Historians: Danville Log Cabin Didn't Belong To Freed Slave

Historians: Danville Log Cabin Didn't Belong To Freed Slave

- Historians in central Kentucky say their research has found that a landmark log cabin in Danville was not the home of freed slave Willis Russell as long thought.
Historians in central Kentucky say their research has found that a landmark log cabin in Danville was not the home of freed slave Willis Russell as long thought.

Carolyn Crabtree and Mary Girard told The Advocate-Messenger that their research also found that Willis never taught in the pre-1795 cabin.

Crabtree and Girard plans to present their findings in a lecture next week at the Boyle County library.

For years, the cabin was thought to have belonged to Russell, a freed slave of Lieutenant Robert Craddock. Records show that Craddock gave Russell a 5.5-acre tract of land with two houses. Russell later opened his home as a boarding school for young African-American boys.

"It was Carolyn Crabtree that did all the leg work," said Girard. "She found out that the Craddock land was actually across the street from the log cabin, on the side of Grayson's Tavern, so the log cabin couldn't be the home of Willis Russell."

Boyle Landmark Trust President Barbara Hulette says even though Willis didn't live in the home, he still is an important figure in the area.

"We now know that he didn't live there," she said. "But his story is still downtown. He was a teacher and it was his job to teach, but now we found out it's not in the log cabin on Walnut Street."

Hulette says the cabin, current called the Willis Russell House, will be renamed the Willis Russell Memorial Log Cabin.

Girard said she wasn't upset by the revelation.

"Oh no, I'm not disappointed that the log cabin is not Russell's," said Girard. "History is never a disappointment."

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