Monday, December 23, 2013

George W. Johnson's Slave Quarters

Today, being on vacation and thus feeling a little cabin feverish, I decided to try to locate the slave quarters owned by Kentucky's first Confederate governor, George Washington Johnson (pictured above). I had found the dwelling mentioned and pictured on the online database for the National Register of Historic Places, which is maintained by the National Park Service.

After searching several miles of road, I finally found the location and pulled up to the modern bungalow-style house which has since replaced the Johnson home. I went up to the door and knocked but did not receive an answer. Although it probably would have been harmless, I did not think it was right to take pictures of the slave dwelling without the owner's permission, so I got back in the car and left. I was particularly wanting to see the interior of the structure; but perhaps another time.

The images shown here are from the National Register nomination form and were taken in 1974. The above image shows the front of the slave quarters. The front porch addition shown here has since been removed.
The structure is a brick duplex with a limestone foundation and seems to be extremely well built, bordering luxurious for a slave quarters. The building has two front doors - one entrance for each apartment - and one rear window for each side as well. Without seeing inside I have to guess, but it appears that the central chimney was shared by each room - not uncommon for duplex slave quarters.

In the above photograph to the left is the original Johnson smokehouse structure. 

Another rear view of the dwelling is shown above. The six elaborate brick pilasters, resembling Greek Revival columns are clearly visible across the backside. The hipped roof and glass windows also show the detail that went into the construction of the building. While merely speculation on my part, I would think that this building was for the enslaved people that worked in the Johnson household. One source I also found claimed these quarters doubled as the plantation kitchen.

Johnson was likely able to provide his house slaves such nice accommodations due to his wealth. He not only owned the Scott County farm, but also a large cotton plantation in Arkansas as well. Johnson's education included three degrees from Transylvania University in Lexington. He practiced law in Georgetown, Kentucky and married into a well to do and recognized family. Johnson served in the Kentucky House of Representatives in the late 1830s, but spurned politics for an agricultural life.

The 1860 census lists Johnson as 49 years old and living in a full house that included his wife, Ann, who was 44, and children: Madison 18, Martha 14, Jannis 12, Henry 7, and Euclid 4. All of the children except Euclid were listed as attending school.

Johnson was noted on the census as owning real estate worth $172,000 and personal property worth $76,000. His slave population included 16 men, between the ages of 53 and one year old, and 10 women, between 54 and one year old. The number of slave houses usually enumerated in the 1860 census was not noted for Johnson for some reason.

Interestingly, listed as living next to the Johnson family was a free 65 year old black man named Zack Rose and his wife, 53 year old Fanny.

 Johnson was selected as Kentucky's Confederate governor by a rump convention in November 1861. When Union forces captured much of the state in the spring of 1862, Johnson and the Confederate state government was forced to withdraw with the Southern army. During the fighting at Shiloh, in Tennessee, Johnson entered the battle with the 4th Kentucky Infantry and was mortally wounded in the leg and stomach. He died on a Union army hospital boat on April 8, 1862, and his body was shipped home to Georgetown and laid to rest in the town cemetery.


  1. If you would like current pictures of the farm contact me at My parents own the farm.

  2. Did you happen to come across the names of any slaves that were here? My 3x great grandma, effie johnson, was on a johnson plantation/farm. i'm trying to find out what one. she was born in scott county, kentucky

  3. Unfortunately, I did not come across any names while researching the George W. Johnson quarters. There were a number of well known Johnsons in Scott County, including Vice President Richard M. Johnson, who was President Martin Van Buren's VP. Good luck on your search for information on your ancestor.

  4. I’m looking for my great grandfathers lineage also. He was a slave in Kentucky and shares the exact same name. George Washington Johnson.