Today, there are three slave cabins still standing at The Hermitage, Alfred’s Cabin in the backyard of the mansion and the First Hermitage farmhouse and kitchen. Historical documents reveal little about slave houses at The Hermitage.
However, Hermitage archaeologists have located thirteen slave dwellings in three different areas of the property: the work yard north of the mansion – used mostly for house slaves, the Field Quarter, and First Hermitage areas – used for skilled and field slaves.
Slave Site Structures
Most of the slave dwellings on the property were very similar, two room structures with two 20 feet square, single-story rooms. They featured a small loft (most likely for children to sleep), one door, one window and a fireplace.
Excavations of all of these very standardized dwellings have uncovered root cellars, which would have been underneath the floorboards and accessed by a hatch door. What makes these root cellars unique are the variability of their location, size, and construction among the cabins. This indicates that the slaves, not the Jacksons, built them.
Andrew Jackson’s Enslaved Laborers
In all reality, slavery was the source of Andrew Jackson’s wealth.
The Hermitage was a 1,000 acre, self-sustaining plantation that relied completely on the labor of enslaved African American men, women, and children. They performed the hard labor that produced The Hermitage’s cash crop, cotton. The more land Andrew Jackson accrued, the more slaves he procured to work it. Thus, the Jackson family’s survival was made possible by the profit garnered from the crops worked by the enslaved on a daily basis.
When Andrew Jackson bought The Hermitage in 1804, he owned nine enslaved African Americans. Just 25 years later that number had swelled to over 100 through purchase and reproduction. At the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned approximately 150 people who lived and worked on the property.