The AD White Slave-Rescue Case
SOURCE: Henry Howe. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel and Company (Printers and Binders), 1888.
Mechanicsburg in the days of the Underground Railroad was one of the regular deports for the fleeing fugitives from slavery. Her people were noted for their abhorrence of the institution, and never failed to give such shelter and protection. In 1857, when "the Fugitive Slave Law" was in operation, an attempt was made by the United States Authorities to seize a slave (one Ad White), who had found a home with a farmer in the vicinity of the village. The circumstances we copy from Beer's "History of Clark County."
Ad White, a fugitive from Kentucky bearing the surname of his master, made his way to the place of rest for the oppressed, and thinking he was far enough away, had quietly settled down to work on the farm of Udney Hyde, near Mechanicsburg. His master had tracked him to the farm of Hyde, and obtained a warrant for his arrest at the United States Court in Cincinnati. Ben Churchill, with eight others, undertook his capture. Ad was at that time a powerful man, able and willing to whip his weight in wildcats, if necessary, and had expressed his determination never to return to slavery alive. Churchhill and Co. had been advised of this, and made their approaches to Hyde's house cautiously, informing some persons in Mechanicsburg of their business and suggesting to them to go out and see the fun, which invitation was promptly accepted. Ad slept in the loft of Hyde's house, to which access could only be obtained by means of a ladder, and one person only at a time.
Here he had provided himself with such articles of defence as a rifle, a double-barrelled shotgun, revolver, knife and axe, and had the steady nerve and skill to use them successfully if circumstances forced him to. Churchhill and party arrived at Hyde's and found the game in his retreat. They parleyed with him for some time, coaxed him to come down, ordered old man Hyde to go up and bring him out, deputized the men who followed them to go up, but all declined, telling them that five men ought to be able to take one. White finally proposed, in order to relieve Hyde of danger and compromise, if the five marshals would lay aside their arms and permit him to go into an adjoining field, and they could then overpower him, he would make no further resistance; but so long as they persisted in their advantage he would remain where he was and kill the first man who attempted to enter the loft.
Deputy-Marshall Elliott, of Cincinnati, was the first and only one to attempt to enter where White was, and as his body passed above the floor of the loft he held a shotgun before him, perhaps to protect himself, but particularly to scare White. But White was not to be scared that way. He meant that he said when he warned them to let him alone, and quick as thought, the sharp crack of a rifle rang out on the air, and Elliott dropped to the floor, not filled, but saved by his gun, the ball having struck the barrel, and thus prevent another tragedy in the slavehunter's path. This was the only effort made to dislodge White and after consultation they left for Urbana, going thence to Cincinnati. The gentlemen who had followed them out to Hyde's rallied them considerably on their failure, and in all probability were not very choice in their English to express their opinions of "slave-hunters".
Chagrined and mortified by their failure, and smarting under the sharp railleries of the bystanders, Churchill and Elliott made their report to the court at Cincinnati and made oath that Arzo L. Mann, Charles Taylor, David Tullis and Udney Hyde had interfered and prevented the capture of the negro White, and refused to assist when called upon. Warrants were issued for their arrest and a posse of fourteen, headed by Churchill and Elliott, went to Mechanicsburg and took them into custody. The men were prominent in the community, and their arrest created intense excitement.
Parties followed the marshals, expecting them to go to Urbana to board the cars for Cincinnati, but they left the main road, striking through the country, their actions creating additional excitement, causing suspicion of abduction. A party went at once to Urbana and obtained from Judge S. V. Baldwin a write of habeas corpus, commanding the marshals to bring their prisoners just across the county line, at Catawba, when the two parties dined together. In the meantime Judge Ichabod Corwin and Hon. J. C. Brand went to Springfield with a copy of the writ, and started Sheriff John E. Layton of Clark County and his deputy to intercept them at South Charleston. They reached there just as the marshals passed through, and overtook them half a mile beyond the town. In attempting the serve the writ, Layton was assaulted by Elliott with a slung-shot, furiously and brutally beaten to the ground, receiving injuries from which he never fully recovered. Layton's deputy, Compton was shot at several times, but escaped unhurt, and when he saw his superior stricken down and helpless, he went to him and permitted the marshals to resume their journey. Sheriff Clark and his party came up soon after and Sheriff Layton was borne back to South Charleston in a dying condition it was supposed, but a powerful constitution withstood the tremendous shock, although his health was never fully restored.
The assault on Sheriff Layton was at once telegraphed to Springfield and other points, causing intense excitement and arousing great indignation. Parties were organized and the capture of the marshals undertaken in earnest. Their track now lay through Green county. Sheriff Lewis was telegraphed for, and joined the party. On the following morning near the village of Lumberton, in Greene County, the State officers, headed by Sheriff Lewis, overtook the marshals, who surrendered without resistance. The prisoners were taken to Urbana before Judge Baldwin, and released, as no one appeared to show why they were arrested, or should be detained.
The United States marshals were all arrested at Springfield on their way to Urbana, for assault with intent to kill and, being unable to furnish security, were lodged in jail over night. James S. Christie was justice of peace at the time, and issued the warrants for the arrest of the marshals; the excitement was so great that the examination was held in the old court-house, which proved too small for the crowd. Mr. Christie was one of those who were obliged to attend at Cincinnati. The marshals again returned to Cincinnati and procured warrants for the arrest of four persons released upon habeas corpus, together with a large number of the citizens of Mechanicsburg, Urbana, Springfield and Xenia, who participated in the capture of the marshals.
In Champaign County the feeling against the enforcement of this feature of the fugitive slave law had become so intense that the officers serving the warrants were in danger of violence. Ministers of the gospel and many of the best and most responsible citizens of Urbana said to Judge Baldwin, Judge Corwin, Judge Brand and Sheriff Clark, on the day of the arrest "If you do not want to go, say the word, and we will protect you," feeling that the conflict was inevitable, and might as well be precipitated at that time. These men, however, counselled moderation and were ready and willing to suffer the inconvenience, expense and harassment of prosecution for the sake of testing this feature of the slave-driver's law, and also in hope and belief that it would make it more odious and secure its only repeal or change.
The cases of Udney Hyde and Hon. J. C. Brand were selected as test cases representing the two feature, that of Hyde for refusing to assist in the arrest of a fugitive slave, and that of Brand for interference with a United States officer in the discharge of duty. The district attorney was assisted by able counsel, and the most eminent lawyers of the States were secured to conduct the defence, when, after a long and stormy trial, the jury failed to make a verdict. The contest had now lasted nearly or quite a year, and all parties were becoming tired of it. The patriotism actuating both sides, though being a different character and order, was entirely exhausted, and the glory to be obtained would now be left for others yet to follow.
The Kentucky gentleman who had stirred up all this racket in his effort to get possession of his $1,000 in human flesh and blood now stepped to the front and proposed to settle trouble if he could have $1,000 for his Ad White, and the costs in all cases paid. This proposition was readily aceded to, the money paid and the case all nolled by District Attorney Matthews. The deed of Ad White was made in regular form by his Kentucky owner, and now forms one of the curious and interesting features of the probate court records for Champaign county.
Thus ended one of the great conflicts in the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, which did much towards crystallizing public sentiment against the extension of slavery. These scenes transpired in 1857, and nearly all the prominent actors have passed away. Ad White was notified of his freedom, and at once returned to Mechanicsburg, where, in 1881, he was still residing, borne down by hard work and age, but ever cherishing the memory of those who gave him shelter and protection when fleeing from oppression and seeking freedom.
MECHANICSBURG is on the C. C. C. & I. R. R., about twenty-seven miles west of Columbus. Here are located the Central Ohio Fair Grounds, said to be the finest in the State, nature having furnished a grand natural amphitheater facing the fine tract of land used for this purpose. Newspaper: News, Republican, Hiram Brown, publisher. Churches: 1 Methodist Episcopal, 1 Methodist Protestant, 1 Catholic, 2 Colored Methodist Episcopal, 1 Colored Baptist. Bank: Farmers, R. D. Williams, president, Thomas Davis, cashier.
Industries and Employees - P. W. Alden & Co. wood building-material, 5 hands; Packham Crimping Company, tinners' tools, 10; Stuart & Nickle, flannels, etc., 13; S. S. Staley, flour, feed, and lumber, 4; W. C. Downey & Co., grain-drills, 150; The Packham Crimper Company, stove-pipe crimpers, 5; The Hastings Paper Company, straw-paper, 46.-State Report 1886. Population in 1880, 1,522. School census in 1886; 428; Frank S. Fuson, superintendent.
ST. PARIS, fifty miles west of Columbus, in on the C. St L. & P. R. R. in the centre of a fine agricultural community. Newspaper: Era-Dispatch, Independent, John E. Walker, editor and publisher. Churches: 1 Methodist Episcopal, 1 Baptist, 1 Evangelical Lutheran, 1 Lutheran, 1 Universalist, 1 Reformed, and 1 Catholic.
Industries - Creameries, carriage factories, planning-and grist -mills etc. Population in 1880, 1,100. School census in 1886, 372; George W. Miller, superintendent.
NORTH LEWISBURG, about thirty-five miles of Columbus at the intersection of Champaign, Logan and Union counties, on the N. Y. P. & O. R. R. is surrounded by a rich farming country, special attention being given to stock raising. Newspaper: Tri-County Free Press, Republican, Kelly Mount, Editor. Churches: 1 Methodist Episcopal, 1 African Methodist Episcopal, 1 Protestant Methodist, 1 Catholic and 1 Friends. Banks of North Lewisburg, S. Clark, president, J. C. Thompson, cashier. Population in 1880, 936. School census in 1886, 314; Joseph Swisher, superintendent.
WOODSTOCK had, in 1880, 383, and MUTUAL 189 inhabitants.
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