BGAD employee strives to preserve heritage of hometown Kentucky community.

By CourtesyAugust 23, 2023

BGAD employee strives to preserve heritage of hometown Kentucky community.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Aaron Banther, a contract specialist fellow at Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky, is giving back to his community of Farristown, Kentucky, by sharing his heritage with the community. (Photo Credit: Willliam D. Ritter) VIEW ORIGINAL
BGAD employee strives to preserve heritage of hometown Kentucky community.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Aaron Banther's third great grandfather, Frederick Watts, who was a former slave and Civil War veteran who moved to the Farristown, Kentucky, area. (Submitted photo). (Photo Credit: Willliam D. Ritter) VIEW ORIGINAL
BGAD employee strives to preserve heritage of hometown Kentucky community.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Aaron Banther conducts an oral history narration session with Ethel Merriweather, the oldest living Farristown descendant. (Submitted photo) (Photo Credit: Willliam D. Ritter) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Elizabeth Urbaniak, Public Affairs Assistant, Contributor to BGAD PAO

RICHMOND, Ky., August 22, 2023 – A Blue Grass Army Depot, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island employee is giving back to his Farristown, Kentucky, community by sharing his heritage.

Aaron Banther, a contract specialist fellow at Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky, grew up in Farristown in Berea, Kentucky, where his descendants resided and owned land since the late 1800s. He is now spearheading several initiatives to preserve his heritage there.

Banther is a descendant of formerly enslaved African Americans who were in the area before the establishment of Farristown. Growing up, Banther had friends of all different races, but he stated he did experience his share of racism and discrimination. He also grew up disappointed in the lack of black history in the schools he attended.

“Some people don’t understand that it’s important, especially when you’re a minority in a predominantly white population, fatherless, and looking for something positive to identify with,” Banther said. “I love my black heritage, but I love and appreciate all races and cultures.”

After high school, he served 22 years in the Navy. While on a deployment, he read a book by Jaqueline Burnside, called “Black America Series, Berea, and Madison County,” and in the book, Banther saw stories about the foundation of Berea and his community of Farristown.

“In that book, I saw familiar faces and things about Berea that I had no idea about, especially when it came to African Americans and interracial unity in Berea,” he said. “That book planted the seed in my mind for further historic preservation for the community of Farristown and to find a way to display our local African American heritage.”

Banther sought out genealogists and historians who could help. However, it wasn’t until April 2022 that he found out the city of Berea was industrializing the community of Farristown. He said that he needed to work swiftly and do something fast to ensure that the heritage of Farristown was preserved.

“Everything happened for a reason,” Banther said. “Once I retired from the Navy in October 2019 and could move back, I went to work on the historic preservation of Farristown. I’ve been doing it now for almost two years.”

Banther wrote to express his concerns about the safety and history of the area.

“The mayor called me a week later, and we talked for an hour,” Banther stated. “He told me that it opened his eyes to some things, and he wanted me to work with him to help preserve that history.”

Later, Banther had a chance to address the Berea City Council.

“I thought it was important to let everyone know the importance of Farristown and the foundation of how Berea was founded in the first place,” he said. “It’s not well known, and folks need to know.”

The mayor proclaimed Banther a Grassroot Community Builder as he led several meetings with descendants and Farristown residents seeking their help. Banther started several projects including:

- Oral history narrations, in which Banther conducted numerous interviews and traveled to different states to record and interview descendants. Berea College will be the repository for these interviews with associated QR codes that will take people to an online repository where they can listen to the stories of descendants.

- Welcome to Historic Farristown sign, which has raised $6,500 for a sign to be constructed, allowing residents to see, understand, and learn about the community. The plans are 90% complete.

- Farristown Cemetery cleanup, a cemetery with African American descendants, Civil War members, and World War II veterans that was overgrown and not maintained. Banther personally completed an initial cleanup and organized a group of descendants to continue the cleanup process. He now mows it regularly in the summer for maintenance.

Recently, Banther has been working with the city to secure a $750,000 grant to help build a Farristown Community Center.

“If granted, the community center could serve as a museum for not only Farristown, but also the other communities that have been forgotten,” he said. “It could be where we discuss not only black heritage in Berea, but also the importance of interracial unity and inclusion.”

He is working with the Bluegrass Development District to help bring the grant for the community center to fruition. He has collected over 30 letters of support from descendants, local citizens, and nonprofit organizations across the community which will be submitted with the grant application.

Banther stated that he enjoys all types of history, but as a black male, he needed something to identify with when trying to find his way in life, and history helps him to do that. Black History is American History, and it is for all races.

Banther does all his preservation work on his own time after hours or on weekends.

“My supervisor and team members are aware of my community involvement and are very supportive,” he added. “It’s demanding, but I don’t let it hinder my contracting duties. Once I shared my community involvement and goal to educate the community and bring awareness to Farristown, they also understood its importance. I’m thankful for my team and that ACC-Rock Island is big on diversity, equality, and inclusion, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share.”


The Blue Grass Army Depot started operations in 1942. It’s part of the Army’s Organic Industrial Base which manufactures, resets, and maintains Army equipment, providing critical materiel and sustainment support to America’s Joint Warfighters. BGAD’s primary mission is storing and shipping conventional munitions, while safeguarding the country’s chemical munition stockpiles. BGAD hosts several tenant units on post including the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant and Blue Grass Chemical Activity.