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

Wood, Henrietta

(born: 1816) 

Submitted by Reinette F. Jones, 8/19/2016

Henrietta Wood was a mulatto enslaved woman  born in Boone County, KY. Her 1870 case in the federal court is noted as one of the earliest seeking restitution for being a free woman who was re-enslaved. She was held by Jane Cirode,  who was born in England around 1797 and was a widow, according to the 1850 U.S. Census. Jane White Cirode had been the wife of William Cirode from France; the couple married in Fayette County, KY on August 1, 1818 [source: Kentucky Marriages Index, 1802-1850]. Their children were born in Kentucky, and the family was fairly well-off.

In 1830, the family lived in Louisville, KY, and William Cirode owned seven enslaved people, according to the U.S. Census. In 1840, no enslaved were listed with the family in the census record. Around 1847, William Cirode had died, and Jane moved her family to Cincinnati, OH. Her enslaved woman, Henrietta Wood, moved with the family and was given her freedom once in Ohio, though the children of Jane Cirode did not agree with their mother's decision. Henrietta Wood continued living as a free woman in Cincinnati until shortly after the death of Jane Cirode around 1852.

A year or so after their mother's death, Jane Cirode's children hired Zebulon Ward (1822-1894), a sheriff in northern Kentucky and a slave holder in Woodford County. Ward was to capture Henrietta Wood and re-enslave her. The children of Jane Cirode still considered Henrietta Wood a part of their mother's estate and thereby part of their inheritance. Rebecca Boyd (b. 1814 in TN) was Henrietta Wood's employer in Cincinnati. Rebecca Boyd had Henrietta Wood accompany her into Kentucky, and the two were joined by Franklin B. Rust (1816-1873) (Find A Grave), who lived in Northern Kentucky with his family and another man. Once across the Ohio River, they encountered the waiting Zeb Ward, who claimed Henrietta Wood as his enslaved. He and his men restrained her, and Ward had her sent to Lexington to the private enslaved prison owned by Lewis C. Robards [see image icon below].

While imprisoned, Wood filed a petition for her freedom in the Fayette County Circuit Court on June 10, 1853. Her petition was dismissed because of a lack of standing: the enslaved could not sue their masters. In the Criminal Court of Cincinnati,  indictment charges for kidnapping were brought against Rebecca Boyd, Frank Rust, and John Gilbert - "State of Ohio vs. Rebecca Boyd and Franklin Rust, impleaded with John Gilbert"; the jury returned a verdict of acquittal [sources: "In the Criminal Court, Cincinnati...," Anti-slavery Bugle, 1/7/1854, p. 3; and "That Kidnapping Case," Anti-slavery Bugle, 1/14/1854, front page].

One of the men who helped kidnap Henrietta Wood was Frank B. Rust, listed in the census records as a farmer, but he was also a slave trader. In 1848, he had purchased three enslaved in Grant County, KY: a mother, father, and child. He brought the family to Covington and placed them in jail with the intent of soon shipping them down south where they would be sold. But the next morning after holding them overnight in a cell, the jailer found all three members of the family with their throats cut. The wife and child were dead. The parents had preferred death to being sold down south the be enslaved. The father was also expected to die. - - [source: "Bloody Tragedy," The Lancaster Gazette,"06/2/1848, p. 2].  Frank B. Rust was part of the group that enslaved Henrietta Wood because he was a slave trader. 

Henrietta Wood was said to be about six feet tall; it had taken all three men to subdue her. Once jailed, she attempted to continue the fight from behind bars. After her case was denied in the Fayette County Circuit Court, she appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals - "Henrietta Wood v Zeb Ward." The Court of Appeals found no error in the previous judgement, so Wood's appeal was denied. She was once again enslaved.

Henrietta Wood was held in prison by Zeb Ward for seven months. He then sold her to William Pulliam [see image icon below], who then sold her to Gerard Brandon (see name below) in Mississippi, who eventually took her on to Texas, where she and other enslaved worked the fields on his plantation.

Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the will of Jane Maria Cirode was probated on January 27, 1857 [source: Ohio Wills and Probate Records, Hamilton County, Wills vol. 9-10, p. 202]. Zeb Ward continued to climb the political ladder in Frankfort and increase his wealth by leasing prisons and as a enslaver. During the Civil War, he had owned 27 enslaved people, seven or more of whom escaped to join the Union Army [more at Random Thoughts on History blog].

After 15 years or so of being enslaved, Henrietta Wood was freed around 1867; according to newspaper reports, she continued to be held in bondage even after the Ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, when she was about 60 years old. She returned to Cincinnati in 1869 and the following year sued Zeb Ward for $15,000 in damages for kidnapping and selling her as an enslaved person when she was actually free. Ward was then living in Little Rock, AR, where he was leasee of  the Arkansas State Penitentiary. He had also leased prisoners in Tennessee.

Zebulon Ward was a former Kentucky Legislator (1861-1863), a member of the House from Woodford County. He was warden of the Kentucky Penitentiary in Frankfort from 1855-1859, replacing the previous warden by outbidding him with the promise Kentucky Penitentiary would earn $6,000 per year. He did make a profit for the prison and himself by setting quotas for all the prisoners. Those who failed to make their quota were flogged. - - [sources: Chapter VII, pp. 526-559 in Legislative Document No. 18. A Report of the History and Mode of Management of the Kentucky Penitentiary from its origin, in 1798, to March 1, 1860, prepared by William C. Sneed [online at Google Books]; Prisons: today and tomorrow, edited by A. G. Blackburn et. al., 2014, 3rd ed., p. 168; C. H. Money, "The Fugitive Slave Law in Indiana," Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 17, issue 3, pp. 257-297, online version; and One Dies, Get Another, by M. J. Mancini. See also the NKAA entry African American Shoe Makers in Kentucky Prisons, A Leading U.S. Industry].

With her return from Texas, Henrietta Wood settled in Covington, KY.  In 1870, she was employed as a domestic for the family of Harvey Myers [source: 1870 U.S. Census; her age is given as 48]. Harvey Myers was a New York-born  attorney. His name has not been associated wtih Henrietta Wood's case, but given all the newspaper coverage, he would definitely have been aware that his employee had a case in the federal courts. Wood's case was argued in the U.S. Circuit Court (Ohio) for eight years. In April 1878, Henrietta Wood won her case and was awarded $2,500 in damages [equivalent to $61,300 CPI 2015]. Her attorneys were Lincoln, Smith, & Stephens, and A. G. Collins. They had intended to continue fighting for a greater sum, but the final award remained at $2,500. Zeb Ward's attorneys, Hoadly, Johnson, and Colston, filed for a new trial, but it was denied. The opinion was delivered February 15, 1879: "As this judgment does not, in our opinion, conclude the plaintiff, the verdict of the jury must stand. The damages are not excessive; the motion for a new trial will be disallowed, and the judgement entered thereon in plaintiff's favor."- - [source: Henrietta Wood v. Zeb Ward.-A Famous Kidnapping Case. Estoppeled by Record. in The Internal Revenue Record and Customs Journal, vol. XXV, January-December 1879, pp. 64-66 (online at Google Books)]. For more see "An old Negro woman awarded damages in the United States Court," The Sentinel [Red Bluff, CA], 5/4/1878, p. 4; Case Number 17,966, Wood v. Ward [.pdf online at Law] ~ 30FED.CAS.-31; Henrietta Wood v. Zeb Ward, United States Circuit Court, Southern District of Ohio, The Legal Reporter: a monthly publication of the recent and important opinions delivered by the Supreme Court of Tennessee ..., vol. II, 1878, pp. 290-296 [online at Google Books]; and many other newspaper articles throughout the United States.

** Henrietta Wood was NOT sold to Gerard Chittocque Brandon, Jr., who was twice governor of Mississippi. Governor Brandon was born in 1788 and died in 1850; Henrietta Wood was still in Cincinnati in 1850. Gerard C. Brandon, Jr. had two sons by his first wife, Margaret Chambers from Bardstown, KY. Their sons were James Chambers Brandon and Gerard Chittocque Brandon [III]. - - [added source: Brandon Family Tree in].

** Gerard C. Brandon [III] is listed in the 1860 U.S. Census. He lived in Adams, MS and was a native of the state, born there in 1818, and he died in 1874. He was the husband of Charlotte Smith Hoggatt Brandon; the couple had 13 children, many of whom did not live to adulthood. One of his sons was named Gerard Charles Brandon (1849-1854). The household members, as recorded in the 1860 Census, included six  children and Louisa Brandon, along with William and Rose Huney from Scotland and John Lyle, an overseer from Kentucky. Gerard C. Brandon [III] was quite wealthy in 1860; he owned $70,700 in real estate and $400,000 in his personal estate. He also owned 26 enslaved people, including four  females estimated to be between 40-52 years old [source: 1860 Slave Schedule, U.S. Census]. The female enslaved were close to the age that Henrietta Wood would have been in 1860.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Boone County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Woodford County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

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Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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“Wood, Henrietta,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-07-19 14:12:02