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Digital Bookshelf: Letters and Diaries

John Hays to Charles Francis Himes, June 20, 1859

Original Citation
John Hays to Charles Francis Himes, June 20, 1859, Charles Francis Himes Family Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

This excerpt from a letter between a young attorney and a young college professor who had been friends at Dickinson College illustrates the complicated legal and political realities of Underground Railroad operations along the Mason-Dixon Line. John Hays (Class of 1857) was an attorney who reports here about the dual arrests of fugitives and kidnappers along the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Hays later served in the Union Army during the Civil War and became a prominent businessman in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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The worthy abolitionists of Cumberland County - stock-holders in the great Northern Underground Railway were terribly excited by the bold kidnapping of a whole family of blacks some ten days ago. Two or three of the persons implicated in the Transaction have been arrested, one of whom, a Marylander, Major McCartney had to employ all his ingenuity to entice over the line in order to arrest. The blacks are lying in jail at Westminster, but I believe will be liberated shortly. The kidnappers will be tried in August, and perhaps I will have an opportunity of making my maiden speech in their behalf, who knows?



Citation for this page

"John Hays to Charles Francis Himes, June 20, 1859," Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,


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