Finding a Founding Mother
Dolly was one of the first African American women to live in Kentucky. She was one of only two women in 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. His name was Frederick and his father is presumed to have been Dolly’s enslaver, Richard Callaway. Dolly was separated from Frederick when he was likely sold to Captain Nathaniel Hart, Callaway’s friend and fellow expeditioner. 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. It is presumed that Dolly was buried in an unmarked grave in the French family cemetery.
Evidence suggests that Frederick Hart served alongside his enslaver in the War of 1812. Captain Hart was killed in battle in 1813. It is likely that Frederick was then purchased by Preston Brown, and 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 MacKinlay) 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 →