Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free Black Barber Households

After looking through pages and pages of listings of the 1860 Kentucky census, I think I have located most all of the free black barbers. One thing that that struck me as I compiled my list was that there were a number of households headed by barbers and that included other barbers. From like last names and age differences I gather that sometimes these were sons of the heads of household.  And other times, they were probably nephews, younger cousins, apprentices, or other boarders. The following named individuals' homes also naturally included wives, daughters, and other females, but only the household barbers are listed here.

In Owensboro, 40 year old Elijah Gordon's household included the 26 year old James I. Brown. In Lexington long-time barber and barber-family patriarch Samuel Oldham, who was listed as 66, lived with 19 year old Henry Scroggins, 16 year old John Mason, and 19 year old Hezekiah Morison. Also in Lexington, J. P. Clarke, 39 years old, and "apprentice barber" 17 year old Luther Dandridge resided in the same location.

In the river town of Henderson, 25 year old Henry Smiley, and 24 year old Zach Mitchum, boarded together. Louisville barbers N. B. Rogers, a 42 year old mixed-race man, and 18 year old Lavelle Thomason, another "barber apprentice" made a common home. Wealth barber Washington Spradling's home included 14 year old Robert Lane. The first ward in Covington is where Jonathan Singer, a 50 year old barber lived with 20 year old Charles Singer, probably Jonathan's son.

Maysville was home to other Oldhams, who I believe were part of Samuel Oldham's (Lexington) family. Nathan Oldham, listed as 32 years old in 1860, but listed as about the same age in the 1850 census, lived with Nathaniel Oldham (Jr.?), 20 years old, and 15 year old "apprentice" Thomas Madin. A Nathaniel Oldham had advertised in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette, and in that ad he mentioned he had learned barbing from his father Samuel Oldham. It appears that Nathan/Nathaniel, Sr. moved to Maysville sometime after and that his 1850 listed age was likely more correct.

Finally, in Bowling Green, Daniel Higdon, 23, and Richard Higdon, 21, were probably either brothers or cousins and found living in the same household.

These heads of household barbers likely wanted to keep family ties tight and pass the barbering skills that had financially benefited them on to their sons or other younger relatives. Others probably felt they could keep better tabs on their youthful apprentices and maintain stricter discipline if they boarded in the same home. Still others, perhaps, were able to save on food and rent expenses by boarding in the same household.


  1. Another free barber was Jacob Fairbush/Forbush of Smithland, Livingston County. He appears on the 1850 census there and I suspect he is the unnamed barber in this article:

  2. Brenda,
    I have just recently jumped into the 1850 census and I am finding some interesting things. Thanks for alerting me to Jacob!