Sunday, May 5, 2013

Committed to the Jail . . . as a Runaway Slave

Today, continuing with my survey of slavery advertisements in Kentucky newspapers during the Civil War, I ran across the February 9, 1864, issue of The Daily Commonwealth, which was published in Frankfort.

Three things struck me as unusual as I perused this edition. First, I was taken aback by the sheer number of jailed runaway advertisements this day's paper included; 43 in total. There were ads on each of its four pages. I have not determined why this particular issue had so may notices, as some of them dated back to the previous summer and fall for the apprehension and incarceration dates. They were also from county jails all across the state. Included counties were: Bullitt, Grant, Livingston, Union, Franklin, Fayette, Nelson, Woodford, Crittenden, Shelby, Livingston, Breckinridge, Ballard, Boyle, Lyon, Harrison, Madison, Rockcastle, Monroe, Adair, and Carroll.

The second thing that caught my attention was the young age of some of the runaways. As shown in the ad above, the boy Adam was only "10 or 12 years of age." Although this youngster did not travel far before being caught, it still seems unusual that someone so youthful would run away on their won. Perhaps he ran away with an older relative and they got separated   But, maybe, it just shows how dear the dream of freedom was to some enslaved people.

Adam was not the youngest of the listed slaves. As shown in the above notice, Lucy was only eight years old. Normally with these type of ads if children were under adolescence and one of the other slaves was the child's parent, they would be listed together in same ad.

For example, in an ad not shown here, but in this issue of The Daily Commonwealth, was listed Louisa, 22 years old, and her two children Henry (four years old) and William (two years old).  All were listed in the same notice. No information was provided on who owned them or where they had come from, but traveling in stealth with two very young children any distance must have been extremely trying.

The third thing that I found intriguing was that in these 43 advertisements there were a larger number of women and girls; a much higher proportion than I had found in other notices in 1861 and 1862. In this group of ads, and in addition to Molly, Lucy and Louisa mentioned and shown above. were: Tennessee Green (who ran away with her husband James who was also caught), Julian Crook (who ran away with her husband Charles, who was caught too), Mary Jane Matthews (who ran away with her husband Steward, who was caught), Matilda, Ester, Sally, Jane, and Charity Toliver.

Yet another rarity was that one man who was listed refused to give his name, but provided the name of his owner. The woman, Jane, listed above, refused to giver her owner's name. The majority of the slaves were from Kentucky and Tennessee, but some had come from locations as far away as Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia.

These advertisements provide a unique glimpse into the terrible practice of slavery, and show the extreme lengths some enslaved people would go to escape the institution.

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