Oldham County History Center
In the 1860 census for Kentucky, over 1/3 of people counted in Oldham County were of African American descent, primarily listed as slave property. These African American families contributed to the economy, culture and tradition of the community and established their American roots in our Kentucky soil. The untold stories of escape and capture were buried in the past but continued efforts in research at the Oldham County History Center have revealed remarkable resistance, tenacity and courage of people seeking freedom and democracy.
The J. Chilton Barnett Library & Archives on the history center campus has recently been added as a facility to the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. It houses rare slave documents and papers, including bounty hunter papers issued for slaves from Amanda and James Mount, who lived in the archives building when it was their residence from 1840 through the early 1900s. The archaeology program, Bibb Escapes/Gatewood Plantation has been added as a site to the National Park Service National Underground Railroad to Network to Freedom. The site, opened in 2007, was the last place that Bibb resided with his wife and daughter, until his final escape from Kentucky.
The renovated museum, which re-opened in January 2016, challenges visitors to become “freedom seekers” as they learn about efforts of local people like slave/abolitionists Henry Bibb and Elijah Marrs as well as Abraham Lincoln’s friend, Richard Oglesby- to make our democracy stronger. The museum is now an official “National Park Service Passport Site” and offers “Junior Ranger Programs.”At the history center research continues and has identified other significant places in Oldham County's African American Heritage such as slave cemeteries, Rosenwald Schools and slave holding farms such as Hermitage, Woodland and Mauvilla. Visitors enjoy the use of the museum as well as the research available in the archives to explore genealogy and research documents, papers and historic images.