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Rose Hill Manor Park & Museums

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This is a contributing entry for Rose Hill Manor Park & Museums and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Our office building today served as the smoke house and summer kitchen for Rose Hill during the periods when the Grahame and Thomas families occupied the manor house. Animals such as pigs and cattle were raised by enslaved people on the property and then preserved in the smoke house for eating year round. A lot of work went into raising, butchering, and smoking an animal, meaning these cuts of meat were valuable and important to everyone as a main source of their diet.

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The smokehouse and the summer kitchen were the domain of the enslaved Black men and women who prepared the food and maintined the fires. These spaces were places where the knowledge and skill passed down through generations were utilized and exploited by the Grahame and Thomas families. The hands that care for the animals, butcherd the meat and prepared it for others' consumption were rarely allowed the opportunity to enjoy the tatste themselves.

In 1831 a law required free Blacks to buy permits to sell bacon, pork, beef, mutton, rye, oats, gunpowder, and alcohol and could only be granted with the recommendation of three white people. Legal regulations such as these demonstrate the value of preserved meat and the limited access that enslaved and free Blacks had to it.

Both free and enslaved Blacks were often accused of stealing meat. If you were free, being caught stealing could result in being sold back into slavery for life. Samuel Key, a free Black who worked for David Thomas was accused of stealing unknown objects from the nearby farm of James Finney in 1852. A warrent was issued for his arrest in 1853 and apparently Samuel Key went on the run as no further court records have been found.