Sunday, February 14, 2016

Albert, and William A. Gay

Urban forms of slavery sometimes get less scholarly attention than those experienced on rural plantations. But in the cities and towns of the slave states enslaved men and women completed a plethora of tasks for their owners and leasers. Period runaway slave advertisements provide solid evidence of this fact.

In the above notice, slaver renter William A. Gay, who lived in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond, posted a $5 reward for the apprehension of Albert. Albert was owned by a Miss Pollard from King and Queen County, and served as Gay's ice cart driver.

On the morning of July 14, 1839, Albert apparently saw an opportunity for escape and took it. As the advertisement relates, Albert absconded with the horse that pulled the ice cart, leaving the vehicle in the roadway. Gay mentioned also that he had learned that the young slave man might be headed for the free state of Ohio. Gay, too, mentioned that due to Albert's departure, and apparently the separate issue of Albert's killing of Gay's mule, he could not long serve ice to his customers. Albert's agency of running away, stealing Gay's horse, and leaving him without a driver was a triple economic whammy on Gay. I assume that if Gay was not able to recover Albert, he would have had to pay Miss Pollard for the loss.

I do not know whether Gay recovered Albert or not. And while Albert's flight was surely a sting to Gay's pocket book (if only temporarily) it seems that Gay recovered. Gay was located in the 1840 census as the owner of five slaves; one boy, two men, a girl, and a woman. Gay also shows up in the 1850 census as a fifty-five year old farmer, owning $2300 in real estate. In addition, Gay had increased his slave labor force by two from his 1840 holdings to seven.

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