Broadside, January 24th, 1848
Our object is a piece of North Carolina’s ugly past. It represents a lengthy, dark time in American history called slavery. Our team researched the broadside advertisement created by the Kerner family. A broadside advertisement is a document that details the sale of people, goods, and land; broadside advertisements could be seen all over the southern towns and cities, such as Kernersville, North Carolina. Potentially posted on trees around the town or in the town center, this ad was frequently sought out by buyers looking for good deals. Generally, this is a substantial life-changing transaction both for the sellers and those being sold.
This particular broadside ad we are examining was put out by Philip Kerner. Throughout this paper, one will begin to understand why Phillip Kerner, owner of Kerner’s crossroads land and property, sold the land his father built the town on. While examining this ad, it’s essential to bear in mind that even though this ad describes a significant transaction with many different items involved, this ad is promoting the buying and selling of human beings - ones whose lives are extremely important and ones who made important contributions to not just Kernersville but the triad area in general. As we delve into this advertisement, our most significant focus will be making sure we explore the individuals involved. This starts with the Kerners but also explores the enslaved individuals, placing an emphasis on the enslaved. Unfortunately, there is little known about the enslaved people involved but, by using knowledge from other slave narratives, a story has been constructed depicting their existence in the context of the abolitionist movement and slavery itself.
Throughout this essay, we focus on five central questions:
1. Who were the Kerners?
2. How did Kerner’s Cross Roads influence the creation of Kernersville today?
3. Why and when did this sale occur?
4. Why did this horrid transaction seem necessary?
5. What is this ad’s connection to the Hidden Town Project?
These groupings help provide background for our audiovisual map, which conveys similar information in a different format. Our team hopes you enjoy your experience learning about the Broadside Ad and hopes that you too can understand the larger story this advertisement tells.
I. Who were the Kerners?
Phillip Kerner married Judeth Gardner in December of 1826 when he was approximately twenty years old. Philip Kerner was the son of Joseph Kerner, a businessman who was born in Furtwangen, Germany, Philip Kerner inherited a 1032 acre land from his father and continued to run the family business. On that land was an inn which will later be called Kerner’s crossroads. From the 1840 census, we can see Kerner enslaved three people, so it’s probable that one of the enslaved individuals he owned died or was sold before 1848 because the advertisement details the sale of only two enslaved people. Kerner had seven children with his wife. The Kerner’s worked on a plantation in Stokes County, North Carolina and thus were likely in the agriculture industry. By 1844, Phillip Kerner enslaved nine people, one of whom he received from neighbor Jack Kinnamon upon his death. This enslaved person was called Clara and came to be known as “Aunt Dealy.” Aunt Dealy became an important part of the Kerner plantation later on. Five years after the sale, Kerner’s wife died from pneumonia, leaving Aunt Dealy to take on a prominent motherhood role for Kerner’s young children.
The entirety of the enslaved population residing at the Kerner plantation in 1840 was between the ages of ten and twenty-three. The total number of enslaved individuals was nine at the time. This tells us that the Kerners were quite wealthy as enslaved people had the highest value on the commodity spectrum during this time. Kerner presumably hated slavery but had his wealth tied up in it and failed to take concrete steps to get rid of the institution. Kerner stayed in North Carolina for his whole life, serving as a magistrate from 1850-1870. This meant he settled disputes between secessionists and unionists and performed other judicial functions. Kerner would end up remarrying Sarah Gibbons sometime before he died from a stroke in 1875. His new wife, now widowed, and his seven children would continue working on agriculture in the region.
Phillip Kerner’s father, Joseph Kerner, settled in Kerner’s Cross Roads, Then called Dobson’s Crossroads in 1817 after moving from modern-day Germany. Joseph Kerner eventually accumulated 1,032 acres and started a family in what is now the town of Kernersville. Philip Kerner was very literate as he worked for many years with essential documents in the courts. He also was a firm believer in education as he sent three of his kids to Quaker school in Indiana for this purpose.
Documents in the courts hint that Joseph Kerner was a religious man who got caught up in a profitable and morally wrong system. Philip Kerner was painted in a slightly more positive light because he took care of and respected the individuals he enslaved. For example, Aunt Dealy ended up receiving land in Kerner’s will for her service. Aunt Dealy also received financial compensation for her work as a weaver. Philip Kerner’s children are also of considerable interest. Philip Kerner’s son, Jule, created a business entitled “Reuben Rink Decorating and House Furnishing company” This business became more and more successful, eventually decorating many of the most prominent theatres, stadiums, mansions, and churches in the south. Jule Kerner’s central spot to work from was the historic house of Kerners Folly that can still be seen today. It has twenty-two rooms and contains “Cupids Park” - America’s oldest private theatre.
II. What is Kerner’s Cross Roads?
Kerner’s Cross Roads was a point located along the inter-colonial stage line which connected towns and cities in Georgia all the way up to New Hampshire. Because of its uniqueness, the Kerner’s Cross Roads held value as an outpost and resting place for travelers through North Carolina. This location was the first stop between the Moravian community of Salem, North Carolina (now Winston-Salem) and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In the 1770s, an Irishman named William Dobson took advantage of this prime location by constructing an inn at the intersection of the two most extensive roads in the town. In 1813 the Schober family purchased the land, including the inn, and owned it for a mere four years before Joseph Kerner bought it. The Kerner family would own this inn and the surrounding land for the following decades until the sale that was detailed in the broadside advertisement. Although Phillip Kerner’s siblings would sell their inheritance of the land to external buyers, Phillip Kerner would acquire an additional seven to eight hundred acres before the sale in 1848.
With the advent of the steam engine trains, rather than stagecoach and horseback, the American railroad network would become the primary means of transportation in the eastern part of the United States. The west coast and east coast will be eventually connected following the establishment of the transcontinental railroad. Kerner’s Cross Roads would become part of this railway system in 1873 by joining Salem and Salem Junction on the Richmond and Danville System. Kerner’s Cross Road would also connect east to Colfax in 1879 to further its reach and prosperity in the region. The introduction of the railroad system near Kerner’s crossroads increase the value of the property significantly.
William Penn Henley, who purchased the Kerner’s crossroads inn from Phillip Kerner, capitalized on the railroad construction and aided the development of what would become Kernersville. Although the Kerner family sold the land and the Kerner’s crossroads, the Kerner name remained. Overtime, a small village was created around the Kerner’s crossroads.In March 31, 1871 the small village that surrounded the inn at the crossroads was incorporated into the town of Kernersville. The population was 147. After the establishment of the railroads, the population in 1880 grew to five hundred, and this would double within the next eight years as Kernersville grew industrially. Today Kernersville maintains a population of about 25,000 with an average median household income of $52,000, more than $5,000 less than the state average. The majority of the residents live in an urban setting, and those who commute outside of the city likely head to Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The demographics of the region indicate that 13.2% of the population is black. Although we could not accurately trace the lineage of the enslaved individuals for sale in the advertisement because of a lack of information about them, one could assume that either their children or the children of other enslaved individuals in the area have descendants that reside in modern day Kernersville or the surrounding cities.
III. Why sell the estate?
Research suggests that the sale didn’t boil down to entirely a monetary issue. In 1843, just five years before the sale, Kerner had a large amount of property transferred to him upon the passing of his neighbor Jack Kinnamon in 1842. Kerner’s estate was in a critical spot in the town near the main road, and there were also talks of the development of a railroad nearby which would be crucial for travel. This information could indicate that he sold for the profits to be made. It’s also likely Kerner had the opportunity to increase his price because of how easy it would be to ship potential goods and services from his estate to anywhere across the country. While we don’t have a concrete reason for the sale, Phillip Kerner was undoubtedly not in any significant financial trouble at the time.
Some research points out that either Phillip or his brothers sold the inn in the actual town of Kerner’s crossroads. William Penn Henly, the man who purchased the inn, was a miner by trade. The advertisement points out a mill on the property leading to speculation as to why Henley may have bought this tract of land.
Kerner shifted from his occupation as a farmer to working as a county magistrate until the end of his life in 1875. He didn’t sell his land to move to a different location as he died in Stokes County (now Forsyth county). Again we can’t point to any significant financial trouble throughout all these years; Kerner also continued paying Aunt Dealy for her work inside the house. In addition, it is unlikely that the impending civil war affected this decision. The bulk of the Civil War took place at least twelve years past the point of sale. Kerner also owned relatively few enslaved people at this time, and his Quaker morals seemed to help keep him out of actively searching for new enslaved individuals.
IV. When did the sale happen?
The decades after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 were not peaceful but they were more stable relative to the decades that followed. The US had to deal with rebelling Native American tribes and conflicts on the southern border with Mexico. The Three-Fifths Compromise, Missouri Compromise (later replaced by the Compromise of 1850), and Fugitive Slave Act were just some of the many events that led to the heightened tensions the Kerner’s would experience before they decided to sell their assets. Despite the sale, they still faced challenges regardless of their slaveholding status. 1848 saw a massive population shift due to the gold rush in California. The Mexican-American war also concluded with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus ceding Texas and other southwestern lands to the US. The Seneca Falls convention was the first meeting to discuss women’s rights openly and occurred in July of 1848. 1848 was clearly a year of change in a relatively steady American society over the previous few decades. North Carolina felt this population and societal shift as much as anywhere else, especially in cities that were connected through the rapidly moving train system. In about twenty years, the golden spike completed the transcontinental railroad, and anyone who aided this process received due compensation. Kerner was most likely hoping to cash in on this endeavor.
There is no documentation specifically from Phillip Kerner about why he sold, but the best assumption was to take advantage of the expanding railroad and sell his estate. Additionally, as he reached a later point in his life, he might’ve found less motivation to work in fields or at the inn. Managing somewhere between two and nine enslaved people he owned as well as a handful of children, one assumption we can make is that Phillip Kerner had finally decided to “downsize” and move somewhere smaller. Although Phillip Kerner didn’t appear to advocate for slavery, it is evident he and his family profited from the establishment. Slavery in the United States continued to rise throughout the nineteenth century and even continued well into the civil war. Although the number of enslaved persons grew, so did the number of freed persons, therefore causing an increase in the black population in total that is visible in the Kernersville area today.
The Confederacy and its slaveholders showed no intention of stopping their practice and continued buying and selling enslaved people at the standard rate despite growing concerns and tensions of a coming war. Many southerners felt they would be able to win the war should the union attempt to alter their way of life. This bold confidence came from their belief that they would have a more robust military due to many US officers being from the south. They also felt their one billion pounds of cotton produced each year would draw foreign allies to their aid.
Even during the war, African-Americans fought on both sides. The Union used paid soldiers and volunteers to fight, while the Confederacy forced enslaved people’s labor to produce weapons and other war necessities. Even after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox courthouse in April of 1865, it took two months for the last enslaved people to be released in Galveston, Texas. It is unknown what role Phillip Kerner took in the war, but he likely did not have enslaved people at the time. We can not confirm with certainty if Philip Kerner spoke publicly against slavery.
V. Hidden Town
Because enslaved people were still not considered human and didn’t have any rights, much of the following information is speculative and based on trends during this period and this location. It’s important to note we could find a wealth of information on the Kerner family, including birth, marriage, and death certificates. However, for the two enslaved individuals mentioned on the broadside ad, we know next to nothing. This unfortunate circumstance goes to show how badly enslaved people were treated as no one cared to document their life and information. Suffice it to say, this was a grave mistreatment of enslaved people.
These enslaved people were likely working in agriculture on this plantation. These people are also likely working in the mill, potentially moving or grinding different objects. Many of the enslaved in North Carolina were brought from the West Indies. Enslaved people in North Carolina were working mainly on tobacco and cotton in these different plantations. Due to the fact that only two enslaved people were being sold, they likely didn’t have one specific job; these enslaved people probably worked in a variety of different positions ranging from being a field hand to working in the house and taking care of the children. Living in the Quaker family, enslaved people were a lot closer to their owners and were treated with more respect than enslaved people who worked further south. However, because of the small number of enslaved people, they were likely more dehumanized as they were being sold alongside land and other various animals as shown in the broadside advertisement. Phillip Kerner was selling many different things, many of them would have been purchased by wealthy locals rather than people from out of state or county. Buyers in the south often restrained themselves from travelling long distances to make purchases. In addition, this is before the compromise of 1850, which stated that enslaved people were considered three-fifths of a person for population and other matters related to districting.
To even come close to understanding how the enslaved might’ve felt, note that there are many missing pieces in our research. We literally can’t tell you anything about these enslaved people that can help in identifying who they were so we can accurately detail their lineage. We do not and will never know their names, exact age, sex or anything that preserves their humanity. This is very unfortunate as the enslaved people were the ones doing the heavy lifting that made the Kerners a well-known and rich family. The Kerners became wealthy off the backs of the enslaved, yet the enslaved individuals weren't given the recognition they deserve in building the town of Kernersville. It’s also possible that the two enslaved persons were related and may have grown up together. It is known from the 1840 census that both of these enslaved people were under thirty-five, so their value to slaveholders was relatively high. It’s also possible that when these enslaved people were sold, they stayed in Stokes, which later became Forsyth county. This is because outsiders wouldn’t usually travel far for an auction which included many permanent objects such as the land, house, etc. Because someone in the market for enslaved people had so many options of auctions and markets across the country, they wouldn’t travel to a small town for the prospect of just two enslaved people. It’s also highly likely that these enslaved people knew other enslaved people around the town. We come to this conclusion because Phillip Kerner and his two brothers owned tracts of land right around each other. Enslaved people were always concerned about the possibility of being sold further south, where slavery was much torturous. This definitely makes the sight of a broadside advertisement detailing the sale of enslaved people a sorrowful sight. It’s possible Philip Kerner did not want to sell the enslaved people he owned but was forced to because of his new career path as a magistrate. As a magistrate, Philip Kerner may not have had time to oversee enslaved people.
Although the chances were slim, the two enslaved people may have had the opportunity to connect to family members and relatives in the region. More likely, they would have been consolidated onto a more significant, neighboring farm as the odds that a buyer was looking to get into slavery a decade before the civil war was very minimal. It certainly could have raised concern amongst other enslaved people in the region that they may too be sold. This might have been a positive or negative reaction depending on how they felt the enslaved people were treated and how it might be better or far worse elsewhere. During this time, it’s pretty apparent there is an extreme lack of respect for African-Americans. The wording of the document shows little progress for abolition in this region. This was right before the Civil War when slavery was at its peak, even though some residents of the region were opposed to the institution of slavery. Society overall still prioritized slavery as the primary economic system in the south. This document does hint that maybe Philip Kerner himself was done with this system as he eventually worked to keep the peace between secessionists and unionists during his time as a magistrate. It’s possible he sold his land and everything that came with it to free himself from the grips of the morally evil system. What we can confirm is that there was still a large amount of interest in slavery as he is selling over 1000 acres of land.
In addition, this advertisement was likely hung up in many different places, reaching out to various slaveholders in the Stokes County area. This sale was very typical, as North Carolina was a sizable slaveholding state. But, just a few hundred miles to the North, there was likely a stir about this issue as abolitionists became more involved as the nation got closer and closer to the war. It’s also possible many free African-Americans read this ad, reminding them of a horrible system that was much different from the progressive North. The enslaved persons in this ad may have had relatives in those northern states who were appalled by what they saw and potentially tried to make a change.
There are so many counties, towns, and streets named after those who held people in slavery all over the United States. There are lots of places even in North Carolina, like Kernersville, that are hidden towns with forgotten histories. For example, some of you may have heard of Patton Avenue in Asheville which is a street named after James Patton. He came up with the idea to create a main road in Asheville but also owned dozens of enslaved individuals. When you hear someone say Kernersville or Patton Avenue, you probably don’t think of who it is named after and if they partook in slavery. Just like in the case of Kernersville, we know very little information about the enslaved individuals in all of these towns with hidden histories. It is important to remember that those who were enslaved are just as important, if not more important as well-known families like the Kerner’s, even if we know very little information about their lives as enslaved people.
Ultimately, this broadside advertisement tells a little known but important story about how black people were legally bought and sold as enslaved people alongside animals and furniture. Their humanity wasn’t preserved and they were posed as mere property. This was because this was all happening during a really dark time in our country’s history known as slavery. This system made sure to belittle African Americans and force them into hard labour that essentially built up the country and made the white slave owners extremely wealthy. This should have never been acceptable. These slaveholders have become celebrated individuals and even had towns and cities named after them just like Philip Kerner has Kernersville named after him. Furthermore, keep in mind that modern day Kernersville is just miles away from Old Salem and is an important part of the history of the state of North Carolina as a whole.
Object biography by Victor Akangah, Meryl Kaduboski, Jack Linde, Nick Park, Porter Sharpe. Spring 2021.
By 1844, Phillip Kerner enslaved nine people, one of whom he received from neighbor Jack Kinnamon upon his death. This enslaved person was called Clara and came to be known as “Aunt Dealy.” Aunt Dealy became an important part of the Kerner plantation later on. Five years after the sale, Kerner’s wife died from pneumonia, leaving Aunt Dealy to take on a prominent motherhood role for Kerner’s young children.
Research Guide Structure
1. Who Were the Kerners?
2. What is Kerner's Cross Roads?
3. Why Sell the Estate?
4. When Did the Sale Happen?
5. Hidden Town
“Today Kernersville maintains a population of about 25,000 with an average median household income of $52,000, more than $5,000 less than the state average. ”
“It’s important to note we could find a wealth of information on the Kerner family, including birth, marriage, and death certificates. However, for the two enslaved individuals mentioned on the broadside ad, we know next to nothing. ”
“To even come close to understanding how the enslaved might’ve felt, note that there are many missing pieces in our research. We literally can’t tell you anything about these enslaved people that can help in identifying who they were so we can accurately detail their lineage. We do not and will never know their names, exact age, sex or anything that preserves their humanity. This is very unfortunate as the enslaved people were the ones doing the heavy lifting that made the Kerners a well-known and rich family. The Kerners became wealthy off the backs of the enslaved, yet the enslaved individuals weren't given the recognition they deserve in building the town of Kernersville. ”
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“What Is a Broadside?” History Is Fun, 21 Oct. 2020, www.historyisfun.org/learn/learning-center/what-is-a-broadside/.