Tag Archives: 1840s

Database Report –Civil War Era Newspapers

August 28, 1860

St. Louis News, quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal, August 28, 1860 (Civil War Era Newspapers)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Alex Ghaemmaghami and Cooper Wingert between July 8-31, 2019
  • Keywords: “slave stampede,” “stampede of slaves,” “negro stampede,” “stampede of negroes,” “stampeding slaves”
  • Totals: 46 hits

Top Results

  • In late August 1860, the St. Louis News reported that “five negroes belonging o Mr. Edward Bredell, disappeared very suddenly from their master’s farm, some six miles form the city, on the Clayton road. The runaway party consists of a woman, aged about sixty, her two sons and daughter, aged respectfully seven, twelve, and twenty-one years, and a young girl, closely related to the family.” The paper suspected that “the captivating stories of freedom and life in Canada” had been “breathed into their willing ears by some Abolitionist.” (“Another Slave Stampede,” St. Louis News, quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal, August 28, 1860)
  • In August 1850, a correspondent from Baltimore noted that the “excitement in this vicinity relative to the recent movements of abolitionists, in stampeding slaves, is very great, as large numbers have recently been spirited away.” (“Our Baltimore Correspondence,” New York, NY Herald, August 11, 1850)
  • In Kentucky, evidence was uncovered of “another stampede of slaves,” when a “valuable horse attached to a sleigh” was discovered at one man’s doorstep, with “the horse in a profuse sweat and dreadfully blown, showing clearly that he had been driven at terrible speed.” The stampede “consisted of two men, two women, and three children, belonging to Mr. Gaines who claims the slave Garner, now on trial before Commissioner [John L.] Pendery. We learn that the latter gentleman has suffered another loss, four more of his slaves having absconded.” The paper then added “since writing the above we learn that still another stampede has occurred,” involving “two men, three women, and two children…. It is probable that they are all in charge of some expert conductor on the Underground Railroad and are by this time far on their way toward Canada.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, quoted in “Another Stampede,” Louisville, KY Daily Journal, February 4, 1856)
  • The Richmond Daily Dispatch reported in September 1857 that “a stampede of slaves was prevented a few nights ago, by the police. A Philadelphia vessel was suspected of having bargained for the wrong sort of cargo, and sundry slaves were known to have been making preparations for embarking. Both parties finding the policemen alert, gave up the enterprise.” (“Funeral–Death of Jordan Branch–Stampede of Slaves, &c.,” Richmond, VA Daily Dispatch, September 11, 1857)
  • Writing to a Richmond paper in February 1862, a Confederate soldier noted that “a stampede of negroes from the vicinity of Chuckatuck,” in Suffolk County, Virginia, “has made the necessity of… drafts even more apparent than before.” (“Camp News,” Richmond, VA Daily Dispatch, February 5, 1862)
  • In early 1864, a Memphis, Tennessee paper reported a “stampede” of “One hundred and fifty negroes from about Huntsville and beyond passed through here yesterday for Nashville. Large numbers pass through almost daily. The contrabands about here are also being sent to Nashville.” (“Stampede of Negroes,” Memphis, TN Daily Appeal, March 10, 1864)

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General Notes

  • ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers is a subscription database, available to Dickinson College students through the WaidnerSpahr Library. It is a separate database from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Most Relevant Coverage from ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: St. Louis News (quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal)
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Boston, MA Herald, 1846-1865
  • NEW YORK: New York Herald, 1840-1865
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: Charleston Mercury, 1840-1865
  • VIRGINIA: Richmond Daily Dispatch, 1852-1865

The 1848 Daggs Farm Escape

DATELINE:  LURAY, MISSOURI, JUNE 2, 1848

 

Iowa map

Missouri and Iowa border between Daggs Farm and Salem (Mitchell’s Atlas, 1866)

On the evening of June 2, 1848, a group of nine enslaved people fled from a farm owned by Ruel J. Daggs of Luray, Clark County, Missouri. The group included John and Mary Walker, their four children, along with Sam and Dorcas Fulcher, and their 18-year-old pregnant daughter, Julia. The two families were able to cross the border to the free territory of Salem, Iowa, where an antislavery community stood vigilant in order to protect the freedom seekers from what they considered to be an unlawful rendition. But it was there in Salem where 48 hours later a posse of slave catchers hired by Daggs discovered them, as one eyewitness described, “in a thicket of hazel brush.” At gunpoint, the slave catchers demanded that the fugitives give themselves up.[1] Before the standoff became fatal, however, 19 people of Salem were able to bring calm to the “chaotic [and] highly emotional,” scene, according to historian Lowell J. Soike. The Salem residents offered a compromise by suggesting that the alleged fugitive slaves be brought before an impartial justice of the peace. The slave catchers yielded. A few hours later, the judicial officer ruled that the Daggs’ posse had presented no evidence proving that the Walker and Fulcher families were legally enslaved. Moments later, in the midst of the abolitionist celebration, and in defiance of the court’s ruling, Daggs’ slave catchers seized four of the runaways–two Walker children along with Dorcas and Julia Fulcher–and rode out of town.

STAMPEDE CONTEXT

June 21, 1848

St. Louis Reveille, quoted in New York Evening Post, June 21, 1848 (GenealogyBank)

Newspapers were quick to cover the dramatic confrontation in Iowa across the Missouri border, but none seem to have employed the term “stampede” to describe an organized escape of nine people.  However, the absence of the term in this instance should come as no surprise.  It was only about a year before, in 1847, that newspapers anywhere in the country had begun to apply the term stampede to larger group slave escapes.[2]  Though none of the local or regional newspapers articles covering the escape from the Daggs farm in June 1848 used the term “stampede,” this episode was without doubt one of the most important cases of mass escape in the history of the Underground Railroad.   It involved a series of dramatic confrontations, both violent and legal, ultimately contributing to the collapse the federal fugitive slave code from 1793.

MAIN NARRATIVE

The slave state of Missouri possessed a unique slaveholding population. Census records indicate that 88 percent of Missouri slaveholders held fewer than 20 men and women in bondage (the standard threshold for plantations).[3] Born in Delaware in 1775 but raised in Rockingham County Virginia, Ruel Daggs, the son of wealthy landowners Angus and Lydia Daggs, was one of those slaveholders who was a slaveholder without being a stereotypical southern plantation master. Having first arrived in Luray in 1835 with six enslaved persons, by the late 1840s, Daggs became the owner of 16 people on his 160-acre farm near the Wyaconda River in Clark County, near Missouri’s northern border with Iowa.[4] According to local historian O. A. Garretson, Daggs grew concerned about the “spirit of liberty” that had prevailed in the West. So by 1848, Daggs had “realized the difficulty of holding slaves so near the free State of Iowa,” believed Garretson, and therefore inquired about “selling his slaves south.”[5]

Hearing he and his family would be sold south and in all likelihood that his wife and children would be separated, John Walker, age 22 or 23, escaped from Daggs’s farm alone in May 1848 to ascertain the means to free his entire family. During his initial escape, Walker traveled north into the woods near the Des Moines River, where he arranged a family escape strategy with white resident Dick Leggens (or Liggon) and, according to Garretson, a free African American named Sam Webster.[6] Then, after crossing the river into Iowa, Walker established relations with a group of known abolitionists in the small Henry County township of Salem, located about 15 miles from the Missouri border.

With a population of about 500 residents, Salem was among the first Quaker communities established in the Hawkeye State. The small towns of Salem, Denmark and Washington Village,  were, according to Soike, “the core antislavery communities in southeast Iowa.”[7] To Missourians and other pro-slavery communities, Salem certainly appeared to be a hotbed for antislavery activists willing to venture into slave states to “steal” those kept in bondage. But to Aaron Street Jr., a Quaker, Salem abolitionists weren’t raiders; rather, Street Jr. testified, the objective of the antislavery community in Salem was to help freedom seekers who were already “on their way to a land of freedom.” He explained, “we believed it right to take them in and feed them, and give them such directions and assistance, as we ourselves would wish bestowed on us, were we in their situation.”[8] Writing in The Quakers of Iowa, Louis T. Jones described Salem as a place where the children deliberately ignored “this solemn business” while the adults spoke “vague but [in] well understood terms” about the Underground Railroad.[9] John Walker, the fugitive from Daggs’s farm, quickly established an alliance with Salem’s leading abolitionists: Street Jr., Thomas Clarkson Frazier, Elihu Frazier, Paul Way, John H. Pickering, William Johnson, John Comer, and Henderson Lewelling.

Once finalizing an escape plan that included a safe house on the Missouri side of the Des Moines River and with a network of abolitionists from Salem who would help with transportation, Walker returned to the Daggs farm on June 2, 1848 to take his family to freedom. During the escape, three members of the Fulcher family joined the Walkers. The group, now numbering nine, was made up of Walker, his wife, Mary; their four children, Martha, age 10, William, age 6; George, about age 4, Armistead Poston, about age 1; Sam Fulcher, age 40 or 45, who labored as a tanner, shoemaker, and cooper that had the ability to write and keep accounts; his wife, Dorcas, age 38, who was known as a cook and a weaver, and pregnant daughter, Julia, age 18 or 19, who was also a cook. John Walker and Sam Fulcher were estimated to be worth $900 to $1200, respectively. Mary Walker, Dorcas, and Julia were each worth $600 to $700. Martha was valued up to $300; while William, George and Armistead were $200.[10]

That first night, the Walker and Fulcher families made it as far as Leggens’s remote farmstead before stopping for the night. At dawn a heavy downpour began, which delayed the escape party a day from continuing on their journey. During the wait, everyone remained festive as Sam Webster entertained the freedom seekers with his violin.[11]

Fugitives in rain

Enslaved family fleeing in rain (from William Still’s The Underground Railroad, 1872)

After the rain subsided, Leggens and Webster escorted the two families to a point along the Des Moines River that looked at the shoreline of Farmington, Iowa. Since the current had become “so swollen,” according to Garretson, due to the heavy rains, the two families with the help of their co-conspirators built a raft strong enough to cross the river into Iowa. Jonathan Frazier, a son of Quaker preacher and abolitionist Thomas Frazier, then met the freedom seekers in Farmington. Frazier hid the Walkers and Fulchers in a covered wagon and escorted the runaways during the remaining 20 miles north to Salem.[12] One witness said Salem abolitionist John H. Pickering owned the horses that were hitched to Frazier’s wagon.[13] In a U.S. District Court hearing on the case two years later, Pickering denied that it was his horses used to transport the freedom seekers. His brother, Jonathan Pickering, a proslavery conservative, told a different story, however. He accused his brother, John H. of transporting and harboring the fugitives, stating to authorities when he had confronted his brother about the runaways: “[John H.] sniggered in his sleeve and seemed to know where they were.”[14]

Daggs Farm timeline

It was Monday, June 5, when Frazier picked up the fugitives. During the time leading up to that day, Ruel Daggs had tasked his sons, William Rodney, age 36, and George, age 31, with organizing a posse from their neighborhood to pursue the nine fugitives across state lines.[15] The Daggs’ eventually enlisted the help of four people: their neighbor James McClure, a man from Farmington named Samuel Slaughter, and upon entering Iowa, McClure and Slaughter also employed the help of two men from Salem, Henry Brown, who knew Ruel Daggs, and Jesse Cook. On the morning of June 5, the four men discovered wagon tracks in the mud. They followed the tracks in the direction of Salem, where they spotted the wagon about a mile in the distance. They gave chase; eventually arriving upon the wagon, now empty and idle, outside the home of Thomas Frazier. After 24 hours spent combing Salem for the runaways, McClure and Slaughter returned to the original spot where they first noticed the wagon tracks while Brown and Cook lagged behind. They soon spotted all nine runaways in the underbrush near the wagon. Brown and Cook then arrived on the scene to help secure the Walkers and Fulchers.[16]

Concerned about her four children, Mary Walker was the first to turn herself over to the slave catchers. Likewise, both Sam and Dorcas Fulcher soon relinquished their freedom. And the pregnant 18-year-old Julia Fulcher also submitted to the captors. Only John Walker refused to be taken. His attempt to preserve his freedom failed, however, as he was subdued by the slave catchers and tied to a post. Slaughter was left in charge of supervising the nine captives while McClure traveled back into Salem to find willing men who could assist in the safe return of the runaways to Daggs.

Lewelling house image

The Henderson Lewelling House, Salem, IA. (National Park Service)

The delay enabled Salem abolitionists to organize an effort to rescue the nine fugitives. There is ongoing debate over the crowd size that surrounded Daggs’s posse. While most historical accounts estimate between 50 and 100 Salem residents gathered to free the Walkers and Fulchers, historian Robert Dykstra claims it was only “a dozen local men,” which included Thomas Clarkson Frazier, his brother Elihu Frazier, Moses Pervis, and William Johnson, “who appeared intent on keeping the captives from being carried off.”[17] Meanwhile, the press coverage of the incident reported that Slaughter, Brown, and Cook were “mobbed” by a large group of abolitionists.[18] The Frazier brothers stepped forward to negotiation with the slave catchers. Elihu threatened Daggs’s men that he would “wade in Missouri blood before the negroes should be taken.”[19] Thomas Clarkson offered a solemn alternative by suggesting Salem’s Justice of the Peace Nelson Gibbs adjudicate the case. To circumvent a physical disturbance, the slave catchers acquiesced to the suggestion of a legal hearing.

Word spread throughout Salem at a rapid speed, which resulted in the gathering of a large crowd around Gibbs’ office in what is now known as the Henderson Lewelling House. The crowd was so large, in fact, that John and Mary Walker were able to sneak away from Slaughter with their oldest child, Martha. That left three Walker children and the Fulcher family to undergo a deposition by Judge Gibbs, an antislavery sympathizer whose office in the Henderson Lewelling House would eventually be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Amid the commotion, Salem’s schoolmaster, Rueben Dorland, stood on a pile of lumber to “harangued the crowd,” wrote historian Louis T. Jones, in an apparent gesture to bring calm to the scene and advocate that the fugitives must be taken before the judge.[20] The justice’s office was too small for the large crowd that had amassed so the dueling sides agreed to hold the hearing inside the Friends’ Meeting House, which was commonly used as the venue for abolition meetings, located across the street.

Two Salem Quakers (Aaron Street, Jr. and Albert Button) served as counsel for the alleged runaways. A trained attorney, Button quoted from the Revised Statutes of the Territory of Iowa (1843) explaining that kidnapping of African Americans was unlawful because of personal liberty statutes in Iowa: “If any person or persons shall forcibly steal, take, or arrest any man, woman or child in this Territory. . . ,” he recited, “with a design to take him or her out of this Territory without having legally established his, her or their claim according to the laws of this Territory, or of the United States, shall upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars and by imprisonment in the penitentiary at hard labor not exceeding ten years.”[21] The slavecatchers, McClure and Slaughter, did not try to argue that point, by invoking the 1842 precedent from the United States Supreme Court (Prigg v. Pennsylvania) which might have easily challenged Button’s interpretation of Iowa’s “state rights.”   They either did not know about the law or perhaps chose to ignore the point.

1848 Daggs escape map

Regardless, Judge Gibbs ruled that McClure and his men did not offer enough evidence proving they were agents working for claimant Ruel Daggs. Gibbs, whose home contained three secret rooms for freedom seekers, also stated that since the alleged runaways had not been brought properly before him, he had no right to adjudicate the matter. He therefore concluded that the Walkers and Fulchers were “free as himself for all he knew.”[22]

Despite Gibbs’s ruling, there was a fight for the remaining alleged fugitives outside the Friends’ Meeting House. One of the slave catchers, Henry Brown, shouted at Sam Fulcher, “I’ll shoot that damned son-of-a-bitch.” The crowd prevented Brown from doing harm to anyone. In that instant, however, John H. Pickering led Fulcher, who was taking care of 6-year-old William Walker to Paul Way, an antislavery man described later by a witness at the trial as “an old man clothed in the working garb of the pioneer, with long chin whiskers and wore a pointed topped, lopped down felt hat.” Way delivered a horse to Fulcher and the Walker boy to use for a swift getaway. The others, however, were not so lucky. McClure and Slaughter seized Dorcas and Julia Fulcher and the two remaining Walker children, George and Armistead Poston.[23] The four were returned to Daggs’s farm by force.

Two days later, on June 7, a proslavery mob of angry Missourians estimated by multiple sources to range in size from 100 to 300 and “armed to the teeth,” according to Louis T. Jones, paid a return visit to the Quakers in Salem. Apparently, Daggs had issued a $500 reward for the return of his five at-large runaways. According to witness Rachel Kellum, the group from Missouri now brought with them rifles, pistols, knives, and a canon in order to occupy (and intimidate) the town. Though some conservative Salem citizens testified later that most of the Missourians behaved with “civility,” the slave catchers certainly laid siege to the community. Roadblocks were placed at every exit and quotationvigilantes were stationed as guards throughout the town. One eyewitness said members of the mob “snapped a pistol at an old crippled man.”[24] Houses were illegally searched, including the residence of Paul Way, who was able to prevent members of the Missouri mob from finding a fugitive in his home by threatening to shoot anyone who tried to climb into his attic.[25] The mob also paid a visit to the home of Thomas Clarkson Frazier, whom Jones later described as “the most vigorous abolitionist in the settlement.” Frazier was in fact hiding some of the runaways. Upon hearing the gang was headed to his property, Frazier helped the fugitives relocate to a nearby forest. By the following morning Frazier and several of his co-conspirators, Elihu Frazier, John Pickering, John Comer, and at least five more of Salem’s leading residents were being held under duress at a hotel.[26]

During the assault, two Salem residents were able to “slip out of town,” writes Soike, to obtain help from a sheriff in nearby Mount Pleasant and to recruit abolitionists from the town of Denmark. Though originally from Virginia, the Mount Pleasant sheriff arrived in Salem on the morning of June 8, intending to help his fellow Iowans. He gave the Missouri mob 15 minutes to leave town.  Then a gang estimated at about 40 persons from Denmark “determined to raise the siege” and, according to a reminiscence by Lindsey Coppock, a relative to one of the eyewitnesses, “with their bayonets in trim,” arrived and then some scattered violence ensued. The Missouri vigilantes quickly capitulated, but only after the Fraziers, Pickering, Comber, Way, and 14 others signed a pledge to appear in the federal district court for their actions in allegedly helping Ruel Daggs’s runaway slaves escape. By Friday, June 9, an interstate battle over slavery had been momentarily abated.[27]

Title page

Case report by George Frazee, 1850

Events in Salem were settled for just three months before Salem’s abolitionists entered in Ruel Daggs’s legal crosshairs. In September 1848, Daggs officially filed a $10,000 lawsuit against 19 men for the loss of five runaways and to offset cost for the services of his four slave catchers. The case Ruel Daggs v. Elihu Frazier et al. was finally heard in June 1850 with newly confirmed U.S. District Judge John James Dyer, a graduate of the University of Virginia, presiding. After engaging in private practice in Pendleton County, Virginia and Dubuque, Iowa from 1833 to 1847, Dyer had stepped into the federal judgeship on March 3, 1847, just a year after Iowa’s admission to the Union.[28]

Dyer acknowledged during the trial that the events in Salem were part of growing national divisions over slavery wherein proslavery and antislavery persons maintained a “warlike attitude,” especially over what to do with new territory recently obtained from Mexico.  He also noted the addition tensions over the recent increases in large scale escapes from Maryland into Pennsylvania, Kentucky into Ohio, and Missouri into either Iowa or Kansas. Dyer, who had arrived in Iowa by way of the slave state of Virginia, reminded the jury before it deliberated that the Court’s “business now is with the laws and Constitution as they are, not as we may think they ought out be.” He advised the panel to adjudicate based on the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law, which imposed a hefty financial penalty on any person “knowingly and willingly” obstructing hindering, harboring, or concealing fugitive slaves.[29]

Portrait

Augustus Caesar Dodge (House Divided Project)

However, the verdict did not end matters. The defendants’ attorneys soon asked permission to file a bill of exceptions with the intention of appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the strategy seemed to be one merely of delay. None of the defendants except for Paul Way was worth the amount levied by the court. All (or most) of them, however, apparently sold their property to their kin ahead of the trial with the aim of avoiding paying any penalty to Daggs. Accordingly, Daggs was never actually paid the fine that the verdict promised.[32] As noted by historian Robert R. Dykstra, the defendants’ decision to liquidate their estates before the trial might be considered “intent to defraud a creditor,” and yet they never faced either a reckoning on the funds nor a challenge to their financial maneuvering.  As Lowell Soike put it, Daggs “never collected a dime” and gave up his pursuit in disgust.[33]

AFTERMATH

Historian Lowell J. Soike has called this case “the last federal case decided under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.”[34] The controversies surrounding the case certainly contributed to the debates about strengthening the federal fugitive slave law in 1850.  Both of the Hawkeye US senators, Augustus Caesar Dodge and George Wallace Jones, voted for the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, as part of the Compromise of 1850, just months after the Ruel Daggs v. Elihu Frazier et al. decision.

There is a great deal of information about the participants in the 1848 Daggs escape. According to the 1850 Slave Schedule of Clark County, Ruel Daggs sold all but six of his enslaved persons not long after the episode. While his case was undergoing review in the U.S. District Court, he still possessed three males ages 55, 30, and 1; and three females, ages 40, 20, and 20.[35]

 

Daggs headstone

Ruel Daggs died in December 1862. (Find A Grave)

Daggs, who had 10 children (six sons, four daughters) to his wife of 61 years, Nancy Johnston (1777-1861), died on December 16, 1862 at age 87. He had married Nancy (originally Nancy Frazier, she had previously married then became a widow) in Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia) on April 26, 1800. All 10 of his children were born in Kanawha. He is buried in Daggs Homestead Cemetery, located 3.5 miles South East of Luray, Missouri. His son George, who assisted in assembling a slave catching posse in June 1848, ended up in California, separated from his wife. Ruel’s other son who assisted in the rendition of his lost slave property, William Rodney, was actually the elected justice of the peace of Washington Township and storeowner in Luray, Clark County. He ended up buying out the rights of his siblings and after Ruel’s death and built a new home on the family’s farm property. He had a cemetery constructed on the property, too, which is now the burial location of his children and the children of the enslaved on the Daggs farm. William Rodney was married twice and had 15 children (three to his first wife, Sarah Martin, 12 to his second wife Sarah Josephine Martin).

Judge Nelson Gibbs (1823-1903), the abolitionist-friendly justice of the peace in Salem that acquitted the runaways remained in that position until 1855. He eventually joined the Republican Party and worked as the sheriff of Hardin County, Iowa between 1867 and 1871. The importance of his office in the Henderson Lewelling House located today at 401 South Main Street in Salem has already been noted as both a national landmark and a recognized Underground Railroad site. The other judge in this episode, John J. Dyer, remained in his federal seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Iowa until his death on September 14, 1855. He died on a visit to his home in Virginia.

The most remarkable post-escape story concerns the fate of Julia Fulcher.  As noted earlier, Samuel Slaughter and James McClure had recaptured Julia, the pregnant 18-year old during the 1848 incident. Julia was thus re-enslaved but eventually obtained her freedom after the Civil War. At some point, Julia married Hezekiah Hall. For a decade after the war, Julia and Hezekiah lived and worked as sharecroppers on a local Missouri farm owned by Scott Miller. Together, they obtained a reputation for their industry, having worked the Miller farm, according to their son, with “honest, sweat and toil, minding their own business and managing their meager funds to the best of ability.” In 1875, they rented a 100-acre farm from Judge Givens near Waterloo, Missouri. They “did so well that they were able to purchase the farm from Judge Givens in a few years.”[36] To date, no evidence has surfaced about whether Julia gave birth to a healthy baby after the 1848 incident. On August 4, 1866, she delivered a boy named Samuel. Julia and Hezekiah also had a daughter named Vicey. Samuel married Lulu Mae Cole on October 29, 1902. Samuel and Lulu were still living on the family farm in Waterloo as late as 1956.

FURTHER READING

A search through digital archives will yield some important newspaper articles about the Daggs Escape. The June 1848 incident, which includes the hearing in front of Justice of the Peace Nelson Gibbs and the invasion by the Missouri mob, was covered in national newspapers like the New York Evening Post and New York Herald. There are also local papers that utilized correspondents to inform local communities about the event in Salem, Iowa. These papers include the Talladega Reporter (Talladega, AL), Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, KY), Palmyra Whig (Palmyra, MO), Burlington Hawk-Eye (Burlington, IA), Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown, IA), and The Daily Gate City (Keokuk, IA). George Frazee, member of the Iowa State Bar Association, recorded the full account of Ruel Daggs v. Elihu Frazier et al. case heard by Judge John J. Dyer in the U.S. District Court in June 1850. Frazee’s dictation includes sworn depositions and cross examinations by members of each side of the case, with testimony fromsome members of Ruel Daggs’s party, including George Daggs, who was responsible to round up a slave catching posse; Samuel Slaughter, the slave hunter from Farmington, Iowa that assisted James McClure and the Daggs family in pursuit of the nine freedom seekers; and Jonathan Pickering, who testified against his brother John H. Pickering. Testimony is also offered of those in the defense; in particular, Albert Button, the counsel to Daggs’s escaped slaves; and Jonathan Frazier, the son of Thomas Clarkson Frazier, the driver of the wagon carrying Daggs’ fugitives. Frazee also includes the voices of the seemingly neutral parties, such as school teacher Reuben Dorland who stood on top of a pile of boards to announce the nine runaways should be taken for Judge Gibbs; and Lewis Taylor, an eyewitness that attended the hearing before Judge Gibbs.

A great deal of information about Ruel Daggs and his children can be found in Harold Alan Daggs’s March 23, 1988 recollection titled “Daggs Family History.” It is a 28-page family history and reminiscence that presents short biographical portraits of Ruel Daggs, all of his children, as well as his wife, Nancy. The author is also transparent in sharing details about the family’s relocation from Virginia with its slave estate, including members of the family who were slaveholders and how much enslaved persons were worth. A small portion of the reminiscence recalls the 1848 Daggs Escape.

There are three important secondary sources concerning the Daggs Escape. The oldest source is by O. A. Garretson titled “Traveling on the Underground Railroad in Iowa” and published in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics and The Palimpsest, a publication of Iowa history by the University of Iowa. Written about 1900, Garretson’s account covers abolition activity in Salem, Denmark, and along the border with Kansas. A significant portion of the essay focuses on the Daggs Escape. Readers should be attentive, however, to the numerous minor inaccuracies in the  Garretson account that have since been corrected by historians Robert R. Dykstra’s Bright Radical Star: Black Freedom and White Supremacy on the Hawkeye Frontier (1993) and Lowell J. Soike in Necessary Courage: Iowa’s Underground Railroad in the Struggle against Slavery (2013). Perhaps the most noteworthy contradiction among the three voices is how the fate of Daggs’s nine runaways is portrayed. While Dykstra and Soike are clear that five of the nine eluded recapture–a point confirmed by all of the primary source documentation, including the June 1850 Ruel Daggs v. Elihu Frazier et al. U.S. District case–Garretson incorrectly claims that every freedom seekers made it to Canada. Why the discrepancy? Garretson’s version of the Daggs Escape appears to be his retelling of an as-told-to account from a relative. In his article, Garretson is proud to reveal that at least two ancestors (Joel Garretson and John Garretson) were involved in preventing Daggs’s slave catchers from succeeding. He explained that both family members were fervent abolitionists: Joel was among “the instigators of the plot to free their [Missouri’s] slaves” while John used his personal carriage to feed and shelter freedom seekers from kidnappers. On the contrary, Soike’s 2013 account of the events described in Necessary Courage relies on testimony from the 1848 Salem hearing in front of Judge Gibbs and 1850 U.S. District Court trial, along with a variety of national and local newspaper coverage. Soike, a former director of the Iowa Freedom Trail Project, was able to reconstruct the proceedings through depositions given by the slave hunters and Salem townspeople. It is still perhaps best to read Robert R. Dykstra’s 1993 interpretation of events surrounding the escape of Ruel Daggs’s nine runaways, which includes eyewitness testimony of events and a wide range of media coverage during the eight days of June 2 to June 9, 1848 and the subsequent federal district court hearing of June 1850. It is important to note that both Soike and Dykstra include chapters about the Daggs Escape in books that otherwise focus on Iowa’s more general Underground Railroad history. Yet both account do a fine job of placing the events of 1848 in context with the sectional crisis that led to the Civil War.


END NOTES

[1] Soike, 34.

[2] Cincinnati Allas [sic] in “Grand Stampede,” Danville (VT) North Star, May 17, 1847;  Covington (KY) Register in “Negro Stampede,” Worcester (MA) Bay State Farmer and Mechanic’s Ledger, May 29, 1847; “Miscellaneous,” The Liberator, July 16, 1847.

[3] Soike, 30-31; Francis A.E. Waters, “Anti-Slavery Sentiment in Iowa,” Washington D.C., National Era, November 21, 1850.

[4] Morgans, 94; Harold Alan Daggs. “Daggs Family.” (genealogy file). March 23, 1988. 11; Lewis D. Savage. “Former Slaves, the Success Story of a Clark County Missouri Farm Family.” Keokuk Daily Gate City, Sam Hall Interview, August 4, 1956. Retrieved at https://connect.xfinity.com/appsuite/#!!&app=io.ox/mail&folder=default0/INBOX

[5] Soike, 33; O.A. Garretson, “Traveling on the Underground Railway.” [Date unknown]. Retrieved at https://web.archive.org/web/20160826081248/http://www.garretson.us/Garretson.us/History_Articles_by_O.A._Garretson.html

[6] Garretson; Daggs, 12.

[7] George Frazee. “An Iowa Fugitive Slave Case – 1850.” 9; Soike, 28, 44; James Patrick Morgans. The Underground Railroad on the Western Frontier. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. 2010, 94-95; Dykstra, 92.

[8] Walter Edgerton, A History of the Separation in Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends (Cincinnati, 1856), quoted in Robert R. Dykstra. Bright Radical Star: Black Freedom and White Supremacy on the Hawkeye Frontier. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. 90-91.

[9] Louis Thomas Jones. The Quakers of Iowa. Clio Press, 1914. 189.

[10] Frazee, 10; Daggs, 12-13; “Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried.” The Daily Gate City (Keokuk, IA). April 13, 1915. 5.

[11] Ann-Lisa Cox. A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith. Little, Brown, Inc. 2009. 34.

[12] Garretson.

[13] The Burlington Hawk-Eye (Burlington, IA). July 11, 1850. 1; Affidavit of James McClure, taken at Farmington, Iowa, Daggs Case File, October 9, 1848 and “Deposition of Henry Brown,” taken at Fairfield, Iowa, Daggs Case File, March 22, 1850 quoted in Soike, 33; District Court of the United States. Southern Division of Iowa. Burlington, Iowa, June Term, 1850. Hon. J. J. DYER. presiding. Ruel Daggs, plaintiff, vs. Elihu Frazier, et al., defendants. Trespass on the Case. 6.

[14] Dykstra, 93.

[15] “Ruel J. Daggs.” Find A Grave. Retrieved at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29216157/ruel-j_-daggs

[16] Soike, 34-35; Garretson; Jones, 189.

[17] Dykstra, 93.

[18] Alabama Reporter (Talladega, AL). July 20, 1848, 4; New York Herald. June 22, 1848. 2.

[19] Soike, 34-35; Jones, 190; Dykstra, 93.

[20] Jones, 190; Dykstra, 93.

[21] Dykstra, 94-95.

[22] George Frazee, Fugitive Slave Case, District Court of the Southern Division of Iowa, Burlington, June Term, 1850, Ruel Daggs v. Elihu Frazier, et al. (Burlington, IA: Morgan and M’Kenny, 1850), 6; Soike, 37; District Court of the United States. Southern Division of Iowa. Burlington, Iowa, June Term, 1850. Hon. J. J. DYER. presiding. Ruel Daggs, plaintiff, vs. Elihu Frazier, et al., defendants. Trespass on the Case. 24-26, 38.

[23] Soike, 38; Garretson; “Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried.” The Daily Gate City (Keokuk, IA). April 13, 1915. 5.

[24] Dykstra, 96.

[25] Soike, 39; Garretson; Jones, 191; “Slave-Catchers in Iowa.” Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown, IA). March 4, 1914, 4.

[26] Dykstra, 96-97.

[27] “Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried.” The Daily Gate City (Keokuk, IA). April 13, 1915. 5.

[28] James Whitcomb Ellis. History of Jackson County, Iowa, Volume 1. “John James Dyer.” Jackson County, IA: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1910. 564; Ballotpedia. Retrieved at https://ballotpedia.org/John_James_Dyer; Dykstra, 97.

[29] Ellis, 564; U.S. Congress Act of February 12, 1793; Soike, 43-45; District Court of the United States. Southern Division of Iowa. Burlington, Iowa, June Term, 1850. Hon. J. J. DYER. presiding. Ruel Daggs, plaintiff, vs. Elihu Frazier, et al., defendants. Trespass on the Case. 38.

[30] “Missouri Slave Case.” Palmyra Whig. June 20, 1850. 2.

[31] Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, KY). June 19, 1850. 3.

[32] Dykstra, 103.

[33] Soike, 46.

[34] Soike, 45; Dykstra, 105.  Actually, the “last” case under the 1793 federal fugitive slave law as probably Oliver et.al. v. Kauffman, which originated in Carlisle, PA in 1847 but was retried in federal court in 1852.

[35] 1850 US Census Slave Schedule, Ruel Daggs. Retrieved at file:///Users/todd.mealy/Desktop/1850%20Census%20Slave%20Schedules%20Ruel%20Daggs%20.pdf

[36] Lewis D. Savage. “Former Slaves, the Success Story of a Clark County Missouri Farm Family.” Keokuk Daily Gate City, Sam Hall Interview, August 4, 1956. Retrieved at https://connect.xfinity.com/appsuite/#!!&app=io.ox/mail&folder=default0/INBOX

The 1849 Canton Stampede

DATELINE: CANTON, MISSOURI, NOVEMBER 2, 1849

 

November 8, 1849

Glasgow, MO Weekly Times, November 8, 1849 (Chronicling America)

“We came nigh having a general stampede among the negroes in our county last night,” reported a correspondent from Lewis County, Missouri in November 1849. “About thirty-five of them banded together and provided themselves with arms, determined to fight their way out of the county.”[1]  In a story that was full of dramatic intrigue, unexpected violence, wholesale capture and then the tragic break up of several African American families, it is remarkable that this attempted Missouri slave stampede on the eve of the Compromise of 1850 is not better known, nor more frequently taught in American classrooms.

 

STAMPEDE CONTEXT

At the time, however, the failed escape of nearly three dozen enslaved people outside of Canton, Missouri was a national news story of considerable significance.  The initial garbled reports, passed from Quincy, Illinois via the Missouri Daily Republican, and which appeared all over the country, claimed as many as fifty armed runaways from “both sexes.”  “THE GREAT SLAVE STAMPEDE IN MISSOURI,” was how the North American and United States Gazette in Philadelphia labeled the tragic event.  William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist journal, The Liberator, naturally attempted to evoke even more outrage with its coverage:  “Another Chapter of Southern Atrocities and Horrors,” was its headline for the affair, which the newspaper also explicitly described as an attempted stampede.[2]

 

MAIN NARRATIVE

Canton, Missouri in Lewis County was a small village situated along the northeast corner of the state and bounded by the free state of Iowa to the north and by the Mississippi river and the free shore of Illinois to the east.  White settlers from Virginia and Kentucky had first begun arriving in this region of Missouri during the 1820s and 1830s, bringing with them dozens of enslaved Africans to help develop the land for agricultural use.[3]

Lewis County was not plantation country. On the eve of the Civil War, only 19 slaveholders held more than ten slaves, and most of those had fewer than 14. In 1850, the county population included 1,206 enslaved people, 15 free blacks, and 5,357 whites.[4] The county’s largest slaveholder in 1850, Daniel Ligon, a Kentucky emigrant, owned 26 people. Other large slave holders of that era included E. W. Mitchell (17), James Miller (16), Eliza Morris (14), and J. W. Price (10).[5]  Manumissions were rare in Lewis County, and those few African Americans who were freed were supposed to receive a court-appointed “trustee” to oversee their affairs. The first regular slave patrols in the county had begun in 1836, but only for about 24 hours per month.[6]

In June 1849, then-US congressman James Green summarized a view of the enslaved black families no doubt shared by most of his Lewis County constituents. “Subordination in a greater or lesser degree becomes inevitable in the very nature of things . . .. [and] has resulted to the black in immense good, and incalculable benefit, both moral and physical.”[7]

Yet events in Canton on Friday, November 2, 1849, barely five months later, called into question this politician’s assumption that slavery was either inevitable or somehow good for the enslaved. The stampede began with a theft.  “A little before day on Friday morning last,” a newspaper recounted, “a negro man, belonging to James Miller, came into the house, ostensibly to make a fire. Before going out, Mr. Miller heard him step towards the gun rack, take something, and leave with caution.”[8]

John Ramsey, a guest in the Miller household that night, also claimed to have heard at least two wagons coming and going about this time, which was “unusual” before daybreak.  Ramsey was a neighbor of the Miller’s but staying with the family because he was soon planning to head out for California as part of that year’s “gold rush.”

The black man who had stolen the guns, called “Miller’s John,” was “very powerful [and] fierce as a grisly bear.”[9] An account written almost one hundred years later by W. K. Moore, the grandson of James Miller, identified John as one of two principal leaders of the stampede. The other, according to Miller, was Lin, an elderly woman owned by the McCutchans who worked in their kitchen. According to Moore’s recollection, John and Lin had been encouraging her ten-year-old grandson Henry to believe that he was capable of having prophetic visions.  One of these visions, according to Moore, was that all of the whites would be killed and sent to heaven, “except my mother,” then a small child, who was to be spared in order to become Henry’s wife.[10]

conjurer image

An enslaved conjurer (National Park Service)

After the theft of the firearms, Dave, an enslaved child owned by the Millers, was soon “pressed . . . into telling” the now-panicked slaveholder that African Americans belonging to the Millers, and two other neighboring families -the McKims and the McCutchans– were first planning to kill the whites in their homes, and then gathering all of the willing blacks in the county, before making an escape to Illinois and then on to Canada. According to Moore’s account, “Lin had already served coffee in the kitchen, after mixing it with gunpowder to make them brave and with some of her magic potions that were to render them invulnerable.”[11]

After learning about this gruesome plot, Miller alerted his neighbors and by daybreak 30 armed white men had tracked the fugitives to the McCutchan farm. “The negroes, amounting to between twenty and thirty, . . . had three guns, together with large clubs and butcher knives,” reported a local newspaper.[12] Beside those who had fled from Miller’s farm on the Sugar Creek, the group now included slaves owned by Judge William Ellis of Monticello, as well as Samuel McKim and James McCutchan, also of Sugar Creek near Canton.

As the pursuers approached, the escapees presented “an obstinate defense . . . [demonstrating] the most dogged and settled hostility, [and] peremptorily refusing to yield.” The flashpoint came when the slaveowners, “after waiting and reasoning . . . until all patience was exhausted,” began to move toward the slaves.[13] Following a yell, Moore recalled being told that, “Lin and John rushed forward.Miller's John dies John was armed with a sharp scythe blade bound to a short wooden handle, and Lin carried a bucket of boiling water, both dangerous weapons at close quarters. Two men raised their rifles and fired simultaneously, and John fell dead. Lin dropped her bucket and ran back to the others.”[14]

Following the death of their male leader, the freedom seekers initially refused to surrender. The Missouri Republican claimed that the standoff lasted four hours.[15]  But then, according to the most detailed newspaper account from Canton, the women “first gave up, and implored the men to do so likewise. Before the end of the time the men yielded, gave up their weapons, were bound and brought to Canton.”[16]

 

AFTERMATH

According to W.K. Moore, the Lewis County slaveholders quickly buried the body of “Miller’s John” in a woods near Sugar Creek, a small tributary west of Canton and several miles from the banks of the Mississippi River.  Moore claimed that as a young boy, he and his friends used to view that burial place “with eerie feelings.” Moore also recalled being fascinated as a child by a place called “Lin’s cave,” which was “a little mound back of a truck patch,” near the old Miller farm, where the cook Lin had reportedly kept her “roots and arbs” along “various trinkets” and “mysterious powders” that she had used for her conjuring.[17]

Benton headshot

Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton

The failed Canton slave stampede contributed in its own small way to the nation’s growing sectional tensions over slavery. It certainly occurred in the midst of that antebellum crisis. Just two months before the Canton stampede, the North-East Reporter had warned local masters to be on the alert for traveling northern Methodist preachers who might be “abolitionist emissaries . . . prowling wolves” to be driven out. Around the same time, the newspaper also attributed the escape of three slaves in Shelby County to the activities of US Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a free soil Democrat. Benton, according to the newspaper, might “at this very moment be concocting his hellish schemes, and persuading your negroes to leave you.”[18]

In the stampede’s aftermath, the Canton North-East Reporter quickly blamed the powerful Missouri senator, a recent convert to the anti-slavery movement. “When Benton came to the State last spring [on a speaking tour], all was peace—the negro was happy and contented with his master,” wrote the editors. “The Negro began to hope—became dissatisfied with his condition—began to plot to change it—and recent events are only some of the bitter fruits.”[19]

By contrast, the St. Louis Republican chose to focus most of its post-stampede ire on neighboring Illinois:  “Almost every day our slaves are induced, by the persuasions of Abolitionists, to abandon comfortable homes, and to entrust themselves to the tender mercies of pretended friends, who are sure to fleece them of all their money before they quit them. We published yesterday a telegraph dispatch from Quincy, Ill., announcing the stampede of fifty slaves, in one company, from the county of Lewis, and no one will doubt that they were aided in their escape by citizens of Illinois.”[20]

The Palmyra Weekly Whig was even more specific in its accusations, reporting just days after the incident that local residents had first noticed “a very suspicious looking craft” on the river just below Canton on Thursday, November 1st.  The newspaper claimed that the ferry boart, marked “U.S. Pounder,” had then quietly moved north of Canton on Friday evening but had since disappeared.[21]  The implication was that it had been part of the underground network to help spirit away the enslaved. Moore’s recollected account suggests another darker possibility.  His memory placed the small boat on the Mississippi River at Gregory’s Landing, about 14 miles north of Canton for several days before the attempted escape. “It was generally believed,” he wrote, “that men from the boat . . . prompted the plot in a cunning scheme to lure the Negroes on board the craft and, instead of freeing them, to ship them south to a slave market.”[22]

The only way to know for sure what was behind the Canton uprising would be to obtain testimony from the enslaved people themselves, but nothing has yet been recovered.  Nor do we even know the fate of figures such as Lin, or her grandson Henry.  The newspapers reported that the leaders of the revolt were all sold away to the Deep South, but otherwise there was no specific information about the African American families involved.

Timeline

There were notable changes to Missouri law and politics, however. In January 1850, Thomas Hart Benton was openly taunted about the episode on the Senate floor during run-up to the Compromise of 1850 debates.  Mississippian Henry S. Foote, an ardent pro-slavery southerner, called Benton “an indiscreet rhetorician” in the floor debates of January 16, 1850, blasting him for encouraging “the slave population” of Missouri “in twenties and forties” to “put themselves in full flight for the Father of Waters.”   When Benton then stormed out of the chamber, Senator Foote responded gleefully, “See, Mr. President, he flies as did those deluded sons of Africa among whom his eloquence is reported to have awakened a regular stampede.”[23] Historian Diane Mutti-Burke also notes that the events in Canton had an impact on state law.  “Acknowledging the potential for collective violence,” she writes, “Missourians enacted laws that made it illegal for slaves to congregate without a white person present, organized neighborhood slave patrols, and vigilantly watched for signs of trouble.”[24]  By 1853, Missourians had also created an active Anti-Abolition Society. About this same time, Lewis County instituted more aggressive slave patrols.

These and other efforts to deter slave stampedes had mixed results, however. In 1859, there was another Lewis County stampede that received widespread attention, this time a group of eleven freedom seekers from LaGrange.[25]  Yet the 1860 census listed only six fugitive slaves from Lewis County.  In the presidential election of that year, Lewis County voters also sought to sustain their peculiar institution: the Constitutional Union party of John Bell and the Southern Democrats led by John Breckinridge together attracted almost 75% of the vote. The eventual national winner, Abraham Lincoln of the anti-slavery Republican party, received only 48 votes—2% of Lewis County’s total.[26]  President Lincoln was still alive in January 1865 when Missouri abolished slavery.

 

FURTHER READING

The best primary sources for the Canton stampede come from contemporaneous newspaper accounts. The most complete report appeared in the Canton  North-East Reporter (microfilm only) on November 8, 1849 that was reprinted in the William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator under the headline “Another Chapter of Southern Atrocities and Horrors” and also in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on February 2, 1850. Other newspaper accounts from that fall and winter provide snippets of useful information, such as the names of the slaveholders and the number of fugitives. Numerous accounts use the term “stampede” to describe the affair.  There was also an important recollected account published in 1958 in the Missouri Historical Review. W. K. Moore’s “An Abortive Slave Uprising,” written 14 years earlier in 1944, offers a particularly vivid account from the slaveholder’s perspective. Moore was the grandson of James Miller, on whose farm the stampede began.  It is worth noting, however, that his narrative sometimes draws quite heavily upon the original newspaper account produced by the Canton North-East Reporter.

Secondary sources include a brief mention and useful context from Diane Mutti-Burke’s On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (2010) and also an important article by George R. Lee, “Slavery and Emancipation in Lewis County, Missouri,” Missouri Historical Review (April 1971), which provides a rich trove of background material on Lewis County.  Eugene Genovese also quoted from one of the stampede participants (by way of Moore’s posthumous recollection) in his book, From Rebellion to Revolution: Afro-American Slave Revolts in the Making of the Modern World (1979).  This passage is revealing for students of slave resistance and worth repeating in full here:  “Slave revolt leaders in the South had much less to fall back upon during the nineteenth century than their forerunners during the eighteenth or their counterparts in the Americas.  They were influenced by conjuring but were normally skeptical of its extreme and politically dangerous forms.  And they lived too close to their masters to deceive themselves.  As one rebel slave recruit in Missouri explained, ‘I’ve seen Marse Newton and Marse John Ramsey shoot too often to believe they can’t kill a nigger.’” (p. 48).

 

ADDITIONAL IMAGES

 


[1] “The Lewis County Stampede of Negroes,” (St. Louis) Missouri Daily Republican, November 5, 1849.  Also reprinted in “Negro Stampede in Lewis County,” Glasgow Weekly Times, November 15, 1849.  The correspondent to the Republican wrote from Tully (adjacent to Canton) in Lewis County.

[2 St. Louis Missouri Daily Republican, November 2, 1849. “The Great Slave Stampede in Missouri,” Cleveland, OH Plain Dealer, November 6, 1849. Chicago Western Citizen, November 13, 1849.  “Slave Stampede and Resistance –Their Leader Killed,” Baltimore Sun, November 7, 1849. “Stampede Near St. Louis,” Plaquemine (LA) Southern Sentinel, November 14, 1849.  “Slave Stampede,” Fayetteville, NC North Carolinian, November 17, 1849. “The Great Slave Stampede in Missouri,” (Philadelphia) North American and US Gazette, November 22, 1849. “Another Chapter of Southern Atrocities and Horrors,” The Liberator, January 18, 1850.

[3] George R. Lee, “Slavery and Emancipation in Lewis County, Missouri,” Missouri Historical Review 65, no. 3 (April 1971), p. 295.

[4] Ibid., p. 305.

[5] Ibid., p. 303.

[6] Ibid., pp. 300-301.

[7] Canton North-East Reporter, June 21, 1849. Quoted in Lee, p. 302.

[8] Canton North-East Reporter, November 8, 1849, quoted in “The Great Slave Stampede in Missouri,” Anti-Slavery Bugle, 2 February 1850.

[9] Ibid., and W. K. Moore, “An Abortive Slave Uprising,” in Missouri Historical Review, Vol. 52, Issue 2, January 1958, pp. 123-26. Although not published until 1958, Moore’s account was written in 1944, a year before he died. Aside from his description of Lin and her activities, Moore’s account repeats almost word for word much of the account originally printed in the Canton North-East Reporter, November 8, 1849 and which was then reprinted in both The Liberator, January 18, 1850 and the Anti-Slavery Bugle, February 2, 1850.

[10 Moore.  Some of the early newspaper reports also identified “Miss Miller” (Moore’s grandmother) as the legal owner of John.  See Concord (NH) Independent Democrat, November 29, 1849.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Anti-Slavery Bugle.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Moore.  The contemporary newspaper account identify John’s shooters as Captain J.H. Blair and John Fretwell.  See The Liberator, January 18, 1850.

[15] St. Louis Missouri Daily Republican quoted in “Apprehension of Runaway Negroes,” National Anti-Slavery Standard, January 17, 1850.

[16] Anti-Slavery Bugle.

[17] Moore

[18] Lee, p. 310.

[19] Canton North-East Reporter, November 8, 1849 quoted in Lee.

[20] Quoted in “The Peculiar Institution: Apprehension of Runaway Negroes-Conduct of Abolitionists in Illinois,” National Anti-Slavery Standard, January 17, 1850.

[21] “Negro Stampede,” Palmyra Weekly Whig, November 8, 1849.

[22] Moore.

[23] Henry Foote quoted in Washington DC National Intelligencer, January 19, 1850.

[24] Diane Mutti-Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010), 186.

[25] “Negro Stampede,” Glasgow Weekly Times, November 17, 1859; “Negro Stampede,” Press and Tribune (Chicago, IL), November 17, 1859.  ‘”Stampede of Negroes from Lewis,” Louisiana Journal, 7 June 1860; Harriet C. Frazier, Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 1763-1865 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc., 2004), 102.

[26] Lee, p. 311.

Database Report –Historical Newspapers

March 31, 1863

Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1863 (Historical Newspapers)

Search Summary:

  • Search conducted by Alex Ghaemmaghami between July 8-15, 2019
  • Keywords: “stampede + slave,” “stampede + Missouri,” “negro stampede,” “exodus of negroes, stampeding, “freedom suits”
  • Total Relevant Articles: 26 (3 about Missouri)

Top Results:

  • “We learn from the Lagrange (Mo.) American, of the 12th That about a dozen ‘likely, intelligent and valuable slaves escaped from that city during last week, and are supposed to be now beyond reach of pursuit.” (“Negro Stampede,” Chicago Press and Tribune, November 11, 1859)
  • “The Canton, Lewis county, Mo., reporter, gives the following account of the recent great slave stampede there…” (“Another Chapter of Southern Atrocities and Horrors,” Boston Liberator, January 18, 1850)
  • “Some thirty or forty American citizens of African descent … quietly abolished themselves into Illinois.” (Hannibal, MO Courier, quoted in “Slave Stampede,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1861)
  • “It seems, from the information at Lexington, [KY] that Mr. Doyle has been the active agent in getting up the recent stampede among the negroes of Fayette county…. From this place, he made his escape, and next turns up at Lexington, engaged in the giant stampede of negroes from the interior of Kentucky.” (“Doyle, the Negro Abductor,” Pittsburgh, PA Daily Morning Post, August 21, 1848)

Select Images

General Notes
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers is a subscription database available to Dickinson College students through the Waidner-Spahr Library. It is separate from ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers.
  • Using the date range tool helped narrow the number of results drastically, as well as using quotation marks for key phrases and commas between key terms.
  • Many results detailing stampedes from Kentucky to Ohio

Most Relevant Coverage from ProQuest Historical Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: LaGrange, MO American (quoted in Chicago Tribune) and Hannibal, MO Courier (quoted in Chicago Tribune)
  • ILLINOIS: Chicago Tribune, 1848-1863
  • NEW YORK: New York Times, 1857-1863
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Philadelphia Inquirer, 1860-1863

Database Report -Newspapers.com

November 18, 1859

Cleveland OH Daily Leader, November 18, 1859 (Newspapers.com)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between June 28, 2019-July 16, 2019
  • Keywords: slave stampede
  • Totals: Approximately 600 hits, with concentrations of stampede attempts from Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and Missouri.
  • NOTE: Due to extensive results, this search was stopped at December 1859.  We still need to complete the database report with the war years.

Top Results

  • “A regular stampede took place among the slaves of Mr. J. Mattingly, near St. Louis, on the night of the 13th inst. Seven of them made their escape.” (Marshall, TX Texas Republican, July 31, 1852)
  • Quoting the St. Louis Democrat, the Pittsburgh Gazette printed an article headlined “Stampede Among the Africans.” Noting that “some fifteen or twenty slaves departed this city [St. Louis] for the colder climates of the north,” the paper reported that the freedom seekers “probably decamped about midnight, having, under the permission of their owners to attend church, gathered themselves together and set out in a company. Heavy rewards have been offered by their owners, and officers are in close pursuit of them.” (St. Louis Democrat, quoted in “Stampede Among the Africans,” Pittsburgh, PA Gazette, October 30, 1854)
  • In late 1854, the Milwaukee Weekly Wisconsin reported that “the St. Louis papers are very much exercised over the frequent stampede of slaves, and their almost impossible recovery after they once get as far as Chicago….” (Milwaukee, Wi Weekly Wisconsin, December 20, 1854)
  • “In Missouri, surrounded as she is by free States, stampedes of slaves are of frequent occurrence. You cannot take up one of the city papers without seeing an advertisement with its accompanying reward for the recovery of runaway slaves.” (St. Louis Central Christian Advocate,  February 2, 1859, quoted in “Missouri and Slavery,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1859)
  • In November 1859, a Glasgow, Missouri paper reported a “negro stampede” of 11 enslaved people from La Grange, Missouri. “The fugitives stole a flat boat from this place, in which it is supposed they crossed the river.–The boat was caught at or near Quincy. If these slaves succeed in making a permanent escape, it will be the third or fourth successful stampede that has taken place from LaGrange in the past three of four months.” (“Negro Stampede,” Glasgow, MO Weekly Times, November 17, 1859)
  • Quoting from the Cincinnati Atlas, a Vermont serial published an article titled “Grand Stampede.” Noting that “between twenty and twenty-five negroes, belonging to different plantations in Kenton Co. Ky., across the river, left for parts unknown, via the state of Ohio.” (Cincinnati Atlas, quoted in “Grand Stampede,” Danville, VT North Star, May 17, 1847)
  • A Washington, D.C. paper reported that “a stampede of negro slaves took place at Maysville, Ky., a few days ago. They are gone to help to people the wilds of Ohio and Canada.” (Washington, D.C. Daily National Whig, May 26, 1847)
  • Reporting an escape of 20 enslaved people near Baltimore, the Charleston Courier related: “These stampedes are becoming every day occurrences.” (Charleston, SC Courier, quoted in New Orleans Weekly Delta, September 18, 1848)
  • An article titled “Stampede” in the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Herald reported “a great commotion among the slave owners of Maryland, in consequence of the large numbers of slaves who have seen proper to take ‘French leave’ of their masters, and emigrate into free states. The papers published in border counties come teeming full of advertisements offering rewards for runaways, and editorial notices of the absconding of whole gangs and families of slaves, who are seldom ever caught, and only heard of when safe far north of Mason & Dixon’s line…. Several instances have occurred lately, of gangs of slaves having run away in one night, and successfully got off, whose value would be from 5,000 to $8,000.” (“Stampede,” Carlisle, PA Weekly Herald, September 19, 1849)
  • While noting that the escape of a “troop of slaves from Kentucky into Ohio” would “be a source of great irritation in that part of the country,” a correspondent for the New York Times commented that “there have been more cases of such ‘stampedes,’ (to use a phrase imported from Mexico,) during the last two years, since the Fugitive act has been in existence, than ever before.” (“Washington,” New York Times, October 4, 1852)
  • Reporting that “several negro stampedes have recently taken place in different parts the State,” the Kentucky Yeoman noted “the negroes are running away in scores, assisted and urged on, doubtless, by northern abolitionists…. If they continue their negro-stealing and negro-harboring business at the present rate, and their orators are permitted to canvas Kentucky and preach their incendiary doctrines to our slaves, the result will ere long be terrible. The people of Kentucky will not quietly submit to such robberies.” (Kentucky Yeoman, “Negro Stampedes,” Huntsville, AL Democrat, October 21, 1852)
  • Grappling with the frequency of escapes, the Richmond Dispatch somewhat sarcastically proposed forming a “fugitive slave police” by commissioning “one or more small and fast-sailing vessels,” which would be stationed “near the Capes.” The paper groused that “one stampede of negroes, such as has lately occurred here in Richmond, costs more than the purchase, manning, and support of two such vessels for five years.” (Richmond Dispatch, quoted in Washington, D.C. National Era, “Fugitive Slave Police,” May 5, 1854)
  • “On Saturday night a serious stampede of slaves occurred in Richmond. Five likely and valuable slaves made off to parts unknown, one of them taking $1506 of his master’s money with him.” (Vicksburg, MS Vicksburg Daily Whig, February 13, 1855)
  • A parody “procession” or parade described by a Buffalo, New York newspaper included the “Editor of the Cincinnati Commercial, with a model of a cotton boat and a slave stampede.” (Buffalo, NY Daily Republic, July 3, 1855)
  • A New York Times column claimed that the “silent operations of the ‘Underground Railroad'” were exercising a “powerful effect in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Kentucky,” where “stampedes have become more frequent than ever, and the border counties of the Slave States are fast losing their laboring population.” (“The Underground Railroad,” New York Times, November 30, 1855)
  • The Buffalo, New York Morning Express used the term “Servile Stampede” when reporting the escape of 11 enslaved people from Loudon County, Virginia. (“Servile Stampede,” Buffalo, NY Morning Express, September 23, 1856)
  • In December 1856, the Baltimore Sun used the terms “stampede” and “insurrection” interchangeably. While noting “the arrest of two negro men suspected of plotting an insurrection among the blacks,” the paper suggested that “it would be well for the organized patrol parties to be vigilant, lest a ‘stampede’ in some quarter might take place.” (“An Excitement,” Baltimore Sun, December 6, 1856)
  • In June 1857, a Mississippi paper reported a “negro stampede” consisting of “no less than thirty-one negroes” who had “disappeared from the neighborhood of Fort Adams within the past month. They have either run away or been stolen.” (Natchez, MS Courier, quoted in “Negro Stampede,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 27, 1857)
  • The Carlisle Herald reported a “stampede” of “eleven runaway slaves, from Carroll county, Maryland” who “passed through the principal street of Carlisle. Their masters were here on Monday in hot pursuit.” (“Stampede of Slaves,” Carlisle, PA Weekly Herald, October 7, 1857)
  • The Washington, D.C. Evening Star noted “a stampede of slaves took place from this city on Saturday night. From the number that is missing, it is thought that they were taken away in some northern vessel.” (Washington, D.C. Evening Star, July 28, 1859)
  • In the immediate wake of John Brown’s October 1859 Harpers Ferry raid, many papers reported the incident as an attempted stampede. “The idea was to hold the town long enough to concentrate the negroes by hundreds and thousands from miles around,” reported a Connecticut paper, “and then, when retreat became necessary, make a grand stampede across the Maryland line into Pennsylvania.” (Hartford, CT Courant, October 19, 1859)

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General Notes

  • Newspapers.com is a subscription database.
  • Stampedes could also head for destinations to the south. “Texas negroes, of late, are in the habit of running off to Mexico in droves,” reported a Pennsylvania paper, “tempted thither by wandering tribes of women, wandering about like gypsies. So it is said. The slaveholders, however, are organizing, to prevent a continuance of the stampede.” (Towanda, PA Bradford Reporter, October 28, 1854)
  • Likewise, a Washington, D.C. serial reported “a stampede of fifteen slaves” from Key West, Florida. “A small sail boat, belonging to the Sand-Key Lighthouse, with a month’s supply of provisions for the keeper and assistants on board, was taken by the negroes, and in it they were able to elude their pursuers. It is thought they have gone to Nassau.” (Washington, D.C. Evening Star, February 18, 1858)
  • The term was also used to describe the “stampede” of slaves being sold farther south to preclude escape attempts. A Kansas newspaper detailed “a perfect stampede of slaves from Western Missouri, their masters selling them off South, or removing with them to that section.” (“Personal,” Lawrence, KS Western Home Journal, November 18, 1858)
  • Describing the sale and relocation of many enslaved Missourians to locations in the deep South, a Pennsylvania paper noted that “there are upwards of four hundred slaves leaving Missouri every week, nearly all of whom go south.” Styling it “The Missouri Stampede,” the serial noted that “this movement in the slave market is occasioned partly by the high prices obtained, and partly by causes having no reference to prices.” (“The Missouri Stampede,” Gettysburg, PA Adams Sentinel, October 10, 1859)

Most Relevant Coverage from Genealogy Bank Database

  • MISSOURI:  Glasgow Weekly Times – 1848-1859
  • ILLINOIS:  Chicago Tribune – 1849-1859
  • MARYLAND:  Baltimore Sun – 1847-1859
  • NEW YORK: Buffalo Morning Express – 1847-1859
  • VIRGINIA:  Richmond Dispatch – 1852-1859

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.

Database Report –Western Citizen

Missouri Stampede article

Chicago, IL Western Citizen, November 13, 1849

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert from February 8-March 1, 2019
  • Keywords:  Microfilm research, with a focus on coverage of major timeline events
  • Totals:  2 hits
  • NOTE: We will update this post once we have completed the digitization of the Western Citizen.

Top Results

  • The paper included a very brief report on the November 1849 stampede from Canton, Missouri, noting that “the slaves who stampeded” were “overpowered, after a desperate resistance.” (Chicago IL Western Citizen, November 13, 1849)

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Maryland stampede article

Chicago, IL Western Citizen, September 28, 1852

General Notes

  • Generally, the major stampedes on our timeline are not being covered by the Western Citizen.
  • Coverage of November 1853 is missing.
  • In December 1853, the paper changed its name to The Free West.

Database Report –Genealogy Bank

Stampede Article

Plaquemine, LA Southern Sentinel, November 14, 1849 (Genealogy Bank Database)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between December 12, 2018-January 9, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave and stampede, including variants: “negro stampede,” “black stampede,” “general stampede” and “regular stampede.”
  • Totals: Approximately 600 hits with concentrations of stampede attempts from Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and Missouri
  • NOTE:  Because of extensive results, this search was limited to the above terms.  We still need to attempt a wider array of search terms in GenealogyBank

Top Results

  • In September 1852, the St. Louis Missouri Republican directed its readers’ attention to a “large reward for the apprehension of runaway negroes” involved in a “negro stampede” from St. Genevieve, Missouri. (“Negro Stampede-Large Reward,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 11, 1852)
  • In early November 1859, abolitionist papers cheered the “recent arrival at Detroit of a cargo of live freight consisting of twenty-six chattels all the way form Missouri.” (“The Detroit Underground Train,” New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, November 12, 1859)
  • A “negro stampede” in December 1859 included “thirty passengers, five from the vicinity of Richmond, Va., twelve from Kentucky and thirteen from Missouri.” The group arrived in Chicago, and later successfully journeyed to Canada. The Missouri fugitives “were sold to go down the river the very day they started,” and were prepared to fight off any pursuers. “A stalwart six-footer and a Sharpe’s rifle were the only guides.” (“Negro Stampede,” Raleigh North Carolina Standard, December 21, 1859)
  • Multiple columns quoted a St. Genevieve, Missouri paper, which described a “stampede of negroes” from St. Genevieve County during the fall of 1862. The account detailed the decline of slavery throughout Missouri, including St. Louis, where “there were only 1400 slaves… two years ago, and the best judges now estimate that there are less than 500, and these principally old and decrepit home servants.” Overall, “negro property in Missouri has depreciated, and it is said to be nearly impossible to sell a slave anywhere in the country for one-fifth the ordinary price.” (“Slavery in Missouri,” New Orleans Daily Delta, November 13, 1862)
  • In 1848, the Louisville Journal detailed an elaborate plan for a stampede of “about forty negroes” in Woodford County. Equipped with free passes, “each was to steal a horse and cross the Ohio river before day.” The stampede was “frustrated” when another slave revealed the plot. (“Stampede Frustrated,” Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, October 21, 1848)
  • A May 1850 column reported on a rumored slave insurrection near White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, suggesting instead that it was “simply a projected ‘stampede’ of slaves in the elegant frontier style of the day. These flights are becoming so frequent that they seem to be expected as a matter of course by the owners, nor does the offering of rewards seem usually to be attended with success.” (“Washington Correspondence,” Boston Recorder, May 23, 1850)
  • Commenting on the frequency of stampedes, a Worcester, Massachusetts paper gleefully reported that “scarcely a day passes, on which we do not hear it stated, that there has been a stampede–a flight of slaves from the prison-house of Southern bondage…. These stampedes, from their inception to the issue of them, are the most heroic events in American history; and yet they are made the greatest of American political crimes.” (“Stampedes,” Worcester, MA Spy, November 17, 1852)
  • In the aftermath of John Brown’s failed Harpers Ferry uprising, one abolitionist paper defended Brown’s plan to “run slaves, rather than free them by the slow process of legal and social reform.” “The Stampede is only a practical use of the Bill of Rights which God incorporated in the charter of human existence,” the paper argued. (New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, November 26, 1859)
  • A Charleston, South Carolina correspondent for the New York Tribune reported a stampede plot among the city’s slaves in the midst of the Secession Crisis in early 1861. “The idea which possessed the slaves seems to have been that the moment the first gun was fired in Charleston Harbor, they should make a stampede, taking with them all the property they could lay their hands upon.” He confidently predicted that this was “no singular case,” and that “the first gun fired against the United States Government will explode a powder magazine the vaults of which extend beneath the feet of the whole South.” (“From South Carolina,” New York Tribune, April 2, 1861)
  • By the fall of 1863, newspapers in western Missouri were sounding the alarm about slave stampedes. “During the last two months the darkies have been leaving Platte county at the rate of about thirty or forty per day,” a paper in St. Joseph reported. “By the census of 1860 Platte county had a slave population of three thousand three hundred and thirteen, and our informant thinks that there are but two or three hundred left now. From all portions of North Missouri we have like information. The slaves are leaving by day and by night. Very few owners pretend to stay the exodus. Many pack up their duds and walk boldly off in broad day, while others quietly retire in the night.” (St. Joseph, Missouri Herald, quoted in “Slavery Passing Away in Missouri and Kentucky,” Worcester, MA Spy, September 9, 1863)
  • The St. Louis Missouri Democrat reprinted columns from multiple papers to depict the mounting “negro exodus” from the state. Quoting the Kansas City Journal, the paper informed its readers of “some thirty or forty negroes” who left Clay County in western Missouri, bound for Kansas, “taking with them a quantity of stock…. The Emancipation Ordinance has made a perfect stampede among the negroes, who cannot draw nice distinctions…. The same process is going on all along the border, and Missouri will soon be rid of her slaves, in fact, if not in name. The barriers which fence in the slave system in this State are crumbling daily, and while our politicians are talking the negro is quietly acting, without any reference to statute books or ordinances.” (Kansas City Journal, quoted in “The Negro Exodus,” St. Louis Missouri Democrat, August 21, 1863)
  • In late 1863, the Columbia Statesman in Boone County, Missouri, reported on a “stampede of negroes” to enlist in the U.S. Colored Troops. “Thirty negroes enlisted in Ray county last week. Ninety negro recruits were sent form St. Louis to Lexington…. thirty negroes left Pike county to enlist.” (Columbia Statesman, quoted in “Missouri Items,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, December 22, 1863)

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General Notes

  • Genealogy Bank is a subscription database.
  • Although not part of the database’s coverage, the St. Joseph, Missouri Herald, the Columbia Statesman from Boone County and an unspecified St. Genevieve paper were quoted for their reporting on stampedes.
  • After the passage of the controversial Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the term was used to describe the movement of fugitive slaves residing in the Northern free states, who were reportedly “stampeding” to Canada to evade recapture under the stringent new law. A widely-reprinted report from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suggested that there was a “general stampede” of the city’s fugitive slave population, including “many… who were never suspected of being fugitives until the passage of this bill.” (“Excitement among the Colored Population,” Baltimore Sun, September 25, 1850) Many Southern papers remarked on the “regular stampede” of “fugitive negroes” from “Pennsylvania, New York and other free states.” (“Arrest of a Slave,” Montgomery Alabama Journal, October 7, 1850) An Easton, Maryland newspaper even ran the headline “Fred. Douglass in Danger,” while reporting on the “general stampede” of “runaway negroes” from Pittsburgh. (“Fred. Douglass in Danger,” Easton, MD Star, October 15, 1850)
  • Editors of the abolitionist Pennsylvania Freeman employed the term to mock pro-slavery arguments, satirically remarking that if slaves were so “enamored of the lash, the dungeon, the paddle, [and] the auction stand… one might imagine a general stampede of the fugitives in Canada and throughout the North, hurrying back to slavery.” (“Going Back to Slavery,” Pennsylvania Freeman, January 1, 1854)
  • A Georgia paper used the term to describe violence against suspected abolitionists. “One out of the four [abolitionists] was caught and ridden on a rail, the rest saved themselves by a stampede.” (Columbus, GA Times, quoted in Woodville, MS Republican, October 22, 1850)
  • The term was also used to describe the movement of free African-Americans. Reports circulated of a “compulsory stampede” of “free negroes” from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, compelled by white citizens who were concerned about “their pernicious influence among the slave population.” (Nashville Patriot, quoted in “Stampede of Free Negroes,” New York Herald, December 8, 1856)
  • In August 1857, “over a dozen” slaves stampeded from Washington, using a religious camp meeting as an opportunity for escape. Obtaining permission to travel to the gathering in Montgomery County, Maryland, they instead “embraced the opportunity to seek a more permanent camp in Canada.” (Newark, NJ Centinel of Freedom, September 9, 1857)
  • Stampedes could also include literal rail travel. An 1857 report noted a “stampede” of five slaves, who travelled using “horses and vehickles [sic]” from Hagerstown, Maryland across the border to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where they boarded the cars of the Cumberland Valley Railroad for Harrisburg. (“The Slave Stampede,” Easton, MD Star, June 2, 1857)
  • In the south-west slaveholding states, the prospect of slave stampedes into Mexico troubled slaveholders. An Austin, Texas newspaper expressed concern about patrolling its enslaved population, worrying about a possible “insurrection, or a general negro stampede for Mexico.” (“Patrol,” Austin Texas State Gazette, July 22, 1854) Stampedes also occurred among slaves owned by members of the Cherokee Nation, in present-day Oklahoma. “A large stampede of negroes was attempted from the nation to Mexico,” a Tennessee paper reported in 1860, “but the chiefs having been informed, by a faithful negro, of the movement, collected their warriors, under the pretense of going on a war trail against the Camanches [sic], and arrested the fugitives.” (Athens, TN Post, January 20, 1860)
  • The term was used to describe the escape of two Mississippi slaves owned by prominent Illinois senator Stephen Douglas. (“Stampede of two of Senator Douglas’ Slaves,” Wilmington Journal, September 17, 1858)

Most Relevant Coverage from Genealogy Bank Database

  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Republican – 1849-1852 (Whig, pro-slavery)
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Weekly Pilot – 1855-1856
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Democrat – 1862-1863 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • ILLINOIS:  Quincy Whig – 1854 (Whig)
  • MARYLAND:  Easton Star – 1849-1857 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • MASSACHUSETTS:  Massachusetts Spy, Worcester, MA – 1847-1863 (Whig and Republican, anti-slavery)
  • OHIO:  Anti-Slavery Bugle, New Lisbon, OH – 1848-1860 (anti-slavery)

 

Database Report –19th Century US Newspapers

Slave Stampedes Article

The Liberator, June 10, 1853 (Courtesy of 19th-Century US Newspapers)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert during week of Nov. 26-30, 2018
  • Keywords:  slaves and stampede(s) (both singular & plural) and stampeding, but found * (stamped*) didn’t work so well (too many false positives on the word, “stamped”), plus variants including negro, servile, fugitive, and exodus
  • Totals:  About 160 hits with concentrations reported from Kentucky, northern Virginia, Maryland and eastern Missouri.

Top Results

  • “Slaves are running away from Missouri, at the present time, in battalions,” reported the Alton (IL) Telegraph in the spring of 1853. Situated just miles from Missouri’s eastern border, the paper’s readers were already quite familiar with the term “Slave Stampedes,” which was the headline used for this and countless other articles. (Alton Telegraph, quoted in The Liberator, June 10, 1853)
  •  A correspondent for the London Times took special note of the term, writing that stampede was “a word which the Americans have borrowed from their prairies, and applied most expressively to a general rush of negroes from slavery.” (London Times, June 19, 1861, quoted in “English Speculation on the War and its Issue,” New York Herald, July 2, 1861)
  • Under the headline, “NEGRO STAMPEDE,” The Cleveland Daily Herald  reported (in its entirety) on November 19, 1859:  “The Chicago Journal says that on Thursday evening, the 17th inst., the underground railroad arrived there with thirty passengers, five from the vicinity of Richmond, Va., twelve from Kentucky, and thirteen from Missouri.  They are now all safe in Canada.  The thirteen from Missouri were sold to go down the river, the very day they started. A stalwart six-footer and a Sharp’s rifle were the only guides.” (Cleveland Daily Herald, November 19, 1859).
  • The Democratic New York Herald once wrote of “servile stampedes,” while a Cincinnati newspaper describing the movements of Kentucky slaves used the terms “stampede” and “negro exodus” interchangeably. (“The South and Southern Safety–A New Presidential Programme,” New York Herald, December 4, 1859; “Kentucky Negro Exodus,” Daily Cleveland Herald, June 6, 1864)
  • Many hits contained only brief mentions, such as an Ohio newspaper’s succinct remark that “stampedes of slaves, from Mason and Nicholas counties, Ky. seem of common occurrence.” (“Items,” The Daily Scioto Gazette, Chillicothe, OH, May 8, 1851)
  • Then there was a New Hampshire newspaper, which in August 1850 ran a short article entitled “Slave Stampedes.” For a New England audience that was perhaps unfamiliar with the term, the editor conveniently took the time to offer up a definition: “an uprising and fleeing from bondage of a large number of slaves.” (“Slave Stampedes,” New Hampshire Statesman, Concord, NH, August 30, 1850)
  • As early as 1849, newspapers began using the headline “Another Slave Stampede,” underscoring just how common stampedes were (see Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, December 15, 1849).  A decade later, the editor of the Charleston Mercury underscored this point, writing that stampedes described slaves who escaped “in startling numbers” on a near “daily” basis. “They go off, one, two, three, or a dozen at a time.” (“Slavery in Kentucky,” Charleston Mercury, May 10, 1858). These types of headline and comments reappeared straight through into the Civil War “Almost every day we hear of a new stampede of slaves in our county,” groused an editor from Port Tobacco, Maryland in September 1863. “Indeed, so frequent have they become of late, that no surprise or comment is excited hereby.” (Port Tobacco Times, quoted in “”Emancipation in Maryland,” Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, September 17, 1863).

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General Notes

  • 19th-Century Newspapers is a subscription database from Gale available to students only through the Dickinson College Library Database Finder
  • The term took on a new life in the wake of John Brown‘s failed Harpers Ferry insurrection in October 1859. No less than 11 stampede-related articles dealt with Harpers Ferry. Barely a week after the botched uprising, the Democratic New York Herald published a batch of correspondence between Brown and fellow abolitionists, which was quickly picked up and reprinted by other papers. Among the correspondents was an English-born abolitionist named Hugh Forbes, a one-time ally of Brown who ultimately backed out of the plot. The search engine picked up on Forbes’s plan to instigate “a series of stampedes of slaves,” which he predicted would each “carry off in one night, and from the same place some 20 to 50 slaves.” (“News and Further Developments,” Newark Advocate, Newark, OH, November 4, 1859) In the wake of Harpers Ferry, slave stampedes were closely linked with other revolutionary acts, often appearing in conjunction with words such as insurrection, revolt and rebellion. A Jackson, Mississippi paper closely associated the term with armed revolt, complaining of “slave insurrections or slave stampedes.” (“Abolitionism of 1835 and of 1859,” Semi-weekly Mississippian, Jackson, MS, December 27, 1859) Similarly, citizens of Madison County, Kentucky, expressed suspicion that abolitionists were creeping into their community, “exciting insurrection and getting up stampedes among the slaves.” (“The Disturbances in Madison County, KY.,” Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, Bangor, ME, April 12, 1860)
  • The coming of the Civil War saw a similar spike in usage, as countless Northern papers speculated on the war’s impact on Southern slaves. Many articles used the term “general stampede,” predicting that such “a general stampede” of slaves would occur “as the war is carried into the enemy’s country, and slavery will abolish itself.” (Springfield Republican, quoted in “Let us Learn to Wait,” New Hampshire Statesman, November 30, 1861) Even in the Confederacy’s capital, a Richmond paper admitted that the presence of “a Yankee army creates as complete a stampede among negroes as the approach of a locomotive among cattle.” (Richmond Dispatch, September 22, 1862, quoted in Philadelphia North American and United States Gazette, October 3, 1862)

Most Relevant Coverage from 19th-Century US Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: Missouri Courier, Hannibal, MO – 1849-1853 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Republican (but with major gaps) (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • ILLINOIS:  None from period 1840 – 1860
  • MASSACHUSETTS: The Liberator, Boston, MA – 1852-1862 (anti-slavery)
  • NEW YORK:  New York Herald  – 1861 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • OHIO:  Cleveland Herald – 1848-1863 (Whig and Republican, anti-slavery)

Missouri Slave Stampedes Crossing State Borders: The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois by Owen Muelder

In Peoria County, Illinois in the 1850s, many enslaved people escaping from their slaveholders stopped to seek shelter in Brimfield’s Congregational Church, which was under the ministry of “violent

Brimfield Congregational Church Drawing

Brimfield Congregational Church (Brimfield Union Church)

abolitionist” J. E. Roy. According to Illinois historian Owen Muelder, one episode even involved “a party of 11 freedom seekers, who had fled from Palmyra, Missouri, carrying along “a crippled woman whom the others carried in a sheet, tied at the corners and suspended on a pole.”[1] If nothing else, this remarkable incident demonstrates the importance of looking beyond the state’s borders when examining the experiences of escaped Missouri slaves.

In The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois, Muelder, who is the director of Knox College’s Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Center, presents a thorough overview of the major agents and activities of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) network in the “military tract” region of Western Illinois. Each chapter, organized based on the different counties of the region, is filled with stories quoted directly from original sources. In sharing these stories exactly as they were told from the voices of the abolitionist agents themselves, Muelder helps readers to “visualize more fully” the lives and stories of runaway slaves, many of which originated from Missouri, “in the late 1840s and 1850s in their valiant bid for freedom from bondage.”[2]

According to Muelder, everyone –including slaves, slaveholders, and abolitionists– was aware of the importance of the borderland between enslaved Eastern Missouri and Western Illinois. In fact, Illinois abolitionists frequently took advantage of this proximity, leading to the concentration of UGRR agents who were “eager to liberate slaves from across the river” in towns right along that border, such as in Quincy.[3] According to abolitionist Hiram Mars, Quincy abolitionists would even go as far as actually crossing the state line to seek out slaves and convince them to escape.[4]

Many of the abolitionists who risked traveling into Missouri to guide freedom seekers across the Mississippi River were themselves once escaped slaves. Throughout his text, Muelder makes reference to the ubiquitous figure of “Charlie,” an escaped Missouri slave who spent his whole life traveling in and out of slave states along the UGRR. According to numerous sources presented by Muelder, Charlie helped Missouri slaves escape along the UGRR to the Illinois counties of Plymouth, McDonough, Knox, and Stark.[5] Little is known of Charlie’s actual life and most of what is known is impossible to corroborate, but the popular narrative is that after Charlie escaped his enslavement, he returned to seek out and rescue his wife only to find that she had already been sold away. Charlie then spent years helping countless other enslaved families escape, perhaps always still searching for his wife.[6] It is possible that this story has been romanticized over the years, but nonetheless it underscores the important role that previously escaped slaves often played on the UGRR.

Charlie was certainly not alone. Chapman’s History of Knox County, Illinois describes an 1858 stampede in which “a colored man was taken through [Galesburg] to Canada, who shortly afterward found his way back to Missouri and started with nine other slaves for the land of freedom, but reached Galesburg with only five or six. With these it is presumed he got safely through to Canada.”[7] This important fact about the nature of slave stampedes, that some of them may have been initiated and led by former slaves still in hiding, emphasizes a critical aspect of the network that was essential to enabling larger group escapes.


[1] Owen Muelder, The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2008), 93.

[2] Galin Berrier, “The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois,”  Annals of Iowa 67:2 (2008): 225.

[3] Muelder, 35.

[4] Muelder, 8.

[5] Muelder, 55-56, 69-71, 112, 136.

[6] Muelder, 136.

[7] Muelder, 110-111.