Unearthing the Truth: African Americans at Riverside

Riverside honors the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked on this Ohio River farm by offering dedicated tours and public archaeology experiences. Over 25 years of archaeology digs and other researchers continue to provide new information about the lives of the enslaved and their paths to freedom. Their stories of resilience and resistance are central to the American story. Come learn about and be a part of Riverside’s ongoing quest to unearth the truth.

From 1820 until 1865, at least 47 people were enslaved at this Ohio River farm in Louisville, now a historic site. Over the past couple of decades, archaeology digs have unearthed invaluable information about their lives. New archival research has uncovered information that traces the paths taken by two families from slavery to freedom. Their stories offer insight into how formerly enslaved people navigated this complicated and challenging transition.

We invite you to come to be a part of these unfolding stories. Walk in the footsteps of the people who were responsible for farming, household production, and the construction of the 1837 house that still stands today. Hear about Tom and Dave who worked “for hire” aboard steamboats on the Ohio River and Richard Thomas who served in the United States Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Meet the Alexander sisters who became early educators in Louisville’s segregated school system after being born into slavery. Interact with archaeologists at our current dig site—and participate in the process of discovery, if you choose.

We honor the stories and contributions of the people who were enslaved at Riverside. We are committed to continued research and to sharing their stories through tours, exhibits, programs and educational events. Contact us at 502-935-6809 or by email at info@riverside-landing.org to inquire about booking a group tour and/or archaeology experience. NOTE: Due to COVID-19, current group sizes will be strictly limited for the safety of our guests and staff.

A brand-new exhibit on “The People” at Riverside highlights new research about the enslaved people who lived and worked at Riverside in addition to new information about the Farnsley and Moremen families. Riverside remains committed to honest and accurate history–and to being a space where we can our explore our shared history and humanity.

This photo is believed to be of Richard and Kitty Thomas. The Thomases were enslaved by the Moremen family and moved to Riverside from Brandenburg, KY with them. Richard Moremen Thomas served in the 123rd Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry from September 1864 through September 1865. He was one of approximately 185,000 African-American men who served in the Union military during the Civil War.
This pewter spoon handle was found during an archaeological investigation of the detached kitchen building at Riverside. It is marked with an “X” on both sides. Archaeologists have found artifacts with this kind of marking at slave dwelling sites at various plantations in Louisville and elsewhere in the southeastern United States. This spoon belonged to an enslaved person at Riverside. These artifacts held special meaning to enslaved people.
On February 25, 1850, 12 enslaved people formerly owned by the deceased Gabriel Farnsley were sold at public auction on the steps of the Courthouse in Louisville. This Decree of Sale lists each person’s name and age: “Tom about 55, Peter 19, Henry 13, Jim 7, Anna 40, Eliza 21, Emily 17, Milly 10, Mary Ann 8, Martha [illegible] years old, Josephine 18, and Mary Ann (child of Emily) about 8 months old.” These 12 people, likely representing at least two families, were sold to eight different owners. Family separations, like these, were one of the most common and devastating experiences that enslaved people endured.
Copy of Widow’s Claim for Pension. Kitty Moremen, who later used the last name Thomas, filed this claim for her Widow’s Pension in 1897 for her husband Richard’s service in the Union Army (National Archives). Kitty Moremen was ultimately successful in receiving her Widow’s Pension.

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