Ellen Logan – Louisville, Kentucky

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free.  Sometimes I also write about the descendants of slaves who were born free.


Ellen Logan was born into slavery about 1835 in Louisville, Kentucky. She cooked for the Peaslee family both during slavery and after. Ellen had an independent streak and stood up for herself even during slavery. In Chapter 12 of the book “Slightly Historical”  written by Peaslee family member Alice Norcross Cane, Ellen was described this way,

“Ellen was the cook. She was argumentative and could answer her mistress’s reproaches glibly. These reproaches were mainly regarding Ellen getting in a family way no matter what measures were taken to protect her.”

In 1870, Ellen continued to live in the Peaslee household.  Her five children also lived there, Cary Logan 15, was a servant; Libbie Logan 6, Frank Logan 4 and one month old Ellen Logan. Neither Ellen or Cary could read or write.

death record for Ellen
Death record for Ellen Logan (underlined) Columns from L to R are: Death date, name, sex, color, marital status, age, cause of death, length of illness, doctor, day of death, where,address, date of burial, cemetery name. Click to enlarge

Just three years later, in 1873 Ellen Logan died in childbirth.  She was ill for 9 days before she died on August 12.  She was listed as married. Her address was on 5th near Chestnut, which was the Peaslee house. Ellen was 38 years old.  On the page before the one on which Ellen Logan’s death appeared, there is an entry for a premature baby girl with only the name “Ellen”. The address is the same as Ellen Logan’s. The baby was born nine days before Ellen died and lived one day.

Ellen was buried in Eastern Cemetery on the 13th of August.  Eastern Cemetery is one of the oldest in Louisville. It was one of the first to allow black and white to be buried in the same cemetery.

“Originally owned by Fourth Street Methodist Church (now known as Trinity Temple United Methodist Church), it was one of the first cemeteries to bury Blacks and Whites on the same property. The grounds are the final resting place for individuals from all walks of life. Slaves, Odd Fellows, Free Masons, Louisville’s famous Black ministers, Union and Confederate veterans, and Servicemen and women from wars all the way up to Vietnam are all interred at Eastern.”  Eastern was neglected for many years and became overgrown with gravestones damaged and falling down. There is a group now dedicated to putting it in order. You can read more about it and see recent photographs at this link History of Eastern Cemetery.

Ellen Logan’s oldest daughter Cary worked as a servant and died in 1894. Her daughter Libbie grew up, worked and got married and lived into her 80s. The little boy Frank followed the Northern troops when they left town and was never heard from again. This is according to the book quoted above. I have not found the first baby Ellen from the 1870 census living with either of her older sisters.

Resources used in writing this were: The 1870 Census and Kentucky Death Records from Ancestry.com.  I would like to thank my friend Zann Carter for sharing the information from the book “Slightly Historical” by Alice Norcross Cane, that helped put meat on the bones of this story.

20 thoughts on “Ellen Logan – Louisville, Kentucky

    1. I wondered about that too. Even if there was no Mr. Logan at that point, because I got the impression there wasn’t from the book. Did they lock her in her room at night? Put salt peter in her food?

  1. Interesting story, but sad ending. I wonder what happened to her children after her death, if there was no father?

    1. The newborn seems to have died 8 days before Ellen died. Her oldest daughter Cary worked as a servant and died in 1894. Her daughter Libbie grew up, worked and got married and lived into her 80s. The little boy Frank followed the Northern troops when they left town and was never heard from again (according to the book quoted above.) I have not found the baby Ellen in the 1870 census living with either of her older sisters and I don’t know what happened to her. I guess I should search the death records again.

  2. Really interesting project you have here! I’m looking forward to learning more about every one on your list.

    You mention that she died in childbirth, but also that she lived nine days. Sounds like fever, perhaps? Also, any word on the fate of the baby?

    1. It sounded like a fever to me too. I just went and looked again and on the page before Ellen’s death is noted, there is a baby named Ellen, with no last name given. The baby was premature and lived 1 day, dying on the 4th of August. The address given was also 5th Street near Chestnut. That would mean the baby was born 9 days before Ellen died.

  3. I like the title “Slightly Historical” – slightly sarcastic? I like the insight into Ellen’s personality. We so seldom get to know anyone aside from the facts laid out in official documents.

  4. This is very interesting. Perhaps the cause of death was sepsis or septicemia. this was a quite cause of death, after childbirth. Remember the sanitary conditions were not as they are today. Case in point, my mother-in-law’s mother gave birth in December of 1899, the child lived, the mother died in August of 1900.

  5. Childbirth in those days was probably an ordeal at the best of times, at 38 I imagine it was incredibly risky. Those last few days must have been heartwrenching. I wonder what happened to baby Ellen, who would have been 3 at the time? If, as you said, she lived at all.

    1. Thanks for giving me the information that started my search. I appreciated having something besides records to go on. I was sorry Ellen Logan had such a sad end.

  6. I’m pleased Ellen got to be argumentative during her short life….she presumably knew her own worth. I wonder if she died of puerperal fever like my great-grandmother.

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