Friday, December 27, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: Locust Hill (Scotland)

I made my first of numerous trips from Madison, Indiana, to Milligan College in East Tennessee many many years ago. Part of that trip included a stretch of I-64 from Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Lexington, Kentucky, before taking I-75 south. I do not remember exactly when I first noticed the big manor just past exit 58 at Frankfort, but it was early on. In the spring and summer the house was barely visible through the trees, but in the fall and winter its grandeur was easily observable.  

When I moved to Frankfort about five years ago the house continued to intrigue me, but I suppose I was not interested enough at that time to dig around and find out more about it. Around that same time I bought a book called Footloose in Jacksonian America: Robert W. Scott and his Agrarian World by noted Kentucky historian Thomas D. Clark. Well, that book stayed shelved until about a month ago when I took the opportunity to read it. It explained just about everything I wanted to know about the house and farm.

The book was largely an edited version of a travel account that Scott made about an 1829 trip from Kentucky across the mountains to Virginia, and then to New England and back by way of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Ohio River. However, a good part of the book, too, was fine biography of Robert W. Scott.

Robert Wilmont Scott was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1808. He was educated at Transylvania University. His father was Joel Scott, who was warden of the Kentucky State Penitentiary in the 1820s and 1830s. Robert Scott studied law in the 1830s in Frankfort, but resigned due to ill health. In 1834, he purchased a number of acres he named Locust Hill (also later known as Scotland) at the border of Franklin and Woodford counties. 

Scott proved to be a natural at farming. He was an innovative agriculturist who was a leading breeder of cattle, sheep, and hogs. He grew corn, wheat, and other grains, along with cash crops like hemp. 

In 1845 he started construction of the grand manor, which was finished two years later. The impressive house (shown above from a handbill offering the farm for sale in 1871) featured four columns across the front elevation and a fish pond in front. Scott never sold Locust Hill. He died still owning the home in 1884. 

In 1860, Scott was listed as a 54 year old farmer with real estate worth $80,000 and personal property worth $38,420. The Scott household apparently held a large family and several boarders. Wife, Elizabeth was 49. Children included: John 22, Mary 20, Ella 18, Elizabeth 17, Louisa 15 and Henrietta 10. Also, listed were: Mary Adkins 23, a seamstress; William Cackley 17, a farm laborer; Theodore Polk 15, Elias Cackley 21, farm laborer; Helen Dalton 19, a teacher; and Simon Kane 65.  

Scott's son John served as a doctor in the Confederate Army of Tennessee during the Civil War. Another grown son, who had moved to Mississippi, Preston Brown Scott, too, served as a Confederate physician. 

Like other prosperous Bluegrass farmers Scott made his wealth off the labor of enslaved individuals. In 1850 Scott owned 26 slaves, 14 women and and 12 men. Ten years later he had increased his slave population to 33, 14 of which were males between the ages of three and 60, and 19 females, between two and 52 years old. He was assessed as owning five slave dwellings.

At least four of Scott's slaves joined the Union army in 1864 and 1865.

The first enslaved man to make his way to freedom was William Green, an 18 year old, 5' 4" native of Franklin County, who enlisted on June 29, 1864, at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County. Green was placed in Company G, 116th United States Colored Infantry. 

About a week later James or "Jim" Burts enlisted at Camp Nelson. Burts, like Green, was only 18 years old at the time he joined the Union army. He was 5' 6" and ended up in the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery.

Hanfried Taylor was 43 years old when he enlisted at Frankfort on May 28, 1865. As the end of the war did not end slavery in Kentucky, Taylor likely enlisted at this late date to get his freedom. Taylor was listed at 5' 8" tall and was put into Company F of the 119th United States Colored Infantry.

Enlisting the same day as Taylor was another Scott slave, Lewis Lyons. Lyons was 24 years old when he enlisted and was placed in the same regiment as Taylor, but in a different company, Company I. He apparently spent at least some of his service as a carpenter for his unit. Lyons was also located in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses. In 1870 and 1880 Lyons was listed as farm laborer, and in 1900, he held the position of "porter at the state house."

Learning more about Locust Hill, Robert W. Scott, and his enslaved individuals has helped satisfy my curiosity about the big house I often passed. If you, too, would like to learn even more than what I have described here, please do check out Footloose in Jacksonian America, it's a great read.


  1. Thank you for this.
    Robert Wilmot Scott was my 3rd great grandfather, this is the first honest account I've found about his enslaved men. I'm going to find this book now.

  2. My dads great great grandfather is Ezekiel Field Scott who’s brother was Joel Scott-father of Robert Wilmot Scott. We have a picture of Joel Scott that hung at the Frankfort KY Penitentiary when he was a warden there. This picture hung in the front hall of my dads old home place here in Missouri that was built by Ezekiel when the came here from Kentucky. We will be coming to visit Frankfort next week!

  3. My wife’s family had a connection to a Locust Hall. Could there be a connection to Locust Hill?