John Fee

     I had not yet returned from my trip eastward. The committee, on the 23rd day of Dec., 1859, proceeded to the house of Bro. Rogers, then principal of the school. The leader of the clan delivered to Bro. Rogers a document, demanding in the name of the committee, that he should leave the State within ten days. He attempted to reason with the committee, setting forth his claims as a law-abiding citizen, to the undisturbed exercise of his rights. The committee turned abruptly away, and delivered a like demand to ten other families, most of whom were native Kentuckians. These thus warned to leave the State, and others interested in the work of building up the school and church, met together for prayer and deliberation.

        These friends decided at once to make their appeal to the Governor of the State, for protection. This they did, in the form of a short address, borne by two of their number to the Governor, setting forth their obedience to law, and their devotion to the highest interests of society, and as such asked for protection. The Governor replied that the public mind was deeply moved by the events in Virginia, and that he could not engage to protect them from their fellow citizens, who had resolved that they must go. Many of these thus threatened saw that they must yield before an overwhelming force.

        After committing themselves to God in humble prayer, most of these thus warned retired from the State, believing that "God would make the wrath of man to praise Him."

        At this time I was on my way home from New York. Friends at Berea importuned my wife to go and meet me, if possible, and tell me not to attempt to come home now, for men were waylaying me at three different places. Along with my daughter Laura I met my wife at Cincinnati, Ohio. The next day we met the exiles from Berea. It was deemed wise now to hold meetings in Cincinnati. From this place we went to an appointment, previously made for me, in Bethesda church-house, in Bracken County, Ky. Here, whilst in the stand preaching, some of my exiled children, not previously seen for months, came into the church-house. With these came other exiles. Among them was John G. Hanson and family.

        The Monday following this meeting was county court day in Bracken County. Already Bro. Jas. S. Davis had been driven from the church in Lewis County. J. M. Mallett, a teacher in the school at Bethesda, had been mobbed and driven out of Germantown, Bracken County. In sympathy with the slave power, public feeling was at white heat. It was estimated that 800 people gathered on that county court day at Brooksville, the county seat of Bracken County. A special meeting was called. Inflammatory speeches were made, referring to the John Brown raid in Virginia, the expulsion of Abolitionists from Berea, in Madison County, and from the "Abolition" church in Lewis County, and the expulsion of the "Abolitionr" teacher in Bracken County; and now it was claimed that the security of property and peace of society demanded that John G. Fee, John G. Hanson, and others associated with them, be not allowed to tarry, even for a short time, in Bracken County, their native county. Such a resolve against men unconvicted of any crime, present or past, and now in their native county, in the midst of relatives and life-long acquaintances, was as dastardly as it was vile. But the slave power was in its very nature one of oppression and outrage; and the great mass of the non-slave-owners had become servile; and, though not slave-owners, had consented to be slaveholders, and joined with or consented to the demand of the slave-owners. A committee of sixty-two men, of "high standing," was appointed to warn John G. Fee, John G. Hanson and others associated, to leave the county, "peaceably if they would, forcibly if they must." On the day appointed, the committee of sixty-two rode up to the yard fence in front of the dwelling-house of Vincent Hamilton, my father-in-law, where with my wife and children I was then stopping. These men then sent in a request that I come out. I did so, and listened to their resolutions. The committee then demanded from me a reply. I said, as my custom was on such occasions, "I make no pledges to surrender God-given and constitutional rights to any man or set of men. If I shall be convictedof crime, before an impartial jury, then I will submit to adequate punishment." I then proceeded with further defense of my claim to citizenship and free speech, when the captain of the band ordered, "Forward, march."

        One of these men I took by the arm. He had been a member of the State Legislature. In his house my wife, in girlhood days, had boarded whilst attending school. With his sons I had studied in the school-room and played on the playground. This man was then an elder in the Presbyterian "church" at Sharon church-house, where my wife and I, years previously, had made profession of faith in Christ, and from the hands of this man we had received the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of our Lord. I referred to these things, and said to him, "Is this the treatment that we, convicted of no crime, should expect from one who has known us from childhood, with whom we have lived as neighbors, and who is now an office-bearer in a professedly Christian church?" He replied, "It is not worth while for us to talk," and rode off in pursuit of the committee-men. These committee-men served a like notice upon J. G. Hanson and others.

        At first I thought I would not go from Bracken County, though it was not then my home. I had so expressed myself. Two members of the church there, John D. Gregg and John Humlong, men whose courage, fidelity and piety perhaps no man questioned, said, "Our first impulse was to take our rifles and stand with you; but other friends warned to leave have decided to go, and we find that we will be utterly overwhelmed by the opposing power, and if you stay we shall all be driven away." My father-in-law made the same remark. This put a new phase on the issue. I might peril my own home, and had done so. I might no peril the home of another, especially when he had expressed his fear. A day of fasting and prayer was appointed, and a meeting of brethren and sisters in Christ was held at the church-house. The conclusion was, "There is now such a reign of terror all over the State that you cannot get a hearing anywhere in the State." The same was the response from friends in Madison County. Thus persecuted, the admonition seemed pertinent, "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." I said, "It is possible I cannot reach my own home, and could not get the friends together, even if there; but 'tis a time not to be silent." Therefore, John G. Hanson, myself and others, retired with our families for a time to the North and took up our abode in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio.


from the Autobiography of John G. Fee, Berea, Kentucky, 1891