Ward Hall is located at 1782 Frankfort Road (US 460 W) in Georgetown, KY. Click the "Directions" button above for more specific directions.
can be directed to
the Ward Hall Preservation Foundation, Inc. at
502-863-5356 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Mailing Address
Ward Hall Preservation Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 1957
Georgetown, KY 40324
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The Unique Opportunity at Ward Hall
Large-scale farming and the lifestyle it supported depended on the labor of African American slaves. The statesman Henry Clay, who believed slavery was wrong, told a son not to think about farming as an occupation if he remained opposed to owning slaves. Junius Ward certainly kept highly skilled slaves to care for his expensive thoroughbred horses, but rather than bring field hands from Mississippi, he probably borrowed slaves from his Johnson relatives to plant and harvest crops.
The Wards' extended family revealed another aspect of antebellum race relationships, one that occurred more frequently than Southerners admitted. Junius Ward was the son of Colonel William Ward and Sallie Johnson. His uncle, Richard Mentor Johnson, hero of the Battle of the Thames and Vice-President of the United States under Van Buren (1837-1841) maintained a twenty-year relationship with a mulatto slave named Julia Chinn, probably the daughter of another prominent white Kentucky male. Whether Johnson and Chinn were married is a matter of conjecture. That was forbidden by law but African Americans claiming descent from Johnson believe they were married by the Rev. Thomas Henderson, a close friend of Johnson.
What can be said with certainty is that Johnson refused to deny the relationship, and treated Chinn with a level of respect few Kentuckians granted their white wives. When he was in Washington, Chinn was in the charge of the farm, the slaves, and the Indian boys who attended Johnson's Choctaw Academy. They had two daughters, Adaline and Imogene, and Johnson provided them an education equal to that of the daughters of the local elite. Allegedly, Adaline played the piano when the Marquis de Lafayette visited Johnson's home in 1825, and Julia was in charge of the large dinner prepared in his honor. Much to the shock of Central Kentucky and the nation, Johnson married his daughters to white men and deeded all his land to them. And, like James Bailey, daughter Imogene later owned slaves.
The residents of Ward Hall, white and black, certainly knew of Johnson's socially unacceptable relationship. Ward Hall stands as a monument to a relationship between black and white Americans far more complicated and complex than we often suspect.
Through the pioneering spirit of this family, and others, Kentucky by 1840 was:
First in hemp and wheat
Second in tobacco, corn
Second in hogs and mules
Its population by 1840 was sixth largest out of 30 states.
Kentucky had established institutions of higher learning, Transylvania College, Centre College, Georgetown College, law and medical schools.
It was second in public schools in the South.
Louisville was the 12th largest in 1840 in the nation.
Leadership was reflected in politics; Clay, the Johnsons
24% of the population was slave in 1830.
Ward Hall, thus, is in a unique position to tell the story of the founding of Kentucky,
Its subsequent development, and the contributions Kentuckians made to the mid-nineteenth century development of the Mississippi Delta's river traffic, roads and later rail.
Ward Hall also occupies a unique position to tell the story of the black American experience in Kentucky and the Mississippi Delta and to compare and contrast the treatment of the enslaved in Kentucky and the deep South. The narratives or Ruben Fox and Mark Nichols taken from the WPA Slave Narratives at the Library of Congress is just one example of the experience which can be brought to life at Ward Hall.
The house can tell the story of the unique relationship between Richard Mentor Johnson and his mulatto consort Julia Chinn (more of which below).
Ward Hall provides an example of the closed relationship between white and black Americans in the antebellum South. Though the attachment was certainly unequal, each depended to some degree on the other. Modern Americans often associate America's racial past with the term segregation, but on an antebellum plantation like Ward Hall, the races were decidedly – if forcefully – integrated. The history of its residents reveals many of the ways in which black and white lived together and how whites depended on blacks in the daily routines of a large plantation.
When Junius Ward began the construction of Ward Hall in 1853, slaves certainly formed a large portion of the construction crew. James Baily, a free mulatto, served an an assistant to Taylor Buffington in the construction project. Born in Louisiana, Baily was the son of a free woman of color named Mary and a white man, Littleton Bailey. Ward and Minor Williams, friends of Captain Bailey, brought James to Kentucky, educated him in Cincinnati as a carpenter and builder and encouraged their friends in Scott County to employ him. Bailey built some of the finest houses in Georgetown and Scott County, including several still extant structures at Georgetown College. Further complicating the understanding of race in America, as late as July 1863, James Bailey owned three slaves.
Tax records indicate that between fifteen and seventeen slaves attended to the work of
the completed mansion. The basement of Ward Hall served as the control center of that operation. Slave women and men kept the fires going, prepared the food, and washed and ironed the clothing for the family and guests. Servants could be called to the public or private sides of the house at any time day or night. Though slave quarters existed to the west of the mansion, some evidence indicates that slaves, perhaps a butler, kitchen manager, cooks and maids actually lived in the house. The personal servants, a valet, children's nurse, manservant, and maid servant accompanied the Wards from Mississippi each summer and probably resided in the house as well. White family members and guests came into contact with those servants many times everyday, knew them personally, and benefited directly from their labors.