Home arrow Discover arrow The Hermitage arrow Slavery

The Foundation of a Typical Hermitage Slave Dwelling.
Little written documentation exists about slave life at The Hermitage. What we know about their daily lives has been retrieved through years of archaeological research at their dwellings and at their work sites.

The Hermitage was a 1,050 acre self-sufficient farm. The slaves performed the hard labor on this farm and as it grew so too did the slave population. In 1804 Jackson owned 9 slaves, by 1829 over 100, and at the time of his death in 1845 approximately 150 slaves lived and worked on the property.

A Gun Lock Found Near a Hermitage Slave Dwelling.
Slaves were housed in three different locations on the property. They lived in ìfamily unitsî in small 20 foot square cabins with one floor, one door, one window, a fireplace, and a small loft. Our work, in and around these cabins has informed us about aspects of their lives where they had some measure of control and choice.

Coin Found Near Slave Dwelling
Domestic and wild animal and fish bone suggest that the slaves hunted and fished for themselves in addition to the provisions supplied by the Jacksons. Guns, knives, and fishing tools excavated from slave dwellings add to this understanding. The presence of coins combined with documents that indicate payment to certain slaves provide proof that they had money and therefore access to cash markets. They accumulated numerous possessions and probably traded with a local network of slaves from other plantations. Within each cabin we have excavated root cellars which all vary in their size and construction. Their presence in the standardized housing indicates that they were built by the slaves and may have been used to store food, their possessions, and possibly items that they wanted to hide from the Jacksons.

In this runaway notice Jackson offers a $50 reward for the capture of one of his slaves. He also offers a $10 bonus for every hundred lashes the slave is given up to 300 lashes.
Although the slaves had some material possessions and lived in what would be considered larger than average slave dwellings, they were none-the-less unfree. While Jackson cared for his slaves as evidenced by adequate food, housing, and the ability of the slave women to reproduce, slavery was a brutal and cruel system. When Jackson felt offenses were severe, he did permit slaves to be whipped and did post runaway notices.

Slave Families at the Hermitage

Research into the lives of the enslaved at The Hermitage has been under way for the past two decades, but much work remains. What follows are brief histories of three Hermitage slave families.

Hannah and Aaron Jackson

Hannah Jackson, c. 1880
Andrew Jackson purchased six year old Aaron in 1791. He purchased Hannah, born about 1794, when she was between eight and twelve. Hannah was Rachel Jacksonís personal companion and later became head of the house servants. Aaron trained as a blacksmith, a very important position on the plantation. They married about 1820 and had ten children (Byron, Rachel, Charlotte, Moses, Mary, Martha, Abraham, Ned, Margaret Ellen, and George Washington) all of whom lived to adulthood. Hannah was present at the death of both Rachel and Andrew Jackson.

This c. 1867 photo may be of Betty and her great-grandchildren.
When Andrew Jackson Junior and his wife Sarah briefly moved to Mississippi in between 1858 and 1860, they entrusted care of The Hermitage to Hannah and Aaron. Hannah showed Jacksonís biographer, James Parton, around when he came in 1859 to do research. During the Civil War, Hannah and her daughter Martha left The Hermitage to move to Nashville, even though the slaves had not yet been freed. In Nashville Hannah worked as a midwife and Aaron as a huckster. Aaron died in 1878 and Hannah about 1895.

Old Hannahís Family
Betty's son Alfred sitting by the Hermitage South Portico, c. 1890.
Andrew Jackson bought Old Hannah (1770- 1846) and her daughter Betty (1793-1870) in 1794. Later Hannah had two more children, Squire (b. 1799) and George (b. 1800). This family held several important positions at The Hermitage. Old Hannah was originally the cook, a position Betty inherited. George was Jacksonís personal servant and later the family carriage driver. Squire Hayes (the name he took in emancipation) also served as Jacksonís personal servant and later ran the cotton press to bale the ginned cotton. Operating the cotton press and its fragile cast iron screw was a position of trust and Jackson specifically wanted Squire to operate it. Squire also played the fiddle and provided music for parties.

Bettyís son Alfred assisted with the horses, maintained the wagons and the farm equipment, and after emancipation was a tenant farmer on The Hermitage. He lived at The Hermitage longer than anyone, white or black, and worked as a handyman and tour guide for the Ladiesí Hermitage Association when the house opened as a museum. He died in 1901 and his funeral was held in the center hall of the mansion. Alfred is buried in the Hermitage garden, near Jacksonís tomb.

Georgeís wife Amanthus lived on another plantation and we know nothing about their children. In the late 1840ís, Amanthusís owner moved to Memphis and the Jacksons hired George out to a Donelson relative there so he could be near her. Squire Hayes and his wife Gincy (b. 1811), a weaver, had at least fourteen children (Morgan, Betty, Amanthus, Alexander, Buck, Hannah, Jim, Matilda, Cancer, George/Davy, Smith, Molly, Squire, Tom). Squire and Gincy lived in the Hermitage neighborhood after emancipation.

Old Nancyís Family
While Andrew Jackson was president, he purchased several slaves from a Colonel Hebb in the Washington area. An early history of the LHA states that one of the family was a free woman named Nellie Richards who worked at the White House and asked Jackson to buy her mother and siblings. Nancy (before 1790-1849) had three other daughters, Gracy (1810-1887), Louisa (about 1816-1888), and Rachel (about 1816- 1868) and a son Peter Ferguson (1820-1885).

Gracy Bradley, the plantation seamstress, was the personal servant of Sarah Yorke Jackson. She married Bettyís son Alfred Jackson and had two children, Sarah and Augustus. Louisa was the nurse for Andrew Jackson Juniorís children. She married Smith Williams, a farm worker who cared for livestock. They had three children, Joseph, Ruben, and Harriet. Rachel, who had one child, Nancy, when Jackson bought the family, worked in the mansion and married John Fulton a trusted servant who worked as butler for both Andrew Jackson Donelson and Andrew Jackson Jr. They had three more children, Billy, Nellie, and Johnney. This is only a small part of the history of the slave community at The Hermitage. Andrew Jackson encouraged stable families. Family-based slave communities proved easier to discipline and control. In turn, the multiple generations and extensive kin ties within the community provided structure and strong connections for those who lived as Jacksonís slaves.

Slave List

On January 5, 1829, a list of Hermitage slaves was made by the overseer. Ninety-five slaves were recorded.
Andrew Jackson purchased his first slave in 1794. Over the next sixty-six years the Jackson Family would own over 300 slaves, with about 150 being the most they ever owned at one time. View the complete list of slaves known to have been owned by the Jackson Family. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.

Click here to view a complete list of Hermitage slaves.


Slave Descendants Reunite at The Hermitage.
Andrew Jackson owned about 150 slaves at the time of his death. By reviewing letters, plantation records, census documents, and other materials, we have accumulated over 500 names of persons enslaved at The Hermitage or their descendents. Over the years, many descendents of Andrew Jacksonís slaves have come to The Hermitage looking for information on their families. We welcome their interest. If your family has a tradition that your ancestors were enslaved at The Hermitage or in the neighborhood at one of the Donelson plantations, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Museum Services
The Hermitage
Home of President Andrew Jackson
4580 Rachelís Lane
Hermitage, TN 37076
Phone 615-889-2941
Fax 615-889-9909

Click here to view the most recent issues of our monthly E-News.

Click here to join our email list and receive all the latest news from The Hermitage.