Saturday, November 15, 2003

Slave vs. Free
I've been looking at the original census images online this week for Gallatin County in 1830, and I've found something interesting.

Originally, we had been using the census transcription published by the Saline County Genealogical Society. That transcription didn't differentiate between free blacks and slaves. We knew Crenshaw had 12 blacks in his household, but when I looked at the original census images, those 12 were listed as slaves, not free blacks. (Granted, at least five of them were members of the Adams family and technically indentured servants, but we don't know the status or identity of the other seven).

It's also significant that the enumerator in 1830 didn't consider indentured servants as free blacks because they weren't. Many of the Old Slave House critics have used the argument that indentured servants weren't slaves. They certainly weren't free, and this shows that even the folks back in 1830 not only didn't consider them free, but considered them the same as slaves.

I've added up some figures for Gallatin County. In 1830, Shawneetown possessed five times the population of Chicago, then estimated at only 100 souls along the banks of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Shawneetown had 520 residents. Gallatin County had just over 7,400.

The census shows Crenshaw owning 12 slaves that year. He wasn't alone. Countywide, one in every 25 households included slaves. At Equality and Half Moon Lick where the county produced most of its salt, one in 10 households included slaves. In Shawneetown where they didn't have the excuse of making salt in order to own slaves, more than one-quarter of the households included slaves — one in four!

Crenshaw wasn't the largest slave-owner, only the second largest. A man named Richard Handson owned 17 in the area of the Guards' saltworks at Half Moon Lick.

Overall the enumerator found 170 slaves in Gallatin County, which resulted in nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of the slaves in the entire state. Free black residents headed 25 houses (although the enumerator listed one man as white in the census, though he would be listed as black in later censuses). Overall, the census shows 291 free black residents, or about one-sixth (18 percent) of the free black population in the state of Illinois.