From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Mercer County (KY) Enslaved, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870

Mercer County, located in central Kentucky, was formed in 1785 from a portion of Lincoln County. It was named for Hugh Mercer from Scotland, a physician killed during the American Revolutionary War. Mercer County was the sixth county formed in Kentucky, and it is surrounded by six counties. Harrodsburg, the county seat, was first called Harrod's Town. It was founded in 1774 by James Harrod, who was a pioneer, explorer, and a soldier in the French and Indian War. Harrodsburg is considered the first permanently established settlement in Kentucky.

In the First Census of Kentucky, 1790, there were 5,745 whites, 1,339 enslaved, and seven free coloreds. The 1800 county population was 9,646, according to the Second Census of Kentucky: 7,297 whites, 2,316 enslaved, and 33 free coloreds. In 1830 there were nine free African American slave holders. By 1860, the population had increased to 10,427, according to the U.S. Federal Census, excluding the enslaved. Below are the number of slave holders, enslaved, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 619 slave owners
  • 2,952 Black slaves
  • 295 Mulatto slaves
  • 261 free Blacks
  • 73 free Mulattoes

1860 Slave Schedule

  • 618 slave owners
  • 2,353 Black slaves
  • 732 Mulatto slaves
  • 103 Colored slaves
  • 167 free Blacks
  • 1 free Colored [Parellee Meaux]
  • 89 free Mulattoes

1870 U.S. Federal Census

  • 2,691 Blacks
  • 566 Mulattoes
  • About 142 U.S. Colored Troops listed Mercer, KY  as their birth location.

For more see Mercer County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by J. E. Kleber; Letters to Ministers and Elders on the Sin of Holding Slaves, and the Duty of Immediate Emancipation, by J. G. Birney; Marriage Books, 1786-1984, Mercer County (KY) County Clerk; and Through Two Hundred Years, by G. M. Chinn and R. W. Conover.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: "First census" of Kentucky, 1790 : (reconstructed from tax lists)
NKAA Source: "Second census" of Kentucky, 1800; a privately compiled and published enumeration of tax payers appearing in the 79 manuscript volumes extant of tax lists of the 42 counties of Kentucky in existence in 1800
NKAA Source: The Kentucky encyclopedia
NKAA Source: Letter to ministers and elders on the sin of holding slaves, and the duty of immediate emancipation
NKAA Source: Marriage books (indexed), 1786-1984 [Mercer County]
NKAA Source: Through two hundred years : pictorial highlights of Harrodsburg and Mercer County, Kentucky

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  African American Slave Owners in Kentucky

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Mercer County (KY) Enslaved, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 1, 2023,

Last modified: 2023-01-10 21:04:43