Out of History’s Shadow: The Story of Alfred Croghan, Part 1

Two actors portraying enslaved workers through a window

Alfred and Rose, portrayed by Sidney and Xavier, in the hearth kitchen at Historic Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky. – Photo by Heather R. Hiner/Fox and Rose Photography.

Today, volunteer and researcher Heather Hiner continues to share her research into the enslaved community at Locust Grove with the first in a series on the life of an enslaved man named Alfred Croghan. Her previous post tells the story of another enslaved man, also named Alfred who was most likely sold by the Croghan family of  Locust Grove as punishment for an unknown act. 

For the most part, the enslaved people who lived and labored at Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky are poorly documented. When I started this research project, Alfred Croghan was documented better than most. But “better than most” is a low bar. I knew his first name, the approximate year of his birth, and that he had spent part of his adult life at Mammoth Cave. After many, many hours of research and with the help of librarians, archivists, and others, I am excited to share that Alfred Croghan has gone from being poorly documented to being the first enslaved person owned by the Croghan family that we can trace from a child at Locust Grove to his death as a free man in Louisville.

Alfred’s first documented appearance may be in the 1820 Census. According to the census, half of the enslaved people living at Locust Grove were 14 or younger. I cannot be entirely sure that Alfred is one of the children listed in the census because the only person listed by name is the head of the household, Major William Croghan. Major Croghan’s family and the enslaved people he owned are not listed by name.

1820 census document

1820 Federal Census for William Croghan (highlighted in yellow). Alfred Croghan may have been one of the eight male enslaved children seen in the census (highlighted in orange).

I have not come across any records of births of enslaved children at Locust Grove. However, I am pretty confident that Alfred was born in 1820 based on some wonderful photographs I will share in a future post about Alfred. The census was taken in August of 1820, which means if Alfred was born before August, he is one of the eight enslaved male children living at Locust Grove who were recorded on the census.

Portrait of mid-19th century man

Portrait of William Croghan, Jr. by James Reid Lambdin

The only real glimpse of Alfred’s childhood that we have is a letter written by William Croghan, Jr. to his three-year-old son, William Croghan III in 1828. In fact, it is the best account of enslaved children in general that we have and is a treasure trove of information.

“Locust Grove, Fall, 1828

…If you were only here now to see the dear little calves, & the lambs & little pigs – You never saw so many pigs & only to think how you would find the ducks & your eggs. Little Abe & Al, find the most & Al comes in & says “here old mister here is egg, now give me cake” & then away he runs & then Abe he comes in with his – Little Tommy & Susan live at the river, but they come up here of a Sunday to see us all” –

Little Harvey wants to go with me to Pitts; he says he belong to you. Little Bob lives in town & is learning to be a barber. He lives with the black Barber than once cut your hair –”…

Excerpt, William Croghan Jr. to his three-year-old son, William Croghan III – Locust Grove Manuscripts

Portrait of mid-19th century woman

Portrait of Mary Croghan Schenley by James Reid Lambdin

Based on a birth year of 1820 and with no other records pointing to another man around the same age with the same name owned by the Croghans, it is a near certainty that “Al” is an eight-year-old Alfred Croghan. It’s an account that shows an exuberant boy who is bold enough to be a bit cheeky with William, Jr.

William Croghan, Jr. inherited Locust Grove from his father in 1822 and continued to live there until the death of his wife in October of 1827. Devastated by his loss, William and his children moved to Pittsburgh where he could manage his late wife’s estate. He wrote the above letter to his son in Pittsburgh one after the death of his wife while he was visiting Locust Grove.

Pittsburgh also became a part of Alfred’s story. John Abbott met Alfred during a visit to Mammoth Cave in 1854 and shared that “Alfred formerly belonged to Miss Mary Croghan [daughter of William Croghan, Jr.]… After she went to England, she gave Alfred to some of her relatives, and he belonged to Dr. Croghan at the time of his [Dr. Croghan’s] death…”

Being moved to Pittsburgh to serve William’s daughter, Mary, followed by being passed between other members of the Croghan family would have been an experience Alfred shared with other enslaved people owned by the Croghans. It was a common practice for the Croghans to loan, buy, or sell, enslaved people who belonged to their family amongst themselves.

Under the ownership of Dr. John Croghan, William, Jr.’s, oldest brother, Alfred would become one of the enslaved guides of Mammoth Cave. Working alongside the storied Stephen Bishop, Materson Bransford, and Nicholas Bransford, Alfred would leave his own marks at the cave and become a part of its history. And that’s a story for the next blog post, so stay tuned!

You can follow Heather’s continued research on her blog, The Past in Focus. 

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Dressing Miss Ann Croghan

We are fortunate to have many, many dedicated individuals researching, writing, baking, sewing, and making so that we can tell the stories of Locust Grove’s community. Our guest blogger today is Amy Liebert, Theatrical Director and Women’s Costuming Director for our First Person Interpreters program. Amy recently draped and consulted on a new dress for Heather, who interprets the role of Ann Croghan in our cast. Here’s a look at her process, and how our interpreters at Locust Grove use historical sources to create historically accurate, and ideally, character-driven clothing, to educate museum visitors on the year 1816.

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Dressing Miss Ann Croghan by Amy Liebert

Heather as Ann Croghan on the porch of Locust Grove

Heather as Ann Croghan on the porch of Locust Grove

Heather is 16 years old and she portrays Ann Croghan, daughter of William and Lucy Croghan who owned Locust Grove. Ann was born in 1797 and was 19 years old in 1816. Heather will hopefully portray Ann for some time to come.

Portrait of Ann Croghan Jesup

Portrait of Ann Croghan Jesup

This is a portrait which was painted of Ann after her 1822 marriage to Thomas Sidney Jesup. She is a brunette, wearing the color red.

We didn’t ask her to do this, but Heather actually started dying her hair, which is naturally dark blond, brown for this part. Talk about dedication! Her mother made her some false curls based on my post here, and modified this method of styling Heather’s hair.

I found the fabric for this dress on Fashion Fabrics Club, before Heather joined the cast. It reminded me of the fabric this dress from the DAR Fashionable Tyrant exhibit was made from. Since we ask that all fabric for this program be approved, I will often pick up approvable fabric when I find a good deal, and pass it on at cost to the ladies in the program.

Polka Dot printed dress, 1810-1815, from private collection

1810-1815 (Private Collection)

I draped the bodice for the dress on Heather and drew up instructions for the skirt. We chose a front opening dress so she would have an easier time getting dressed.

Heather as Ann Croghan wearing front opening dress

Heather’s grandmother Patsy actually did all of the construction on the garment with my instructions and consultation. She was a real champ about learning historic clothing construction techniques!

Heather wearing polka dot dress as seen from the back

Apparently, Patsy has come to really enjoy doing tucks.

Tucks at the hem of Heather's skirt

Here, you can see the tucks at the hem of Heather’s skirt.

Heather stuck with the red theme for her evening gown, which was made from some lovely red silk from 96 District Fabrics. I also draped the bodice for this on her, and helped fit all the tucks on the fashion fabric. Patsy handled all the major construction.

Bodice of red dress ins progress

Here she is in action with her ‘sister’, Eliza Croghan.

Heather as Ann Croghan and Emily as Eliza Croghan

Heather as Ann Croghan and Emily as Eliza Croghan

I may be biased, but I think they look pretty darn great!

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You can read more of Amy’s work on her blog, Places in Time. Look for Ann Croghan’s dress in action during Christmastide, 1816 on Saturday, December 8 from 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm!

“Your Affectionate Daughter”: Ann Croghan Jesup Writes Home

One of the delights of working at a historic house is telling the stories of the very real people who came before us. Sometimes, at least for me, it’s rather a challenge to infuse the narrative of the Croghan family’s time at Locust Grove with the personalities of William, Lucy, George Rogers Clark, the children, the slaves, and the many visitors who passed in and out of the home over the years. We believe William likely retained his accent from his native Ireland, and we note that Lucy Croghan  was thought to have “flashy” taste according to her eldest son John. Indeed, the quirks of George Rogers Clark’s personality deserve a blog post all their own! I’ve always loved learning more about the Croghan children, as they were brought up entirely in the new nation their father and uncles helped to create, and were given the challenge of forging their own paths for themselves and for their family name. Ann Croghan Jesup, the eldest daughter, is of especial fascination to me. Letters and family stories indicate that she was an intelligent, spirited woman, and her portrait hangs in the dining room of her childhood home as a testament to her character. Ann married General Thomas Jesup in May 1822, and the couple settled in Washington, D.C., as Jesup was serving as Quartermaster General of the United States Army. Although the couple returned to Kentucky as often as they could throughout their marriage, Ann was separated from her family for months at a time. The letters she writes, especially to her mother, display an abiding affection for her family and Locust Grove, and demonstrate the closeness of the Croghans. Below is a letter from Ann to her mother Lucy Croghan, written 193 years ago today. Doesn’t Ann sound like someone you’d like to befriend?

 

 

 

 

Ann Croghan Jesup to Lucy Croghan

                                                                                       George Town  September 29 1823

My Dear Mamma

       By the last mail I received your letter, I will not pretend to tell you, the happiness it afforded me I could scarecely believe it was from you, and read it over and over again until I knew every word by heart, in truth I had despaired of receiving a letter from you & wrote to Nicholas not to tantalize me with that hope again, I sometimes think I write to you all too often, but tis much a pleasure to me, that I will not willingly give it up although I know there is very little that I can says that will be interesting to you, your not being acquainted with any person here. The same mail that brought your letter also brought one from sister. She had a very fatiguing journey in, Charles was at the Springs. I shall be very much disappointed if he does not return this way. I write to sister very often, at least two letters to her one. And I certainly have not so much leisure as she has. I am always engaged, from sunrise until night, not with my needle, for I sow very little, the very best seamstresses will sow for 25 cents per day. I found I had fallen off so much in my music that I play a great deal to recover it. I shall take one lesson a week which will be quite enough. We give 50 cents a lesson which is sheap (sic) enough. & $6 a month for the Piano. Tell Nicholas we will see which will make the best progress in French. I do not care about learning but the Genl. Was so anxious that I at last consented to get a teacher. I have lately recd a present that I know brother John would beg from me ‘tis an inkstand made of a petrification found at the rock of Gibraltar, that, with a beautiful strand of necklace, was presented to me by a friend of the Genls who has recently returned from Europe—We gave, last week (for the first time) a pretty large tea party, twas for Genl & Mrs. Bloomfield, who were on a visit to their relations the Macombs. The night before ours, Mrs. Calhoun had one, every person was saying, well! Was there every anything so stupid, another, I am no sleepy, can’t keep my eyes open, another Well, Well, Well!! Was there ever such a party—all those remarks alarmed me, for the same persons were to come to ours—and for my life I could not prepare with the same spirit as if I had not heard those remarks, but ours was very different, whether twas because they knew twas the last & thought to make the best of it I can’t say—but I never saw so gay a party,  old & young enjoyed themselves & stayed to a very late hour, all thanked me for the pleasant evening they had spent. Yesterday I dined in company with the new Secretary of Navy Mr. Southard. He looks very like the largest Mr. Southard of Louisville & has about as much sence (sic) he affects too, to be diffident as not to be able to open his mouth in company, but tis because he dose (sic) not know what to talk about the Genl. Has called on him & he is to dine with us in a day or so, most of those great men become very little when you know them. There is Mr. Addington (now the representative of England) he is much inferior in every respect to almost any young gentlemen in Louisville & those young Counts and Barons that are attached to the different Legations are complete laughing stocks for the young ladies, really they laugh at them before their faces—they all are great admirers of the Miss. L’obedours, who repay them by making them as ridiculous of any & I did not like her so much. I should have a (__) laugh at her—she is so anxious for her girls to be the great (__) always contriving to catch beaux for them, fixing their hair, arranging their dress, telling them how to make themselves most agreeable to the beaux &c &c all this she dose before me indeed she is as king & affectionate to me as possible & I like her very much, but she makes herself so rediculious. She is the reverse of Mrs. Macomb who has no wit or deception about her. She a remarkable fine old lady—you must not think My Dear Mama that I ever make remarks of any person, I never do—if brother Wm. Has not started to Pittsburgh could you not come in with him Mr Dear Mama. Lucy Ann continues to grow very fast, she is teathing I think by her biting every thing she can het hold of. She is now sitting on the rug with her foot in her mouth, since I put on the pretty little blue shoes that Genl Macomb bought from New York for her. I can’t keep her feet out of her mouth. Mrs. Wilson, a sister of Mrs. Balch’s has just been here, she is quite a gay widow, directly I finish this I am going to look at the carpeting we had brought from N York. I would rather not get Brussels as our two rooms will take 125 yards –& it is 2 dollars a yard. The ingrane carpeting is very pretty & only half the price. I think we had better get that—David says he is very much mortified that none of his friends have written to home. Why dose not Black Charles send him a few lines? David is a very good boy indeed. But Rose is just as she was at home only lazier, however she is very fond & careful of Lucy Ann. I give my love to my Dear brothers—and pray write to me again My Dear Mama. We are all in very good health. Your Affectionate Daughter

                                                                                           A.H. Jesup

Post Script:

I see your letter is dated on the first, and I only recd it yesterday—if you would direct to the Genl. I should get them much sooner. Always let us hear of Mr. Clay’s health, for I am asked so often.  

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It would be such fun to visit Ann in Washington, don’t you think? She has quite the social life!

Locust Grove is also quite social in October, with our First Wednesday Lecture, a reading performance of Frankenstein by Kentucky Shakespeare, and of course, the return of Market Fair! Check our calendar of events here for more information, or sign up for our e-mailing list here to receive monthly updates of all things Locust Grove. We certainly hope to see you this autumn! Ann’s portrait is always ready for visitors.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah