The Enslaved at Locust Grove

Locust Grove was the home and workplace of dozens of enslaved African Americans during the Croghans’ residency from 1790 to 1849. Some were born here, and others were purchased and brought here to do the work of building the house and outbuildings, planting and harvesting the crops, digging the gardens, preserving and cooking the meals, stitching the clothes, washing the laundry, watching the children, and other tasks. At the peak of the farm’s operations in 1820, more than 40 enslaved people labored here. All of them had little control over the conditions of their lives.

In 1849, the 22 enslaved individuals remaining at Locust Grove were emancipated by the will of Dr. John Croghan. Those who were freed were indentured for seven years to be trained in marketable skills, then finally released from bondage. We do not know where they went after leaving Locust Grove, though some probably remained nearby, while others left for free territory north of the Ohio. We have few details about how the enslaved were treated here, with no words left from them to tell the story. There is no record of any runaways; but we do know that at least three of the enslaved were sold “down river” in New Orleans by the Croghans. Slavery was a cruel institution and the people of early Kentucky struggled with the morality and daily realities of life under a slave system.

Our research into the lives of the enslaved at Locust Grove is ongoing, and we are committed to sharing their stories.

Visit our blog to learn more about our plans, projects, and progress surrounding enslaved interpretation and to hear from those involved in the research and interpretation here.
Listen to conversations between two of our interpreters of the enslaved, Caisey Cole and Sidney Edwards, here.
Hear from our researcher and volunteer Heather Hiner here.
Hear Michael Twitty’s presentation at Locust Grove in May 2018 here.
Listen to the March 2019 lecture Teasing Out Black History at Locust Grove by Dr. Joy Carew here.
Read about the visit of Joe McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project in August 2019 here. 
Learn more about our Enslaved Interpretation Task Force here.