Monday, April 11, 2016

Seeking Isaac on the James River

The above advertisement ran in the July 19, 1839, issue of the Richmond Enquirer. In it slave renter, James A. Thomas, sought the rendition of Isaac, who ran away from him on the first of June. Thomas explained that he hired Isaac from Leonard Daniel, who was the executor of Mary Daniel's estate. Slave sales and rentals were often the result when an owner died.

What I found interesting about this particular advertisement was the fact that Thomas explained that Isaac was born on the James River and as he explained, Isaac was known to most of the boatmen on that thoroughfare. It seems likely then that Isaac must have experienced some freedom of movement in his previous situation. As the ad also mentions, Thomas believed that Isaac was likely working his way along the James River Canal, attempting to pass as a free man or "attempting to make his escape to some free State under cover of free papers, and some other fictitious name." Waterways were common methods of escape for fugitive slaves. Runaways had the opportunity to meet people of diverse origins on rivers, but also potentially encountered slave catchers who know rivers were often traveled by fugitives. 

James A. Thomas is listed in the 1840 census as the head of household of containing ten people. I found it intriguing that the Thomas household included three free people of color in addition to four slaves. 

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