*Photos Courtesy: Alabama Historical Commission
African-American History at Gaineswood
The majority of skilled laborers who built Gaineswood were enslaved. Many of these names are lost to history but we do know that Dick was a mason and master builder. Sandy was a mason and James, in 1854, was a 24 year old carpenter.
We know of a very special man named Issac. N. B. Whitfield travelled extensively and Issac apparently traveled with him. They were exposed to many dangers and illnesses, so in 1825 he and Issac were vaccinated for smallpox. We find in a letter from 1847, possibly the same Issac working on the columns for the house.
Other enslaved persons became domestic servants and took care of the household chores. A few of these jobs included cooks, butlers, carriage drivers, gardeners, maids, nurse maids, laundresses seamstresses and valets. One especially trained slave was Phoebe, who was a weaver in 1835. Hannah and Bethemin were cooks.
By 1861, Gaineswood was the center of a large plantation where cotton was the major crop. Harvesting and tending that cotton were many enslaved field hands.