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A Nest of Runaway Slaves Captured by Pennsylvanians

Original Citation
"A Nest of Runaway Slaves Captured by Pennsylvanians," New York Herald, August 11, 1850, p. 3: 4.


Few newspaper articles illustrate more clearly than this one the conflicting attitudes about slave catching prevalent along the borders between North and South. This single story, reported in the New York Herald, a leading Democratic newspaper, contains examples of Pennsylvanians who both helped and obstructed the fugitive rendition process.


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Our Baltimore Correspondence.

BALTIMORE, August 10, 1850.

A Nest of Runaway Slaves Captured by Pennsylvanians -- A Recreant Postmaster - Fruits of Abolitionism - New Underground Railroad - Melancholy Suicide, &c.

The excitement in this vicinity relative to the recent movement of abolitionists, in stampeding slaves, is very great, as large numbers have recently been spirited away.

The cars from York, Pennsylvania, yesterday morning brought down, in a close burden car, attached to the train, a party of five negroes, young, hale and hearty-looking fellows, who had been captured by a party of Pennsylvanians, near Shrewsbury, which is about two miles beyond the Pennsylvania line. It appears that, on Wednesday evening, they trailed a party of four negro men to the house of a negro who has a farm in that vicinity, and were threatened with death if they entered his premises to molest the runaways. After considerable parley, they succeeded in deceiving the negroes into the belief that they were their friends, and that if they would give themselves up, they would help them to escape.

The negroes then allowed themselves to be tied together with ropes, which they supposed to be merely a sham to prevent any one else from seizing them as runaways, and they were thus marched through Shrewsbury, on their way to the railroad switch. Whilst passing through the town, a number of philanthropists followed after them, and a Mr. Brown, the postmaster of Shrewsbury, cut the ropes, and succeeded in securing two of the seven, who are doubtless by this time far off on the underground railroad. It is to be hoped that President Fillmore will evince his respect for the rights of property and his constitutional duties, by ordering its prompt dismissal,

They finally reached the depot, when the slaves were seized and forced into a burden car, and locked up. One of them drew a pistol, and in his effort to shoot one of his captors, put a ball through his own arm. They reached the city about eight o'clock. and had by that time become quite tame and submissive. On being questioned as to where they were from, two acknowledged that they belonged to Baltimore county, one to Calvert, one to Montgomery, and one to Prince George's county. They were then asked how they all managed to meet together, and travel such a distance, without detection, when one of them replied that "they managed that for us." One of the officers remarked, "You mean the abolitionists, I suppose," to which another of the party responded. "Yes, massa, de [illegible] 'bolitionists do us more harm dan good - always getting us into trouble." One of them asked an officer what would be done with them; and he replied that he supposed their masters would not trust them again, but send them off to work in the cotton fields of Georgia, which caused them all to join in a denunciation of the abolitionists.

The Pennsylvanians who arrested these runaways, express their belief that there is still at list six more concealed in the neighborhood of Shrewsbury; and as a party of seven escaped from this city on Sunday last, it is supposed they have taken that track.

The Shrewsbury route is now the one chosen by the abolitionists, being just beyond the State line, and being surrounded by a large number of Dunkard families, whose creed, with regard to slavery, is similar to that of the Quakers, every facility is given them.

About two months since, a party of sixteen slaves were arrested near Shrewsbury, and brought back to the cars, by two citizens of Shrewsbury, who ran them off before any law movement could be made by the abolitionists. They received $2000 in gold for their services, from Colonel Berry, the owner of the slaves, which has had its effect in encouraging others to be on the lookout. This is the second party of runaways that have since been brought back.



Citation for this page

New York Herald, "A Nest of Runaway Slaves Captured by Pennsylvanians," August 11, 1850, Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,


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