COLBERT COUNTY, ALABAMA
CAPTURE OF PETER STILL'S FAMILY
Contributed 18 Jun 2004
by Lee Freeman
From the Evansville, Indiana Daily Journal, April 15, 1851.
We take the following letter from the Cape Girrardeau [sic] Eagle, as it relates to persons who left this city not a great while back in company with several fugitive slaves arrested in this State. The arrest of these slaves was effected-- without any resistance on the part of citizens of Indiana, thus proving their faithfulness to the laws, and the utter idleness of those attempts, which have been made by agitators to excite good men into mutiny and mobocracy:
Steamer Paul Anderson, April 1, 1851.
* * * * We had quite an adventure on this boat last night. At Evansville, we took on board a Mr. McKiernan, of Florence, Alabama, with four or five negroes* that had been stolen from him in Alabama by some Abolitionists, one of whom he had manacled. The negroes and their thief were taken in Knox county, Iudian [Indiana], and the owner permitted to take them out of the State without any difficulty, and brought on board this boat. But at this stage of affairs, his trouble seemed to begin--for there was on board a lot of emigrants from Ohio, many of whom were ranting abolitionists, and who raised a perfect storm. Col. Benton is on board, and he was appealed to, to give "aid and comfort," but he sent them with a flea in their ears, and told them he had nothing to say where property was the matter of controversy.-- Notwithstanding, the criminal, mho [sic] called himself "Miller," acknowledged that he and four others had stolen the negroes, carried them in a skiff down the Tennessee river, up the Ohio to [the] mouth of [the] Wabash, and up that river to Harmony and then by land to Knox county, (near Vincennes.) The men did all they could to get the Captain to put to shore in order to have him released, which he peremptorily [sic] refused to do. The boat landed at Smithland, and while there the prisoner escaped, to the great joy of the worthy Ohioans. I ascertained the names of two of them, viz:-- Wright, a chap with one eye, and wears green spectacles-- the other a Mr. Meecham.
We have since learned that the body of a man was found in the river below Smithland, in irons and much bruised as if struck by a steamboat wheel. It is supposed to have been that of Miller.
From the Vincennes [Indiana] Gazette, April 3, 1851.
Capture of Fugitive Slaves.
The citizens of or town were quite interested on Friday and Saturday last, on account of the arrest of four negroes*, supposed to be fugitive slaves, together with a white man who gave his name as John Miller, and who was supposed to have abducted them.--The negroes were taken before Esquire Robinson, who committed them to jail to await the necessary process, which was forthcoming on Saturday, and when it was ascertained, that they were the property of one Mr. Kirnan [sic], of or near Florence, Alabama.* They were very promptly ordered to be returned to his service, and the necessary certificate granted to enable Mr. Kirnan's [sic] agent to take them to Alabama. The abductor was proceeded against, as a fugitive from justice, and ordered into the custody of the officer in pursuit, to be by him delivered to the authorities of Alabama, there to answer for the violation of her laws.
Among our citizens but one feeling was manifested and that was to return the slaves to the individual to whom they owed service. There was none of that pretended philanthropy which indulges a disregard of the rights of property, or a violation of the laws of the land, shown or felt; and a universal wish prevailed that the abductor of the slaves should be returned to the proper authorities of Alabama there to suffer the penalties of the violated laws of that State and where, it is hoped, that, if guilty, he will be punished. Fugitive slaves with their abductors are much mistaken, if they expect to find sympathy or protection, other than that which strict law affords in this community. Our citizens are a law-abiding people: they recognize the right of the master to the services of the slave and have no more sympathy for the man who would abduct such slaves than for him who would steal the horses or money of another. Our town is in the route taken by those who attempt to escape from southern Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee and a commissioner under the Fugitive Slave Law, is much needed to enable masters speedily to recover their slaves; and we trust one will be appointed. No fears need be entertained that the citizens of this county will place any obstacles in the way of the execution of the law, or that a mob similar to that in Boston, will ever disgrace our town or state.
A Slave Family's Struggle for Freedom
Judge B. F. McKiernan's Obituary
Return to African American Master List