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Museum Introduction

Welcome to Bardstown, Kentucky, a city steeped in history as the second oldest in the state, established back in 1780. Nationally acclaimed as the "Bourbon Capital of the World," Bardstown earned the prestigious title of the "Most Beautiful Small Town in America" in 2012, as bestowed by Rand McNally and USA Today.

Within Bardstown lies a noteworthy architectural gem, the first two-story Brick Church in Nelson County, believed to have been constructed by slaves in 1812. Throughout its existence from 1812 until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, this church, known as the Union Church, witnessed a succession of congregations, including the White Presbyterians, White Methodists, and White Baptists. Following the Civil War, it became a shared place of worship for Baptist and Methodist ex-slaves. Eventually, by the end of the century, the church was solely utilized by the free Black Baptists.

After the members of First Baptist Church relocated to their new sanctuary in 2002, the old Union Church stood vacant until 2016 when it underwent a comprehensive renovation, restoring it from top to bottom. The following year, Bardstown's first African American Mayor, Bill Sheckles, envisioned transforming the ground floor of the historic church into the Nelson County African American Heritage Museum. This initiative aimed to establish a central hub to preserve valuable information and artifacts that highlight the significant contributions of African Americans in shaping the growth of Bardstown and Nelson County.

Presently, the museum proudly showcases an array of exhibits, including those dedicated to Black educators, Black service personnel, past and present Black businesses, Black athletes, Black elected officials, and an intriguing display called "Did You Know?" that commemorates the pioneering achievements of people of color in Bardstown and Nelson County's history. Additionally, visitors can explore display cases housing precious artifacts such as Civil War veterans' discharge papers, a Slave Auction Block Plate, records of a historic Russian visit to Bardstown, and insights into historically Black neighborhoods and their notable residences. Notably, there are even artifacts discovered in a hidden room beneath the church's floor, potentially suggesting its use as a stop on the Underground Railroad, though this claim remains unverified.

Mission Statement

The establishment of this museum serves a vital purpose: to ensure that the legacy and significant contributions of People of Color in Bardstown and Nelson County are known and appreciated by future generations. It provides a tangible space where the narratives from the Black community's perspective can be shared, shedding light on their profound impact on the history and development of Bardstown since its inception in 1780.

Our Team.

Welcome to the African American Heritage Museum's "Our Team" section. Behind this remarkable institution stands a dedicated and passionate group of individuals committed to preserving and celebrating the rich cultural heritage and contributions of African Americans in Bardstown and Nelson County. With a shared vision of promoting understanding, appreciation, and education, our team brings together diverse backgrounds, expertise, and unwavering enthusiasm to ensure that the stories, experiences, and achievements of the Black community are honored and shared with the world. Join us as we embark on this journey of discovery and empowerment, guided by our collective dedication to preserving history and inspiring future generations.

Key Contributors

The funding of the Bardstown-Nelson County African American Heritage

Museum was made possible partly by grants from 


- The Kentucky Humanities Foundation

- Bardstown-Nelson County Tourism

- The City of Bardstown

- Sazerac Foundation 

- First Baptist Church of Bardstown

- Haydon Holdings Inc.

- Heaven Hill Distillery 

- Joanne Keene Kelleher 

- Barton 1792 Distillery 

- Log Still Distillery 

Other Donors

• Lunette Payne
• Jayme Haslem and Pat Whelan
• Carrie Stivers
• Florence Samuels

• Mayor Dick Heaton

• Elizabeth Kimberland

• Eric Clements

• Henrietta Anderson

• Bob and Kathleen Llewellen

• Charles Scott

• Dixie Hibbs

• Mary and Darrell Lauer

• Town & Country Bank

• Wilson & Muir Bank

• HR-Know How

• Lincoln National Bank

• Brenda Ford-Ware

• Nelson County Schools

• Pat and Fred Hagan

• Bardstown Chamber of Commerce

• Judy and Doug Hubbard

• Jennifer Fowler

• Sharon and Charles Brewer

• Tom and Linda Reed

• Bob and Wendy Kenney

• Tim & Deanna Boone

• Carolyn & Tony Goodman


• Bardstown Sporting Goods

• Bardstown Bourbon Company

• Clifford & Hazel Pash

• Nazareth Retreat Center 

• Tom and Janice Donan 

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