“The Jordan is a hard road to travel”: Hoosier responses to fugitive slave cases, 1850-1860
Dean J. Kotlowski
On September 18, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed what one historian labeled “the most hateful statute since the Alien and Sedition Acts,” the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. (1) Part of the Compromise of 1850, this law placed federal commissioners in each county in the nation and gave them broad powers–to issue arrest warrants, form posses, and even determine the status of alleged fugitives. It denied legal rights to accused runaways and offered financial incentives to commissioners to return slaves to their masters. Since the law provided no statute of limitations, self-proclaimed slaveholders and their hired agents could enter a community, arrest any African-American, claim that person as a slave, have the claim certified by a U.S. commissioner, and then depart with their property. (2) “What a mockery of justice! Of common sense! Of law!” the anti-slavery Richmond Palladium (Indiana) exclaimed. “Why not issue a license to kidnappers, authorizing them to enter any of the free states and take into slavery any man with colored skin!” (3)
Northern defiance–and support–of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 is well known. In Boston, abolitionists and free blacks formed legal and vigilance committees to aid runaways. Even before the law had passed Congress, nine states, all northern, had enacted “personal liberty laws” to guarantee some legal rights to assist accused fugitive slaves. When legal action failed, opponents of slavery sometimes used force to free them. (4) In October 1850, speaking in Boston, the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass vowed that former slaves, such as himself, “without the slightest hope of making successful resistance, are resolved rather to die than to go back.” (5) Douglass’ rebellious words implied an important reality, namely, the chief enemies of the act, white abolitionists and free blacks, represented a small and somewhat embattled fraction of the Northern population. In 1851, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, who had helped to fashion the Compromise of 1850, reported that the fugitive slave law was being enforced in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Only in Boston, he asserted, was there opposition. (6)
Within Indiana, historians have examined individual fugitive slave cases, but there have been fewer attempts to analyze them collectively to discern larger patterns. (7) In order to gauge Hoosier responses, this study considers fugitive cases in Indianapolis, Vincennes, Terre Haute, New Albany, and Vernon. These communities were selected on the basis of location, circumstances surrounding the cases, and availability of primary source material.
A number of trends in Indiana stand out. Real fugitive slaves received little sympathy, but communities resisted attempts to kidnap into slavery people who were known to be free. When a longtime resident or a white person faced prosecution, citizens used legal means to defend them. In most cases, judges refused to release suspected runaways, and citizens respected their decisions. Finally, Hoosiers seldom resorted to extra-legal means to release alleged fugitives.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: Sources of Support, Pockets of Resistance
Before examining specific cases, Hoosier assumptions about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 require explanation. Support for the Union, racism, and property rights moved most state residents to respect the law. The presence of Southern emigrants in the lower part of Indiana provided a social anchor for such sentiments. At the same time, the state’s small African-American and Quaker populations used clandestine, sometimes illegal, means to resist the “slave catchers.”
Many Indianans accepted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 out of support for the Federal Union. The law, a concession to Southern slaveholders, sought to head off the secession of the slave states. “Union” and “compromise” were familiar and respected concepts to Hoosiers. In 1850 Democratic Governor Joseph A. Wright declared that he knew “no North, no South, nothing but the common brotherhood of all working for the common good.” (8) To preserve the Union, Wright urged fellow Hoosiers not to be “alarmed at the word ‘compromise.'” In a state settled by people from both regions, citizens heeded such advice. Delegates to Indiana’s constitutional convention of 1850-51 endorsed the Compromise of 1850 and pressed Indianans to “carry out, in good faith, the conditions of the Compromise on the subject of domestic slavery.” (9) Nevertheless, by calling for obedience, delegates seemed to anticipate resistance by some Hoosiers to the fugitive slave law.
Many public officials, whether elected or appointed, state or federal, saw respect for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 as an integral part of preserving the Union. In a gesture of cross-sectional–and bipartisan–goodwill, Wright invited his Whig counterpart, Governor John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, to visit Indianapolis in 1851. Interestingly, this “summit” coincided with a fugitive slave case, originating in South Bend, which had found its way into an Indianapolis courtroom. Elisha M. Huntington, the U.S. district judge in Indiana, heard opening arguments concerning the case and ruled against a number of motions advanced by defense attorneys. He then adjourned court and departed to preside over a mass meeting to celebrate the Union, at which various speakers excoriated persons bent on thwarting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. By the time U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John McLean had arrived from Washington to preside over the trial, he exhibited “all the nervousness of a presidential aspirant” and “felt sincerely desirous that the Union should be held together, at any sacrifice.” (10) The charges of judicial bias, appearing in an abolitionist tract, must not be taken at face value. Nevertheless they illustrate the political nature of both fugitive slave trials and Justice McLean, whose thirst for the White House was well known. (11) They also underscore unionist sentiments among Hoosiers.
Racism also discouraged most Indianans from defying the fugitive slave statute. As scholars have shown, white supremacy was etched into the minds and laws of most Northerners during the antebellum period. Indiana proved no exception. The same constitutional convention that had endorsed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 also crafted a document forbidding additional free African-Americans from immigrating to Indiana. The state legislature passed laws to prohibit blacks from voting, giving testimony against whites in court, serving in the state militia, attending white public schools, and marrying across racial lines. (12) Furthermore, Indiana’s legislature never passed “personal liberty laws” to assist African-Americans prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. (13)
The absence of personal liberty laws in Indiana partly stemmed from Hoosiers’ respect for both property rights and the will of Congress. In Indiana, judges reasoned that masters were entitled to the return of runaway slaves. As will be shown, during fugitive trials in Vincennes and Vernon, newspaper editors proclaimed that Hoosiers were law-abiding people who would not go to great lengths to subvert an act of Congress, especially one that did not affect them directly. (14)
Demographics also contributed to the lack of opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Many people living in the southern half of Indiana either were Southern-born or descendants of Southerners. Although Hoosiers of Southern background did not always identify with the institution of slavery and the power of the “slavocracy”–from which many had fled–the sectional crisis of the 1850s encouraged many midwesterners of Southern origin to defend the plantation system and the rights of slaveholders. (15) On the other hand, anti-slavery activity, especially rescues of fugitives, proved strongest in New England and its cultural outposts, the “Burned-Over District” in New York and Ohio’s Western Reserve. Few New Englanders settled Indiana, and, according to the historian James H. Madison, “[m]ilitant, radical antislavery sentiment remained weaker in Indiana than perhaps in any other state.” (16)
There were pockets of resistance; Indiana judges occasionally sympathized with captured runaways. “There was a firm maintenance” by some officials, argued one historian, that “Indiana was free soil and a protection of legal rights that this implied.” (17) During one case, in 1829, an Indianapolis judge confronted with a Virginian’s claim for the return of four fugitives responded with a ruling that almost foreshadowed the famed defense in the Dred Scott case three decades later. Since the owner of the purported slaves had voluntarily entered the free state of Indiana, and inasmuch as these slaves now stood upon free soil, they were free. (18) Another magistrate participated in a “slave rescue.” In Salem, Indiana, a justice of the peace delayed a fugitive’s trial in order to give anti-slavery activists time to release the man from jail. Opponents of the slave catchers freed the prisoner and furnished him with a pair of horses. The man then eluded his would-be captors by hiding out at Skunk River, a nearby Underground Railroad station. He eventually arrived in Canada safe and free. (19)
Other Hoosiers organized to aid fugitive slaves and African-Americans. During the 1830s, Quakers of Decatur and Wayne counties formed anti-slavery societies, and similar organizations emerged over the next two decades in areas where “Friends” had settled. (20) Free African-Americans, denied citizenship rights by whites, formed institutions to look after their own interests. To promote social and moral progress, they founded Masonic lodges and such churches as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which boasted several congregations across Indiana. (21) Deprived of access to public education, Indiana’s free blacks formed their own schools, and, in 1847, convened in Indianapolis to press the state legislature to fund them. During the 1850s, African-American conventions went further, urging Indiana’s legislature to repeal its discriminatory “black laws.” (22)
Quakers and free blacks also became conductors on the Underground Railroad. Indiana conductors took an oath to provide fugitives with material aid, lead them to safety, and never to betray runaway slaves or the secret society that assisted them. The goal of the Underground Railroad was to smuggle escaped slaves to Canada. Three “lines” wound through Indiana. The western or Wabash route began at Evansville, curved through Gibson County, Vincennes, and Terre Haute up to Lafayette; the central path commenced at either New Albany or Madison on the Ohio River, then headed north to the state capital, Indianapolis; the eastern trek started at Lawrenceburg (near Cincinnati) and traveled through Richmond and the Quaker and free black communities of Wayne and Randolph counties. (23)
There were no fugitive slave cases in east-central Indiana, where Quakers had gained a foothold and handled fugitives with considerable skill. At Newport, in Wayne County, free African-Americans had established an outpost to assist runaway slaves–until it was taken over by Quakers led by Levi Coffin, the reputed president of the Underground Railroad. The women of Newport formed a sewing society to make clothes for fugitives, and they sold homemade products to raise money for anti-slavery projects. After feeding and clothing fugitives, Newport conductors directed them to the next Underground Railroad station, perhaps to the free black settlements of Cabin Creek and Spartansburg in Randolph County. (24)
Near the Kentucky border, where many Southern-born Hoosiers lived, conductors employed military-style planning. At New Albany, runaway slaves crossed over from Louisville and sojourned in nearby Portland where an African-American Masonic lodge sheltered them and hatched schemes to free others from the toils of bondage. From Portland, the weary travelers were spirited off to the free black settlement at Greenbrier, near Hanover, or to Isaiah Reid’s farm, near Salem. Many found refuge in Reid’s barn and received directions to the farm of Thomas Trueblood, some ten to twelve miles to the north. They then journeyed to Bloomington or Columbus en route to Indianapolis, then Michigan, and, eventually, Canada. (25)
Other fugitives entered Indiana at Madison, where they might have hidden in one of the secret chambers in the home of John Todd, that is, unless the master of the house decided to turn in the fugitive for a reward. (26) If the runaway slave survived Todd’s darker side and eluded the sheriff of Jefferson County, Robert Right Rea, whom one abolitionist described as “a bloodhound in human shape,” he or she might have fled to the free black settlement at Eagle Hollow, three miles north of Madison. (27) Others found refuge in the home of J.H. Tibbets before proceeding to Vernon, Columbus, Indianapolis, and, ultimately, Ontario. (28)
Given the obstacles before them, fugitives and their allies had to possess guts as well as ingenuity. After Sheriff Rea cornered one runaway slave and knocked him from his horse, the man leaped to his feet, struck Rea, and escaped. (29) Thomas Jones recalled an attempt by pro-slavery men to pry the location of some fugitives from an anti-slavery leader in Randolph County. They gagged and blindfolded the man and slipped a noose around his neck. The assailants carried their threat “as far as possible without killing him but [they] could not force him to tell.” (30) Mary Reid Gillum remembered how her father, Isaiah, and a sympathetic neighbor once concealed runaways in a hay wagon. Reid and his friend then gathered their fishing poles and climbed on board, camouflaging the fugitives’ flight as a recreational excursion. Such tales cannot always be taken at face value, of course. “I am sorry that I must destroy your illusion about the secret cellar, key rock, etc., so far as my father’s house was concerned,” Gillum informed one interviewer. “There were two cellars to be sure, but my knowledge is positive that there was no secret cellar, no key rock, and no such artifice was ever employed by my father to hide the fugitive slaves.” (31)
Despite these incidents, resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 remained rare. Indiana’s racist constitution, “black laws,” and lack of personal liberty laws, discouraged African-Americans from openly challenging this act. Moreover, the state’s small African-American population had begun to level off. Between 1840 and 1850, the number of free blacks in Indiana grew fifty-seven percent, but over the next decade their numbers increased by just over one percent. (32) According to the U.S. Census, southern Indiana counties where fugitive slave cases occurred during the 1850s, Vigo (Terre Haute), Knox (Vincennes), and Jennings (Vernon), experienced sharp declines in their African-American populations. Partly as a result, anti-slavery forces in those communities weakened. (33)
Clearly, anti-slavery sentiments did not animate the majority of Hoosiers. Some people even compared the actions of the Underground Railroad to theft. (34) But when citizens saw a long-time resident of their town (and improbable fugitive) prosecuted under the act, public opinion could turn in favor of the accused runaway.
Three Indianapolis Trials
In Indianapolis, real fugitives received little sympathy, but the community resisted efforts to kidnap into slavery people of free status. The evidence was overwhelming that John Freeman, the best known Hoosier tried as a fugitive under the 1850 act, was free, and the public sided with him. Indianapolis residents also opposed the prosecution of whites for harboring slaves. But African-Americans who were not long-standing residents and whose freedom remained in doubt received less popular support. They had to rely upon the concerted, even extra-legal, resistance of anti-slavery advocates.
When, on June 21, 1853, federal marshals arrested Freeman as a fugitive slave, the people of Indianapolis expressed outrage. “There were,” reported the Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), “great and honest doubts in the minds of this community whether Freeman was a slave.” (35) The claimant, Pleasant Ellington of St. Louis, Missouri, identified Freeman as a slave who had escaped from his home in Kentucky seventeen years earlier. Given the length of time that had expired since the alleged “escape,” local residents wondered how could Ellington be certain of his claim. (36)
Freeman, moreover, had achieved some standing within the community. Born in Virginia around 1815, he had moved to Georgia in 1831, then Indianapolis in 1844. (37) Short and heavy-set, of “muddy brown” complexion, he had a reputation as an “honest, industrious, sober man.” “No one,” recalled the Whig lawyer Oliver H. Smith, “suspected him to be a slave.” (38) According to the U.S. Census for 1850, Freeman had a wife and two daughters, ages three and one. He owned $2,000 worth of property, including a house, garden, and restaurant, and he took part in church affairs, with the census listing his occupation as “minister.” (39) Here was the sort of man whom Northerners respected: God-fearing, individualistic, successful–and free. How could he face the prospect of becoming a slave?
Civic leaders sensed popular unease and acted to settle the matter. The editor of the Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), a Whig newspaper, expressed sympathy for Freeman and confidence that he would remain a free man. Even William J. Brown, editor of the state capital’s Democratic newspaper, the Indiana State Sentinel, and a former member of Congress who had voted for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, called for Freeman’s release via legal process or purchase by the community. Lawyers and businessmen heeded Brown’s call. The law firm of Ketcham, Coburn, and Barbour took Freeman’s case and asked the U.S. commissioner to release their client. When that approach failed, they tried to have Freeman’s hearing moved to a state court. Stymied in this direction, the defense counsels then demanded his release on bail. One hundred citizens already had co-signed a note of $1,000 to cover Freeman’s bail as well as a bond of $4,000 to indemnify him. The federal commissioner denied this request, leaving Freeman in jail. (40)
The U.S. commissioner soon yielded to popular will. At first, he tried to decide the case quickly. Such rulings were not uncommon in fugitive slave cases and usually resulted in the return of the “fugitive” to their “master.” While the legal wrangling went on, crowds gathered about the Indianapolis courthouse. Perhaps sensing their anger, the U.S. commissioner ruled that the accused would stand trial in nine weeks. The decision gave Freeman’s lawyers enough time to prepare his defense. (41)
Popular sympathy also influenced a decision of the local marshal, John L. Robinson. Robinson, fearing a rescue attempt, considered moving the prisoner southward for safekeeping. But Freeman’s friends warned that an aroused public would tolerate no such action. The Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), an anti-slavery organ, predicted “a great outrage” if the accused was removed from the capital. Freeman’s counsels argued that “every good citizen” would stand up and condemn Robinson if he went through with his plan. Freeman remained in Indianapolis. (42)
Robinson’s concern that the community might resort to force was justified. Citizens wanted this case put to rest. A handful of businessmen offered to purchase Freeman’s freedom. When Ellington refused, rumors of a rescue attempt circulated through the city. Benjamin Philean, a former sheriff of Marion County, claimed that he heard threats of violence emanating from the African-American community. One man boasted “that he would take a rope and hang Freeman by the neck rather than let him go” into slavery. Another man vowed to attack Ellington. Yet another claimed to know of 300 people who had pledged to risk their lives on behalf of Freeman. Such talk, however exaggerated, fed the impression that this man enjoyed widespread support. Even the Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis) conceded: “There is not a man in the city that has not heard [these rumors].” (43)
Popular sympathy helped Freeman and his counsels. By the time the trial had resumed in late August, defense attorneys had assembled enough evidence to prove Freeman’s freedom. Taking nothing for granted, they organized a mass meeting of Freeman’s supporters on August 29, at Masonic Hall. Participants listened to the Hoosier abolitionist George W. Julian attack the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Then, John DeFrees, editor of the Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), introduced a series of resolutions calling for Freeman’s acquittal and exhorting the defense’s witnesses (also present) to testify on behalf of the defendant. Such “agitation,” Julian remembered, worked; Freeman was released the next day. (44)
Popular sympathy and anti-slavery agitation aside, the evidence was overwhelming that Freeman was not Ellington’s slave. Six witnesses testified that they had known Freeman for more than twenty years, undermining Ellington’s claim that Freeman had escaped from Kentucky seventeen years earlier. Defense attorneys pointed to a man–known as “Sam”–living in Canada whose description matched that of Ellington’s slave better than Freeman. When Freeman’s former master visited Indianapolis to console his one-time slave, Ellington’s case crumbled. The prosecution’s argument disintegrated after Ellington’s son admitted that Freeman was not his father’s slave. The U.S. commissioner then dismissed the case and released the prisoner. (45)
Historians have emphasized the drama of the Freeman case while slighting its unique circumstances. Charles H. Money described the Freeman affair as “by far the greatest single event in the execution of the fugitive law in Indiana. It aligned people against it who were formerly for it. (46) “The case,” Emma Lou Thornbrough asserted, “showed more forcibly than all the speeches of antislavery orators the woeful inadequacy of the Federal law to protect free Negroes.” (47) Following Freeman’s trial, the public surely held the fugitive slave law in low regard. But singular conditions–Freeman’s standing in the community, and evidence of his freedom–had influenced the populous. In later fugitive slave cases, citizens of Indianapolis weighed different circumstances and public sympathy never matched that shown Freeman. In those instances, only abolitionists steadfastly resisted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
In December 1854, Indianapolis abolitionists used legal means to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Benjamin B. Waterhouse, a white farmer of some means, was arraigned in U.S. Circuit Court for harboring runaway slaves. After hearing that Waterhouse had ferried five or six fugitives into Orland, the deputy marshal there urged the slaves’ owners to file a claim against Waterhouse. (48) Section VII of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 forbid the harboring of slaves; punishment for this crime included a six month jail sentence, a fine of $1,000, and payment of up to $1,000 to the slave’s master. (49)
At first glance, Waterhouse faced an uphill battle. He did not live in Indianapolis but in Milford, in Lagrange County, near the Indiana-Michigan border. Born in Connecticut, and reared in Oswego County, in upstate New York, he exemplified the militant anti-slavery spirit associated with Yankees, not Hoosiers. “A sincere and ardent Methodist,” Waterhouse opposed slavery on conscience. He used his covered wagon to conceal runaways and reputedly helped one hundred slaves flee to Canada. (50) Within Milford, his actions did not win universal acclaim. “His neighbors did not molest him, though some were much opposed to what he was doing,” one historian asserted. (51) Waterhouse mainly drew support from fellow abolitionists, including a “Miss Whitford of Allen Township, Noble County” who attended anti-slavery meetings and sang “with great power”:
Old Massa’s close behind,
The baying hounds are on my track;
And he’s resolved to take me back
Across the Dixon line. (52)
A known abolitionist who faced trial in a strange community not famous for anti-slavery sentiment, Waterhouse had cause for concern. But three factors worked in his favor. First, he was not charged as a runaway slave; his trial went before a local court where a jury, not a U.S. commissioner, would decide his fate. Second, Waterhouse could count on a measure of popular sympathy because he was white and because the Freeman case had turned many citizens against the 1850 act. Third, and most importantly, Waterhouse enlisted the help of fellow abolitionists, such as George W. Julian.
Julian skillfully defended Waterhouse. With memories of the Freeman case still fresh, he shifted focus from Waterhouse to the act itself. Julian assailed the tactics used by the federal marshal of Indianapolis to bring the case to trial. Sensing public disaffection for the case, the district attorney retreated. He assured jurors that if they found the defendant guilty, the state would accept a light sentence. The jury adjudged Waterhouse guilty, then fined him fifty dollars and sentenced him to just twenty-four hours in prison. (53) “The imprisonment was remitted or avoided, but the fine was probably paid,” a historian of Lagrange County concluded. “This action of the court did not deter Mr. Waterhouse one iota from frequent violations of the (to him) odious law.” (54)
Indianapolis newspapers judged the verdict a blow against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Indiana Free Democrat, an anti-slavery organ, doubted whether “the defendant would have been convicted if imprisonment in the penitentiary had been the certain result.” It described how “odious” the law had become to Hoosiers, how difficult it was to enforce, and how “even when men are convicted of its violation, there is a controlling indisposition on the part of the people of Indiana to enforce its penalties.” (55) In truth, Waterhouse’s case only showed how, under special conditions, that is, the prosecution of a white man, a jury of Indianapolis citizens would oppose rigorous enforcement of the law. The Indiana State Journal, the state capital’s Whig newspaper, reached a more sober conclusion: “Certainly the case gives little aid and comfort to those who think the rigid enforcement of the [Fugitive Slave] Law necessary to ‘save the Union.'” (56)
The last fugitive slave trial in Indianapolis demonstrated that the general public did not always resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Unlike Freeman, “West,” the alleged runaway, had no roots in the state capital, and unlike Waterhouse, he was African-American. In November 1857 agents of Austin W. Vallandingham of Kentucky seized West near Naples, Illinois. The trial took place in Indianapolis because the city’s abolitionists, opposed to “slave catching,” had served Vallandingham with a writ of habeas corpus. An outsider to Indianapolis, West could not easily prove his free status, and popular support for his release developed slowly. Accordingly, the fugitive’s defenders had to draw upon the city’s antislavery vanguard, including free African-Americans, to secure his freedom. (57)
With West’s status uncertain, litigation did not lead to his release. This was not the fault of Julian, West’s attorney, who once again organized a crafty defense. Julian prevailed upon Samuel Williams, a free black, to charge West’s self-proclaimed owner with “kidnapping.” It was an astute ploy. The kidnapping case would be held in a local court, probably before a jury, and once again would put the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 on trial. But local authorities proved uncooperative. An Indianapolis judge upheld the validity of Williams’ suit, but turned aside Julian’s motion to suspend this trial for thirty days. Without the additional time, Julian would not have the opportunity to collect evidence to convict Vallandingham. So he dropped the counter-suit. (58) Events then went from bad to worse for West. The U.S. commissioner of Indianapolis listened to testimony and, after five days, ruled the defendant a runaway slave and ordered his return to Vallandingham. In a last-ditch legal move, Julian applied to state court for a writ of habeas corpus. (59)
Public officials might have reconsidered their decisions had the people of Indianapolis demanded West’s release. But popular sympathy failed to match the public support accorded Freeman. True, large numbers of curious citizens congregated at the courthouse where West’s trial took place. Yet newspapers noted that many of these spectators were African-American, implying that white residents were less interested in the trial of West than they had been in that of Freeman. (60) No local lawyers or businessmen stepped forth to assist West, save for such anti-slavery advocates as Julian. Equally important, the Indianapolis press voiced less support for West. The Indiana State Sentinel, which had urged Freeman’s release, did not favor West’s acquittal. The newspaper, now owned by John Doheny but still Democratic, backed Vallandingham’s claim, then denounced West’s counsels as “traitors against all law and all government.” The editor condemned their use of legal means to undermine the fugitive slave law as “outrageous and atrocious.” With little popular sympathy for West, officials decided this case as they saw fit, ruling in favor of the claimant. (61)
West’s defenders sensed that legal and popular opinion ran against them. At the beginning of the trial’s fifth day, Julian and his colleagues made a daring attempt to rescue the fugitive. As West made his way into the courthouse, an African-American man rode up to the marshal’s carriage and summoned the prisoner to mount one of his horses and ride away. Alas, the plan failed–miserably. West took the bait, but not being much of a horseman and unfamiliar with the territory, he headed off in the wrong direction to a nearby forest, where the marshal and his deputies captured him. To prevent further rescues, the marshal placed an armed posse of thirty-five men around the prisoner. (62)
Tension mounted as the case headed toward its climax. The day after the aborted rescue, a large crowd assembled at the courthouse. (63) On December 4, a state court denied Julian’s motion for a writ of habeas corpus, upholding the commissioner’s decision to return West to bondage. That evening the fugitive would be placed on a train and shipped southward. But Julian, quoting an old African-American spiritual predicted trouble: “If the marshal attempts to take the Negro back to Kentucky, probably he will find Jordan a hard road to travel.” Rumors of violence swept the capital, to the point that the president of the Jeffersonville Railroad promised to accompany West on his journey. When the marshal and his posse entered Union Station “a very excited throng” greeted the fugitive. But they did not attempt to free West and the marshal placed the prisoner on the train and departed. (64)
West’s train had no sooner steamed out of Indianapolis before it came upon rails and cross ties heaped on the tracks. Who organized this scheme is unknown, as local newspapers did not probe its origins. Such resistance smacked of an abolitionist plot, but it proved only a nuisance. The train’s engineer stopped his locomotive before it hit the debris, removed the cross ties, and sped his train southward. Seven miles further south, the locomotive encountered similar debris, and the engineer again had the tracks cleared. In the end, West’s train reached Kentucky safely. (65)
Responses to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 in Indianapolis resembled a set of concentric circles. In the center, a corps of anti-slavery militants, abolitionists and African-Americans, consistently fought enforcement. The next, much larger circle comprised law-abiding citizens who did not like the act, indeed found it irksome, but only resisted the prosecution of free people under it. “While it is right and proper that the Constitution and laws should be enforced in such cases,” the Whig lawyer Oliver Smith argued, “it is highly important that every safeguard should be thrown around the free man of color.” (66) The outer ring included Democrats of pro-Southern, negrophobic persuasion. Supporters of the Compromise of 1850, they wanted the fugitive act enforced, but were pragmatic enough to oppose kidnapping. The Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis) endorsed the release of Freeman, clearly not a slave, but attacked the efforts of abolitionists to free West. Only the Freeman case with its unique set of circumstances–evidence of freedom, popular sympathy, and elite support–was able to traverse the many circles.
Less certain is the extent to which national events shaped responses to fugitive slave cases. Freeman’s ordeal unfolded in 1853, when the slavery issue seemed dormant, while the West trial occurred in 1857, when national debate had reached fever pitch over Kansas’s pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution. The calmer atmosphere in 1853 perhaps eased Freeman’s peaceful release, while reports of bloodshed from Kansas in 1857 may have incited abolitionists to take extra-legal action to free West. Then again, the Waterhouse case resolved itself without incident late in 1854, when the country was dividing over the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Central and Southern Indiana Cases
Fugitive slave trials in Vincennes, Terre Haute, New Albany, and Vernon revealed a familiar story: a small group of abolitionists and Underground Railroad workers defied the fugitive slave law, but only individuals who were clearly not fugitives garnered any popular support. Since African-Americans tried under the law in southern Indiana obtained little sympathy from judges, Hoosiers opposed to slavery faced an unenviable choice: Defy the fugitive slave law or watch free people be carried into bondage.
In a fugitive slave case heard in Vincennes, citizens did not confront such a choice; the alleged runaways were slaves. The affair began in 1851, when two white men, Seth Conklin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and David Stormont, the leader of the Underground Railroad in Princeton, in Gibson County, Indiana, smuggled the wife of one of their black compatriots, Peter Still, and three other slaves out of Alabama. Their hopes for success ran high; Conklin boasted that the runaways would reach Canada, for no fugitive who reached Stormont’s station had ever been captured. But the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 had strengthened the machinery for retrieving runaway slaves, and the federal marshal of Evansville caught up with Conklin and the four fugitives twenty-three miles north of Vincennes. (67)
During the trial, no member of the Vincennes community offered to help the runaways. The Evansville marshal hauled the fugitives before a local judge who jailed them. The next day, the magistrate accepted the evidence of their master and returned the slaves to him. Conklin, the only man who tried to stop the trial, wired his colleagues for bail money. But the message reached Princeton after the marshal and his slaves had departed Vincennes. (68) Coordination between claimant, marshal, and magistrate (not all towns enjoyed the services of federal commissioners), combined with a listless response from the community, sent the fugitives back into slavery. “No fears need be entertained,” the Vincennes Gazette almost boasted following the incident, “that the citizens of this county will place any obstacles in the way of the execution of the law, or that a mob similar to that in Boston, will ever disgrace our town or State.” (69)
A different set of circumstances came together in 1858, in Terre Haute, fifty miles north of Vincennes. On July 21, two slave catchers arrested an elderly African-American man on the charge that he was a runaway slave. The accused had lived in Terre Haute for almost twenty years and the town’s residents, unlike those of Vincennes, tried to intervene. As the man’s accusers dragged him to the courthouse, a furious crowd assembled to protest the prisoner’s treatment and insult his kidnappers. (70)
Such resistance, sporadic and unorganized, proved futile. The slave catchers purchased cooperation from some members of the community by offering to share their reward. They also hid their “prize” from the howling crowds. And they were lucky, too, for officials did little to stop them from taking the man into slavery. The sheriff of Vigo County asked one of the slave hunters if he knew the Negro in question. No, replied the man’s accuser, but he believed this African-American to be a slave and vowed to take him south to claim his reward. The judge ruled in favor of the man’s accusers. Then, aided by twelve local “mercenaries” and encouraged by what the Terre Haute Wabash Express, a Republican newspaper, labeled “the lowest rabble,” the slave catchers left Terre Haute with the “fugitive.” (71)
The differing public responses in Vincennes and Terre Haute communities failed to sway the decisions of judges. Whether their decisions on behalf of slave owners represented miscarriages of the law was difficult to prove. Available sources, however fragmentary, suggested that the Vincennes fugitives were indeed slaves. The status of the Terre Haute man remained unclear, since evidence for that case came from Republican newspaper, during a year, 1858, when the sectional crisis had grown heated. Nevertheless, Indiana magistrates proved reluctant to release accused runaways, even when unique circumstances led citizens to sympathize with alleged fugitives.
Such conditions came together in New Albany, located on the Ohio River opposite Louisville, Kentucky. In November 1850, the city’s marshal arrested a woman and her two children, charging them as fugitive slaves. This case was unusual, for the alleged slaves appeared to be white. According to the New Albany Ledger, citizens were up in arms over the arrest “not because of any general sympathy for fugitive slaves but because they believe that persons of the Anglo-Saxon race have been unjustly deprived of their liberty.” (72) Popular unrest translated into community action as lawyers stepped forth to defend the “fugitives.” Local physicians examined the defendants and pronounced no trace of “African” blood. (73)
For New Albanyites, the matter seemed easy to decide; the accused fugitives were white, could not be slaves, and had to be released. But the presiding judge, Elisha Huntington, showed the same steadfast devotion to the Union–and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850–that he had exhibited six years earlier at Indianapolis. Huntington wanted to rule in favor of the claimant, but feared that such a ruling would stir citizens to free the defendants by force. Fortunately, the local marshal advised the magistrate not to worry and to decide the case as he saw fit for there would be no “rescue.” With that assurance, Huntington ordered the trio remanded into slavery. (74)
Why did the marshal so advise Huntington? He no doubt knew of a community-wide campaign to purchase the freedom of the alleged fugitives. As legal proceedings began, a handful of New Albanyites (all presumably white) met with the claimant to negotiate a price. Other members of the community formed committees to solicit the necessary funds. They soon raised the requisite amount ($600) and bought the freedom of the three defendants. (75)
With the freedom of white people at stake, citizens of New Albany used legal means to circumvent the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But residents of this deep southern Indiana community would not have done so had the defendants been black as evident in two instances. In December 1856, two fugitive slaves were captured near the city and returned to their master without due process of law. On April 30, 1860, a federal magistrate in New Albany ordered Tom Bishop remanded to slavery and sent southward “at government expense.” (76)
That same single-mindedness on the part of Hoosier magistrates was evident in the Mitchum case. On February 15, 1853, George W. Mason of Kentucky, seized “Mitchum,” an elderly black man living in Vernon, Indiana, and pronounced him his slave. Since Mitchum had lived near Vernon for nineteen years, his arrest sparked a good deal of interest; spectators congregated about the town’s courthouse as legal proceedings got under way. Perhaps responding to the nearby crowds, the local justice of the peace granted Mitchum a trial. Three lawyers came forth to defend the old man. (77) Such circumstances were reminiscent of the Freeman case. A long-time resident of the community had been arrested; the public appeared aroused, even sympathetic; lawyers emerged to defend the accused slave in court. Two elements were missing, however: Overwhelming evidence of Mitchum’s free status and a judge willing to release him.
Defense attorneys argued against remanding Mitchum to Mason. They claimed that the justice of the peace had no authority over this case, and, given the time that had passed since Mitchum’s “escape,” Mason could not absolutely identify him as his slave. Such arguments did not sit well with the judge. He ruled that in the absence of a federal commissioner he had jurisdiction over the trial. The judge then listened to the claimant’s evidence. A neighbor testified that Mitchum had been a blacksmith during his years of servitude. Another Vernon resident corroborated this testimony by recalling that two or three years earlier Mitchum had boasted that he “could do almost any kind of smith work.” On that rather flimsy evidence, the justice of the peace ordered Mitchum returned to his “master.” (78)
Vernonites accepted the decision. “We are happy to report,” the Vernon Times concluded, “that no excitement tending towards mob law existed, and we think our Kentucky neighbors leave our town satisfied that how great soever [sic] our abhorrence to the institution of slavery may be we still are a law abiding people.” (79) This report, probably written by a Democrat, neglected to mention how the case had sparked public interest and how lawyers had defended Mitchum. (80) Nevertheless, its “law and order” perspective, opposing public disturbances and affirming the sanctity of property rights, was commonplace in fugitive slave cases.
This conservative point of view no doubt influenced decisions in other fugitive trials. In 1853, a man known as “George” was tried as a fugitive slave in Washington, in Daviess County, and then returned to his “master” by order of a local judge. One year later, a U.S. commissioner in Madison remanded Alvin Adams to slavery. In 1857, a judge in Jeffersonville sent John Tatson back into bondage. Many alleged slaves did not even receive trials. According to the historian Stanley Campbell, on six occasions, African-Americans were snatched from Indiana soil and shipped to the South without due process of law. The details of these incidents are sketchy. One occurred in New Albany, another in Greensburg, and yet another in Vernon. Given the views of many Indiana magistrates, their fates probably would have been the same had they received trials. (81)
Racism and concern for property rights aside, why did Indiana judges uphold the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 so rigorously? Information about the origins of these judges, with the exception of federal magistrates, like Huntington, remains thin, since their names rarely appeared in press reports. Yet it is possible to generalize about their motivations. In a state proclaiming devotion to the Union, judges deferred to Southern slaveholders by returning fugitives. As early as 1822, the legislature of Kentucky had called upon citizens of neighboring states for help in putting down “slave running.” (82) The worsening sectional crisis of the 1850s pressed public officials and citizens of Northern states who claimed to love the Federal Union to carry out the Compromise of 1850. Since slave running continued throughout the 1850s, authorities may have sought to discourage such activities by dealing harshly with accused fugitives, if for no larger reason than to maintain public order. The Vincennes case began with the smuggling of four fugitives by Princeton conductors. Terre Haute was a station on the Underground Railroad. So too were New Albany, Vernon, and Indianapolis. (83)
The political and regional background of Indiana communities partly influenced reactions to fugitive slave cases. The trial in Vincennes, decided quickly and without resistance in favor of the master, took place in Knox County, a Democratic area. The split response of the people of Terre Haute in a way mirrored the closely divided partisan contests in Vigo County during the 1850s. The Mitchum case, on the other hand, took place in Jennings County, a stronghold of the emerging Republican party. Not surprisingly, Vernonites not only expressed sympathy for Mitchum; they organized to defend him in court. (84)
The circumstances of each case proved just as important in shaping popular reactions. Floyd County was solidly Democratic, with a large population of Southerners. (85) Yet in New Albany’s best-known trial, the fugitives were white, and a supportive community freed them via legal means. Mitchum and the accused fugitive in Terre Haute were long-time residents of their respective towns–facts that helped sway popular sympathy toward both men. In Vincennes, on the other hand, the fugitives were clearly slaves and aroused no discernable public support.
Whatever the blend of circumstances, personal beliefs, and political affiliation, Hoosiers seemed less likely to defy the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 than their Northern brethren in New England and other centers of anti-slavery sentiment. Ninety-one percent of fugitive slave cases tried in Indiana went against the accused, compared to eighty-two percent of those heard in the North. No successful slave rescue took place in Indiana, although there were two in Boston, three in Pennsylvania, and four in Ohio. In the Hoosier state, enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 consistently favored the claimant and provoked little extra-legal opposition. (85)
The Freeman case proved exceptional, for it was the only instance in which an Indiana judge ordered a captive “fugitive” released. Popular within his community and known to be free, Freeman benefited from an aroused, sympathetic public. His defenders went beyond anti-slavery activists and included newspaper editors of all political stripes as well as business leaders. Most important, the weight of evidence was on Freeman’s side. For an accused fugitive to gain freedom via legal action in Indiana, many conditions had to converge: free status, popular sympathy, and elite support. They only came together in this unique case.
The Freeman affair was also noteworthy because it unfolded in an urban setting. Cities, with their varied religious, legal, political, and financial institutions, provided means and networks for challenging this unpopular law. During West’s trial, also in Indianapolis, African-Americans seemed more willing to resist openly the fugitive slave law, although their plot to rescue him failed. Had the Vernon and Terre Haute cases taken place in cities, the accused fugitives, two long-time residents, might have drawn additional legal support and affirmed their free status. But decisions in those cases, as in other small towns, went against the accused.
The reader hoping to discover dramatic slave rescues or heroic communities organizing to defy slaveholders under all circumstances will find Indiana’s response to fugitive slave cases disappointing. Hoosiers generally deferred to Southern will and accepted the decisions of magistrates. In 1857, George W. Julian had warned a judge not to send the fugitive West into slavery, for he would find the “Jordan a hard road to travel.” That threat rang hollow. Throughout Indiana, only accused fugitives and abolitionists found the path before them, toward freedom, hard to travel.
(1) Harold Schwartz, “Fugitive Slave Days in Boston,” New England Quarterly 27 (June 1954):191.
(2) Stanley W. Campbell, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 23-25; Charles H. Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History 17 (June/September 1921):161-63; Paul Finkelman, Slavery in the Courtroom: An Annotated Bibliography of American Cases (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1985), 59-60; James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 80; Albert J. Von Frank, The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson’s Boston (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).
(3) Richmond Palladium (Indiana), September 11, 1850, 2.
(4) Campbell, Slave Catchers, 110-47; McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 82; David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 139. For the response in another section of the North, see Richard J. M. Blackett, “… ‘Freedom or the Martyr’s Grave’: Black Pittsburgh’s Aid to the Fugitive Slaves,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 61 (April 1978): 117-34.
(5) “Do Not Send Back the Fugitive: An Address Delivered in Boston on October 14, 1850,” in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 1: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews, vol. 2: 1847-54, ed. John W. Blassingame (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979), 248.
(6) Potter, Impending Crisis, 1848-1861, 138-39; McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 84; Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1991), 768-69.
(7) The cases can be found in Samuel May, The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970).
(8) Quoted in Emma Lou Thornbrough, The History of Indiana, vol. 3, Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880 (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1965), 3, 47. Governor Wright also promoted bipartisan and inter-sectional unity in May 1850 when he invited the Whig Governor of Kentucky, John J. Crittenden, to visit Indianapolis. See Phillip Miller Crane, “Governor Jo Wright: Hoosier Conservative” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1963), 131-33.
(9) On the state’s Southern-born population, see James H. Madison, The Indiana Way: A State History (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986), 195; Nicole Etcheson, “The Southern Influence on Midwestern Political Culture: Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois from Frontier to Disunion” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1991), 1-18. On the state constitutional convention, see Thornbrough, The History of Indiana, vol. 3, Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880, 48; Edward A. Leary, Indianapolis: The Story of a City (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), 87. Other evidence of Indiana’s devotion to the Union can be seen in the state’s support of the actions of the federal government in prosecuting the Civil War. Indiana, for example, sent 74.3% of its men of draftable age into the Northern ranks–a percentage second only to that of Delaware. See William E. Wilson, Indiana: A History (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1966), 147-48.
(10) Finkelman, Slavery in the Courtroom, 82-83.
(11) Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 913-14.
(12) Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 70-72, 93, 115, 151, 182-85. On the violence committed by whites against blacks, see Leonard L. Richards, “Gentlemen of Property and Standing”: Anti-Abolition Mobs in Jacksonian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970). Regarding nineteenth century American racism, consult George M. Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character, 1817-1914 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1987); Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana: A Study of a Minority (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1957), 31; Thornbrough, The History of Indiana, vol. 3, Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880, 46. Personal liberty laws are discussed in Thomas D. Morris, Free Men All: The Personal Liberty Laws of the North, 1780-1861 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).
(13) Campbell, Slave Catchers, 185; Leary, Indianapolis, 87-88. The influx of Southerners also impacted the character and degree of racism in Indiana. See Etcheson, “Southern Influence on Midwestern Political Culture,” 362-86, 414-31.
(14) Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 161; Campbell, Slave Catchers, 185; Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 109; Vincennes Gazette, April 3, 1851, 2; Madison Weekly Courier, March 5, 1851, 2.
(15) Etcheson, “Southern Influence on Midwestern Political Culture,” 1-18, 362-86, 414-31.
(16) Madison, The Indiana Way, 107.
(17) Jacob Piatt Dunn, Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1910), 240.
(19) No date was given for this incident. “Interviews Of Philip Kabel With Persons In Randolph County, About 1900-1909, Concerning Underground Railroad Activities,” Folder 42, Philip Kabel Collection, Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis, Indiana (hereafter “IHSL”).
(20) Thornbrough, The History of Indiana, vol. 3, Indiana in the Civil War Era, 15-20.
(21) Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 147, 151-56; Moses Broyles, The History of the Second Baptist Church of Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN: Printing and Publishing House, 1876); Alan Goebes, “The History of the Second Baptist Church,” unpublished paper, File SC1889, IHSL.
(22) Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 164-70, 145-46.
(23) Leary, Indianapolis, 88; Some scholars, such as Larry Gara in his study The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1961), dispute the existence of a highly organized secret society. But the pledge taken by members of the Underground Railroad seems to undercut this argument. See “Pledge of a Member of the Underground Railroad,” Folder M199, Box 1807-1859, Thomas Marshall Collection, IHSL; Dunn, Greater Indianapolis, 250.
(24) W.D. Waldrip, “A Station on the Underground Railroad,” Indiana Magazine of History 7 (June 1911):70, 76; Oliver Huff, “Old Newport,” paper presented at the Wayne County Historical Society, August 31, 1900, File SC2122, IHSL.
(25) Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 42-43; Dunn, Greater Indianapolis, 250; “Personal Recollections of Mary Reid Gillum,” Folder 1254, Samuel Reid Family Collection, IHSL.
(26) Harry Lemen, “The Todd House and Its Relation to the Underground Railroad,” unpublished paper, no date, Clippings File: Counties, Jefferson–Madison, Folder 369, IHSL.
(27) Quoted in “J.H. Tibbets Recalls Slavery Times in Jennings County and Madison, Indiana,” Accounts Folder, Theodore Steele Collection, IHSL.
(28) Gwendolyn Crenshaw, “‘Bury Me in a Free Land”: The Abolitionist Movement in Indiana, 1816-1865 (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1986), 28; Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 48, 54; Wilbur H. Siebert, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Macmillan Company, 1898; reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1968), 408.
(29) “J.H. Tibbets Recalls Slavery Times in Jennings County and Madison, Indiana,” Accounts Folder, Theodore Steele Collection, IHSL.
(30) “Interviews Of Philip Kabel With Persons In Randolph County, About 1900-1909, Concerning Underground Railroad Activities,” Folder 77, Philip Kabel Collection, IHSL.
(31) “Personal Recollections of Mary Reid Gillum,” Folder 1254, Samuel Reid Family Collection, IHSL.
(32) The statistics cited are based upon computations of figures found in Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 44-54.
(33) According to census figures, the African-American population of Knox County decreased from 530 in 1850 to 449 in 1860. In Vigo County, it declined from 748 to 706, while in Jennings County, it dropped from 323 to 151 during the same decade. See Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1853), 755-56; Population of the United States in 1860: The Eighth Census (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1864), 112-13. The number of African-Americans residing in the state was small from the beginning. They comprised only 1.1% of the population in 1850.
(34) Julia S. Conklin, “The Underground Railroad in Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History 6 (June 1910):64-65.
(35) Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), June 22, 1853, 3.
(36) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), June 23, 1853, 2; Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), June 30, 1853, 2; Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), June 26, 1853, 2.
(37) Freeman was 35 years old in 1850. John Freeman Household, 1850 U.S. Census, Marion County, Indiana, Population Schedule, Center Township, 177, microfilm in Monroe County Public Library (hereafter “MCPL”), Bloomington, Indiana.
(38) Quotations from Oliver H. Smith, Early Indiana Trials and Sketches: Reminiscences by Hon. O. H. Smith (Cincinnati, OH: Moore, Wilstach, Keys and Company, 1858), 278-79.
(39) John Freeman Household, 1850 U.S. Census, Marion County, Indiana, Population Schedule, Center Township, 177, microfilm, MCPL. Regarding Freeman’s property, see Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana, 115.
(40) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), June 27, 1853, 2; June 30, 1853, 2; Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), June 26, 1853, 2; Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 181; Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), June 30, 1853, 1-2; Leary, Indianapolis, 89.
(41) Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), June 30, 1853, 1-2; Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), June 27, 1853, 2.
(42) Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 184; Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), June 30, 1853, 2.
(43) George W. Julian, Political Recollections, 1840-1872 (Chicago: Jansen, McClung, and Company, 1883), 139; Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), June 26, 1853, 2.
(44) Dunn, Greater Indianapolis, 246; Julian, Political Recollections, 1840-1872, 134.
(45) Two of Ellington’s witnesses later identified “Sam” as the fugitive in question. See Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 190-94; May, Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims, 27.
(46) Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 197.
(47) Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 117.
(48) Waterhouse owned $3,010 worth of property in 1850. Benjamin B.-Waterhouse Household, 1850 U.S. Census, Lagrange County, Indiana, Population Schedule, Town of Milford, 36 (Dwelling 486, Family 490), microfilm, MCPL. For Waterhouse’s arrest and trial, see 1882 History of Lagrange County, Indiana (Lagrange, IN: Lagrange County Historical Society, 1882), 251.
(49) Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 275. Money does not describe what evidence the prosecution presented against Waterhouse.
(50) 1882 History of Lagrange County, Indiana, 248.
(51) Ibid., 251.
(52) Ibid., 252.
(53) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), December 13, 1854, 1; Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), December 14, 1854, 1-2.
(54) 1882 History of Lagrange County, Indiana, 251.
(55) Indiana Free Democrat (Indianapolis), December 14, 1854, 1-2.
(56) Quoted in Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 275.
(57) Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law in Indiana,” 257-58; Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), November 28, 1857, 3.
(58) Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), November 28, 1857, 3; December 3, 1857, 3; Money, “The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in Indiana,” 257-60; Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), December 2, 1857, 3.
(59) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), December 2, 1857, 3; Julian, Political Recollections, 1840-1872, 163-64.
(60) Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), November 28, 1857, 3.
(61) Ibid., December 6, 1857, 2. For the political perspective of the Indiana State Sentinel, see John W. Miller, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 275-76.
(62) Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), December 3, 1857, 3; Julian, Political Recollections, 1840-1872, 164.
(63) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), December 3, 1857, 3; December 5, 1857, 2.
(64) Indiana State Journal (Indianapolis), December 5, 1857, 2; Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis), December 5, 1857, 3; New Albany Daily Ledger, December 7, 1857, 2.
(65) New Albany Daily Ledger, December 7, 1857, 2.
(66) Gil R. Stormont, History of Gibson County, Indiana: Her People, Industries, and Institutions (Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bower, 1914), 225-28; Siebert, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom, 160-61.
(67) Smith, Early Indiana Trials and Sketches, 279.
(68) Stormont, History of Gibson County, Indiana, 229-30; Vincennes Gazette, April 3, 1851, 2; May, Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims, 17.
(69) Vincennes Gazette, April 3, 1851, 2.
(70) May, Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims, 101; Terre Haute Wabash Express, July 22, 1858, 2-3.
(71) Terre Haute Wabash Express, July 22, 1858, 2-3; July 23, 1858, 2; July 24, 1858, 2.
(72) New Albany Weekly Ledger, November 12, 1850, 2; December 4, 1850, 1.
(73) Ibid., December 4, 1850, 1.
(74) Ibid., December 4, 1850, 2.
(76) Campbell, Slave Catchers, 199-206.
(77) Madison Weekly Courier, March 5, 1853, 2.
(79) Quoted in Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 108.
(80) I assume that the Vernon Times was a Democratic newspaper because its editorial was reprinted in the state’s leading Democratic organ, the Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis). See Thornbrough, Negro in Indiana, 108n.27.
(81) Campbell, Slave Catchers, 199-206.
(82) “Kentucky Resolution to the Adjacent States,” Folder 1353, IHSL.
(83) Vincennes Gazette, April 13, 1851, 2: Dunn, Greater Indianapolis, 250; Leary, Indianapolis, 87-88.
(84) Indiana Votes: Election Returns for Governor, 1852-1856, and Senator, 1914-1958, ed. Robert J. Pitchell (Bloomington, IN: Bureau of Government Research, Indiana University, 1960), 6-12; Melvyn Hammarberg, The Indiana Voter: The Historical Dynamics of Party Allegiance During the 1870s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 158; Charles S. Hyneman, C. Richard Hofstetter, and Patrick F. O’Connor, Voting in Indiana: A Century of Persistence and Change (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979), 86; Indiana Election Returns, 1816-1851, eds. Dorothy Riker and Gayle Thornbrough (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Bureau 1960), 344-64.
(85) Indiana Votes, ed. Pitchell, 6-12; Hammarberg, The Indiana Voter, 158; Hyneman, Hofstetter, and O’Connor, Voting in Indiana, 86.
(86) The statistics cited were computed from information provided in Campbell, Slave Catchers, 199-206.
DEAN J. KOTLOWSKI is an Assistant Professor of History at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland.
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