Civil War  |  Historic Site

Promise Land


707 Promise Land Road
Charlotte, TN 37036
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: Tennessee Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

Promise Land School, Charlotte, Tenn.
Promise Land School, Charlotte, Tenn. Daniel Meigs/Nashville Scene

After the Civil War, free people established Promise Land, the first African American community of Dickson County.

Some descended from enslaved people brought to Dickson County to labor on farms and in the iron works at Cumberland Furnace. With the coming of war, some of these men self-emancipated and joined the United States Colored Troops (USCT) to secure their freedom.

Arch Nesbitt served in Co. G, 12th USCT, enlisting August 24, 1864, at section 26 (Sullivan Branch) of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. He likely engaged in the Battle of Johnsonville in November 1864 and fought at the Battle of Nashville in December 1864 before receiving an honorable discharge at Nashville in January 1866.

Arch Nesbitt’s brother John, served with Co. H, 4th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery enlisting in Paducah, Kentucky on October 25, 1863, which garrisoned in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas before mustering out at Little Rock in February 1866. Others joined the 12th USCT at Milepost #42 on the railroad where the City of Dickson now stands.

Returning to Dickson County as free men, over time these veterans nurtured families, acquired land, were eligible to vote, and joined others to build a self-sustaining Black community that grew to encompass about 1,000 acres, included 50 homes, several stores, three churches and a school. The school, built in 1880s, stands on land that John Nesbitt purchased with pension money received as compensation for service-related injuries.

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Twentieth century forces drew people away from Promise Land, but an annual homecoming tradition pulled descendants back and supported formation of the Promise Land Heritage Association which administers this historic site including the surviving 1880s school building, now a museum, and the 1935 St. John Methodist Church building, now the Promise Land Cultural Arts Center.

Promise Land: What's Nearby

Charlotte, TN
Civil War  |  Fort
Fort Defiance/Fort Sevier/Fort Bruce
Clarksville, TN