Three Forks of the Kentucky River Historical Association

Black History

A Brief History of the Black Population in Owsley County

A Letter from Taylor Price Gabbard to Howard G Wilson

Copy of a letter from my uncle Taylor P. Gabbard. I wrote asking him what he remembered about Owsley County men who were in the Confederate army.

[no date on letter]

Your mother [Anna Jane Gabbard] may be interested to read this letter, however most of it happened before her time. She may recall the Negro settlement at the "Sag" and their small public school. There was very little opportunity for Negroes in Owsley County.

Referring to the time of the Civil War, and the ideas and objectives that caused the division among the people of Owsley County, Kentucky, sending many of the men into the Union Army, and others into the Confederate army, it seems correct to say slavery and family and social background appear to be the deciding factors.

The owning and use of slaves related almost exclusively to the big plantations, and was not profitable in the operation of small farms and homesteads in the narrow valleys and coves of the foothills of the Cumberland plateau.

Moses Caywood, Ezekiel Rose, and Isaac Minter each owned considerable farm land laying in the larger valleys along the South Fork of the Kentucky River, extending from the mouth of Cow Creek to Milltown, or South Booneville, while Robert (Old Bob ) Rose owned a large area of valley land on Meadow Creek, near Booneville, Kentucky.

These families were the slave owners of Owsley County, and it may be said of them that they maintained a standard of living and a family tradition in their social affairs; which displayed more wealth and luxury than most of their neighbors, and gave them the distinction of maintaining a sort of aristocracy among themselves.

Edward Wilson, son of Jonathan and Polly Corn (Cobb) (underlined is Uncle Taylor's misstatement) married Esther Rose, sister of Robert (Old Bob) Rose of Meadow Creek, and Elihu Reynolds married Sally Ann Wilson, a close relative of Edward Wilson, and it is believed that this marriage relation induced Elihu Reynolds to join the Confederate Army. Alfred Wilson most likely joined the Confederate army on account of the marriage relations of the Wilson family to the Rose family.

The Moses Caywood family (homestead purchased from Luther Browner): Nan married Col. Bascom Slemp of Virginia (Union Army) -[Bascom was a Colonel and commander of the 64th VA Regiment in the Confederate Army], Jane married Greenberry Rose, son of Robert (Old Bob) and Fanny Chambers Rose. Erma married Lee Rose, son of Robert (Old Bob) and Fanny Chambers Rose? Bascom married Nannie Jett, daughter of Curt Jett, (Breathitt County slave owner), William married Minter, daughter of Isaac Minter.

Confederate soldiers from Owsley County were Elihu Reynolds, Alfred Wilson, Ezekiel Rose and Martin V. Roberts. There may have been others.

Your mother will remember Negro Hannah Crawford who lived at our house for awhile, helping with the housekeeping, etc. Mother of John O.

The Caywood Negroes that I knew were, Harry and George. The Minter Negroes that I knew were Mary, her husband, Allen Jett, their daughter Matt, and Mariah, whose relation to them was not known to me. This family came to Indian Creek and lived in a cabin on the farm of Isaac and Jane Isaacs Gabbard. Maria died there and was buried on the hillside. Mary worked for my mother keeping house while mother taught public school at Buffalo Creek and at Grassy Branch near our home on Indian Creek. Allen -worked mostly as a farm hand for my father who was at that time a Storekeeper and Gauger for the U. S. internal Revenue department, on duty at local distilleries. It was said that when I was a tiny baby, mother had trouble nursing me, and Mary Minter Jett, who was nursing her own baby, gave me some of her supply. It should be mentioned that Mary Minter Jett was a very intelligent person, much above what we may have in mind regarding the degraded Negro slaves. The Minters were superior people and some of their good qualities were transmitted to their slaves. Tony Rose was the only Negro formerly belonging to the Rose family that I knew. Also there were old Sam and Hannah Minter and their sons, Sam Jr, and Zeke. They lived in the Negro settlement known as the "SAG" near South Booneville, where there was the only negro public school in Owsley County. Other Negroes at the Sag were Calvin Guess and his son Henry, Hannah Crawford and her son, John O. who killed Zeke Minter over a low down white woman who had come in among them. It is likely that there were other Negroes in the Sag community that I did not know.

From the Theda Bowman Partin Collection

Submitted by Sherry Lynn Baker




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