Monday, December 31, 2007

Belli's Town: Alexandria and the Virginia Military District

To answer the question, "Why was Alexandria, the first American settlement in Scioto County, situated in a flood prone location on the west side of the Scioto River," we needed to look back at the founding of Lower Shawnee Town. Picking up from my last post on the demise of this Native American village at the mouth of the Scioto, I will now carry the story forward with a look at the role of federal land policy and the creation of the Virginia Military District on where the first American settlements in the Scioto Valley were located.


Imagine, if you can, floating down the Ohio, or pushing a keel boat up the river in 1796. When you reach the mouth of the Scioto, the Westside is overgrown, but is not covered with the massive sycamores, oaks, poplars, and black walnut trees that you see on the eastside peninsula, which also appears lower and especially prone to flooding. About a mile above the mouth, on the eastside, one would see the land rise, heavily forested and rimmed with pawpaw thickets; if you were to disembark and explore the eastside, swampy ground would have slowed your trek. While on higher ground, the high ground on the eastside, where Portsmouth is now located, was covered with mosquito breeding pools of stagnant water.

At first glance, it appears that the decision to locate the first American town of the region on the site of the old Lower Shawnee Town was primarily based upon three factors: 1) the land was already cleared of large timber; 2) the location was at the actual confluence of the two rivers; and 3) the site did not appear to be as subject to flooding as it would later prove.

While all of these factors undoubtedly played a role in the decision to locate the first American town on the Westside, the most influential factor actually had little to do with these considerations. The creation of the Virginia Military District (VMD) and the opening of the region to surveying and land sales led to the platting of Alexandria on the Westside of the Scioto River. And it is the same reason why the American town of Chillicothe, to the north, was located on the Westside of the river.

The VMD was a massive tract of land (over 3.8 million acres) that Congress had reserved for Virginia Revolutionary War veterans. In an effort to recruit and pay for the service of Virginians in the Continental Army, the government of Virginia had promised land grants in the west, upon lands that Virginia’s colonial charter had assigned to the colony – these lands included Kentucky and much of the land north of the Ohio River. The size of Virginia bounty lands were awarded according to one’s length of service and final rank at the end of the war.

In the fall of 1783, soon after Independence had been achieved a major compromise was worked out between the member states of the Confederation. In exchange for transferring ownership of lands north of the Ohio River to the control of the Confederation Congress, a tract of land in the territory would be held in reserve for Virginian veterans. Thus, the Confederation Congress created the Virginia Military District, which included all of the lands north of the Ohio River and between the Little Miami River in the west and the Scioto River in the East.

Historic Land Divisions of Ohio

The VMD sliced the Scioto River Valley in two. Lands on the eastern side of the Scioto would become known as Congress Lands. And these Congress Lands would not be opened to settlement until the spring of 1801. Before 1801, settlers living on the eastern side of the river were squatters – they had no legal title to the lands.

In other words, even if some land speculator had wanted to develop a town on the eastside, on the location of modern-day Portsmouth, they could not do so until after 1801. The platting of Portsmouth would not happen until 1803, and then it was nearly three years later in 1806, after another major flood in 1805, which inundated Alexandria, that settlement at Portsmouth began to take off.

Settlement on the Westside of the river was also delayed. The legislation creating the VMD, though passed in 1783, did not immediately open the region to settlement. For one, the legislation stipulated that the district be held in reserve until all of the valuable land in Kentucky had been claimed by Virginia veterans. Another reason for the delay was that the US government had not yet extinguished Indian claims to these lands. On the last day of January 1786, a handful of Shawnee leaders signed the Treaty of Fort Finney, which ceded Shawnee lands in Southern Ohio. This treaty, however, was immediately repudiated by a number of more influential Shawnee leaders, which essentially nullified the treaty. In short, any surveying and settlement of the VMD would meet violent resistance until the US had secured the acquiescence of the Indians. And it would be through war that this would be achieved.

In the meantime, the mouth of the Scioto became one of the most dangerous points on the Ohio River, with Shawnee and Cherokee warriors attacking American flatboats, as they made their way to Limestone (Maysville), which was the gateway to the frontier settlements in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.

The legislation that created the VMD authorized Gen. Richard C. Anderson, the Principal Surveyor of Virginia Bounty Lands, to decide when the Kentucky bounty lands had been depleted, and upon such a declaration the VMD in Ohio would then be opened to surveying and settlement. Anderson did not wait for the final extinguishment of Indian land claims. On the 1st of August 1787, he recorded the first deed in the VMD, thereby opening the region to settlement. His decision appears largely to have been triggered by the passage of a new piece of national legislation known as the Northwest Ordinance, which was passed two weeks prior, on 13 July 1787.

Richard C. Anderson, Principal Surveyor of Virginia Bounty Lands

The Northwest Ordinance began the process of opening up the non-VMD land north and west of the Ohio River to settlement. Among other things, the legislation banned slavery in all of the Northwest Territory and established a system for surveying and selling land that would shape settlement patterns outside the VMD. The NW Ordinance quickly (two weeks after its passage) led to the sale of a huge tract of land (1.5 million acres) to the Ohio Company of Associates, who then, in April 1788, established the town of Marietta, the first authorized American settlement in all of the Northwest Territory.

A group of the Ohio Associates also formed a second speculative venture, known as the Scioto Land Company, which took out an option on 3.5 million acres of land between the western border of the Ohio Company purchase and the eastern bank of the Scioto River. For various reasons, in one of the greatest financial scandals of the Early Republic era of American history, the Scioto Company failed and the lands on the eastern side of the Scioto remained in the hands of Congress. These Congress Lands would finally be auctioned off in 1801, a good five years after the first American settlements had been established on the western banks of the Scioto.

In addition to the Ohio Company’s purchase in the summer of 1787, John Cleves Symmes also petitioned Congress for the purchase of 1 million acres in south-western Ohio. Although Symmes’ purchase was not finalized until the next fall, in October 1788, discussion of speculative schemes such as Symmes’ were rampant among members of Congress in the summer of 1787. There is no doubt that Gen. Anderson and other speculators in VMD lands were aware of these plans. Ever since the creation of the VMD in 1783, Virginians and others had been speculating in Virginia land bounties – numerous financially strapped veterans, during a post-war economic depression, when hostile Indians were blocking settlement, had sold their land warrants to their more wealthy neighbors, many of whom were also entitled to land by their own service in the Revolution.

Anderson’s decision to open the VMD appears to have been triggered by the passage of the Northwest Ordinance and the speculative schemes of the Symmes and the Ohio and Scioto companies. Unless the VMD was opened to surveyors, settlers, and speculators, the value of its land and its future development might be irrevocably harmed. The flow of settlers and capital would be directed towards eastern and western Ohio, while south-central Ohio – the VMD – would be left behind, their property values depressed.

Anderson’s decision led to the first official surveys in the Scioto River Valley in the summer and fall of 1787. However, before any extensive surveying was completed, the Continental Congress brought a halt to the surveys, shutting down the district and nullifying those surveys that had been completed. The Congress, which had a financial interest in the sale of federally controlled lands, wished to hold back the surveying and settlement of the VMD. The national government would not make a dime off of land sales in the VMD; settlers and capital would be siphoned off to the VMD and the beneficiaries would be the owners of Virginia military bounty land warrants, not the federal treasury.

There were other concerns influencing Congress. As mentioned above, American claims to the lands in the VMD were not yet fully accepted by the various Indian nations of the Ohio country. Diplomatic efforts at securing title to the land were proving difficult and relations with the Indian nations of the Northwest were tense. Survey teams in the VMD risked igniting a war with the Indians, particularly the Shawnee.

Before Congress shut down the VMD in July of 1788, the land at the mouth of the Scioto, on the western side of the Scioto, had been surveyed. Operating out of the Limestone settlement in Kentucky, John O’Bannon led a team of chain-carriers, markers, and hunters to the south eastern corner of the VMD and recorded a number of surveys that ran up the Scioto, and down the Ohio, including surveys of the mouth of Turkey Creek.

In mid-November 1787, while the inhabitants of the US were in the midst of their debate over the ratification of the proposed Constitution, John O’Bannon surveyed 900 acres for Thomas Parker of Virginia. O’Bannon’s survey, number 508, included the lands at the mouth of the Scioto River, the future location of Alexandria.

Another surveyor, who would become the most famous and wealthiest of land speculators in the VMD – Nathaniel Massie – did not participate in these first surveys. From extent records I have been able to examine, it appears that Massie made an exploratory trip across the Ohio into the District in the summer of 1788. Contrary to some published claims, Massie did not make the first entries in the District. So, where was Massie in 1787? According to his correspondence, it appears that he was busy in Kentucky attempting to cut a road from Lexington to the Kanawha River in western Virginia. This project, however, had fallen through by 1788 and, at that point, Massie turned his attention to the VMD.

Nathaniel Massie - Surveyor, Speculator, and Founder of Manchester and Chillicothe

Massie’s first excursion into the VMD occurred about the same time that Congress closed down the district with legislation in July of 1788. By early August 1790, over two years later, Congress agreed to reopen the VMD and allowed the original surveys, such as those by O’Bannon, to be recorded.

Pressure from the Virginia Congressional delegation was intense. Indian claims to the lands had still not been extinguished and in October of the same year, American armed forces under the command of General Josiah Harmar suffered a major defeat at the hands of an Indian alliance bent on blocking the American settlement of the Ohio Country. Harmar’s Defeat, however, did not deter Nathaniel Massie; that fall he began recruiting settlers for what he planned to be the first permanent American settlement in the VMD.

In light of the hostilities, Massie’s plans were bold and provocative. He selected a site 11 miles up river from Limestone, his original base of operations. Here there were three islands in the middle of the Ohio River, upon which he would build a blockhouse, known as Massie’s Station. With his surveying crew he would layout a town on the banks of the Ohio, which he ultimately named Manchester. By April of 1791, Massie had completed the island stockade and would soon begin leading surveying parties deep into the VMD.

Although Massie’s Station never came under direct attack, a handful of its first settlers were captured and taken hostage by the Indians. And Massie’s surveying parties fought a number of skirmishes adding to the tensions between the Ohio Indians and the United States. After a series of humiliating losses at the hands of the Indian alliance, the US military, with the assistance of volunteer militia from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, finally achieved a decisive victory over the Indian alliance at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in the late summer of 1794.

Although a peace agreement – the Treaty of Greenville – would not be reached for another year, the victory at Fallen Timbers encouraged surveyors such as Nathaniel Massie and Lucas Sullivant to extend their surveying work deeper into the VMD and up the Scioto River Valley, thereby threatening to disrupt the peace negotiations. In November 1794, Sullivant who would later plat the town of Franklinton (from which Columbus was born) was the first surveyor to enter the VMD lands above modern day Chillicothe. With the earlier O’Bannon surveys covering much of the lands in the southeastern corner, Nathaniel Massie would focus on the central region and Sullivant on the northern.

In 1795, Massie would survey the lands around Paint Creek and the Scioto River, where he would later plat the town of Chillicothe. These lands on the eastern extremity of VMD were considered the most valuable – the Scioto River ran south, dividing Ohio nearly into two equal parts. Chillicothe was located about midway between the Ohio River and the Greenville Treaty Line to the North, which separated Indian land from that which had been obtained by the US. At the time of Chillicothe’s founding in 1796, the two other major Ohio settlements (besides Manchester) were located at Cincinnati in the west and Marietta in the East. Chillicothe was located at the center of the part of the Ohio country that had been cleared of Indian claims and opened for settlement.

Chillicothe’s rapid rise as the center of Ohio settlement immediately spurred the development of land at the mouth of the Scioto River. The overland route from Wheeling, Virginia, in the east – what became known as Zane’s Trace – was not cut until 1797 and for at least a decade, the Trace was little more than a bridle trail, not wide enough for large wagons. In the late 1790s, if you were to immigrate to the vicinity of Chillicothe, you would more than likely come via flatboat, down the Ohio to the mouth of the Scioto, or up river from Limestone on a keelboat. From there your belongings would be taken northward either by boat or over land. Narrow ancient Indian paths led north on both sides of the Scioto. One, on the Westside, ran through what is now West Portsmouth roughly along modern-day State Route 104. On the Eastside, an ancient Indian trace (the Warrior’s Path), which became known as the Scioto Trail (modern-day US 23), ran north along the river until modern-day Piketon, where a river crossing took the immigrant over to the Westside and into the VMD. There, from what became known as Pee Pee Prairie, the path continued north until it crossed Paint Creek before reaching Chillicothe. With Chillicothe attracting a large share of the western immigrant flow, the Ohio River route to the west naturally encouraged the development of a new American settlement at the mouth of the Scioto.

Thus, in the long human history of the region, a new era of settlement near the mouth of the Scioto began in 1796, coinciding with the platting of Chillicothe. Thomas Parker, the owner of the land on the western side of the Scioto’s mouth, was now in a position to exploit his early speculations in VMD lands. Parker was an absentee landlord, a speculator in Virginia Military District lands. A Revolutionary War veteran from Frederick County, Virginia, Parker had been awarded bounty lands for his own service and he had actively purchased warrants from other veterans.

Major John Belli, Agent of Thomas Parker, the Absentee Proprietor of Alexandria

The development of Parker’s VMD lands was left in the hands of his brother, Alexander Parker, and a close confidant, Major John Belli. Although Alexander Parker undoubtedly spent some time in the area, John Belli ended up serving as the Parkers’ primary agent. Alexandria, for all intents and purposes was Belli’s Town.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Lower Shawnee Town and the Flood of 1753

Why was Alexandria, the first American settlement in Scioto County, situated in a flood prone location on the west side of the Scioto River?

My answer to this question begins with the story of Lower Shawnee Town, the last Native American settlement at the Mouth of the Scioto, and ends with an examination of the history associated with the creation of the Virginia Military District.

This blog entry is the first in a two-part series, which in a re-worked and expanded form, will ultimately become part of my book project, Southerners in the Promised Land: The Lower Scioto Valley in the Early American Republic.

I’d like to thank the Scioto County Genealogical Society for giving me the opportunity to present a preliminary version of these posts at their annual Family History Day, which was held this past September at the Scioto County Welcome Center in downtown Portsmouth.


The confluence of the Scioto and Ohio rivers has long been the site of human habitation. The remains of the ancient earthworks created by the Adena and Hopewell sometime between 700 BC and 500 AD remind us that ancestors of the modern Eastern Woodland Indians called this place home. For hundreds of years they lived and died along these waters – long before Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, and other Ohio Indians made their home here – long before Americans pushed the Native Americans aside and founded their own villages at the mouth of the Scioto. Taking the long view, it appears that human communities at the site of modern-day Portsmouth have risen and fallen like the waters of these two rivers.

The Return of the Shawnee

Beyond the archeological record, the first historical records that document a modern Indian settlement at the mouth of the Scioto point to the mid-1740s as the founding decade of a Shawnee Indian settlement, which became known to the English as Lower Shawnee Town. The Shawnee inhabitants probably called the village “Chillicothe,” the name for the Shawnees’ principle town, wherever it might be located. From its inception, Lower Shawnee Town was a cosmopolitan settlement, which large numbers of Delaware, Mingo, Delaware, and other Ohio Indians called home. Located on the western side of the mouth of the Scioto River, as well as a smaller settlement on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, Lower Shawnee Town would later become the site of Alexandria, the first American town platted in what became Scioto County.

The Site of Lower Shawnee Town, viewed from US 52, looking South-East towards Kentucky (September 2007)

The founding of Lower Shawnee Town coincided with the return of the Shawnee, who had been expelled from their homeland by the Iroquois in the mid-1600s. Once back in Ohio, the Shawnee aligned themselves with the English colonists on the East Coast, opening their settlement to English merchants, who traded manufactured European goods for animal furs and skins. Lower Shawnee Town was strategically located on the rivers, as well as near the Warrior’s Path, a Native American trail that ran from the Great Lakes region, south, across the Ohio River, and over the Appalachian Mountains into the upcountry of the Carolinas. Lower Shawnee Town was sufficiently west, down into the larger Ohio Valley, that few Europeans, whether English or French, were ever seen. Yet, it was also far enough east, up the Ohio River, to make trade with the English practicable and profitable. Game was plentiful; the bottom lands of the Scioto and the Ohio ideal for corn fields; and the English and French were still at arms length.

The Flood of 1753

The location of the village, despite its strategic and economic advantages, proved to be problematic for the Shawnee and other Indians who called it home. In 1753 a massive flood overflowed both the Scioto and Ohio River banks, carrying away their log cabins, warehouses, public buildings, and undoubtedly much personal property. Having themselves only recently returned to the region, at least three generations since their ancestors had been expelled, the Shawnee were apparently unfamiliar with the occasional massive floods that can make the annual, predictable floods, which inundate the area’s bottom lands, seem unremarkable. The Flood of 1753 would undoubtedly compare with the devastating flood of 1937, which swallowed much of Portsmouth and many other towns along the Ohio River.

In the aftermath of the Flood of 1753, some Shawnee relocated to the eastern side of the Scioto, to where Portsmouth is now situated, but this settlement was also abandoned in the 1760s, when the Shawnee relocated northward, up the Scioto River, to a new town site just north of modern day Chillicothe.

In light of the periodic flooding that hit the site of Lower Shawnee Town and the future demise of Alexandria as a result of the flooding, it has long been an issue of speculation as to why the American settlers who first came to the area would have located their first town in a location so prone to flooding.

The Old Mouth of the Scioto

At this point, I should point out that the original mouth of the Scioto, the location of Lower Shawnee Town and Alexandria, is not where it is today. Those who try to imagine Alexandria in the bottoms – about where Boone Coleman has his dirt race track – are looking in the wrong place – on a number of occasions I have had people tell me that is where Alexandria used to be. In the nineteenth century a new mouth for the Scioto was cut as part of the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Originally, the Scioto flowed south towards the Ohio and just before their waters met, the Scioto made a hard right and then receded, forming a narrow, short isthmus and then a wide peninsula, nearly a mile long, before finally entering the Ohio.

Lower Shawnee Town (Alexandria) and the Original Mouth of the Scioto River

The land located on the westside of the original mouth – the land between Carey’s Run and the original mouth of the Scioto – was and is higher than the bottom lands that now sit on the current westside of the modern Scioto’s mouth. In other words, the flooding that we see today, every winter and spring, which fills the bowl of Coleman’s race track and turns these bottom lands into a lake, would not necessarily reach the higher ground upon which Lower Shawnee Town and Alexandria were located.

The site of Lower Shawnee Town is prone to flooding, but it is not an annual event. The location, however, proved to have another serious problem. The northern bank of the Ohio, on which the town fronted, was also subject to erosion. Over the course of the 19th century, after Alexandria had been essentially abandoned, the northern bank of the Ohio would erode and sections collapse into the river. The handful of houses that once fronted the river eventually crumbled into the water.

In 1795 and 1796, when Americans began arriving at the mouth of the Scioto, when the threat of Indian attack had been ended with the Greenville Treaty, the location of Lower Shawnee Town had not been permanently inhabited for over forty years; the smaller Shawnee village that had been located where Portsmouth now stands had been abandoned for around thirty years. Whether any of these original American settlers knew of the Flood of 1753 is unclear; whatever the case, they possessed visions of wealth and happiness, believing that the confluence of these two rivers would soon form a nexus, where people, money, and goods would pass and fortunes would be made.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Scioto: Variations on a Theme

As I mention in the masthead of this blog, the name "Scioto" is believed to derive from an Indian word related to "deer." Recently, I compiled a list of variations of this name, as well as of the name of the original Shawnee village (what the English generally called "Lower Shawnee Town) that was located at the mouth of the Scioto River. Here is what I found:

Names for the River and the Town

Sikoder (from an old German map)

Names for just the Town

Lower Shawnee Town
Lower Shawna Town
Lower Shanna Town
Lower Shawonese Town
Lower Shawanese Town
St. Yotoc
Chillicothe on the Ohio

Perhaps there are even more variations out there. A note to local history researchers and genealogists, in an age of keyword searches through digital databases: it is important to try all of these variations.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Infamous "Hell-Roaring" Jacob Smith

The following story of Gen. Jacob Smith, "Portsmouth's General," was first published in the Portsmouth Free Press, 2nd Series, Vol. 1, no. 2 (November-December 2005). In addition to my recent and new research, I plan on occasionally republishing some of my earlier writings on local history for those who might have missed them when they first appeared in the PFP.

Portsmouth, Ohio, it turns out, was the hometown of one of the Philippine War’s most infamous generals, “Hell-Roaring” Jacob Smith. His story is one well worth remembering, though you won’t find this one depicted in the historic flood wall murals of Portsmouth.

This bloody Philippine War, which lasted from 1899 through 1913, resulted from the foreign policy of a group of imperialists within the Republican Party of President William McKinley. After their quick victory in the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States military found themselves playing the part of an occupying army on the Philippine Islands. A Filipino independence movement had been working to overthrow their Spanish colonizers for years. Emilio Aguinaldo, the charismatic leader of the movement, provided critical aid to the Americans during their war with Spain. However, when US armed forces did not withdraw from the islands and the US government did not recognize Philippine independence, Aguinaldo and his compatriots rose up against the United States.

It was a choice, ultimately the Ohioan McKinley’s choice, to annex the Philippine archipelago and deny the Filipinos their independence. The imperialists chose to conquer these far off islands in the Pacific and more Americans died fighting the Filipino insurgents than died fighting the Spanish.

The Balangiga Massacre and Samar Campaign

General Jacob Hurd Smith led American forces during one of the most brutal and controversial campaigns of the war. The Samar Campaign of 1902 was an offensive aimed at punishing and crushing the insurgency on the Island of Samar. An American garrison in the town of Balangiga was attacked in September 1901 by the local population, with the support of the local police chief and members of the insurgency. The people of Balangiga revolted in reaction to their abuse at the hands of the Americans. The US commander at Balangiga had sent troops out to destroy crops and grain reserves, to keep such food from flowing into the hands of the insurgents; he had also ordered all males over the age of thirteen, at gun-point, to work at clearing brush and repairing the streets of the town.

Fifty-four of the seventy-eight American troops stationed at Balangiga were killed; their bodies were mutilated and burned; only four escaped uninjured. Like the story of American mercenaries (or “military contractors,” as the US Department of Defense prefers to call them) who were captured, killed, burned, and put on display in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the mutilation of Americans at Balangiga triggered a massive response that left Samar in taters and General Smith seated before a court-martial.

The Balangiga Massacre, as the Americans called it, occurred two months after the government of the Philippines was transferred from the US military to US civilian authorities, headed by future President William Howard Taft. Aguinaldo had been captured in March of 1901 and it was hoped that the transition to civilian rule marked the beginning of the end of the war. The Balangiga Massacre, however, ended all talk about the reduction of troop levels in the Philippines.

Jacob Smith's Background

Jacob Smith was born 29 January 1840 near Jackson Furnace, in Scioto County, and he spent his boyhood in Portsmouth and in Greenup County, Kentucky. Having briefly attended a military academy in Connecticut, the home state of his parents, Smith joined the Union’s Second Kentucky Infantry, receiving a commission as a First Lieutenant. Severely wounded during the Battle of Shiloh, Smith was brought back to his parent’s home in Portsmouth to recuperate. After the Civil War, he obtained a commission as a Captain in the Regular Army and rose through the ranks, serving in Louisiana during Reconstruction and then later on the Great Plains, where he participated in a number of the so-called “Indian campaigns,” against the Northern Cheyenne, the Apache, and the Uncompahgre Ute. Contrary to some claims, there is no record of Smith’s participation in the Wounded Knee Massacre of Sioux in 1890. Nevertheless, he had participated in some of the most brutal campaigns in the Plains Indian Wars of the late 19th-century.

Smith went on to lead American forces in Cuba, during the Spanish-American War, where he was again wounded in action at the Battle of Santiago. Smith then took command of troops in the Philippines, where he was promoted to Brigadier-General in March of 1901. After fighting a number of successful campaigns against the Filipino insurgents, Smith was given the task of crushing the resistance on Samar and exacting revenge for the deaths of the American soldiers at Balangiga.

Brig. Gen. Smith's Murderous Orders

The Manila News reported on 4 November 1902, that General Smith ordered all inhabitants of Samar’s interior to relocate to coastal towns, “saying that those who were found outside would be shot and no questions asked. …. All suspects, including Spaniards and half-breeds, were rounded up in big stockades and kept under guard.” At the same time, Smith cut off all food shipments and trade from the towns into the backcountry, carrying out a policy designed to starve the resistance into submission. Detachments of American troops then traversed the island’s interior, in search of rebel bands, burning villages and destroying crops and livestock. It was not these general policies that ended up getting Smith into trouble, rather it was the specific orders he gave to one of his main subordinates, Marine Major Littleton W. T. Waller.

At the beginning of the campaign when officers had gathered at the site of the Balangiga Massacre, Smith told Waller, “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. …. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.” When Waller asked Smith to set an age limit for the kill orders, Smith said, “Kill everyone over ten.” Smith would later send Waller a written order “that the interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness.” During the four and half month-long campaign, an estimated 15,000 Filipinos died on Samar as a result of the actions of US forces.

The Courts-Martial of Major Waller and Brig. Gen. Smith

Smith’s orders were first revealed during the court martial of Major Waller, who was charged with ordering the summary execution of eleven Filipino civilians, who had worked as baggage carriers during one of Waller’s missions into the interior. The eleven civilians turned out to be boys and young men, who were accused of hoarding food and threatening mutiny while helping the US troops march through the jungles of Samar. Waller’s defense would become known after World War II as the Nuremburg Defense – I was only following my orders. Waller would be acquitted on the charges of murder, but the testimony during his trial would lead to the court-martial of his commanding officer, Brigadier-General Jacob H. Smith.

Smith was charged with having committed “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” The court-martial found Smith guilty and recommended an “admonishment” by his superiors. The Samar Controversy hit the American press just when the US Senate was investigating the abuse of Filipino prisoners of war by the American military. Soldiers back from the islands testified to having observed and participated in the torture of prisoners. They described the common practice of the so-called “water cure,” wherein a person is tied down to a board and a bamboo shaft is inserted into their mouths. Water is then forced into their stomachs and pressure applied to their abdomen, forcing the water back out of their mouths, or, in some cases, causing the stomach to rupture, which can and did lead to the death of prisoners.

Members of Congress and editorials in the nation’s papers called for a severe punishment of General Smith. “In the records of all the great wars since the Middle Ages,” declared Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado, “you cannot find such a disgraceful and wicked order as that issued by Gen. Smith.” Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, one of the most ardent supporters of the war, stated: “Gen. Smith’s order is one which every American should regret. On the surface those orders seem to me to be revolting.” In the House of Representatives, Republican Joseph C. Sibley of Pennsylvania called on President Theodore Roosevelt “to discharge Smith dishonorably from the service that he has disgraced. …. He is a disgrace … to every man who ever wore the uniform of the United States, and he is a blot and a disgrace to our present civilization.” The New York Times editorialized, “These orders are bloody and cruel to a degree which the American people will not believe to be justified even against the most treacherous savages. They will not regard as fit to remain in the service an officer capable of issuing them.”

The politics of the moment proved fateful. Roosevelt, upon reviewing the records of the court-martial decided against a simple admonishment, as had been recommended by the court. Instead, he forcibly retired Smith, two years before his scheduled departure from the service. Smith learned of his punishment upon his return to the United States, when his ship docked in San Francisco. From there Smith traveled by train to Portsmouth, where he was given a hero’s homecoming welcome.

Smith's Return to Portsmouth

Smith’s train arrived at the Norfolk and Western Depot on the evening of 11 August 1902 and an estimated 3,000 residents came out to meet him. Among the crowd, waiting in a horse-drawn carriage was Smith’s mother, Charlotte Maria Hurd Smith, who had told a reporter just a few days before, “What matters what he said? Look upon what he has done. Look upon a record without a blot or blemish. Then shall we consider a few words spoken when the atrocities to American soldiers were confronting him on every hand.” Two companies of the Ohio National Guard, one from Portsmouth and the other from Manchester, along with the Portsmouth Cycling Club Band, dressed in khaki, escorted the General and his entourage to the Hilltop home of Judge James W. Bannon, his brother-in-law. Just before dispersing the guardsmen gave three hearty cheers.

After dinning with his closest friends and relatives, Smith welcomed newspaper reporters into the home and fielded questions. He attempted to justify his brutal orders. The inhabitants of the interior of Samar were, according to Smith, “savages of the most degraded kind. They were nomads and had no fixed habitation. …. The childhood of the natives is a dream by the time they are thirteen years of age. They are ready to take up the burden of life before that time. …. The natives of Samar are treacherous and barbarous. They mutilate the bodies of the dead in the most horrible manner.”

Smith won over the local press. Perhaps, they had never left his side. One reporter, writing for the Portsmouth Daily Times, opined that “He is a small man, rather slim, and is very bald. He is a neat dresser and in his citizens clothes did not look like the fierce soldier who had carried terror to the hearts of the most savage tribes in the Philippine islands.” Smith may have looked well that evening, but the following day he had a nervous breakdown. The planned formal reception and banquet had to be postponed. Smith’s illness made headlines around the nation, with the New York Times reporting “a complete nervous collapse.”

When Smith had recovered, the elite of Portsmouth celebrated Smith’s long career of military service and formally welcomed him home. The event was held at the Washington Hotel, Portsmouth’s most exclusive address. The Portsmouth Daily Times reporter captured the scene: “The lobby itself was a maze of red, white, and blue. The national colors were everywhere. Bunting circled about the columns, and hung in festoons from the balcony and … railings. Flags were unfurled here and there about the room to give the whole a general artistic effect. Pictures of McKinley, Washington, Grant, and Lincoln, draped with the national colors, hung upon the walls. …. Suspended from the center of the balcony was the greeting “Welcome” prettily made from crimped tissue paper.” The PDT also reported that that the absence of a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt “was noted by all who viewed the scene.”

During the after dinner toasts, Smith, wearing his most formal military uniform, addressed the gathering. Again, he sounded unrepentant and the gathered crowd loved him for it. Reviewing his forty-years of army service, Smith declared: “We have fought to make this a united country; to wrest the great West from the hordes of Indian savages and to protect the frontiersman and his wife and children in their homes; to bring the blessings of liberty and good government to our neighboring and distant isles of the sea; to avenge the massacres in the harbor of Havana, to compel obedience to our authority in the Philippine Islands and to pacify and subdue the most savage tribes of the earth.”

The Island of Samar, explained Smith, was “peopled by savage tribes who do not recognize any rules of civilized warfare, but are treacherous and brutal to the lowest degree. Still, they must be brought into subjugation, and kept so until they learn that the purpose is to give them freedom and the blessings of that good government which we enjoy.” Spontaneous applause interrupted the speech numerous times and upon its conclusion, Smith received a standing ovation and another round of three cheers for “Portsmouth’s General.”

The General’s defenders in the press and in Congress claimed that he had been singled out and punished for political reasons, that other officers had implemented similar orders and the brutal tactics of taking no prisoners had been practiced at various times throughout the archipelago by American forces. The press and influential members of both political parties, however, demanded that some high-ranking official be held accountable.

The Iraq War Parallel: From Fallujah to Abu Ghraib

The deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians during the various stages of the US assault on Fallujah, along with the televised execution of an unarmed and injured Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque during the campaign, never led to court-martialing of any soldier or officer in the Battle of Fallujah. The Iraq War, however, has had its share of courts-martial for the torture and abuse of prisoners. In addition to the prosecution of low ranking soldiers, a one star general, Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, the officer in command of the Abu Ghraib prison complex, was removed from her command and demoted to the rank of colonel.

In her defense, Karpinski stated that Major General Geoffrey Miller had told her to treat the Iraqis “like dogs” because “if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them.” Miller denied ever making such comments and was later given command over of all US detainee operations in Iraq, including the prison facilities at Abu Ghraib.

In the first weeks and months after his forced retirement, Jacob Smith hoped he would be reinstated; rather than blame his superior officers for their role in setting the general policies and standards of conduct of US forces, he kept his silence, claiming the circumstances on the islands required what might be construed to be brutal and uncivilized tactics in other places, particularly if it those tactics were used against Americans – an odd and racist form of moral relativism. However, like Karpinski, Jacob Smith would ultimately try to shift some of the responsibility for his actions on to the shoulders of his superiors.

In 1906, Smith authorized his nephew, the newly elected Congressman Henry T. Bannon, to vindicate his honor on the floor of the House of Representatives. Bannon, for the first time, revealed part of the orders that had been issued to his uncle on the eve of the Samar campaign. “I do not propose to hamper you at all,” General Adna R. Chaffee wrote to Smith, “but on the contrary, give you all the assistance you need to crush the insurrection in Samar…. The interior must be made a wilderness if that is the only remedy.” Neither Chaffee’s, nor Miller’s words amounted to express commands to kill “everything over ten” or to violently torture and humiliate prisoners. Yet, there is no doubt that in both cases, responsibility for war crimes went higher than one-star generals and were more widespread than might appear because of the handful of courts-martial.

Rather than hold those at the highest levels of the military responsible, where the general policy and orders originated, both Roosevelt and Bush have scapegoated low-ranking generals. For Smith and his supporters it was pure politics. “To my knowledge,” Smith told a crowd in 1911, “Theodore Roosevelt has never hesitated in sacrificing a friend to further his own insane ambitions and desires for popularity.”

When “Hell Roaring” Jake Smith died in 1918, his remains were transported to Washington, D.C., where he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Battle of Houlton’s Mill

My research continues to uncover further material on the Pike County anti-abolitionist mob that disrupted Rev. Edward Weed’s lecturing in Sinking Spring, Ohio, in early August 1836. I recently came across a letter written to the editor of the Hillsborough Gazette, which was first published on September, 4th,1836, about three weeks after violent confrontations had taken place, yet before anti-abolitionist James Houlton had succumbed to his knife wound. The Hillsborough Gazette letter caught the attention of the editor of The New-Yorker, which reprinted it on the 24th of September, under the title, “Lynch Law in Ohio” – the day before James Houlton died.

The anonymous letter writer fills in more detail on the “crisis” that Edward Weed had predicted following the near riot in Waverly the previous July. With help of the author’s references to dates we can now better establish the chronology of events the led to the fatal stabbing of James Holton. After arriving in Sinking Spring via Piketon in the last week of July, Weed and his supporters spread word that a series of public lectures on the issue of slavery and abolition would begin the evening of Monday, August 1st. Members of the Paint Valley Abolition Society, which had members in Highland, Ross, and Fayette counties, including a number of inhabitants of the Sinking Spring region of Highland, organized the meetings, helping Rev. Weed, the traveling agent of the American Anti-slavery Society, publicize his lectures. At some point before the start of the first lecture, a group of eight or ten men from the Sunfish Creek community in Pike County’s Mifflin Township “came into town and told some of Mr. Weed’s friends that” the abolitionist speaker would not be heard “in peace.” According to the Hillsborough Gazette letter, “Mr. Weed’s friends replied that he should lecture, let the result be what it might.”

When the evening came, the Sunfish Creek anti-abolitionists attended the lecture and just as the Reverend began his talk, they rose from their seats and began pelting Weed with rotten eggs. Immediately, the local constable, who was also in attendance, placed the men under arrest. He told them that he would release them if they immediately left the premises and the larger village of Sinking Springs. They agreed and were allowed to return to Pike County.

The Sunfish men had surrendered to rally the like-minded and fight another day.

Weed would resume his lecture and upon its completion, but when he finished, “some of the citizens requested him to leave the village. He said he would do so if his friends wished it; but his friends said they wished him to lecture, and would defend him.”

The next evening Rev. Weed gave his second lecture with no disturbance. However, on the third evening a large Pike County mob showed up just before the start of the lecture. Although the Hillsborough Gazette letter does not relate the detail, it may have been at this point that a mob of “seventy or eighty men from Sunfish” led to the call up of local militia members. In Weed’s account of the incident, he estimated the mob’s size to have been around forty and stated that “as soon,” as troops “appeared in the village with guns our mobocratic gentlemen began to talk about home, and … soon ‘put out.’” Weed’s account, however, failed to mention that the showdown between the militia and rioters led to the cancellation of his evening lecture. He would resume the schedule of lectures the following day, concluding the series after three or four more lectures in as many days.

The concluding evening finished with the enrollment of forty new members in the Paint Valley Abolition Society, an affiliate of Weed’s national organization, the American Anti-slavery Society. I also recently came across a short report published in an April edition of James G. Birney’s Philanthropist, which announced the formation of a separate Sinking Spring Anti-Slavery Society. Founded on the 5th of January 1837, five month’s after Weed began his lecture series, the society enrolled thirty-seven members, the core supporters who first publicly embraced abolitionism in the midst of the turbulent summer of 1836. They elected John Weyer, president, and John Forbuish, secretary. The members pledged $50 to the Ohio State Anti-slavery Society and an additional $20 to purchase abolition literature for “general circulation.” In response to Weed’s lecturing and the violent opposition of Lower Scioto Valley anti-abolitionists, Sinking Spring abolitionists resolved to assist the newly organized state-wide abolition campaign.

Our Hillsborough Gazette letter writer provides further information about the deadly events that followed Weed’s lecture series. “Some eight or ten days afterwards the Abolitionists of the village concluded that it would not do for Sunfish to dictate to them, and determined to punish them for the course they had taken.” On the first of August 1836, the abolitionists secured arrest warrants for a number of Pike countians from the Sunfish Creek community.

The local constable refused to sign the warrants unless the abolitionists would accompany him as a posse comitatus. Relying on a provision of common law, the constable could legally conscript residents over the age of fifteen to assist him in maintaining peace or pursuing and arresting suspected law breakers. With warrants secured, the “constable, with ten or fifteen Abolitionists, took up their line of march to Houlton’s Mill, on Sunfish,” starting out at 3 AM in the morning, in order to arrive at their destination just after dawn. Houlton’s Mill on Sunfish was a community center, where the rural inhabitants of Pike County ground their grain and rallied for public events. News of the posse and the warrants reached Sunfish in time for the anti-abolitionists to call their own rally in expectation of the arrival of the posse. “Some seventy or eighty of the citizens of Sunfish had collected for the purpose of making battle.”

The Sunfish anti-abolitionists sent two men on horse back to intercept the posse and deliver a message of defiance. They advised the constable “not to go any further as they would not be taken” without a fight. What happen next became a source of controversy. The abolitionists would claim “that the constable told them to go on.” The constable, however, would counter that he had not authorized them to proceed all the way to Houlton’s Mill. Whatever the case may have been, the abolitionists pushed on and the constable and his guard followed. Soon thereafter the “battle commenced.” Although our letter writer states that “one of the Sunfish party was stabbed with a knife, and was the only person seriously injured during the engagement,” the abolitionists, facing a crowd seven or eight times their size, retreated after their attempt to serve the warrants was met by force – Our Hillsborough Gazettee letter writer tells us that “the constable and his party were forced to run to save their lives.”

The Sinking Spring abolitionists had been repulsed and with James Houlton lying in bed with a mortal knife wound, it appears that the Sunfish anti-abolitionists sent word that they wished “to have the matter settled on peaceable terms.” They were “perfectly willing to drop it as it is,” noting that they still would “never be taken by force.” Houlton’s death on the 25th of September, changed things. The young father, who himself had once been orphaned, left nine young children in the care of his now-widowed young wife. Houlton was also well connected with one of the most influential families in the state. When James Holton’s own father had died, former governor Allen Trimble served as the teenager’s legal guardian. Holton’s death at the hands of an abolitionist posse was not going to be tolerated by the Sunfish community. They sought and secured the indictment of William H. Mitchell on charges of murder. Cooler minds were now prevailing; the anti-abolitionists would use the state court system to go after the man they believed was Houlton’s murderer.

As mentioned in a previous post, the case of Ohio v. Mitchell came before Pike County presiding Judge John H. Keith, who had only recently taken up the courtroom gavel, after having handed over the speakership’s gavel of the Ohio House of Representatives. Records of this trial have not yet been uncovered, but it appears that Judge Keith provided legal rulings that helped lead to the acquittal of William Mitchell in October 1836.

In light of the jury’s judgment in favor of Mitchell, it appears that the Sunfish anti-abolitionists backed off their campaign to disrupt the activities of the Sinking Springs abolitionists. The abolitionists appear to have rallied around Mitchell’s case and further organized their support for the larger cause of abolition, by spinning off a new chapter of the Ohio State Anti-Slavery Society from the original Paint Valley Abolition Society. And their pledge in January 1837 to raise $20 for the express purpose of circulating abolitionist literature within the state of Ohio amounted to open resistance to the demands of the Piketon Anti-abolition Resolutions of the preceding July.

By 1837, when Sinking Spring abolitionists organized, certain homes in the community were already serving as stations on the Underground Railroad. With area abolitionists’ previous connections with members of the Paint Valley Abolition Society, lines of the railroad ran through Sinking Spring, northward from Adams and Scioto Counties to stations in the northern townships of Highland County and on into Fayette and Ross Counties.

Reverend Edward Weed’s visit in the summer of 1836, at a time when anti-abolitionists were stirring up race riots in Cincinnati, when the office of James Birney’s antislavery newspaper, The Philanthropist, had been ransacked and the press destroyed, at a time when a violent clash between a local constable’s posse comitatus and anti-abolitionists in Pike County ended in the death of one of the rioters, Weed’s tumultuous tour of the Lower Scioto Valley had won over new converts and hardened the prior commitment of existing antislavery activists to the larger cause of abolitionism.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Portsmouth’s First City Building

Although Portsmouth was incorporated as a city in March 1815, it was not until twenty-one years later, in 1836, that a city hall was constructed to house the mayor’s office, a council chamber, and a police station. As in modern-day Portsmouth, its location and construction was not without controversy.

The story of Portsmouth’s first city building starts with the construction of another public building, the first county court house. In 1807, as part of a coordinated effort to have the seat of Scioto county government shifted from Alexandria to Portsmouth, Henry Massie, the proprietor of Portsmouth, donated several city lots to the county commissioners, with the stipulation that the lots be sold to raise money for the construction of a county courthouse. Two years later, in 1809, Massie donated lot 31, on the south side of Second Street, between Market and what is now Court Street, for the exclusive purpose of erecting a courthouse on the lot. The sale of the donated lots, however, did not raise enough funds to construct the building; to cover the shortfall, the commissioners implemented taxes on the owners of horses and cattle and tapped funds raised by fines and licenses for ferries and taverns.

By 1814, with necessary funds now raised, the commissioners were ready to contract for the construction. For some reason, however, the commissioners decided not to use lot 31, which Massie had donated for that express purpose. Instead, in a bizarre decision, they chose to build smack dab in the middle of Market Street, on the block between Front and Second Street.

The commissioners awarded the contract to John Young, a Portsmouth resident who operated a dry goods store near Market on Front Street. “English John Young,” as he was known around town, subcontracted with Nathan Wheeler (of Wheelersburg) to provide the brick, which were made with an 8-inch mould, an inch shorter than the standard. When Wheeler’s brick ran out, the building was completed with 9-inch brick, causing the upper part of the structure to extend an inch out over the lower part. Young apparently underbid the actual cost of the construction and ran into financial trouble in his attempt to finish the structure; he was forced to liquidate his dry goods store to complete the project. When finished the structure was a bit strange -- forty-feet square, having the look of a barn, with two stories, toped with a low square cupola, twelve-to-fifteen feet high, with a spire rising another fifteen feet towards the sky, “on which was a figure cut or carved out of a common pine board, intended to represent an angel blowing a trumpet.”

The location of the court house proved to be problematic. Although situated at the center of the old town, the modern-day Boneyfiddle District, it’s placement in the middle of Market Street prevented the Commissioners from inclosing the structure behind any kind of fence. As one resident later recalled, “if the door should accidentally be left open, any cattle or hogs straying around could enter without molestation or trouble.” Unsurprisingly, the structure also came to obstruct business and traffic on Market Street, which was meant in the original design of the town to provide direct access to the Ohio River waterfront.

In 1836, the Portsmouth City Council voted to condemn the building, declaring it a nuisance; the city notified the County Commissioners, demanding that they remove it from the street or it would be pulled down by city authorities.

Whether the scheme had already been launched or not before the council’s vote, once the building had been declared a nuisance and the county commissioners had laid their plans for the construction of a new county court house, city officials began openly discussing the possibility of using the old court house for a new city building. The mayor, it appears, believed that it was time that he have an official office and the councilmen believed it was only right that they have their own official chambers; and the city constable, of course, was looking for an official, city-owned “watch-house.”

When word of their plans swirled around town, the City Council decided that such a scheme “would look too much like swindling to take possession of it themselves after having driven the county out of it.” In the end, the council did the right thing. As one resident recalled in 1869, “in order to be consistent in the matter, and as people were not as corrupt in those days as they are now, they pulled the old court house down.” Council then voted to tear down the old the old city-owned market house, removing the market house’s roof and placing it upon a new city building, constructed from the now dismantled court house bricks.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Joe & Jemima Logan

This past Saturday, the 20th of October, I gave the following public lecture at the Twelfth Annual Ohio Underground Railroad Summit, sponsored by the Friends of Freedom Society, the Ohio Underground Railroad Association. The symposium was hosted by Shawnee State University in Portsmouth.

I'd like to thank Matt Matthews and Beverly Gray, the organizers of the summit, for inviting me to present some of my recent research on the Undergound Railroad of the Lower Scioto River Valley. Thanks also goes to the Shawnee State University Development Foundation that provided a grant to help finance my research for the presentation.

Rather than divide up the talk into separate short blog entries, I have posted the work in whole. Hopefully you'll find the story compelling enough to read it straight through. Thanks for reading and leaving comments. If anyone knows a descendant of the Logans of Adams County, please let me know. ~ ALF

Emancipating Jemima

The dogs of the neighborhood had come to fear Joe Smith. Joe was a twenty-something year-old slave in Granville County, North Carolina, a slave whose young wife and small child had been freed and removed to southern Ohio by their former owner, a Miss Jane Smith Williamson. Joe knew that when his master, a Mr. John G. Smith, discovered his flight, the other whites in the neighborhood would join with his master in trying to hunt him down. To thwart their success, Joe spent the weeks leading up to his escape in the summer of 1822, going house-to-house in the vicinity of his home plantation, beating and whipping the dogs of the neighborhood, hoping to instill fear in them, hoping that this would deter them from pursuing his tracks once he made his dash for freedom.

Joe’s destination was Adams County, Ohio. More specifically his destination was the village of Bentonville (located half-way between West Union – the county seat, on the old Zane’s Trace – and the town of Aberdeen on the Ohio River, opposite Maysville, Kentucky. Just outside Bentonville was an estate known as “The Beeches,” the farm of Jane Smith Williamson’s father, the place where Joe Logan’s wife and child now resided. The nineteen-year-old, Miss Williamson had come into the possession of Jemima and her two children through an inheritance – one of the children, however, died before Jane was able to travel to North Carolina to personally take possession of her slave property.

"The Beeches," the Williamson Farm, as it appeared in the 1880s.

Jane had inherited $300 from a relative in Granville County, North Carolina. Word had reached the Williamsons in Ohio that Jemima and her children might be sold to raise Jane’s $300 inheritance. Jane notified her North Carolina relatives that she would take possession of Jemima and her children in lieu of the cash. Jane’s plan was to take temporary legal possession of these three souls for the purpose of setting them free in Ohio. North Carolina law at the time forbade emancipation except for meritorious behavior, which had to be adjudged by a civil authority. Further restrictions on emancipation also applied in North Carolina, as well as some other states, which required emancipated slaves to leave the state on threat of re-enslavement. Emancipation and removal were bound together in North Carolina law.

In the early spring of 1821, when Jane had turned eighteen and reached the age of majority, she and her older brother, Thomas, traveled to their maternal grandmother’s plantation in North Carolina, where Jemima and her children had been living. Upon their arrival, they learned that one of Jemima’s children had recently died. Jane was also approached by Jemima’s husband, who was then known as Joseph Smith (only after running away to Ohio would Joe and Jemima take the sir name of Logan, perhaps a reference to the respected and feared Indian warrior of 18th-century Ohio). Joe begged the Williamsons to take him to Ohio with his wife and children.

When her uncle, John G. Smith, refused to give Joe to his niece and asked that she purchase his freedom, Jane and Thomas were unable to raise the money. John G. Smith, it turns out, was somewhat attached to his slave Joe, who was not only a favored slave, who appears to have served as his personal attendant, but was also a very valuable piece of property, who would have fetched a handsome price if sold into the interstate slave market.

The Williamsons, for some unknown reason, left with Jemima and her surviving child without giving Joe and Jemima the chance to say good-bye. One can only imagine how bittersweet the trip to Ohio was for the mourning mother Jemima, who was leaving behind not only her husband, but her friends and other family members. A life of freedom lay ahead, as she and the Williamsons, two strangers who had entered her life like the fates, road horseback over the Appalachian Mountains and then crossed the Ohio River – a river that African-Americans and many antislavery evangelical whites considered to be the American Jordan – whose northern shore was a Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey.

Meet the Williamsons

Jane Smith Williamson was an extraordinary young woman, who never married and spent the later part of her life working as a missionary to Native Americans in Minnesota. She was the daughter of William and Mary Webb (Jane) Smith Williamson. The Smiths and the Williamsons were both prominent slaveholding families in the backcountry of North and South Carolina. They were also Presbyterians.

William’s father – Thomas – had moved his family from North Carolina to the Spartanburg area of South Carolina following the Revolutionary War, in which both father and son had briefly served. In 1790, William Williamson graduated from the Presbyterian supported College of Hampden-Sydney in Virginia; he returned to his father’s cotton plantation in the upcountry of South Carolina. In April 1793, he entered the ministry and found a mentor in the Rev. William C. Davis, an antislavery Presbyterian pastor who was temporarily preaching at the Fairforest Church, near Spartanburg. In 1794, the Fairforest Church invited Williamson to become their settled minister and he was then officially ordained by Davis. In 1799, a year after the death of his first wife, William married Mary Webb Smith. This marriage only added to the slaveholdings of the Reverend, whose holdings had been previously augmented by the dowry of his first wife.

The young Reverend Williamson and a handful of other ministers ran into opposition to their antislavery preaching in the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina. Meanwhile, his new wife, Mary, had begun teaching their family’s slaves how to read and write in preparation for their emancipation. After a group of their neighbors threatened to have the Williamsons indicted for violating a South Carolina law that banned such education, the couple resolved to leave the South for Ohio, where William could openly preach his antislavery faith and where they could lawfully emancipate and educate their slaves.

The Williamsons came to Adams County, Ohio, in 1805, to escape the institution of slavery, to raise their young children in a society, where slavery did not pervert the morals of the people. Ultimately, the Williamsons freed twenty-seven slaves (the bulk of them in 1813, after the death of his father when he legally received them as an inheritance).

Among the slaves freed by the Williamsons in 1813 were two brothers -- Benjamin Franklin and John Newton Templeton. The later, John Newton, was the first African American to attend and graduate from Ohio University in Athens in 1828. The former and younger brother, Benjamin Franklin, first attended Ripley College, which was presided over by radical abolitionist John Rankin; after a violent attack by a racist thug in a Ripley alleyway, Benjamin transferred to the Presbyterian-supported, Hanover College, near Madison, Indiana; he would later join the Presbyterian ministry after graduating from Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. Without the original education and support provided by the Williamsons these two young men never would have achieved the greatness that they did.

By the time of Jemima and her child’s arrival in Ohio in 1821, William Williamson had recently resigned from his ministry at the West Union Presbyterian Church because of ill health. His health recovered and he would continue his ministry at the Presbyterian Church of Manchester, where he had also regularly preached since 1805. By the early 1820s, Williamson’s older children had begun to marry and marry well. His daughter Esther, for example, had just married Col. William Kirker, the son of former Ohio Governor Thomas Kirker.

Jane’s decision to take her inheritance in slaves in order to emancipate them undoubtedly met the approval of her father (her mother had died in 1815, when Jane was 12 years old). There is little doubt that her decision was predicated upon her father’s willingness to shelter and help Jemima and her children start a new life in Ohio. In the Spring of 1821, the freed mother and child would first make their home at “The Beeches.”

"The Beeches," as it appears to day on Cabin Creek Road, Adams County

As the fates would have it, Jemima and her child had fallen into the hands of a family of emancipators, whose home was one of the first stations on the yet to be named “underground railroad.” Indeed, the network of stations and the conductors of runaway slaves was only in its infancy. To a large extent, runaway slaves in the first decades of the nineteenth century were on their own.

Joe's Escape to Adams County

The story of Joe Logan’s escape to freedom in Ohio in 1822 is thus a window, however dark the glass, through which we can glimpse the dangerous flight of a runaway slave before the Underground Railroad had become a much more organized affair.

Plans and preparations for Joe’s flight to freedom were nearly a year in the making. In the summer of 1821, just a few months after Jemima and his child’s departure for Ohio, Joe accompanied his master, John G. Smith, on a visit to Ohio, which included a stay at “The Beeches,” where Joe was briefly reunited with his family. Before leaving Ohio, Joe promised Jemima that he would be back or he would die trying. Joe’s plan was to use his return trip to North Carolina as a means of charting his future route to freedom, befriending slaves along the way, basically setting up safe houses, so that when he finally did flee, he could make his way safely from Granville County, North Carolina to Adams County, Ohio, a trip of some 500 miles.

When Joe finally ran away, after terrorizing the slave-hunting dogs of his neighborhood, he made his way north, carrying a suit of finely made clothes, wrapped in a bundle, which his master had previously given him, and a hatchet as a weapon to fend off any man or animal that might track him down. His preliminary beatings of the dogs in the neighborhood of Smith’s plantation worked, with the dogs refusing their “accustomed duties.” However, on his way through western Virginia he had a number of encounters with the dogs of slave catchers.

In one instance, two dogs pursued Joe into a river, where man and beast then did battle, one by one. Taking each dog by the throat he was able to hold them underwater until they drowned. In a separate incident, Joe used his hatchet to kill two dogs, silencing their raucous barking before their handlers were able to track him down. At one point, two men on horseback pursued him and got close enough that they fired their guns, only to miss as Joe wove and dodged through the forest’s trees. By the time he made it to the Ohio River, he had abandoned his bundle of clothes and looked a bit ragged – he looked the part of a runaway slave.

He traveled at night, spending much of his time in water, following streams, to cover his tracks. Whenever he crossed a river he would study his crossing in daylight before swimming it at night. When unsure of his way he asked for directions “of slaves, of children, or of white men whom he met alone. He would inquire for a route, but would never take the one he inquired for, but would travel parallel with it and away from it.”

When he finally reached the banks of the Ohio, it was near the mouth of the Big Sandy River, at what was then known as Poage’s Settlement (modern-day Ashland, Kentucky). There he swam across the American Jordan to his Promised Land. While south of the river, Joe had traveled at night; now, on so-called “free soil,” he thought it safe to move about the roads in broad day light. Joe was headed west on what is now US 52, but was then the Gallipolis Pike. Just east of Portsmouth Joe ran into a couple of tough looking white guys who after speaking with him for a few minutes concluded that Joe was a fugitive slave. When they told him that they were going to take him to town and throw him in the Scioto County jail in hopes of obtaining a reward, Joe grabbed one of the men and threw him over a nearby fence. The other man decided that Joe wasn’t worth the trouble. In the end, the two would-be slave catchers ended up giving Joe directions to Bentonville, Adams County, directions that he did not directly follow; he detoured around Portsmouth, out of fear that the two men might gather a posse and track him down.

On the outskirts of Bentonville, Joe once again ran into trouble. A man, he later identified as a stone cutter, threatened to arrest him, but Joe vowed that he’d only be taken dead. Now, within a short walk of “the Beeches,” Joe decided to hideout one last night in the woods. The following day came the much longed for reunion. Jemima would be the first person he saw that hot and happy summer morning.

Enter Gen. David Bradford

For how long they continued to live at “The Beeches” is unknown, but, in time, he and Jemima and a once again growing family of now free-born children would move to the town of West Union, where Joe had found work as a hostler at Bradford’s Tavern (what is now the Olde Wayside Inn, where one can still stay the night in one of its five bedrooms and get a traditional home-cooked meal). David Bradford, who built his tavern in 1804, also ran a stage coach business, which operated along the old Zane’s Trace, between Aberdeen on the Ohio River and Chillicothe to the north-east.

The Bradford Tavern (built in 1804), as it appears to day in downtown West Union

Bradford, it should be noted, was one of the early Trustees of the Town of West Union and the long-serving treasurer of Adams County, having first filled the office in 1800. He held the post until 1832. He was known as General Bradford because he served as the Quartermaster General of the Second Division of the Ohio militia. Bradford was also a supporter of the West Union Presbyterian church, where the Rev. William Williamson had long-served as its minister.

The Black Laws of the Promised Land

The Promised Land that the Logans had found was far from perfect. Legal African-American residents were treated as second class citizens by the Ohio state constitution and its law code. And Joe was never a legal resident of Ohio. His open flaunting of the law is one of the more interesting aspects of his story. Only African Americans with legal papers proving their free status were allowed to settle in Ohio; they were to register with their county court clerk and were to have a $500 surety bond for good behavior signed by at least two other Ohio property owners. African Americans were denied the right to vote by the state constitution and for many years were even denied the right to testify against whites in criminal cases. To employ a runaway like Joe, if prosecuted, could end in a fine of up to $100, with the informer receiving half as a reward. Sheltering a fugitive slave or helping a fugitive settle illegally in Ohio, as the Williamsons and David Bradford had done, left such people susceptible to a fine of $100, with half of the fine again going to the informer. Ohio’s legislators designed the state’s black laws to discourage runaway slaves from coming into or staying in the state, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the laws were meant to encourage private citizens to turn informer and help enforce the discriminatory restrictions through lucrative financial rewards.

Joe Logan’s, as well as David Bradford’s and, undoubtedly many others, open flaunting of these laws suggests two things: 1) popular support for the enforcement of these laws in certain communities, especially when those in government and church violated the laws, was not as strong as their existence in the law codes might indicate; and 2) financial interest in using the labor of illegal black immigrants also appears to have outweighed the threat of fines or the financial reward of turning informer. It may be that the experience of illegal runaway slaves in early nineteenth century Ohio is in some ways analogous to the current-day, open use and exploitation of illegal Mexican labor. White Ohioans have a long history of hiring and sheltering illegal immigrants.

It was these discriminatory laws, along with a federal law meant to facilitate the extradition of runaway slaves, which made it necessary to establish the “underground railroad” – had there been no black laws or a federal fugitive slave law, there would have been no need to go underground. There would have been little need to keep moving northward to Canada. The fact that Joe Logan stayed in Adams County, found work in Adams County, and, as we shall see, purchased land in Adams County, suggests that in some Ohio communities runaway African Americans – illegal immigrants --, if shielded by influential white friends and patrons, and if determined to fend off any attempt at capture, could maintain and establish a life of relative freedom.

Even with the patronage and support of men like David Bradford and the Rev. William Williamson, several attempts were made to capture and return Joe to his master in the South. Apparently, Joe’s owner showed little interest in forcing Joe back into servitude. According to Emmons B. Stivers, the co-author of an early history of Adams County, Joe had enemies in and about West Union, who would occasionally write a letter to John G. Smith in North Carolina and offer to capture Joe and return him to his rightful owner. Smith never accepted such offers, knowing that Joe would never be returned alive.

On numerous occasions, Joe made it clear “that if any attempt were made to recapture him, he would kill as many of his captors as he could, and would die himself, before he would be retaken.” To further deter any such attempt Joe “was in the habit of carrying a great club with him wherever he went, and it was well known that he would use it on dogs or men, as [the] occasion required.” Stivers also claimed that Joe eventually began telling people that he had purchased his freedom for $200, one-hundred of his own and one-hundred raised by his white friends. While such a purchase was possible, no record has come to light proving Joe’s claim and it can be reasonably assumed that Joe perpetuated this story to dissuade anyone from trying to re-enslave a legal free resident of Ohio. Joe’s claim may have also helped clear the way for his purchase of property in Adams County.

Rev. John Meek and the Logan Cabin

In 1841, nearly twenty years after fleeing slavery, for the sum of $100 Joe Logan purchased 26 and 3/4th acres of land on the outskirts of West Union; it had taken some time for the Logans to both save enough money and find a willing seller. The details of Joe’s purchase sheds further light on the network of white friends that helped the Logans maintain a residence in Adams County. The seller, it turns out, was the Rev. John Meek, a well-known and respected Methodist preacher who had been an early settler in Adams County.

The Methodist Rev. John Meek

Meek first came to Ohio in 1803 as an itinerant minister on the Scioto Circuit, as it was then called. Although not a radical abolitionist like Williamson, Meek preached an antislavery faith and actively supported the American Colonization Society, which had a chapter in Adams County. Notwithstanding his support of the removal (deportation) of the free black population of the United States back to Africa, Meek’s sale of land to the Logans suggests that he was willing to contract with an illegal immigrant and help a black family settle in Ohio. There also appears to have been a significant connection between the Meeks and Joe’s employer, David Bradford. The Meek and Bradford families, it turns out, were connected by the marriage of David Bradford’s grandson to the daughter of Rev. Meek.

The Adams County Recorder's Deed for the Logan's Property

Joe would build a one room cabin on his hillside farm, which only provided enough arable land for a small garden patch. Much of Logan’s property was taken up with a ravine, which included a number of hidden rock shelters. A spring also flowed from the rock, which provided the Logans with fresh water, but also turned the ravine into an excellent hiding place for fugitive slaves. The Logan’s cabin still stands today on Logan’s Lane, though it has been extensively added onto, virtually encasing and obscuring the original structure. The ravine has been recently backfilled, covering a number of the rock shelters and the spring that may have provided water to runaways still flows, though it now feeds a small pond. With a little imagination one can envision “Black Joe,” as the whites of West Union called him, leading a solitary man or woman, or small family of fugitive slaves up from the ravine to an awaiting horse-drawn cart for a quick dash to the next station on the Underground Railroad.

The Logans' Cabin, as it appears today, on Logan's Lane, West Union

Joe Logan would die in his mid-50s in 1849 from a case of lockjaw, which he contracted after an accidental shooting, which left a bullet lodged in the big toe of one of his feet. Jemima lived to be 85 years old, dying in 1885. A number of their children continued to live in Adams County, well into the twentieth century, though the original cabin has passed out of the descendants’ hands.

The story of Joe and Jemima Logan and the survival of three structures associated with their lives in southern Ohio – “The Beeches,” where Jemima first lived and where Joe first found shelter after escaping north of the Ohio River, the Bradford Tavern, where Joe found work and earned enough money to support a family and purchase land, and the Logan cabin, where this African American family made their home and helped other runaways to freedom – these buildings’ existence today is truly amazing. It is my hope that Joe and Jemima’s story and the buildings associated with their lives will be preserved and that their experience might help us all appreciate the plight of today’s illegal immigrants, who might not be fleeing slavery, but nevertheless look upon southern Ohio as a Promised Land of freedom.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sinking Spring and the Death of James Holton

Part IV

This is the last of the installments on the story of Reverend Weed. - ALF

After causing a near riot in Waverly, the Rev. Edward Weed found a more receptive audience at Sinking Spring, an area where some residents had already joined a local chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AAS). In a letter to an abolitionist newspaper published in New York, Weed claimed that a mob had followed him from Pike county, but they had “found but little countenance among the citizens” in Sinking Spring. When the crisis, which Weed had predicted, came the Pike countians were chased out of Highland county by the local militia and then pursued by a posse comitatus. When all was said and done, when rumors of Weed’s lynching began showing up in the nation’s papers, one man lay in the grave and another faced charges of murder.

“When they [the mob] commenced their interruptions,” Weed would later explain, “they were promptly met by the authorities of the place and dispersed.” However, the anti-abolitionists rallied and came back the following day with greater numbers, “about forty strong, a dirty, shabby, and savage looking set.” Arrest warrants were secured and the local militia unit was called up to clear the mob before Weed’s second lecture was to begin. According to Weed, “as soon,” as troops “appeared in the village with guns our mobocratic gentlemen began to talk about home, and … soon ‘put out.’” Weed’s series of lectures proceeded and in the end he succeeded in starting a branch chapter of the AAS at Sinking Spring with about 40 founding members.

The militia was most likely raised under the authority of Col. Thomas Rodgers of the Highland County Militia, the first president of the Paint Valley Abolition Society, which had members in Ross, Highland, and Fayette counties. Rodgers had risen to the rank of major in the War of 1812 and was widely respected in the region.

Unlike any other anti-abolition riot I am aware of, the Sinking Spring mob is the only one in which arrest warrants were secured. Whether led by the Highland County Sheriff or the Brush Creek Township Constable, it appears a posse comitatus was raised, which pursued the warrants into Pike county.

Among those sought was James Holton, who, once found, resisted his arrest. Holton was thirty years old at the time, a father of nine children, the youngest having been born the previous year. Like many early settlers of the Lower Scioto River Valley, Holton was a native of Virginia, who moved to Ohio with his father at a young age. When his father died James Holton was orphaned at the age of sixteen – his legal guardian was Allen Trimble of Highland county. Trimble was one of the early leaders of the region, having served in the state house and senate, before becoming Governor of Ohio in 1826. Holton’s own children, after his untimely death, would also marry well, finding brides from families such as the Vanmeters and the Beekmans.

A member of the Sinking Spring posse, William H. Mitchell found himself in a deadly confrontation with Holton. In what appears to have been self-defense, Mitchell stabbed Holton in the gut with a large bowie knife, leaving a four-inch deep mortal wound. Holton was slow to die. He lingered on until the 25th of September when he finally died, whereupon a Pike County grand jury indicted William Mitchell for murder.

The case came before the Pike County Common Pleas Judge John H. Keith, who had recently been elected by the State Assembly to the post, after having served as the Assembly’s presiding officer. Judge Keith oversaw a brief trial, whose jury returned a verdict of not guilty. With friendly rulings by Keith, the jury found that Mitchell’s use of force was lawful.

That October, when the editor of the Chillicothe Gazette published his correction of the false reports of Rev. Weed’s lynching, he suggested that Holton’s murder may have been the confused origins of the report. Somebody had, in fact, died, but it was not Edward Weed. Somehow this news had gotten so twisted and turned around that a traveling agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society (Edward Weed) had been attacked and murdered by an angry proslavery mob of southern Ohioans. I’m not so sure that explains the rumored lynching of Weed.

Considering the mob actions in Waverly and Sinking Spring and the anti-abolition resolutions passed in Piketon, one can reasonably conclude that these rumors were purposely generated by anti-abolitionists who wanted to scare off any future visits by the Rev. Edward Weed, or any other abolitionist organizer, for that matter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

John I. Vanmeter and the Piketon Anti-Abolition Resolutions

Part III

Having been run out of Waverly by a mob, which had been led by James Emmitt, the Rev. Edward Weed traveled west on horseback, just over the line into Highland County, where he had arranged for another series of abolition lectures for the first week of August, 1836.

John Inskeep Vanmeter

Meanwhile back in Piketon, in reaction to Weed’s visit, a group of prominent community members called a public meeting to be held at the County Court House. According to an account of the meeting published in the Chillicothe Gazette, “a large and respectable meeting of citizens of Piketon and the vicinity” assembled on the 29th of July and chose John Innskeep Vanmeter to preside. Vanmeter was a Virginian by birth, who had been raised in a family of wealthy slaveowners. He was a graduate of Princeton University, a lawyer and former state representative in Virginia before moving to Pike County in the 1820s, where he settling on lands inherited from his father. Vanmeter had quickly emerged as a prominent leader of the local Whig party and was, at the time of the meeting, a candidate for the Ohio legislature in the upcoming fall elections. His victory that November of 1836 would re-launch his political career, which ultimately took him to Washington, D.C., as a US Congressman, representing a district that included much of the Lower Scioto Valley.

Vanmeter was given the job of selecting a committee to draft resolutions – and on this committee were among others, Abraham Chenoweth and William Reed. Abraham Chenoweth, one of the older members of the committee, was an early settler on what was then called Pee Pee Prairie, just north of Piketon. Chenoweth, it turns out, was the father-in-law of Dr. William Blackstone – Weed’s host in Waverly. But, he was also the father-in-law of one of the other committee members, William Reed. William Reed was the son of Judge Samuel Reed, who had intervened in Waverly to stop the mob from destroying the home of Blackstone and doing violence to Rev. Weed. William Reed’s mother, Rebecca Lucas Reed, was the sister of Robert Lucas, who was just then finishing his second term as governor of Ohio. These men -- the powerful and influential of Pike County – leading anti-abolitionists – were often related to each other, but also to some of the supporters of Rev. Weed and the American Anti-Slavery Society. Chances are that it was the family ties between the Reeds, Chenoweths, and Blackstones that enabled Judge Reed to negotiate Rev. Weed’s safe exodus from Waverly.

The committee produced and the meeting then adopted the following resolutions:

“Whereas, the subject of modern abolition has created, and is still causing great excitement in this State, particularly in the town of Waverly and Piketon, and the county generally, and viewing with regret the unwarrantable steps taken by certain enthusiastic abolitionists lately, to agitate the public mind on this subject by lectures, and by circulating pamphlets, calculated not only to disturb our peace and happiness as citizens, but, if suffered to proceed, will ultimately cause a disunion of this great and glorious Republic. Viewing, then, Abolitionism as one of the greatest evils, and tending directly to infringe the compact of our Federal Union, we cannot but look upon these infatuated zealots as the worst of enemies we have to fear in this day of our national prosperity.

1. Resolved, Therefore, that we, the citizens of Piketon and the vicinity, in council assembled, are diametrically opposed to modern abolitionism, and feel no desire to interfere with the concerns of the slave-holing States, and still less between master and slave.

2. Resolved, That we disapprove of the late conduct of certain abolitionists who have attempted to deliver lectures on this subject; also, we are determined to discountenance them in the circulation of inflammatory publications.

3. Resolved, That we do in the most unequivocal terms request all abolitionists to desist from visiting our towns for the purpose of delivering lectures, or circulating publications on the subject of abolition; and should they persist we will not hold ourselves accountable for the consequences.”

The last of these – the one about not holding themselves “accountable for the consequences” virtually authorized the use of violence if Edward Weed or any other abolitionist returned to Pike County. As far as the existing correspondence of Reverend Weed and other records indicate, neither Weed and nor any other agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society returned to Pike County. Dr. Blackstone would soon thereafter relocate to Athens, Ohio. James Emmitt would claim that Blackstone left after stating that he would no longer live “in such a damned intolerant community.”

The controversy surrounding Reverend Weed, however, was not over. The Piketon Anti-Abolition Resolutions appear to have encouraged some Pike countians to follow Weed into neighboring Highland county. At Sinking Spring, the Reverend would have his “crisis,” which he had predicted soon after he fled James Emmitt’s mob.

Monday, July 30, 2007

James Emmitt’s Anti-Abolition Mob

Part II

The anti-abolitionist mobs of Pike County were not simply an isolated event – they were part of a larger phenomenon that broke out in the mid-1830s. From Alton, Illinois to Cincinnati, Ohio, to the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, white Americans reacted violently to the emergence of immediate abolitionism, the movement for which Rev. Edward Weed was a paid organizer. In the history of the Lower Scioto River Valley and Pike County, in particular, the violence experienced by the Rev. Weed in the late summer of 1836 occurred at a moment when the economy of the region was experiencing dramatic growth.

The Ohio-Erie Canal had been in operation for about three years. The citing of the canal had transformed the development of the towns of Pike county. In one of the great controversies of the period, the canal commissioners, under the influence of Robert Lucas (a resident of Pike County and speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and a future governor), the canal was run down the west side of the Scioto River through a tiny village soon to be known as Waverly. Rather than run down the east side through the original county seat of Piketon, it ran through lands owned by Lucas (among others), where he laid out a new village, which he named Jasper.

The citing of the canal on the west side helped make the young James Emmitt a wealthy man, as his town of Waverly became the economic hub of Pike County. Waverly soon eclipsed Piketon and after a long drawn out battle, the county seat would eventually be moved to Waverly.

By the summer of 1836, when Rev. Weed came to Pike County, Waverly was experiencing its initial boom time and James Emmitt was already the wealthiest businessman in the area.

James Emmitt

Edward Weed arrived in Waverly around the 14th of July, where he was welcomed into the home of Dr. William Blackstone, a local supporter of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Exactly where Weed gave his first lecture is unknown, but once word spread an angry mob began to form, which according to Weed, had none-other-than James Emmitt at is head.

In his memoirs, James Emmitt provides a fairly detailed account of Rev. Weed’s visit, but strangely, he changes Weed’s identity to that of George Thompson, a much more infamous English abolitionist, who was met with angry mobs on his tour of New England. Although a mob sought Thompson in Boston around this time, the British abolitionist never visited Ohio in 1836. Writing some fifty years later, perhaps for dramatic reasons, Emmitt chose to portray Weed as Thompson, but one thing that is clear is that Emmitt downplayed his own leading role in the whole affair. He acknowledged his opposition to abolitionism at the time, but explained it as being the common sentiment. As he put it in his memoir, “Blackstone and his … followers, in 1836, had arrayed against them the combined, determined, outspoken sentiment of this whole community, and this whole section as well.”

According to Emmitt, Dr. Blackstone publicized the upcoming visit of Rev. Weed and at that time was warned that if the abolitionist speaker “came he would not be allowed to make a public speech, and warned that it would not add any to Dr. Wm. Blackstone’s happiness, for him to slap public sentiment in the face. But warnings and threats only intensified the doctor’s bitterness, and strengthened his determination to have [Weed] come to Waverly and enlighten us as to the iniquity of the national crime we were sustaining in upholding slavery….”

Weed arrived the night before his first scheduled lecture. That evening, according to Emmitt, his opponents broke into Blackstone’s stable – they clipped the mane from Weed’s horse and shaved off all of its hair. They took Weed’s buggy and smeared it with excrement. The following morning, a mob gathered outside Blackstone’s house. According to Emmitt, the leader of the mob yelled: “I tell you, Blackstone, the unanimous sentiment of the people is agin this thing. You’ve imported [an outsider] into Pike County to teach seditious doctrine. …. And I tell you, Blackstone, the loyal people ain’t going to stand it. Do you expect us to stand here and listen to a traitorous [abolitionist] telling us what is right and what is wrong? Do you think we’re going to let [this] fanatic lead us around by the nose and give us good advice, and tell us just what an iniquitous, miserable lot of scalawags we are? …. We’re here to tell you that that man isn’t here to preach for our good. And we are here to tell you that that man can’t make a speech here today. We are fully determined on that.”

The leader of the mob then told Blackstone: “That man … is a traitor and here for a traitor’s purpose; and the sooner he gets out of this community, the better it will be for Dr. William Blackstone” and his unwelcome guest. With the cheers of the crowd behind him, he continued: “The best thing you can do for your nigger-loving friend, Blackstone, is to get him out of the country, just as soon as it is possible to jump the border.”

At this point, Blackstone emerged from his house and declared that his guest would speak “if he had to wade in blood knee deep to protect him.” The mob’s leader responded: “If that man attempts to make a speech here today … we’ll pull down the last log in the house over your head. If you think you can defy the sentiment of this community, just let that traitorous [abolitionist] attempt to make a speech. I say attempt, because he’ll never finish it. Now, we give [your guest] just fifteen minutes to get outside of the city limits, and five hours to leave the county.” According to Emmitt, this threat led Blackstone to give in and Rev. Weed fled out a back door and to his horse, which he quickly road off upon without a saddle or any of his belongings. As he galloped down the road towards Piketon, the young children of the town were waiting with rotten eggs, with which they pelted the young minister – what Emmitt called “a fitting, loud-smelling, farewell salute.”

Judge Samuel Reed

Emmitt’s account underplays his own role and misrepresents how the standoff was actually resolved. According to a letter later published in the Chillicothe Gazette, Samuel Reed, a former Associate Judge of the Court Common Pleas in Pike County, negotiated Weed’s peaceful exit. Reed, who was later accused of being an abolitionist for his role in the affair, defended his actions, stating that he “went and reasoned with [the leaders of the mob] on the impropriety of using any force, it being in direct violation of law – and proposed that, if they would use no violence to the persons or property of any of the citizens, I would persuade Weed to leave the place, which he did….”

With the intervention of Judge Reed, the Reverend Weed fled to Piketon, where he spent the night in the home of another supporter before leaving the county the following morning. While there he wrote a letter to his new wife, who at the time was living near Cincinnati: “Much violence is abroad in the land. For the last four days” – Weed had apparently lectured in Waverly, contrary to the account provided by Emmitt – “I have been in the midst of an infuriated mob who were seeking my life. But the Lord has delivered me out of their hand. …. Now, while I am writing, there are men all around thirsting for my blood, and would kill me, if they had a good opportunity, as soon as they would a snake! Pray for me, that I may, in patience, possess my soul, and be ready to depart whenever God calls. We have fallen upon perilous times; law is prostrate, God alone must be our shield and protector. The crisis is not yet come, but is fast approaching. I say, with all my soul, let it come; I may fall, but truth must and will triumph”

The crisis would come at the village of Sinking Spring and Edward Weed would live to tell about it.