Hidden Town Project
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 16o 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.”
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.
Most recently the division has been focused on the Hidden Town Project and the ways that Old Salem can better tell the story of the enslaved in the town of Salem. The information on this page reflects the most up to date research on this project.
If you have any information, or you are a descendant of an enslaved individual, please email us at Hiddentown@oldsalem.org
Research Update, January 13, 2020, Martha Hartley, Director of Moravian Research
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.
There are no extant “slave houses” in Old Salem and locating the sites of dwelling places of enslaved people is a current priority. 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.
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 and Lot 38 (Pottery). The geophysical examination is preliminary to archaeological investigation.
Virtual interpretation is a potential means of conveying non-extant information in 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 in planning for spring 2020. In spring semester 2019, a master’s thesis by a student from Savannah School of Art and Design re-created the interior of a wash house that was on Lot 22 that is thought to have been housing for an enslaved person in 1860.
In addition and 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 documentation developed by Mel White ca. 2000 and has also included visits to the Moravian Archives.
Research Lot Files have been created, or are in-process, for the following 29 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)
- Adam Butner– Butner House and Hat Shop (Lot 32)
- Edward Belo– Belo House (Lot 35,36)
- John Holland – Fifth House (Lot 49)
- 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)
- George Voltz — Volz House (Lot 96)
- Timothy Vogler — Vogler House and Gunshop (Lot 98)
- George Hege – Reich-Hege Site (Lot 101)
- in process: Joshua Boner – Joshua Boner House (Lot 25)
- in process: Winkler – Bakery (Lot 31)
- in process: John Vogler – Vogler House (Lot 64)
- in process: Tavern (Lot 68)
- in process: Dr. Christian David Kuehln – Kuehln House (Lot 97)
- in process: Dr. Theodore Kuehln – Philip Reich House (Lot 20)
- in process: Orestes Kuehln – John Siewers House (Lot 102)
- in process: Nathanael Vogler – Chimney House (Lot 268)
- in process: Fries Woolen Mill, etc.
Lot Files developed and dwelling places of enslaved people speculated:
- Vierling/ Wachovia Administration – Doctor’s House (Lot 7). Enslaved associated with 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 investigation of a “slave house” to date [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- Girls Boarding School (Lot 14). Depending on time period, enslaved 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 Single Sister Anna Maria Samuel lived in the Single Sisters House beginning in 1793; a kitchen (ca. 1790?) at the rear of the house may have housed enslaved and free Black workers during ante-bellum period.
- 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 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 St. used for enslaved. In 1848 he renovated it to store grain and also 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 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 large 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.
- Adam Butner — Butner House and Hat Shop (Lot 32). If the outbuilding with chimney at the rear of the yard was built by 1830, it likely housed enslaved. Butner moved in 1848 and he held slaves at subsequent location.
- 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 (Lots 49, 48), owned a number of enslaved people, indicated by a list provided by Moravian Archives. Research has revealed some enslaved were likely housed on rented outlot; no indication of slave housing on Lot 49. The 1895 Sanborn Insurance Map recorded a “brick-filled” “Negro D.” midway on the Lot 49.
- 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]; files for Loesch family enslaved in Bethania.
- Levering/Kreuser/Fulkerson (Lot 56). Enslaved enumerated with lot residents. No slave house enumerated in 1860; Fulkerson listed in 1860 Agriculture schedule, he also leased Lot 57].
- John Vogler – Vogler House (Lot 64). Biographical information on Bethy, an enslaved woman owned by John Vogler; believed that she lived in the Vogler House and maybe in the attic. Likely she slept in Christina Vogler’s room as she declined in illness. [no slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- John Christian Blum and son Levi Blum — Blum House (Lot 67). Early enslaved likely 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].
- 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.]
- Timothy Vogler — Vogler House and Gunshop (Lot 98). A detached frame building with chimney east of the main house may have served as a slave house. [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule].
- George Hege — Reich-Hege Site (Lot 101). Detached outbuilding at rear may have been for enslaved [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule; Hege listed in 1860 Agriculture schedule].
- 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].
- Christian David Kuehln – Kuehln House (Lot 97) [slave house enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule research in process]
- Theodore Kuehln – Philip Reich House (Lot 20) [slave house 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].
- Fries Woolen Mill, etc. [slave houses enumerated in 1860 Slave Schedule] numerous enslaved associated with Fries family; associated agriculture in 1860 Agriculture 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 rented labor
1810 — approx. 20 enslaved (Federal Census for Stokes County — includes paper mill)
1830 — approx. 80 enslaved (Federal Census for Stokes County — includes outlying farms and potentially outlots)
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); the “Salem District” is yet undefined and raises issues for enumeration.
1860 — in the area considered today as “Old Salem,” approx. 135 enslaved and 35 slave houses, includes residential lots and industrial locations, excludes outlying farms (Federal Census for Forsyth County); last ante-bellum census.
1870 – the post-Emancipation census when formerly enslaved people were named for the first
time in the Federal Census.