Fugitive Slave Case


 Information having been given to United States Deputy Marshal Thayer that a gang of fugitive slaves were secreted in the woods on Lick Run [near what is today Queen City Avenue], he procured the services of Deputy City Marshals Lee and Worley and Sheriff Ward, of Covington, Ky., and on Wednesday night caught nine negroes in a stable about a mile beyond the asylum, and brought them to the city.  In the company were four men, two women and three children; they were all arrested under a warrant issued by U. S. Commissioner John Pendery, upon the oath of William Walton, of Boone County, Ky., who claims four of them. The fugitives are claimed by William Walton, J. Gaines, J. P. Scott, and J. Chrisler, of Grant and Boone counties, Ky. The negroes all carried bundles and were apparently much travel-worn and fatigued.  They had been taken to the stable where they were found, by a mulatto, who afterwards gave information to the officers.  On being brought to the city they were locked up in the water-house cells during the night.  Yesterday morning they were taken out, placed in an omnibus belonging to the Cincinnati and Lexington Railroad line, and conveyed under guard of a posse of our municipal police to an unoccupied room in the third story of the old Court-House building in Court-street, near Main, where U. S. Commissioner Pendery proposed to try the case.  The negroes were handcuffed but seemed as cheerful as could be expected.  They were:

Lewis, a young man about 24 years of age;
Susan, a woman 39 years of age;
Wesley, a boy 9 years of age;
John, a boy 7 years of age;
Almeda, a woman 26 years of age, who carried Sarah Jane, a child 3 years old, in her arms;
Lee, a young man 21 years old;
Shadrach, a venerable Uncle Tom, 60 years of age; and
Anderson, a young man 22 years old.  

Upon the case coming before the Commissioner, Mr. Walton could only swear definitely to the six claimed by himself, Lewis, Susan, Wesley, John, Almeda, and Sarah Jane, and accordingly they were sent to jail, and the case continued to 1 ½ o’clock P. M. so that the necessary papers could be made out. Lee is claimed by John Gaines, the guardian of Elizabeth and Jaspar Blickenbacker. Shadrach is claimed by Jonas Christler, and Anderson by John P. Scott. Susan is the wife of old Shadrach, and Wesley and John are their children.  Lee and Almeda are husband and wife, and Sarah Jane is their child.  They were all plainly but comfortably dressed.  Old Shadrach wore a coat from the same piece of cloth as that worn by his master.  The negroes did not complain of ill-treatment, but in answer to the remark of Mr. Christler that they were well-cared for, Shadrach stated that they had run away because they had been told that they were sold to be taken down the river.  One of the Kentucky gentlemen went up to Shadrach and wanted to know how he fared.  “What,” said he to Shadrach, “induced you to run away and steal these people with you.  You must have thought these devils over here would take care of you.  You have always kindly treated, yet you run away.  They would take you to Canada, where, in two Winters, you would be frozen, every one of you.”  The old darkey looked sly, but said nothing.  

The attorneys for the claimants were Mssrs. Ketchum, Pugh, and Dudley, and the negroes were defended by Messrs. Jolliffe and Gretchell.  When the negroes ran away on Sunday night from the homes of their masters, they placed their bundles on the backs of three of their masters horses, and on arriving at the Ohio River near Lawrenceburg, they turned the horses homeward again, and taking a skiff, rowed themselves across to the Ohio shore about midnight.  After traveling two or three miles, they hid during Monday in a clump of bushes.  When night came they started northward.  They had not proceeded far when they met a colored man named John Gyser, who promised to assist them in making their way north.  They accompanied him to a stable on Mr. Hume’s farm, on Lick Run turnpike, and out two and a half miles from the city, where they were to remain until that evening, when he would return with assistance to aid them in reaching Canada. During the day, Gyser visited Covington, and hearing that a reward of $1000 was offered for their apprehension and arrest, he gave the information.  In the evening a number of Kentuckians surrounded the premises of Mr. Hume, while the United States Deputy Marshal, George Thayer, assisted by three of our city officers, went into the stable and arrested them on a warrant, issued by United States Commissioner Pendery.  One of the fugitives, who carries his violin with him, was playing upon it when the stable was entered by the officers.  They made very little resistance, and were easily secured and brought into the city.

 We subjoin the following statement, says the Cincinnati Gazette, which has been handed us:  It is reported in the City papers that the fugitives now on trial were betrayed by a colored man, who escorted them to a place where they were secreted, and that the owner of the stable had no knowledge of their being there previous to the arrest.  Such are not the facts in the case.  The fugitives, the night previous to their arrest, in company with a true and trusty free colored man, traveled twenty miles, expecting to reach the city and find refuge among friends here before daylight.  But having the children to carry in their arms and being jaded and worn out, day light came upon them when they were several miles from the City.  Carriages had been sent from the city to meet them, but, unfortunately, missed them. 

The colored man tried to engage a German market-man to bring them in his wagon, but failed and they were soon discovered by the owner of the stable.  He represented himself as a real friend of the slave; told them he had to run away from Kentucky for aiding in the escape of slaves, and assured them that they would be perfectly safe to lodge in his stable until night, when they would be removed with safety.  The colored men came on to the city and made arrangement with conductors of the U. G. Railroad to have them brought in at night.  But the owner of the stable repaired to Kentucky, and informed the slave hunters where they were, and had arrangements made with officers to take them.  The colored people went out at night to bring in the slaves, but found them in the hands of officers.  This man, who thus betrayed innocent and helpless women and children, endeavors to screen his own infamous conduct by pretending to ignorance and charging it on the colored man who conducted them.  He deserves to be scorned and despised by every person who has a particle of humanity left in his breast. – One Who Knows.  

PS – There is no such colored man in the City as John Gyser; the colored man who was with the slaves is well known.  He could not be bribed.  If any one has got a reward, it is the owner of the stable.    


Northern Kentucky Views' source for this story is the New York Times of June 19, 1854.  On that day, the Times published several days of coverage from various Cincinnati newspapers - the Cincinnati Columbian of June 16, 1854, and The Cincinnati Gazette of June 17, 1854.  Further, we have excerpted what the Times printed; we left out a lot of the court wrangling, and the character testimony of the slave owners for the other slave owners.  And as one further note, Commissioner Pendery and Attorney Jolliffe, principal players in the above case, were primary figures in a January, 1856 slavery escape from Boone County to Cincinnati, that of Margaret Garner.