More Victims of Anti-Slavery Act – Fugitive Slave Law

Columbia, Penn., (end of March, 1852;) a colored man, named William Smith, was arrested as a fugitive slave in the lumber yard of Mr. Gottlieb, by Deputy Marshal Snyder, of Harrisburg, and police officer Ridgeley, of Baltimore, under a warrant from Commissioner McAllister. Smith endeavored to escape, when Ridgeley drew a pistol and shot him dead! Ridgeley was demanded by the Governor of Pennsylvania, of the Governor of Maryland, and the demand was referred to the Maryland Legislature.

Hon. J.R. Giddings proposed the erection of a monument to Smith.

James Phillips, who had resided in Harrisburg, Penn., for fourteen years, was arrested May 24, 1852, as the former slave of Dennis Hudson, of Culpepper County, Virginia, afterwards bought by Henry T. Fant, of Fauquier County. He was brought before United States Commissioner McAllister. Judge McKinney volunteered his services to defend the alleged fugitive. The Commissioner, as soon as possible, ordered the man to be delivered up; and, after fourteen years’ liberty, he was taken back to slavery in Virginia. Afterwards, bought for $900, and taken back to Harrisburg.

Wilkesbarre, Penn., (Summer of 1852.) Mr. Harvey arrested and fined for shielding a slave.

Sacramento, California; a man named Lathrop claimed another as his slave, and Judge Fry decided that the claim was good, and ordered the slave to be surrendered. Mr. Lathrop left, with his slave, for the Atlantic States.

A beautiful young woman, nearly white, was pursued by her owner [and father] to New York, (end of June, 1852.) There a large reward was offered to a police officer to discover her, place of residence. It was discovered, and measures taken for her apprehension; but the alarm had been taken, and she escaped.

Sacramento, California; three men were seized by a Mr. Perkins, of Mississippi. The Court decided them to be his property and they were carried back to Mississippi.—Standard, July 29, 1852.

Petersburg, Penn. Two fugitives from Alabama slavery were overtaken, and taken back, September, 1852.

John Henry Wilson, a lad of fourteen years, kidnapped from Danville, Pennsylvania, and taken to Baltimore, where he was, offered for sale to John N. Denning. Kidnappers committed to jail, October, 1852.

Daniel Webster, the endorser of the Fugitive Slave Law, died at Marshfield, Mass., October 24th, 1852, in the very height of the Law’s triumphant operation.

Louisa, a colored woman, claimed by Mrs. Reese, of San Francisco, California, was seized by five armed men, and put on board Steamer Golden Gate, and carried it is not known whither. The aid of the Law was not invoked. The California Christian Advocate, from which the above is taken, says, “Two colored men, stewards on the Golden Gate, were sent back to the States on the last trip under the State Fugitive Law.”

A mulatto woman, in San Francisco, was ordered to be delivered to her claimant, T.T. Smith, Jackson Country, Missouri, by “Justice Shepherd,”—San Francisco Herald—in Standard, November 4, 1852.

Sandusky, Ohio. Two men, two women, and several children were arrested and taken from a steamboat just about to leave for Detroit. Taken before Mayor Follett, by a man who claimed to be their owner. R.R. Sloane, Esq., was employed as counsel for the slaves. No one claiming custody of the slaves, or producing any writs or warrants, Mr. Sloane signified to the crowd present that there appeared to be no cause for the detention of the persons. Immediately a rush was made for the door. A man, who before had been silent, exclaimed, “Here are the papers—I own the slaves—I’ll hold you individually responsible for their escape.” The slaves escaped into Canada, October, 1852. Mr. Sloane was afterwards prosecuted for the value of the slaves, and judgment given against him to the amount of $3,950.

Thirty slaves, says the Maysville (Ky.) Eagle, “escaped from Mason and Bracken Counties, a short time ago. Some of them were captured in Ohio, by their owners, at a distance of about forty miles from the river.” “They brought the captured slaves home without encountering the least obstacle, or even an unkind word.”—Standard, November 4, 1852.

The Lemmon Slaves. At New York, eight persons, claimed by Jonathan Lemmon, of Norfolk, Virginia, as his slaves, were brought before Judge Paine, November, 1852. It appeared that they had been brought to New York by their owner, with a view of taking them to Texas, as his slaves. Mr. Louis Napoleon, a respectable colored man, of New York, procured a writ of habeas corpus, under which they were brought before the court. Their liberation was called for, under the State Law, not being fugitives, but brought into a free State by their owner. Said owner appeared, with Henry D. Lapaugh as his counsel, aided by Mr. Clinton. At their urgent request, the case was postponed from time to time, when Judge Paine, with evident reluctance, decreed the freedom of the slaves. E.D. Culver and John Jay, Esqs., were counsel for the slaves. The merchants and others of New York subscribed and paid Mr. Lemmon the sum of $5,280, for loss of his slaves. The New York Journal of Commerce was very active in raising this money. The same men were invited to contribute something for the destitute men, women, and children claimed by Lemmon. The whole amount given by them all, was two dollars. About one thousand dollars were raised for them among the better disposed but less wealthy class.

Thomas Brown alias George Bordley, Philadelphia, November, 1852, was claimed by one Andrew Pearce, Cecil County, Maryland. Given up to claimant by Commissioner Ingraham. The arrest of the man was made by the notorious kidnapper, George F. Alberti. Mr. Pettit, counsel for the claimant.

Transcriber’s note: The following note is inserted after the next section but does not refer to any specific reported incident. 1

Richard Neal, free colored man, kidnapped in Philadelphia and carried from the city in a carriage towards Maryland. A writ of habeas corpus was obtained, the kidnappers were overtaken, and Neal brought back after resistance and various hindrances. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania discharged him. February, 1853.

Ten slaves, arrested in Indiana, and taken back to Tennessee, by W. Carney and others. Resistance was made, and W. Carney “was very badly injured during the fracas.”—Nashville —-, March 5, 1853. [Transcribers’ note: —- substituted for word cut off on original page.]

Alton, Illinois. A man claimed to belong to Walter Carrico, of Warren County, Missouri, was arrested by police officers from St. Louis. After being lodged in jail in St. Louis he made his escape, and again went into Illinois. He was pursued, found, and taken back to St. Louis.—St. Louis Republican, March, 1853.

Amanda, a slave girl, was brought to St. Louis, from near Memphis, Tennessee, a year before, by a son of her master, and by him set free, without his father’s consent. After the father’s death, an attempt was made to seize Amanda, and take her back to Tennessee without trial. This was prevented by officers, the girl taken from the steamboat Cornelia, and brought before Levi Davis, United States Commissioner. He decided in favor of the claimants, (the heirs of the estate, of course.)—St. Louis Republican, March 17, 1853.

Jane Trainer, a colored child, about ten years old, in the possession of Mrs. Rose Cooper, alias Porter, (a woman admitted by her counsel to be a common prostitute,) was brought before Judge Duer, of New York City, by a writ of habeas corpus, which had been applied for by Charles Trainer, the father of the child, (a free colored man, who had followed the parties from Mobile to New York,) and who desired that the custody of his daughter’s person should be granted to him. [June, 1853, and previous.] Judge Duer decided that it was not within his jurisdiction to determine to whom the custody of the child belonged; the Supreme Court of New York must decide that. Judge D. proposed to both parties that the child should be put into his hands, and he would provide a proper person for her care and education, but the woman (Porter) would not consent to this. She evidently designed to train up the child for a life of shame, and perhaps of slavery also. The case was brought by a writ of habeas corpus, before Judge Barculo, of the Supreme Court, sitting at Brooklyn. The effort to serve the writ was at first defeated by the notorious New York bully, Captain Isaiah Rynders, acting, it was said, under the advice of James T. Brady, counsel for Mrs. Porter. For this interference with, the law, Rynders and some others were arrested and taken before Judge Barculo, who let them off on their making an apology! The second attempt to serve the writ on the child was more successful. After hearing counsel, Judge Barculo adjudged “that the said Charles Trainer is entitled to the care and custody of said Jane Trainer, and directing her to be delivered to him as her father,” &c. In giving his decision, Judge B. said, “It is not to be assumed that a child under fourteen years of age is possessed of sufficient discretion to choose her own guardian; a house of ill-fame is not a suitable place, nor one of its inmates a proper person for the education of such a child.” Jane Trainer’s mother was afterwards bought from slavery in Mobile, Alabama, and enabled to join her husband and child.

In 1854, Charles Trainer obtained a verdict in King’s County Court, New York, for $775 damages, against Rose Cooper.

[N.B. Though not strictly a case under the Fugitive Slave Law, this is very properly inserted here, as the whole spirit of the woman, of her counsel, and of the means he took to accomplish his base designs, was clearly instigated by that Law, and by the malignant influences it brought into action against the colored people, both slave and free.]

Basil White, Philadelphia, was summarily surrendered into slavery in Maryland, by United States Commissioner Ingraham, June 1, 1853. He was betrayed into the clutches of the kidnapper Alberti, by a colored man named John Dorsey.

Two slaves of Sylvester Singleton, living near Burlington, (Ky.?) escaped and reached Columbus, Ohio; were there overtaken by their master, who secured them and took them back with him.—Cincinnati Enquirer.

John Freeman, a free colored man, seized in Indianapolis, and claimed as the slave of Pleasant Ellington, a Methodist church-member, (Summer, 1853,) of Missouri. Freeman pledged himself to prove that he was not the person he was alleged to be. The United States Marshal consented to his having time for this, provided he would go to jail, and pay three dollars a day for a guard to keep him secure! Bonds to any amount, to secure the marshal against loss, if Freeman could go at large, were rejected. Freeman’s counsel went to Georgia, and “after many days returned with a venerable and highly respectable gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Patillo, (post-master of the place where he resides,) who had voluntarily made the long journey for the sole purpose of testifying to his knowledge of Freeman, and that he was well known to be free!” But Freeman was still kept in jail. After several days, Ellington brought witnesses to prove F. to be his slave. The witnesses, and Liston (counsel for Ellington) wished to have Freeman strip himself, to be examined naked. By advise of his counsel he refused. The marshal took him to his cell, and compelled him to strip. The witnesses then swore that he was Ellington’s property. Freeman’s counsel produced further evidence that he had been known as a free man twenty years. Ellington claimed that he had escaped from him sixteen years before. The man who did escape from Ellington, just sixteen years before, was discovered to be living near Malden, Canada. Two of the Kentucky witnesses visited and recognized him. Freeman was then released, but with a large debt upon him, $1,200, which had grown up by the unusually heavy expenses of his defense and long imprisonment, Freeman brought a suit against Ellington for false imprisonment laying damages at $10,000. A verdict for $2,000 was given in his favor, which was agreed to by Ellington’s counsel.—Indiana Free Democrat, May, 1854.

Three slaves, two men and a girl, fled from near Maysville, Kentucky, into Ohio. Were pursued by their owners and assistants, five men armed, and were overtaken, says the Maysville Weekly Express, “at the bridge over Rattlesnake Creek, on the Petersburg and Greenfield road, about ten o’clock at night,” the slaves being, armed, and accompanied by a white man. Both parties fired, the negro girl was wounded, but still fled; one of the negro men was also wounded, and, says the Maysville paper, they “were tracked a mile and a half by the blood.” The other slave was secured and taken back to Kentucky, “much bruised and cut in the affray.” “The white man,” says the same paper, “was also caught and beaten in a very severe manner with a club, and strong hopes are entertained that he will die.”—Wilmington (Ohio) Republican, July, 22, 1853.

A colored girl, between four and five years old, suddenly disappeared from Providence, R.I., July 13, 1853; at the same time, a mulatto woman, who had been heard to make inquiries about the child, was missing also. Believed to be a case of kidnapping.

A negro boy, says the Memphis Inquirer, “left his owner in this city,” and went on board the steamboat Aurilla Wood, bound for Cincinnati. By a telegraphic message he was intercepted, taken from the boat at Cairo, Illinois, and taken back to Memphis. (Summer, 1853.)

George W. McQuerry, Cincinnati, Ohio. A colored man, who had resided three or four years in Ohio, and married a free woman, by whom he had three children, was remanded to slavery by Judge McLean (August, 1853.) The man was taken by the United States Marshal, with a posse, across the river to Covington, Kentucky, and there delivered to his master!

Two men kidnapped from Chicago, and taken to St. Louis. See Chicago Tribune, quoted in Standard, Aug. 27, 1853.

Three Slaves taken by Habeas Corpus, from steamboat Tropic, and brought before Judge Flinn, at Cincinnati, August, 1853. The woman Hannah expressed a wish to return to her master in the boat. Judge Flinn ordered her into the custody of the claimants without investigation. Judge F. asked Hannah if she had the custody of the child Susan, to which she answered that she had. Whereupon the Judge also ordered her back into the custody of the claimants, without examination. Mr. Jolliffe protested against ordering the child back without examination. The Court said they would take the responsibility. The examination then proceeded in the case of the man Edward. It appeared that they were purchased in Virginia, to be conveyed to Mississippi. The boat stopped at Cincinnati, and the slaves were twice taken by the agent of the owners on shore, and upon the territory of Ohio. Mr. Jolliffe commenced his argument at 7, P.M., and argued that the slaves, being brought by their owners upon free territory, were legally free. Mr. J., before finishing, was taken ill, and obliged to leave the court-room; he first begged the Court to adjourn until morning, which was refused by Judge Flinn. Judge Keys said the Ohio river was a highway for all States bordering on it, whose citizens had a right also to use the adjacent shores for purposes necessary to navigation. Mr. Zinn stated that Mr. Jolliffe had been obliged to retire, in consequence of illness, and had requested him to urge the Court to continue the case. Judge Flinn said—”The case will he decided to-night; that is decided on. We have not been silting here four or five hours to determine whether we will decide the case or not. It will be decided, and you may come up to it sideways or square; or any way you please; you must come to it.” Mr. Zinn said he was not going to argue. He had made the request out of courtesy to a professional brother. He doubted the power of the Court to deliver the boy into slavery. Judge Flinn said—”I do not wish to hear any arguments of that nature.” The man was then ordered to be taken by the Sheriff, and delivered to claimant on board the boat,—which was done.—Cincinnati Gazette, 27th August, 1853.

Patrick Sneed, a colored waiter in the Cataract House, Niagara Falls, arrested on the pretended charge of murder committed in Savannah, Georgia. He was brought, by Habeas Corpus, before Judge Sheldon, at Buffalo, (September, 1853,) and by him ordered to be “fully discharged.”

Bill, or William Thomas, a colored waiter at the Phenix Hotel, Wilkesbarre, Penn., described as a “tall, noble-looking, intelligent, and active mulatto, nearly white,” was attacked by “Deputy Marshal Wynkoop,” Sept. 3, 1853, and four other persons, (three of them from Virginia.) These men came “suddenly, from behind, knocked him down with a mace, and partially shackled him.” He struggled hard against the five, shook them off, and with the handcuff, which had been secured to his right wrist only “inflicted some hard wounds on the countenances” of his assailants. Covered with blood, he broke from them, rushed from the house, and plunged in the river close by, exclaiming, “I will be drowned rather than taken alive.” He was pursued, fired upon repeatedly, ordered to come out of the water, where he stood immersed to his neck, or “they would blow his brains out.” He replied, “I will die first.” They then deliberately fired at him four or five different times, the last ball supposed to have struck on his head, for his face was instantly covered with blood, and he sprang up and shrieked. The by-standers began to cry “shame” and the kidnappers retired a short distance for consultation. Bill came out of the water and lay down on the shore. His pursuers, supposing him dying, said, “Dead niggers are not worth taking South.” Some one brought and put on him a pair of pantaloons. He was helped to his feet by a colored man named Rex; on seeing which, Wynkoop and party headed him and presented their revolvers, when BILL again ran into the river, “where he remained upwards of an hour, nothing but his head above water, covered with blood, and in full view of hundreds who lined the banks.” His claimants dared not follow him into the water; for, as he said afterward, “he would have died contented, could he have carried two or three of them down with him.” Preparations [rather slow it would appear,] were made to arrest the murderous gang, but they had departed from the place. BILL then waded some distance up the stream, and “was found by some women flat on his face in a corn-field. They carried him to a place of safety, dressed his wounds,” and the suffering man was seen no more in Wilkesbarre.—Correspondence of New York Tribune.

Wynkoop and another were afterwards arrested in Philadelphia, on a charge of riot, the warrant issuing from a State magistrate of Wilkesbarre, on the complaint of William C. Gildersleeve, of the place. Mr. Jackson, the constable who held them in custody, was brought before Judge Grier, of the United States Supreme Court, by habeas corpus. Judge Grier, during the examination, said:—

“I will not have the officers of the United States harassed at every step in the performance of their duties by every petty magistrate who chooses to harass them, or by any unprincipled interloper who chooses to make complaints against them—for I know something of the man who makes this complaint.” “If this man Gildersleeve fails to make out the facts set forth in the warrant of arrest, I will request the Prosecuting Attorney of Luzerne County to prosecute him for perjury. * * * If any tuppenny magistrate, or any unprincipled interloper can come in, and cause to be arrested the officers of the United States, whenever they please, it is a sad affair. * * * If habeas corpuses are to be taken out alter that manner, I will have an indictment sent to the United States Grand Jury against the person who applies for the writ, or assists in getting it, the lawyer who defends it, and the sheriff who serves the writ. * * * I will see that my officers are protected.” On a subsequent day, Judge Grier gave an elaborate opinion, reciting the facts in the case, as stated by the prisoners, and ordering them to be discharged! He said:—”We are unable to perceive, in this transaction, anything worthy of blame in the conduct of these officers in their unsuccessful endeavors to fulfil a most dangerous and disgusting duty; except, perhaps, a want of sufficient courage and perseverance in the attempt to execute the writ!”

Wynkoop and the other were discharged by Judge Kane on the ground that they did only what their duty, under the Law, required. (May, 1854.)

A family of colored persons, at Uniontown, Pa., were claimed as slaves by a man in Virginia. They admitted that they had been his slaves, but declared that they had come into Pennsylvania with their master’s consent and knowledge, on a visit to some friends in Fayette County, and were not, therefore, fugitives. This was overruled, and the negroes were sent back by a United States Commissioner, name not given. (September, 1853.) 2 —Pittsburgh Saturday Visitor.


American Anti-Slavery Society. The Fugitive Slave Law, and its Victims. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society. 1856.

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  1. The Slaveholders of Kentucky begin forming associations for mutual protection against loss of runaway slaves. The preamble of the plan of association proposed at a meeting at Minerva Kentucky, held in the winter of 1852-53, is as follows:—”Whereas it has become absolutely necessary for the slave-owners of Kentucky to take such steps as will secure their property, we, the citizens of Mass. and Bracken counties, do recommend,” &c.[]
  2. A correspondent of the New York Evening Post, writing from Columbus, Ohio, September 1, 1853, states that a very large number of fugitive slaves are continually passing through that State; that they are generally armed; and that they find increasing sympathy among the people on the road, and the boatmen on the lakes.

    A desperate fight between a party of four fugitives and about double the number of whites, took place in Carroll County, Maryland. Four white men shot—none dangerously. Two of the slaves wounded, one severely. They were captured. (October, 1853.)—Westminster (Md.) Democrat.[]

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