Black Kidnappings in the
By JON MUSGRAVE
Wabash and Ohio Valleys of Illinois
The crime of kidnapping fellow humans has had vastly different legal definitions over the past two centuries. In the landmark study, Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865, Carol Wilson considered two types of kidnappings of free blacks: physical abduction and inveiglement1 Wilson's work did not cover a third type of kidnapping where slave-catchers went after run-away slaves. This study includes all three as well as incidents in Illinois where white masters illegally took indentured servants across state lines for the purpose of re-enslaving them.
This study will focus on the four types of kidnappings in the Wabash and Ohio river valleys of Southern Illinois, as the saline reservation near the confluence of the two rivers served as a focal point for slavery in the state. Historically, the southern third or fourth of Illinois has been considered a distinct area known as Egypt. Although the name derived from the Egyptian place names given to the area beginning in 1799, with Goshen in Madison County; and later Mount Cairo in Hardin County; Cairo, Thebes and Alexandria in Alexander County; Karnak in Pulaski County and Dongola in Union County. The name of Egypt was strengthened after the Winter of Deep Snow in 1830-31, but became a derisive term later, in part of the southern region's long support or tolerance of slavery.2
There are not many references to kidnappings in this region available today. Gallatin County, home of the salt reservation, has lost nearly all of their 19th Century circuit court records. Hardin County to the south had also lost most of their records due to two courthouse fires. In other counties such as Saline, actual court files from the time prior to the Civil War have disappeared or been destroyed. Scattered editions of ante-bellum newspapers still survive on microfilm and have provided some clues. Other evidence of the kidnappings have been found in manuscript collections such as those for George Flower and Henry Eddy. Generally, this study uses only contemporary sources. References based on oral tradition or folklore will only be used when they flesh out instances where an outline or foundation for the crime has already been identified using contemporary documents. For the most part these types of references are used for John Crenshaw's efforts to capture runaway slaves and to
provide more details about the kidnappings conceived by William Henry Vaughn in Pope County. Any such references will be clearly noted. Other than traditions surrounding John Crenshaw, the last lessee of the state's saline reservation, and of the Massac Rebellion little has been recorded that provides any amount of details.
The lack of complete court files in many cases does not diminish the danger to blacks associated by kidnapping. Wilson summarized, "[t]he ever-present danger of kidnapping and the fact that its victims had little recourse proved a grave threat to the black community."3 Wilson also quoted U. B. Phillips' treatise, American Negro Slavery: "Kidnappings without pretense of legal claim were done so furtively that they seldom attained record unless the victims had recourse to the courts; and this was made rare by the helplessness of childhood in some cases and in others by the fear of lashes."4 Although "Freedom at Risk" focuses generally on kidnappings in the eastern states, the problem existed throughout all of the border states. Before considering Illinois cases, it is important to note the scope of kidnappings in the East, even prior to its flourishment to t
Two Philadelphia abolitionists provide information about the scope of kidnapping taking place in the first decade of the 19th Century. Thomas P. Cope wrote in his diary in 1803, that "not a day passes but free blacks are stolen by force or decoyed by the most wicked artifices from the Northern Middle States and sold for slaves in the Southern ."5 Three years later in 1806, another abolitionist named John Parrish made a similar note, "We permit six hundred persons to be kidnapped in six months alone because people want to get rid of the free Negroes."6
Regrettably, that level of candor generally is not shown in the few records remaining concerning kidnapping in the Wabash and Ohio valleys of Southern Illinois. The first kidnapping case found in southeastern Illinois is located in the Johnson County Circuit Clerk's office. Mrs. P. T. Chapman described an 1813 case in her History of Johnson County, Illinois, as such, "The Weaver vs. Wilcox case grew out of one of them saying that the other had run off his negro girl. This was frequently done by dishonest parties in the days of slavery. They would take negroes belonging to someone else, take them south and sell them."7
As early as 1822, the highest officials in Illinois were discussing the problem of kidnappings. That year, newly elected Gov. Edward Coles asked the legislature in his inaugural address to confront the issue of kidnapping. Also showing his hostility to slavery in general, the governor began a two-year clash with the pro-slavery General Assembly which resulted in the defeat of a call for a new pro-slavery constitutional convention.8
The kidnapping of free blacks had long been a problem in Illinois. The Black Code of 1819 allowed a fine of $1,000 to be levied on behalf of the victim, but did not provide for any criminal convictions. Coupled with the fact that blacks could not testify in court against a white man, the two made any legal remedy almost impossible. Only in a few counties where the pro-slavery sentiment was not so strong did free blacks win cases against white kidnappers. Usually it was for the crime of trespass and only with the help of friendly whites did they convince juries.9
During this time southeastern Illinois was plagued by more than kidnappers. The region was home to a sizable criminal element that included counterfeiters and highwaymen. The leaders of these groups were some of the same outlaws that had been at Cave-in-Rock at the turn of the century. Gov. Thomas Ford in his History of Illinois described the outlaws as "an ancient colony of horse-thieves, counterfeiters and robbers."10
According to Davidson and Stuvé's Complete History of Illinois published in 1876, "The crime of seizing free blacks, running them south and selling them into slavery from this State, for a long time was quite common.... [P]ortions of southern Illinois for many years afforded a safe retreat to those kidnapping outlaws. We cannot cite the numerous cases of kidnapping." Davidson and Stuvé further described the criminal activity:
[I]n the majority of cases the poor ignorant blacks, by fraud and deceit, were inveigled into a trip south on a flat boat, or other errand, and at some pre-arranged point on the river, they would be turned over to confederates, forcibly and rapidly taken to the interior and there sold into slavery... Another mode was to seize a black and forcibly convey him to a rendezvous either on the Ohio or Mississippi, but not out of the State, where a confederate would appear and carry him beyond.11
Today the most complete record of any particular kidnapping in this region of Illinois is the case of William Henry Vaughn's kidnapping of four of Elijah Morris' children. Two reasons exist for the preservation of the records. The first is that Pope County is the smallest county in the state. It has never ran out of room in its vault for circuit court records. Thus, it has records dating back to the creation of the county in 1815. Secondly, the kidnapping of Elijah's children, as the incident is remembered, occurred just before the formation of the Regulators, a vigilante group. The group was formed in response to a number of hideous crimes. This kidnapping, another earlier one and two brutal beatings of elderly couples during robberies, led to the formation of the vigilante group. Seeing the success of the Regulators in Pope County, residents of neighboring Massac County formed their own band. At times the two groups joined together to fight an organized group of outlaws which were kn
own as the Flatheads. This Regulator-Flathead War, also known as the Massac County Rebellion, took place during the same time as the better known Mormon Troubles in Nauvoo. Former Illinois Secretary of State James A. Rose compiled a group of documents and manuscripts concerning the Regulator and Flathead feud. The documents were transcribed in June and July 1951, and have become known as the Rose Manuscript.12
In 1841, a free black man named Elijah Morris came to Pope County with his family to permanently reside. As required by law they appeared before Circuit Clerk John Raum and presented their freedom papers. A Davison County, Tennessee, court had declared Morris a free man. Previously, Elliot Hackly had owned Morris, who had been valued at $600. By what reasons Morris and his family became free are not known.13 Morris, his wife Junetta, and their 10 children settled on land owned by Sam Blair, near Pope County's seat of government at Golconda. Their cabin was close to Blair's residence.14 Raum would later become a leader in the Pope County Regulators, according to his son, Civil War Gen. Green Berry Raum who repeated some of his memories to Rose.15
On October 10, 1842, six kidnappers burst into the Morris home and abducted four of the children: Katherine, Martha, David and James.16 Katherine, (spelled Catherine by Annable) was the eldest taken at age 12 years, five months at the time of the kidnapping. Martha was 10 years, eight months. David was 7 years, six months, and James was 6 years, eight months.17 The four indictments brought down against Vaughn one year later in October 1843, differentiate between the kidnappings of the two girls and the two boys. All four indictments charged that Vaughn, "feloniously and forcibly did steal and take" each child against their will from Illinois and take them "into the State of Missouri without having established a claim to the said [children] according to the laws of the United States."18 The grand jurors also adde
d additional language in the two indictments involving the girls:
And the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do further present that William Henry Vaughn, late of the county aforesaid on the day and year aforesaid with force and arms at the County of Pope and State of Illinois did then and there hire, persuade, entice and decoy by false promises and misrepresentations [the girls] not being [slaves] to go out of this State, and be taken and removed therefrom for the purpose and with the intent to sell the said [girls] into slavery and involuntary servitude without the free will and consent of the said [girls].19
What exactly the additional language meant is not known. None of the accounts of this kidnapping recorded in the Rose Manuscript, which includes excerpts from O. J. Page's History of Massac County, refer to a two-part kidnapping. Both the traditional accounts in the manuscript and the charges in the court documents seem to indicate only one violent act. The grand jury knew that Vaughn did not carry out the actual abduction for it was a group of kidnappers, not one man. They knew Vaughn was the one who taken possession of the children from the actual abductors and was the one who had sold the children to a Mississippi plantation owner. Vaughn's case was continued to the next term the court in May 1844. From a combination of court documents and the Rose Manuscript, a history of kidnapping can somewhat be pieced together.
From the court records it appears that Vaughn began plotting the kidnapping with the actual abductors on October 1, 1842, and the three weeks prior to that date. Where the plotting took place is unknown. Through interrogatories received by the state's attorney on May 20, 1844, the grand jury asked Jefferson Rodney, T. M. Merrill and Edgar Mason where Vaughn was at on the night of October 1. Rodney was asked if he knew Vaughn's whereabouts for the last three weeks in September leading up to that date. All three men were from Cape Girardeau County, Missouri.20 Nine days later on October 10, six men broke into the Morris home and abducted the children. Peyton H. Gordon, William G. W. Fitch, Caleb Slankard, Joshua S. Hanly, John Simpkins and Joseph Lynn were the six men.21 Boazman hints that the landlord, Blair, may have been in on the kidnapping since he was absent from t
he area that night.22 During this same time period, Slankard was also facing a separate indictment for assault with the intent to murder and Simpkins was facing three more indictments for keeping an open tippling house on the Sabbath, murder and manslaughter.23 Page described the efforts that took place immediately after the raid up to the point where authorities began to suspect Vaughn:
The alarm was given by the father before light, and such endeavors were made to trace them up by the neighbors as were thought necessary, but without the least success. The kidnappers had covered their tracks pretty effectually. Certain parties were arrested on suspicion, and witnesses disdained any knowledge of the matter, and as a result the prisoners were released. It now appeared that the guilty parties would escape punishment due them for their crime. Some efforts were quietly made by certain parties to find the abducted children and restore them to their father. It was evident that there could be but one subject in view by the kidnappers, and this limited the search to the slave-holding states.24
The interrogatories imply that the six men took the children from Pope County to Vaughn's home in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, rather than Kentucky which was just a few miles away. This trip likely took at least two days if made by land. Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, is three counties west of the Pope County on the Mississippi River. The grand jurors believed that Daniel Northcut, William H. Vaughn Jr., David Davis and another man named Northcut were present at Vaughn's house when the abductors arrived with the children.25 Why the grand jurors believed these men could provide information is not known from the court record. However, Boazman in the Rose Manuscript told how Vaughn decided to testify for the state as part of a deal in exchange for the state dropping the charges.26 Page was more descriptive:
At the May 1844, term of the Pope County Circuit Court, the grand jury called this Vaughn before them to state from whom he procured the children whom he had sold to Dorsey. He hesitated, and after admitting that he knew the parties, declined to testify. On being brought before the court, and the court having plainly pointed out to him the consequences of a persistent refusal to answer the question, he stated that he feared to take the parties known. He was assured by the court of protection. He said that he did not fear personal violence, as that he could meet, but that he had a 'reputation' God save the mark which would be assailed, and in that regard the court could give him no adequate protection.
Although Page lists the buyer of the children, "a man named Dorsey," the court records show that Vaughn sold the children to William Dowdy of Mississippi.28 Boazman doesn't provide a name, but lists Dowdy/Dorsey as a cotton planter from Mississippi County, Arkansas. Whether Vaughn traveled to Mississippi to make the sale, Dowdy traveled to Missouri, or the children were sold at a slave market is not known by the record. Somehow Sheriff William Rhodes found out that Dowdy had the children. The court records do not indicate what happened between the sale and the trial, but different accounts in the Rose Manuscript do. Vaughn had been involved in another kidnapping in Pope County prior to the Morris kidnapping. In that case the captured children were sold in the St. Louis slave market.29
Of course, the court could not entertain his plea for a moment, and he was returned to the grand jury room, where after reflecting for a time he announced his willingness to answer such questions as the jury should ask him. He stated to the jury that he received the children on a bill of sale, and that they were delivered to him by ....27
According to Gen. Raum one of the first crimes which led to the creation of the Regulators was the kidnapping of three children brought to Pope County from Alabama30 and freed by Alsup. Annable found the freedom papers to three mulatto children brought to Illinois by a Jesse Alsup. The two girls' and one boy's names were Mary, Cosbey and Patrick Henry. No information about when they came to Illinois or their ages was listed. Alsup also brought to Illinois his black mistress, Milley, and her five children: Harriet, William Boliver, Lafayette, Virginia and Mary. Alsup also claimed to be the father of the five children.31 The only record of the kidnapping is Raum's following account:
The home of the children was entered at night and they were seized and carried away. The plan of the kidnappers had been so carefully carried out that they made their escape with the children without leaving a trace as to their identity, or whither they went. Indeed, the doers of these bold crimes were never detected. Knowledge of this crime created great excitement throughout the county. A hue and cry was at once raised when the facts became known. A number of prominent citizens came together to devise means for recovering the children and the discovery of the offenders. To secure these ends a large reward was offered, and inquiries were sent out to various points It turns out that the children had been taken to St. Louis and sold in the open slave market.
Therefore, Rhodes had some clues as to where to look for information concerning the Morris kidnapping. After he learned where the children were he and the children's father went to Mississippi. Upon reaching Dorsey's plantation, the sheriff explained to the planter that he had in received stolen property, that four of his slaves were free blacks who had been kidnapped. Dorsey agreed to return the children, if it could be proven that they were Elijah's. Upon reaching a plan, the three men left the plantation house for the fields where the children and other field hands were working. Page later wrote what occurred:
The first purchaser was a Mr. Vaughn, a merchant and trader living at the present site of Bay City, in Pope County. Mr. Vaughn resold these negro children to a planter in Mississippi who took them home. The children were traced and recovered and Mr. Vaughn's connection with the affair laid bare. But he was a respectable citizens; he made a plausible explanation of his visits to St. Louis to buy goods, and his innocent act of buying these children on speculation without any knowledge of their antecedents. While he was required to repay the Mississippi planter, he was not prosecuted for kidnapping the children. The detection of this crime was due entirely to the intelligent energy of citizens who took the matter up.32
They walked slowly, pausing here and there, as though examining the growing crop, and went so as to pass near the children without going directly to them. While yet as some distance from the children, they could see that they were observing them, and when they were nearer Elijah being in the rear one of the children called out, 'La! yonder comes Mr. Rhodes, yes and papa, too!
And dropping their hoes, the children came running to them at their utmost speed. Mr. Dorsey said that he was satisfied, and would not contest against the evidence so brought before him, but that the old man should have his children restored to him, which was done, and Mr. Rhodes returned home with his charge, the father and children,33
Page wrote that before leaving, Rhodes asked Dorsey the name of the man who sold the slaves. Dorsey then showed him a bill of sale signed by Vaughn.34 It is likely that Rhodes already suspected Vaughn's involvement before this time, but by seeing the bill of sale for himself, he would be in position to testify against Vaughn as a witness. Later, the indictments against Vaughn listed Rhodes as a witness for the prosecution.35 Boazman recalled that Rhodes, Morris and his children arrived back in Golconda exactly one year after the kidnapping.36 If Boazman is correct, then it was just five days before the circuit court was to meet on October 15, the third Monday of October.37 It was during this session of court that the grand jury indicted Vaughn.
Based on the dates in the Pope County Circuit Court Order Book 1, Vaughn named Peyton H. Gordon, William G. W. Fitch, Caleb Slankard, Joshua S. Hanly, John Simpkins and Joseph Lynn as the kidnappers on either May 17 or May 18, 1844. On May 18, Judge Walter B. Scates approved State's Attorney Willis Allen's motion to continue the case until the fall term in order to take depositions of the Missouri men.38 On October 17, 1844, Scates accepted Allen's motions to drop the kidnapping case against Vaughn since he had died, and to have more time to find witnesses against the other six men.39 Apparently, after Vaughn's death none of the Missouri men answered the interrogatories as well as there are no answers preserved in the court file. On October 19, 1844, Scates accepted Allen's motion to drop the kidnapping charges against the six men. He also dropped the assault to murder
charge against Simpkins from an unrelated crime.40
The court records do not tell how Vaughn died, but the Rose Manuscript does. Within ten days after the indictment of the other six men on May 18, Vaughn was dead, according to Page. "[E]very one on being informed of his death, asked who killed him. His death was caused by apoplexy, and there being no other witnesses against the prisoners, they were discharged from custody."41 Boazman provided a slightly different account, but one with the same ending:
After Vaughn was discharged with a scathing lecture from Judge Scates, he retired to his fine home and family at the mouth of the Bay, where after a few weeks he died suddenly, probably from poison. He died a few hours after drinking from a whisky bottle offered by a man who had some relatives among the men Vaughn had so lately betrayed.42
One of the six men indicted was Joe Lynn of Massac County. At least some of the Lynns or Linns of Massac County were part of the Pennington Gang43 which took the place of James Ford's operation after he was assassinated in 1833.44 They were known primarily as counterfeiters and horse-thieves.45 They may also have been kidnappers for a long time prior to the Pope County kidnapping.
A letter from Solomon Wills to Henry Eddy, dated Aug. 25, 1829, found in the Eddy Manuscript Collection at University of Illinois at Champaign, notes that Wills had just commenced a suit against a Mr. Linn on behalf of a woman named Sukey. Wills filed the suit in Jackson County Circuit Court in the then-county seat of Brownsville. Wills had moved to Jefferson County, Kentucky, and was writing to Eddy to request that he take over the case if U.S. Sen. John McLean of Shawneetown did not arrive back from Washington, D. C. in time. "I am one of those that does not believe that man's right to liberty depends on the color of his skin or any other accidental circumstance," Wills wrote to Eddy, "You will find unless I am grossly deceived, the defendants have no more right to hold the plaintiff in slavery according to the laws of Illinois than you or I have."46
The one crime in particular that led to the development of the Regulators in Pope County was that robbery of Henry Sides and his wife. Most accounts of the crime in the Rose Manuscript list the crime was a successful home invasion, armed robbery and assault with the intent to murder. Only one, Boazman, adds that in addition to the $2,000 in silver half dollars, the other target for the gang was the blacks themselves who were living with the Sides.47
Another case completely developed from court records is that of Venus Davenport. The Gallatin County Slave Register presents a detailed account of the kidnapping of Venus, a former slave and indentured servant who was free, but kidnapped by her former master and taken and sold in New Orleans. After a Louisiana court recognized her freedom, she returned to Gallatin County and filed the court documents into the slave registry to establish her freedom. Venus was born into slavery in South Carolina around the year 1795. At a young age she was taken to Kentucky. Her master at that time is not known. That master sold her to John Stanley who took her to Illinois while the area of Gallatin County was part of Knox County, Indiana Territory. Stanley sold Venus as a slave to John Forrester who sold her to John Rayburn. He, in turn, followed territorial law, recognized her freedom and signed a 21-year indenture with her. This all took place prior to, or in the year, 1809. Sometime during this year
she met for the first time a young white settler named Emanual Ensminger who lived in Shawneetown. Two decades later Ensminger rescued Venus by taking her case to court.
In 1813, Rayburn and his wife moved from Shawneetown to a farm four miles away in Kentucky. Venus went with them, even though it was violation of territorial law to take indentured servants out of the state to permanently reside in a slave state. However, the Rayburns appeared to be good masters according to the court records and Venus lived with them for eight years until both died. During that time, Venus had freedom of movement to travel back and forth from the Kentucky home to Shawneetown for errands and visits. According to later court documents after Rayburn died, Venus fell into the hands of Rayburn's son-in-law, Adrian Davenport.
Davenport moved to Shawneetown and brought Venus with him. For the rest of the decade Venus lived legally as an indentured servant with Davenport. By 1828, she had married George, one of Davenport's slaves. It should be noted, that Davenport was in violation of state law if George was permanently kept at Shawneetown. The presence of George in Shawneetown shows that nothing was impeding Davenport from transferring slaves and servants back and forth across state lines. In November 1830, Ensminger left Shawneetown and Venus was still working for Davenport. Three months later Ensminger met Venus again, but this time it was in New Orleans where Venus was living as Samuel D. Dixon's slave. If Venus' indenture was signed in 1809, it would have been up in 1830, and she should have been free along.
During the next six months Ensminger apparently hired an attorney for Davenport who filed a petition in court on July 14, 1831, to establish the freedom of Venus Davenport. Eleven months later on June 23, 1832, the judge ruled in favor of Venus' claim. In his defense Dixon claimed he had purchased Venus from a Kentucky slave holder who had legally purchased her from Davenport. The judge ruled that Illinois' Constitution made Venus a free woman and that she could not be sold into slavery while an indentured servant or as a free woman. He also indicated that he considered the documents presented by Dixon as either forged or faked since they didn't bear any official seals. The dates on the Kentucky affidavits also contradicted Ensminger's claims that he last saw Venus just three months before he found her in New Orleans.48
The case of Venus Davenport is just one example of the kidnappings that took place in Gallatin County. Because Venus had long been accustomed to traveling back and forth from Illinois and Kentucky, Davenport likely did not have to physically abduct her, but likely simply tricked her, once they were over in Kentucky or on the river on their way to New Orleans. Other kidnappers were active in the area of salt reservation during the 1820s. The Shawneetown newspaper carried an item written July 27, 1829, about the kidnapping of Maria, an 8-year-old, who had been freed the year before by their heirs of John McAlister of Montgomery County, Tennessee. McAlister had freed his slaves in his will.49 Because freed slaves could not remain in that state, 62 of the slaves were brought to Illinois and freed.50 Leonard D. White placed the following advertisement in the Shawneetown news
WAS KIDNAPPED, in the neighborhood of the Saline, a NEGRO GIRL, named Maria, about eight years of age, dark complexion, nearly black, well grown of her age, has a dent or small hole in her face just below the cheek bone; she had strings in her ears, through the Thieves may use the precaution to take them out, her ears however heave been pierced, and they cannot destroy that mark. The clothes she had on when taken off were very ragged, and it is presumed will soon be changed. She was taken from the spring on Saturday evening the 25th inst. by two ruffians who are unknown. This girl is one of the negroes emancipated by the last will and testament of John McAllister, of Mongomery county Tennessee and moved here about a year ago, and some time last spring some scoundrel probably one of these stole two horse creatures from them, and thereby prevented them from making a crop, and now returned to steal the children. The u
ncle of the girl, a black man of the name of DRYAS, offers a reward of FIFTY DOLLARS for the girl, and a Subscription is now making up for the Girl and Thief or Thieves, and I am of opinion that TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS will be raised.
According to the published five county history, the husband of Catherine Shelby, a resident of Shawneetown since 1812, was kidnapped "during the time when colored men had no right which white men were bound to respect." Although his name has not been discovered, nor those of his kidnappers, the history did record that he was rescued.52
LEO D. WHITE
&NBSP;&NBSP;&NBSP;&NBSP;Equality, 27th July 182951
Along the Wabash River, kidnapping and the harassment of blacks developed into such a problem that one solution was to help a group of 30 residents emigrate to Haiti.53 An early and well-publicized incident of kidnapping took place on May 25, 1823 when a group of men kidnapped a free black man named Jackson Butler, his wife and their six children. The family had been residing in Lawrence County, a few miles away from Vincennes. Indiana Territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison purchased Butler in Kentucky and brought him to Indiana, where he was freed and indentured. During that time he married his wife, who was free, which would have also made his children free-born. After his indenture was completed he moved to Illinois. The kidnappers took the family to a boat on the river and traveled downstream to New Orleans. After he heard about the incident Harrison offered a $300 reward for the capture of the kidnappers. Quoting an 182
3 issue of the Illinois Intelligencer, Davidson and Stuvé reported, "[t]he name of Harrison gave it wide circulation, and in September following, news came that the Butler family had been rescued at New Orleans, just as they were about to be shipped to Cuba."54
George Flower told of another kidnapping during this time period from the Edwards-Wabash county area. He told of one of his free black employees being kidnapped. He discovered that the band of outlaws was operating out of Indiana. When he traveled to Corydon, Indiana, to testify before a grand jury, one of the jurors got up and left, stating that he didn't see what was the crime. In his book, History of the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois, Flower did not reveal the name of the mastermind behind the kidnapping. However, in the manuscript of the book he presented to the Chicago Historical Society after the Great Chicago Fire, the name of the kidnapper is listed twice, but marked out with a line across it. The name he used was "Judge Prince."55 The only judge named Prince in the area was William Prince, a long-time judge and county official. In 1824, he was elected to Congress to represent southe
rn Indiana. He died later that year.
Further south in the Wabash Valley the first kidnapping case in Hamilton County appeared in the March 1829 term of the Circuit Court. It was continued until the next term.56 Interpreting the court record, the indictment against John Haynes originally came from neighboring White County to the east on a change of venue. On Sept. 1, 1829, Judge Thomas C. Brown continued the case until the next day when he approved Haynes' attorney A. Grant's motion to send the case back to White County.57 The case can no longer be found in the original court files so it is unknown who the victims were or the details of the crime.
Davidson and Stuvé quoted from an 1851 issue of the Shawneetown Mercury about another Hamilton County kidnapping that occurred in the late 1840s. This kidnapping was noteworthy because it led to the attempted murder of a Tennessee physician. Joe O'Neal kidnapped three children belonging to an old negro named Scott, according to the five county history. O'Neal took them down river to Wolf Island where he sold them to Newton E. Wright. This Wright is the same man who had unsuccessfully claimed the former Prather slaves in Gallatin County as runaways. It was during that time that he met O'Neal. As evidence of the developed business-like arrangement kidnappers had, Wright paid for the children partly on credit. Wright then crossed the river and sold the children to a man named Phillips in New Madrid.58
The 1850 Federal Census of Hamilton County, Illinois, shows one Joseph O'Neal living in the county. It lists him as 28 years old that year, married and with two children. The census shows O'Neal as a Kentuckian by birth, but his wife and children are Illinoisans, placing O'Neal in Illinois at least by 1843, when his oldest son is born.59
The History of Illinois does not record if Scott's children were ever rescued. However, in late 1849 or early 1850, O'Neal sent Abe Thomas to Wright to collect the balance of the payments owed for the children. O'Neal told Thomas that Wright also had another job for him. When he reached Wolf Island, Wright hired Thomas for $150 to kill a Dr. Swayne who lived across the river to the east at Hicco, Tennessee. In May 1850, Thomas, using the alias of "Stewart" rides up to Swayne's house requesting the doctor to come visit Stewart's sick father. Down the road, Thomas/Stewart fell behind and shot the doctor in the arm. Still being alive, the doctor escaped and Thomas/Stewart disappeared.
In 1851, father and son John and Shannon Eubanks of White County, traveled to Tennessee with a herd of horses for sale. Somewhere near Hicco, they met Dr. Swayne and heard him identify the physical features of his assailant. Eubanks recognized the man as Thomas. A group of Tennesseans formed some type of posse and rode to Southern Illinois. They found Thomas at O'Neal's house and arrested and brought him back to Tennessee for trial.60
The historical record does not list what happened to Thomas who was described as a "disreputable character."61 It is possible that he had been a long-time kidnapper as well, using the alias of Stewart. If not, then there was another "Stewart" operating as a kidnapper in the 1820s, for sometime in fall of 1826, a man named Stewart kidnapped a free black woman named Juliet and her two young children. Stewart then took the family from Illinois and sold them into slavery in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The April 1970 issue of the Alabama Review relates Juliet's and her children's story, but leaves out some important information concerning her time in Illinois.
Juliet had been born a slave in Virginia and moved to Madison County, Kentucky, with her original owner. There she was sold to a man named Tribble who sold her to another man who moved to Illinois. This was prior to 1810. Upon reaching Illinois, Juliet was freed, but immediately became indentured to the man for 12 more years. After the dozen years had passed, she became completely free and continued to live in a cabin on her former master's property. During the next five years she gave birth to two children who were also entitled to their freedom due to their mother's status.
Then Stewart came to her cabin. With the knowledge of her former owner, Stewart took her by force, tied her up and took her and her children to Tuscaloosa where he sold them to James Hendricks. When she declared her freedom, Hendricks beat her and threatened to separate her children from her. Somehow, she managed to make contact with a lawyer who filed a lawsuit on her behalf. On July 4, 1827, the court summoned Hendricks who put up a $2,000 bond to guarantee his protection of Juliet and his appearance in the next session of the court. The judge also ordered Hendricks to treat Juliet and her children with humanity and that Juliet be allowed to meet with her attorney at least once a month. In October, 1827, during the next session of the court, Hendricks filed a counter petition that he be allowed to hold the family as his slaves. The Alabama jury ruled against Hendricks and he was forced to allow Juliet and her family their freedom as well as pay an unspecified sum of money.62
In Gallatin County, an 11-year-old indentured servant to John Lockhart also disappeared about the same time Juliet was kidnapped. Although it is possible that Madison George simply ran away, Lockhart suspected he had been kidnapped. If so, this is the only southeastern Illinois reference existing of an indentured servant being kidnapped by someone who is not his master. The reference to this case is found in Saline County, A Century of History, quoting an 1826 issue of the Illinois Gazette in Shawneetown. Lockhart placed the following advertisement in the newspaper:
A Handsome Reward: Ran away or was kidnapped off the plantation of the subscriber, on Monday, the 4th inst. a bright Mulatto Boy, named, Madison George; about 11 years of age, small of his age; his face some what marked from a burn; and sore eyes. Had on when he disappeared a muslin shirt, and tow linen pantaloons. When spoken to, is apt to smile.
It's not known if Madison George was recovered, but Lockhart soon moved from his Gallatin County farm to Hamilton County where he attempted to help rescue another kidnapped servant. This time the name of the servant was Lotty and the kidnapper John Forrester. Lockhart wrote a letter to Shawneetown attorney Henry Eddy on May 4, 1830, stating that Forrester had taken Lotty from the county and was hiding her in Kentucky. In the letter Lockhart explained he received his information from the woman's husband, and that Lotty was being taken from house to house.64 Whatever became of Lotty is not known.
I will give the Eighty acres of Land that I now reside on, which is my all, and is clear of all incumbrance, for the recovery of the Boy, and conviction of the Thief or $10 for the Boy alone.
Gallatin County, Ill. Sept. 8, 182663
Forrester also illegally took out of the state one of his own indentured servants named Dick, who ran away from the lead mines in Missouri. Forrester paid Dick, a 20-year-old black man, $1 for a 60-year indenture on August 18, 1818.65 After Dick ran away Forrester placed the following advertisement in the Shawneetown newspaper:
Runaway from the U.S. Saline, Illinois on the 14th inst. A Negro man named Dick, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, stoutly made, twenty-two or twenty-three years old, and very black and ugly. He has a small scar on his forehead, cut with a knife, and one on his left breast. His feet singularly shaped, being very narrow at the heel and broad at the toes his eyes generally red. He is fond of spirits and will steal anything upon which he can lay his hands. He same fellow that abscounded from Mr. Daniel Garnay of Missouri, last July, and who was put in the Herculaneum Missouri Jail for attempting to commit a rape upon a white woman. From some circumstances I am disposed to think he will go down the river, but whether he will endeavor to get into Texas, or stop in any of the states or territories bordering the Mississippi is doubtful. Any person taking up said Negro within this state shall receive a reward of $50.00, and if taken any
where out of the state, and notice given me thereof so that I obtain possession of him again, a reward of $100.00, and all reasonable charges for bringing him to me.
A Gallatin County grand jury also indicted Forrester for kidnapping during the late 1820s, along with John Crenshaw and Preston Davis. None of the original court documents have been discovered, but Preston later sued Crenshaw over some matter. Crenshaw filed a counter-complaint which survives. In the complaint he sues Davis for expenses owed to Crenshaw, including his share of the defense fees when he, Davis and Forrester were indicted for kidnapping.67
Shawneetown, Ill. February 20, 182066
Due to regional accents, John Crenshaw was also known as John Granger the name being pronounced something like John Cringer. Numerous documents remaining in Gallatin County as well as in Springfield show the interchangeably of the names Granger and Crenshaw.68 Two letters in the Henry Eddy manuscript collection tell of kidnappings performed by John Granger. The first concerns a black indentured servant named Frank Granger that John Granger took to Kentucky sometime prior to May 14, 1828. Robert G. Green wrote the following letter to Eddy on that date:
Covington Tipton Co Tennessee
The second case involved the kidnapping of Lucinda who was abducted in 1828 and taken to Kentucky. Fifteen years later she told her story to J. H. C. Ellis, Barren County's commonwealth attorney. Ellis wrote to the postmaster at Shawneetown asking if someone could confirm her story. The following letter was sent to Henry Eddy:
May 14th 1828
I have been directed to apply to you for information respecting the situation of a certain negro man by the name of Frank Granger whether he is a free man or a Slave and whether his freedom has ever been established, or if not whether or not there are documents or evidence in existence that can show him to be free?
I wate with impatience to hear from
Robt G Green69
Glasgow, KY, Decr 26, 1843
The William and Abraham Granger referred to in the letter are likely John Crenshaw's two brothers, William and Abraham Crenshaw.
There is a negro woman in this County who informs me she is entitled to her freedom. She says that some 15 years ago she lived in and around Shawneetown, and was stolen and run off by a man by the name of John Granger and sold into slavery. She tells me that a man by the name of Champ Carr or some such name and Tim Carr William Granger Abraham Granger who live in or around your town know that she is free and also a lawyer by the name of Eddy or Ady or some such name, and one by the name of Green also know her to be a free woman. Her name is Lucinda and at the time she was taken she had 2 children. She says she worked at salt works in or near Shawneetown. My object in writing to you is to know if there are any of the above named individuals living in your town or county and if it is not too much trouble to request you to enquire of any of them if you can see them if they know any such woman and if they know any facts which would entitle her to her freedom. I write to you because I have
not the pleasure of an acquaintance with any person in your vicinity. Your attention will perhaps do a favour to humanity and will much oblige
J. H. C. Ellis70
The Illinois Spectator newspaper may have referred to Crenshaw in 1827 or 1828, when it noted that a prominent resident of Shawneetown, identified only as "Mr. John C," used a cave on the Wabash to hide kidnapped victims. No microfilm copies of the Illinois Spectator exist in Illinois, but Harris had access to an original in 1905, when repeated the reference in a footnote of his book. Although Harris wrote "Wabash River," it is possible that he simply translated "Wabash R," in the original newspaper to "Wabash River" by the time he wrote it in his dissertation and later book. The reference is important, because if the newspaper reference was "Wabash R.," then the Spectator could have been referring to the Wabash Reservation, which was one of the names used for the salt reservation. While there is no major cave on the Wabash River in Gallatin County, there is major on Cave Hill at the southern edge of the reservation's boundaries known as Equality C
No records tying Crenshaw to kidnappings have been found for the 1830s. In 1842, he is again indicted for kidnapping. This time the victims are his servant Maria Adams and seven of her children. Crenshaw purchased the indenture contracts for Maria Adams and her husband Charles in late 1829 or early 1830. He purchased the contracts from Col. A. G. S. Wight who was moving from Equality to Galena. Also included in the sale was a son named Nelson, a daughter named Ellen,71 and possibly some younger children. In October, 1829, Maria gave birth to another daughter, Nancy Jane. Charles had less time on his contract and filed his freedom papers on April 29, 1834.72
Maria was born in 1790. She was indentured in Randolph County, Illinois on July 14, 1810, for 45 years when she was 15 years old.73 Charles was born about 1794. In late 1813 or early 1814, he moved from Maryland to Illinois with his owners. On March 19, 1814, he was indentured to Dr. Conrad Will, who had moved to the Big Muddy River the year before. Charles was fortunate that his indenture was only for 20 years. Sometime during the next four years, Illinois Territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards purchased Charles' contract. During this time Charles also married Maria. Possibly as a wedding present, on March 6, 1818, Edwards filed a statement in Randolph County Court at Kaskaskia pledging that he would let Maria go free when Charles' contract expired.74
Ellen Adams was born in 1823.75 Nelson is believed to have been born earlier, but definitely prior to 1825.76 That year Edwards was talking with Col. Wight in Vandalia and mentioned that he was thinking about selling them. Later that summer, Wight sent an agent to Edwards to arrange purchase of Charles and Maria. Either the parents, the children, or both, threw such a fit over being separated that Edwards agreed to send the children with the agent for a short time77 Edwards spent the next four years writing letters to Wight trying to get the children back or at least some type of payment for them.78 Maria cooked for Edwards nearly eight years and, at least, started as a cook with Wight.79 She pr
obably continued as a cook in Crenshaw's employ. After Charles received his freedom, Crenshaw refused to follow Edward's statement filed in Randolph County since the governor never filed an amended indenture with the court. That left Maria still in the service of Crenshaw. Nelson also got his freedom sometime during the 1830s, or at least by 1842.80 By that year, Ellen was also still working as an indentured servant, but likely in Michael K. Lawler's household where she was freed in 1845.81
Early in 1842, Crenshaw kidnapped Maria and her children from their home while Charles and Nelson were away. According to the Illinois Republican newspaper in Shawneetown, Crenshaw kept them hidden for several days until Kuykendall (spelled Kukendall in the newspaper) arrived for them in the middle of the night. In an editorial, Publisher Samuel D. Marshall, wrote that the "aged mother" and the children were handcuffed or tied, then put into a wagon and drove out of the state by Kuykendall. Because the state's attorney could not prove what everyone knew, Crenshaw and Kuykendall were acquitted.82
Marshall's story was later collaborated by Shawneetown attorney Henry Eddy in a letter to Gov. Ford in 1846.83 After the kidnapping, Nelson Adams and another black man named Fox, stopped Crenshaw on the road as he was coming back from the iron works in Hardin County. With Fox holding a rifle, Nelson demanded to know where Crenshaw had taken his family. We don't know if they got an answer, but Crenshaw quickly had Nelson, Fox and Charles Adams, who wasn't even present, arrested84 and convicted of assault with the intent to murder.85 In a testament to the belief of the local people of Hardin County that the conviction was unjustified, no mob attempted to lynch the three black men. Instead, they were sentenced to either four or five years in the state penitentiary in Alton.86<
After Ellen received her freedom from Lawler, she likely worked with sympathetic whites like Eddy to find her family. Eddy, Wight and the two sons of late Gov. Edwards, one of which was a former attorney general for the state, petitioned Gov. Ford to pardon the Adamses so they could help rescue their family. Both the petition letters and the pardon were dated Dec. 8, 1846, the last day of Ford's administration. In the letters, Eddy stated that Maria and the children were in Texas.87 It is not known if the family was ever rescued. The 1850 Census of Gallatin County shows only Charles Adams. He is listed as living with a white family at the time.88
In his treatise, Negro Servitude in Illinois, Lawrence University Professor N. Dwight Harris included in a footnote a reference to a memorandum of transaction between Louis Keykendall and John Cranshaw of Shawneetown concerning a note of $2,000. Although the note was in the possession of Charles Carroll, Jr., of Shawneetown, the original memorandum was not copied and made a part of the Henry Eddy manuscript collection at the Illinois Historical Survey.89 It is possible that the $2,000 was a debt Kuykendall owed Crenshaw for the kidnapped Maria and her family. Another hypothesis is that Crenshaw kidnapped Maria Adams and her children to pay off a $2,000 debt to Kuykendall. Until the original, or copy, can be found, the answer will not be known. Another concern is that Snively and Furbee link Crenshaw with a slave trader named Hardin Kuykendall90
Two years after the Adams' kidnapping, a group of men kidnapped 10-year-old Peter White of Equality and three other younger children, and sold him into slavery. Walter White, a nephew of Gen. Leonard White rescued the children.91 In 1934, when White's descendants were still living in Equality, James Lyle Sisk designed signs for the Crenshaw's Greek Revival mansion that was then known as the Old Slave House. One of the signs stated that Peter and the children were kept in a third floor cell for a time. Sisk, an uncle to the current owner George Sisk, was an educator and apparently the only family member that took an active interest in recording the home's history.92 Attempts to reach descendants of White to verify the James Sisk's signs, have been unsuccessful.
While there are number of kidnapping cases in the 1820s and again in the 1840s, the decade in between is remarkably quiet as far as the official records are concerned. It is possible that the early version of the Regulators which resulted in the eviction of Sturdevant from his hillside fortress in 183193 and the assassination of James Ford two years later in 1833, may have allowed black residents a brief respite from the criminal gangs. Ford was a former river pirate and was a lessee at the salt works in the late 1820s.94 One emancipation-related crime does appear in the surviving Gallatin County Slave Registry. The record indicates that a young white male named James Lynch disappeared on his way to court to emancipate a family slave named Nelly. As he would have been posting a bond that day, his sudden disappearance may simply be a highway robbery. There is no indic
ation that he was planning to leave with the funds voluntarily.
Sometime between November 1835 and August 12, 1836, Henry Eddy of Shawneetown and Ephraim H. Gatewood filed an affidavit with the Gallatin County Clerk to establish the freedom of Nelly who was about 40 years of age at the time. One year earlier, Lynch, the son of her former master had disappeared on the way to the Equality courthouse. Lynch would have been between 21 and 23 years of age at the time of his disappearance. Gatewood testified that Lynch borrowed a horse from him to go to Equality for the "business of establishing her freedom." He added that Lynch had not been seen since. Eddy and Gatewood both described Nelly as "honest and well-behaved." Eddy also called her "industrious," and Gatewood further described her as "peaceable." Both men said they had known Nelly for about three years, or just after she and the Lynch family had settled in Illinois. Since arriving in Gallatin County, Gatewood said he had employed Nelly for most of the three years. He said she had always claime
d "to be free by virtue of her former master's will made verbally on his death bed," as well as the fact that her former master had treated her as a free woman.
Eddy said that Lynch, his brothers and sisters and Nelly came to Illinois from Mississippi after their father died. Their mother had died previously. In the summer or fall after their arrival in Gallatin County, Lynch brought Nelly to Eddy's law office to start the process of emancipating Nelly since it had been his father's contention to do so. Because Lynch had not reached maturity, Eddy told him that he would not execute a legal bond for Nelly's good behavior and therefore took no further steps to do so. Nelly and the Lynch family arrived in Gallatin County probably in the winter or spring of 1842-1843. James Lynch disappeared in 1834-35.95
In Johnson County to the southwest, a black man named Harry lost his case in court to prevent his master Owen Evans from moving him out of the county. The jury acquitted Evans during the April term in 1835. Harry's attorneys, Daugherty and Dunn, had filed suit in circuit court in November 1833.96
After the Gallatin and Pope county kidnappings during the 1840s, the next outbreak occurred after the Mexican War. The five county history notes that for number of years centering on 1851, "there were numerous indictments against various parties for kidnapping."97 Gen. James Harrison Wilson, a Shawneetown native, provided more detail in his memoirs, Under the Old Flag:
The decade after the Mexican War was a turbulent one in southeastern Illinois. The closing of the salt works had let loose a large number of rough operatives, white and black. Gambling, drinking, horse-racing, and gun-fighting prevailed, the slavery question came to the front as it had done once before, and kidnapping became common along the border of the slave states. Among the first victims was a colored girl who had belonged to the Wilson family. She was taken to the Red River, but as soon as she could be located my father went for her, and after much legal formality and trouble, brought her home in triumph. After a similar service in another case of the same sort, which aroused the public conscience, under his leadership, he had the satisfaction of seeing all forms of violence vindicated and the rowdies and kidnappers brought to punishment or driven out of the state.98
In 1851, Saline County's one kidnapping indictment was handed down against Jefferson King. The case was continued for a number of years, but King never appeared. The case was eventually dropped.99 Jefferson King was 31 and lived in the Shawneetown Precinct of Gallatin County during the 1850 Census. He was listed as a farmer born in Mississippi.100 The only other local court records found in the 1850s is the case against David Leech, Alfred Leech and James Dye. The court file itself was missing though. During the April term in 1855, the judge granted State's Attorney John A. Logan's motion to drop kidnapping charges against the three men after prosecution witness Hedrick Styles failed to show up in court101
Two attempts to capture fugitive slaves during Civil War are recorded in the five county history. Both fall under a type of attempted kidnapping as no effort to legally establish a claim to the slaves was made. In Shawneetown, Stephen R. Rowan harbored a runaway in late 1862. Pro-slavery men in the town demanded that Rowan hand over the man so he could be returned to his master. Rowan refused. A town meeting was held and only the argument that returning the slave to the Kentuckians across the river would be treasonous, kept the townspeople from storming Rowan's home. The argument was successfull because Confederate forces controlled that part of Kentucky immediately opposite Shawneetown. What happened later to the former slave is not recorded.102
A second such instance occurred in Saline County south of Harrisburg. In 1862, Dr. John Mitchell helped two runaway slave families settle on his farm in exchange for work. Not only was the effort contrary to the federal law against aiding runaway slaves, it also violated the Illinois Constitution which prohibited blacks from settling in the state. Local politicians rallied the county populace against Mitchell. Twice they held public meetings demanding that he remove the blacks from the county. After the second meeting, they threatened his life. Mitchell refused to back down and the blacks stayed. Rather than resorting to violence, the opponents used the courts to bring an indictment against Mitchell for illegally importing blacks into the state. The indictment stayed on the court docket until 1870, when a new state constitution was ratified. After the Civil War, Mitchell remained a leading citizen of the county and later gave the City of Harrisburg the land on which now sits the Mitc
hell-Carnegie Library. 103
The problems of kidnappings in southeastern Illinois were undoubtedly greater than the historical record recalls. The presence of the James Ford and Pennington gangs in region lend credence to the theory that at least some of the kidnappings were part of an organized criminal network. More study needs to be focused on this element of the what is called the "reverse" Underground Railroad.
The above paper was written during April-May 1997, for Dr. John Y. Simon's Seminar in Illinois History at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
©1997 Jon Musgrave
The footnotes and bibliography pages are forthcoming.
Created May 10, 1997, by