In 1797, an Irish nobleman, by the name of Harman Blennerhassett, settled on what has since been known as BIennerhassett's Island. He was a gentleman of wealth and culture who had married his niece, Miss Margaret Agnew, a beautiful and refined lady. The relatives were not pleased with this marriage and to remain in their native country meant for them family ostracism, which is supposed to have been the reason for their emigration to America. After visiting some of the eastern states they crossed the Alleghany mountains to Pittsburg and sailed down the Ohio river to Marietta. They were so much pleased with the country and the people that they decided to locate in the vicinity. After examining some of the neighboring hills with a view of erecting a castle on a hill top, like so many in the Rhine valley, they finally abandoned that plan and purchased the eastern half of the beautiful island opposite Belpre. Here they erected a stately mansion with an appropriate group of outbuildings, laid out pleasant lawns and flower gardens, planted a large variety of fruit and ornamental trees and prepared the land for cultivation. They brought with them an extensive library with apparatus for scientific experiments. Also musical instruments and works of art. They soon made their home and grounds the most beautiful and costly in the valley. They found their neighbors in Belpre both enterprising and intelligent and very intimate social associations grew up between them, which continued for about eight years. This was in the early and formative period of our political history. Aaron Burr was one of the most talented and ambitious men of that period, and desired to reach the Presidency. In 1801 he and Thomas Jefferson each had seventy-three electoral votes. This threw the election into the House of Representatives and on the thirtieth ballot Thomas Jefferson was chosen president and Burr, Vice-President. In 1804 he was democratic candidate for governor of New York, but was defeated and the same year he mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel which brought to him the most intense hatred from the friends of that gifted Statesman. Though a dissapointed man he was still ambitious. In the Spring of 1805 after the close of his term as Vice-President he made a tour down the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers the object of which is given by Judge William R. Safford as follows:
(1) To ascertain the sentiment of the people of the west upon the subject of a separation from the Atlantic States.
(2) To enlist recruits, and make arrangements for a private expedition against Mexico and the Spanish provinces in the event of a war between the United States and Spain, which at that time seemed inevitable.
(3) In the event of a failure of both of these measures, to purchase a tract of land of Baron Bastrop lying in Louisiana on the Washita river. Upon this he contemplated the establishment of a colony of intelligent and wealthy individuals where he might rear around him a society remarkable for its refinement in civil and social life.
That each of these stupendous enterprises was determined on, is clearly inferable from the evidence afterwards adduced against him.
He examined the ancient monuments at Marietta and, in company with a friend, passed through the grounds of the Island estate, although the family were absent at the time.
A correspondence followed between Mr. Burr and Mr. Blennerhassett and this resulted in another visit of Mr. Burr to the island in August, 1805. At that visit Mr. Burr laid before his host plans for an expedition which must have embraced some at least of the specifications already quoted. Mr. Blennerhassett had sufficient confidence in his distinguished guest to enlist himself and invest at least a considerable part of his fortune in the enterprise, but it also created the hope of large honor and wealth in the future and it is also evident that Mrs. Blennerhassett entered very heartily into the plan. The ostensible object of the enterprise as given to the public, was the establishment of a colony on the Washita river though at least some of the adventurers enlisted with the understanding that it embraced a campaign against Mexico.
Almost immediately a contract was made with Joseph Barker to construct, at his ship yard on the Muskingum, fifteen large batteaux, with a total capacity of carrying five hundred men. One of these was to be fitted with several rooms to accommodate Mr. Blennerhassett's family; also a keel boat sixty feet long to be loaded with munitions, provisions, flour, whiskey, pork, and com meal which was to be kiln dried so that it would be preserved in a warm and moist climate. For these boats and provisions Mr. Blennerhassett became responsible and he was to go down the river with these boats in December. Other men and supplies had already been provided for in Penn. and Mr. Burr proceeded down the river to secure volunteers and supplies in Kentucky.
The preparations were to embrace fifteen hundred or two thousand armed men with corresponding supplies of provisions.
December 7 Comfort Tyler and Israel Taylor, in the employ of Col. Burr, arrived at the island from Beaver, Penn. with four boats and about thirty-two men. Only eleven of the boats ordered at Marietta were completed but orders were given to have these and the provisions sent immediately and if any of the covers of boats were not complete that work might be done as they floated down the river.
Meanwhile President Jefferson had been informed that a military expedition was in preparation against the dominions of Spain, and on Nov. 27th he issued a message warning all persons against participating in such criminal enterprises and commanding all officers, civil and military, to bring the offending persons to punishment. The matter was also considered by Governor Tiffin of Ohio and the Legislature, then in Session at Chillicothe, immediately passed an act entitled "An act to prevent certain acts hostile to the peace and tranquility of the United States within the jurisdiction of the State of Ohio."
Under this act Governor Tiffin ordered out the militia in the adjoining territory, under command of Major General Buell with instruction to take possession of the boats and stores not only in the Muskingum but also of all of a suspicious character descending the Ohio. Under this order the boats and provisions on the Muskingum and at Marietta were placed under the guard of the militia. Owing to these orders a considerable number of volunteers abandoned the enterprise. Several young men at Belpre, who desired to participate in the expedition and were ambitious for adventure, resolved to make an effort to secure these boats. One dark night they went to Marietta for that purpose. While loosening the boats from the banks of the Muskingum they were discovered by the militia and a somewhat ludicrous but bloodless scrimage followed in the darkness; as a. result the young men succeeded in getting one of the boats into the Ohio river in which they floated down to the island. Under the authority of the proclamation of President Jefferson the Militia of Wood County, Virginia was called out and Dec. 10th Mr. Blennerhassett was informed that Colonel Hugh Phelps was expected to proceed to the island on the next day to take possession of the persons, as well as of boats and stores. Alarmed by these reports Mr. Blennerhassett and his followers resolved to leave the island that night. Hasty preparations were made and although the cold was intense, the flotilla with about forty men and a considerable supply of arms and provisions cut loose from the island about midnight and floated down the river, expecting to receive additional recruits at the mouth of the Cumberland river and to be led forward in the enterprise by Aaron Burr. The Governor of Kentucky had also been aroused by the proclamation of the President and Mr. Burr was compelled to hasten his departure so that the flotillas, when united, consisted of only four boats. This flotilla proceeded down the Ohio and also a considerable distance down the Mississippi but in the end proved a complete failure. The men were scattered, Mr. Burr and Mr. Blennerhassett were both arrested for treason and a trial was held the next year before the Supreme Court of the United States at Richmond, Virginia. The trial was one of the most celebrated in the annals of that Court. The result was an acquittal as the evidence was not considered sufficient to convict them. Both men however suffered severely in the loss of property and reputation.
The Blennerhassett family never returned to their island home. Later the property was sold to pay debts and the buildings were destroyed by fire. It seems to be the verdict of historians that Mr. and Mrs. Blennerhassett were captivated by the allurements of Aaron Burr. They were made to believe that their endowments fitted them for much larger things, than could be realized on their island home, but that a state might be created in which they would be leaders. Their property was involved and the enterprise inaugurated to gratify that ambition with no real intention of any treasonable purposes against the government.
As before stated the ostensible object of the expedition, as given to the public, was the establishment of a colony on the Washita river.
It has been the opinion of historians from that time to the present that something much more extensive than this was contemplated by Aaron Burr. The reasons for this opinion certainly seem very conclusive. One of these is that the plan of preparation involved the enlistment of fifteen hundred or two thousand men, armed and equipped with implements of war, and provisions for a considerable campaign in a warm, moist climate, with no preparations for surveying, clearing, or cultivating land or for removing or settling families.
Again Colonel Burr was a man of so large and so selfish ambitions it is not thought likely that he would make so large preparations for an enterprise which did not promise larger emoluments either of honor or wealth than could be expected from a colony in a wilderness. Then, when they feared arrest by the civil authorities, they did not attempt to explain their real object, but hastened away secretly. It was well known that the representatives of Spain had put forth strenuous efforts for nearly a score of years to prevail upon the states bordering on the Mississippi river to secede from the union and become a part of the Spanish province of Florida. Many public men in these states were in favor of that movement. Among these was General James Wilkinson who, while holding a position in the United States Army, had been for many years an agent for Spain and received an annual stipend from that government. Subsequent revelations have provided abundant evidence of the extent of his treason. It is known that Burr was in secret consultation with Wilkinson on each of his trips down the valley, and that he also held a cypher correspondence with him. General Wilkinson so far turned States evidence that he was one of the principal witnesses against Burr on the trial for treason.
No one will doubt that in giving his testimony he would avoid all statements which would criminate himself. This fact connected with the well known sentiment of many western politicians at that time may be one reason why the verdict of "not guilty" was rendered at the trial of Colonel Burr.
In a letter written by Mr. Blennerhassett a few years later to Governor Alston, a son-in-law of Colonel Burr, and a partner in the enterprise he speaks of making known the facts "relative to Mr. Burrs designs against New Orleans and Mexico." These words so far confirm the evidence already mentioned that they seem to justify the conclusion that Col. Burr contemplated a conquest of the Spanish Floridas, or uniting with them the western States in a new nation, or a conquest of Mexico, or perhaps in case of a war with Spain, which was at that time thought imminent, the accomplishment of both schemes and the founding of a great Southern Empire under the leadership of Burr, Blennerhassett, and Wilkinson. While this enterprise and its results are only remotely related to the history of Belpre a considerable number of young men from Belpre enlisted in the expedition and, owing to the locality, the mere mention of Belpre suggests to many minds the account of Mr. Blennerhassett.
At the time there was a ludicrous as well as a serious side to the affair which gave rise to certain parodies in the newspapers as well as practical jokes on the militia. Thinking other boats laden with men, arms, or provisions might come down the river a guard was stationed at the foot of Greene Street in Marietta with a loaded cannon. One dark night, when the river was nearly closed with ice, a light was seen slowly moving down the river among the ice cakes. This was carefully watched and when opposite the guard house a challenge was given in most approved nautical terms. This was repeated three times and no response having been made a torch was applied to the six pounder and immediately the surrounding hills reechoed the sound. This aroused the sleeping citizens in all the region, who supposed the war was actually begun, and rushed out in all conditions of dress to learn what was the occasion for the alarm. Next morning an old boat was found lodged in the ice in which were the remains of a fire which had been kindled in it the previous night.
While the anti-slavery sentiment was increasing in Belpre, the antipathy against abolitionists increased in Virginia. Captain John Stone did not cross the river to Parkersburg, at least in day light, for more than twenty years. It has been said that a price was offered for him by certain citizens of the baser sort who wished to treat him to a coat of tar and feathers or to injure him in other ways.
On one occasion, about this time, when Mr. David Putnam of Marietta landed from a steamboat on the wharf in Parkersburg he was discovered and immediately assailed by a mob of roughs. Being a strong, muscular man, he defended himself with his fists until he fell backward into the river. The Captain of the boat which he had just left, rescued him and took him to a safer place.
In the year 1845 there was an occurrence in Belpre of great significance to the whole country and which awakened very great interest. It illustrates the enmity between the different sections of the country which continued to increase until it culminated in the Civil War. We will here quote substantially from an Article in the Centennial issue of the Ohio State Journal by Dr. Frank P. Ames. This seems to be based quite largely on the testimony of one of the negroes who was present at the time.
"The Slaves of a planter by the name of Harwood, living on Washington's Bottom, were prevailed upon by an intinerating Baptist preacher by the name of Ronaine to make an effort to gain their freedom in order to escape the danger of being sold to a trader from down the river, of which fate they were in constant fear. The plan, as arranged by Ronaine involved aid from friends on the Belpre side of the river at a secluded spot in the narrows just above the mouth of the Little Hocking. The company of Slaves consisted of Daniel Partridge, Frederic Gay, his wife Hannah, and three children, Mary (14), Harriet (6), and Burnet (3). These left Virginia in an old Pirogue and landed on the Ohio side at two a. m. July 10, 1845.
Meanwhile Mr. Harwood had become acquainted with the plot and his son, several nephews, and others secured from Parkersburg, making in all about sixteen men, fully armed, crossed the river and were hidden in the bushes, when the other party landed. The five Ohioans took the baggage of the slaves and directed Daniel and Fred to take up the two children and follow them, with the wife and daughter, up the bank to their homes. One of the white men went directly up the steep bank with his load, while the others took a diagonal course. When the first man reached the road Daniel said he heard him exclaim ''Don't stab me; shoot me if you dare." He did not hear a word from the Virginians lying in ambush till the Ohioans who were leading them up the bank turned about and ran down the river in hope to elude their pursuers in that direction. Upon this movement of the escaping party, Daniel said he soon heard the loud tramping of the Virginians in the road above, running with all speed to head those who were endeavoring to flee from them. "They ran in this way for some distance when a party of Virginians poured down a small ravine and came to the river ahead of them. Here a scuffle took place, in which Daniel said two Ohioans were taken. These, with the one taken in the road, made three that were captured and taken over the river and lodged in Parkersburg jail. When the Virginians came down to the river and were endeavoring to secure the abolitionists the slaves turned and ran down the river to make good their escape. They were pursued by George Harwood, their young master, and Perry Lewis a cousin. Loaded as the Slaves were their pursuers gained upon them so fast that Daniel was forced to drop Harriet whom he had carried in his arms until then. Soon after he set down the child his foot struck a rock which brought him to the ground, he recovered as soon as possible and flung himself under the roots of a large Sycamore tree upturned to the wind. Just as he fell a pistol shot was fired by one of his pursuers, probably to frighten rather than to injure. Ensconsed under the roots of the old Sycamore his pursuers passed without seeing him and soon after at the command of young Harwood another pistol was fired at the fleeing Slaves. This brought them to, and they were all brought back in view of his place of retreat. When passing Harwood asked his Cousin Lewis if all the slaves were taken. He replied that he believed they were. At this juncture Daniel heard a cry from one of the Ohioans, "Don’t choke me so; if I have done anything against the laws of my State I am willing to answer for it, but I am not willing to be taken over the river to be tried by your bloody slave laws." At this a voice- the voice of Wyatt Lewis he thinks -was heard "Come along you D--d abolitionist and get into the boat or I'll drag you into it -get up then on to your feet you rascal and get into the boat." After this Daniel says he heard nothing that he could distinctly make out, except oaths and loud talk, till the marauding party of brigands set up a shout of victory and fired a triumphal volley from their rifles. Daniel now crept from his hiding place and made his way up the bank to the road above. There he soon fell in with friends, who took him to a house and immediately started him North. Daniel says he is perfectly sure that George Harwood, his young master, Perry, Frank and Wyatt Lewis his cousins, were among the sixteen armed Virginians who boldly attacked six unarmed citizens of Ohio in the dead of night while these citizens were engaged in the discharge of what they considered their Christian duty.
The three men captured were Daniel Garner, Creighton Loraine, and Mordacai Thomas, two escaped with Mr. Romaine, Titus Shotwell and Burdon Stanton both Quakers and citizens of Washington County.
Efforts to bail the three prisoners from Parkersburg jail led to a series of interesting and exciting events. Under Virginia law only freeholders could sign a bail bond. So bitter was the feeling against the Abolitionists that no freeholder, though he might be willing, would dare sign a bond to release the despised prisoners.
Nathan Ward, William P. Cutler, and Anselm T. Nye, three substantial and wealthy citizens of Marietta, Ohio, offered to sign an indemnifying bond if any citizen of Virginia would furnish bail for the prisoners, but without success. Mr. Ward then offered to sign a note payable at the time, if the prisoners failed to appear when summoned, only to fail. A young Virginian offered to sign a bond but as his property was in the form of bank stock his signature was not lawful. The dispute over the law on the part of the court officers of Parkersburg and the energetic efforts on the part of the citizens of Marietta to release the prisoners aroused the people and the press of Ohio to frenzy, especially did the Abolitionists seize upon the occasion to agitate and promote their propaganda. Governor Bartley of Ohio became interested and called into council William P. Cutler, who then represented Washington County in the Legislature and set before him the plan, viz: to select one hundred picked men from the Militia, who should secretly proceed to Parkersburg jail and rescue the prisoners by force. Mr. Cutler counseled delay hoping that time would allay the bitter feeling and that the difficulty might be settled without resort to arms. Virginia for a time nightly guarded the point at the junction of the Little Kanawha and Ohio. In the darkness a noise was heard in the mud along the river edge one evening; thinking the enemy was upon them the guard fired in the direction of the noise and wounded the town bull.
Governor Bartley abandoned his military project and resorted to correspondence with Governor McDowell, of Virginia. In the latter part of September Governor Bartley made requisition upon Governor McDowell, at the same time expressing his anxiety to preserve peace and harmony between the states.
Oct. 21 Governor McDowell refused to surrended the Prisoners and reminded the Governor of Ohio "that a faithful compliance with the fugutive slave laws will be more powerful than any other instrumentality in preserving peace and good will between the States."
Governor Bartley replied Nov. 3 as follows: “To redress the wrongs of this outrage to the rights of our citizens and to the sovereignty of the State resort has thus far been had alone to the peaceful remedies of judicial proceedings; but if your excellency is not disposed to lend your aid and the exercise of your authority to redress these wrongs by the course of legal proceedings; if injunctions of the National compact are to be made secondary to strained construction of mere statutory enactments and matters of local expediency, if a diabolical outrage of this kind is to be perpetrated by citizens of Virginia upon the persons of the citizens of Ohio and the perpetrators escape with impunity, be assured Sir the friendly feeling and intercourse between the two States will be greatly endangered, and it is feared the people of Ohio will take justice into their own hands and redress their own wrongs without recourse to the authority of Virginia. I do not say this by way of threat nor without due reflection. I believe your excellency to be acting from good motive, but, sir, it is not human nature for any people to submit calmly, and see their people kidnapped and imprisoned in a foreign jurisdiction. I tell you plainly, Sir, with proper respect and due deliberation that Ohio will not submit to such wrongs. Still I trust, Sir, the admonition will not be entirely useless. I am firmly of the opinion that the administration of the criminal laws ought not to be relaxed unless it be intended to let the people avenge their own wrong by resort to violence.” As regards the legal question involved in the transaction it was really a question of the boundary between Ohio and Virginia. Virginia claimed that these Prisoners were arrested in Wood County, Virginia when aiding fugatives to escape. The claim of the Governor of Ohio was that the men were kidnapped in the State of Ohio, and forcibly imprisoned in another State. We have in Williams History of Washington County the following account of these prisoners and their trial.
"Intercourse with their friends from Ohio was denied them, and Marietta Lawyers employed to defend them were rejected. Subsequently the wives of the prisoners were permitted to visit them under guard.
Aug. 15th a public meeting was held at the Court house in Marietta to take into consideration further measures for the liberation of Ohio citizens now in jail at Parkersburg, and the vindication of the rights of Ohio. September 2nd the prisoners, each collared by two men, were taken from jail to the Court house in Parkersburg and there pleaded "not guilty" to the charge of "enticing and assisting in the county of Wood, Virginia the six negroes to escape from slavery." Bail was again refused except by a Virginia freeholder and the prisoners went back to jail. The jury found a special verdict of guilty turning on "Jurisdiction in the case, to De tried by a higher court." The question of jurisdiction or boundary between the two States was argued before the court of appeals at Richmond, Dec. 10-13 and the court divided equally on the question, whether the State line was at low water mark on the Ohio side or above that. The men had been captured just above low water mark.
At this trial Hon. Samuel F. Vinton of Gallipolis, Ohio, a member of Congress, made a very able argument in which he showed conclusively that the boundary line between the States had been and should be low water mark, therefore the men were kidnapped in Ohio and not Virginia. This address was published in the Ohio Archarological Magazine, V 01. 4, Page 67.
Though the judges in this case divided equally in their opinion of the question of jurisdiction the case was really settled by the argument of Mr. Vinton. At a special term of the court of appeals held at Parkersburg. Garner, Loraine, and Thomas were admitted to bail in the sum of one hundred dollars' each, on his own recognizance, Jan. 10th, 1845. After confinement in jail for six months. The case was never again called.
This case was one of so great local and general interest that we will insert several contemporary documents.
Aug. 7, 1845 only a short time after the kidnapping, the following article appeared in the Marietta Intelligencer: "From what we can learn, we are pained to announce it, there exists among some of the people of Parkersburg very little of the feeling of responsibility which should result from the outrage of Virginia in capturing and transporting Ohioans for acts done in Ohio. There is exulting over the feat of capturing these men. The deep feeling of indignation which is spread in Ohio seems to be utterly contemned and disregarded. The claim to jurisdiction is as coolly asserted as would be the right of a master to punish his servants at his own good will and pleasure. Let us hope the Virginians do not generally sympathize with this feeling. Will the thousands of good people of Virginia risk their peace and safety to protect a few men in kidnapping Ohio citizens? Are they willing the peace of this fair valley should be compromised? The people of Ohio are slow to wrath but it is dangerous to despise them."
The local prejudices of that time, as well as the effet of the able arguments of Hon. S. F. Vinton may be learned from the following quotation from a letter of Mr. Vinton to Caleb Emerson, Esq., editor of the Marietta Intelligencer, dated Dec. 20th, 1845 after speaking of the presentation of arguments he added. "The Judges had it under consultation for another term of four days, when the court, which was composed of fifteen Judges, divided as follows, seven for rendering a judgment for Virginia, seven against it, and the other Judge, having doubts what the judgment ought to be, the case was continued till the next term of the court. I was informed, by a letter from Richmond, that Judge McComas, before leaving that city said fie should call at Parkersburg and put the prisoners to bail in some small amount. This may be looked upon as a decision in favor of Ohio. Indeed before that argument the prevalent opinion at Richmond was that the prisoners would be condemned. After the argument I was told often by gentlemen of the first respectability that the opinion among the Richmond bar, and the outdoor opinion generally was that the jurisdiction over the "Locus in quo" was exclusively vested in Ohio.
The importance of this case and the interest taken in it at the time in all parts of the State is shown by the following extract from a letter written to Caleb Emerson, Editor of the Intelligencer, by Salmon P. Chase then a lawyer in Cincinnati. Afterwards Governor of Ohio, and Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War.
"I see that our abducted fellow citizens are released. I am glad they are out of a Virginia jail. I thank God for that, but I must still express my regret that they did not find the power of the State their sufficient bail. Had I been in their places, I know not how, in the weakness of human nature, with strong yearnings for home, children, wife, and friends stirring at my heart, I should have acted. I think however I know how I ought to have acted, that I ought not by word or deed, by recognizance bond or otherwise to have admitted the jurisdiction of Virginia to try me for an act done in Ohio and innocent by her laws."
The case seems to have been dropped after the release of these men without any effort to recover damages from Virginia for the kidnapping of Ohio citizens and holding them in an illegal imprisonment for six months. This really shows the spirit of long suffering in the North. This was probably wise as the time had not yet fully come for the Civil War. It is very evident that the kidnapping was planned beforehand by the Virginians. Had their object been merely to retain the slaves they could easily have prevented the start from the plantation. Instead of this sixteen armed men crossed the river secretly and lay in ambush to take back the slaves, indeed, but also to kidnap and punish by the laws of Virginia citizens of Ohio, who were not guilty of any violation of the laws of their own State.
Some of those engaged in this transaction lived to see Virginia a bloody battle ground of the Civil war and African Slavery forever abolished in our country. Mr. Joseph Smith of Vincent estimated that six hundred fugitives passed through Washington County between 1850 and 1860, and probably nearly or quite as many had passed through in previous years. Several very interesting books have been written reciting incidents connected with the underground railroad. Since many of the most thrilling events occurred in the night, and were known only to the actors, it is probably true that the half of that history will never be written. Since we are each year receding farther from the days of American Slavery we have thought best to record the following representative incidents that those who come after us may have a better understanding of the realities of slavery and of the Underground Railroad.
During the period of which we have treated there lived in Hockingport a man named Moses Davis who, like many in more modern days, had a decided aversion to work and made a living by hook and crook. In those days it was a common thing for slaves, who did not see the justice and pleasure of working for nothing and boarding themselves and their masters, to slyly cross the Ohio and make their way to Canada. When slaves ran away a liberal reward was often offered for their arrest and return. Davis conceived the idea of replenishing an empty purse by inducing slaves to run away and then betraying them and obtain the reward. A man named Kincheloe who lived in Virginia a little below Hockingport had five Slaves a man and wife and three half grown children. Davis promised to help them on the road to freedom if they would come to this side on a certain night. The slaves not expecting treachery came over and Davis, under pretense that he was not ready to start that night, secreted them in a ravine opposite Mustapha Island. The next day men from Virginia were over, looking for the lost chaffels. Davis met them easily, of course and in answer to their inquiries intimated that he could put them in a way to capture the slaves if suitably rewarded. The slave hunters refused to pay anything until they got possession of their property and he was obliged to tell them where the slaves were secreted. In answer to the inquiry why they had stopped there, instead of getting farther away the slaves told their master that Davis had induced them to run away and promised to forward them. This perfidious act enraged the slave owners and they not only refused to pay any reward but sent word to Davis that he would be shot if they caught sight of him. The liberty loving citizens of Ohio were so furious over the treachery of Davis that they threatened to hang him, and he fled the country never to return.
The ravine is now and probably will always be known as "Nigger Run."
Case related by A. L. Curtis.
"About the year 1820 a man named William Neal owned a farm opposite Newbury, and had an active intelligent Slave called Harry of whom he was very fond and it was hinted that the master and slave were very closely related. At any rate Neal did not want Harry taken South to work under the lash in the cotton fields. My father, Walter Curtis, and his brother Horace bought him. They agreed to credit him a certain amount per month against the purchase price which was $700 and when that was paid he was to be a free man. Harry came over and went to work on the farm but left a wife behind. The wife was a slave and liable to be sold. One nigt she came across the river to get away from the slave traders. Harry secreted her in the woods and built a little fire to keep her warm. The owners, suspecting she was in this vicinity, came over. Harry was plowing on the hill, overlooking the road and saw two men coming with a woman walking before them. Seizing a stout hickory cudgel, which he had ready, he rushed across the creek and hid by the road side. When the men came along with their captive, he sprang out, cut the cord which bound the woman’s hands and she ran back, while he, with his club raised, told the hunters to get on the other side of the river if they valued their lives. That night Harry and his wife started for Canada by the underground route and the investment in Slave property was very unprofitable to the Curtis Brothers."
The following Statement by J. W. Tuttle is furnished by Dr. F. P. Ames:
In 1850 a company of six or seven negroes were piloted from Francis Stones one night by Mr. Vickers just beyond the twin bridges. At that time Mr. Smith was building the abutment of the bridge at the mouth of Davis Creek. The next morning Mr. I. W. Putnam, noticing that Mr. Smith was late at breakfast remarked that he must have been running negroes away. Mr. P's remark was nearer truth than he knew at the time.
At one time a company of slaves consisting of men, women and children, I do not remember how many, escaped from Virginia not far from Marietta and reached the farm of Massa Hovey on Duck Creek, about fifteen miles from Marietta; their pursuers were so close on their track that it became absolutely necessary that they should be concealed in a deep ravine on the farm of Mr. Hovey; a very large tree had fallen and they were concealed by that by the side of the tree. There they were kept for three weeks, while the woods in the vicinity were searched for them by their owners and the "Lick Spittle"* hired to aid in the search. During this time friends clandestinely furnished the fugitives with food and water. Finally a way was opened by which they were moved on. Randal S. Wells, a courageous and adventurous man of Middle Creek, Monroe County, was their Moses, who piloted them out of the wilderness to the promised land. Only two Israelites reached the happy land of Canaan but the whole band of Randal L. Wells reached the happy land of Canada. While the search for these fugitives was going on, two of the "lick spittle," who were given money to buy whiskey and tobacco by the slave hunters to do their dirty and nefarious work took their rifles and went out to hunt the runaways and also to hunt squirrels. One of the men shot a squirrel in the top of a tall tree and it fell in the midst of these slaves where they were concealed behind the fallen tree. When the man started to get his game the other hunter said: "Come on we are hunting niggers." If he had gone for the squirrel he would doubtless have discovered the fugitives for whom they were hunting. As it was we may think these were providentially preserved.
We will introduce another letter which relates occurences in a locality several miles from Belpre, but illustrates the conditions in southern Ohio at that time. A considerable number of Virginians, had settled in this part of Ohio and with those who sympathized with their pro-slavery sentiments were very bitter against Abolitionists. Judge D. S. Gibbs of Hutcihnson, Kansas, wrote his reminiscences as follows:
"From 1840 to 1855 it was very unpopular to be the friend of the slave. About 1845 H. L. Preston, a resident of Columbiana County, came into our neighborhood (Port Soakum near Dudley Station on the C. and M. R. R.) and was employed to teach our school. Soon afterwards it became known that he was a prominent Anti-Slavery man, and he had the manhood to declare his sentiments in public. An effort was made to have him discharged but it failed. My father and Gilman Dudley were directors and both Anti-Slavery men. Mr. Preston commenced to lecture on the subject of slavery in our school house on a certain evening. A mob came in led by a Methodist class leader, all full of whiskey, and with their best and only arguments, rotten eggs and scandalous and blasphemous language, the mob took possession by force and besmeared the school room, books, and many ladies dresses with rotten eggs, and gave Mr. Preston more than his share. This outrageous conduct made the cause of freedom many friends.
During the same winter I made an appointment, through Isaac Lund, for Mr. Preston to lecture at Macksburg. There he was again assaulted by a mob, who threw rotten eggs while he was speaking. One hit him on the shirt bosom, but he went on with his speech, remarking that the arguments used were not very pleasant, but as they (the mob) had no better ones to offer, he would pardon them. These accounts of the increasing animosity between the peoples of the North and South will help us to understand the causes which led to our great Civil War.
The following are samples of the advertisements for runaway slaves seen in those days.
Ten dollars for my woman Siby. Very much scarred about the ears and neck by whipping.
BRYANT JOHNSON, Fort Valley, Ga.
Run away, a negro woman named Maria - has many scars on her back from being whipped.
JAMES NOE, Red River Landing, La.
Twenty dollars reward. Ran away from the subscriber, on the 14th inst, a negro named Molly. She is 17 years of age, slim, branded on the left cheek thus, "R" and a piece taken off her ear on the same side; this same letter on the inside of both her legs.
ABNER ROSS, Fairfield District, S. C .
Ran away, a negro girl called Mary. Has a small scar over her eye, a good many teeth missing. The letter A is branded on her cheek and forehead.
J. P. ASHFORD, Adams Co., Miss.
* A name then given to those willing to aid slave catchers for the reward offered.
A History of Belpre Washington County, Ohio
C. E. Dickinson, D.D.
Published by Globe Printing & Binding Company, Parkersburg, West Virginia
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