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Beneath Gracious Home Relic of Slavery

Newspaper Clipping, No Date, By Sy Ramsey

Submitted by Kellie Scott

 

Paris, Ky. - Beneath the old gracious home owned by Ben Harberson is an empty room with grim past.

 

It is a former slave dungeon which might have rivaled the Black Hole of Calcutta in sheer misery to the occupants.

 

The masonry-walled room, about 24 by 12 feet, remains in absolute darkness-as it did when unruly Negroes were chained inside to await transportation to lucrative deep South slave markets.

 

The only ventilation comes from an iron barred window in a two foot thick wall facing the rear yard.

 

The dungeon is directly underneath the entrance hall of the 15-room house.

 

Harberson, a bachelor, who recently retired from the tobacco business in Charleston, W Va., bought the home 31 years ago.  He lives alone.

 

The Grange, as it's called, is not as large, perhaps not as beautiful as other Kentucky antebellum homes.  But few, if any, contain such a grisly relic in the basement. 

 

Kinsea Stone Sr. started building the house in 1800 and finished it 18 years later.

 

His sons, Edward and Howard, used the dungeon while operating a slave-trading business for 10 years.

 

They rounded up troublesome slaves at bargain prices, chained them to rings in the dungeon walls and fed them bread and water.

 

When the dungeon got crowded the brother shipped the Negroes by barge to Natchez or New Orleans.

 

Violence ended the prosperous business in 1826.

 

The Stone's had chained together 77 slaves, marched them 50 miles over land and loaded them on flat-bottom boat in the Ohio River.

 

A few days later the slaves mutinied and killed the brothers.  Five were tried in a Kentucky court for murder and hanged.  The others were sold to plantations further south.

 

The elder Stone died of natural causes in 1846, and the house since has had two owners besides Harberson.  One donated the chains and irons to a museum, leaving the room empty.

 

Harberson, an obliging host even to strangers, lets curious visitors take a flashlight downstairs and see the dungeon.

 

"They don't have much to say when they come up." He said.