Lexington: “Their labor made Waveland possible.”


10634417_10154534927305257_1982888223_n“In Honor of the Bryan Family Slaves”:  I wonder what their real names were and where home for them really was before they were enslaved.  This is the reverse side of the monument honoring the Bryan family of Waveland.  The Bryan family side had ornate carvings; there was no fancy stonework on this side.

If you had to be a 19th century slave in Lexington, a fate nobody would want, working for Joseph and Margaret Bryan at their Waveland plantation might have been one of the least awful possibilities.

“Please to let Essex and Gilbert pass….” Lexington Herald-Leader (June 16, 2012)

The Bryans built solid housing for their 19 slaves, taught them to read and write, let them carry guns and allowed them to visit local markets and farms, according to June Madden, a Waveland tour guide. The plantation is now a state historic site off Nicholasville Road near the Jessamine County line.

….The quarters, on the second floor of a brick structure that also housed the kitchen, were nicer than most white people in Lexington could have hoped for in the 1840s….They had large windows for light and ventilation, wood-plank floors and furniture.

“Other slave quarters were one-room cabins (with a) dirt floor.  The main thing for Joseph was to keep his slaves healthy, to keep his lifestyle. And more than likely, he knew that there was change coming.”

There was. Fifteen years after the Bryans built Waveland, Kentucky and the nation were engaged in the Civil War. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, ending slavery. (The Kentucky legislature, not to be rushed, did not ratify the 13th Amendment until 1976.)

Freed by war, the Bryans’ slaves remained at Waveland as rent-paying farm workers, having established roots in the community and not seeing better opportunities elsewhere….It’s likely many of their descendants live in Lexington today, though Waveland cannot say for sure….A large marker near the Waveland parking lot is inscribed with the slaves’ names and the epitaph “Their labor made Waveland possible.”

“You’ve got to give credit to the slaves, their skills, and what they even came here with….You know that they would be a large part in creating the genteel, romantic, Gone With The Wind-type lifestyle that most whites would have had at that particular time.

During Juneteenth celebration, Waveland describes slaves’ lives  (Lexington Herald-Leader, June 16, 2012)


If you want to know more about Waveland and the Bryans:

Waveland: Home of the Bryans (Hambleton Tapp, 1956) 

ANTE BELLUM HOUSES OF THE BLUEGRASS The Development of Residential Architecture in Fayette County, Kentucky (Clay Lancaster, 1961)

Clay Lancaster’s Kentucky: Architectural Photographs of a Preservation Pioneer (Clay Lancaster, 2007)

Kentucky: Historic Houses and Horse Farms of Bluegrass Country (Pieter Estersohn, 2014)

The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.