Hidden Town Project
Hidden Town Project
To Research and Reveal the History of Enslaved and Free People of African Descent in Salem
To help as a research volunteer fill out an application! If you have any information, or you are a descendant of an enslaved individual, please email us at Hiddentown@oldsalem.org .
Old Salem Museums & Gardens has begun a groundbreaking initiative called the Hidden Town Project to research and reveal the history of a community of enslaved and free Africans and African Americans who once lived in Salem, North Carolina. Our first effort has been to transform a room above the Tavern kitchen into the “Room of Meditation & Reflection on the Enslaved in the Town of Salem, NC.”
These histories involve the complicated use of slavery and enslaved people to build the town and their contribution to the mercantile prosperity of Salem. The Hidden Town Project will track the effects and legacy of enslaved people from the inception of Salem itself in 1766 through the Jim Crow Era and into the 21st Century.
Although of great debate within the Moravian community, the practice of slavery slowly increased, even against the town’s regulations. At its height, there were approximately 160 enslaved men, women, and children in Salem. Some lived in their owner’s homes while others lived in about 40 slave dwellings in town. Following the Civil War, freedmen established the first school for black children in the county and established a neighborhood across Salem Creek, now called “Happy Hill.”
Most recently, the division has been focused on ways that Old Salem can better tell stories of the enslaved in the town of Salem. The information on this page reflects the most up-to-date research on this project. Please visit the St. Philips African American Heritage Center or any other interpreted site within the district to learn more about this history and the Hidden Town Project. If you would like to get involved in the Hidden Town Project, please contact us at Hiddentown@OldSalem.org.
Research Update from Martha Hartley, Director of Moravian Research
May 29, 2020
Project goals are to:
- locate the sites of dwelling places of enslaved people throughout Salem’s historic district
- fully integrate this narrative into the everyday interpreted visitor experience: where they lived and worked, and who they were as human beings
- connect with descendants of the enslaved
- archaeologically investigate designated sites
- interpret the heritage of enslaved people in Salem and their descendants through contemporary art forms, salon discussions, and public gatherings.
Landscape of Slavery
The Hidden Town Project is focused on understanding the landscape of slavery in Salem and the individuals who were enslaved there. The detailed Moravian records provide insight and information about the people and the changing nature of enslavement in the town. There was a continual struggle to keep the number of enslaved people low “in town” through rules established to limit ownership; however, exceptions were made and the renting of enslaved labor was regularly approved. The late 1700s saw a degrading of the integrated fellowship between white and black Moravians, which deteriorated to segregated burial and worship by 1816 and 1822, respectively. A changing economy toward industrialization challenged the slave regulations. In 1847 the slave rules were discarded as unenforceable and the number of enslaved people owned by Salem residents increased until Emancipation in 1865. Slavery in the town of Salem was urban slavery, not plantation slavery, and especially after 1847, enslaved people stayed on their enslaver’s residential lot, either in the enslaver’s house or in an outbuilding (typically one with a heat source).
There are no extant “slave houses” in Old Salem and locating the sites of dwelling places of enslaved people is a current priority as archaeological investigation is planned. Research Lot Files are being created to address this question, with interns and volunteers invaluable to the process. A set of primary and secondary sources are reviewed and gleaned for information about select Salem lots. An analysis is then made to describe the probable location of the “slave house.” The basis for locating “slave houses” is the 1860 Federal Census for Forsyth County “Slave Schedule” for the Salem District which included the enumeration of “slave house” by owner. Indications are that what was counted as a “slave house” by the census taker in 1860 was in most cases a building with another primary use (wash house, kitchen, workshop, etc.). A notable exception is Christian David’s house, which was built as his dwelling on Lot 7 in 1835, and there may be other such examples. Also of consideration is that some Salem residents who were enslavers and recorded with a “slave house” were farming, as indicated in the 1860 Federal Census for Forsyth County “Products of Agriculture” for the Salem District. That brings the possibility of the “slave house” being located on the farm acreage and not on the residential town lot. Further research is necessary. In addition, enslaved people also lived within the house of their enslaver in Salem and research seeks to determine where in the house the enslaved may have stayed.
Most importantly, as the Research Lot Files are developed and enslaved people are encountered in the lot research, Biography Files are created, and much effort is made to identify people and family connections. Research extends into genealogical information developed ca. 2000 by Mel White, Old Salem’s first Director of African American Programming. Documentation held by the Moravian Archives, including the “Diary of the Small Negro Congregation,” is revealing. As slavery in Salem evolved, it became generational slavery with family members scattered throughout the town and to other places in Wachovia. The dynamics were complicated and there is much yet to learn in understanding relationships, but a start is made with over 100 identified people of African descent associated with slavery in Salem.
Collaboration with North Carolina State University’s Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences during Fall Semester 2018 included three full days of Archaeological Geophysics (Ground Penetrating Radar and Electromagnetic Induction). Two lots were examined. At Lot 67 (Blum), a detached kitchen site along the northern property line, as well as much of the lot, was investigated. Lot 38 (Pottery) was also investigated. The geophysical examination is preliminary to archaeological investigation.
Virtual interpretation is a potential means of conveying non-extant information at Old Salem (buildings and landscape). Collaboration with Middle Tennessee State University in 2018 considered the Christian David house and began 3D work on several extant buildings. Phase 2 of “Hidden Town in 3D” is planned for spring 2021. In spring semester 2019, a master’s thesis by a student from Savannah School of Art and Design created a virtual interior of a wash house that was on Lot 22 that is thought to have been housing for an enslaved person enumerated in the 1860 “Slave Schedule.”
Since 2018, the Hidden Town Project has benefitted from the research support of volunteers and interns, including long time Research Volunteers Moye Lowe and Kelly Dixon. Volunteer CJ Idol also contributed to lot and biography research. Local college and university students have contributed much through semester internships as they learn through using primary source documentation in building their research lot files. Students have included: Wake Forest University undergraduates — Gretchen Boyles, Matthew Capps, Meredith Groce, Kendall John, Robby Outland, Emma Grace Sprinkle, Garrett Toombs, Emily Wilmink, Madison Zehmer; Salem College undergraduates — Jessi Bowman, Kelly Dixon, Mollie Sutphin, Jordan Wallen; UNCG graduate student Sarah Grahl who completed a year-long Capstone Project; and Savannah College of Art and Design graduate student Dana Johnson who completed her master’s thesis.
Research Lot Files
Research Lot Files have been created, or are in-process, for the following 31 lots:
- Vierling/ Wachovia Administration – Doctor’s House (Lot 7)
- Girls Boarding School (Lot 14)
- Single Sisters House (Lot 15)
- Siewers/Lemly – Jacob Siewers House (Lot 21)
- Traugott Leinbach– Traugott Leinbach House (Lot 22)
- Blum/ Zevely – Zevely House (Lot 23)
- Jacob Reich — Ebert-Reich House (Lot 24)
- Kreuser/Kuehln/Vogler – Bagge House (Lot 27)
- Gottlieb Schober / Emanuel and Anna Hanes Shober – Schober House (Lot 28) and Paper Mill
- Inspector’s House (Lot 29)
- Butner/Winkler – Bakery (Lot 31)
- Adam Butner– Butner House and Hat Shop (Lot 32)
- Edward Belo– Belo House (Lot 35,36)
- John Holland – Fifth House (Lot 49)
- Wilhelm Fries – First House (Lot 52)
- Israel Lash – Cape Fear Bank (Lot 54)
- Levering/Kreuser/Fulkerson — Levering House (Lot 56)
- John Christian Blum / Levi Blum — Blum House (Lot 67)
- Henry Shore — Hagen House (Lot 72)
- Christian and Maria Denke – Denke House (Lot 90)
- George Voltz — Volz House (Lot 96)
- Christian David Kuehln – Kuehln House (Lot 97)
- Timothy Vogler — Vogler House and Gunshop (Lot 98)
- George Hege – Reich-Hege Site (Lot 101)
- Fries Woolen Mill—Lot 103
- Loesch/Vogler – Chimney House (Lot 268)
- in process: Joshua Boner – Joshua Boner House (Lot 25)
- in process: John Vogler – Vogler House (Lot 64)
- in process: Tavern (Lot 68)
- in process: Dr. Theodore Kuehln – Philip Reich House (Lot 20)
- in process: Orestes Kuehln – John Siewers House (Lot 102)
Research Lot Files with speculation for the dwelling places of enslaved people:
- Vierling/Wachovia Administration – Doctor’s House (Lot 7). Enslaved associated with Dr. Vierling (in-house and patients). Wachovia Administrator’s households included enslaved Christian David (house site investigated archaeologically in 1977) and other enslaved. This is the sole example of archaeological investigation of a “slave house” to date (1977 excavation) [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Girls Boarding School (Lot 14). Depending on time period, enslaved associated with the school may have lived in Inspectors house, then later perhaps in the ca. 1815 Wash House behind the boarding school, and/or perhaps in the boarding school building.
- Single Sisters House (Lot 15). Enslaved Moravian Anna Maria Samuel lived in the Single Sisters House beginning in 1793 when she moved from Bethabara to join the Older Girls Choir in Salem. A kitchen (ca. 1790?) at the rear of the house may have housed enslaved and free Black workers (where did Christian Samuel live?) of the Single Sisters during ante-bellum period. Other enslaved rented by the Single Sisters may have stayed at their enslaver’s.
- Siewers/Lemly – Jacob Siewers House (Lot 21). “Negro house” mentioned for Siewers in 1846; later resident Henry Lemly may have used former cabinet shop as slave housing; however, he owned other lots in Salem [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Traugott Leinbach — Traugott Leinbach House (Lot 22). The 1827 wash house may have served as slave dwelling [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Blum/Zevely – Zevely House (Lot 23). Lot used by Tavern: “camping” by enslaved of Tavern guests; after the 1784 tavern fire, a former storage shed was moved from Tavern lot to across the street and use included sleeping for “Negroes and poor travelers”; a slave house built in 1841. Zevely leased lot in 1845 and a small house on Blum Street was used for enslaved. In 1848 he renovated it to store grain and renovated the horse stable (built in 1822 by Tavern) as slave housing [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule, likely the former stables].
- Jacob Reich — Ebert-Reich House (Lot 24). The 1815 coppersmith shop may have housed enslaved or the semi-detached kitchen that may have been an earlier wash house from 1843 [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule; Reich listed in 1860 Agriculture Schedule].
- Kreuser/Kuehln/Vogler – Bagge House (Lot 27). Enslaved enumerated with each of the lot residents [No slave house enumerated in 1860; EA Vogler listed in 1860 Agriculture schedule, farm south of town].
- Gottlieb Schober – Schober House (Lot 28) and Paper Mill (1-mile west). Schober owned a number of enslaved individuals who lived at the Paper Mill. His son Emanuel and wife Anna, and later widow Anna, lived on Lot 28 after Gottlieb’s death (1839) and the detached brick kitchen (ca. 1840) may have housed enslaved [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Inspector’s House (Lot 29). Early enslaved probably lived in the house, after 1823 perhaps enslaved lived in the 1811 “extra living building” located west of the house which converted to a laundry in 1823 (it had housed a widow who worked at the Boys School). There were several other outbuildings on the lot.
- Butner/Winkler – Bakery (Lot 31). Enslaved people probably lived in the bakery building which also served as the baker’s residence. The bakery was located on the ground floor with family living quarters above and a double attic. At least one record confirmed an enslaved owned by Winkler lived “in his house.” There were numerous outbuildings on the lot.
- Adam Butner — Butner House and Hat Shop (Lot 32). A detached gable roof outbuilding with chimney at the rear of the yard may have been enslaved housing during Butner’s residency when he owned or rented enslaved people. He moved in 1848 and held enslaved people at subsequent locations.
- Edward Belo — Belo House (Lot 35,36). Enslaved could have lived on 3rd floor of house with other workers. Detached dwelling east of the main house may have been for enslaved. Also brick kitchen against the east wall of the main house could have housed enslaved [slave house enumerated in1860 Slave Schedule; Belo enumerated in the 1860 Agriculture Schedule.]
- John Holland (d.1843), potter (Lot 49), owned a number of enslaved people, indicated by a list provided by Moravian Archives. Research has revealed some enslaved were likely housed on Holland’s rented outlot at the east side of Salem Town Lot; no indication of slave housing on Lot 49. The 1895 Sanborn Insurance Map recorded a “brick-filled” “Negro D.” midway on the Lot 49.
- Wilhelm Fries – First House (Lot 52) (and Fries Plantation)
Fries owned the First House from 1812 until his death in 1866. Numerous outbuildings on Lot 52 included a laundry and a joiner’s shop, either of which could have served as housing for enslaved. By 1819 Wilhelm had begun acquiring a land at the northwest corner of the Salem Town Lot by lease and purchase for a farm. Fries owned numerous enslaved people and was admonished on several occasions by the Collegium. He responded that he would move them to the farm “outside of town.” After son Francis Fries started the Woolen Mill in 1840, enslaved people owned by father and son were moved to and from the Fries farm to work in the mill. [two slave houses enumerated in the 1860 Slave Schedule for Wilhelm Fries and unclear if one was on Lot 52 or both on the farm; there was at least one slave house built on the W. Fries farm; W. Fries enumerated in the 1860 Agriculture Schedule]. When the trolley came to Salem in 1890, the First House was moved to the back of the lot and faced Salt Street. According to the Sanborn Maps, the house was labeled “Negro Tenement” in 1900 and 1907.
- Israel Loesch – Cape Fear Bank (Lot 54). A detached outbuilding along the north property line may have housed enslaved [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule]; Loesch family in Bethania owned many enslaved people there.
- Levering/Kreuser/Fulkerson (Lot 56). Enslaved enumerated with lot residents and unclear where they stayed, although there were outbuildings on the lot [no slave house enumerated in 1860; Fulkerson listed in 1860 Agriculture schedule; he also leased Lot 57].
- John Vogler – Vogler House (Lot 64). Bethy, an enslaved woman, likely lived in the Vogler house and perhaps in the attic. She also may have slept in Christina Vogler’s room as her health was in decline [no slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- John Christian Blum and son Levi Blum — Blum House (Lot 67). Early enslaved probably lived in the house, and by 1823 likely lived in the detached kitchen built that year [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Henry Shore – Hagen House (Lot 72). A blacksmith shop built on the lot by Charles Reich in 1849 was likely the slave house during the Shore residency [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Christian and Maria Denke – Denke House (Lot 90). Enslaved likely lived in the Denke house. Rev. Denke also had a farm outside of Salem.
- George Voltz — Volz House (Lot 96). Enslaved likely lived in the gunshops on the lot. First gunshop built in 1822, second shop with addition in 1831, which also housed Voltz family after 1854. [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule; Foltz/Voltz enumerated in the 1860 Agriculture Schedule.]
- Christian David Kuehln – Kuehln House (Lot 97). Maria Magdalena Kuehln was chronically ill and had a new baby when Charity was purchased but it is unclear where the enslaved woman stayed. A detached gable roof outbuilding just east of the kitchen ell may have been the “slave house” [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule]
- Timothy Vogler — Vogler House and Gunshop (Lot 98). A detached gable roof outbuilding with chimney east of the main house may have served as the “slave house” [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- George Hege — Reich-Hege Site (Lot 101). Detached outbuilding at rear of main house may have been for enslaved [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule; Hege listed in 1860 Agriculture schedule].
- Fries Woolen Mill – (Lot 103). The lot included Francis Fries’ family residence and the many structures associated with the mill. Enslaved labor was intended for the mill from the start but at the outset in 1840, the enslaved people were likely housed at father Wilhelm Fries’ farm. Francis’ brother Henry joined the business in 1846 and in 1848 a cotton factory was built at the woolen mill. In 1856 F&H Fries Manufacturing Co. purchased the former cotton manufactory down the street and converted it to flour milling. With the end of slave regulations in 1847, the enslaved associated with the mill lived on the mill lot. A large frame building over an ice house was housing for enslaved on the woolen mill lot and the 1860 Federal Census enumerated 5 “slave houses” for F&H Fries (and 48 enslaved people) [F& H Fries was also listed in the 1860 Agriculture schedule and some of the enumerated enslaved may have on that land].
- Loesch/Vogler – Chimney House (Lot 268). A lot with multiple uses including fulling mill, groats mill, tanning deer skins, boring rifles, distillery, gun shop, Enslaved people may have lived in the house as was recorded in 1800 when Christoph Vogler took an enslaved woman “into his house.” After construction of the gunshop and later blacksmithing, enslaved men may have lived there [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Theodore Kuehln – Philip Reich House (Lot 20) [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule research in process].
- Joshua Boner – Boner House (Lot 25). Mayor in 1865 when Union Army to Salem; [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule; Boner enumerated in the 1860 Agriculture Schedule research in process].
- Tavern – (Lot 68). Multiple tavernkeepers and enslaved varied with tavern keeper; enslaved lived on lot from tavern opening in 1772 until Emancipation in 1865 [slave houses enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule research in process].
- Orestes Kuehln – John Siewers House (Lot 102) [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule research in process].
approximate # of enslaved people in Salem and source (extracted from mapping exercise):
1790 — 8 enslaved held by Wachovia Administration (Jon Sensbach); additional enslaved as rented labor in town
1810 — approx. 20 enslaved (Federal Census for Stokes County — includes paper mill); additional enslaved as rented labor in town
1830 — approx. 80 enslaved (Federal Census for Stokes County — includes outlying farms and potentially outlots); additional enslaved as rented labor in town
1840 — approx. 50 enslaved (Federal Census for Stokes County — includes outlying farms, outlots. Note: drop in number partly due to 25 slaves manumitted and sent to Liberia during 1830s)
1850 — approx. 100 enslaved (Federal Census for Forsyth County — includes outlying farms and industry). Slave Schedule enumeration for the “Salem District” included the towns of Salem, Winston, and environs and is yet undefined. This raises issues for enumeration and the counts here are subjective.
1860 – approx. 160 enslaved (Federal Census for Forsyth County — includes outlying farms and industry). Slave Schedule enumeration for the “Salem District” included the towns of Salem, Winston, and environs and is yet undefined. This raises issues for enumeration and the counts here are subjective. However, if the area considered for Salem is only “in town” or what we think of as “Old Salem,” then approx. 135 enslaved and 35 slave houses — includes residential lots and industrial locations, excludes outlying farms (Federal Census for Forsyth County); if exclude F&H Fries Co. with 48 slaves, then approx. 88 enslaved and 30 slave houses.