Like Henry Clay, Aaron Dupuy was born in Hanover County, Virginia. Sources indicate he was owned by, or connected to, Henry Clay’s family. According to his obituary, Aaron was 78 when he died in 1866, meaning he was born around 1788 and was 11 years younger than Henry Clay.
An entry in Henry Clay’s account book is the first record of Aaron’s enslavement. It shows that he was enslaved by Clay as soon as he arrived in Lexington. Clay received 10 pounds for the hire of Aaron in 1799. In January 1802, Aaron was hired to Henry Clay’s brother-in-law, Thomas Hart, Jr., along with two other enslaved children, Sam and Simon, for five years to work making nails. Aaron was about 14 years old then. About that time, he met an enslaved woman named Charlotte who was working downtown in a tailor’s shop for James Condon. They married in 1806.
Aaron served as personal valet and coach driver for Henry Clay. He traveled to Washington when Clay was Secretary of State. He also went to Portugal with Henry’s son James Clay and his family.
Aaron Dupuy is the only known person enslaved at Ashland mentioned in a slave narrative. He appears in The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, the life story of Peter Still. In this account, Aaron was to be whipped for becoming drunk and unable to drive Lucretia Hart Clay home. Aaron discovered he was to be punished and devised a plan to turn the tables on the overseer. Aaron ended up with the whip and beat the overseer. Peter Still learned of it from other enslaved people at Ashland.
Aaron Dupuy drove Henry Clay’s coach to the Lexington Cemetery carrying the plaster Joel T. Hart bust of Clay and engraving of his farewell speech in the back seat when the cornerstone of Clay’s monument was laid in 1857.
While Aaron’s wife, Charlotte and children, Charles and Mary Anne, were emancipated by Henry Clay, there is no indication that Aaron was. However, the 1860 U.S. Census for Fayette County shows Aaron and Charlotte living with Joseph Coleman and all are listed as free. Aaron and Charlotte are also listed as living with a 22 year-old man named William Dupuy who may be their grandson.
At end of his life the widowed Lucretia took Aaron, who was very aged and infirm, and other elderly enslaved people to her son John M. Clay’s home, Ashland on Tates Creek. Aaron died there on February 6, 1866. According to Aaron’s obituary, his wife, daughter Mary Anne, and grandchildren survived him. Aaron was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery, but it was sold to be developed in 1889. The remains of the African Americans were moved to Benevolent Society Cemetery No 2. African Cemetery No. 2, as it is now known, still exists on Seventh Street in Lexington. There is no marker for Aaron or the many who were re-interred there. According to Ranck’s History of Lexington, he had a “neat headstone with an inscription…” when initially buried.
Charlotte Dupuy, called Lotty, was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland about 1788 to parents by the last name of Stanley. Her enslaver from birth, Daniel Parker, sold her to James Condon when she was 7 years-old for $100. Condon moved to Lexington, Kentucky and hired out Charlotte to a tailor. While working there she met Aaron Dupuy, a man enslaved to Henry Clay who was hired out to work in a nail factory. She married Aaron and in 1806, Lotty convinced Condon to sell her to Henry Clay so she could be with her husband. Clay purchased her from Condon for $450. Charlotte worked in the home as a cook, housekeeper, and caretaker to Henry Clay’s children. She and Aaron had two children, Charles and Mary Anne.
In 1825 Henry Clay became Secretary of State and two years later took residence in the Decatur House. The Dupuys came along with his family. In 1829, Charlotte sued Henry Clay seeking her freedom and that of her children. Her primary basis for the suit were that her mother was free when she was born, making her and her children free; and James Condon had promised her freedom for long and faithful service. Both Clay and Condon denied that any such promise was carried over after her purchase by Clay.
Clay left Washington, D.C. for Lexington with the rest of the Dupuy family. The court ordered that while the matter proceeded, Charlotte must remain in Washington. During this time she served Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren. The case was very thoroughly investigated and went to trial. Unfortunately for Charlotte, the court found she had no rightful claim to her freedom or that of her children. When told to return to Ashland, Charlotte refused and was jailed as a result. Clay approved of this action and later sent Charlotte to New Orleans to care for his son-in-law Martin Duralde and later his daughter Anne Clay Erwin there. She was separated from her family for about 3.5 years.
Charlotte and her daughter Mary Anne were emancipated in 1840 and Charles was freed in 1844. There is no official documentation from the Clay family freeing Aaron, though the 1860 census (see image above with Aaron’s bio) shows him and Lotty as free people living in Lexington with a man named Coleman and a William Dupuy (possibly a grandson). If he did remain enslaved after 1860, he was freed via constitutional amendment in 1865. Charlotte resided with Aaron at Ashland or Ashland on Tates Creek (Henry Clay’s son John’s home) as far as is known until 1860, at which time they seem to have moved to live with Coleman. In the following years, it appears that they moved back to Ashland on Tates Creek, as Aaron died there in 1866. The 1870 census shows Lotty had remarried to a man named John Thomas. Nothing about Thomas is known nor is Charlotte’s date of death or place of burial.
Charles Dupuy was the son of Aaron and Charlotte Dupuy born c. 1807.
Charles took over his father, Aaron’s, duties as Henry Clay’s valet and kept the keys to the wine cellar. He was described as being almost a “second master” at Ashland. He travelled with Clay to Washington.
Henry Clay emancipated Charles in 1844, four years after his mother Lotty and his sister Mary Anne were freed. He was described in his emancipation document in 1844 as about 37 years old and 5ft 8inches tall with a “low forehead and small moles on left side of his nose, of black complexion.”
Charles Dupuy continued to work for Henry Clay as a freedman until 1848. A January 1845 issue of the Lexington Observer and Reporter states that he received compensation of $10 per month.
Charles’ emancipation document includes a $400 bond set up by Henry Clay to ensure Charles did not become “chargeable to any County.” Charles presumably needed to carry this with him once he left Ashland.
A census document of Free Inhabitants of Washington, D.C. dated July 1850 lists a Charles “Dupuis” ,aged 40, born in Kentucky with the following family:
Amelia Dupuis–Wife age 35; born in Maryland
Charlotte Dupuis–Daughter age 15; born in Kentucky
Charles A. Dupuis–Son age 13; born in Kentucky
William A. Dupuis–Son age 8 ; born in Kentucky
Virginia Dupuis–Daughter age 5; born in Kentucky
David Dupuis–Son age 3; born in Kentucky
Sarah Dupuis–Daughter age 4 months; born in Washington, D.C.
“Charles Dupuis” may be Charles Dupuy of Ashland. His age matches and a campaign biography of Henry Clay notes that Charles married a free woman of color and they lived together with their children at Ashland. The list of children of Charles Dupuis also provides some clues. Dupuis named his second daughter Charlotte, Charles Dupuy’s mother’s name. Perhaps Charles migrated to Washington D.C. from Kentucky in 1848. The U.S. Census of 1860 for Fayette County shows Charlotte and Aaron Dupuy and a William Dupuy, age 22, living with Joseph Coleman. This correlates to the William Dupuis listed above.
At present, Charles’s date of death is unknown. Aaron Dupuy’s obituary lists his wife Charlotte, daughter Mary Anne, and grandchildren as surviving him. No mention is made of Charles. He also does not appear in the 1860 U.S. census. He may have died between 1850 and 1860.
Mary Anne was the daughter of Aaron and Charlotte Dupuy and sister of Charles Dupuy. Her birthdate is unknown though it is generally thought she was born c. 1809-1810.
Mary Anne’s duties are not specified but she may have helped her mother with cooking and likely helped look after the Clay’s grandchildren. She was taken to Portugal along with her mother and father by James and Susan Clay.
Mary Anne was emancipated with her mother Lotty in 1844 (see image above under Lotty). The Deed of Emancipation specifically states that her child was not freed. Mary Anne had one son, Henry, born in 1833. We do not know if she had any other children.
What happened to Mary Anne after emancipation is currently unknown. She is mentioned in her father’s 1866 obituary as surviving him but beyond that, no other information exists.
Little is known about Henry Dupuy other than Henry Clay sold him in July of 1848. He was 15 years-old according to the deed of sale, establishing that he was born around 1833. He is also identified as “mulatto” (of mixed race). Henry’s father is unknown but given he was identified as “mulatto” and his mother was identified as black, Henry’s father would have been either of mixed race or white. The circumstances of Henry’s sale are unknown. He was sold to John Raine of Taylorsville and delivered to Raine at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. Henry Clay made a condition of Henry’s sale that he was to be free at the age of 28.
In May 1850, Mary Mentelle Clay (Thomas Hart Clay’s wife) wrote to Susan Jacob Clay (James Clay’s wife) in Portugal to tell Mary Anne that her son Henry was at Ashland visiting friends & was going to live in Louisville “to wait on his young master.” Henry was described in the letter thusly: “he is tall but does not look stout.” This is the last known reference to Henry Dupuy. Whether he was ever emancipated or survived to see the end of slavery is unknown.
Lewis Richardson was enslaved at Ashland from c.1837 to January 1846. He escaped from Ashland via the Underground Railroad and made his way to Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, where he delivered a speech about his enslavement at Ashland as well as his escape.
In his speech, Richardson said that he was 53 years old at the time of his escape. According to Thomas Allen Russell, Richardson was born in 1792 at Poplar Hill, the farm of his father Robert Spotswood Russell in Fayette County, Kentucky. Robert gave Lewis Richardson to Thomas in 1815 when he began farming. In 1824 Richardson attempted to drown Thomas and escape to the North. He was apprehended and sold south to Louisiana. While there, Richardson is alleged to have killed an overseer and then was sold by his enslaver there to another in Mississippi and then from Mississippi to a Missouri slave dealer. Richardson was then sold by this dealer to Col. William Henry Russell (father of Josephine Russell who later married Henry Clay’s grandson Eugene Erwin and son John M. Clay). Richardson encountered Thomas again when he came to visit his family in Missouri. Thomas refused to re–purchase Richardson but eventually agreed to take him back to Fayette County, Kentucky where he was eventually sold to Henry Clay by William Henry Russell.
All accounts indicate that Lewis Richardson resisted enslavement continuously throughout his life.
In December 1845, Richardson went one Sunday to visit his wife who was enslaved on a farm several miles from Ashland. He was expected to return by 5 am Monday morning. He returned at 6:02 am and was met by the overseer who was angry because Richardson had delayed the killing of hogs, the task he was to perform. Richardson was stripped and lashed for being late. After his wife dressed his wounds, they decided he should attempt to escape before he was sold further south or killed. Richardson made his way along the Underground Railroad to Amherstburg, Ontario, a primary place of entry for people escaped from slavery. On March 13, 1846 at 7:30 pm Lewis delivered a speech about his escape and his life and feelings about Ashland. In that speech he relayed the facts of his escape and why he attempted it. He also provided insights into slavery at Ashland, noting how meager the food and clothing provided for the enslaved were and that it was not the paradise that it was made out to be.
The speech of Lewis Richardson in March 1846 is the last record of him. Nothing is known of his life after it or his death. Nor is anything more known about the wife he left behind.
Thomas Todd was enslaved at Ashland from at least 1830 until his death by suicide on or about June 5, 1844. He was married to woman named Jane, also enslaved at Ashland, and they had at least one child, a son.
According to a March 1831 statement from Drs. Pindell and Satterwhite of Lexington, Henry Clay paid $25 to treat Tom Todd’s son for a broken thigh and 50 cents to treat Tom Todd’s child (it is not clear if these are two separate children or one child treated twice).
Most sources state that Tom was a shoemaker and some indicate he was hired out by Henry Clay. At least one source says he grew his own hemp plot to earn money.
On or about June 5, 1844, Tom Todd died via suicide by hanging at Ashland. Most sources suggest he had become morose, depressed, or despondent. Henry Clay states in an 1847 letter to abolitionist Sydney Howard Gay that Todd had been that way for some time. Several reasons are given for Todd’s mental state. Some sources say he received a severe whipping not long before killing himself. One source says he came to Lucretia Hart Clay to report the money he had been saving had been stolen from his bureau. Apparently, she made no effort to help him. One source relates that Todd hung himself in a corn crib only later to be found by other enslaved people.
According to Henry Clay, Tom Todd’s wife remained enslaved at Ashland after his death. She re-married and became a cook for the Clays.
Phoebe Moore was born in Boone County, KY. Her parents were a white farmer and mixed race woman. She was very light skinned. When Phoebe was 12 she and her mother were sold to Thomas Hart Benton.
According to Phoebe’s obituary, Henry Clay encountered her in Washington, D.C. while she was enslaved to Benton. The obituary says Clay was attracted to the 16-year-old and bought her from Benton. It goes on to say that he sexually exploited her and later emancipated her. There are two versions of Phoebe’s obituary and both say she had two children who died before Phoebe. One version states that these children were Henry Clay’s and both versions state that Phoebe kept her emancipation papers, documentation of purchase by Clay from Benton, and several letters from Clay.
After her emancipation, Phoebe went to Memphis where she married an Irish man named Tom Moore. Tom apparently pre-deceased Phoebe who died in New Orleans in 1891 at an advanced age after a short illness.
No records have at this time been located relative to Phoebe’s enslavement by Henry Clay. It should also be noted that neither obituary says she was at Ashland and no record has been found to show she was. She may have been, but there is no evidence of that fact. She may have lived exclusively in Washington D.C.