AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY IN PENDLETON COUNTY
Words of Wisdom by Melinda Byers
first African-Americans in Pendleton County were slaves, either brought or sent
by their masters, from the plantations and farms of Virginia into the wilderness
of Kentucky. Although their presence and labors were forced, their
contributions and sacrifices were a part of the history, development, and growth
of the county.
During the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state and, as such, did not
recognize nor was mandated to adhere to the Emancipation Proclamation. As
a result of this, coupled with the close proximity of Pendleton County to the
Ohio River, some slaves were moved (by their owners) deeper into Kentucky or
into Missouri in order to prevent their escape. Also, many slaves
“onboard” the Underground Railroad passed through the county’s borders on
their way to freedom. After years of struggle, freedom was only a
river’s width away.
Some Pendleton County “freed blacks” served during the Civil War.
Following the War, many emancipated slaves joined previously free blacks and
left the county. They moved north, sometimes as far as Canada, as well as
into surrounding counties. The population of African-American descendants
in Pendleton County gradually declined. (Recently, only .4% of the total
county population has been identified as “black”.)
Early genealogical records were either non-existent or have been lost over time.
Most African-American family histories were verbally passed down to younger
generations. However, families were often separated resulting in the loss
of even these “records”. Research in court records, censuses, slave
schedules, wills, deeds, the Barton Papers, military rosters, etc. often
provides clues to the identity of early ancestors. Slave marriage records
were not formally recorded, as they were not considered valid or even necessary
in the eyes of the law at that time. However, the Pendleton County
Courthouse does have a volume of marriages following the Civil War and many
marriage records are on file in the general population records.
Remembering that many of the slaves took and kept the surname of his/her owner(s)
also aids the researcher in seeking information. Some birth records were
recorded prior to the War and these may be found under the surname of the owner.
Records presented on these pages are transcribed as they were originally
written. Some readers may find the terms and language offensive.
However, it would be an injustice to all concerned to try to “rewrite” the
history of our ancestors. Sherida Dougherty
If you have any African-American records, please consider contributing them to this site, thanks! Bonnie
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