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

Nelson County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870

Nelson County, located in west-central Kentucky, is surrounded by seven counties. It was the fourth county established in Kentucky, formed in 1784 from a portion of Jefferson County and named for the governor of Virginia, Thomas Nelson. The county seat is Bardstown, first known as Salem and later renamed for one of the original town settlers, David Bard (spelled as Baird in some sources). In the First Census of Kentucky, 1790, there were 10,032 whites, 1,248 slaves, and 35 free persons. The county population in 1800 was 9,866, according to the Second Census of Kentucky: 7,948 whites, 1,902 slaves, and 16 free coloreds. In 1830 there were four free African American slave owners in Bardstown. The population increased to 10,270 by 1860, according to the U.S. Federal Census, and excluding the slaves. Below are the number of slave owners, slaves, free Blacks, and free Mulattoes for 1850-1870.

1850 Slave Schedule

  • 997 slave owners
  • 4,156 Black slaves
  • 969 Mulatto slaves
  • 94 free Blacks
  • 1 free Colored [Charlot Humphrey]
  • 21 free Mulattoes

1860 Slave Schedule

  • 1,053 slave owners
  • 4,918 Black slaves
  • 578 Mulatto slaves
  • 79 free Blacks
  • 32 free Mulattoes

1870 U.S. Federal Census

  • 3,092 Blacks
  • 796 Mulattoes
  • About 221 U.S. Colored Troops listed Nelson County, KY, as their birth location.

For more see Nelson County in The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by J. E. Kleber; Abstracts of Wills Nelson County, Kentucky 1785-1823: complete index including slaves, Blacks, and servants by Nelson County Historical Society; Marriage Bond Books, 1785-1913 by Nelson County Clerk; From Out of the Dark Past Their Eyes Implore Us: the Black roots of Nelson County, Kentucky by P. Craven and R. L. Pangburn; and Declaration of Marriage of Negroes and Mulattoes: the Commonwealth of Kentucky [1900-1985?] by Nelson County Historical Society.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Nelson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Bardstown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Salem, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: African American Slave Owners in Kentucky
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: Abstracts of wills Nelson County, Kentucky 1785-1823 : complete index including slaves, Blacks and servants
NKAA Source: Marriage bond books, 1785-1913 [Nelson County]
NKAA Source: From out of the dark past their eyes implore us: the black roots of Nelson County, Kentucky / research by Patricia Craven and Richard Pangburn
NKAA Source: Declaration of marriage of negroes and mulattoes : the Commonwealth of Kentucky [1900-1985?]

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Nelson County (KY) Slaves, Free Blacks, and Free Mulattoes, 1850-1870,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 30, 2020,

Last modified: 2018-01-12 02:31:58