Search billions of records on
Last Update: 16 Jan 2000

Fact, Fiction and Embellishment


The Kennedys and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

(A rewrite and up-date of a 1994 publication)

by Gerald R. Tudor 1999

This writer, for a number of years, has been interested in local and family history and has read with more than casual attention the various accounts given in publications concerning the Kennedy Family and connecting stories. Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Some cases offer what appear to be amusing embellishments. With this article, an attempt is made to expose those facts, fictitious tales, and embellishments.


The Kennedys were a large and successful family in early Madison and Garrard Counties of Kentucky. The sons of John and Elizabeth were sometimes referred as the "Noteworthy Kennedys in Kentucky History". The elder son, John was one of Boone’s " 30 ax-men" in blazing the path to Boonesborough. He too is deserving of historical attention for his brief life, losing it at the hands of the Indians in December of 1780 at Cumberland Gap. Son Joseph made his mark as first sheriff of the newly formed Madison County, 1786. Andrew and David, likewise had their day, but the emphasis is here placed upon Thomas, the second son, who through his strength of will, tenacity and knowledge of existing laws accumulated quite a fortune in land and slaves.

Thomas Kennedy Background

Much has been said about Thomas, some deserving and some, I'm sure, not so deserving. He was a character of his time, a time that could hold a future or a time when life could be quickly snuffed out. Thus, survivors, who accomplish are apt to become legends locally and their exploits embellished beyond reason.

Thomas was not one of the earliest arrivals to the wilderness of Kentucky as was his elder brother, John who arrived with Boone's party in 1775. He, on occasion did come and return to North Carolina. He was called a Virginian in Townsend's account of his Duel with Wm. Gillespie. He could have been born in Virginia and Townsend would be correct in that when he established his Kentucky home he was a resident of Virginia before it became Kentucky. The Battle of King's Mountain in South Carolina required his participation as well as other incidents in the war. Afterwards, he established himself in that part of Lincoln County that eventually became Madison and subsequently Garrard where he accumulated several thousand acres as well as much land in other counties. He had a quick eye for knowing what he could accomplish by the existing laws that governed land ownership. No doubt, his strong will aided in many respects what he could achieve. Some referred to him as a "bully", a term often given to his younger brother, David as well. Forrest Calico, local historian, and privy to all court record while a judge, referred to him as "a turbulent man, tyrannical and harsh, a gambler, a man whom legend and tradition do not favor." But apparently not in all cases. He was one of Kentucky's early duelist. A William Gillespie, cattleman, lost his life in such a duel in Kennedy's front yard. The circumstances of the cause of the duel differs in accounts, thus adding to the legend. Whether it was over a business deal or over gambling will never be known for sure.

Eckert, in his fiction called an historical narrative, The Frontiersmen, which historians put little credibility in, called Thomas the "Squaw Hacker" from striking down that gender with his Scotch broadsword. It seems that Kennedy's reputation at least gained popularity and became a ready subject for embellishment if not folk lore. In a Lyman Copeland Draper interview with pioneer William Champ of Paint Lick, Kentucky in 1863, a descriptive hand to hand combat with an Indian and Kennedy helps to color his image. Champ called him a reckless man.

There are so many tales and facts concerning this man that only a well researched biography would do justice, and not the short notes given here. He is called a benevolent slave master, and he had many slaves. But, you would wonder when one of his slaves named his child, Liberty. To his credit, while a magistrate, he is said to have used the common sense aspects of the law, when a young man was brought before him for not paying for clothes he had secured, using the excuse that he could not be held accountable because he was under age. He paid.

Thomas served as a Rep. to the Virginia Assembly, Senator from Madison Co. to the state legislature, Rep. of Garrard Co. and served on the commission to select the site for the Kentucky State Capitol at Frankfort. This was a tough matter as in Madison County, there were those who put up great values to secure the Capitol for Boonesborough.

A legend persists that a brawl on the grounds of the old Milford Court House, first county seat of Madison County, over its removal to Miller’s farm, which became Richmond the current county seat, was the result of this fight and Garrard County being formed. This alleged fight between David Kennedy, younger brother to Thomas, Sr. and a William Kerley, was said to settle the issue of where the seat of government would be, and that since the Kennedys lost, a new county was formed. Nice tale, and one repeated by local historians. The facts are that the County of Garrard’s creation was already in the making as was the approval for the new Madison county seat for Richmond before such a fight between Kennedy and Kerley occurred.

In later years his name and brick mansion became a focus of an alleged visit by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The result has been a much hallooed interest in a site of Uncle Tom's Cabin ( a smoke house) which was advertised as being beside the Kennedy mansion. The alleged visit by Stowe would have been after the death of Thomas, Sr. Kennedy names and slaves are portrayed in some people's minds as the characters in Stowe's novel disregarding her own denials, Here I stop as the legends of Stowe’s novel places Uncle Tom and his cabin in many places in this country as well as Canada. It is another story.

Years after the Battle of King's Mountain, a controversy grew concerning Col. Campbell of the Virginians. Against his claims that he was in the thick of the battle, others complained that he was no where to be seen until the surrender was complete. One of Campbell's chief critics was Isaac Shelby, a Col. also in the battle. Thomas Kennedy, now Gen. Thomas Kennedy, supports Shelby, now the Governor of Kentucky, in saying that he did not see Campbell either, etc. Thus, the controversy continues to this day on "where was Campbell?"

Thomas Kennedy's will (probated 1836) consists of eight large pages (some reports say more but this is all that is found in the records). I will only mention the distribution of his slaves, many by name and many, I suppose, by "the rest of my Negroes", etc. His son, Thomas, Jr. 29 or more by name. Son, John W. Kennedy, 26 by name. Daughter, Elizabeth J. Miller, one half of all the slaves now in her possession including the negro Cassa and her children. The remaining half of said slaves, I bequeath to my grand children Thomas K. Miller and Edna W. Miller. Also willed to Thomas K. Miller, Jane, eldest daughter of my negro woman Hannah, willed to dau. Nancy Letcher. Grandson Thomas K. Letcher ( Benj. Letcher family?) one negro boy, Peter. Granddaughter Edna Letcher, negro girl Paulina, dau. of my negro woman called Nancy Barton or Burton? Robert Argo, my negro boy, Norman and a girl near his own age to be chosen by Executors out of my Negroes not specifically bequeathed. James H. Letcher, my negro woman Phebe to be kept and supported as long as she lives. All my slaves not disposed of to be divided among my four children ( how many?) Codicil : My negro woman Aggy to be set free with cow and calf to be hers absolutely and forever.


In Patches of Garrard County 1796-1974, p. 309, a submitted article reads, " The land on which this home stands (referring to the since removed Higgin’s log house) was bought from the Indians for one butcher knife by General Thomas Kennedy." It appears that the Indians may have gotten a free butcher knife. An earlier and more vast purchase from the Indians by the Transylvania Company resulted in loss to many settlers when the purchase was declared unlawful.

Some accounts are meant to be factual but simply mistake one person for another. Thomas Kennedy is alleged to have ben captured by the Indians at the same time his elder brother, John and James Leeper were killed by the Indians near Cumberland Gap on December 26, 1780. It was Joseph Kennedy who was captured. He, a McAfee, and a brother of James Leeper lived to tell the story.

John Kennedy, Jr., who was killed at Cumberland Gap is confused by some as being his father, John Kennedy, Sr. Also, a brief Kennedy history found in the records at Pulaski, Tennessee, Giles County, alludes to the same John Kennedy as being the one killed in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. The father, John Kennedy, Sr., lived into the next century, based upon court records.

Thomas and Joseph Kennedy conveyed land to their father in 1791. John, Sr.’s son, David deeded him land in 1799. John, the father also appears in the records of a suit brought by the widow of his son, John. Jr. in 1808. There must be other documentation to extend his longevity as a family history believes that he died at the home of his daughter, Mary Kennedy Gordon, in Giles County, Tennessee in about 1813.

While local writers and genealogists have used local records and hearsay to describe the character of Thomas Kennedy as both violent and loving, others have gleaned from distant depositories to quote or paraphrase his contemporaries:

John Mack Faragher, In his biography of Daniel Boone, 1992, uses Draper’s 1890 Interview with Abner Bryan (not a contemporary in this case) in describing Kennedy’s action at the Indian King Moluntha’s town in Ohio country. This was Benjamin Logan’s invasion of 1786. Most of the warriors had gone west to engage George Rogers Clark’s invasion and did not expect one upon their own villages. Mostly women and children were there. " Col. Thomas Kennedy dashed in among a group of horrified women, wounding several with his slashing sword, including one captive American girl whom he mistook as an Indian. So shocked were some of the men by this unmanly conduct that they ridiculed Kennedy during the battle by calling out anonymously: Who hacked the squaws? Who hacked the squaws? In this same raid upon the Indians, Hugh McGary, the same who was censored for his alleged rashness at Blue Licks, murdered Moluntha after he had surrendered to others. Thomas Kennedy, in the evening, broke into one of the cabins that held prisoners and tomahawked an unarmed man Boone described as ‘a fine looking young warrior’. McGary and Kennedy ‘was not much censored, said Boone, and this outraged him’."

(Here, The same story is told in Draper’s Interview with Nathan Boone, Daniel’s son. Nathan attributes a like cabin incident to Hugh Leeper with the same outrage and "fine looking young warrior" quote during Clark’s 1782 invasion. It makes you wonder!

Allan W. Eckert, in his "The Frontiersmen", which he claims to be "fact not fiction" very loosely uses fact and appears to use a writer’s license to make it difficult for the reader to pinpoint his sources, resulting in apparent embellishment for interest sake.

His narrative was reviewed in the July, 1968 issue of The Register, Kentucky Historical Society, by Charles G. Talbert. The two and one-half pages of review are not very complimentary toward accuracy of accounts or of Eckert’s use of resources; particularly the 1786 campaign, also mentioned by Faragher, is said to be very inaccurate. This writer cannot find the origins of some of Eckert’s accountings of the battle, he assumes that there is much embellishment. Eckert reports:

"The squaws fled shrieking in frightened bevies and Colonel Kennedy spurred his horse after them, swinging an old Scotch broadsword he had honed to a razor edge. His blade sank into the skull of the first squaw he overtook and her falling nearly jerked the weapon from his grasp. Regaining his balance, he galloped after a cluster of seven other squaws and one by one chopped them down, killing all but one who had thrown up a hand to ward off the blow. The blade chopped off her fingers and badly gashed her head, but did not kill her. The other small group of squaws now fell to their knees and pleaded, ‘Mat-tah tschi, ! Mat-tah tschi !’, Do not kill us!"

The account of the murder of Moluntha by McGary is repeated by Eckert and he continues: " It was custom after battle for the men to make up ballads about the fighting........As the ballad continued it became ever more infuriating to Colonel Thomas Kennedy and Hugh McGary, who found themselves the butt of the most bitterly sardonic lyrics, "

"Oh, our soldiers when done, in the town they convene,

Where trophies of Vic’try were everywhere seen,

A brave son of Mars slaps his bloody old dagger,

And swears by the Lord that he made a squaw stagger.

A dastardly fellow advanced to the King,

Who was promised protection and brought to the ring,

He soon was espied by intrepid McGary,

Who just at this juncture came up from the prairie.

He gave the old savage a cuss and a blow,

And sent him bare-skulled to the regions below!"

"These ten lines in particular became very popular and were sung over and over with subtle and never complimentary variations, until at length McGary’s face was pitched white with anger and Colonel Kennedy shot his rifle into the air and ordered the ballading stopped or he would kill the next man who opened his mouth to sing. An insulting silence then prevailed................"

Amazing that these militia men were so adept at use of verse and descriptive language when most are certain to have signed their names with an (X). Most were simple but brave frontiersmen from a previous frontier in Virginia and the Carolinas. They knew the hazards of life and the necessities needed for survival but had little access to education. The educated, and most marginally so, where generally found in the ranks of the leaders and certainly not apt to express themselves as so done in the above verse.

It is believed that Eckert used some accounts described in the Draper Papers for some of his narrative, as he claims. This writer has not gone to the awesome task of searching the Manuscripts, but has looked at his other sources for the above action and finds no corroborating evidence except to verify the attack and to prove that the Thomas Kennedy involved was in fact the Thomas Kennedy of present Garrard County, Kentucky as there is reference made to "Hugh Ross, his brother-in-law", who was a scout on the invasion.

Such a disturbing account opens up avenues of speculation as to why such hatred of Indians possessed the beings of Kennedy and McGary; and at the same time why such actions disturbed the likes of Daniel Boone? All had lost close kin and friends at the hands of the Indians. Boone reasons that he is only aware of three Indians he may have killed during his many encounters. The death of his two sons, James and Israel as well as a brother by the Indians could not bring him to the actual act of revenge when it availed itself to him. In the above battle, Boone recognizes the killer of his son James, but was somehow restrained to make the encounter, even as the Indian repeatedly endangered him and others before Simon Kenton finally put an end to the Indian’s life. Kennedy, of course, lost his brother, John at the hands of the Indians. McGary, his step-son and this almost meant the end for him and his wife. McGary could possibly felt gilt at the loss of so many at The Battle of Blue Licks as a result of his alleged successful encouragement of his superiors to charge the Indians against their better judgement. His single rash advance prompted all others to follow with haste and thus a great defeat by the ambushing Indians.


In the early 1790's or earlier, Thomas Kennedy built his large brick home on the waters of Kennedy Branch of Paint Lick Creek, known as Walker’s Branch today and the road as Walker Pike. After Thomas died, the house became the homes of many people at different times until it fell into ruin. In 1929 there was a plea to restore the old mansion. The newly formed Garrard County Historical Society had this as a goal. Lancaster’s mayor Champ and others believed that it would take $15,000 to do the job. No doubt, the depression years were instrumental in the failure to achieve the goal. As a result, the old brick mansion, then in deplorable condition, no longer exists, except for an occasional brick and a remnant of its furnishment that might be found from time to time, such as one of the interior doors and a stairway railing that adorns a home in the village of Paint Lick. We are left with an Historical Marker on near-by highway 52, significant to the reader as it alleges a connection to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin".

There is an awareness that through the years there have been claims and counter claims to the above Kennedy site as the place of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as if there was such a site. It is perhaps, so instilled in the people’s minds that any attempt to rationalize the subject may be met with ridicule.

A September 17, 1979 Courier Journal article by Staff Writer, Jean Howerton Coady states: "A July Nostalgia article reported on claims that Mrs. Stowe had visited relatives at Paint Lick near Lancaster in Garrard County and friends at Washington in Mason County, and at one place or both found the proto-type for Uncle Tom, the old slave of her novel." This was responded to by David C. Adkisson, Executive Vice President of the Owensboro-Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, " Tain’t so, Uncle Tom was Josiah Henson, a resident of Daviess County who eventually fled to Canada." "Furthermore", the article continues, " the chamber is deep into a project to reconstruct the cabin on the site were the slave lived and have it named a national historic place." There has been, in fact, since 1969, a Kentucky Historical Society marker midway between Maceo and Lewisport, U. S. Highway 60, Daviess County that reads, ‘Site of Riley family home place, owners of Josiah Henson, one of the characters on which Harriet Beecher Stowe based her novel, Uncle tom’s Cabin.’ Henson lived there about five years before escaping to Canada in 1830. Note, this is before Mrs. Stowe, then Miss Beecher, had moved to Cincinnati in 1832, and before she had really been awakened to the dark side of slavery. In a later year, after 18 years in Cincinnati and removal to New England, she did meet Josiah Henson and no doubt gathered from him as well as others before, the proto-type for Uncle Tom. The Daviess County Historical marker admits that there were more than one character who made up the proto-type. No individual or site should be considered as ‘The Uncle Tom or place of his cabin.’

This writer while on a business in Daviess County, 1994, witnessed what may be a belated start of the planned recognition of Josiah Henson. A huge mural depicting Henson and other historical items significant to the area is readily recognizable on the entire side of the Post Office at Maceo. It appears that Daviess County is bringing tourist attention to the subject as promised.


In Dresden, Ontario, Canada there is already Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, Josiah Henson’s home. A 1991 newspaper article in far away Florida, is headed, "The Real Uncle Tom". A Canadian museum and historic site honor the Rev. Josiah Henson, who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The fact of the matter is, Mrs. Stowe had already finished three chapters of her novel before she had occasion to consider Henson’s role as one of the proto-types for the characters.

Henson later traveled widely claiming himself to be Uncle Tom as does the Canadian town, saying, "Stowe used Henson’s harrowing escape to freedom as the basis for her book". Perhaps the advertised widely traveled Henson was the license for the following:

This is perhaps the greatest embellishment and ‘lie’ of all the legends and claimed facts concerning Josiah Henson. This article appeared as an advertisement to attract the sale of a vintage house near Paint Lick, Kentucky called ‘The Manse’ which served as the parsonage for the Old Paint Lick Presbyterian Church. I will quote the paragraph that among others is the most blatant embellishment. "During the middle years of the 19th century, the Kennedy Plantation was visited by Harriet Beecher Stowe during the time that the plantation was being managed by Josiah Henson, after whom Miss Stowe modeled her character ‘Uncle Tom’. Local legend tells of prolonged dialogues about slavery between Henson and the Minister in the parlor of the Manse, and relates that Miss Stowe’s decision to write ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ was made in that room after participating in such discussion." Whether this ‘used car’ type salesmanship brought more for the Manse is not known.’ It was apparently aimed at the uninformed. In the rest of the article, the author was careful to express how, over the years, any remodeling that was done was faithfully done in the Presbyterian Plain style. Shameful, that some of it was out of historic context and a character placed where he had never set foot, much less manage the Kennedy plantation. No historical data, nor by Henson’s own words, is he ever placed in Garrard County, Kentucky.

While not denying the two former claims, but certainly the latter one, it must be reasoned that Mrs. Stowe gathered in her mind over a long period, the material for her work. She moved to Cincinnati on the heals of the Nat Turner episode in Virginia, where so many whites were killed in an up-rising. If she had been aware of ‘the peculiar institution’ as a young woman in the north, she most certainly became exposed to its inhumanity in a real sense in Cincinnati where she would witness and hear of its effects; and on trips on the Ohio River and on visits into Kentucky where she would see and feel its repulsive nature. Some writers suggest that she began writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin at this time. It has been inferred that some of the story was written during a visit to the Thomas Kennedy house. Belated notes may have been taken but it is doubtful that anything other than memory was consulted in later years.

A gentleman from Louisville likes to think that a desk he purchased in Cincinnati, that belonged to Mrs. Stowe’s family, is the one she wrote her book on (apparently another good sales job). It appears to have been a piece of furniture left behind when the Stowes moved away, and would be before the story was written.

An 1889 publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with an introductory account of the work by the author, gives much incite to its creation. " The author had been called to write the letters for a former slave woman, servant in her own family, to a slave husband in Kentucky, who, trusted with unlimited liberty, free to come and go on business between Kentucky and Ohio, still refused to break his pledge of honor to his master, though that master from year to year deferred the keeping of his promised freedom for the slave. It was the simple honor and loyalty of this Christian black man, who remained in slavery rather than violate a trust, that first impressed her with the possibility of such a character as, years later, was delineated in Uncle Tom."

Many incidents endangered the family in Cincinnati and there was fear that harm would come to them as they were aiding the escape of so many slaves. The location of their house and the ‘deep mud’ on more than one occasion may have saved them from the ‘mob’ that threatened to burn Professor Stowe’s school. " It was many years that Mrs. Stowe felt any call to make use of the materials thus accumulated." The materials were most likely accumulated in her mind as to have such in writing could have meant certain harm if ever the ‘mob’ did reach them, as they had others who did publish anti-slavery papers.

When finally relocated in the north, the climate became more conducive to writing, free from reprisal, although, at the time, the Fugitive Slave Law had occasioned an invasion of the far north, in retrieval of run-away slaves as well as in some cases persons of color, by slave hunters and traders.

While Mrs. Stowe pondered over a publication and witnessed account of the escape of a woman and her child on the ice of the Ohio River, from Kentucky, this was the push she needed to write some sketches which would show the world slavery as she, herself had seen it. The escape over the ice ‘formed the first salient point of the story.’ " The faithful slave husband in Kentucky occurred to her as a pattern of Uncle Tom, and scenes of the story gradually began to form themselves in her mind." Yes, Josiah Henson’s life was in-woven with the story in the character of Uncle Tom as was the life of Lewis Clarke in the character of George Harris. Mrs. Stowe had committed to writing a series that might run for several weeks. The vast resources then began to permeate her memory and the work was quickly put to print.

The character of George Harris, found to a degree in the life of Lewis Clarke, brings us back to the Kennedys in Garrard County, Kentucky. It is unfortunate that locally, much has been said over the years that distort the facts and make it difficult to overcome the criticism of Garrard County’s claim to Mrs. Stowe’s visit.

In an undated and unidentified newspaper clipping titled, ‘Tombstone Tales’, reference is made to the October 1794 duel between Thomas Kennedy and William Gillespie. It is said that Clarke, a semi-free slave (what ever this means?) who later was to be known to millions of people under a different name (assuming this to be the character of George Harris) was kept awake to serve drinks to the poker players. (here again one wonders whether the duel occurred over anger at a poker game or as one account says, ‘a business deal’.) Anyway, when the challenge was made, it was Clarke, no seconds were involved, who dropped the handkerchief as a signal to fire. He is also the one sent to Paint Lick to bring a doctor.

Now, it is supposed that this same Clarke, in 1841, described as an intelligent high-strung octoroon boy, escaped to Ohio and Canada due to fear of ‘being sold down the river’ because of the state of affairs after the death of the elder Thomas Kennedy and shortly afterwards (3 years), his new owner, Thomas, Jr. Clarke returned to the Kennedy Plantation in 1881 (no longer Kennedy’s and no longer a plantation presence as before). According to interviewer, Young E. Allison, Clarke was 27 years of age when he ran away. If this is so, he would not have been born at the time of the duel. Clarke’s own words in his and Milton Clarke’s Narrative, 1846, quotes:

" I lived with this Mr. K.......... about four or five years, then I fell into the hands of his son. He was a drinking and ignorant man but not as cruel as his father." Lewis Clarke would have been about 22 years of age at the death of General Thomas Kennedy in 1836. This writer could not find his name in the listing of slaves willed to young Thomas Kennedy. That does not mean he was not there as many were simply mentioned as the children of so and so. But, in most cases the slaves that were willed to Thomas, Jr. and his brother, John were named individually.

Miss Mary Dutton, a friend and associate teacher of Mrs. Stowe, confirms, if I read my reference correctly, that the two of them visited the Spillman home in Paint Lick, Kentucky, and also the Kennedy plantation near by. (It is not assured that Dutton meant a visit to Paint Lick or somewhere else, and it is possible that the above homes were added by someone putting words in Dutton’s mouth.) Years later, she recognized scene after scene of the visit portrayed in the novel, although it seemed to her that Harriet, at the time, sat as though abstracted in thought.

Some articles suggest that Mrs. Stowe visited relatives in Paint Lick. If this is so, then the credibility for the visit would be stronger. This writer has found nothing to substantiate this, but wishes it could be done.

The Central Record, of Lancaster, Kentucky, ran an article, ‘Climbing Your Family Tree’, in which it was mentioned that the step-son of Thomas Kennedy, Philemon Kavanaugh, was the grandfather of Harriet Beecher Stowe; Shades of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court!" In looking for the source of this statement, the writer found it repeated in the work of the late Joe Creason, Courier Journal Staff Writer. Of course, he gave no source of this find, as seldom one would expect. If someone would have examined the records they would have found that this Philemon Kavanaugh was only eight years of age when Harriet was born. Now, this Philemon’s grandfather was also a Philemon, but he is alleged to have been killed by Indians on the way to Kentucky from Virginia. It would be nice to know the facts, but the embellishment continues.

A relationship could have brought Mrs. Stowe and her friend, Miss Dutton so far into Kentucky and not just because of the large slave owning Kennedys. Is it possible that it could have been a relative of Miss Dutton? There was a Kennedy connection to a Spillman. Elizabeth Woods Kavanaugh, born in 1801, married in 1818, James Argo. Their daughter, Nancy married Dr. Charles T. Spillman in 1844. Does this date the visit?

General Kennedy was most likely deceased at the time of Mrs. Stowes visit. Who then was living in the house is not certainly known. It could have been young Tom, who was married early in the year of his father’s death, 19 June 1836, and was the greater recipient of his father’s will. He did have his own home, more properly that of his wife’s, on the Fall Lick Road not far away. Either place could have been the site of the visit. If it was Thomas, Jr. and his wife, Mary Susan Bohannon Kennedy, it would have occurred from immediately after Thomas, Sr.’s death and the death of Thomas, Jr. on 15 June 1840.

Some writers claim that young Tom and his wife, who were well liked generally, are portrayed as Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, the kind and benevolent masters in the novel. Be that as it may to a reader’s liking or to a writer’s license. As the slave could present themselves to the master as something they were not, so, likewise could a slave-owner to a visitor, If he thought a critical eye was present. Lewis Clarke described young Tom as ignorant but not as cruel as his father. It stands that he was cruel to a degree.

This statement was found in the unpublished notes of Forrest Calico, late local historian, "History of Garrard County and its Churches". Robert and Polly Ross Carpenter had inherited a slave named Harvey who had been beaten so cruelly by Thomas Kennedy, Jr. and others, that he died and the court gave damages to Polly in the sum of $195 in 1837. (Circuit Court Clerk Book 18 page 304).

With the on going obsession in identifying an Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it must be said that any slave fitting the description would probably have lived in a cabin. Such a slave, so trusted, would in all probability have been an over-seer or house servant and the cabin could well have been near the master’s house.

In the case of the Kennedy Plantation, a structure, post-dating the period, was often pointed out to gullible tourists as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Actual Photographs showing the mansion and the cabin, were published in the name of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (In some of the photos, the Cabin appears to have been imposed upon a photo of the mansion as the cabin looks to be too large compared to the mansion.) Naturally, this became a point of counter claim to those who supposed they had the real site.

A cousin of this writer, the late James R. Ballard, responded to the before mentioned Courier Journal article on Uncle Tom’s story to report that as a young boy he was given dimes and quarters to show visitors the cabin. He recalled seeing iron rings bolted to the walls in a building on the farm and was told that was where slaves were whipped. Later in a letter to this writer, 1986, he says that his mother told him that as a young girl, she went to dances in the old Kennedy mansion; that he and two other boys climbed the old rickety stairs and went up to the actic where they found iron rings in the wall and what looked like blood stains on the wall. He reported that he never did know where the slave cabins were on the farm. He did know where the ice house was; on the hill side toward the manse, referring to the old Paint Lick Presbyterian church area to the east. He thought that our grandfather had told him that he helped to put ice in the ice house. (The writer’s father also said that our grandfather did so and that he was born in the old mansion.)

Printed accounts have located the slave cabins both behind and in front of the old Kennedy house. It has been the tradition in the writer’s family that the cabins were across the road in a long row perpendicular to the front of the house. Not many years ago, the late Judge Eagle told this writer that Woods Walker, a farmer of the area, told him that the slave cabins were also across the road in front of the house. They ran in lines toward what was then called Kennedy’s Branch of Paint Lick Creek, but now called Walker’s Branch.

This writer tends to believe that the cabins were logically in front of the house toward the convenience of the branch, but he does not wish to say for certain and fall into the same trap of statements he is trying to straighten out. True, the families who lived in the area for generations should have a better fix on the story than those who live far away. My grandfather, born 1875 and his neighbor Woods Walker, a few years his senior, stood a good chance of actually seeing the cabins as Thomas Kennedy, Jr. died just 30 to 35 years before they were born. And, if not, their fathers could have easily related to them the facts.

In 1986. this writer and his daughter, with Nancy O’Malley, an anthropologist from the University of Kentucky, were attempting to locate some of the early pioneer stations. During the time we briefly visited the Kennedy site but made no effort to try to locate the site of the slave cabins. Time was a factor and it was only mentioned. Permission to be on the property would have been proper. The effort should be made someday.

While fairy tales mixed with history inflates the ego of many, it is still good that investigation finds some fact in what is reported, or at least to leave findings open to criticism. That is what this writer hopes is done with this article; and as far as he is concerned, every claimant should have his or her Uncle Tom and his cabin.

Such a stir was created by her novel that Mrs. Stowe was compelled to write, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She reports on correspondence she had received that says she must have had in mind a person or persons they knew because the various characters in her novel so well describe them. Mrs. Stowe wrote in 1882, "I will say that the character of Uncle Tom was not the biography of any one man."

Mrs. Stowe of long ago, your work still promotes controversy, but in a different and less damning fashion.


Calico, Forrest. History of Garrard County Kentucky and its Churches, The Hobson Book Press, New York, N.Y.: 1947.

The Lancaster Women’s Club, Patches of Garrard County - 1796-1974, Danville, Ky.: Blue Grass Printing, 1974.

Kerr, Charles, editor. History of Kentucky, Vol. I., Chicago and New York: The American Historical Society, 1922.

Champ, William. Interview with Lyman Copeland Draper, DM 18C, Micro-film copy in Townsend Room, Eastern Kentucky University Library.

Misc. Newspaper Clippings. Kennedy Family File, Garrard County Library, Lancaster, Ky.

Wilson, Alma Lackey. Kennedy Family, The Register of the Kentucky historical Society, Vol. 45 No. 151, Frankfort Ky. : April 1947.

Ellis, William; Everman, H.E.; Sears, Richard. Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect, (Kennedy - Kerley Fight) p. 50; (Appendix - Pioneers at Fort Boonesborough) Madison County Historical Society: 1985.

Misc. Kennedy and Gordon Papers, Giles County Historical Society, Pulaski, Tn.: Copies in writer’s possession.

Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992.

Eckert, Allan W. The Frontiersmen, A Narrative, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967.

Talbert, Charles G. Review : The Frontiersmen, The Kentucky Historical Society Register, Frankfort, Ky. : July, 1968.

Newspaper articles. Way Back in the Record, The Central Record. Lancaster, Ky. Copies in possession of writer.

Capos, Claudia - Staff Writer. The ‘Real’ Uncle Tom. St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida: Feb. 3, 1991. Copy in possession of writer.

Coady, Jean Howerton. Daviess Countys Claim ‘Uncle Tom’ as one of their own. Courier Journal. Louisville, Ky. : Sept. 17, 1979. Copy in possession of writer.

Weiderhold, Mr. and Mrs. Robert. Pamphlet of Notice for Sale, with historical background, The Manse. Copy in writer’s possession.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin - New edition with an introductory account of the work by the author. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1889.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Boston: 1853. Berea College Library, Berea, Ky.

Coleman, J. Winston, Jr. The Code Duello in Ante - Bellium Kentucky. Lexington:

Coleman, J. Winston, Jr. Mrs. Stowe, Kentucky and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Reprint from Lincoln Herald, Vol. 48, No. 2, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tn. : 1946.

Kavanaugh Family File. Garrard County Library, Lancaster, Ky.

Dunn, Shirley. Marriages 1780-1850 & Tombstone Inscriptions, Lincoln County, Ky. Genealogical R & P, St Louis, Mo. : 1977.

Vockery, Bill and Kathy. Garrard County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1797--1853. Garrard County Historical Society: 1989