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African American Heritage at Happy Retreat

Enslaved Quarters on Happy Retreat Grounds

Unlike many enslaved quarters, the enslaved quarters on the grounds of Happy Retreat were built of stone rather than the wood cabins common on many other plantations. We have evidence of two enslaved buildings; 0ne is featured here. The second is no longer standing.  It was demolished in the 1940s. We know where the foundation of that building is and we will be working with the African American community to properly recognize it.

When Friends of Happy Retreat purchased Happy Retreat in 2015, there were only four original structures on the property: the mansion, a brick smoke house, an attached stone kitchen and a wooden octagonal building.  The smoke house dates to the 1780s.  The stone kitchen dates to the 1840s or 1850s.  The octagonal building is also late 18th Century,

Archeological excavations around the exterior walls of the stone kitchen found two artifacts suggesting enslaved occupancy of the building.  One was a small bead.  The other was a piece of a broken glass bottle which appears to have been used as a scraper.  Similar artifacts have been found in other enslaved structures in Jefferson County.

Inside the stone kitchen there is a small brick beehive oven attached to the cooking fireplace which has an iron crane for holding pots.  Narrow stairs lead to an upstairs sleeping loft.  It is likely this building was used as enslaved quarters, for both cooking and sleeping.

Happy Retreat African American Residents from 1945 – 1954

R.J. Funkhouser 1888-1968 purchased the Happy Retreat Mansion in 1945. The home was then occupied by three families: author, Charlotte Judd Fairbairn and her two children, Tom and John. Charlotte’s sister Florence and her husband David McMillan and Charlotte and Florence’s parents Tremor and Gertrude Judd.

From a story given to FOHR by John Fairbairn, there was an African American husband and wife team working at Happy Retreat in this time period.

Anna Washington was the family’s cook and housekeeper and her husband Henry Washington was employed to do the jobs that needed to be tended to. Thanks to Mr. John Fairbairn who now lives in Minnesota, we have a record of this little bit of current African American Heritage at Happy Retreat in the 1940s and 50s. He was kind enough to forward his recollections and photos of that time. The photos included one of Anna with a young John Fairbairn and one of Henry Washington.

Thank you, John Fairbairn, for this information.

Miss Anna Washington with young John Fairbairn at her side.<br />

Miss Anna Washington with young John Fairbairn at her side.

Mr. Henry Washington

Mr. Henry Washington

If readers can offer any information on Henry and Anna please let us know. We are looking to recognize all Happy Retreat residents.

Learn more about the history of Happy Retreat