The Antebellum kitchen of the John Fox House stood about 50 feet behind the main house. It was a building totally separate because of three problems in the operation of the John Fox household of the 1840s and 1850s. The kitchen fireplace posed a fire hazard to the wooden buildings. The heat of this fire was also unwanted in the main house, particularly during hot summer days.
The kitchen was a work area where people talked and made noise while handling iron pots or large numbers of glasses, plates, and china serving pieces. The noise was much like that of a restaurant kitchen in modern times, for the Fox kitchen provided meals for about 30 household members and anyone who might be visiting. All cooking was done in this building for the entire household, black or white. The kitchen also served as a rainy weather work building where some activities usually done outdoors took place inside during periods of inclement weather.
Meals for the Fox family were prepared in the kitchen and carried on trays into the main house for serving. After meals were served there, the china or dishes were brought out to the kitchen for washing or processing the leftover foods. The clean dishes were then brought back to the dining room for storage. Since many pieces of broken china were found just between the kitchen and the main house, it is probable that there were a number of accidents between the two buildings. The kitchen was a place of closely supervised activities. In a large household like that of the John Fox family each person in the kitchen knew what work was expected of him or her. Women did most of the work, but boys provided labor in bringing in water and firewood. Kitchen work brought about close contact among white and black members of the household. In the John Fox household, it is believed that at least three adult slave women did most of the actual cooking with the most talented and experienced one being the head cook. According to a house servant list dated 1862, a 40-year-old woman named Ellen was the head cook. Eliza and Beek, both just under 20 years old in 1862, probably worked in the kitchen with Ellen. This list also includes twelve children, and their ages ran from 2 to 10. Their names and ages are Elick (10), Bettie (8), Flora (6), Sallie (4), Allice (3), Jesse (10), Lemmuil (7), Siller (6), Morris (4), Amelia (2), and Harriet (2). Click here to see another list of 49 slaves and their monetary value, according to John Fox. Can you find Ellen or any of the other names listed above? Enslaved people usually ate their meals in the kitchen. The Fox property had three slave houses where slave families lived. A common kitchen provided them with three meals a day, but each house had a fireplace where soups, stews, cornbreads, or baked potatoes could be prepared at night to suit individual tastes.