From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Hawkins, Horace H.

(born: 1819) 

Horace H. Hawkins was born in Kentucky. In 1835, he was a slave who escaped with 13 others heading North. The group was assisted by Quakers. Horace H. Hawkins and his family members had been owned by the wealthy settlers Edmund Taylor, and his brother General James Taylor who founded Newport, KY. The brothers were relatives of James Madison and Zachary Taylor. According to the 1830 U.S. Census, Edmund H. Taylor in Frankfort, KY, owned one slave, and James Taylor [Sr.] owned 56 slaves in Covington, KY, which was then part of Campbell County. It was five years later when Horace H. Hawkins escaped along with 13 other slaves belonging to the Taylor family.

Horace H. Hawkins stayed in Canada for the winter, then re-entered the U.S., settling in New York where he attended school in Geneva and the university in Rochester. Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, the Taylor family continued as slave owners. In 1840, Edmund H. Taylor in Frankfort, KY, had 9 slaves, and James Taylor [Sr.] had 54 slaves [source: 1840 U.S. Census].

None of the slaves who had escaped with Horace H. Hawkins returned to Kentucky. Horace H. Hawkins remained in the U.S. after his schooling, he was serving as a Baptist minister in Rochester, NY. But, with the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Rev. Hawkins moved back to Canada with a preaching appointment from the New York Baptist State Convention at a salary of $300 per year. He served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, and  in 1852, he signed-off on the land registration title for the church, formally named First Coloured Baptist Church.

Rev. Horace H. Hawkins was ordained into the Amherstburg Association in 1854. A mission house was located in Amherstburg, Canada; "the association churches assisted fugitives, hosted myriad abolitionist meetings and spoke out strongly against white racism." ~ [quote from: p.120 in Baptists in Canada by J. K. Zeman]. Rev. Hawkins was a missionary for the Amherstburg Association and served the coloured population in Chatham and throughout the district. His church grew and so did his presence; however, Rev. Hawkins said in an interview that he did not remain in Canada because he felt "pent up"; he felt hemmed in by the threat of being captured as a fugitive slave if he returned to the U.S. [source: "Horace H. Hawkins" in Slave Testimony by J. W. Blassingame, pp.442-444]. Rev. Hawkins also said that he felt the prejudice against the coloured people was greater in Canada than it was in the U.S.

After a few years living and working in Canada, Rev. Hawkins again returned to the U.S. He was on a mission for his family and himself. He went to Columbus, OH, and started the process for purchasing his freedom from his former master, General James Taylor, in Kentucky. Unbeknown to Rev. Hawkins, General James Taylor had died in 1848, and he was attempting to purchase his freedom for $300 from the heirs of the General's estate. It would not be a swift transaction, the General's heirs upped the price to $500. While waiting for a negotiated agreement between the General's heirs and his agent, Rev. Hawkins moved from Columbus, OH, to Rochester, NY, where he found employment that allowed him to earn the $300 needed to purchase his freedom.

While still waiting, Rev. Hawkins moved from Rochester to a preaching job in Chicago; he was the first permanent pastor at Zoar Baptist Church and served the congregation from 1855-1858 [source: The Master's Slave, Elijah John Fisher: a biography by M. M. Fisher, p.178]. Zoar Baptist Church was the oldest Baptist church in Chicago and is today known as Olivet Baptist Church; the church was organized in 1850 and was located at Buffalo and Taylor Streets [sources: Olivet Baptist Church at BlackPast.Org; and the website and video The Historic Olivet Baptist Church by T. Williams]. Also, while in Chicago, Rev. Hawkins started the process for the purchase of his brother from Kentucky Governor Charles Slaughter Morehead [was governor 1855-1859]. Once his brother was away from Kentucky, Rev. Hawkins refused to pay the remaining sum to Governor Morehead. Rev. Hawkins also purchased his sister Josephine and her son George from Edmund Taylor in Frankfort, KY.

As for his own freedom, Rev. Hawkins finally received his emancipation papers; his agent in Kentucky had made an ultimatum of $200 or nothing, and shortly thereafter the offer was accepted. With his own freedom secured, Rev. Horace H. Hawkins returned to Kentucky and requested a meeting with General Taylor's family, but the request was denied. Rev. Horace H. Hawkins did not remain in Kentucky and was back in Canada in 1871 when he was listed as the head of his household in the Ontario Canada Census [source: FamilySearch]. Others listed as being in the home were Rev. Hawkins' wife Sarah; their daughter Mary E. who was born in New York in 1848 [additional source: 1850 U.S. Census]; and their sons Horace Kendrick Hawkins (b.1855) and William Hawkins (1858-1929), both were born in Chatham, Ontario. William Hawkins died in Chicago [source: Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths in FamilySearch].

Rev. Hawkins and his wife had at least three other children: Sarah Alida Hawkins [married name Grayson] born in Chatham, Ontario in 1851; Addie Hawkins [married name Howell] born in 1852 in Chatham, Ontario, and died in Chicago in 1930; and James O. Hawkins born in 1866 in Chatham, Ontario [FamilySearch sources: Ontario Marriages; Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths; and Michigan, County Marriages]. 

Rev. Horace H. Hawkins had traveled to various cities and was known in Canada, the United States, and abroad. In 1854, there was an article in an Australian newspaper about Rev. Hawkins' visit to Cincinnati, OH, and his report on how well former slaves from Kentucky and elsewhere were faring in Canada [source: reprint from the Cincinnati Commercial. "Fugitive slaves in Canada," Sydney Morning Herald, 06/07/1854, p.3 (online at National Library of Australia)].

Rev. Horace H. Hawkins was the husband of Sarah Francis Paul who was born in New York around 1828; the couple was married August 28, 1846 in London, Ontario, Canada [source: Ontario, District Marriage Registers, 1801-1858 in FamilySearch].  

For more see Under the North Star by D. G. Simpson; Religious Life of Fugitive Slaves and Rise of Coloured Baptist Churches, 1820-1865, in What is Now Known as Ontario by J. K. Lewis; Unwelcome Guests by J. H. Silverman; and the General James Taylor Family Papers at Northern Kentucky University.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Campbell County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Kenton County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Newport, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Baptists in Canada: search for identity admist diversity
NKAA Source: Slave testimony : two centuries of letters, speeches, interviews, and autobiographies
NKAA Source: The Master's slave, Elijah John Fisher: a biography
NKAA Source: Under the North Star: Black communities in Upper Canada before confederation (1867)
NKAA Source: Religious life of fugitive slaves and rise of Coloured Baptist churches, 1820-1865, in what is now known as Ontario
NKAA Source: Unwelcome guests: Canada West's response to American fugitive slaves, 1800-1865

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hawkins, Horace H.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 28, 2022,

Last modified: 2017-09-14 21:37:37