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March 1999


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Densmore <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 15 Mar 1999 08:32:12 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (77 lines)
I'm at the very preliminary stage of looking at underground railroad and
related activity in western New York, and have run across several cases of
the rescue or attempted rescue of fugitive slaves in Buffalo.

July 1835: Fugitive slave family named Stanford, living in St. Catharines,
Canada, kidnapped and taken to Buffalo. Kidnappers are followed by blacks
from St. Catharines and Buffalo, and the family is freed at Hamburg, but
there is a clash between the liberators and a sherriff's posse at Black
Rock near Buffalo. Fugitives sucessfully return to Canada.

[In a somewhat related incident, black residents around Niagara (now
Niagara on the Lake) in Canada prevent extradition of fugitive slave
Solomon Moseby in Sept. 1837. Moseby excapes, but two other people are

July 1845. Slave nurse Rena, traveling with her master John Munn of
Natchez, Mississippi, in Buffalo. A writ is made out against Munn, and the
case is taken before a judge. Munn declares that he has told Rena she is
free to leave, and judge tells Rena that she is free by law and by her
master's action, but Rena states she is old and infirm, and does not want
to leave her master. Newspaper reports fear of mob action.

Sept. 1847. Agents capture Christopher Webb, fugitive working in Buffalo,
but crowd gathers and Webb escapes or is released. Warrant is then filed
against the slave catchers for assault, battery and false imprisonment,
and "The last that was heard of them they were proceeding at a rapid rate
out of town with the Deputy Sheriff in pursuit, backed by several colored
persons on horseback."

August 1851 (after the fugitive slave law). Fugitive or former slave
Daniel is captured in Buffalo.  One of the slave catchers is arrested and
fined for assult and battery for hitting Daniel with a stick of wood
during the capture. Court later determines that Daniel was a free man
because he had been taken to Ohio. Daniel leaves for Canada.

Sept. 1851. Fugitive from Virginia named Harrison captured in Busti,
Chautauqua County, and taken to Buffalo. No apparent attempt to rescue
Harrison.  [While this case is ongoing, newspapers carry news of Jerry
Rescue in Syracuse and "Christiana Riot" in Pennsylvania]

I wonder how many other cases might exist in Buffalo and elsewhere in New
York State. I believe that I ran across a legal case in Lockport, New
York, concerning the status of a fugitive slave, but cannot now find my
notes on that incident.

Anyway, for Buffalo:

Kidnapped family, released by mob action in 1835

Slave, declared free by master and judge in 1845, but declines to leave

Slave, evidently freed by mob action in 1847; agents of master in danger
        of arrest by Buffalo authorities

Reputed slave, determined to be a free man by local courts, August 1851;
        agent convicted of assult (prior to release of reputed slave)

Slave, returned to master, apparently without incident, Sept. 1851.

Christopher Densmore
University Archives
University at Buffalo
420 Capen Hall
Box 602200
Buffalo, New York  14260-2200

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