemetery is difficult to access through an overgrown forest easement and might be dangerous in the warmer months due to snakes. There are saw briars and wild roses and other preventative undergrowth. Thankfully, we went just prior to spring this year. There are no paths. Many of the gravestones are field stone markers and not elaborate tombstones. However, Reverend Carr’s headstone and some others are still upright and include carvings and messages. The cemetery is located down the hillside from the original location of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. A couple of creeks flow through the little wooded hollow where the cemetery is located.
After speaking with Port Royal State Park Manager David Britton, I learned that “Pioneer Colored Christians” is a book that they have used as a source for the Black history that they tell at Port Royal and that it is included on the wayside panels there. Some of that information can be found online here at VisitClarksville. Visiting Port Royal State Park will allow you to read much more information. The park is located at 3300 Old Clarksville Hwy. Adams, TN 37010. Port Royal State Park website here.
The cemetery is not located at the park. The cemetery is on private land. It is estimated that the cemetery contains between 100-200 graves of African Americans.
Reverend Horace Carr’s sons also became preachers. One of them, Rev. J.W. Carr was pastor at The First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, that dates back to 1788.
We are now planning to add Reverend Horace Carr, Port Royal State Park, and Mt. Zion Baptist Church to the Clarksville Montgomery County African American Legacy Trail.
The current church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, is located at 3310 Highway 76, Adams, TN 37010
We offer a very special “Thank you” to Mr. Carr Johnson for his kindness.