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Forest Home main family residence.

Forest Home

Site ID: 15Wa103

Plantation; Slave House
Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​Archaeologists working at the home of Robert and Cora Jane Spiller in Warren County uncovered the remains of outbuildings associated with a former plantation.  The Spillers' home was the centerpiece of a small plantation established in 1824 by Peyton Cooke. 

A few of the outbuilding remains were still visible, like those of an icehouse: a large stone-lined pit and stone stairs filled-in with stone rubble. Other outbuildings known to have been on the plantation were privies, barns, sheds, and a row of three to four slave houses just behind the main house.

An archaeological survey of the yard and limited excavations around the Spillers' house documented the remains of some of the outbuildings, including slave house foundations. Additional work there documented ​architectural remains and recovered thousands of artifacts. 

Archaeologists map a portion of a slave house foundation.


​During survey of the yard, archaeologists documented concentrations of architectural-related artifacts, such as window glass, nails, and brick fragments. These revealed the locations of several outbuildings that had once stood behind the main house. 

Limited investigation of one of these structures exposed a portion of a stone foundation and an interior pit cellar.  Researchers recovered large amounts of household artifacts from this location: ceramic dishes, eating utensils, scissors, buttons, toys, smoking pipes, and glass bottles and jars. Given the quantity and identity of these artifacts, archaeologists concluded that the foundation and pit cellar likely represented the remains of a slave house. 

Many of the ceramic dish fragments had hand-painted designs or decorative edging, which were popular during the 1820s to 1840s. These vessels were likely used by the Cooke family and then passed down to the enslaved people who lived in the building.  

Scissors from a slave house pit cellar.

What's Cool?

​Slave House Pit Cellar

The pit cellar in the Forest Home slave house was next to a stone hearth foundation. Sub-floor pits were common features of nineteenth-century kitchens, cabins, and slave houses. They were typically used for storing food.

Enslaved people or formerly enslaved people who became tenants after their emancipation used sub-floor pits for other reasons, too. They often stored personal objects there.

Blue glass bead.

Several personal artifacts came from the Forest Home slave house pit cellar, like blue glass beads and a store token. The store token had been issued by the Brown, Curtis, and Vance dry goods store in Louisville. Patrons could have used it exclusively at the store as a form of payment. 

The token could indicate that a Cooke family member had visited the store, On the other hand, the token as well as the beads may have held cultural or symbolic meaning for the enslaved residents. This meaning went beyond face-value function as jewelry or as currency and was something the enslaved did not want their owners to know about.

​Enslaved people considered these individual objects good luck charms. But when grouped with other symbolically charged artifacts, these objects took on additional meaning, reflecting religious beliefs ​or group identity within the enslaved community.   

A brass Brown, Curtis, and Vance dry goods store token - dating between 1845 and 1852.

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