Kentucky’s Story presents a re-creation of what life in Kentucky was like at different times in history, beginning with the American Indians who were here when the first white settlers arrived. The focus in each program is on what a typical 10-year-old might have experienced during the various periods. Viewers see how early Kentuckians dressed, cooked, played, spoke, and worked. The series is not meant to convey a great many facts or detailed information, but rather to give a feel for the issues and emotions of the times.
Grade Levels: 4-5
Resource Types: Teacher’s Guide PDF, Videos, Photos, Readings, Suggested Activities
This program briefly reviews the arrival of prehistoric people on this continent and then focuses on the Indians living in Kentucky just before the coming of the white man. The program looks at the homes, games, clothes, economy, and lifestyles of these tribes.
Program Goal: Students will name and discuss important aspects of early Indian life in Kentucky.
Early Kentucky: Video
Historical Background: Early Indians in Kentucky (12,000 B.C.-1650 A.D.)
For many years, writers depicted Kentucky, the Great Meadows of Indian lore, as uninhabited prior to European settlement. They believed that the Indians considered the land sacred and lived elsewhere, coming to the region only to hunt and war. However, almost 3,000 years before Kentucky pioneers came face to face with such tribes as the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw, the area had been inhabited by prehistoric Indians. The ancestors of these earliest Kentuckians may have come to the Western Hemisphere as early as 20,000 years ago by crossing a strip of land, now submerged beneath the Bering Straits, connecting the Asian and North American continents. They slowly drifted southward, arriving in Kentucky by 12,000 B.C. Over many years these early Indians developed four prehistoric traditions which archaeologists have designated as Paleo Indian (12,000-7500 B.C.), Archaic (7500-1500 B.C.), Woodland (1500 B.C.-900 A.D.), and Mississippian (900-1650 A.D.).
A nomadic people, the Paleo Indians used Clovis points (leaf-shaped projectile points—archaeologists prefer the term “projectile point” instead of arrowhead) to hunt big game animals like the mammoth, mastodon, and bison which thrived in the cool postglacial environment. While the early hunters did produce stone projectile points, their transient lifestyle kept them from making large quantities of tools and implements. No skeletal remains of Paleo Indians have been found in Kentucky.
By 7500 B.C., Kentucky’s Indian culture changed. Large game animals died out, and the Archaic Indians now depended on fishing and efficient gathering of wild foods as well as hunting. The white-tailed deer and the elk became the dominant game animals. Hunting skills improved with the use of the atlatl, a short wooden board which enabled the Indians to throw their spears farther than with their arms alone. Stone tools, ground to the desired shape, appeared. Artifacts such as grooved axes, conical and cylindrical pestles, bone awls, and cannel coal beads also have been found from this period. A unique feature of the Archaic period was the “hominy hole,” a particular type of depression worn in sandstone by grinding or pulverizing. Despite its name, the hominy hole was probably used for grinding up nuts or seed; corn (from which hominy is made) was not grown in Kentucky until the Woodland period. Shell (mussel) mound sites along the Green, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers indicate that the Indians returned to the same places year after year. Archaic Indian social groups were probably small, consisting of a few cooperating families. Their dead were buried with bodies flexed in round pits, and sometimes tools were included in the graves.
Beginning about 1500 B.C., people of the Woodland culture entered Kentucky. They occupied the area for about 600 years. Efficient hunters and gatherers, the Woodland Indians also participated in an intricate trade network to obtain such things as copper from Lake Superior, obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, and conch shells from the Gulf of Mexico. They mined both Mammoth Cave and Salts Cave for gypsum and mirabilite, a salty seasoning. The Woodland people cultivated corn, sunflowers, giant ragweeds, and amaranth (pigweed), and they raised squash and gourds for containers rather than as a food source. The Woodland Indians buried their dead in conical and later flat or oval-shaped burial mounds, which were often 10 to 20 feet high; this practice resulted in their being called the Mound Builders by 19th-century observers. The remains of two distinct Woodland groups, the Adena (early Woodland) and the Hopewell (middle Woodland), have been found in northcentral Kentucky.
The last of the prehistoric peoples were the Mississippian Indians, who lived in western Kentucky from 900 to 1650 A.D. In the greater Mississippi Valley, these Indians had a well established social order and a full agricultural economy with corn, beans, squash, and tobacco as the principal crops. They hunted with bows and arrows; made pottery in effigy forms; and fashioned large chipped-stone knives, picks, and hoes. These Indians constructed permanent homes of woven branches and plastered mud and protected their villages with wooden palisades (walls made of tall posts) and a moat (wide ditch) outside the palisades. These features gave the villages much the same appearance as the early pioneer forts. Although the Mississippians buried their dead in small burial mounds or stone box graves, they built large flat-topped temple mounds as the ceremonial centers of their cities. Because of this construction design, they have been called the Temple Mound Builders.
Some, but not all, archaeologists recognize a fifth Kentucky Indian tradition: the Fort Ancient culture, which developed when the Mississippian tradition came into contact with the retrogressive culture of the indigenous people of northern Kentucky. These Indians lived among the Hopewell sites but had no part in building the great mounds of the earlier period. Kentucky’s Fort Ancient people differed little from Woodland Indians in that they continued the old way of life of hunting small game and gathering food. They also planted beans, corn, and squash to supplement their diets, and they built villages of a few dozen bark-covered huts, generally on prominent knolls, but their settlements contained no temple mounds. They buried their dead in small burial mounds or stone box graves, made pottery for food and water storage, and carved small gorgets (throat armor) incised with human faces.
Extant records reveal neither what happened to the Mississippian way of life nor how long before the arrival of the white pioneers that Kentucky was without Indian inhabitants other than roaming bands of hunters and warriors. Probably a century elapsed, and undoubtedly many a battle was fought on Kentucky soil during the interval. Neither the southern Indians (the Cherokees and Chickasaws) nor the Shawnees from north of the Ohio River were strong enough to occupy and permanently hold the Great Meadows. However, the Shawnees seem to have made the greatest effort to live in Kentucky. In the early 18th century, there was a Shawnee settlement in Clark County called Eskippakithika and others in Greenup and Johnson counties. But for unknown reasons—perhaps a massive crop failure or widespread disease—most of the Indians who had lived in Kentucky disappeared before Europeans arrived in the state.
- To help students understand time, make a timeline on shelf paper. Divide the timeline into 1,000-year sections, leaving sufficient space to write in events from the past. Place names and dates of prehistoric Indian cultures in Kentucky on the timeline. Explain the meaning of B.C. and A.D. Have students add important dates in world history to the timeline (such events as Egyptian Civilization, 3100-1100 B.C.; Roman Empire, 27 B.C.-476 A.D.; Mayan Pyramids, 1000 A.D.; Columbus, 1492; Jamestown, 1607; American Revolution, 1776; Civil War, 1865; World War II, 1939-1945; today; etc.). Students will realize how short the present century is in comparison to past events and that different stages of cultural progress existed in the world at the same time.
- Have students imagine that they have been left in a Kentucky forest. They have no tools and only the clothes on their backs. They must devise methods of building shelters, making clothing, and obtaining and preparing food. Students can write imaginary diaries of how they survived the ordeal or divide into teams and include one another’s solutions to surviving in such a situation.
- Simulate an archaeological dig by having a “trash can dig.” In attempting to understand the cultural system of ancient people and the environment that fostered it, the archaeologist leaves no evidence unexamined. Even discarded debris—the garbage, flint chips, pieces of broken tools, clam shells, etc.—is valuable. These things reveal as much about prehistoric culture as wadded bits of paper, pop-can tabs, and discarded batteries do for our 20th-century lifestyles. For fun, have students excavate a trash can as if it were the site of an ancient civilization.
- Excavation: Divide the class into two groups (or four, if the class is large). Find one full trash can, from another classroom or activity area, in the school for each group. Explain to one group how to excavate the trash can in levels from top to bottom. The students must keep accurate and detailed records (drawings and descriptions) of each level. They must record everything they find. Tell the other group to excavate the trash can any way they want. Each group is to select a speaker to report on the excavation orally after 20 minutes. Compare excavation procedures. Which is the more detailed? Why?
- Analysis and Interpretation: By examining data collected at a site, archaeologists hope to discover how people lived. Students should be able to learn a great deal about the people who deposited trash in the cans through analysis. First, categorize the artifacts—trash—by form and function. Why were certain items found together? How many soft drink cans, discarded sheets of paper, broken pencils, etc. are there? Is there anything you might have expected to find but didn’t? Now answer some questions. From which classroom is the trash can? How do you know? Do you know the names of any of the students in the class? Can you ascribe personal characteristics to them? Who is the teacher? What were the students working on? Can you tell the order in which activities were conducted in the classroom by the levels of the trash? When was the trash last emptied? Students will be able to think up many more questions and answers as they examine the trash.
- Using an overhead or opaque projector, draw a wall-size map of Kentucky. As the series progresses, plot rivers, trails, settlements, etc. on the map.
- Archaeologists believe that prehistoric Kentuckians relied largely on small game, wild vegetables, and nuts, plus a few domesticated vegetables, for their food sources. Snails, mussels, deer, elk, bear, raccoon, beaver, raspberries, wild onions, pawpaws, walnuts, chestnuts, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, squash, and corn may have been among the foods hunted, gathered, and grown by early Kentuckians. Students might add to this possible list of foods, then learn to identify them, gather them, and attempt to cook some of them.
- Learn the Shawnee game Tetepauhalowaawaa (Teh-teh-paw-ha-lo-way-way), the rolling game. (It is described in Shawnee Traditions: C.C. Trowbridge’s Account. Vernon Kinietz and Ermine W. Voegelin, ed. Ann Arbor, 1939.) Divide the group into two teams, with a maximum of six players to a team. Mark off a rectangle 40′ x 4′. If the court is on soft ground or sand, smooth the surface and dig 14 shallow holes (about 6″ in diameter) at the places marked on the diagram. If the court is on hard ground or a gymnasium floor, the “holes” may be marked with rope and masking tape. One team stands at each of the court’s narrow ends. Each team has six balls. Teams alternate rolling one ball at a time down the court, trying to sink them into the pits and earn the points marked on the diagram. Balls must be aimed at pits at the end of the court opposite where the players are standing. When each team has rolled six balls, the teams switch ends, repeating the rolling procedure until one team has scored 60 points.
- Have students make clay pots using the coil method, as did the earliest prehistoric potters. Materials needed: clay, water, flat wooden paddles (e.g., flat wooden ice cream spoons), cord or twine similar to that used for macramé, and a small stick (popsicle stick or tongue depressor). Pots were either rounded or flat-bottomed, with straight sides. For a flat-bottom pot, roll out a round, flat piece of clay for the bottom. Then place a piece of clay between the hands and roll it into a coil. Place the coil around the edge of the bottom of the pot. Make more coils to build up the sides, pinching each coiled layer to the one below. Make the pot’s walls thinner by gently squeezing the wall between the thumb and fingers. Smooth the pot using the cord-covered paddle, patting on the outside with one hand while the other hand reinforces the pot from inside. After the pot is smooth, use a stick to impress a simple design around the rim. When the pots are finished, discuss with the students the problems encountered while creating their vessels—how long it took and whether they think their products look crude. Discuss how prehistoric people may have found the materials to make pottery. Some students’ pots will be better made than others’. Do students think this was the case with the early Indians? Would it have been possible that certain members were the pottery makers within a family or group?
- Ask a professional archaeologist or other interested person to speak to the class on
- what a professional archaeologist does
- recent archaeological discoveries
- the excavation of an archaeological site in your area
- federal and state legislation regarding cultural resources
Your local county historical society, the county librarian, or the speakers’ bureau or history department of the regional university or community college nearest you should be able to help you find such a person).
The Lure of the Middle Grounds
Why did people want to leave the safety of their homes and travel through dangerous and uncertain conditions to a place they’d never seen? Program 2 examines the hopes and sacrifices of the Green family at their home in western North Carolina while “their man” is exploring and hunting in the wilderness of Kentucky.
Program Goal:Students will name and discuss some of the things which attracted early settlers to Kentucky and some of the sacrifices which settlers and their families had to make to start a new life in this land.
The Lure of the Middle Grounds: Video
Historical Background: The White Man Comes to Kentucky (1650-1782)
During the early colonial period Kentucky was claimed first by the Spanish, later by the French, and then by the English. Following DeSoto’s exploration of the lower Mississippi River in 1541, Spain asserted that all lands touched by that river and its tributaries belonged to her, but it is doubtful that the conquistadors ever visited Kentucky. In the 1670’s LaSalle explored the lower Ohio River and claimed the lands watered by it and its tributaries for France. The French interests, however, lay more in trading with the Indian than in acquiring his land. Thus, it was the English colonists of the 18th century who first expressed more than a passing interest in the territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
A few adventurers from Virginia and North Carolina probably visited eastern Kentucky during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, but the first organized effort to explore the area west of the mountains resulted from the formation of the Ohio and Loyal Land companies. Following the creation of the latter in 1750, Dr. Thomas Walker, the company’s surveyor, and several companions journeyed through Cumberland Gap and traveled inland to the area of the present day Barbourville, where they established a supply post. They cleared a few acres of land, constructed a log cabin, and killed and salted down deer, bear, and other game for food. For several months Walker’s group wandered around the interior of eastern Kentucky (traveling through what is now Magoffin County, they pitched their camp at Salyersville, and explored and named the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River) and then returned to Virginia.
Soon after Walker’s adventure, Christopher Gist of the Ohio Land Company visited the west, traveling down the Ohio River to Kentucky. News of an Indian encampment at the Falls of the Ohio (present day Louisville) discouraged Gist from further westward explorations, but his journal included a secondhand description of the falls area and his own observations of the West’s scenic beauty:
After I had determined not to go to the falls, we turned from Salt Lick Creek to a ridge of Mountains that made towards the Cuttaway River [Kentucky River]. From the Top of the Mountain we saw a fine level country S W as far as our Eyes could behold, and it was a clear Day. We then went down the mountain and set out S 2B W about 5 thro rich level land covered with small Walnut Sugar Trees, Red Buds, etc. Gist’s Journal,
–March 18, 1751
The glowing accounts that Walker and Gist gave to their companies fanned interest in Kentucky. Following the close of the French and Indian War in 1763 and the signing of the 1768 treaties of Hard Labor and Stanwix (by which the Cherokee and Iroquois ceded to Britain their claims to land in the Ohio Valley), hunters, explorers, surveyors, and land-hungry speculators began to push across the mountains. The best known of the early hunters was Daniel Boone, who made several trips to Kentucky from his Yadkin Valley home in North Carolina. He later described what he saw:
The buffalo were more frequent that I have seen cattle in the settlements, brouzing on the leaves of cane or croping the herbage on those extensive plains. Sometimes we saw hundreds in droves, and the numbers about the salt springs were amazing. In this forest, the inhabitants of beasts of every kind natural to America, we practiced hunting with great success…. –Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone
Boone and his companions dodged Indians, slept in caves, and explored the land but made few material gains. Their patient wives remained at home to raise the children and attend the crops. Some of the early explorers gained the nickname, “Long Hunters,” because of their extended stay in the wilderness. A party of forty North Carolinians led by Colonel James Knox was among the best-known Long Hunters. They explored central Kentucky and named Dix River for a crippled Indian chief who befriended them.
In 1773 surveyor Thomas Bullitt and a party of Virginia land speculators charted land now occupied by Louisville and visited salt deposits at Big Bone Lick. With Bullitt was James Harrod, who returned to Kentucky a year later and built the state’s first permanent settlement. Harrod and thirty-one men came down the Ohio River to Kentucky, proceeded to the mouth of Landing Run Creek, traveled overland to the Salt River, and on to the site of Harrodsburg (originally called Harrodstown). The men drew lots to decide which cabins to build first. However, before more than four or five were completed, Indian problems developed, and the men temporarily left their embryonic settlement. They returned a few months later, erected additional cabins, cleared land, and planted crops. During the winter of 1776 a fort was constructed at Harrodsburg to protect settlers scattered about the area.
Although Harrodsburg was the first Kentucky fort, Boonesborough became the most famous, due to the farsighted efforts of North Carolina land speculator Richard Henderson. In March 1775 Judge Henderson purchased from the Cherokees seventeen million acres of land that Virginia claimed as part of Fin-castle County. He named his acquisition “Transylvania” and dispatched Boone and thirty others to clear a road for the thousands of settlers to whom Henderson expected to sell the land known as the Wilderness Trail, the road was only a pathway, barely wide enough for a man on horseback, extending from the Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River. At the western end of the road the trailblazers built a fort to protect themselves and the forthcoming settlers from hostile Indians.
In May 1775 Henderson requested that representatives from the other Kentucky settlements (Saint Asaph, Boiling Springs, Harrodsburg) meet at Boonesborough. Henderson spoke to the assembly of his dream of a large colony, independent of Virginia, with himself as a proprietor. He not only predicted a brilliant future for Transylvania, he also dealt with the realities of defending and governing the colony. The representatives approved nine legislative acts that established a judiciary, specified punishments for various crimes, outlawed profane swearing and Sabbath breaking, set sheriff and clerk fees, provided for a militia, preserved the range, encouraged the improvement of horse-breeding, and urged the preservation of wild game. Unfortunately, this forward-looking program failed. Most of the early settlers had come to Kentucky to obtain cheap land and to escape the laws of the eastern colonies; therefore, they were reluctant to pay Henderson’s prices or take orders from a dictatorial land company and the high-handed Henderson.
In the summer of 1776 disgruntled delegates from Boonesborough and other settlements met at Harrodsburg and elected George Rogers Clark and Gabriel Jones as their spokesmen to the Virginia legislature, instructing them to request protection for the western frontier. Determined to possess the land despite Henderson’s claim, Virginia created Kentucky County out of the larger Fincastle and made provisions for the newest county’s representation in the Old Dominion’s legislature. Thus, Henderson’s claim to central Kentucky was invalidated, although Virginia later granted him 200,000 acres between the Ohio and Green rivers.
Following the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and the American colonists, Indian atrocities increased in the western country. The frontiersmen believed the British encouraged these attacks; so while he was in Williamsburg, Clark requested that Virginia aid Kentucky in fighting the red man. The executive council gave Clark 500 pounds of gunpowder but could not guarantee other assistance.
On his return to Kentucky, Clark found the Indian menace so severe that many settlers had returned east while others had sought protection by moving into the forts. Learning that British garrisons, who occupied former French posts in Illinois, were allied with the natives, Clark returned to Virginia, talked with state officials, and received money and supplies to out-fit volunteer troops. Because frontiersmen were reluctant to leave their families unprotected, Clark enlisted about 150 men from the eastern portion of Virginia to march against the northwestern forts. They arrived in Kentucky in May 1778, drilled on Corn Island for nearly a month, and in June-when the river was high enough to permit boats to float over the falls, Clark and his company of rag-tag militiamen began their trek into the Northwest. The motley band succeeded in capturing three British forts – Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes – but the residents at Vincennes soon repudiated their allegiance to the Americans and the fort again became an English stronghold. Fearing that the British would march against the other American-held forts, Clark and his men resolved to retake Vincennes. After weeks of wading through swollen streams and swamps, they recaptured the fort and the infamous Colonel Henry Hamilton (unjustly called the “hairbuyer” because Americans believed Hamilton payed his Indian allies for American scalps).
Clark’s success alleviated some of Kentucky’s worst Indian unrest. Yet, for many pioneers living in Kentucky’s infant settlements, the expedition came too late. A few weeks after Clark’s militia departed for Illinois, Boonesborough was attacked by four hundred Indians led by a French Canadian. Daniel Boone, captured earlier by the Indians, had escaped and returned to Boonesborough to warn them and to aid in preparations for the fort’s defense. During the thirteen-day siege the Indians resorted to every possible means of chicanery. In vain they tried to tunnel into the fort, to burn it, and to tempt the settlers to leave its protection. The red men finally retreated.
Indian problems also plagued other forts during the Revolution. In the spring of 1780, forces led by a British officer captured Ruddle’s and Martin’s forts, and in August of 1782 Indians lay siege to Bryan’s Station and the settlement at Mount Sterling. However, as the bronze warriors withdrew from the latter, a band of Kentuckians rashly chased the retreating foes across the Licking River. At Blue Licks they were ambushed. Sixty men, including one of Daniel Boone’s sons, were killed during the encounter. The enemy’s losses remain unknown but were much less.
The Battle of Blue Licks virtually ended organized Indian attacks in Kentucky, although frightening incidents continued to plague isolated settlers. However, as the number of settlers increased, the Indian menace faded. During the final two decades of the 18th century, Kentucky experienced phenomenal growth. In 1792 she became a state, and by 1800 the commonwealth boasted more than 220,000 residents.
- Copy individual map of Kentucky or draw a large (wall size) map of the state. Label: Cumberland Gap, Ohio River, Big Sandy River, Licking River, Kentucky River, Dix River, Green River, Wilderness Trail, Falls of the Ohio, Harrodsburg, Boonesborough, Saint Asaph, Boiling Springs, Blue Licks. Draw in your county and town. What route did early settlers take to get there?
- Hold a contest to see which student or group of students can prepare the best list of items an explorer or Long Hunter should take for a six-month trip to the Kentucky wilderness.
- Invite a local historian to talk to the class about the explorers and early settlers in your area.
- Write and illustrate an essay (or poem) about how the Indians felt about the arrival of white explorers, hunters, and settlers in Kentucky. Read more about Indians to get a better feel for their reactions.
- Make a frontier diorama depicting a flatboat on the river or a fort on the frontier. Use popsicle sticks or soda straws to build the flatboat and fort.
- Draw a mural that illustrates what the students have learned about exploring and settling Kentucky.
- Write letters from explorers or early settlers to family members back in Virginia. Describe what the frontiersmen have seen and done in Kentucky. Tell relatives why they should come west.
- Discuss with the class the grammar used by frontiersmen and the grammar that is acceptable today. Ask students to rewrite quotes from early explorers and pioneers into language we use today.
- Ask students if they have ever moved to a new location? Why? Have them describe their feelings about the change. Consider other places where they might move (towns in Kentucky, other states, countries or even outer space). Ask the same questions about why they would move there, advantages vs. disadvantages, and their feelings about being there.
Survival of a People
The Green family packs up and moves to Kentucky, where they build a small cabin, plant some corn, and stake their claim on Ben Green’s land. But life in Kentucky is not easy and the Greens and others suffer through Indian raids, bitter cold, and other perils. They survive, however, and stay to make a home on the frontier.
Program Goal: Students will recognize and discuss some of the adversities faced by frontier settlers.
Survival of a People: Video
Historical Background: Life on the Kentucky Frontier (1750-1820)
Life in pioneer Kentucky was austere, rugged, and fatiguing-not for the delicate or faint-hearted. Nevertheless, those willing and able to endure the hardships worked hard to convert the wilderness into a Garden of Eden. Land was cheap; timber was plentiful; the woods teemed with game; and life was relatively free from the confining laws and mores of eastern society. Families strove to become self sufficient, yet freely shared their goods and energies with needy neighbors. The developing frontier molded a lifestyle which easterners made fun of but which nevertheless became an important part of the nation’s history and folklore.
The bulk of Kentucky’s early residents were poor, land hungry settlers who came from western portions of Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, traveling in flatboats or wagons filled with essential tools, a minimum of household goods, and a few head of livestock. Possessing warrants (received for military service) that entitled them to a few hundred acres, or using squatters’ sovereignty, they scattered across the wilderness and staked their claims along Kentucky’s many streams and waterways.
Survival depended on the immediate acquisition of shelter for man and beast. A lean-to or a cave sufficed until a cabin could be built. Once a site was selected and cleared, a more permanent abode was erected. The backwoods home, typically a one-room log cabin, served as the hub of family life. A mud and stone fireplace dominated one wall of the cabin, providing illumination and heat to warm its inhabitants and a place to cook their food; over the fireplace hung a rifle and powder horn. Furnishings generally were sparse and crude-a few chairs or split log benches, perhaps a couple of tables made from logs, a bedstead or two (under which the axe and scythe were stored at night during Indian unrest), a cradle, maybe a cup-board or chest for storing bedding and clothing, a spinning wheel, and a loom. Kitchen utensils consisted of a few iron pots and skillets, tin or pewter plates (or perhaps wooden plates and cups made from gourds or tree knots), and wooden or tin spoons. The appearance of such luxuries as curtains, mirrors, bedspreads, rag rugs, and china dishes heralded the arrival of relative affluence.
An awesome number of tasks were necessary to sustain the family, and the women, an overworked but ingenious lot, and the children performed most of them. They made candles and soap from animal fats, ground corn into meal, dried fruits and vegetables for winter, salted down meats, churned butter, made cheese, and fashioned the family’s clothing from animal hides they tanned and from yarns they spun, dyed, and wove into cloth. They also carried water from the nearby stream, gathered firewood, stoked the hearth, cooked the meals, and cared for the family stock. The man of the family generally prepared the land for planting (using a mattock and axe to rid the virgin soil of roots and a scrub brush and a plow and hoe to cultivate the earth); the women and children usually attended and weeded the garden. The major crop was corn, but most families also had a truckpatch planted in wheat, oats, beans, squash, turnips, potatoes, and melons. With a minimum of effort, Kentucky’s fertile soil yielded sixty to eighty bushels of corn per acre. In addition to providing meal and liquor (which frontiersmen produced for their own consumption as well as to sell), the cornstalks provided fodder for the stock to eat during the winter.
Although game and garden produce served as diet mainstays, other foodstuffs titillated pioneer palates. In the early spring, maple trees could be tapped for their sap, which boiled down into a thick, sweet syrup or a granular sugar. Honey was also available for those daring enough to brave the bees. Wild berries were gathered in the early summer and made into pies. Nuts and autumn fruits, such as wild grapes and crab apples, added a welcome change to the diet.
During the early frontier years, a man’s worth was measured not only by his skill with an axe but also by his accuracy with a rifle. The former was imperative in clearing the land and erecting buildings, but a family’s safety and food supply depended on the latter. Because of its precision at a 200-300 yard range, the frontiersmen adopted the long-barreled, small-bored rifle developed in Pennsylvania and they elevated sharp shooting to an art unsurpassed by their contemporaries in the east. Each gun was designed carefully for the height of its owner, so that he could load and fire it and clear the barrel of carbon without ever taking his eyes off his target. A rifle, a gunpowder-filled buffalo horn, a pouch of lead bullets, greased doeskin patches, and a wooden ramrod were as much a part of the backwoods-man’s garb as were his buckskin jacket and leather or woolen leggings.
Although essential tasks left little time for frivolity, the Kentucky pioneers found occasions to combine work with play and to relieve the monotony and isolation that characterized their lives. Hunting contests provided an opportunity to exhibit marksmanship as well as to socialize. At a community squirrel hunt, men, boys and their dogs spent the day ridding the area of the rodents that played havoc with their gardens while, at the same time acquiring meat for a community feast. The team that lost the contest did the cooking. At such events, braggarts gloried in their real and imagined sporting skills. Some boasted they only shot squirrels through the right (or left) eye, for the meat hit anywhere else caused indigestion; a few cocky nimrods claimed they preferred to “bark” squirrels (hitting the limb beneath the animal and killing it by impact without puncturing the pelt).
Log rollings, quilting parties, and harvest-time corn huskings presented opportunities to boast about one’s prowess, socialize with neighbors, and consume the host’s whiskey. House raisings also supplied lively camaraderie. Large trees were felled, trimmed of limbs, and hauled to the cabin site. Some logs were notched to use for walls; others were split and hewed into smooth-faced puncheons for the floor or rough shingles for the clapboard roof. Assembling the cabin and making a few sticks of furniture for it could be done in one day. Then the builders put away their tools, and they and their families gathered for a house warming. The women contributed the food and brought gifts of homemade domestic items, including blankets, brooms, and candles. The men furnished jugs of whiskey and a deer or hog to barbecue. Following the sumptuous feast, a local fiddler began a vigorous, foot-stomping reel. Dancing lasted all night or until the guests became too tired or too drunk to continue. Romantic and pugilistic endeavors increased in proportion to the liquor consumed, and the following day, numerous celebrants nursed hangovers, bloody noses, and fears about promises made during drink-induced passions.
Despite the paucity of opportunities for courting, most young men married before their twentieth birthday; few girls remained single beyond eighteen. A wedding afforded a rare excuse to frolic. The ceremony, held at the home of the bride’s parents, was brief. Out-fitted in a wedding dress she made of hand woven white muslin or store bought calico, the bride and her groom stood before the preacher, held hands, and recited their vows. Then, the celebration began! A feast, with every kind of frontier delicacy and plenty of whiskey, was followed by dancing. Although the guests reveled all night, the bride’s friends put her to bed in the bridal chamber (usually the loft of her parents’ cabin) about mid-evening; the groom’s friends then tucked him in beside his new wife. A day or two later a house-raising or housewarming might be held to help the newlyweds build or furnish a home on land they received from their parents or purchased from a neighbor.
Unfortunately, not all couples lived happily ever after. Frontier life was hard, and life expectancy was short. A host of infections, diseases, and accidents killed young and old alike. Many women died in childbirth, and less than half of all babies survived their first year. Desertions were commonplace, as disgruntled spouses (usually men, but occasionally women) disappeared, perhaps headed for a far western frontier. The prolonged absence of a husband was equal to divorce or death, and following a “delayed” funeral, eager suitors began to pay court. Few widows and widowers remained single for long.
A variety of barbaric activities also entertained residents of the Old West. They enjoyed bear baiting, dog fighting, gander pulling, and fights with each other in which kicking, eye gouging, and biting off ears and noses were customary. In addition to this rough-and-tumble mayhem, which earned for them a reputation as ruffians, roarers, clods, and worse, Kentuckians also excelled at storytelling. Combining their colorful language and ballooning imaginations, they horrified greenhorns and foreigners and amused each other with tales about Kentucky varmints and critters-sneaky catamounts, painters, and b’ars that carried off children, shifty ‘coons and ‘possums that outsmarted men, polecats that demanded (and generally got) respect, hoop snakes that killed trees with their horn like stinger, and corn-stealing squirrels that crossed the Ohio on shingles propelled by their tails. The center of frontier lore, however, revolved around Kentucky rivermen, who, it was claimed, were half-horse and half-alligator and could “jump higher, squat lower, dive deeper, stay down longer, and come up dryer” than anyone else.
Despite the rip roaring nature of many frontiersmen, some civilizing influences appeared in the infantile West: The first schools were taught in Harrodsburg, McAfee Station, and other early forts and population centers. Transylvania, the first college west of the mountains, opened in Lexington in 1785. Although the 1792 constitution did not provide for a public school system, the second legislature chartered private academies in Fayette, Jessamine, and Mason counties and encouraged the creation of other schools. But public education did not flourish in ante-bellum Kentucky beyond the larger cities; schooling in the hinterland remained a private affair, dispensed by parents or by a schoolmaster to whom meager tuition was paid for his services. A few wealthy landowners sent their sons to school in the East.
Church membership also grew, but slowly, on the frontier. Visitors to the West observed that many Kentuckians used Sunday as a day of rest from weekly labors but not from sporting events and other worldly matters. Despite a large number of churchmen who crossed the mountains to save the sinful frontiersmen, less than one-third of Kentucky residents belonged to any religious denomination when it became a state. Starting in 1800, however, the state experienced a “Great Revival,” a religious awakening that spread from Logan County in the southwest to Bourbon County in the east. Wretched backwoodsmen flocked to camp meetings to be saved, and zealous ministers preached lengthy sermons about the evils of dancing, drinking, gambling, fighting, and other frontier pleasures. Excited to an emotional ecstasy by the preachers’ exhortations and invectives, a few of the revival attendants experienced bizarre physical reactions-hysterical crying, uncontrolled jerking, joyful singing-and a few collapsed in a catatonic state. Many of the attendants were poorly educated youths whose faith was invigorated or whose latent beliefs were awakened by the evangelistic brand of religion. The revival answered the spiritual needs of the mobile population and recruited thousands into active membership in the Baptist and Methodist churches.
Although frontier conditions disappeared from some areas of the state during the first two decades of the 19th century, they continued in others through the antebellum period. Nevertheless, as new lands opened and as the pressures of civilization became stronger, many of those early settlers who helped tame the Kentucky wilderness and who gave the backwoods its unique flavor, sold their small farms and moved westward to conquer new territory and find new fortunes.
- Take your class to the pioneer area of the local cemetery. Who were the area pioneers? What was the major cause (causes of death during the antebellum years? What was the average life expectancy? Number of babies, children, teens, young adults? Find interesting or unusual epithets and symbols on the tombstones. Make tombstone rubbings.
- Have members of the class perform a variety of tasks familiar to pioneers: make a sampler, hooked rug, braided rug, quilted pillow. Grind corn or dry apple rings. Make dipped candles or soap. Churn butter, make cheese, or cottage cheese. Make a cornshuck or corncob doll. Whittle a willow whistle or other frontier toy.
- Learn dances and games that were popular in the 18th–19th centuries. How similar (or different) are they to games and dances enjoyed today? What special occasions were they associated with? Were they an important form of relaxation or release?
- Ask students to take an inventory of their homes and list which furnishings were and were not found in frontier homes. Talk about the way pioneers coped without electricity, central heat, air-conditioning, running water, refrigerators, stoves, dish-washers, vacuum sweepers, clothes washers, dryers, TV, radio, automobiles, sewing machines, etc.
- Have your students keep a record of their daily activities, including everything they see, use, eat, etc. How many of these things could have been done, seen, or used by pioneer children. Inventories of early settlers’ estates are available at county courthouses and research libraries. Use these to compare with students’ ideas.
- For one day, have each child pretend he is a frontiersman and, as much as is possible, only participate in those activities available to frontier children. Then have each child write an essay about his experience. What is different about their everyday chores or work tasks? What is different about what they do for recreation? Why?
- Discuss the concept of survival. Ask class what is needed in to-day’s society to survive. How different are our needs or priorities from those of the pioneers?
The Need For Statehood
Slater Cassidy needs to get his goods to market and the only access is by wagon and river, over poor roads susceptible to Indian attack and wagon breakdowns. At the river, he must unload his goods and reload them into the boats which will carry them down the Mississippi to markets in New Orleans. While at the river, Slater meets Mr. Halfhill, a Virginian who is fascinated by the economic opportunities opening up in the new territory. Slater, however, has no kind words for Virginia or its legislature, which has failed to provide for the settler’s needs. He stresses the need for Kentucky statehood. Upon his homecoming, Slater learns someone has laid claim to his land, so he heads out on yet another arduous trip, only to discover it is Halfhill himself who has successfully claimed his land.
Program Goal: Students will name and discuss some of the factors which led to Kentucky’s seeking statehood.
The Need for Statehood: Video
Historical Background: The Road to Statehood (1780-1820)
In the years following the Revolution, Americans poured across the mountains and into the western country. They came down the Ohio River to Limestone (Maysville) and Louisville or overland through the Cumberland Gap, following buffalo trails and Indian pathways to the fertile meadows and hillsides of Kentucky’s interior. Many of these settlers were former soldiers, recipients of land warrants and bounties for their military services. Others were speculators who had purchased warrants. Pell-mell they rushed in to find the acreage to which they were entitled. Because no systematic public survey had been conducted of Kentucky, the claimants used rocks, saplings, tree stumps and other obscure or ephemeral landmarks as boundary markers and survey points. Some registered their claims properly; others did not. The resulting crazy quilt of ambiguous, overlapping land claims generated thousands of lawsuits that gave work to a retinue of young lawyers. But litigation often victimized the original settlers and warrant recipients. Frequently they could not afford to plead their case in far-away court. Many of the later speculators, however, understood land laws and enjoyed easy access to attorneys and courts. Why did Virginia’s laws encourage and sanction such abuses, the early settlers asked.
Other settlers wondered about Virginia’s inability or disinterest in providing protection from Indian depredations, which Kentuckians believed were encouraged by the British authorities to the north and Spaniards to the south. In an effort to provide more local government and. military protection for the frontier, in 1780 Virginia created three military districts from Kentucky County-Fayette (honoring the Marquis de Lafayette), Jefferson (named for Thomas Jefferson), and Lincoln (for Benjamin Lincoln, a Revolutionary War hero). But the Old Dominion’s lawmakers appointed Virginia-born gentry to the new county offices, thereby alienating many Kentuckians who had no affection for Virginia. Still, because the district militias could not act beyond their boundaries without the governor’s permission, the safety of the western settlements remained uncertain.
The formidable mountain barrier and the distance of nearly a thousand miles that separated Kentuckians and the government at Virginia’s capital further complicated Kentucky-Virginia relations. Many of the laws passed by the eastern legislature either did not apply to the frontiersmen or discriminated against them. A major bone of contention concerned trade and commerce. Virginia’s economic interests, like her rivers, flowed to the east. Kentucky looked to the west and south, for the Ohio and Mississippi rivers served as her major highways. Kentucky agricultural produce, rafted down the Ohio and Mississippi, was loaded on ocean-going vessels at New Orleans (then owned by Spain) and carried to eastern U.S. and European markets. In 1783, Spain closed the port to Americans, eliminating the westerners’ cheapest route for freighting. Profit minded Kentucky farmers demanded that the Virginia and United States governments force Spain to free usage of the river below Natchez and provide them with access to New Orleans’ port and storage facilities. It was their right, the backwoodsmen insisted, to navigate the river.
Smarting under these and other grievances, a group of Kentuckians met at the log courthouse at Danville in December of 1784 to discuss ways to ward off a threatened Cherokee raid. At this, the first of an eventual ten conventions, they decided to hold an election to choose delegates from each military district to meet in a formal convocation. The following spring the elected representatives assembled in Danville and discussed the immense distance and uncertain communication lines between the Tidewater and the Bluegrass, as well as Virginia’s inability to effectively administer her western country. They resolved that Kentucky should separate from Virginia. Three months later they prepared a petition from the Virginia legislature outlining the complaints that could be resolved only through division. In answer, Virginia passed the first of four enabling acts, stipulating that the Kentucky convention could vote on separation in the fall of 1786, but once detached, Kentucky must immediately join the Confederation of the United States. The act also suggested that Kentucky assume her share of Virginia’s war debt, a pro-vision that westerners opposed.
One of the dominating figures at these early conventions was James Wilkinson, a nefarious schemer who encouraged Kentuckians to ignore the enabling act, separate immediately, and remain independent of the Articles of Confederation government. Wilkinson’s sentiments received only minor support until the frontiersmen learned of a proposed treaty with Spain that would surrender the westerners’ navigation rights on the Mississippi for a commercial agreement favorable to the easterners. Again, the representatives (excluding Wilkinson) convened at Danville to discuss separation. Wilkinson, who had seized the opportunity to emphasize Kentucky’s dependence on the Mississippi, had taken a flatboat of goods to New Orleans. There he acquired a trade permit from the Spanish authorities in exchange for a pledge to use his influence to cement Kentucky-Louisiana relations. Returning to Kentucky, Wilkinson lived in grand style, entertained lavishly, and impressed his neighbors with the monetary benefits he acquired from friendship with the Spanish officials. Although only a few Kentuckians seriously considered joining the monarchial and Catholic Spanish Empire, many realized that an independent Kentucky could flirt with officials in the Crescent City long enough to open the river, a feat the weak Confederation government had failed to accomplish.
The ratification of the constitution in April of 1789 and the creation of a new national government instilled hope, and the revelation of Wilkinson’s intrigue with the Spaniards encouraged the statehood supporters. In July 1790 the delegates at Danville accepted the terms of Virginia’s fourth enabling act and shortly thereafter began the task of drafting a constitution. On July 1, 1792, after seven and a half years of bickering, Kentucky became the nation’s fifteenth state.
Kentucky’s first constitution was short but contained a number of unique features, including the abolition of religious and property qualifications for the franchise; for the first time, all free, white male residents over age twenty-one could vote. However, the elitists and propertied interests who controlled the constitutional convention also set limits on the power of the common man, believing him to be politically unstable. The statehood document stipulated that the people would elect the members of the lower house and an electoral college; however, the latter would then choose the governor and state senators. No provision was made for a lieutenant governor, but many state officials were to be appointed by the governor.
The most controversial subject debated by the framers of the constitution was the issue of slavery. Some delegates believed slavery was necessary for the state’s economic development. A few favored gradual emancipation; others feared the results of close promimity between free Negroes and the slaves to the south. Eleven of the delegates were ministers who loudly opposed permitting slavery to continue in Kentucky. Despite protests, the resulting document protected the institution and prohibited the state legislature from passing any laws to interfere with or abolish it.
In 1799 a second constitution was drafted, changing several provisions of the earlier document. The electoral college was discarded, and governors and senators thereafter were elected by popular vote. Appellate jurisdiction was limited to the state’s Supreme Court, to be established by the legislature.
Following Kentucky’s first election, held in the spring of 1792, the electoral college chose General Isaac Shelby as Kentucky’s first governor. To him and the first legislature went the task of implementing the constitution and setting the state government in motion. Unfortunately, statehood did not eradicate all problems. Skulking bands of Indians continued to kill and pillage isolated travelers and settlers for nearly a decade; taxes imposed by the federal government, especially on homemade whiskey, threatened the meager profits of many settlers; and foreign plots continued to inflame Kentucky tempers. In 1800 France acquired Louisiana from Spain and two years later the intendant at New Orleans revoked the Americans’ “right” to deposit goods until they could be loaded on oceangoing vessels. To protect the West, in 1803 the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from debt-plagued Napoleon. When Spanish officials (who disapproved of France’s sale) refused to vacate Louisiana, Kentuckians prepared to fight. Spain peacefully backed down. Intrigues and foreign affairs continued to concern the residents of the Bluegrass state, but with Spain and France out of Louisiana, the frontier’s main highway to market was finally open. The West’s economy was no longer at the mercy of foreign whims.
With the confirmation of statehood in 1792, the obtaining of navigation rights from Spain in 1795, the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, and the opening of the Green River Military District in 1797, Kentucky’s population skyrocketed from 100,000 in 1792 to 220,000 in 1800 and 406,000 in 1810. As the population increased and dispersed across the state, the arguments presented prior to statehood about the inconvenience of government from afar now applied to the need for independent units of local government. Smaller counties would assure each resident that he could, in one day’s travel, visit the county seat to vote, conduct business or obtain justice, and return home without having the expense of overnight lodging. During its first decade as a state, Kentucky grew from nine to forty-five counties; by mid-century the commonwealth contained more than one hundred local units. Eight of these were carved from the Jackson Purchase, obtained by treaty from the Cherokees in 1819.
The birth of new counties also meant the creation of additional political positions, many of which provided monetary as well as political riches to their holders. Few offices, if any, required training; in many cases even literacy was not a prerequisite. Yet county courts and their officers collected taxes, authorized the construction and maintenance of area road-ways, supervised health matters and issued emergency decrees during epidemics, maintained jurisdiction over orphans and apprentices, tried bastardy cases, established ferries, approved milldams, set tavern rates, administered the poor laws, and dispensed patronage. Considering their lack of training, most of the early magistrates performed their tasks admirably.
The selection of state and county officials generated lively politicking. Stump speaking-accompanied by the dispensing of barbecue, burgoo, and bourbon-attracted crowds who cheered and heckled the candidates and their campaigners. The election might last three days, during which liquor flowed freely, fisticuffs were commonplace, and voters cast their ballots viva voce. Nothing created greater excitement than a Kentucky election!
Slavery in Kentucky
Although slave life in Kentucky may not have been as bad as in other areas of the South, it was still degrading and dehumanizing, splitting families and depriving people of their rights and freedom. In Program 5, a white family takes a “playboy” (playmate) for their son. In the process, both black and white families experience doubts and fears about the merits and evils of the situation and the elder son of the black family decides to take his chances and flee via the Underground Railroad to Canada.
Program Goal: Students will recognize and discuss many of the problems and conflicts associated with slavery.
Slavery in Kentucky: Video
Historical Background: Slavery in Kentucky (1780-1820)
By the middle of the 19th century, Kentucky’s population numbered nearly one million. About twenty-one percent of these residents were slaves-black men, women, and children bound, in perpetuity, in involuntary servitude. Slaves lived in every county across the state, with the greatest concentration in the Bluegrass Region and the least number in the mountain counties.
From Kentucky’s inception, black Americans played a crucial role in the state’s development. A few early settlers brought slaves to the commonwealth, for the frontier needed a large, cheap labor force to clear the land and build homes, barns, fences, and other necessities. But once the wilderness was tamed, slave labor ceased to be profitable. Most Kentuckians owned small farms, and neither the climate nor the agricultural conditions were suitable to year-round use of a large labor force. Because slaves could not be discharged or let go as free laborers could, and because their maintenance expenses remained the same whether they worked or were idle, some owners hired out surplus slaves to neighbors who needed extra hands for a brief time. Other slaves were exported to the Deep South to raise cotton and sugar cane. The selling of slaves and the resulting destruction of family units was one of the most odious facets of Southern life.
About one out of every three Kentucky families owned slaves, but the average number per owner remained small-about five (the average in the Deep South was ten). Because many owners and servants worked side by side or had frequent contact, the bond between them was more patriarchal than was the relationship shared by slaves and masters in other states. While exceptions can be noted, it is generally believed that Kentucky’s slaves experienced a less harsh life than did those living elsewhere. Yet even at its best, slavery was a degrading, restrictive institution.
Many aspects of the slaves’ lives resembled those of white laborers. The workday extended from sunup to sundown, six days a week. Slaves produced much of the state’s cash crops (corn, hemp, tobacco, livestock), served as domestic servants, and were employed in a variety of trades and urban industries. The mainstay of their diet was meat, meal and molasses, but these items were supplemented by vegetables the slaves cultivated themselves along with the game they took in their free time. In addition to these evening and Sunday activities, masters encouraged their chattels to engage in recreational activities, such as dancing and singing, that provided emotional release; happy slaves worked better than did discontented ones.
Religion also played an important role in the slaves’ existence. Churches encouraged masters to treat their people kindly and urged slaves to be good Christians, to serve their earthly masters as they would their heavenly father and to look for rewards in the hereafter for services rendered on earth. Slaves learned Bible stories but few could read the Holy Book, for literacy was considered undesirable, even dangerous. A few, who served as playmates to young masters, attended classes with their white companions and thus learned to read and write. But most slaves had no opportunity for schooling. Southerners feared that educated blacks might read seditious literature prepared by northern abolitionists and be encouraged by such writings to rebel or run away.
A slave’s treatment depended on the personality, conscience and economic resources of his masters. Well fed, happy slaves generally were more productive than mistreated ones, and docile slaves generally received good treatment. But even benevolent masters punished those who disobeyed, worked too slowly, or ran away. The kind and degree of punishment depended on the owner. Chronic troublemakers might be sold-and the threat of being sold undoubtedly was a greater deterrent than the threat of bodily harm. Nevertheless, because slaves represented sizeable investments of money and because injuries or incapacities meant financial losses, a slave’s economic worth served as his greatest protection from ill-tempered masters.
For nearly three quarters of a century, Kentuckians argued the pros and cons of slavery. Its supporters insisted that slave labor was sanctioned by the Bible and that it was an economically sound system, providing large profits and a great amount of leisure for the white owner. It was, many argued, a way of life. Opponents of the institution stressed that slavery was a social, political, economic, and moral evil, in violation of a fundamental on which the nation was founded-the human right to freedom.
Pre-statehood opposition to the institution was led by David Rice, a Presbyterian minister who never freed his own slaves. Rice argued that God created men to be free and warned that by denying freedom to a segment of the population, Kentucky would create a group whose interests lay in subverting the government. Rice also insisted that slavery encouraged idleness and corrupted the morals of the white youths. But the delegates to the state’s first constitutional convention ignored Rice’s warnings. The document they fashioned provided a legal base for slavery and prohibited the legislature from emancipating slaves without the consent of the owners or without compensating them for their economic loss. Various church leaders and their congregations denounced the institution and urged slave owners to emancipate their bondsmen, but their efforts came to naught. In an attempt to prevent denominational schisms (the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians did eventually split over the issue), the churches adopted a neutral stand, proclaiming that slavery was a political issue rather than a religious one. Thereafter they concentrated their efforts on eliminating the harsher aspects of bondage and on teaching the joys of Christianity to those in servitude.
The major barrier encountered by those who advocated emancipation was the Southerners’ prejudices against free blacks. Poor white farmers, tradesmen and small businessmen feared that freed men constituted a threat to their jobs; slave owners believed the presence of free blacks increased discontentment among those still in bondage, causing them to revolt or flee. To alleviate these apprehensions, most opponents of slavery urged emancipation and colonization in Liberia. But the transportation expenses involved and the slaves’ reluctance to go to an unknown land across the sea doomed the scheme. In the thirty years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Kentucky Colonization Society sent 658 blacks from Kentucky to Liberia; still, in 1860 more than 225,000 blacks remained in bondage in Kentucky.
Many prominent Kentuckians publicly opposed slavery. Henry Clay, a slave owner, served as president of the American Colonization Society but refused to interfere with the property rights of owners. Lexington’s Robert J. Breckenridge held a series of fiery debates with a pro slavery advocate and urged that money be raised to support the colonization society’s activities by placing a head tax on slaves. Senator Joseph Rogers Underwood of Bowling Green, who sent several families of his slaves to Liberia, suggested that funds could be raised to meet the expenses of colonization if slaves were hired out for one year before “returning” to Africa. But the most colorful opponent of slavery was Cassius Marcallus Clay of Madison County. Believing slavery was as harmful to the white man as to the black, Clay urged slave owners (a sizeable majority in the state) to vote together to abolish the institution. In 1845 “Cash” Clay established an anti-slavery newspaper in Lexington. The True American was devoted to the cause of gradual and constitutional emancipation and appealed to the economic self-interests of non-owners. But the paper was an affront to local slave owners and set off a chorus of protests. It survived about three months. Taking advantage of Clay’s illness, an indignant mob broke into his heavily armed newspaper shop, dismantled his press, and shipped it to Cincinnati. Clay did not try to reestablish his paper in Kentucky, but he continued to speak out against slavery.
Because they squabbled among themselves rather than uniting their energies, the efforts of the anti-slavery white population did little to rescue hapless victims from bondage. The bulk of those who escaped the system did so by their own efforts. A few won their freedom through meritorious acts or managed to find some means of earning money and saved enough to purchase their freedom. Others fled: it is estimated that about 300 slaves escaped from Kentucky into free states each year.
Slave owners tried to convince themselves that most slaves were happy, but the number who ran away proved otherwise. Aided by a loosely organized network of agents and stations called the Underground Railroad, these runaways hid by day and traveled by night, hoping to cross the Ohio River. But not until they got to Canada were they really free. Federal law instructed that fugitive slaves be returned to their masters. Those found guilty of aiding escapees could be sent to prison. Josiah Henson (believed to be the model for Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book) was among the Kentucky slaves who fled. Henson, his wife, and two children crossed the Ohio River near Owensboro and spent two weeks walking to Cincinnati, where they secured help and made travel arrangements to Canada. Henson later made numerous return visits to Kentucky, helping 118 others escape.
Despite the efforts of numerous well-intentioned Kentuckians who found slavery an offensive, undemocratic institution, none were effective in eradicating the system. Nor did Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 free the commonwealth’s slaves, for it applied only to those states or areas in rebellion, and Kentucky remained a loyal Union state throughout the Civil War. Nevertheless, the proclamation foreshadowed the end to this system of human bondage. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in December of 1865, decreed that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States…. “
- Divide the class into two groups.For half the day permit one group to enjoy a variety of privileges and to set restrictive rules which the other group must obey (e.g., do all the cleanups, address the others as Miss or Master, never speak unless spoken to, work instead of play during recess, etc.) Then reverse the groups. Have each group express their feelings on this form of servitude.
- Learn several Negro spirituals. Discuss with the class the role music played in the lives of the antebellum Negro and how the words to these songs expressed their feelings about servitude. Review the words to My Old Kentucky Home. What does this song tell you about life in Kentucky?
- Imagine you are a slave owner who will soon send a family of slaves to Liberia. What tools, household goods, etc. should they take? How much will these items cost? Using today’s prices and minimum wages, how long would a slave have to work to earn enough money to reimburse you for these items and for his passage to Liberia?
- Write a story about a young runaway slave. Include the hardships, dangers, and fears he faces in trying to escape from Kentucky to Cincinnati and then Canada.
- Many of the charming old stone walls still found in rural Kentucky were built by slaves. Using small pebbles and mortar, build a stone wall. Use the wall in a diorama that includes a slave cabin and the master’s home.
- Imagine you are going to be sold and be separated from your family. You do not know where you will go, who will buy you, what kind of work you will be doing, or how you will be treated. How do you feel? What would you do to escape? Why or why not?
The Civil War not only split nation and family-it caused personal sacrifices off the battlefield as well as on it. In Program 6, a young boy experiences these effects firsthand as he watches his father and uncle feud and his nanny fear for her freedom and future. He truly discovers the meaning of sacrifice when Confederate soldiers steal all the family’s horses (and wealth), leaving only his pet pony, which must then become the family workhorse.
Program Goal: Students will understand that the civil war affected both children and adults, even in the absence of actual battle, and will discuss some of those effects.
Historical Background: The Civil War in Kentucky (1860-1865)
As the sectional conflict pushed the fragile nation into war, Kentuckians found themselves divided in sympathies. The prevailing sentiment in the state upheld the preservation of the Union. Nevertheless, the commonwealth furnished outspoken suporters for both sides.
A border state, Kentucky enjoyed strong ties with both the North and the South. Her slave labor system linked her to the South, yet her diversified agriculture provided products for both northern and southern markets. Social and cultural traditions also were rooted in both sections, and the presidents of both sides were natives of Kentucky-Abraham Lincoln was born near Hodgenville and Jefferson Davis in Christian (now Todd) County. Attempting to extract the Commonwealth from a volatile situation, in the spring of 1861 the governor and legislature declared that Kentucky was neutral. Unfortunately, the state’s strategic location rendered neutrality unacceptable, for Kentucky controlled trade, sup-ply, and invasion routes vital to both the North and the South.
Neutrality ended in September of 1861 when the Confederates seized Columbus, Kentucky. Union troops immediately moved into Paducah and Louisville and spread across the northern portion of the state. The southern army commanded critical points between the Cumber-land Gap and the Mississippi River, with the center of their military operations at Bowling Green. In late autumn a convention held in Russellville established a Confederate state of Kentucky and proclaimed Bowling Green the capital. The Confederate occupation of the southern sector of the commonwealth lasted five months. Following their defeat at Logan’s Crossroads in January 1862, the surrender of Fort Donelson, Tennessee a few weeks later and the advance into central Kentucky of a large Union army, southern forces withdrew from Kentucky in mid-February. They returned in late summer, however, and pushed into the Bluegrass heartland, hoping to win recruits and perhaps the state for their cause. Brief encounters between the antagonists occurred at Munfordville, Cynthiana, Richmond and elsewhere, but the major clash in Kentucky came early in October at Perryville. Both sides suffered enormous losses. Realizing their casualties were greater than any gains netted from the invasion and disappointed because few Kentuckians joined their ranks, the Confederates retreated from Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. During the remainder of the conflict Kentuckians were plagued with brief visits from John Hunt Morgan and other raiders, but the Confederates attempted no major offensives into the commonwealth after 1862.
In the early months of the hostilities a tremendous surge of patriotism and political furor swept thousands of young men into the armies. This ardor waned, however, as the war dragged on, and by the summer of 1863, both governments had instituted a draft, although the Confederate one could not be en-forced. Kentuckians loudly pro-tested the Federal draft, claiming that conscription was degrading, un-American and unconstitutional. The law permitted draftees to hire substitutes or to pay a $300 commutation fee to employ others, but many of those unable to afford the luxury of buying their way out of military service successfully dodged the draft by fleeing to Canada, Europe, neighboring states or merely by hiding from the draft officials. Nevertheless, during the war about 120,000 to 140,000 Kentuckians served in the armed forces (25,000-40,000 in the Confederate army and 90,000 in the Union army, including 20,000 blacks.) Perhaps as many as one-third of these soldiers died, either of battle wounds or from disease.
Camp life quickly dispelled all illusions about the glories of military life. Union troops generally received better clothing and equipment than did the confederates, but by modern standards, neither army was well outfitted. Housing consisted of tents and stick and mud huts-stifling in the summer, cold and wet during inclement weather. Rations were issued, but the men generally prepared their own food and thus ate much raw, charred, and putrid fare and frequently quenched their thirsts with polluted water. Enteric diseases felled thousands. Training was haphazard at best. Neither officers’ training schools nor boot camps for enlisted men were available. Marksmanship exercises were unknown, and soldiers generally regarded all activities on the drill field as tedious and boring; sham battles were considered merely amusing. The horrors of the battlefield and the military “hospital” sickened even the most calloused veteran.
Few civilians remained untouched by the war. Residents living in areas visited by armies suffered terrible economic losses, for the military marched across and bivouacked on private land, com- mandeering whatever its members needed. Soldiers drilled in clover fields, cut down trees that obstructed their view, burned fences for firewood, took food for themselves and forage for their animals, seized horses and livestock, paid for some things with worthless or inflated money or IOUs, simply stole other items, confiscated whatever buildings they required to house the sick and store supplies, over-taxed and wore out bridges and roadways, destroyed public and private buildings that might aid the enemy, and created major health and sanitation problems. Guerillas also preyed on area inhabitants-especially on those unable to protect themselves-and committed brutal crimes in the name of Union and Confederate governments. Marcellus Jerome Clark (“Sue Mundy”), a former Morgan raider hanged for his nefarious activities, and Champ Ferguson, who terrorized eastern Kentucky, were among the best known villains operating in the state. To suppress activities by marauders who harbored southern sympathies, Union authorities instituted punishments and retaliations that included fines, jail sentences, banishments, and even the executions of a few secessionists. Such policies inflamed hatreds against the Federal government that would remain for decades.
Many families had one member in each army. The pitting of father against son and brother against brother split families and fostered bitterness that remained long after the war ended. Some returning soldiers experienced difficulties adjusting to life in close proximity to former foes, and for many civilians the presence of returned veterans became a constant reminder of those buried in faraway graves.
The Civil War inflicted physical and emotional scars on Kentuckians that required decades to erase. Divided families, guerilla acts, harsh treatment of loyal residents-all of these contributed to post-war rancor. Economic changes resulting from trade restrictions, demands made by the military and the absence of a large portion of the wage-earning population also seriously affected the state and its citizens. The greatest economic adjustment, however, resulted from the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which freed, without compensation, Kentucky’s 225,000 slaves (valued in 1864 at about $34,000,000). Other post war “adjustments” engendered even greater hatreds, and Kentuckians soon found themselves exhibiting strong kinships with residents of the Deep South. Many historians have concluded that Kentucky joined the Confederacy after the war ended.
- Find out what military activities occurred in your town or county during the Civil War. How were the civilians affected? Did any of the state’s wartime military or political leaders come from your area? If so, discover as much as you can about them and share your discoveries with the rest of the class.
- Make a mural illustrating Civil War camp life or a skirmish/ battle that occurred in Kentucky.
- Ask a local historian, member of a reenactment group, or representative from the military museum in Frankfort to visit the class and talk about some phase of the war.
- Make hardtack, the “staff of life” biscuit on which the Civil War soldier lived. Use plain flour (not self-rising), a little salt and enough water to mix to the consistency of pie dough. Roll out to 3/16ths of an inch thick and cut into 2-inch squares. Bake until slightly brown on top. Punch holes in the warm hardtack and allow to cool. The next day eat cold hardtack, beef jerky and tepid water for lunch. Discuss the nutritional shortcomings and monotony of a steady diet of such foods.
- Read a Civil War story and write a synopsis of it. Illustrate your report.
- Write and put on a play concerning the trials and tribulations of the civilian members of a family during the war. Base your story as closely as possible on a family in your area.
- Have students research and write short reports about some of the most important persons of the Civil War era (Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, John Hunt Morgan). What were their backgrounds? Why did they feel the way they did about slavery and human rights? Do any of these old problems, questions and prejudices still come up today?
- Discuss the conditions which confronted Union and Con-federate soldiers once they went off to war. What was life like for them? Was it easy to maintain their interest in their cause under such conditions?
- Discuss war with the class. List the many reasons people go to war (money, religion, possessions, economic advantages, jealousy). Were there other issues besides slavery which contributed to the seccesionist conflict which resulted in the Civil War?
A black Berea graduate’s high hopes are dashed when postwar prejudice and segregation close the integrated school in which she teaches. Her appeals for broadmindedness fall on deaf ears at the local council meeting, and she is later driven from her home by hooded nightriders.
Program Goal: Students will understand that education in Kentucky became segregated after the war and that prejudice, physical separation of races, and violence were commonplace.
School Marm: Video
Historical Background: Post War Society (1865-1900)
For Kentucky, the last three-and-one-half decades of the 19th century were a study in inconsistencies. According to one authority, it was an age of change when much of life remained unchanging, a period of rapid growth also characterized by stagnation, a time of expanding educational opportunity in the midst of widespread illiteracy, a time of sophisticated, genteel culture amid continued lawlessness and violence, a period of rapid urbanization in a basically rural economy-in short, a complex and diverse period that was also simple and stereotypical. Great stress, conflicting emotions, and myriad social problems relating to race, equality and democracy filled the years which social historians now call the Victorian era.
The end of the Civil War found Kentucky in a terrible plight. In many ways the state, with native sons in both armies, had been a mini microcosm of the total conflict, a civil war. The return to peacetime normalcy, often called Reconstruction or Readjustment, proved a formidable challenge. In 1865, Kentucky faced a number of problems: federal military rule had to be ended; the economy had to be revived; labor problems accompanying the emancipation of the slaves had to be resolved; and the freed Negro had to be integrated into the state’s political, economic and legal systems. Although the state was spared the trauma of secession and the subsequent necessity of read-mission to the Union, because of Kentucky’s slave interests, the years immediately following the war were as critical to its residents as to those of the Confederate states.
Lawlessness and violence abounded in Kentucky during the decades after the war, continuing to the turn of the century and beyond. The suspicion and animosity of the war did not end as soldiers returned home to live, often side-by-side, in continuing hatred. Seething over real and imagined injuries, lawless groups-night riders, guerillas, Ku Klux Klansmen, Loyal Leaguers, Regulators, Skagg’s men, the James boys, Rowzee’s band-roamed the countryside. Outrages occurred throughout the state; beatings, lynchings, shootings, rape and arson created a dismal picture.
In Eastern Kentucky, the tragic background of the Civil War spawned a number of clashes. There was the French-Eversole feud in Perry County, the Howard-Turner contest in Harlan, and the Hargis-Marcum-Cockrel-Callahan imbroglio in Breathitt. But undoubtedly the most famous struggle was the Hatfield-McCoy feud. This conflict ultimately involved, directly or indirectly, every person in Pike County, Kentucky, and Logan County, West Virginia; by implication it affected every Kentuckian, as it added to the creation of the feuding mountaineer stereotype held by many Americans. Civil War allegiances caused unfriendly relations between the two families. Voting frauds, the ownership of a razorback hog, and a mountain Romeo and Juliet story added fuel to the already ignited flames. Murderous raids took place-with vows of continued fighting-until a particular Hatfield or McCoy had been killed. This epic clan war lasted seventy-odd years and resulted in a number of deaths and even, from time to time, the intervention of state militias. In 1976 descendents of the two families finally ended the feud when they erected a monument to the slain on the banks of the Big Sandy River.
Outside of Appalachia, much of the post-war violence was directed against the newly freed Negro in an effort to keep him in his so-called “place” on the farms and plantations. Frightened blacks, however, fled from the rural setting. Many left the state in search of better opportunities. Others took refuge in towns. Not surprisingly, they soon begged the federal government for protection. From January 1866 to January 1869 the Freedmen’s Bureau operated in Kentucky, and directly aided blacks. But to many partisan Kentuckians it was a thorn in the side for they saw it as a vehicle for organizing the Negroes for the Republican Party. Ex-Unionist and ex-Confederates in the General Assembly continued to try to restrict black rights and joined to reject the 14th and 15th amendments. (Kentucky also had rejected the 13th Amendment, but since all three were ratified nationally, they became law in the state.)
With the election of a new legislature in 1871, comparative peace and order were restored. The Democrats won a majority of the seats in both houses and placed one of their own in the governor’s chair. Kentucky Democrats had regained political power, as the Republicans failed to convert battlefield victories to post-war control.
As the state’s political situation stabilized, public attention turned toward a long overdue reform of the public school system. Between 1861-1865 education was the last thing on anyone’s mind; the legislature’s one appropriation for schools was based on money confiscated from illegal gambling enterprises and dog fees. With almost one-fourth of all Kentuckians over the age of ten illiterate, the establishment of a state education system proved an enormous task. Schools had to be reopened with public support, and facilities for the children of freedmen had to be provided. Unfortunately, there were few trained teachers, scant facilities for educating them, no school commissioners or boards, and a lack of textbooks.
During the antebellum period, education for black Kentuckians, although not illegal under state law, was largely ignored. A very few free Negroes attended Berea (1855-59), which had no race restrictions. After the Civil War, the situation began to change, and the education of blacks became a public concern. In 1866, with pressure from the Freedmen’s Bureau (which also set up a number of schools), the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill appropriating a small percentage of funds derived from taxation of Negroes’ property (including dogs) to support black education. However, even this meager aid received a setback when the legislature decreed that black paupers had to be cared for from the school fund first. In the 1870’s Negroes attempted (to no avail) to have educational opportunities equalized between whites and blacks, and in 1882, Negro schools did receive equal funding from the general state school fund (at a rate of $1.38 per pupil-the same as white schools-as compared to 58c under the old system). In 1891, the new state constitution continued to support existing separate (and supposedly equal) schools for the races. However, black schools received second priority, and Negroes knew it. Only outside philanthropies, like the Rosenwald and Slater funds, made any real effort to create educational opportunities for black children.
White schools, however, faced many of the same problems. Insisting that many people were leaving the state because of its backward educational system, in 1869 the State Superintendent for Public Instruction lobbied successfully for a 20c tax per $100 of property for education. The legislature also enacted a bill requiring popular election of county school commissioners, county selection of textbooks, and the establishment of teacher training institutions. In 1884 the General Assembly passed the Common School Law, which provided a uniform education system for the state. The measure regulated the length of the school year, duties of state and local officials, and the course of study. It also set forth the process for erection and condemnation of school buildings, provided for better teacher examinations, and defined teachers’ authority. These measures were only a beginning, and such legal pro-visions were easily ignored. Each annual report on education between 1865 and 1900 stressed the need for more public support and expressed dissatisfaction with commissioners, boards, textbooks, poorly trained teachers and the location of schoolhouses.
Whether black or white, the Kentucky school child’s education was far from ideal. The Common School Report of 1871 described schools as having “leaky roofs, filthy floors, smoked ceilings and walls defaced with obscene images,” and the 1874 survey stated that “foul air and feculent odors” prevaded the school buildings. No wonder that schools failed to attract more than 40% of the school age children. The state did not even have an eight-week per annum compulsory school law until 1896 For those who did attend, the McGuffey Readers, the Eclectic Spelling Book, and the American Standard School Series provided instruction in the three R’s, spelling, grammar, composition, history, geography, and the laws of health. In 1893, Kentucky history was included in the curriculum. Spelling bees, ciphering competitions, and other contests enlivened the school day; at recess the students played ball, hide-and-seek, marbles, jump rope, and a host of singing games.
Not all of Kentucky’s postwar schools were state-supported. Philanthropic organizations supported a number of schools. The Catholic Church developed an organized system of parochial institutions, and Protestant groups established schools in the eastern Kentucky mountains. In the early part of the 20th century, “moon-light” schools-designed to teach adults to read and write-added a new dimension to the state’s educational interests.
In the field of higher education, Kentucky boasted a number of publicly supported institutions in the years after the Civil War. The University of Louisville had law and medical departments; Lexington had Kentucky University (which, after various name changes, became the University of Kentucky in 1916); and Frankfort was the site of Kentucky Normal School for Colored People (now Kentucky State), established in 1889. In 1906, Bowling Green and Richmond established Western and Eastern State Normal schools from pre-existing institutions, and Morehead and Murray placed their colleges in the state system in 1922. There were also numerous colleges endowed by religious institutions. But Berea may well be the state’s most unique postwar educational institution. Forced to close as the Civil War approached, Berea received a charter from the state in 1865, opening its doors to 75 white students and three blacks. The next year enrollment included 96 Negroes and 91 whites. Blacks attended the school until the passage of a segregation law in 1904.
While political and educational endeavors did not lead immediately to an ideal society, Victorian Kentucky did have its positive features. The growth of towns and industry, the introduction of electricity and telephones, the establishment of public fire and health departments, the birth of a women’s rights movement, and the wholehearted enjoyment of leisure-time activities pushed Kentucky past the frustrating legacy of the post-war period toward the eagerly awaited twentieth century.
- Assign the writing of an essay or short story on the subject: If you were a person living in your community in the period after the Civil War, would you be able to forgive your past enemies and work together for a better future? Give your reasons and some specific examples of your actions.
- In order to make students more aware of how statements which have no basis in fact contribute to misunderstandings within a community, have one student whisper an innocuous message to another and pass the comment around the room. Does the “message” received by the last student resemble the original statement? How and when did it change?
- Students should have access in school or community libraries to some of the many useful histories of American education, which can be used as resources for research and class reports. A few of the many possible topics are:
- Who were the teachers of the Freedmen’s Bureau schools and what did they teach?
- What school subjects and books were most popular?
- How did teachers keep discipline and order?
- How were school buildings furnished and heated?
Make a diorama or draw pictures of old schoolrooms.
- Stage a spelling bee. Old-fashioned spelling bees were exciting dress-up events, often attended by the whole family and the community at large. Rules were important since spelling bees taught discipline and morality as well as spelling; each word was enunciated twice, slowly and clearly. The student (1) pronounced the word properly, (2) spelled the first syllable, (3) pronounced the first syllable, (4) spelled and pronounced subsequent syllables, (5) pronounced the whole word again. Any failure in any part of this sequence ended the student’s participation. Rules might vary, but there were always rules. Why do students think that rules are so important? Was it fair for an excellent speller to fail because of a broken rule? What was the effect upon children who never learned to spell well despite years of try? ing? Why are spelling bees less popular today?
- Today’s students, if they were transported backwards in time one century, would very much miss modern school equipment. Ask them to list objects in their own classroom that were not available 100 years ago or which existed only sometimes or in small quantities. A partial list might include: pencil sharpener, erasers, thumb tacks, electric lights, floor tile, indoor plumbing, A -V equipment, etc.) Then ask students to imagine how a school classroom will look in 20, 50 or 100 years. What objects do they envision in the future classroom, which are not available now or which are little used?
- Get a copy of a McGuffy’s Reader. Compare a 4th or 5th grade reading lesson in it to one of today’s texts. Talk about content, vocabulary, interest, questions. How are they similar? How are they different?
- Discuss the importance of education. How would your life be different if you could not read or write? How would this affect the jobs you would be qualified to do to earn a living?
"Southgate Street School stood alone for decades"
By Jim Reis of The Kentucky Post
A short article in a Cincinnati newspaper — barely one paragraph long — signaled a revolution in Newport with repercussions throughout Northern Kentucky.
The account on Aug. 1, 1866, reported the creation of a public school in Newport that would serve African-American students. This was at a time when the public funding of schools was still a matter of debate. Most schools shortly after the Civil War were private academies where parents had to pay for children to attend.
The new school would become known as the Southgate Street School. The building remains today along Southgate Alley, between Washington and Saratoga streets.
Appointed to the school board to oversee the school for black children were Burril Lumpkin, Beverly Lumpkin, Gus Adams, James Patterson and Washington Rippleton. Newport Mayor R. B. McCracken served as school board treasurer. The board included business people, ministers and a housewife.
All would not be smooth for the new board as the same account that noted the formation of the new board also mentioned a dispute between Adams and Beverly Lumpkin over the selection of officers. Both ended up in Mayor’s Court and had to pay a fine.
The person eventually elected as board chairman was Washington Rippleton.
Rippleton later became active in local politics, serving in various capacities in the African-American chapter of the Republican Party. Most blacks at the time who got involved in politics were Republicans, due to their loyalty to Abraham Lincoln.
In the late 1800s candidates were chosen at county conventions and Rippleton was among the delegates to a Republican county convention in Alexandria, held in July 1891. That same year Rippleton was appointed to the executive committee of the Colored Republican Party Club.
The next year Rippleton was elected club president and as such he attended conventions throughout the state and across the Midwest. This would lead to opposition from some white Republicans, who were upset that an African-American was being sent to some out-of-town meetings representing both white and black voters.
A letter to citizens printed May 13, 1892, and signed “Colored Citizens” attacked what it called erroneous stories about Rippleton and others, especially one charge that they were forming special clubs to conspire against Newport’s white citizens.
The black Republican club, meanwhile, continued to grow under Rippleton’s leadership. The Newport-based Kentucky State Journal newspaper noted on July 19, 1892, that the club had more than 80 members.
That same year Rippleton and N.W. Lumpkin were appointed delegates to a convention of the state Republican Party in Lexington.
Rippleton died in May 1911 at the age of 69. His cause of death was listed as Bright’s Disease. Named after a London doctor, Bright’s Disease was the common term at the time for inflammation of the kidneys.
While it was common at the time for local newspapers to note the deaths of white people, it was not as common to see notices of deaths of African-Americans. Rippleton was an exception. His death notice said he had been a “gagger” in government service, listing his residence at 1112 West Southgate St. The writer also noted he had been ill only a short time.
A “gagger” was a person who checked scales at groceries and other businesses to make sure the instruments were accurate.
Rippleton and his wife, Louise, had four children, Benjamin, Dollie, Matilda and William.
The original school set up for African-American students in Newport was staffed by the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Missionary Aid Association. The Newport school likely opened in September 1867.
Ted Harris, a local historian who has done much research on the Newport school, said the exact location of the first school in Newport is not clear. Accounts, however, indicate there were 27 children attending in Newport.
A major push for more state funding for schools for African-American students came in 1873. That Feb. 8 black citizens of Newport held a meeting at the county courthouse to marshal support. Part of the reason for the rally was to select a local committee to attend an educational convention in February 1873 in Louisville.
Washington Rippleton was among those chosen to attend. Others were William Lumpkin, Isaac Hewson, B. Lumpkin, Lawrence Toliver, Jacob Davis, Samuel Fairbush, Reben Wright, Robert Littleton, Dennis Lightfoot, Henry Sanders and Charles W. M. Johnson.
Next to Rippleton, the best known of those early black pioneers was probably Johnson. Born in Hannibal, Mo., Johnson came to Newport as a young boy and became active in social causes in addition to education and politics. In politics he also was active in the Republican Party, being elected club vice president in 1891.
Johnson also made headlines in the Kentucky State Journal on Jan. 9, 1892, when he helped lead a protest at Sixth and Columbia streets in Newport over a state Railroad Commission proposal calling for the separation of passengers by race on trains. Protesters signed a letter opposing railway segregation. In addition to Johnson, those signing the petition were George Ozler, N. Neblett, W. M. Moore, Thornton Davis, D. Herskins, Ed Taylor, Charles Crump and J. W. Clack.
Johnson also gave the commencement address to the first graduating class at Southgate Street School. Johnson and his wife, Sarah, also lived on Southgate Street.
The first teacher at Southgate Street School was Elizabeth Hudson. She apparently taught all eight grades at the school from 1873 to 1878. Another teacher was added in 1878 with the faculty growing to three in 1892 and four in 1900. An account in the book “Newport, Kentucky — A Bicentennial History” says enrollment at the school jumped from 55 in 1880 to 125 in 1900.
The first school commencement at which Johnson spoke did not come until 1893, apparently because many students had to work to help support their families and could not afford the luxury of spending most of the day in classes.
An early principal at Southgate Street School was Charles D. Horner. He was followed by Francis M. Russell, who was principal from 1904-1908. W.S. Blanton served as principal from 1909-1921, followed by Nora H. Ward from 1921-1940 and Charles L. Harris from 1940-1953.
African-American students began transferring to other public schools in Newport in 1955. A Kentucky Post account on Sept. 7, 1955, said 27 African-American students were entering Newport High School that year with 30 others enrolling in the middle school and 15 in kindergarten. A Post account said Newport was among the first schools in the state to comply in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Since Southgate Street School at the time did not have a high school unit, most of the high school transfers probably came from William Grant High School, which was the school for African-American students in Covington. William Grant High School would continue to operate until 1965.
The high school section at Southgate Street School was begun in the early 1900s and closed in 1921 for lack of enough students to offer a full range of courses.
After Newport schools were integrated, the building housing the former school became a site for meetings of Masonic Lodge No. 120.
In more recent times there have been efforts to refurbish the building. A state historical marker was dedicated at the school building site on Oct. 6, 2001.
Southgate Street would be the only public school for African-American students in Campbell County until integration.
The study of Northern Kentucky history is an avocation of staff writer Jim Reis, who covers suburban Kenton County for The Kentucky Post.
The original article is from The Kentucky Post and can be found here
Publication Date: 02-17-2003
Riverboats and Railroads
The economy and lifestyles of many Kentuckians underwent major changes as railroads opened up the state, and as the river trade subsequently faded. In this program, a former river captain learns something from his railroading grandson as the two contrast the economy and lifestyles which the two technologies embody.
Program Goal: Students will understand that Kentucky’s geography has affected its trade and economic development and will name some ways in which changing transportation modes have altered life styles and the economy.
Riverboats and Railroads: Video
Historical Background: Economic Development (1865-1900)
Although writers often make reference to Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern Kentucky (plus hyphenated combinations of each), Kentucky can also be divided into six natural regions: the Purchase, the Pennroyal, the Western Coal Field, the Knobs, the Blue-grass and the Mountains or Eastern Coal Field. The geographical features-rivers, gaps, hills or rolling terrain-of those areas played an important role in the early settlement of the state and then, during the 19th century, dictated economic development, transportation patterns, and the flow of commerce from and within the state.
On the Ohio, Big Sandy, Kentucky, Licking, Green, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers as well as on a score of lesser streams, early 19th century Kentuckians used birch canoes, poplar dugouts, and flatboats for travel and transportation. In time their riverside sons replaced these early modes with the pushboat. Loaded with furs, herbs, corn, tobacco, passengers, and livestock, the pushboats floated easily downstream but had to be poled or dragged upstream by sheer muscle power. In the 1820’s steamboat fever struck Kentucky, and by-the 1850’s sidewheelers and sternwheelers plied the state’s waterways, transporting goods valued at more than $10,000,000 annually.
As the steamboat became the state’s most profitable mode of transportation, inland towns found themselves becoming economically isolated. Determined to be a part of all that was going on, they quickly took advantage of the potential of the railroad (introduced from Europe), and numerous short lines were constructed as auxiliaries to the traffic troughs of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The pioneer Lexington and Ohio Railroad (1830) started its sinuous course from Lexington to Louisville to intercept and benefit from the river traffic centered on that town, and the main stem of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad was built (1853-59) from the Falls City south for similar reasons. Likewise, the Mobile and Ohio planned to extend northward from Mobile, Alabama to a point near Columbus, Kentucky to secure the trade of the border states. By 1860, Kentucky had some 596 miles of railway, which stood ready, as the Civil War approached, to challenge the steamboat for economic supremacy.
From 1861-1865 Kentucky’s transportation duel stood still, poised (as soon as the war ended and normalcy returned) for the challenge to be renewed. However, changing national economic patterns now placed increased dependence upon overland transportation at the expense of inland waterways. Although Mark Twain, a former river pilot himself, predicted the immediate demise of the riverboat in the 1870’s, Kentucky’s steamboat era languished to the eve of World War I. There was nostalgia for a vanishing tradition-a clear call of the packet’s whistle, the melodious notes of the calliope, and the chorus of voices of the river-although it was also apparent that no one was going to continue long in an unprofitable business. Even today, however, barges ply some of Kentucky’s waterways, and the steamboat, The Belle of Louisville, is a popular Ohio River tourist attraction.
The 1870’s initiated a new era in Kentucky’s transportation history. Closer markets, cheaper goods, and expanded shopping facilities combined to produce the “Age of Railroading.” Between 1870 and 1900 railway mileage tripled. The Louisville & Nashville, Mobile & Ohio, Illinois Central, Cincinnati-Southern, Chesapeake & Ohio and Norfolk & Western plus a host of intrastate lines vied with each other in various regions of the state and added a new dimension to state-house politics. Railways sprung up everywhere, connecting even the smallest towns. Yet, interestingly, there was no competition between the railroads and the state’s turnpikes, the foe of the 20th century. No state highway system existed in Kentucky, and the counties had the responsibility for highway construction and maintenance. These roads, many of which were toll pikes, were so poor that residents traveled them only as a last resort; the era of better highways in Kentucky awaited the coming of the automobile.
The railroad greatly altered the lifestyles of all but the most isolated Kentuckians by stimulating the industrial development of the state. One of the greatest contributions came in the expansion of extractive mineral enterprises. Thanks to improved rail transportation, total coal production rose to a million tons in 1879, and by the end of the century the output equaled more than 5,000,000 tons. Although the eastern field continued to lag behind the west, it, too, welcomed the railroad as an alternative to the uncertainties of slackwater navigation. Ironically, however, due to geography, the mountain railroads had to follow the course of the waterways with tracks often clinging to riverbanks. Oil and natural gas production also increased as did the mining of limestone, zinc, lead and flurspar. Overall the mining industry did not represent great wealth at the end of the 19th century, but it held great promise for the decades ahead and investment possibilities for outside interests.
Kentucky also began to make notable gains in manufacturing. Between 1870 and 1900 the value of the state’s manufactured goods trebled to the amazing figure of $150,000,000, and the number of wage earners doubled to some 65,000. Increased manufacturing activities centered in the Bluegrass, although the production of hard-ware, dry goods, and textbooks, the milling of flour, the distilling of whiskey and the processing of plug and smoking tobacco gave Louisville commercial domination in the state. Yet the Falls City’s success was deceptive. Kentucky trailed behind much of the rest of the nation. The state’s per capita wealth ($577 in 1877), while high in comparison to most Southern states, fell below the national average of $870. In 1900, Kentucky’s overall industrial ranking stood at eighteenth in the nation, behind even the tiny state of Rhode Island. The great hope of industrial minded Kentuckians would depend upon their subsequent success in changing the state’s economic orientation from agriculture to industry.
Changes in transportation and the growth of industry brought the beginnings of organized labor to Kentucky. But unions found few sympathizers among state leaders. On July 24, 1877, Louisville’s railroad workers, suffering from repeated wage cuts, staged an unsuccessful one-day strike. In a fiery editorial, Henry Watterson of The Courier Journal branded the L & N employees as “thieves, deadbeats and bummers” and urged other workers to have nothing to do with them. The next day, police and state militia ended the affair, and public concern quickly vanished. Yet by 1880, Louisville had thirty-six local chapters of the Knights of Labor, the nation’s strongest labor union, and over the years Kentucky’s organized workers found a voice in such Louisville newspapers as the Labor Record, New Era, and Irish-American. Between 1880 and 1900 Louisville experienced more than 140 strikes, and the Brakeman’s Union went out every year from 1886 to 1893. None of these strikes caused much of a stir, however, for capitalistic-minded Louisville had little regard for the cause of labor.
Outside of Louisville there was little union activity. During the 1870’s and 1880’s, sporadic attempts to organize the western coal field met with no success, and similar actions in the eastern field made only limited progress. Then in May, 1894, strikes occurred in two Lawrence County mines in reaction’ to the firing of employees. The 1894 Annual Report of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals stated that the local union, “possibly an affiliate of the American Knights of Labor,” demanded the reinstatement of the workers while the company wanted disbandment of the union. After about thirty days of partial work stoppage, the union surrendered its charter and the workers returned to the mines. The Annual Report of 1896 recorded “no serious, prolonged strikes” in the state, and the 1900 edition stated, “The northeast district escaped entirely from organized labor’s campaigns and is to be much congratulated on its good for-tune.” Overall, whether in Louisville or elsewhere, strikes had little success and labor made no significant gains in Kentucky during the19th century.
Paying only lip service to industry and thumbs down to labor unions, in the years after the Civil War Kentucky’s economy continued to rest firmly on a diversified agricultural base. In national statistics for 1870, the state ranked first in tobacco, first in hemp, third in mules, fifth in swine, fifth in rye, sixth in corn, and eighth in wheat and flax. Declining average acreage per farm, increased tenant farming, escalating taxes, and decreasing prosperity, however, characterized the period and brought a heightening of interest in farm organizations. The Grange and similar groups spread throughout Kentucky, and farmers joined together in largely unsuccessful efforts to improve their lot.
No matter how they made their living, most 19th century Kentuckians applauded the state’s transportation and industrial changes, which added a new dimension to their lives. Labor saving devices, both domestic and industrial, allowed more time to be spent in cultural and social pursuits. There were dances and hops, the theatre, indoor and outdoor musical entertainment, visits to spas, and boating and bicycling excursions. So avid were the two-wheeler enthusiasts that from a Bowling Green pulpit came the warning, “The road of the cyclists leads to where there is no mud on the streets.” Carnivals, circuses, and fairs drew large crowds. Holidays were important (Confederate Memorial Day and the Fourth of July elicited stirring speeches from political hopefuls), and court day always brought a crowd to the population centers.
- Have students research, write, and illustrate a report on steamboat transportation.
- Write an essay or short story about taking a trip on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad during the 19th century. The teacher may fix the beginning and termination points and add obstacles and catastrophes.
- Find out if your community has an old railroad depot and then gather as much information as you can about it. From the information, draw conclusions about the importance of railroad passenger and freight services before the time of super highways. If there was no railway in your town discuss how differently your community might have developed if there had been.
- During times of transportation revolutions, rapid changes in communications take place as well. List advances in communication methods with their dates. You could include other inventions such as gas lights and electricity. Make an illustrated chart or time line using this information. In a discussion period talk about the impact these changes had on people’s lives.
- Make a transportation timeline for Kentucky. As you study the state’s history, add important state and national events. Each time something is added, ask if the transportation available at the time may have influenced the event in some way.
- Create a wall mural showing the progress of transportation in Kentucky. Include the canoe, keelboat, flatboat, steamboat, horse-drawn vehicles, trolley, bicycle, train, automobile, and airplane.
- Have students outline the six natural regions of Kentucky on a map. Draw in scenes of symbols to illustrate the physical differences between each of the geographical regions.
The Birthday Party
In a fantastic dream about his up-coming birthday party, a Kentucky boy learns a good deal about changes in Kentucky life over the past 200 years. Billy Clay’s party guests are his grandparents, great-grandparents, and other relatives several times removed, dressed as they would have been as 10-yearolds going to a birthday party. Their gifts for Billy are toys from each child’s time period. Together they also trace the evolution of Billy’s house from its log cabin beginnings to its present state. Other topics, such as food and games, are touched upon.
Program Goal: Students will recognize and discuss certain aspects of daily life, which have changed during Kentucky’s history and other things, which have remained the same.
The Birthday Party: Video
Historical Background: Social and Cultural Changes (1750-Present)
Although political affairs and economic trends have made a great impact upon the history of Kentucky, social and cultural changes have played an equally important role in the development of the state. From the days of the pioneers through the 19th century and down to the present, material culture (objects) and folkways (customs) have shaped Kentucky and Kentuckians. Over the years, environmental and technological factors greatly influenced styles of architecture, clothing, food, and even toys, but despite various physical changes, Kentuckians continued to hold home and family in deep regard.
The first settlers to Kentucky built one-room, floorless log cabins with a single door, no windows and a wood and mud chimney. The cracks between the notched logs were filled with chinking and moist clay. By the 1780’s, floors of hewn slabs (puncheons) supported by saplings were added, and chimneys were built of stone or brick. Larger cabins often had lofts that could be used for storage or as an additional sleeping area. In time, the double log house with a roofed entry between its two parts (called a dog-trot) evolved on the frontier. Many cabins in the 1790’s had a “lean-to” at one side. In the mountains and more rural areas of the state, log cabin architecture continued throughout the 19th century.
However, by 1800, framed houses of sawed and dressed lumber began to outnumber log cabins in the more urban areas. Called Plantation Plain style, these two-story frame houses, covered with weatherboard or clapboard, had a two-over-two room plan flanking a central hallway. Pillars with simple capitals supported the shed roof porch and narrow sash windows with as many as twelve panes graced the dwelling. Plantation Plain homes became very important in Kentucky architecture. With a few modifications, this style was the basic plan to which many residents later added Greek Revival porticos and Victorian decorative trim.
By the late 1790’s, wealthy Kentuckians had begun to build houses of stone and brick in the Georgian style, which was characterized by a symmetrical design using centered doors and windows at equidistance. In the 1820’s and 1830’s front porches with tall columns and triangular pediments (gables) were added and the style was often referred to as Greek Revival; the front entrance generally led to a hall from which a stairway wound gracefully to the second floor. Greek Revival homes also featured high ceilings, tall mantels, large living rooms (salons) and carved woodwork.
By the mid-19th century, Gothic Revival architecture had arrived in Kentucky and was being used for everything from cottages to stone castles. It was characterized by steeply pitched roofs, large pointed windows, and gingerbread trim along eaves and gable edges. Later in the century, the Victorian Gothic style featured multi colored exterior finishes and towers with conical roofs, and the Second Empire style introduced the convex-sided mansard roof. With an eye to the future, Louisville built its first ten-story skyscraper (Sullivanesque style) in 1890.
With the approach of the 20th century and on into the 1940’s, Kentuckians constructed houses in the Pyramid Vernacular and Bungalow styles. The Pyramid’s basic plan was a one- or two-story four-square house topped by a steeply pitched hip roof; the Bungalow was a one-story dwelling, featuring gently pitched broad gables with a lower gable always covering an open or screened-in porch facing the street. A simple, functional house, the bungalow’s exterior walls were of wood shingles, brick or stucco.
Since World War II, low one-story ranch homes, neo-colonial style architecture, and glass and metal structures have dominated Kentucky’s architectural landscape. The vast majority of houses have followed fairly well standardized floor plans, featuring three bedrooms and one-and-one-half baths. In recent years, escalating construction costs have led to the extensive use of mobile homes, and an increasing emphasis on social mobility has made apartment and condominium dwellings popular. The fuel-efficient home has also received favorable notice.
Frontier Kentuckians dressed very simply. Men wore buckskin hunting shirts, breeches, leggings and moccasins plus an animal-skin cap, often with a furry tail attached. When deer became scarce, linsey-woolsey cloth and other fabrics were used. Women dressed in these materials, too. In winter, they wore moccasins, and in warm weather they went bare-foot. For many years frontier women made most of the family’s clothes, although in time garments became available in stores and from peddlers.
As the 19th century progressed, clothing styles changed. Kentuckians engaged in manual labor discarded buckskin; high-waisted trousers, homespun shirts, boots, and large hats became the standard garb. Held up by suspenders (belts and belt loops belong in the 20th century), trousers were often of denim and were called jeans (in other areas they were known as Kentucky jeans). During the 19th century, townsmen wore top hats, double-breasted frock coats with vests, high waisted uncreased trousers and cravats tied in a bow. Although the top hat continued to be the favorite, the melon shaped derby gained acceptance in the 1870’s, and in the 1880’s the straw hat or “boater” met with approval for summer wear. Late in the century, the short lounge jacket or sack coat, void of a waist seam and similar to present day suit coats, came into vogue.
For many 19th century rural Kentucky women, dresses were still of homespun, but as circumstances improved, cotton calico, and muslin materials gained in popularity. In the 1830’s, drawers or pantalets, previously only worn by dancers, became a necessary article of feminine lingerie. Skirts gradually widened, and by 1860 the full skirt grew to ten yards in circumference, with any number of petticoats heighten the voluminous effect. After the Civil War skirts became slimmer, and the bustle appeared. In the 1880’s and 1890’s the “Gibson girl” look of tailored cloth suits with shirtwaist blouses emerged.
By the 20th century the sack coat (with padded shoulders and high waisted trousers) had become fairly standard attire for men, varying only slightly from season to season. A big change, however, occurred in men’s underwear, where sleeveless cotton shirts and shorts replaced the long union suit. After World War I, trouser legs widened to as much as twenty-four inches at the bottom, and in the 1930’s baggy pants with pleats at the waist became the style. During the ‘twenties and ‘thirties the longhaired “raccoon coat was a favorite for cold weather events. After World War II, men dressed in three-button suits and, when war necessities created a dearth of cotton, the new nylon shirts became the sensation. The 1950’s and 1960’s were the era of grey flannel suits; the pinstriped traditional look dominated the 1970’s; and the single-breasted navy blue blazer and khaki pants have almost become a uniform among the 1980’s professionals. For casual dress, denim jeans and cotton knit shirts, often with designer labels, have become popular.
In women’s fashions, the turn of the century brought the hobble skirt with a knee-high slit on the side. In 1919, the chemise frock rose to just below the knee, and by 1925 the sleeveless dress worn by the boyish-figured flappers stopped at the knee. By 1930 hems had plummeted to ten inches off the floor, and a combination outfit of dress and long coat became the order of the day. During the 1940’s the dirndl skirt was introduced, but the 1950’s full skirts and petticoats were the rage. The 1960’s and 1970’s saw the pants suit plus two extremes: the mini-skirt, and the maxi-skirt, and the 1980’s witnessed a tailored look of single-breasted jackets and contrasting slim skirts. For sports, denim and cotton dominates casual wear, many of which have a unisex look.
Throughout the centuries Kentucky children have almost always dressed like adults. Boys and girls looked like miniature men and women with the exception that even as late as the 1920’s boys did not wear trousers until they were toilet trained. As late as World War II, boys wore knickers until they reached high school.
Following the Indians’ example, Kentucky pioneers relied upon the bounty of the land. Large and small game abounded; streams teemed with fish, and wild fruits, nuts, and greens added variety to a monotonous protein diet. Sometimes a medley of all ended up in the same kettle. A popular stew, burgoo, included every available animal, sage and red pepper and assorted vegetables; the diner could seek out and enjoy whatever meats and vegetables he relished. Sweetening came from honey and maple sugar, and salt (needed for preserving and seasoning) was obtained from springs and licks.
As great Nature’s gifts were, early settlers did not expect to live on them forever. They dreamed of planted fields and grazing livestock. As the wild animals diminished, domesticated ones assumed greater importance. For many Kentuckians, pork became the favorite meat. It was eaten fresh, smoked, salted, ground into sausage or make into pickled souse. Lard was rendered from the fat. In farming, corn immediately took precedence over other crops. Easily cultivated with only a hoe, corn was consumed in a variety of ways, used as feed for livestock and fermented for the manufacture of whiskey. Although the pioneers did not assign vegetables to a large role in their meals, they planted beans, pumpkins, cabbage, peas, potatoes, turnips, lettuce, cucumbers, watermelons, and muskmelons along with a number of herbs. Most settlers also cultivated orchards, which supplied fresh fruit in season and formed the basis for jellies, preserves, and brandies. Apples provided cider as well as vinegar for pickling and flavoring.
Pioneer food held a special place in the hearts of most Kentuckians, a tradition which has endured, with modifications, to the present day. Tomatoes came to Kentucky about 1830, but many considered them poisonous and only the daring added them to their menu. The Kentucky Housewife (1839) contained recipes for all the pioneer vegetables plus asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli. Ice cream appeared in the 1830’s and Saratoga Chips (potato chips) became popular at the end of the century. The greatest change in Kentucky food ways, however, came in the period following World War II. Freezing to preserve freshness and flavor, instant foods, prepared meals, and microwave ovens heralded new methods of serving old favorites. The post-war years also introduced a host of ethnic foods, but most Kentuckians continued to subsist on a basic diet of pioneer foods.
Despite frontier deprivations, Kentucky’s pioneer children did not suffer from a lack of toys. Simply made from available materials and often crude in workmanship, playthings included: wooden, leather, and cornhusk dolls, bows and arrows, tops, wooden and bladder balls, cup-and-ball games, hoops, whistles, hobbyhorses, rocking horses, and clay marbles. Some more talented souls would make a baby rattle by stitching together the ends of dried turkey windpipes containing pebbles.
Despite frontier deprivations, Kentucky’s pioneer children did not suffer from a lack of toys. Simply made from available materials and often crude in workmanship, playthings included: wooden, leather, and cornhusk dolls, bows and arrows, tops, wooden and bladder balls, cup-and-ball games, hoops, whistles, hobbyhorses, rocking horses, and clay marbles. Some more talented souls would make a baby rattle by stitching together the ends of dried turkey windpipes containing pebbles.
- Arrange a trip or slide show so students can study the architectural detail of old buildings in their community. Possible features to note: number of chimneys, number of windows, number of panes in windows, number of stories, decorative detail, etc. Arrange for an architect, or someone familiar with the area’s architecture, to talk to the class and answer questions or point out features that might otherwise be missed.
- Are there any restored buildings in your community? If so, arrange visits to the sites or invite the persons in charge to class. What were the major problems of restoration? What early and unusual features were uncovered? Can a list he compiled of buildings that are in danger of destruction and that should be preserved? Do students agree with the “experts” about which buildings should he saved? Put together a photographic essay of your town using old photographs from your local newspaper or historic society.
- Organize a “toy-making bee” in your classroom. Collect odds and ends of cloth, wood, or leather scraps, thread and buttons, etc. Award a prize for the “simplest” toy, for the “funniest looking” toy, the “most original” toy, etc.
- If students are interested in family history, have them interview relatives about when, how, and why the family originally came to Kentucky. Then write a short essay about what they discovered. A simple three or four generation family tree might also be included.
- Put together a collection of old Kentucky recipes. Discuss how they are different from today’s recipes (language, ingredients, etc.). Talk about why these foods would be appropriate for early Kentucky pioneers (raw materials available, lifestyle, etc.).
- Draw pictures or cut out old photographs depicting changes in style of dressing over time. Make into a wall mural or time line.