CAMP NELSON PROVIDED THE UNION ARMY WITH over 10,000 African-American soldiers, making it the third largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation. Many of the black soldiers brought their families with them to Camp Nelson and eventually the army established a refugee camp for these individuals. Thousands of African-Americans came to Camp Nelson and it was here that they gained their freedom. In addition to the African-Americans, several regiments of white troops from Kentucky and Tennessee were formed at Camp Nelson and many others from the Midwest and New England spent a good deal of time at the Bluegrass base.
The families of the African-American Soldiers attracted the attention of the American Missionary Association, an abolitionist society founded prior to the Civil War. Reverend John Fee, the founder of Berea College, came to Camp Nelson in 1864 to teach and minister to the refugees at Camp Nelson. His efforts eventually led to the founding of Ariel College and church and finally the settlement of Hall. Fee believed passionately in the equality of the races and he sought to educate the freedmen to become independent, self-reliant members of an integrated American society The refugee camp for the families of the African-American soldiers was located near the present day community of Hall west of US 27. This was also the site of Ariel College.