Who else worked the land?

When the Tylers cleared their land, built their homes and outbuildings, planted crops, and raised livestock, they were not working alone. They had slaves. From the 1820 census we know that Edward Tyler had 10 slaves and that Moses Taylor had two slaves. In 1850, according to the Kentucky census, there were two slave houses for 11 slaves on blackacre property.  According to that census, Presley Tyler own six female slaves and five male slaves.

Across the country, where slaves worked on farms or plantations, they did a variety of work; they cultivated crops, raise livestock, built houses and barns, and did household chores.  Even those slaves were not supposed to be educated for reading and writing, slaves were sometimes taught special skills to help them get certain jobs done. According to folklore, slaves at Blackacre were taught basic masonry skills and were known to have constructed dry rock wall fences. Therefore, we think slaves probably buily the stone fences at Blackacre, and they also might have laid cobblestones for the main farm road.

There is not much written about the work of the slaves who lives here. They were rented out to neighbors as a document shown above states. Their daily life is not well document as is their masters. We do know that during the 1850s the cost of a slave was about $500. By comparison, the main house at Blackacre was built for $236. Therefore, slaves were valuable property. When one ran away it meant a serious loss to the owner.

Clay was a natural asset to the Tylers. Clay makes good bricks, and the Tylers used bricks for building. (The big yellow house was built in 1844 of bricks.) In addition, as we know from our local stoneware factories, clay makes excellent plates and other kinds of pottery. The land the Tylers packed had just about anything an experienced builder needed in the late 1700s. First, there was plenty of wood, particularly poplar, from the local forests.

Poplar makes an excellent building material. It’s a durable and extremely sturdy hardwood once it dries out. Poplar also is reasonably easy to cut and shape into logs, clapboard siding, and roofing shingles the Tylers needed and used throughout their buildings, including the smokehouse, still, house, and barn. Poplar also is very light weight for the strength of wood. This is important when the only way to lift them is with a horse or muscle power. Coincidentally, poplar also resists moisture and bugs. This keeps it from rotting if it comes into contact with the ground or getting chewed up if there are wood-eating insects around. The Tylers also wanted stone for walls, paths, building foundations, and other construction uses or strength and durability for factors. Most of Kentucky has a lot limestone in formations close to the surface of the earth. This is called karst topography. In addition to limestone formations close to the surface, there is an abundance of caves and sink holes. Walk around Blackacre and you will see outcroppings of limestone in several places.

There was plenty of water, but the land was well drained so moisture wasn’t a problem, in the soil conditions were apparently just right. In other words, the place we know 200 years later as Blackacre had ideal conditions for creating a prosperous frontier-era farm in the 1790s.