Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Washington Spradling's Kerfuffle

Yesterday I posted some information about antebellum Louisville black barber Washington Spradling. Being quite curious to find where he might show up in the era's newspaper records, I decided to do some searching.

Using the Kentucky Digital Library, I found the above short article in the September 22, 1858, issue of the Louisville Daily Courier. It would be pure speculation on my part, but I might suggest that Spradling's wealth as a free man of color in a slave state likely brought some resentment on the part of whites, and surely brought other episodes of trouble like this one.  

It is difficult for me to determine from this short article if Spradling had loaned Norwood money or the reverse. With Spadling's wealth, it would seem the former would be most probable. Perhaps Spradling tired of not receiving his loaned money back and resorted to a physical or verbal threat to Norwood. In most instances a Southerners' sense of honor would not allow such action from a black man; free or not.

Regardless of the true origins of the conflict, it appears that Norwood and his friends went to Spradling's shop "to play hickory-loo" on the black barber. In other words, they planned to beat Spradling with clubs or canes. The other phrase the author used for the intended violent action was that the white men went in "with the intention of dusting Wash's jacket."

Fortunately, a police officer intervened and arrested the three white men and set their bail at $200 each. They were apparently released with a probationary warning of six months.

A few paragraphs below this short notice ran another one explaining that in order to keep all parties involved equally responsible, Spradling, too, had been arrested. It reads: "HELD TO BAIL.-  The Court ordered the appearance of Wash. Spradling, in connection with the above case, who was brought in, and a bail of $200 was required of him to keep the peace six months, thus making all parties amenable to the law."

I found that Spradling appeared in a few other places in the newspaper record; mainly in listings of legal suits and property transactions. It would certainly be interesting to learn more about his legal actions. Was he suing or being sued? Was he attempting to collect money as appears to be the case above, or was he delinquent on payments? Finding out would certainly shed significantly more light onto this intriguing personality.

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