Finding a Founding Mother
Dolly was one of two women on an expedition party led by Colonel Daniel Boone, which departed from Watauga, Tennessee, in March of 1775. The group included axemen hired to clear a trail leading north from the ancient trace known as Athiamiowee or Warrior’s Path to the banks of the Cuttawa River, now known as the Kentucky River. The travelers arrived in early April and began erecting Fort Boonesborough, the intended capital of the Transylvania Colony. Enslaved by Colonel Richard Callaway, Dolly was responsible for meal preparation, tending the fires, scraping fresh hides, and preparing pack animals. Recent research has revealed compelling details of her long life and legacy in the early days of Kentucky.
In November of 1775, Dolly gave birth to the first child born in Fort Boonesborough, presumably the child of Callaway. Her son, Frederick, was sold to Callaway’s friend and fellow expeditioner Captain Nathanial Hart. After Callaway was murdered in 1779, his widow Elizabeth Jones Hoy Callaway moved to her son’s home at Hoy Station, taking Dolly with her. After Major Hoy was killed in 1790, the women moved to the home of Callaway’s daughter, Keziah French, in Clark County, where Dolly lived into her eighties. Research has not uncovered evidence that she was ever manumitted.
Frederick Hart served alongside his master in the War of 1812. Captain Hart was killed in battle in 1813. There is evidence that Frederick was purchased by Preston Brown, then later by Preston’s nephew Orlando Brown, and was manumitted in the late 1830’s. Frederick provided funds for his wife Judith Brown, also owned by Orlando Brown, to be freed in the early 1850’s. They lived on the Brown estate, called Liberty Hall, in Frankfort, Kentucky, until Judith’s manumission debt was paid. In 1853, due to increasing hostility from local whites toward free blacks, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where their son Henry, born in 1839, received musical training.
A violinist and composer, Henry Hart performed on riverboats along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and married pianist Sarah Smith, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, in New Orleans in October of 1865. In 1867, they moved to Evansville, Indiana, and later to Indianapolis, where Professor Henry Hart and his Orchestra performed for numerous high-society occasions. Hart’s published works included the 1873 hit song “Good Sweet Ham”. The couple’s children, all girls, played in the band on occasion. Harpist Myrtle Hart (later Louise Kavanaugh) became a professional harpist in orchestras in Chicago and Boston. Hazel Hart Hendricks was a music teacher and principal for Indianapolis Public Schools. Sign the Petition →