Slavery in Kentucky/Missouri vs the rest of the South?

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
In learning about the western Border States, I've learned that slavery was somewhat different in that region than the more familiar Deep South. Can someone please explain the differences between slavery in Kentucky and Missouri compared to the rest of the South?

I don't believe things were altogether dissimilar - the basic practice was the same, but it seems slavery was on the decline for the most part in those states.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
misssori & kentucky slave map.jpg

Clip of 1860 census map showing slave population of Kentucky & Missouri.

The institution of slavery was not a vital force in the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the State of Missouri in 1860.

scale of slave popupation map.jpg

As this map, which was a revolutionary mating of data & cartography, clearly shows why the slave-holders in both states could not drag them out of the union. The mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky were not slave-holders. There were only 75 families in Kentucky that owned the 50 slaves needed to be considered plantations. Almost all of them were in the Bluegrass counties that boarder the Ohio River. Absent the Fugitive Slave Act, Kentucky slave-holders were well aware that keeping their people home would have been very difficult.

In Western Kentucky, the cluster of 40% counties that extends into Tennessee were involved in industrial slavery. The iron smelting region employed highly skilled slaves that were very valuable, such as trained blacksmiths. It was very difficult to keep those men from running away because a blacksmith in the burgeoning industrial regions of the North earned $25.00 a month.

Over all, slave-holding in Kentucky had stopped being a paying proposition. The major agricultural export was hemp, used for making rope. The true cash crop was human beings. The plantations in the Deep South had a never ending need for labor. The slave-holders in the upper tier of slave states exported their surplus human beings via an established network of dealers.

At Louisville, there was a "Fancy Girl Market" that dealt in largely fair skinned lady's maids, seamstresses, etc. They were valued at ~$2,000.00, double the average price.

Forrest & Maples slave ad.jpeg

As this advertisement for Nathan Bedford Forrest's Slave Jail indicates, a regular flow of slaves from Missouri & Kentucky was the lifeblood of the slave trade. The amount of money involved in this trade is staggering. Children were valued at ~ $300 at four feet tall. Their value increased at a rate of ~ $75/3" inch growth until they were valued at the average adult ~ $800 price point. In 2020 dollars that is a price range of 12,000 to $32,000 dollars. Young fair complexioned "fancy girls" intended for the sex trade in New Orleans sold for stupendous sums equal to $100,000 in 2020 dollars. It was the cashflow generated by selling the children of their slaves that kept the slave-holders of Kentucky & Missouri solvent.

The Reverse Underground Rail Road was a particularly vile aspect of the slave trade in Kentucky & Missouri. Organized gangs trolled the Ohio, Missouri & Mississippi rivers snatching free blacks & slaves that were then sold. A chain of secret holding sites where the kidnapped people led from Kentucky to Mississippi. This trade operated until the abolition of slavery.

As can be clearly seen on the census map, the vast majority of Kentucky slave-holders were yeoman farm families. They held what often amounted to a family of slaves who worked the land & lived in a manner not much different from from their owners. This form of slave-holding bears little or no resemblance to the plantation life that dominates the popular image. Farm work was & is hard & constant. There was no place for empty hands on a yeoman farm, everybody had to earn their keep.

Slave-holding in Kentucky & Missouri was significantly different from the Deep South where turning your stock every seven years was a standard slave management practice. The expense of raising a child to the age where they could begin their seven year productive lifespan was a significant drag on profits. Purchasing a physically mature man or woman of 18 to 24 was a profitable policy. The yeoman farmer slave-holder typical of Kentucky & Missouri was in every way different from that business model. However, it was the surplus labor produced by families owned by the yeoman farmers that fueled the insatiable appetite for human beings that underwrote their operations.
 
Last edited:

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
View attachment 359214
Clip of 1860 census map showing slave population of Kentucky & Missouri.

The institution of slavery in Kentucky was not a vital force in the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the State of Missouri in 1860.

View attachment 359215
As this map, which was a revolutionary mating of data & cartography, clearly shows why the slave-holders in both states could not drag them out of the union. The mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky were not slave-holders. There were only 75 families in Kentucky that owned the 50 slaves needed to be considered plantations. Almost all of them were in the Bluegrass counties that boarder the Ohio River. Absent the Fugitive Slave Act, Kentucky slave-holders were well aware that keeping their people home would have been very difficult.

In Western Kentucky, the cluster of 40% counties that extends into Tennessee were involved in industrial slavery. The iron smelting region employed skilled skilled slaves that were very valuable, such as trained blacksmiths. It was very difficult to keep those men from running away because a skilled blacksmith in the burgeoning industrial regions of the North earned $25.00 a month.

Over all, slave-holding in Kentucky had stopped being a paying proposition. The major agricultural export was hemp, used for making rope. The true cash crop was human beings. The plantations in the Deep South had a never ending need for labor. The slave-holders in the upper tier of slave states exported their surplus human beings via an established network of dealers.

At Louisville, there was a "Fancy Girl Market" that dealt in largely fair skinned lady's maids, seamstresses, etc. They were valued at ~$2,000.00, double the average price.

As this advertisement for Nathan Bedford Forrest's Slave Jail indicates, a regular flow of slaves from Missouri & Kentucky was the lifeblood of the slave trade. The amount of money involved in this trade is staggering. Children were valued at ~ $300 at four feet tall. Their value increased at a rate of ~ $75/3" inch growth until they were valued at the average adult ~ $800 price point. In 2020 dollars that is a price range of 12,000 to $32,000 dollars. Young fair complexioned "fancy girls" intended for the sex trade in New Orleans sold for stupendous sums equal to $100,000 in 2020 dollars. It was the cashflow generated by selling the children of their slaves that kept the slave-holders of Kentucky & Missouri solvent.

The Reverse Underground Rail Road was a particularly vile aspect of the slave trade in Kentucky & Missouri. Organized gangs trolled the Ohio, Missouri & Mississippi rivers snatching free blacks & slaves that were then sold. A chain of secret holding sites where the kidnapped people led from Kentucky to Mississippi. This trade operated until the abolition of slavery.

As can be clearly seen on the census map, the vast majority of Kentucky slave-holders were yeoman farm families. They held what often amounted to a family of slaves who worked the land & lived in a manner not much different from from their owners. This form of slave-holding bears little or no resemblance to the plantation life that dominates the popular image. Farm work was & is hard & constant. There was no place for empty hands on a yeoman farm, everybody had to earn their keep.

Slave-holding in Kentucky & Missouri was significantly different from the Deep South where turning your stock every seven years was a standard slave management practice. The expense of raising a child to the age where they could begin their seven year productive lifespan was a significant drag on profits. Purchasing a physically mature man or woman of 18 to 24 was a profitable policy. The yeoman farmer slave-holder typical of Kentucky & Missouri was in every way different from that business model. However, it was the surplus labor produced by families owned by the yeoman farmers that fueled the insatiable appetite for human beings that underwrote their operations.
Thank you, this was really helpful! I was wanting to write a story about two families, one in Barren County, Kentucky and the other in Boone County, Missouri.
 

alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
One thing that I found different was that in either Kentucky or Missouri (I cant remember which) slaves were held as real property instead of personal property.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
View attachment 359214
Clip of 1860 census map showing slave population of Kentucky & Missouri.

The institution of slavery was not a vital force in the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the State of Missouri in 1860.

View attachment 359215
As this map, which was a revolutionary mating of data & cartography, clearly shows why the slave-holders in both states could not drag them out of the union. The mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky were not slave-holders. There were only 75 families in Kentucky that owned the 50 slaves needed to be considered plantations. Almost all of them were in the Bluegrass counties that boarder the Ohio River. Absent the Fugitive Slave Act, Kentucky slave-holders were well aware that keeping their people home would have been very difficult.

In Western Kentucky, the cluster of 40% counties that extends into Tennessee were involved in industrial slavery. The iron smelting region employed highly skilled slaves that were very valuable, such as trained blacksmiths. It was very difficult to keep those men from running away because a blacksmith in the burgeoning industrial regions of the North earned $25.00 a month.

Over all, slave-holding in Kentucky had stopped being a paying proposition. The major agricultural export was hemp, used for making rope. The true cash crop was human beings. The plantations in the Deep South had a never ending need for labor. The slave-holders in the upper tier of slave states exported their surplus human beings via an established network of dealers.

At Louisville, there was a "Fancy Girl Market" that dealt in largely fair skinned lady's maids, seamstresses, etc. They were valued at ~$2,000.00, double the average price.

As this advertisement for Nathan Bedford Forrest's Slave Jail indicates, a regular flow of slaves from Missouri & Kentucky was the lifeblood of the slave trade. The amount of money involved in this trade is staggering. Children were valued at ~ $300 at four feet tall. Their value increased at a rate of ~ $75/3" inch growth until they were valued at the average adult ~ $800 price point. In 2020 dollars that is a price range of 12,000 to $32,000 dollars. Young fair complexioned "fancy girls" intended for the sex trade in New Orleans sold for stupendous sums equal to $100,000 in 2020 dollars. It was the cashflow generated by selling the children of their slaves that kept the slave-holders of Kentucky & Missouri solvent.

The Reverse Underground Rail Road was a particularly vile aspect of the slave trade in Kentucky & Missouri. Organized gangs trolled the Ohio, Missouri & Mississippi rivers snatching free blacks & slaves that were then sold. A chain of secret holding sites where the kidnapped people led from Kentucky to Mississippi. This trade operated until the abolition of slavery.

As can be clearly seen on the census map, the vast majority of Kentucky slave-holders were yeoman farm families. They held what often amounted to a family of slaves who worked the land & lived in a manner not much different from from their owners. This form of slave-holding bears little or no resemblance to the plantation life that dominates the popular image. Farm work was & is hard & constant. There was no place for empty hands on a yeoman farm, everybody had to earn their keep.

Slave-holding in Kentucky & Missouri was significantly different from the Deep South where turning your stock every seven years was a standard slave management practice. The expense of raising a child to the age where they could begin their seven year productive lifespan was a significant drag on profits. Purchasing a physically mature man or woman of 18 to 24 was a profitable policy. The yeoman farmer slave-holder typical of Kentucky & Missouri was in every way different from that business model. However, it was the surplus labor produced by families owned by the yeoman farmers that fueled the insatiable appetite for human beings that underwrote their operations.
Not seeing how that shows something wasnt a vital force at all, especially if one is talking economically. It would be like showing a map of factories which has it clustered in a few urban areas, then claiming it shows industry wasn't a vital force........
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Not seeing how that shows something wasnt a vital force at all, especially if one is talking economically. It would be like showing a map of factories which has it clustered in a few urban areas, then claiming it shows industry wasn't a vital force........
You might benefit from some research on the subject. The slave population of Kentucky had diminished since the 1850 census. Slave-holding was profoundly different from owning a factory. Breeding human beings for sale isn’t like making widgets with machines.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
The Profit motive in the lower south made a more rigid system. Cotton production had become scientific. Coercion had been perfected. Planters carried large sums of debt. Land prices had escalated. All were reasons upper South negroes didn’t want to be sold South. Sugar Plantations were notorious for limited life expectancy. More likely to get yellow fever. Harsh environment etc. Those arrears were north enough to be at the extreme of sugar cane production. Cuba, Bahamas life expectancies for a Slave was 7 years.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
uaskme has touched on one of the aspects of the slave trade that would gag a buzzard. The slave houses that specialized in buying up the surplus people had a problem. The conditions slaves lived under in Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Virginia & Tennessee bore little resemblance to the harsh conditions in the Deep South. The firms that conducted that trade kept records of what they did to "break" their stock to make them ready for resale. It is not reading for the faint of heart. For the women, rape was an everyday occurrence during the months long walk from Virginia to the Forks of the Road market at Natchez, Mississippi. <mississippiencyclopedia.org> Natchez Slave Market, is a good start on reading about the fate of Upper South slaves that met their fate there.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
You might benefit from some research on the subject. The slave population of Kentucky had diminished since the 1850 census. Slave-holding was profoundly different from owning a factory. Breeding human beings for sale isn’t like making widgets with machines.
Actually you might........what the map shows is simply the best most productive farmlands in the states..........

And far from not being vital, out of 33 states it allowed them to be 1st and 2nd in hemp production, 2nd and 7th in Tobacco production. 2nd and 5th in corn. 4th and 7th in Sorghum. Obviously their agriculture wasn't exactly not vital.

As to the OP the biggest difference was actually climate. The further North the shorter the growing season, which limits what can be grown and yields. The little just 2 counties in the boothill of Missouri, allowed it to be 11th in cotton as well.

Agriculture certainly isnt making wickets with machines, as it depends on soils and climates........and certain crops extensive labor, but before machinery any crops production could be upped with more labor.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
The Missouri Map obviously I'm more familiar with. The triangle area in the upper right and middle is the slave belt, also called Little Dixie, it follows fairly wide rich river plains. as is the little area of the boothill.........

The majority of the state south of it is the ozarks, was heavily forested/hilly/ rocky, still rather ill suited to large row crop farming even today. The majority of the state north of it was mixed prairie, good farmland today, but little would be in production then. Northern Missouri was among the last to be settled and prairie sod was hard to plow/break and put in production in the period, to the extent pioneers would go to the trouble of clearing patches of timber, as the soil was easier to till.

On the eastern edge of the state, in the boothill and from St Louis north there's also wide river bottoms along the Mississippi which the map reflects. Also essentially Missouri was settled from the Mississippi and Missouri corridors as not only the best easiest land to farm time then, but a major mode of travel. The northern and southern interiors were slower to settle, so less land would be improved in production in 1860. Missouri had only become an state in 1821, some the white interiors on the map weren't really settled until 1830-40's.

The interior counties of Monroe, Randolph, and Audrain show slavery was slowly expanding to the interior as land was improved.

The two county spot St Francis and Washington am less sure about, dont live anywhere near them. Its a lead/iron region, I know the early French had imported slaves to work the mines/diggings.
 
Last edited:

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Actually you might........what the map shows is simply the best most productive farmlands in the states..........

And far from not being vital, out of 33 states it allowed them to be 1st and 2nd in hemp production, 2nd and 7th in Tobacco production. 2nd and 5th in corn. 4th and 7th in Sorghum. Obviously their agriculture wasn't exactly not vital.

As to the OP the biggest difference was actually climate. The further North the shorter the growing season, which limits what can be grown and yields. The little just 2 counties in the boothill of Missouri, allowed it to be 11th in cotton as well.

Agriculture certainly isnt making wickets with machines, as it depends on soils and climates........and certain crops extensive labor, but before machinery any crops production could be upped with more labor.
The map shows the percentage of slaves in the population of counties & nothing else. Another map entirely details the number of the population & agricultural production of individual counties. This is a clip of the map of Georgia that Sherman used to plan his line of March to the Sea.

20disunion4-blog480-v2.jpg


20disunion3-blog480 copy.jpg

Legend
As the legend of the map shows, the information included on this map is comprehensive. The conclusions that you are drawing from the percentage of slaves to general population map would more properly come from this map that has agricultural production on it. The best example why using slave population percentages to draw conclusions on agricultural production are The Shaker communities of South Union & Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. They were among the most productive agricultural operations in North America. Because they did not own slaves, but did own thousands of acres in the counties they were located in, those counties were shown as almost white on the slave map. The counties with iron production facilities have a large percentage of slaves, but very little agricultural production. An accurate depiction of agricultural output cannot be drawn from the percentage of slaves in the general county populations.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
The map shows the percentage of slaves in the population of counties & nothing else. Another map entirely details the number of the population & agricultural production of individual counties. This is a clip of the map of Georgia that Sherman used to plan his line of March to the Sea.

As the legend of the map shows, the information included on this map is comprehensive. The conclusions that you are drawing from the percentage of slaves to general population map would more properly come from this map that has agricultural production on it. The best example why using slave population percentages to draw conclusions on agricultural production are The Shaker communities of South Union & Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. They were among the most productive agricultural operations in North America. Because they did not own slaves, but did own thousands of acres in the counties they were located in, those counties were shown as almost white on the slave map. The counties with iron production facilities have a large percentage of slaves, but very little agricultural production. An accurate depiction of agricultural output cannot be drawn from the percentage of slaves in the general county populations.
Perhaps to someone unfamiliar with agriculture............I draw conclusions because maps of slavery which was primarily agriculture will reflect the areas suited to agriculture......besides looking at your map, I've also seen lists of percentages/total slaves/owners/production ect by county and and have drove over and seen most of it firsthand as it relates to Missouri, and also read several of the county histories which are over 1000 page tomes generally written in the 1870's so focus extensively on the relevant period........I guess if the only thing one had to go on is solely the map, it would rather limit their knowledge of what in reflects in comparison.

Other then a two county area I noted the map does reflect agricultural slavery in Missouri. I tend to think the two county anomaly is simply remains from French slavery.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Also you seem to have threads confused again, as Sherman's March had nothing to do with slavery in MO and KY, which is the OP and what I have discussed.....To understand the map and how it correlates to slavery, one does to need to also understand the geography and the history of settlement of the state, why I gave a brief overview.
 
Last edited:

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Also you seem to have threads confused again, as Sherman's March had nothing to do with slavery in MO and KY, which is the OP and what I have discussed.....To understand the map and how it correlates to slavery, one does to need to also understand the geography and the history of settlement of the state, why I gave a brief overview.
I am not making out that the slaves as a percentage of county population is something it is not. The map showing the clip of the Georgia agricultural production & population of individual counties is the one that I happen to have on file.

Read the text & it is plain that there is no confusion of any kind. The actual number of enslaved persons is listed on the map of agricultural output, not just the percentage of the population the the slave map indicates. That is where data for analysis of agricultural output & numbers of slaves is to be found.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
I am not making out that the slaves as a percentage of county population is something it is not. The map showing the clip of the Georgia agricultural production & population of individual counties is the one that I happen to have on file.

Read the text & it is plain that there is no confusion of any kind. The actual number of enslaved persons is listed on the map of agricultural output, not just the percentage of the population the the slave map indicates. That is where data for analysis of agricultural output & numbers of slaves is to be found.
And the OP is how was it was specifically different in MO and KY, which is climate and timeline.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
It generally is supposed to guide the focus of the topic, as I believe you pointed out yesterday in a thread
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
"Generally."

Trouble is one "generally" trying to stay on topic or is one "generally" trying to limit response?

A question worth pondering.
No pondering, for me it's always to stay on topic as I have noticed some seem to go off OP to simply distract from OP.

Can't answer to your motive or why you ponder what you do.....
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The Missouri Map obviously I'm more familiar with. The triangle area in the upper right and middle is the slave belt, also called Little Dixie, it follows fairly wide rich river plains. as is the little area of the boothill.........

The majority of the state south of it is the ozarks, was heavily forested/hilly/ rocky, still rather ill suited to large row crop farming even today. The majority of the state north of it was mixed prairie, good farmland today, but little would be in production then. Northern Missouri was among the last to be settled and prairie sod was hard to plow/break and put in production in the period, to the extent pioneers would go to the trouble of clearing patches of timber, as the soil was easier to till.

On the eastern edge of the state, in the boothill and from St Louis north there's also wide river bottoms along the Mississippi which the map reflects. Also essentially Missouri was settled from the Mississippi and Missouri corridors as not only the best easiest land to farm time then, but a major mode of travel. The northern and southern interiors were slower to settle, so less land would be improved in production in 1860. Missouri had only become an state in 1821, some the white interiors on the map weren't really settled until 1830-40's.

The interior counties of Monroe, Randolph, and Audrain show slavery was slowly expanding to the interior as land was improved.

The two county spot St Francis and Washington am less sure about, dont live anywhere near them. Its a lead/iron region, I know the early French had imported slaves to work the mines/diggings.
 
Top