Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Kentucky Master Recounts 1856

On New Year's Eve 1856, slave owner George Browder of Logan County, Kentucky recounted his thoughts on the year just past in his diary. His recollections of the year included a significant amount of comment on his slaves and the insurrection scare that has gripped his region earlier that year.

"This year I have had trouble with my negroes. Poor Ann always perverse, insolent, illnatured, behaved so badly, that I yielded to her wishes & her husband's request & sold her - offering him the privilege of going, which he declined - & in mercy to him & his little boy I kept them here intending to take good care of them & treat them kindly - but Isaac quarreled I think unjustly with Ellen a very good woman and requested to be sold not wishing to stay with her. I promised to gratify him & having received a letter from the owner of his wife, requesting me to sell him Isaac to be with his wife - & Isaac being willing to go, I wrote to Mr. Villine to come and get him and Peter.

This winter will be long remembered on account of the great excitement throughout the South in consequence of the discovering a plot among the negroes to murder their owners & escape to free states. Several negroes have been hung at the iron works, some at Pembroke near Hopkinsville & some at Gallatin Ten[nessee]. Many people are buying guns & revolvers & threatening to shoot the poor negroes on very trifling pretexts. Some negroes - Billy Smith & Peter Newton were sent to jail from Volney charged with plotting to kill capt Hawkins & family. Many think that Bill will be hung. Several negro preachers have been implicated & there is a growing prejudice against them - their religious meetings will be broken up & their liberties otherwise restricted. Poor unfortunate creatures! to be deluded in to such a futile effort."

From the Heavens are Weeping: The Diaries of George R. Browder 1852-1886, edited by Richard Troutman, 1987.

Image courtesy Library of Congress

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