Plantation papers to go on display in Owensboro


Associated Press

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 7:01 AM

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — A western Kentucky museum paid $7,600 for a collection personal papers, books and a "slave pass" issued in Kentucky 186 years ago to a man who was one of the inspirations for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

The Owensboro Museum of Science and History will display the collection from the family of Daviess County plantation owner Amos Riley and his son, Owensboro attorney Camden Riley, later this summer. The museum bought the collection last month at a Cincinnati auction.

Museum Executive Director Kathy Olson told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer ( ) the collection includes deeds, bills of sale for slaves and receipts from steamboat companies and other businesses.

Olson said the collection was valued at between $10,000 and $15,000 at auction.

"They are in incredibly good shape. Paper from that time period is easier to preserve, because it has cotton rag bond and no wood pulp," Olson said. "You can pick up a document from 200 years ago, and it's in better shape than a letter written 50 years ago."

The pass, issued to Josiah Henson, reads, "pass to allow my man Si safe and unhindered passage to and from the Yellow Bank (Owensboro) and my place at Yelvington to attend to the affairs of the plantation."

Si was Henson's nickname.

In his autobiography, Henson, who became a leading educator and abolitionist in Canada after his escape in 1830 from the Riley plantation, wrote that the main house was 5 miles from the Ohio River. The book says that there were 80 to 100 slaves on the plantation, making it one of the largest in the region.

Olson said the collection will be "put on display in a couple of weeks."

As she looked through the documents, Olson sorted through deeds, bills of sale for slaves and receipts from steamboat companies and other businesses.

"I'm really anxious to look through all of this," she said. "There's a wealth of information about that time and this area."

The documents include records of land sales, slave sales and trades and receipts for horses taken by Union troops during the Civil War. Other documents in the collection include a transaction with Ann Edwards on April 27, 1835, in which Amos Riley "relinquishes rights to an enslaved woman name Dorcas, retaining rights to an enslaved man Harry."

There's a bill of sale for a man named Harry in 1835 and a contract "for hire of a negro girl Susan one year, said Susan to be as well clothed as when she came to my house, 1846."

"We have quite a few documents from the 19th century already," Olson said, "but this is the most we have from any one family."


Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer,