Filed Under Race and Ethnicity

Enslaved People at Dinsmore Homestead

Unfolding the complex Black history on an 1842 farm in Boone County, Kentucky.

Explore the history of the enslaved individuals who lived and worked at the Dinsmore Homestead during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Brief History of the Main House
The Dinsmore Homestead is a farm that was owned by James Dinsmore, who built the main house between 1839 and 1842. After selling his plantation in Louisiana, James along with his wife and three daughters started the journey to Kentucky. With them came several enslaved men, women and children including Coah, Jim, Nancy, Isaac and Sally with her five (possibly six children; John [unsure], Daniel, David, Nannette, Judy and Angeline). 

About the Enslaved Individuals

Nancy McGruder

Nancy McGruder (c. 1810 - 1906), referred to by the family as “Aunt Nancy”, was an enslaved woman who was purchased by James in 1828 and brought to Kentucky in 1842. Although Nancy mostly worked in the house, James also hired her out to neighbors. Not much is known about Nancy, even after she left in 1865, she returned to the farm in the early 1880s. But, when James sold his plantation, he proposed hiring Nancy out to the new owner, Nancy said that she would rather go to Kentucky with the Dinsmore’s than stay in Louisiana and work in the fields.

Nancy was the only slave on the property that is known to have run away.  She left the Dinsmore family after most slaves in the United States had been freed but before those in Kentucky were. She left in 1865 and returned to the farm in the early 1880s. By 1870, Nancy worked for a white family in Oxford, Ohio. After James’ death, Julia Dinsmore noted in her journal that Nancy visited her occasionally and letters from Nancy show that she still be dependent on the Dinsmore family for money when she was in need. Nancy returned to the farm when she could no longer support herself, where she lived until she passed away in 1906. Julia also recorded her death and burial in the family graveyard in her journal.

Nancy’s tobacco pipe and visor can be seen in the house today along with a painting of her by the great-granddaughter of James, Isabella Selmes. 

Coah
Coah (c. 1789 - 1862) was born in West Africa around the later part of the 18th century. He was most very likely brought to the United States via the arduous Middle Passage. He was enslaved by the Minor family in Mississippi but sent to work on Dinsmore's Bayou Black plantation in Louisiana. James purchased him in 1842 and brought him to Kentucky where he reunited with his wife Winny, whom Dinsmore also purchased in 1826. He joined the Middle Creek Baptist Church in 1842. Winny passed away in 1850 and was buried in the Dinsmore Family Cemetery. Coah passed away in 1862 and was buried in a shroud as an homage to his African heritage. He is buried next to his wife and their graves are marked with flat, plain rocks. 

Sally Taylor
Sally, born about 1810, was an enslaved woman on the plantation in Louisiana when James purchased it. She was brought to Kentucky with all but two of her children. Her two oldest children, Adam and Daniel, were sent to another one of James’ farms in Missouri to work. Judy married and moved to Grenat, Ohio. Angeline stayed in Kentucky and worked at the farm in the 1870’s and 1880’s. There is a drawing of her in the dining room. Not much is known about John, Daniel, David, and Nannette. Not much is known about Jim, he is only mentioned twice in James’ ledgers. He was purchased in 1841 for five hundred dollars in New Orleans under the name Jameson. The last mention of Jim was in 1850. What happened to him is unknown.

Issac Sanders
Isaac Sanders or Saunders, as it has been written both ways, is believed to have come with the family in 1842, he is not mentioned in ledgers until 1852 when James paid Marcellus McNeely for the “return of Isaac”. It is assumed that he ran away at some point and was caught and returned. He remained on the farm and left to serve in the Union Army. After the war he moved to Rising Sun, Indiana where he married Amanda Crisler. Their son Isaac Jr. came to work on the farm in the 1890s. Dinsmore descendants kept in touch with Isaac Jr. until he passed away. 

Harry & Sussie Roseberry
Harry Roseberry (c. 1880-1970) was a tenant worker who lived at the farm with his wife Sussie. Harry came to the farm in 1894 at the age of fourteen and served as a jack-of-all-trades around the farm, working as a chauffer, gardener, field worker and even manager (though he was never actually given the title). Harry lived on the farm the longest of any of the workers; he moved away in 1968, two years before he died.

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This brief summary utilizes resesarch conducted by the incredible historians at the Dinsmore Homestead, a place that is entrenched in many stories and histories that you can learn about online or in-person at the museum in Boone County, Kentucky (see links above for more information).

Images

Nancy McGruder at Dinsmore Homestead Photograph of Nancy McGruder at Dinsmore Homestead. Nancy's time on the property was mixed -- while originally enslaved here, she ran away. After the Civil War, Nancy returned to work on the farm. Source: Dinsmore Homestead Foundation Date: c. 1900
Watercolor painting of Nancy McGruder at Dinsmore Homstead This watercolor painting was done around the turn of the century to remember Nancy featuring her tobacco pipe and eyeshade. Today, you can find this painting on the dining room mantle, where it was featured in the house historically. Source: Dinsmore Homstead Foundation Creator: Isabella Selmes Date: 1901
Harry and Sussie Roseberry with their child. Photograph of the Roseberry family at the Dinsmore Homstead. Source: Dinsmore Homestead Foundation Date: c. 1900s

Location

Metadata

Amy Withrow and edited by Professor Deqah Hussein-Wetzel, “Enslaved People at Dinsmore Homestead,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed November 30, 2022, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/164.