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Lincoln Boasts of “Slave Stampedes”

LincolnOn Friday evening, January 9, 1863, Abraham Lincoln held a private meeting at the White House with two key Republican senators –John P. Hale of New Hampshire and Orville H. Browning of Illinois—where he boasted proudly about the reaction of Missouri’s enslaved population to his recently issued Emancipation Proclamation.  While pointing at a map of the western borderland area, featuring Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the president claimed that since the first public announcement of emancipation (September 22, 1862), “the negroes were stampeding in Missouri,” creating a backlash among Democrats in that region.  Lincoln wanted to use this moment to press for a compensated abolition measure in Missouri, describing this Western slave state, according to the revealing but little-known entry in Browning’s diary, as “an empire of herself,” claiming it would be more than “enough” for the legacy of each of these three men, “if we make Missouri free.”[1]  Lincoln’s use of the concept of the slave stampede was surely no accident.  He had personal experience with that term, because he had seen it bandied about in

newspaper article

Illinois State Journal, January 22, 1850

Springfield newspapers about a dozen years earlier, when his neighbor, Jameson Jenkins, a free black drayman, was accused of orchestrating a “slave stampede” from Missouri during the early weeks of 1850. Modern scholarship on the Underground Railroad and emancipation has not done enough to emphasize the impact of this concept of the “slave stampede” on the mindset of politicians like Lincoln.  Nor has there been quite enough attention to the importance of mass escapes within the overall process of seeking freedom in antebellum America.  This online research journal represents the first stage of a joint effort by the National Park Service (NPS) Network to Freedom and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College to address this relative oversight with new evidence and more extended analysis.  On this blog site, we will post examples of the historical material we are turning up in our digital and archival searches.  Eventually, these findings will form the basis of an online report and freely accessible database designed to provide resources for anyone who wants to teach or learn about this important subject.  For now, however, please consider this site as a kind of open historical laboratory.  We are trying to share our progress as it develops, seeking your input and assistance whenever it might be helpful.

 

[1] Diary entry, January 9, 1863 in Theodore Calvin Pease and James G. Randall, eds., The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning (2 vols., Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1925), 1: 611-12.

Mary Meachum and the St. Louis Stampede of 1855

DATELINE:  ST. LOUIS, MAY 21, 1855

On the night of May 21, 1855, nine freedom seekers and three local Underground Railroad agents set out across the Mississippi River near St. Louis on a skiff designed to take them to the free state of Illinois. Word had gotten out, however, about their escape plan, and slave catchers were waiting for the fugitives on the other shore. The confrontation quickly turned into a firefight, and only one of the enslaved people managed to get away, while the rest, including the antislavery operatives, were taken back to St. Louis in chains.[1]

STAMPEDE CONTEXT

Newspaper clipping

St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, May 22, 1855
Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri

News of the dramatic flight and altercation was reported in the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican the next day. “SLAVES CAPTURED,” crowed the pro-slavery newspaper, ending a lament that not all of the “scoundrels” were captured. At least two other newspapers, the Thibodeaux Minerva in Louisiana and the Chicago Tribune reprinted the same article in the following weeks.[2] The event was first referred to as a stampede on May 26, when the Milwaukee (WI) Daily Free Democrat wrote a short story about the escape and titled it “Stampede,” and then again on May 31 when the Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times published its own article entitled “Slave Stampede.”[3] The local section of the Daily Missouri Republican sporadically reported on the criminal proceedings for the three Underground Railroad operatives over the following months, but the story appears to have disappeared from coverage elsewhere.

 

MAIN NARRATIVE

The arrest of Mary Meachum, one of the agents who led the stampede, was big news within her community. After 40 years in St. Louis, Mary held a number of prominent roles. She and her late husband, John Berry Meachum, were both formerly enslaved, and they dedicated their lives to helping the free and enslaved black people of St. Louis. Mary and John had founded a church and a school in the city for black people, where they taught religious and secular studies, as well as trades like carpentry. They also “purchased” their own slaves, presumably so that they could work legally toward their own freedom. In secret, the Meachums also served as agents of the Underground Railroad, planning and orchestrating escapes for their own students and members of the congregation. Historian Richard Blackett notes that runaway slave advertisements in St. Louis during the 1850s “frequently mentioned that slaves disappeared on Sunday evenings following the end of church services.”[4]  When John Meachum died in 1854, Mary continued both their legal and illegal work on her own, until she was caught in May 1855.

 

Not much is known about the two other free blacks who helped Meachum lead the group across the river. An 1860 census reveals that one of them, Isaac Breckenridge, moved to St. Louis from North Carolina with a woman, likely his wife, named Fanny. Whether or not the Breckenridges were born free or enslaved is unknown, but by 1855 when Isaac led the escape, they were free and working in the city as whitewashers.[5]

Even though it ultimately failed, the group escape of May 21 must have been carefully planned. Mary and two other free black residents of St. Louis, Judah Burrows and Isaac Breckenridge, were the only agents arrested the night of the escape, but the May 22 Daily Missouri Republican article repeatedly claimed that other “white cowardly agents” had managed to escape the slave-catching posse by fleeing into the woods. Of course, it was also possible that Meachum, Burrows, and Breckenridge were the only ones behind the escape, but that the pro-slavery journalists were simply unable to believe that a few people of color could hatch such an ambitious escape scheme.

Whatever the number of people involved, the entire group met at Mary Meachum’s home somewhere on 4th street, and then fled to a skiff located “a short distance above Bissell’s Ferry” that they used to cross the Mississippi.  Across the river, a wagon was already waiting to take the escapees further north to Alton and then to Chicago, where they would be safer from slave catchers.

 

Map of Missouri-Illinois border.

Location of escape party’s departure on the night of May 21, 1855. Today, it is the site of the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. Map courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Two of the enslaved men split from the escape party before crossing the river, choosing to leave and avoid recapture, but the six remaining slaves and three free blacks crossed the river successfully, only to come face to face with two slaveholders and a police officer. When the fugitive men and women faced their captors, two shots were fired, and one man immediately fled and avoided capture. The remaining five, two men and a woman named Esther with her two children, were caught. They, along with Mary Meachum, Judah Burrows, and Isaac Breckenridge, were returned to St. Louis in chains.[6]

After being held in the St. Louis jail for weeks, Meachum, Burrows, and Breckenridge each individually faced a trial by jury for “enticing away slaves.” While the Daily Missouri Republican did report that an “Isaac (colored)” pled not guilty during his arraignment” on May 25 and began his trial on July 20, the outcome of Breckenridge’s or Burrows’ cases are unknown, although census records indicate that Breckenridge was living free in St. Louis in 1860.[7] Mary Meachum, however, continued to make the news, when on July 19 she was acquitted of all charges and set free.[8]  Mary continued to lead the black community in St. Louis, appearing in papers again in 1864 as the president of the Colored Ladies Soldiers’ Aid Society, which provided resources and care black soldiers and enslaved people who had escaped during the war. [9] She died in 1869, leaving behind two children, William and John.[10]

AFTERMATH AND LEGACY

Image of Henry Shaw

Henry Shaw, courtesy of Wikipedia.org

As for the five enslaved men, women, and children who were caught during the night of the escape, they were returned to their owners in St. Louis and punished for their insubordination. Esther, the mother who tried to flee with her children, was separated from her family and sold downriver for her punishment by her owner Henry Shaw, a prominent St. Louis businessman.[11] In 1993, a star was dedicated on the St. Louis Walk of Fame for Henry Shaw’s foundation of the Missouri Botanical Garden.  There was no mention of his role as a slaveholder or his involvement in the well known Meachum escape in 1855.[12]

 

Clipping from a flyer for Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration.

Celebration flyer. Courtesy of Great Rivers Greenway.

The Meachum escape has been well commemorated in St. Louis. One hundred and fifty years later, the spot where the escape group left Missouri’s shore became an historic site on the Mississippi River Waterfront Trail and a stop on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Named the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, the site houses both public art and a community building. Every spring since 2005, the Annual Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration commemorates the freedom attained by some, and the suffering faced by others as a result of this failed escape.  The annual commemoration includes music, games, history lessons, competitions and a reenactment the events of the night May 21.[13] 

Picture of a mural

Mural at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing site. Courtesy of Google Maps.

FURTHER READING

Some historians disagree over how to characterize John Meachum’s role in the antislavery movement. Lea VanderVelde suggests in Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott (2014) that freedom suits filed against Meachum undertaken by an enslaved woman named Judy Logan indicate that he may not have always been so eager to “free” the enslaved people whom he had purchased. The woman’s complaints against Meachum and his refusal to grant her freedom, juxtaposed with the dozens of other enslaved folk that Meachum purchased and ultimately freed, raise questions about what the man was really like. For further reading about John Meachum, see also R.J.M. Blackett, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery (2018).

 

ADDITIONAL IMAGES

 

ENDNOTES


[1] “Slaves Captured,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, May 22, 1855, pg. 3 col. 2.

[2] “Slaves Captured,” Thibodeaux Minerva (Thibodeaux, LA), June 2, 1855; “Slaves Captured,” Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), May 25, 1855.

[3] “Stampede,” Daily Free Democrat (Milwaukee, WI), May 26, 1855; “Slave Stampede,” Glasgow Weekly Times (Glasgow, MO), May 31, 1855.

[4] R.J.M. Blackett, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 143.

[5] 1860 US Federal Census, St Louis Ward 3, St Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Roll M653_655, p163.

[6] “Slaves Captured,” Daily Missouri Republican, May 22, 1855.

[7] “Criminal Court,” Daily Missouri Republican, May 25, 1855; “Criminal Court,” Daily Missouri Republican, July 20, 1855; 1860 US Federal Census, p163.

[8] “Criminal Court,” Daily Missouri Republican, July 19, 1855.

[9] Romeo, Sharon E., “Freedwomen in Pursuit of Liberty: St. Louis and Missouri in the Age of Emancipation,” PhD thesis, University of Iowa (2009), 45.

[10] “Mary Meachum,” Find A Grave Index, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89994519/mary-meachum.

[11] Andrew Hurley, “Narrating the Urban Waterfront: The Role of Public History in Community Revitalization,” The Public Historian 2, no 28 (2006): 34.

[12] “Henry Shaw,” St. Louis Walk of Fame, [WEB]

[13] Hurley, 33.

John Doy’s Forgotten 1859 Capture and Rescue

DATELINE:  LAWRENCE, JANUARY 25, 1859

Slave catchers apprehend Doy

John Doy and 13 freedom seekers are apprehended by slave catchers, January 25, 1859. (Le Tour du Monde, 5 [1862], HathiTrust)

In the early morning hours of January 25, 1859, three white abolitionists, two free blacks and a group of 11 Missouri freedom seekers left Lawrence, Kansas on a dangerous mission. Led by self-anointed “Doctor” John Doy, an Englishman who had recently settled in the Kansas  Territory, the African Americans were attempting to reach at least Iowa, where they would be safer from the roving bands of slave catchers and kidnappers that were then terrorizing the territory’s black residents. Traveling in two covered wagons—one driven by Doy’s 25-year-old son Charles, and the other by 23-year-old Wilbur F. Clough, the son of a local pastor—the group crossed the Kansas River and headed north towards Oskaloosa, Kansas. Leaving nothing to chance, the three women and two children in the group were concealed within the wagons, while Dr. Doy rode on horseback and the eight men walked behind, on lookout for any potential threats. About 12 miles north of Lawrence, Doy believed “the road was clear,” and directed the men to climb into the wagons “as we had quite a long descent before us, and would go down it at a brisk pace.” [1]

But then suddenly a posse of “ten to fifteen men, fully armed and mounted” rushed out from a nearby ravine, ordering the group to halt. Within the covered wagons, the freedom seekers could neither fully see the events unfolding outside, or defend themselves from the approaching slave catchers. When Doy demanded that the armed men produce their “process,” or paperwork attesting that those within the wagons were escaped slaves, a Kansas resident named Hiram C. Whitley gruffly pressed his revolver to the Englishman’s head, and bellowed, “Here it is.” In a matter of hours, the freedom seekers’ trek towards safer soil had been transformed into a horrific ordeal. [2]

STAMPEDE CONTEXT

While subsequent newspaper accounts did not explicitly label Doy’s group escape from Kansas as a “stampede,” presumably because the actual escapes from Missouri enslavement had occurred in pairs and smaller groups in serial fashion.  Yet, in the days and weeks following the larger group’s capture in Kansas, at least two Missouri papers complained about the growing frequency of slave stampedes along the border. The editors of the St. Louis Central Christian Advocate likely had the recent Doy episode in mind when acknowledging on February 2 that “stampedes of slaves are of frequent occurrence.” [3] Likewise, the St. Louis News complained that “slaveholders on the border are beginning to suffer severely from the constantly occurring stampede of slaves.” While not directly mentioning Doy, the paper’s description of a “stampede” closely mirrored the details of the the recent case. Missouri slaves, the paper contended, “are enticed in gangs of dozens and scores, by sympathizers, into Kansas, kept concealed in that territory for a time, and then sent toward Canada, through Iowa.” [4]

Brown photo

In December 1858, abolitionist John Brown led a raid into Vernon County, Missouri. (House Divided Project)

The capture of Doy’s group also came at a moment of especially heightened tensions along the Kansas-Missouri border. Just a month earlier, on December 20, 1858, the notorious abolitionist John Brown, had led an armed band on a raid into Vernon County, Missouri, that eventually freed 11 enslaved people (twelve, if you count a baby born en route). Yet when the party reached Kansas soil, their progress had initially been slowed by the chilly prairie winter, and they remained near Lawrence, Kansas well into January. [5]

Although a number of free African Americans and freedom seekers had settled near Lawrence by 1859, the frequent forays of kidnappers into Kansas made their status increasingly tenuous. Even as white anti-slavery settlers denounced these “high-handed crimes” and called for more “energetic legislation” to protect their African American neighbors, Lawrence’s black residents increasingly were taking matters into their own hands. [6]

Two of these black men from the troubled territory, Wilson Hays, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Charles Smith, from Brownsville, Pennsylvania, worked as cooks at the Eldridge House, a hotel in Lawrence. They probably joined Doy as fellow armed agents helping him with the relocation of the recently enslaved Missourians, or perhaps as part of a general contingent of free blacks seeking refuge in Iowa (as Doy himself later claimed disingenuously in his 1860 memoir). As Hays and Smith left no accounts offering their own perspectives, the truth remains uncertain. [7]

MAIN NARRATIVE

Regardless, the main body of the group consisted of 11 escaped slaves, including 10 from western Missouri and one from Leavenworth, Kansas on the border. At least six of the freedom seekers were from Kansas City and the surrounding area: Dan Bright, Ben Logan, Bill Riley, Abe Robey, Catherine West, and an unidentified child. Another enslaved woman, Melinda Wilson, hailed from nearby Clay County, Missouri, while the wife of Bill Riley (whose name was not recorded) came from farther east in Lexington, Missouri. Elsewhere, a man named Dick Newman had fled bondage from nearby Weston, Missouri, while Ranson Winston had escaped from St. Clair County, some distance to the south. The group was rounded out by Mary Russell, an enslaved woman who had escaped from Leavenworth, Kansas. The English-born Doy had spent several years in Rochester, New York, before relocating to Kansas. Regarded as a man of “considerable intelligence,” Doy was also a watercure (hydropathy) practitioner, and after settling in Kansas during the mid-1850s, he began signing his name “John Doy M.D.” [8]

Doy photo

A detail of abolitionist John Doy, 1859. (Kansas Memory)

In agreeing to help conduct the group to safety, Doy was also relying upon a verbal agreement with John Brown that the two groups of freedom seekers would set off together, sharing an “escort” of about ten armed men. However, the plan quickly went awry. Despite Doy’s “earnest remonstrances,” Brown demurred on his original promise, insisting that he needed “the whole of the escort” to protect his own group, especially after Missouri’s infuriated governor placed a $3,000 reward on his head. According to Doy, a remorseful Brown later expressed his regret over the decision, which left Doy’s group completely unprotected. [9]

Quickly overwhelmed on January 25th, Doy’s group had little choice but to surrender when the band of slave catchers suddenly encircled their two wagons on the road north of Lawrence. With pistols drawn, the slave catchers tied up the freedom seekers “one by one,” before turning the wagons around and beating a hasty retreat for Missouri soil. Passing near Easton and Leavenworth, the Doy entourage was taken at gunpoint to the Rialto Ferry, and then across the Missouri River to Weston, Missouri. Once on the Missouri shore, they were pilloried and jeered by a raucous pro-slavery mob. Doy, forced to ride through the crowd on horseback, recalled that “my coat was nearly torn from my back; the skirts and sleeves were rent in pieces, and divided among the mob as relics of a ‘live abolitionist.’” While Doy listened to the deafening chants of “Hang him!” echoing through the air, the 13 black men, women and children were placed in a wagon and driven to a building in Weston, where they were held for the night. [10]

Although Clough, one of the white abolitionists who had driven the second wagon, was soon released, after two nights in Weston, Doy and his son were removed to a jail in nearby Platte City. In a letter penned to a Lawrence newspaper, Doy vividly described the conditions of the windowless, “iron box, or metallic coffin, in which we eat, sleep, and are shown to persons, who, with a candle, take a view of the ‘two life Abolitionists.’” [11]

Yet while Doy suffered in a Missouri prison, the African Americans captured with him faced a more frightful fate. Elated at the capture of Doy’s group, the Weston Argus had published an extra edition on January 26 to chronicle “the most gallant achievement and effective vindication of our rights ever since the war upon slave property has been inaugurated.” Denying agency to the 13 freedom seekers, the Argus asserted that they had been “stolen” by “three white conductors,” who were now in custody. The paper published the names and descriptions of 10 African Americans, identifying the alleged owners of 8 of the captives. [12]

capture notice newspaper

The Weston, MO Argus trumpeted the capture of Doy and the 13 freedom seekers in an extra edition printed on January 26, 1859. (The Liberator, February 18, 1859)

From the two free African Americans seized with the group—Wilson Hays and Charles Smith—Doy learned that the other freedom seekers “had been taken away forcibly or prevailed on to choose masters.” Most, it appears, were sold to the Deep South within days of the group’s capture. The “thirteen negroes recently captured,” reported a St. Louis paper, were placed on board a steamboat “bound for the New Orleans market, a point that has no connection with the Underground Railroad—as yet.” And even though Hays and Smith continued to insist that they were free, on February 3 the slave catcher Jake Hurd entered the Platte City jail and “whipped them most unmercifully to make them confess that they were slaves.” Unable to extract a confession, Hurd and another man, George Robbins, nonetheless handcuffed the two men and took them to Independence, Missouri. While Smith managed to escape and apparently returned home to Pennsylvania, Hays was reportedly sold for $1,000. [13]

timeline doy

Another freedom seeker, 35-year-old Bill Riley, also made a successful break for freedom. Imprisoned in the Platte County jail along with Doy, Riley took hold of a fireplace poker from a nearby stove and succeeded in “burning out an iron bar from the logs in which it was fastened across the window.” Doy and his son were “shut up in an iron cage within the general enclosure,” and could not join Riley in his escape. After walking 10 miles, Riley reached the Missouri River, where he utilized the “floating cakes of ice” left by the frigid February weather to reach a small island the middle of the river, hiding “in the young cottonwoods” for two days and nights. After another dash over the “running ice” to the Kansas shore, Riley trod the remaining “35 or 40 miles” to Lawrence, where he arrived on February 23, making contact with local abolitionists who helped to conceal him. [14]

In the meantime, Doy was bracing for the legal consequences. His lawyers managed to move the site of the impending trial to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they hoped to draw a more impartial jury. The initial trial in late March resulted in a hung jury or mistrial, and Missouri prosecutors subsequently released Charles Doy. However, authorities continued with their efforts to convict the elder Doy, and succeeded at a second trial held in June 1859. Doy was then convicted of “seducing” one of the freedom seekers, Dick Newman, and sentenced to five years of hard labor. Prosecutors claimed that Doy had actually crossed the border into Missouri and “abducted” Dick. Doy’s defense countered that Dick had a pass from his slaveholder permitting him to attend a dance in Kansas. Dick, who when captured “had nothing with him but a bundle of clothing and his wife’s miniature with a lock of her hair,” was not allowed to testify under Missouri law. [15]

St. Joseph engraving

St. Joseph, Missouri in 1861. (House Divided Project)

While Doy filed an appeal, a contingent of Lawrence abolitionists decided to take matters into their own hands. On July 23, as Doy awaited transportation to the state penitentiary in Jefferson, a Kansas man named Silas S. Soule visited the beleaguered abolitionist, slipping him a note that simply read, “Be ready at midnight.” Soule was part of a group of 10 Kansas abolitionists (including Charles Doy), who by that evening had stealthily moved into St. Joseph. As promised, around midnight two men arrived at the jail, under the guise of locking up a horse thief, who appeared to be shackled at the wrists. Yet when the jailer allowed them to enter, the purported horse thief suddenly “freed his wrists from his bonds,” while another man aimed a revolver at the jailer’s chest. “We’ve come to take Dr. Doy home to Kansas, and we mean to do it,” one of the abolitionists bellowed out. “So you’d best be quiet.” Two days later, on July 25, the group arrived back in Lawrence to a triumphant reception. [16]

Doy prison rescue

Abolitionists from Lawrence, KS, rescue John Doy from his prison cell in St. Joseph, MO. (Le Tour du Monde, 5 [1862], HathiTrust)

Whitley engraving

A free-stater, Hiram C. Whitley had joined the group of kidnappers and put a revolver to Doy’s head during the capture of his group on January 25, 1859. (Andreas, History of Kansas [1883], HathiTrust)

Although Doy’s safe return was a source of celebration amongst Lawrence’s tightly knit abolitionist community, many were convinced that Doy had been “betrayed by a professed friend,” resulting in the group’s capture back in January. [17] “There were only ten men who knew when these people were to start,” noted Mary Brown, the daughter of a Lawrence pastor, “one of those ten must have told the Missourians all about their plans.” [18] Hiram Whitely, the Kansas man who had aimed a revolver at Doy, was suspected of having masterminded the betrayal. After skipping town, Whitley made the mistake of returning to Lawrence in August 1859, where he was spotted on the street by Doy and forced to give his own confession at gunpoint. In a surprising turn, Whitley then implicated a New Hampshire emigrant named J.J. Hussey, a former Free State advocate who had fallen on hard times and collaborated with the Missourians in exchange for a reward. It was Hussey who had apparently enlisted the help of Whitley and James Garvin, Lawrence’s Democratic postmaster, and tipped off the slave catchers as to the route of Doy’s party. [19]

pull quoteThroughout the polarized nation, the reaction to Doy’s dramatic rescue was mixed. With sectional attitudes over slavery hardening, many Northern newspapers greeted Doy’s deliverance with ecstatic headlines. “Never was a man more unfairly convicted and unjustly sentenced that Dr. Doy,” concluded the Cleveland Leader, predicting that “his rescue from the fangs of slavery will gratify many.” [20]  Yet such sentiments were by no means unanimous, with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle condemning the “feeling of gratification” at the escape of a “convicted felon.” [21] Meanwhile, Missouri papers such as the Hannibal Messenger fumed at the escape of “the negro thief.” [22] While no retaliation or punishment ever materialized for the rescuers, a Kansan named Joseph Gardner, later feared for his safety. Writing in May 1860, Gardner reported rumors that a group of Missourians were plotting “to come and make war upon my house,” after learning that “one of the Doy rescuers is harboring fugitives.” [23]

AFTERMATH AND LEGACY

Later, in the aftermath of John Brown’s ill-fated Harpers Ferry raid in October 1859, many newspapers drew connections between Doy and Brown. While noting that the rescue of Doy was still “so fresh in the recollection of all readers,” an Indiana paper incorrectly but confidently concluded that Brown had been behind the daring rescue of his one-time associate. [24] Moreover, the memory of Doy’s months-old rescue led many to speculate that a similar effort was in the works to save Brown from the noose. In November 1859, rumors swirled that Doy himself was rounding up a posse “for the purpose of rescuing Old Brown from prison.” Ultimately, no such feat was undertaken, and the famous abolitionist was hanged in December. [25]

While Doy went on to publish his Narrative (1860), vividly describing his imprisonment and rescue, the fate of the freedom seekers who accompanied him remains unclear. While most of the 13 African American men, women and children captured with Doy likely found themselves on the much-dreaded journey down the Mississippi to New Orleans, at least two men managed to escape this fate. Charles Smith, the free African American cook from Pennsylvania, apparently escaped and returned home. [26]

Bill Riley also escaped in mid-February, though the 35-year-old freedom seeker remained apprehensive about the fate of his wife, whom he suspected had been returned to her slaveholder in Lexington, Missouri. Riley and his wife had escaped bondage in Missouri around September 1858. They joined Doy’s group in hopes of reaching “a freer soil in British dominion,” in the words of Lawrence abolitionist Ephraim Nute, who sheltered the freedom seeker. While Nute helped Riley move to another safe location later in March 1859, it was without his wife. For Riley, his hard-fought freedom had come at a terrible cost. [27]

In the months after his dramatic rescue, Doy, now a fugitive himself, settled in Battle Creek, Michigan. After Missouri abolished slavery in January 1865, Missouri’s Republican Governor Thomas Fletcher officially pardoned the fugitive abolitionist on February 11, 1865. Yet it would not be Doy’s last brush with the law. In 1869, the self-anointed doctor was convicted of carrying out an abortion on a woman in Battle Creek. Facing jail time, Doy allegedly consumed a “large dose of morphine.” The former abolitionist was found lifeless in his bed on the morning of June 8, 1869, his death widely reported as a suicide. [28]

 

FURTHER READING

Doy published his own Narrative (1860) detailing his capture and rescue, and James B. Abbott, leader of the 10-man rescue party, later gave a widely reprinted address about the incident. Doy’s account is not entirely credible, however, since he claims repeatedly that all of the African Americans in his entourage were free, not enslaved. As the case unfolded in 1859, both Kansas and Missouri newspapers devoted considerable space in their columns to covering the failed escape and subsequent rescue, especially the Lawrence Republican (Newspapers.com). Correspondence between Lawrence abolitionists concerning their reactions to Doy’s capture and rescue, as well as information about the fate of freedom seeker Bill Riley, is available through Kansas Memory.

Recent scholarship has also touched on Doy’s capture and rescue. In her work On Slavery’s Border (2010), Diane Mutti Burke places the Doy case in the context of other “slave-stealing” episodes dating back to the early 1840s, arguing that by casting blame on white abolitionists as the instigators of slave escapes, Missouri slaveholders could avoid grappling with the reality of enslaved peoples’ discontent and innate desire for freedom. Lowell Soike’s Busy in the Cause (2014) focuses on the recurring and often violent clashes over slavery in the region, spotlighting Brown’s 1858 raid into Vernon County, Missouri, and linking that episode with Doy’s subsequent capture. Kristen Epps’s Slavery on the Periphery (2016) instead emphasizes the porous nature of the Kansas-Missouri border, observing that all of the freedom seekers Doy attempted to lead to safety had already crossed the border into Kansas.

 

ADDITIONAL IMAGES

ENDNOTES

[1] Julia Louisa Lovejoy to Mr. Editor, February 28, 1859, in “Letters of Julia Louisa Lovejoy, 1856-1864,” The Kansas Historical Quarterly 16, no. 1 (February 1948): 48-53; John Doy, The Narrative of John Doy, of Lawrence, Kansas (New York: Thomas Holman, 1860), 23-24, [WEB]; Lowell J. Soike, Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 102-103; 1850 U.S. Census, Wakarusa, Township, Douglas County, Kansas, Family 408, Ancestry.

[2] Doy, Narrative, 25-26; “From Our Kidnapped Friends in Missouri,” Lawrence Republican, February 17, 1859; Mary Brown to William Brown, January 30, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB].

[3] “Missouri and Slavery,” St. Louis Central Christian Advocate, February 2, 1859, quoted in Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1859.

[4] St. Louis News, quoted in Chambersburg, PA Franklin Repository, February 23, 1859.

[5] Epps, 125, 129-132; Soike, Busy in the Cause, 95-104.

[6] “Kidnapping a Felony,” Lawrence Republican, January 20, 1859; Doy, Narrative, 23, 126; Soike, Busy in the Cause, 102.

[7] Doy, Narrative, 23, 126; David Fiske, Solomon Northrup’s Kindred: The Kidnapping of Free Citizens Before the Civil War (Santa Barbara, CA Praeger, 2016), 80-81; Kristen Epps, Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2016), 140-141.

[8] Soike, Busy in the Cause, 100-102; Doy, Narrative, 123; “Thirteen Negroes Captured in Kansas,” Weston, MO Argus, January 26, 1859, quoted in The Liberator, February 18, 1859; Lovejoy to Mr. Editor, February 28, 1859, in “Letters of Julia Louisa Lovejoy, 1856-1864,” 49-52; John Doy to Strong, October 19, 1854, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; “Dr. Doy of Kansas,” New York Times, March 18, 1859, [WEB]; “Who and What is John Doy?,” St. Joseph, MO Weekly West, July 31, 1859; Ephraim Nute to Unidentified, February 14, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Nute to Franklin B. Sanborn, March 22, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Soike, Busy in the Cause, 102; Harriet C. Frazier, Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 1763-1865 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004), 152-159; David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 280.

[9] Doy, Narrative, 123; Epps, Slavery on the Periphery, 140-141; also see Diane Mutti Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010), 176-177.

[10] Doy, Narrative, 27-42.

[11] “From Our Kidnapped Friends in Missouri,” Lawrence Republican, February 17, 1859.

[12] “Thirteen Negroes Captured in Kansas,” Weston, MO Argus, January 26, 1859, quoted in The Liberator, February 18, 1859.

[13] Doy, Narrative, 50-52; St. Louis Democrat, quoted in Nashville Union and American, February 10, 1859; Nute to Unidentified, February 14, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; “From Kansas,” New York Times, September 2, 1859; Fiske, Solomon Northrup’s Kindred, 80-82.

[14] Nute to Unidentified, February 24, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Nute to Franklin B. Sanborn, March 22, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Doy, Narrative, 52-53; Epps, Slavery on the Periphery, 129.

[15] Doy, Narrative, 76-77, 88-89, 105-107; “The Trial of Dr. Doy and Son at St. Joseph,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1859, [NEWSPAPERS.COM]; “The Doy Trial at St. Joseph,” Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1859, [NEWSPAPERS.COM]; Frazier, Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves, 157.

[16] Doy, Narrative, 107-115; James B. Abbott, “The Rescue of Dr. John W. Doy,” in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society 4 (1888): 312-323, [WEB]; “Dr. Doy and His Rescuers,” St. Joseph, MO Herald, February 11, 1883; “Rescue of Dr. Doy,” Lawrence, KS Journal, July 20, 1907.

[17] Nute to Unidentified, February 14, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB].

[18] Mary Brown to William Brown, January 30, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB].

[19] “From Kansas,” New York Times, September 2, 1859; Doy, Narrative, 26, 124-126; Whitley later headed the Secret Service under the Grant administration from 1869-1875. See A.T. Andreas, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1883), 862.

[20] “Rescue of Dr. Doy–Particulars,” Cleveland Leader, July 27, 1859.

[21] “Rejoicing over the Ecape of a Convicted Felon,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 2, 1859.

[22] “John Doy Rescued from the St. Joseph Jail,” Hannibal Messenger, July 27, 1859.

[23] Joseph Gardner to George L. Stearns, May 29, 1860, Kansas Memory, [WEB].

[24] “The Late Movements of Ossawatomie Brown,” New Albany, IN Daily Ledger, October 27, 1859.

[25] Cincinnati Commercial, quoted in “Proposed Rescue of Old Brown,” Alexandria, VA Gazette, November, 11, 1859.

[26] Doy, Narrative, 50-52; St. Louis Democrat, quoted in Nashville Union and American, February 10, 1859; Nute to Unidentified, February 14, 1859; “From Kansas,” New York Times, September 2, 1859; Fiske, Solomon Northrup’s Kindred, 80-82

[27] Nute to Unidentified, February 24, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Nute to Franklin B. Sanborn, March 22, 1859, Kansas Memory, [WEB]; Doy, Narrative, 52-53; Epps, Slavery on the Periphery, 129.

[28] “Our Missouri Letter,” Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1865; “Michigan,” Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1869; “Suicide,” Lawrence, KS Journal, June 17, 1869; Paola, KS Miami County Advertiser, June 19, 1869; “Dr. Doy Dead and Buried,” Topeka, KS Kansas Weekly Commonwealth, February 24, 1870; Find A Grave, [WEB].

Database Report- St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican

Newspaper clipping from St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican

St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, February 22, 1862 (Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue and Cooper Wingert from April 8 to May 1, 2019
  • Keywords: slave stampede, stampede of slaves, negro stampede, negro exodus
  • Total: 26 (including five episodes from Missouri)

Top Results

  • “We noticed last week that a sort of stampede had taken place among the blacks, in the neighborhood of Dover, and that it was suspected that white men were concerned in inducing slaves, in that locality to leave their masters.” (“Runaways,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 28, 1854)
  • “We learn that between thirty and forty slaves, in the counties of Boone, Callaway, St. Charles and Montgomery, Missouri, have lately run away from their masters. The names and descriptions of the runaways are in the hands of the police in this city.” (“Stampede of Slaves,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, February 22, 1862)
  • “We saw five runaway slaves taken to the calaboose yesterday evening by persons who had taken them…The secessionists have charged that the purpose of this war was to free the negroes, and have talked so much about it, that it is no wonder their negroes leave them. They may blame themselves for the present stampede among slaves.” (“Runaway,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 20, 1861)
  • “But the successful arrest and extradition of no less than five fugitives on the third, opened their eyes to new danger…At one time they believed the Marshal had in his hands fifteen additional warrants for fugitives; at another, the story was that there were six hundred Missourians in the city looking for their lost negroes. Indeed, such has been the terror among fugitives during the last three or four days, that in every strange face they beheld a slave owner and in every lamp-post an officer. The stampede for Canada became general, with all who could get away.” (St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, April 9, 1861)

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General Notes

  • The St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican was published in St. Louis Missouri from 1854 to 1859. It is available in a searchable format in the State Historical Society of Missouri’s digital collections.
  • In addition the the article shown above about “Old Brown of Ossawatomie,” the paper published a number of other articles about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
  • “Thatcher’s letter” is the publication of a letter written by Lawrence Thatcher of Memphis to John Brown, but it was intercepted by the government on the way to Harper’s Ferry.
  • Not all papers digitized on the website are accurately searchable, so other articles about stampedes published by this paper may exist.

Black Authors and Fictional Stampedes

Delaney

Martin Delany. (House Divided Project)

Martin R. Delay’s Blake or the Huts of America (1859-1862) is often identified as the first black nationalist novel. It tells the story of Henry Blake as he escapes from slavery and tries to find his wife who had been sold away from him. However, Blake’s overarching goal was to unify the enslaved people and fight for freedom together. At first printed serially in a black owned newspaper, the chapters were later gathered and edited into a single work. Delany used the word stampede once in Chapter 30, “The Pursuit,” writing:

“The absence of Mammy Judy, Daddy Joe, Charles, and little Tony, on the return early Monday morning of Colonel Franks and lady from the country, unmistakably proved the escape of their slaves, and the further proof of the exit of ‘squire Potter’s Andy and Beckwith’s Clara, with the remembrance of the stampede a few months previously, required no further confirmation of the fact, when the neighborhood again was excited to ferment.” [1]

In this case, an incident that could be describe as a stampede reminds the community of a mass escape that had taken place a few months prior.  Delany’s usage, however, provides insight into how slave holders responded to stampedes. He wrote that the town’s “advisory committee was called into immediate council, and ways and means devised for the arrest of the recreant slaves recently left, and to prevent among them the recurrence of such things; a pursuit was at once commenced.” [2] Delany’s fictional account illustrates real white anxiety surrounding stampedes.

Harper

Frances E.W. Harper. (House Divided Project)

Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted by African American writer Francis E.W. Harper was published in 1892. The novel follows a mixed race family’s struggle with enslavement, freedom, and identity during the Civil War. The family “passed” as white. In the novel, Harper used the word ‘stampede’ three times. Each use was in relation to a single incident where a group of enslaved people plotted a mass escape to join the Union Army, camped nearby.

First, Harper wrote, “A few evenings before the stampede of Robert and his friends to the army, and as he sat alone in his room reading the latest news from the paper he had secreted.” [3] Here Harper did not use the term explicitly in connection with slaves, but Robert was an enslaved figure who was passing as white.  His friends were formerly enslaved people.

The next instance reads, “When [the Union Army] came, there was a stampede to its ranks of men ready to serve in any capacity, to labor in the tents, fight on the fields, or act as scouts” (Harper, 36). This was a reference to runaway slaves.  Harper added, “It was the strangest sight to see these black men rallying around the Stars and Stripes.” [4]

The final time that the term “stampede” appeared in the novel, it was when the character Iola announced that, “A number of colored men stampeded to the Union ranks, with a gentleman as a leader, whom I think is your brother.” [5]

 

[1] Martin R. Delany, Blake; or, The Huts of America (serial, 1859-1862; Boston: Beacon Press, 1970, reprint), Chapter 30, [WEB].

[2] Delany, Chapter 30.

[3] Frances E.W. Harper, Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted (Boston: James H. Earle, 1892), 32, [WEB].

[4] Harper, 36.

[5] Harper, 196.

Database Report -Making of America (Cornell and Michigan)

Stampede Report Missouri

OR Series 1, vol. 22, pt. 2, 746

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between March 29-April 4, 2019.
  • Keywords: “slave stampede,” “stampede of slaves,” “stampede of negroes.”
  • Totals: 11 hits

Top Results

  • In December 1863, Col. James McFerran of the 1st Missouri State Militia Cavalry reported a “small stampede of negroes from the vicinity of Lexington, [Missouri] carrying away two horses, which have not been recovered at last accounts.” (The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1881-1901), Series 1, vol. 22, pt. 2, 746; hereinafter cited as OR)
  • Recounting the December 1858 escape of some 11 slaves from western Missouri, with the aid of abolitionist John Brown, an 1863 book described “the panic which followed this invasion.” Fearing “a general stampede of slaves,” it noted, “the two counties of Bates and Vernon were soon quite cleared of their ‘chattels,’ which were sent into the interior or shipped to the South for sale.” (Orville J. Victor, History of American Conspiracies; A Record of treason, rebellion, &.c. in the United States of America, from 1760 to 1860, (New York: J.D. Torrey, 1863), 516)
  • The term “slave stampede” was also used by New York Sen. William H. Seward in May 1860, during his testimony before a Senate committee investigating the Harpers Ferry insurrection. He reported that Hugh Forbes, a one-time associate of John Brown, had “suggested the getting up of a stampede of slaves secretly on the borders of Kansas, in Missouri, which Brown disapproved.” (Report of the Select Committee of the Senate Appointed to Inquire into the Late Invasion and Seizure of the Public Property at Harper’s Ferry, (Washington: n.p., 1860), 254)
  • In 1853, the American & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society reprinted two advertisements using the term “stampede” to illustrate the increasing number of escaping slaves. A “negro stampede” from Kentucky, reportedly inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, had seen “twenty-five negroes” escape from Boone County, Kentucky. (The Thirtieth Annual Report of the American & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Presented at New-York, May 11, 1853, (New York: Lewis J. Bates, 1853), 144)
  • Writing to Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in November 1861, Brig. Gen. Alexander McCook at Camp Nevin, Kentucky, reported that ten “contraband negroes” had made their way behind his lines, while also informing him that “there will be a general stampede of slaves from the other side of Green River.” (OR Series 1, vol. 4, 337).
  • In 1861, the periodical The Living Age reprinted a speech by Edward Everett, in which the noted orator predicted that should secession be allowed to stand undisputed, conflict would still arise. “A general stampede of slaves shall take place along the Border,” Everett asserted, “with no thought of rendition,” sparking a “Border-war” spanning “a frontier of fifteen hundred miles.” (The Living Age, vol. 70 (August 1861), 283)
  • An 1863 book castigating the South and secession reprinted an 1862 article from the Christian Banner, entitled “Stampede of Slaves.” The article described “thousands of negroes in Virginia” who were “taking leave of their owners.” The book also reprinted another article from the same newspaper, referring to “the stampede of negroes” from Virginia which “continues with increased numbers.” (James W. Hunnicutt, The Conspiracy Unveiled: the South Sacrificed, or The Horrors of Secession, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1863), 369, 445-446)
  • Confederates also used the term “stampede” in their dispatches. Writing from Alexandria, Louisiana in early February 1864, Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor discussed hiring (or renting) slaves from their owners to serve as laborers for Confederate forces in the region. However, Taylor was determined to “obtain the consent of owners,” otherwise he predicted, “there will be a general stampede, and we will be held to be the cause of it.” (OR Series 1, vol. 34, pt. 2, 939)
  • The novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe used the term “stampede of negroes” in her 1873 publication, Palmetto-Leaves. (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Palmetto-Leaves, (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1873), 271)
  • The term “slave stampede” also appeared in an 1894 book by abolitionist Richard Hinton. Recalling a conversation with John Henry Kagi prior to John Brown’s slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Hinton noted that the first stage of the plan was intended to appear as “a slave stampede, or local outbreak at most.” (Richard J. Hinton, John Brown and His Men: With Some Account of the Roads they traveled to reach Harper’s Ferry, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1894), 673)

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General Notes

  • The Cornell and Michigan Making of America databases are free and available to the public.

Database Report -Hannibal Messenger

Stampede article

Hannibal Messenger, March 19, 1857 (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Missouri)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between March 19-24, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave and stampede.
  • Totals: 3 hits

Top Results

  • In March 1857, the Hannibal Messenger reported on a proposed railroad between Palmyra, Missouri and Quincy, Illinois, noting fears that “if a railroad connection from Missouri was made with that place [Quincy] we might expect a general stampede of all the negroes in the State.” (“Dr. Jeter’s Letter,” Hannibal Messenger, March 19, 1857)
  • In December 1859, the paper reprinted part of a letter from the postmaster of Emerson, located in northwestern Marion County, Missouri. He noted that “a day or two since a lot of negroes in this neighborhood were making preparations for a general stampede, but the scheme was detected before they got off, and their plans defeated.” (Hannibal Messenger, December 6, 1859)
  • The paper reprinted a widely circulated report of the Margaret Garner case, describing “a stampede of slaves from the border counties of Kentucky” in late January 1856. (Hannibal Messenger, February 2, 1856)

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General Notes

  • The Hannibal Messenger is available to the public through the State Historical Society of Missouri’s digital newspapers collection.
  • The paper also reported on one of our key timeline events, the escape of a large family of slaves from St. Louis in July 1856. Although frequently referred to as a “stampede” in the press, the Hannibal Messenger simply noted that “some nine negroes ranaway from Judge Walsh… in St. Louis. A reward of $1,500 is offered for their recovery.” (Hannibal Messenger, July 19, 1856)

    Stampede article Missouri

    Hannibal Messenger, July 19, 1856

Database Report- Chronicling America

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Naji Thompson over the course of a few weeks between December 2018 and February 2019
  • Key terms: stampede, slave + stampede
  • Results: 200+

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Top Results

  • In 1849 the North-Carolinian ran an article titled “Slave Stampede.” On Nov. 6th or the night of Nov. 5 the 50 slaves stampeded from the Missouri side of the river shared with Illinois. It describes a stampede of around 50 slaves of “all ages and sexes.” They were overtaken, their leader was killed, and the rest were captured.
  • Anti-slavery Bugle reprinted an article from the Canton Reporter in Lewis County titled “The Great Slave Stampede in Missouri” on February 02, 1850. It tells the story of a slave stampede turned insurrection. It reads “A [sic] excitement prevails in Lewis county, in regard to the recent attempt of the negroes to run away and rise in insurrection; and as many negroes are in circulation in relation thereto, we deem it our duty to publish a true statement of the matter as it occurred.”
  • Weekly National intelligencer reprinted from the St. Louis News on May 7 commenting on the number of slave stampedes from western Missouri ending into Kansas. It also writes of organizations “enticing” enslaved people to leave Missouri and then send “them down to Indian country “to be sold to the “Cherokees and Choctaws.” The article also tells the story of 50 runways from Lafayette County. The group stole wagons, horses, and a carriage. Finally, it says in a three-week time span around 300 slaves have run away from Lafayette county.

General Notes

  • Many of the articles were not focused on actual stampedes but instead discussed slave holders’ anxiety surrounding potential stampedes. They offer insight to the rationalization of slavers, who blamed stampedes on abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. They claimed slaves were being “stolen” away.
  • In addition, a considerable number of articles centered around John Brown and the planned stampede that was supposed to accompany the failed Harper’s Ferry raid.
  • The use of advance search allowed for the considerable narrowing down of results by years and by words. One useful search method was “terms within five words of each other”. This allowed me to search for the words slave and stampede not only on the same page but also within close proximity to each other.

Database Report- Charleston Courier

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue from March 4 – March 8, 2019
  • Keywords: stampede, stampeded, stampeding, various combinations of synonyms of stampede + slave (slave + exodus, slave + escape, etc.)
  • Total: 1 hit (but outside time frame)

Top Results

  • “One thousand negro men stampeded from their employers in Georgia in spite of contracts, and crops are consequently precarious.” (“Gleanings,” Charleston MO Charleston Courier, May 18, 1866)

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Clipping of article from Charleston Courier

Charleston MO Charleston Courier, May 18, 1866

General Notes

  • Charleston Courier was a newspaper run from 1859 to 1875 out of Charleston, MO in Mississippi County. The Missouri State Historical Society provides this paper online in searchable form through their Digital Collections Project.
  • While the May 1866 article is outside the project timeline, its usage of the word “stampede” in reference to free black sharecroppers, rather than escaping slaves, suggests staying power for the term.
  • In addition to the article search, I tested the accuracy of the database website’s text search function. Using the website’s advanced search, which allows users to search within specific newspapers, I searched for pre-selected terms found in a random selection of articles to check that each article was presented in the results of the search. Overall, it seemed that the function correctly found all the articles that contained the search terms.

Database Report- Boonville Weekly Observer

Article clipping from Boonville Weekly Observer

Boonville MO Boonville Weekly Observer, December 13, 1856

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue from March 4 – March 8, 2019
  • Keywords: stampede, stampeded, stampeding, various combinations of synonyms of stampede + slave (slave + exodus, slave + escape, etc.)
  • Total: 1 hit

Top Results

  • “The free negroes at [Murfreesboro], Tenn, took a compulsory stampede from that place last week. Their depredations had become insufferable to the citizens, and their pernicious influence among the slave population made them a serious grievance. Self-preservation compelled the whites to stringent measures to get rid of them, and a general stampede ensued during last week.” (Boonville MO Boonville Weekly Observer, December 13, 1856)

General Notes

  • Boonville Weekly Observer was a newspaper run from 1854 to 1856 out of Booneville, MO in Cooper County. The Missouri State Historical Society provides this paper online in searchable form through their Digital Collections Project.
  • The December 1856 article on Murfreesboro, TN featured above was originally printed in the New York Herald, explained in this post.
  • An 1855 issue of this paper uses the word “stampede” to describe a forced migration of Kickapoo Native Americans (Boonville MO Boonville Weekly Observer, September 22, 1855)

Database Report –Palmyra Whig

Missouri Stampede article

Palmyra MO Whig, November 8, 1849 (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Missouri)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between March 5-7, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave and stampede, including variant “negro stampede.” The term “stampeding” did not yield relevant results.
  • Totals: 8 hits

Top Results

  • In November 1849, the Palmyra Whig provided detailed coverage of the sizable “negro stampede” near Canton, Missouri, in neighboring Lewis County. Some 27 “men, women and children” armed themselves with “guns, knives and bludgeons” and made their way towards freedom. When they were discovered near Canton, “an effort was made to take them, which they resisted.” After a slave who “appeared to be the master-spirit of the party” was killed, “the rest were taken without much trouble.” However, the paper warned slaveholders and readers in general to “keep a vigilant watch on their servants.” (“Negro Stampede,” Palmyra Whig, November 8, 1849)
  • A week later, the paper reported that “the leaders in the stampede have been shipped to St. Louis and sold.” (“The Lewis County Affair,” Palmyra Whig, November 15, 1849)
  • In February 1854, the paper published the proceedings of a public meeting held in Fabius Township, Marion County, “that particular portion of the county which suffered in the recent stampede of negroes” in November 1853. The stampede cost the slave owners of Fabius “some $15,000,” the paper reported. “They have been wantonly, wickedly robbed of their property,” the column declared. (“Prompt Proceedings,” Palmyra Whig, February 23, 1854)
  • In October 1854, the paper reprinted a column from the Lexington, Missouri Weekly Express, which reported that “a stampede had taken place among the blacks in the neighborhood of Dover, [Missouri], and that it was suspected that whitemen were concerned in inducing slaves in that locality to leave their masters.” Local slaveholders accused “a party of Jewish peddlers” of providing the slaves with money and “maps, with the roads to be traveled marked out.” Several of the escaped slaves were recaptured after having crossed to the north side of the Missouri river, and one fugitive “resisted, and was shot before taken, but it is not thought to endanger his life.” (Lexington, MO Weekly Express, quoted in “Runaway,” Palmyra Whig, October 5, 1854)
  • In October 1856, under the heading “Another Stampede,” the Palmyra Whig complained about the “frequent departures of slaves for parts unknown.” Reporting on group escapes had become “a sort of regular recurring duty imposed on the local press of this portion of Missouri.” The most recent “stampede” involved a free African-American named Isaac McDaniel, who “stole not only his wife, but some four or five other slaves in the neighborhood” of Hannibal, Missouri. McDaniel’s party also “stole a horse and buggy belonging to his wife’s master,” to effect their escape. (“Another Stampede,” Palmyra Whig, October 23, 1856)
  • Quoting the Lexington, Kentucky Atlas, the Palmyra Whig carried a column about a “stampede” of “between forty and seventy negroes” from Kentucky. The incident ended after a violent clash and the recapture of many of the freedom seekers, along with a white college student who had assisted in their escape. (Lexington, KY Atlas, quoted in Palmyra Whig, August 24, 1848)
  • In May 1851, the paper reprinted a column from the Maysville, Kentucky Post-Boy, which noted that “during the past week a leave-taking fever has prevailed among the slaves in this section. On Sunday night a woman and three children, the property of Miss Weeden of our city, left. On Wednesday night, nineteen in one gang, left their owners in Lewis… From Nicholas several have also left within a few days.” (Maysville, KY Post-Boy, quoted in, “Negro Stampede,” Palmyra Whig, May 5, 1851)

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General Notes

  • The Palmyra Whig is available to the public through the State Historical Society of Missouri’s digital newspapers collection.
  • Coverage is missing from late 1853, when a major stampede on our timeline occurred from Marion County.