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 an enslaved man 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 lived in Frankfort, KY and owned one slave; James Taylor [Sr.] owned 56 slaves in Covington, KY, which was then part of Campbell County. Five years later Horace H. Hawkins escaped along with 13 other enslaved held by the Taylor family.

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, NY. Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, the Taylor family continued as slave holders. In 1840, Edmund H. Taylor held nine enslaved in Frankfort, and James Taylor [Sr.] had 54 enslaved [source: 1840 U.S. Census].

None of the enslaved who had escaped with Horace Hawkins returned to Kentucky. Hawkins remained in the U.S. after his schooling, serving as a Baptist minister in Rochester. 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 and in 1852 signed-off on the land registration title for the church, formally named First Coloured Baptist Church.

Rev. 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." ~ [quotation 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 Testimonyby J. W. Blassingame, pp. 442-444]. Rev. Hawkins also said he felt that prejudice against coloured people was greater in Canada than 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, Taylor had died in 1848, so 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 to Rochester, 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; becoming the first permanent pastor at Zoar Baptist Church, serving 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 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 [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.

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. Hawkins returned to Kentucky and requested a meeting with General Taylor's family, but the request was denied. Rev. 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., 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 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. Hawkins had traveled to various cities and was known in Canada, the United States, and abroad. In 1854, an article in an Australian newspaper reported on Rev. Hawkins' visit to Cincinnati, OH and his report on how well former enslaved people from Kentucky and elsewhere were faring in Canada [source: reprint from the Cincinnati Commercial. "Fugitive slaves in Canada," Sydney Morning Herald, 6/7/1854, p. 3 (online at National Library of Australia)].

Rev. Horace H. Hawkins was the husband of Sarah Francis Paul, 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(requires free account)].  

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 Guestsby 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.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hawkins, Horace H.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-12-05 19:30:08