Boyle Landmark Trust is raising funds to finance a historical roadside marker to be placed on East Walnut Street near the Willis Russell House.
“Our mission is to highlight the importance of early education by Willis Russell at the log house, and those who were educated there,” said Barbara Hulette, president of Boyle Landmark Trust.
The marker will include information about Willis Russell, a former slave, who opened the first school for black children in Danville, and his former owner, Lt. Robert Edward Craddock, who served in the Revolutionary War and became a wealthy landowner by purchasing military land grants in Kentucky. At one time, Craddock owned more than 9,000 acres of land scattered across Kentucky.
When Craddock died, he freed his slaves, including Willis Russell, and gave them land, money and provisions for the rest of their lives. He also left money to provide for underprivileged children statewide, and for educating poor children in Warren County, where he lived at the time of his death.
During his lifetime, Craddock provided an education for all his slaves.
Russell inherited two houses and lots in Danville and 509 acres on Rolling Fork River in Casey County. In his will, Craddock instructed Russell to leave his home in Bowling Green within a year of Craddock's death in order to claim the land, otherwise Russell’s inheritance would go to other slaves Craddock had freed.
Russell filled the mission of Craddock’s by returning to Danville and opening the school.
Russell moved to one of the log houses he inherited in Danville.
He is listed as a teacher in the 1850 Danville census with a wife and daughter, and three boys between 8 and 12 years old, who were probably students.
Russell was listed as a wagon maker in the 1840 Danville census.