Black & white, 1860, Woodford Co., Kentucky

There’s a story behind an entry on the 1860 census, but I don’t have it figured out: Jacob BOSTON (Christian Hufford’s grandson through his daughter Barbara) was 48 and living in Versailles, Woodford Co., Kentucky, with his wife Catharine (33) and young children William (5) and Mary (4 months). Also in the household was Salem WATERS (41), a widowed father, with his children: Eliza (17), Joseph (16), Anna (15), and Elizabeth (12). All were born in Kentucky. Jacob and Salem were blacksmiths, as was Salem’s 16-year-old son Joseph.

None of that is surprising: Two blacksmiths join forces. One is widowed and has a daughter old enough to help with the child care of the other’s young children, and the teenaged male works with his father.

What is surprising is that the Waters all were coded “B” for “black.” In other words, it was an interracial household in 1860 in Woodford Co., Kentucky. None of the Waters were listed as “slaves.”

Jacob Boston had no real estate, but $2,000 in personal property (cash, tools). Salem Walters had $350 of real estate and $100 in personal estate. That suggests that Salem owned a small bit of real estate (all that would be needed for a blacksmith shop), and Jacob had some tools and money.

In 1850, Salem was living with his wife (Rebecca, 28) and his children: Eliza (7), Joseph (6), Anna B. (5), Henry H. (4), and Mary E. (2). (Mary would have been “Mary Elizabeth.” Henry was gone by 1860, presumably dead.) Salem was a blacksmith. Listed next to Salem was another WATERS family, headed by 33-year-old Elizabeth, and with Harriet (18) and Samuel (14). Salem himself was listed as a slave owner on the 1850 U.S. Slave Schedule for Woodford Co., Kentucky: one slave, a 35-year-old black male.

Salem survived the Civil War:

In June 1870, William J. Steele announced himself a Republican Party candidate for county judge in Woodford Coumty. Steele was a prominent farmer and attorney from Versailles and declared himself to be “a Union man from the very start.” As a Republican candidate in the post-Fifteenth Amendment era, Steele sought support from Woodford County’s sizable African American community. He spoke to a black audience at Versailles’s “Colored Baptist Church” in March, before ratification of the amendment. Prominent black leaders in Versailles — including a blacksmith, Salem Waters; a carpenter, Aaron Searcy; a plasterer, Andrew Jackson; and the Reverend William Turpin — all spoke in favor of Steele’s candidacy. Each of these relatively wealthy members of the town’s African American community eagerly anticipated voting for Steele after the Fifteenth Amendment’s final ratification …

That’s from “Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri,” by Aaron Astor, 2012. (15th Amendment, of course said that the right of U.S. citizens could not be denied based on race, color, or previous servitude.)

By 1870 Salem had married again, to Jane. He was still in Versailles, working as a blacksmith, with $4,000 in real estate and $500 in personal property. He died before 1880 when Jane was listed as a widow, with one of Salem’s grandchildren living in her home. Salem’s son Joseph was working as a blacksmith in 1880, living in Clover Bottom, Woodford Co.

Was there any connection between Salem Waters and Jacob Boston other than two blacksmiths living together and working together in 1860? I can’t tell from the records that I’m finding. What I find interesting is that Christian Hufford’s grandson, a white man, was living and working side-by-side with a black man in 1860, in Kentucky.

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