Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: The Beeches

One of the many beautiful historic homes in the Frankfort area is known as "The Beeches." Located just across Wilkinson Boulevard from what is now Buffalo Trace distillery - and in what used to be called Leestown - this lovely home, which was built in 1818, seems as if it out in the countryside. 

The Beeches was built and owned by Harrison Blanton. Blanton was born in Virginia in 1791, but migrated with his family to Kentucky as a boy in 1799. He became a noted Franklin County farmer and building contractor. In Frankfort he built the Orlando Brown house (1835), the Charles S. Morehead house (1833), and supplied limestone for the construction of the Old State Capitol, which was constructed from 1827 to 1830. 

Blanton lived a long life. He died in 1897 and was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery with numerous other town notables.

Being a wealthy and prominent man Blanton, too, was a slaveholder. In the 1860 census he is listed as a 68 year old farmer with $12,500 in real estate and $6,000 in personal property. He lived with his wife Martha, who was 58, and a laborer named John B. Hughes, who was 40.

Blanton owned 13 slaves,who included the following:
a 65 year old black man,
a 58 year old black man,
a 38 year old black man,
a 40 year old black man,
a 23 year old black man,
a 15 year old black man,
a 78 year old mulatto woman,
a 45 year old mulatto woman,
a 23 year old black woman,
a 6 year old black boy,
a 4 year old black boy,
a 2 year old black boy, and
a 2 year old black girl.

The 40 year old black man that was listed was probably Winston Hawkins. Hawkins enlisted at Lexington in Company I, 114th United States Colored Infantry on June 28, 1864. He was noted as being 44 years old, 5' 4" tall, and had been born in Franklin County, in about 1819 or 1820.

Two days after Winston Hawkins enlisted, another Blanton enslaved man, Tom Hensley, also signed up in Lexington and was placed in the same company and regiment as Hawkins. Hensley may have been the either the 15 or 23 year old man listed on the 1860 census for Blanton, or he may have been purchased after 1860, as he his noted as 22 years old on his enlistment papers. Hensley was 5' 8" tall, and like Hawkins, had been born in Franklin County. Both Hawkins and Hensley mustered out in 1867.

For some unknown reason another Blanton slave man, John Small, waited until May 1865 to enlist in Company F of the 119th USCI. Possibly, since the end of the Civil War did not free Kentucky's slaves, Small believed his best chance at emancipation was to join the army, and what better time since the fighting was dying down or was over in most places. Small had been born in neighboring Fayette County and was listed as 40 years old. Was he the 38 year old slave man listed as Blanton's in the 1860 census? Although the 5' 5" tall Small enlisted late, he actually mustered out before his fellow former Blanton slaves in April 1866, not serving a full year.    

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