Fayette County

New Waveland monument honors founders and slaves

Wearing period attire, Kristyn Amsler sang  Waveland, My Waveland during the  monument dedication.
Wearing period attire, Kristyn Amsler sang Waveland, My Waveland during the monument dedication.

Waveland State Historic Site unveiled a stone monument Sunday honoring the family that built the historic plantation and the slaves who worked there.

One side of the 6-foot-tall marker, on the 15-acre site in southern Fayette County, lists the names of Bryan family members who established the plantation in the late 1700s. The other side lists 19 known slaves whose labor made Waveland a Kentucky showplace.

Sunday's event was part of a weekend festival of music, exhibits and other activities marking Waveland's 40 years in the Kentucky state parks system.

During its heyday in the 1800s, Waveland produced hemp and later tobacco. It covered roughly 2,000 acres and functioned as a self-contained community with its own church, school, gunpowder manufacturing plant and gunsmith shop, said park manager Ron Bryant, who is related to the founding Bryan family.

The Bryans came from North Carolina about 1776 and built the Bryan Station fort in 1779. One of them, Daniel Bryan, a grandnephew of Daniel Boone, founded the plantation.

It flourished under his son, Joseph Bryan, who became one of Kentucky's richest residents and about 1845 built the plantation's Waveland mansion, which still stands. But the operation fell on hard times under the ownership of Joseph Bryan's son, Joseph Henry Bryan, who lost so much money gambling on horse races that he was forced to sell Waveland about 1894.

Waveland and its grounds became a Kentucky historic shrine in 1971.

Lexington's David McMurtry, who participated in Sunday's ceremonies, said Waveland was a relatively small plantation compared to the huge cotton plantations of the Deep South. This year, McMurtry published Waveland: Home of the Bryans, a book detailing the plantation's history.

McMurtry has a personal interest since one of his ancestors, Lexington architect John McMurtry, designed the Waveland mansion.

"He was my first cousin, four generations removed," David McMurtry said. "But I really didn't know too much of the history of Waveland until I started working on the book."

According to McMurtry, records from 1850 placed Waveland's value at about $42,000, which amounts to more than $1.1 million today.

He said it was only fitting to include the slaves' names on the new stone marker.

"Without their labor," McMurtry said, "Waveland would not have been possible."