Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project

Jesuits used enslaved labor at St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky (1848-1865), and at St. Mary’s College in Lebanon, Kentucky (1833-1846). Both of these colleges are no longer operating. Research on the enslaved who belonged or were hired out to the Jesuits in Kentucky is ongoing. We do not yet know much about what their lives were like, and we are still working to trace the genealogy of their descendants. We will continue to update this page as we learn more.

Note: When an enslaved person is described as “hired” or “hired out,” it does not mean they were being paid. Slaveowners lent or “hired out” enslaved people to other masters, and the slaveholders received the pay, though they sometimes allowed the enslaved to have a small cut of that pay.

In 1848, when the Jesuits took over administration of St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown from the diocese, they decided to keep all the enslaved people currently at the college, except Charles, Dave, his wife, Maria, and their children, who left over the course of the month of August 1848. Researchers are still working to determine the names of the other enslaved people. From 1849 to 1865, between 10 and 20 enslaved people labored for the Jesuits at Bardstown, though our research has not yet uncovered all their identities.

We are also still learning the names of the enslaved who labored at St. Mary’s College in Lebanon, Kentucky. Census records indicate that 17 enslaved people labored at St. Mary’s College in 1840. When the Jesuits left St. Mary’s College in 1846, the Congregation of the Holy Cross took over administration of the school, including the ownership of three enslaved people the Jesuits had left there.

The following list is not comprehensive; however, it contains the names of enslaved men, women and children that we know of currently. The dotted lines signify where we are unsure if individuals with the same name are different people or the same person appearing in multiple sources. We hope that further research will clarify these distinctions.

Names of enslaved people belonging to Jesuits in Kentucky

Agnes & Tom 

Agnes and Tom worked at St. Joseph’s College until January 4, 1849. A man named E. B. Smith seems to have been responsible for them and may have been their master. 


The Jesuits of St. Joseph’s College hired the labor of a woman named Agnes during the year of 1853. 

It is possible that this Agnes is the same woman named Agnes associated with Tom, but we do not have evidence yet to confirm it. 


Albert belonged to the Jesuits of St. Joseph’s College in 1849; however, in May 1849 Jesuit John Baptist Duerinck and a merchant named J.F. Queen exchanged Albert for a boy named Charly until the month of August.


A ledger entry for St. Joseph’s College on April 20-21, 1849, states, “Angelon talks of leaving.” It is likely that he was an enslaved person, but he may not have been. 

Basil, his wife, and 5-6 unnamed children 

According to a Jesuit’s recollections, Basil, his wife and children were given from a Tennessee master to St. Mary’s College in Lebanon, Kentucky, probably between 1840 and 1844. This account may not be fully accurate; we have not yet found Basil and his family in other records. 


The Jesuits hired Bobb from J. Fr. Queen in 1853. 


The Jesuits hired Cazzy on Jan.1, 1849, from the Estate of Jesse McDonald of Spencer County, Kentucky. Mr. Benjamin McAtee, Executor of the Estate, was responsible for the transaction. 


Charles belonged to St. Joseph’s College when the Jesuits took over the school in 1848, but the Jesuits decided not to keep him. He was sent away (no location disclosed) in August 1848. 


Charly belonged to a local man named J. F. Queen, but Queen exchanged his labor with the labor of the Jesuits’ bondsman, Albert, from May to August 1849. 


Dave belonged to the Jesuits and was hired out to Baker Smith around 1849. 

Dave, Maria and children 

Spouses Dave and Maria and their children belonged to St. Joseph’s College when the Jesuits took over the school in 1848, but the Jesuits decided not to keep them. They were sent away (no location disclosed) in August 1848. 

Edward (Ned) and Dave 

The Jesuits hired brothers Ned and Dave from Turner Wilson in the years 1850-51. 


Eliza was hired from Rev. J.B. Hutchins for one year of work in 1850.  


George’s unfree labor supported St. Joseph’s College from April 9, 1849 to July 25, 1849. He was then sent to Nazareth, Kentucky. 

George and Patsy Sweets 

George Sweets and his wife Patsy were hired from Turner Wilson for four years, from 1849 to 1853. 


The Jesuits hired Henry from Mrs. Al Hagan for the year of 1850. 

John Davis 

Mr. Burck hired John Davis to the Jesuits January 19, 1849, to replace an enslaved boy who had left. 


John, referred to as “Black John,” was hired out to the Jesuits at St. Joseph’s College from February 4, 1858 to January 4, 1859. 


The Jesuits hired Lara from Miss H. H. Harrison (or Garrison) in 1850. 


The Jesuits hired Lett from Mr. G. E. Willett in 1849. 


Magdelin belonged to St. Joseph’s College when the Jesuits took over in 1848, but she was sent in December of that year to resume working for Bishop Spalding in Louisville. 


Jesuits hired a woman named Mary from J. F. Queen in 1853. 


The Jesuits hired Mary from John Speak for one year in 1850. 


Records show that the Jesuits of St. Joseph’s College hired Matilda from Mr. Basil R. Clarke from 1849-1850. 

Peter (possible last names include Queen or Barada

Louis Barada of St. Charles, Missouri, sold Peter to the Jesuits at St. Stanislaus Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri, where he was referred to as “Big” Peter. He married a woman named Marian and they had Elizabeth, Thomas William, and Gabriel. In 1849, he was separated from his family and sold from St. Stanislaus to the Jesuits at St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky. Peter ran away a few weeks after arriving in Bardstown in 1849, was caught and imprisoned in Louisville, and then sold. We have no evidence regarding whether Peter ever reunited with his family. 


Rourke is mentioned in a ledger as a “servant in the kitchen.” We are uncertain yet if this is an enslaved or paid laborer. 

Sam & unnamed woman 

Sam and an unnamed woman were hired from the Bishop of Louisville, Martin J. Spalding, in 1849 and 1850. 

“Uncle” Sam 

“Uncle” Sam was hired by the Jesuits from Turner Wilson in 1849.

Sam and his wife 

A ledger entry in November 1850 lists clothing distributions: “1 pair of shoes to: Sam, Sam’s wife, Eliza, and Matilda.”

This is likely one of the two Sams previously listed.   

Unnamed persons  

A ledger entry dated Dec. 30, 1848, reads, “Informed Rev. F. M. Lancaster thro Rev. B. F. Spalding that the college would not hire his black people this year. Stated my objection to separating the mother from her children.” We do not yet know which enslaved people of Rev. F. M. Lancaster’s were being used at St. Joseph’s College. 

Unnamed boy 

The Jesuits hired the labor of a young man from Mr. Burck on Jan. 15, 1849. He began working Jan. 17 but left the next day. Mr. Burck replaced his labor with John Davis. 

Two unnamed boys  

These two boys were rented annually, beginning Dec. 30, 1849. 

Unnamed man 

An unnamed man belonging to Ben Maiden was hired by the Jesuits in 1849.  

Last updated: June 2019

For a PDF version of this document, click here.

SHMR Project Research - Preliminary Findings
Jesuit Colleagues Respond to History of Jesuit Slaveholding

Home About Us What We Have Learned Missouri Kentucky Illinois
Family Histories Where Do We Go From Here Connecting with Descendants Updates Contact Us

Ignatian Spirituality Program

The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.