Carl Hall


(Carl F. Hall)

The Commonwealth of Kentucky, having for a northern boundary the Ohio

River--the dividing line between the northern free states and the

southern slave states has always been regarded as a southern state. As

in the other states of the old south, slavery was an institution until

the Thirteenth Ammendment to the Constitution of the United States gave

the negro freedom in 1865.

Kentucky did not, as other southern states, secede from the Union, but

attempted to be neutral during the Civil War. The people, however, were

divided in their allegience, furnishing recruits for both the Federal

and Confederate armies. The president of the Union, Abraham Lincoln, and

the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, both were born in

this state.

Boyd County was formed in 1860 from parts of Lawrence, Greenup and

Carter Counties, and we are unable to find any records, in Boyd County,

as to slave holders and their slaves, though it is known that many well

to do families the Catletts, Davis, Poages, Williams and others were

slave holders.

Slaves were not regarded as persons, had no civil rights and were owned

just as any other chattel property, were bought and sold like horses and

cattle, and knew no law but the will of their white masters and like

other domestic animals could be, and were, acquired and disposed of

without regard to family ties or other consideration.

Usually, as each slave represented a large investment of money, they

were well cared for, being adequately fed, clothed and sheltered, having

medical attention when sick.

As, along the border in Kentucky, there were no large plantations where

field workers could be used, most of the slaves in this region were

house servants, who were housed in wings of the master's house, where

the plantations were large enough to need many slaves, they were

furnished one, or two, rooms cabins close by the mansion on the master's


As educated people are apt to be able to figure out ways to improve

their lot, learning among the negroes was not encouraged, in fact it was

illegal to teach them. In some instances an enlighted and humane master

would teach a servant, and often they could find some one who would

teach them secretly. As a race, however, they were, at the time they

were set free, without any education at all.

Tales are told of cruel masters who overworked, flogged and otherwise

mistreated their helpers and slaves; these masters, however, seem to

have been an exception to the rule and considering that they were

generally well provided for, many slaves were better off economically

than the laborer of today who is a victim of misfortunes such as

sickness, disability and old age.

One reason why slaves were better treated here than further south, was

that Kentucky was a border state, and throughout Ohio and other northern

states, was an organization known as the "Underground Railroad." This

was a sort of secret society whose members were sworn to assist escaped

slaves to run away to Canada where they would be free. When a run-away

slave crossed the Ohio River he would be met by some one of this

organization and taken where he could remain in hiding by day, then by

traveling by night, could reach another place of concealment by morning,

where he would be fed and hidden until darkness permitted him to reach

the next haven. By this means many were successful in reaching freedom,

though they were hunted by officers, armed with guns, and assisted by

fierce dogs especially trained for this work.

Negroes who were unruly, or were caught attempting to escape, were

usually sold to planters in the far south where they could not hope to

escape, and were forced to end their days in unremitting toil in the

cotton and cane fields, forever separated from relatives and friends.

It was the barbarism practiced by cruel masters, so vividly portrayed in

such books as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and songs like "Nellie Gray," that

awakened the nation's conscience and brought about the bloody "Civil

War" which resulted in the race being set free.

Just before the war, George Davis, a mulatto, son of his master and a

black servant girl, was in Cincinnati and was accosted by two white men

who offered to use the good offices of the "Underground Railroad" to

help him to get away to Canada. Being well treated, as a trusted servant

of his white father and master, he did not avail himself of this

opportunity to escape and stayed on as a slave until Freed by the war,

after which he went to Ohio and settled and prospered until his death.

Another slave, Asberry Parker, did escape, and traveling by night hiding

by day, reached safety in Canada where he worked and saved until he

became wealthy. After the war, when he could safely return to the United

States, he moved to Ironton, Ohio, where he made his home for the rest

of his life. He belonged in his days of slavery, to a Williams family,

in Carter County, Kentucky.

Another slave, George McVodie, belonging to the Poage family, of Boyd

Co., escaped and went to Canada, no [TR: missing word?] as to whether he

ever came back later.

A sister of George Davis was sold to a planter in Louisiana where she

lived until 1877, when she returned to Boyd County as a free woman.

As negroes, in slavery days, were regarded as beasts of burden not much

interest was taken in the welfare of their souls. Some kind hearted

masters would allow them the privilege of meeting in religious service,

where some one of their race in spite of the conditions of the times,

could read and explain the Bible, would preach. Other masters would not

allow this to be done. A negro would become, in character much like the

family who owned him, i.e., an honest, moral and kindly master would

have slaves of like qualities, while a cruel, dishonest master would

usually affect his slaves so that they would be tricky and unreliable.

Where the master did not personally supervise his slaves and left them

to the mercies of a hired "over-seer," their lot was usually much worse,

as these task-masters were almost always tyranical and were not

restrained by a sense of ownership from abusing the helpless creatures

under their authority as were the master's, whose money was invested in


On one occasion, a young negro saw his own sister stripped naked and

unmercifully whipped by one of these over-seers. He gathered up all of

his small belongings and tied them in a bundle and securing a club of

wood, laid in wait for the cruel 'boss' until dark, when he killed him

with the club. He then escaped, via the "Underground Railroad."

One thing he was careful to do, was to avoid all telegraph poles, as

that he thought the wires could detect and betray him, the telegraph was

a mystery to his ignorant mind. He succeeded in making his way to

Canada and freedom where he stayed until after the war, when it was

safe to return.

The slave trade of importing slaves into the United States, being

forbidden after about 1820, cut off the supply to such an extent that

strong, healthy negroes became very high in price. Many Kentucky slave

owners raised slaves for this market just as we today raise live stock

on our farms.

Only the strong healthy slave women were allowed to have children, and

often were not allowed to mate with their own husbands, but were bred

like live stock to some male negro who was kept for that purpose because

of his strong phisique, which the master wished to reproduce, in order

to get a good price for his progeny, just like horses, cattle, dogs and

other animals are managed today in order to improve the stock. Often the

father of a comely black woman's child, would be the master himself, who

would heartlessly sell his own offspring to some other master, without

regard for his welfare.

Many of the aristocratic women of the master class, to keep from the

burdensome task of caring for their own children, and to assure

themselves a life of leisure would delegate to one of the negro slave

women the care of their own children.

Many of the upper class white children were cared for by these faithful

black "Mammies" fed by the milk from their breasts. Countless stories

are told of the love and devotion of the black "Mammy" for the white

child who was brought to their 'grown up' years by her care.

A marriage between negroes, before freedom, had no legal standing; a

negro couple, wishing to marry, had to get a permit from each master and

were united in marriage by a ceremony with a preacher of their own race

officiating. After the war, when they were made citizens with civil

rights, many former slaves who had been married in this way, hastened to

legalize their union by obtaining licenses and having a legal ceremony


While the four years of Civil War, between the North and South resulted

in the freedom of the slaves, the negro is yet restricted in many ways

in the south. In many states, separate schools are maintained, the negro

churches are separate, social equality is not recognized.

In Kentucky, intermarriages between the races are not allowed. Separate

coaches are provided on railway trains, hotels, restaurants, theaters

and other places of amusement, which cater to white customers, do not

permit negro patrons. Many towns and cities have zoning ordinances

forbidding negroes to live in white localities. In many southern states

the negroes is prevented from voting by local regulations, in Boyd

County colored people go to the polls and vote just like anyone else.

Negroes make good house servants, and are extensively used for that

purpose today. White families employ them as chauffeurs, butlers, house

boys, child nurses, maids and cooks, preferring them to white servants

who are not so adaptable to such subordinate positions in life.

Colored men work in barber shops, in restaurants as waiters, and are

largely employed as porters in hotels and on railway coaches. Colored

women work in hotels as cooks, chamber maids, and are commonly employed

as elevator operator in hotels and office buildings.

Not many negroes are in business locally, as race prejudice prevents

white folks from trading at colored stores, and the local colored

population is too small to provide many customers of their own race.

Many ambitious colored folks have left here and gone to the large cities

of the north, and made conspicious successes in business. Some have

succeeded in the professions as doctors, lawyers, actors, and writers

and other vocations.

All in all, the race has progressed to an astonishing degree since being

set free a generation ago.

Politics: Formerly, the negro, attributing his freedom to the efforts

of Abraham Lincoln in his behalf, voted almost solidly for the

Republican Party. Now, however, the Democrats have, by remembering the

race when passing out jobs, gained recruits among the colored people,

and some negro Democrats are found here. The negro has been accused of

voting for money, but it is doubtful if as a race, he is any more prone

to this practice than his white fellow citizens among whom this abuse

seems to be growing.

Carl Boone Carlotte Beverley facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail