Slave Pen

Maysville Slave Pen


Humphrey Bacchus
from the Kentucky Gazette, February 14, 1795 from the Lexington Observer and Reporter, 1825


Dove Fifty wanted
both ads from Washington's The Dove, February 17, 1810  



Germantown, 1840

Several ex-slaves told their stories to writers of the WPA Writers
Project in the 1930's. These six are all from Mason County: (all pdf's)
Arnold Gragston Joe Robinson Albert Burks
Charles Green Joseph Ringo Flora Mae Harris

You can also read Francis Fedric's account of his life as a Mason County slave in his  Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky; 
or, Fifty Years of Slavery in the Southern States of America
at this site.


Elisha Green

Josiah Henson (Wikipedia)

His autobiography is online at the Gutenberg Project.
His accounts of helping enslaved people of Maysville are from pages 146-164.


Elisha Green

Elisha Green

Then there's the Life of the Rev. Elisha W. Green, One of the Founders of the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute-- Now the State University at Louisville; Eleven Years Moderator of the Mt. Zion Baptist Association; Five Years Moderator of the Consolidated Baptist Educational Association and Over Thirty Years Pastor of the Colored Baptist Churches of Maysville and Paris. Written by Himself which you can read at this site.
Terry Prather published this account of Elisha Green in the Ledger Independent.

Quiller Quiller
  Centinel of the Northwest Territory, July 11, 1795 The Western Spy and Literary Cadet, December 14, 1822


Brooks Will
The Western Spy, February 1, 1808 Centinel of the Northwest Territory, November 15, 1794  


NOTE: Reward ads from before 1800 could be from Pike County to Campbell County, even though they say Mason county. Before 1800, Mason County covered a much larger area.


Track Burns
from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 11, 1843

Mason County passes a tax on slaves. To repay efforts to capture runaways. in 1864.

Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky
Looking for a runaway slave named Emily, 1853 Ad in the Covington (Ky) Journal, April 19, 1851 Selling slaves at the
 court house door, 1855

Jack Washington
Centinel of the Northwest Territory, April 18, 1895

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If you have an interest in Slavery and the Underground Railroad in the Mason County area, you absolutely want to find a book called Beyond the River, by Ann Hagedorn. It's the story of Ripley, Ohio's John Rankin, and has detailed information about slavery days in Bracken and Mason Counties. 

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The Boone County Library has a web site detailing known escapes by enslaved persons from Northern Kentucky. The Mason/Bracken only list is here.

“On one particular occasion this gang of Maysville Negro thieves broke into a house in Ohio and stole a young mulatto girl.  This child told a passer-by in Maysville of her plight and thus aroused the suspicions of the citizens of the town.  Upon investigating this story, police found that Lewis Allen and Henry Young, of Maysville, were professional Negro kidnappers.  These men threatened to burn the town if the police insisted on making further investigations, and it was necessary to appoint vigilance committees to extinguish numerous fires.  During this melee a number of Maysville slaves were spirited away to the central Kentucky market and eventually to the South.” from Winston Coleman's Slavery Times in Kentucky, 1940.
“Woman's and Niggers Rights - We hear it reported that Mrs. Lucy Stone Blackwell (Wikipedia) has been corresponding  with a gentleman in this neighborhood, with reference to a visit to our city for the purpose, we suppose, of advocating the above “Rights.”  The gentleman, it is said, very properly advised her against coming.”  from the Maysville Eagle, reprinted in the Covington Journal, December 29, 1855. “Negro Woman Wanted. WILL pay CASH for a negro woman, from 18 to 25 years old, who is a good Cook, Washer, Ironer and House Servant.  Apply to the subscriber on Tuckahoe Ridge. JOHN MASTERSON, Mason co., Sept. 25.” The Maysville Eagle, October 16, 1844
“Stop the Thief and Runaway! $200 REWARD
Ranaway from the subscriber, living in Fayette county, near Centreville, on the morning of the 12th inst., a Negro Man named PETER, 24 years old, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, very black, and weighs about 160 pounds.  He had with him when he left, a pair of saddle-bags.  He will probably try to get into  the state of Ohio.  I will pay the above reward if said boy is taken out of the state of Kentucky, $100 if taken in any of the counties bordering on the Ohio River, or $20 if taken in any county adjoining Fayette, and secured in jail so that I get him, and word conveyed to me at Centreville, Bourbon co., Ky.   JACOB SIDENER, Sr.” The Maysville Eagle, October 16, 1844   
“At Maysville, Ky., on Thanksgiving day, a couple of young men, whose family connections are described as of the “highest respectability,” were on a drunken spree at the Parker House, in that place.  At a late hour of the night they attempted to arouse the bartender to procure more liquor; failing in this, they found one of the negro waiters asleep, and concluded to set fire to him in order to waken him!  They procured camphene and poured it over his head and then set fire to it.  The poor man was horribly burnt, and after lingering a fortnight in intense agony, expired.  The young men are rich.  They have agreed to pay Mr. Ball, the proprietor of the hotel, $1,200 for the loss of his servant.”  the Covington Journal, January 5, 1856.

Fallout from this incident made the national papers. See here.

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Enslaved woman kills master's children, 1814.
The 1828 court case of Kate Dailey.
In 1837, Ohio Senator Morris decries the kidnapping of citizens then taken to Kentucky.

In 1838, The Rev. John B. Mahan, of Sardinia, Ohio, an abolitionist, was kidnapped from Ohio and taken to Washington, Ky. for trial for helping Pendleton County slaves escape to freedom.  There's a short version at this site, or, you can read the subsequent book published about his trial at Google books, here. Results of his trial are here.

In his 1839 American Slavery, T. D. Weld refers to a slave owner who offered “a $50 reward for a negro girl, named Maria.  She is of copper color, between 13 and 14 years of age--bareheaded and barefooted.  She stated that she was going to see her Mother in Maysville.
Absconding slaves in 1843. The leader, a white man “is said to have a weak mind.”
Peter Driskell sues to get his slaves back. Driskell v. Parish, 1845.(pdf)
An 1845 meeting of slaveholders have concerns about a Lexington paper espousing abolitionist views. More here.
“The Maysville Eagle of the 18th, says that ten negroes, belonging to four different individuals, left that city on Sunday night, for ‘parts unknown.’”  Louisville Courier, May 20, 1847
“We learn that a stampede occurred among the negroes at and near Maysville, a few days ago.  Five or six of the  number belonged to a prominent and influential member of the Northern Methodist Church at Maysville.  And we also understand that a distinguished Preacher of that denomination, was at the gentleman's house at the  time his negroes left.”  from Newport's Licking Valley Register, May 21, 1847.
You can read about an 1848 slave escape here.
Father Henson writes (pdf) about his efforts to move a Maysville family to Canada in 1858.
An 1848 report from Ripley on the hunt for escaped slaves, here.
“RUNAWAY SLAVES. - We learn from the Maysville (Ky.) Herald, that several slaves belonging to that city escaped from their masters on Saturday night. Three runaways from Montgomery were captured a short distance below Maysville,on Sunday, and taken back.” The North Star, November 24, 1848
An 1849 item expects Mason County to support Emancipation soon.
An unsuccessful slave escape, from 1849, reported here.
“Negroes Running Away from the Blessings of Slavery:  Eight slaves attempted to cross the Ohio River below Maysville, on the night of the 10th instant, in order to get to Ohio and secure their freedom.  There were too many of them for the skiff, which upset and four were drowned.  The other four clung to the bottom and cried for help, which came to them in the shape of a gentleman who had them put up in jail for their masters.  Another slave, who was helping them across, was flogged to the extent of the law – 39 lashes.”    Lower Sandusky (Ohio) Freeman, September 29, 1849
Mason County favors emancipation* of slaves in 1849. * However, there are these two conditions.
A letter writer, “A Tourist,” has these observations about Bracken/Mason slavery, 1849.
An 1849 Maysville slaveholders' troubles, here.
In 1849, a group of 535 of Mason's citizens meet to pass a resolution condemning slavery, support the exportation of enslaved people to Liberia and announce themselves “utterly oppose to any system that will not result in the final removal of the Black race from the state of Kentucky.” More.
Abolitionist points to 1850 Maysville events as a bad example, here.

“200 Negroes Wanted.  Persons having Negroes for sale can find a purchaser by calling me  at the Lee House, Maysville, Ky.  A. O. Robards.”  from the Covington Journal, April 19, 1851

Maysville citizens kidnap slave in Aberdeen, Ohio, 1851, here.
Mason slave owners want to organize in 1852 to fight runaways.  Story here
Meeting called in 1852 to worry about all the slaves running away, here.
A slave owner, in 1852, writes a letter to a Maysville paper telling other slave owners to give up trying to catch escaped slaves - there are too many, and they're too good at getting to Canada.
Thirty slaves “stampede”in 1852, here.
“Still another slave stampede came off a few miles below Maysville on Wednesday night last. Five Negroes - three of them very fair and delicate mulatto girls - succeeded in crossing the river. All trace was lost a few miles back of Ripley, Brown county. - Cincinnati Commercial .” Frederick Douglass’ Paper, October 28, 1853
Guilty until proven innocent. 1853. Here.
Free Ohio Black man kidnapped in 1853 by Maysville men to be sold into slavery, here
“Another slave stampede came off a few miles below Maysville, a few nights ago.  Five negroes  succeeded in crossing the river.  All trace of them was lost a few miles back of Ripley, Brown county.”  from the Covington Journal, September 4, 1853
Kidnapping free Blacks in Ohio to sell or attempt to sell them in slavery in Kentucky was a thing. Examples here (1854) and here (1853).
“A correspondent of the Frankfort Yeoman, writing from Maysville, says that within five days  previous the town had been fired in various places, the ropes of the alarm bells cut, and seven  slaves had escaped”  from the Covington Journal, November 25, 1854.
Group of “consummate scoundrels” from Mason sought in 1854 kidnappings, here.

An unsuccessful slave escape from 1855, here.

An 1855 slave escape, here.
“Runaways Drowned! On Friday night last, a party of slaves, six in number, ran away from the neighborhood of Millersburg.  . . . They crossed the country on foot to East Maysville, where the negroes attempted to cross the river in a skiff about daylight.  There was a dense fog upon the river and by some means the skiff was overturned and the three women and child drowned.” Kentucky State Flag, Paris, December 17, 1855
“The Detroit Tribune of the 15th says a Miss Gibson, from Maysville, Ky., passed over the river on that day, having arrived safely by underground railroad from Toledo; and adds that 'What makes this case one of unusual interest is the fact that Miss G. is as white as any of our lady readers who will scan this paragraph. Unless informed of the fact, no one would have the remotest suspicion that she had a drop of negro blood running in her veins. Her eyes are blue, her hair brown, her complexion fair and her appearance really prepossessing.'” from the Louisville Daily Courier, January 23, 1855
“Escape of Slaves. – the Maysville Eagle of the 9th inst., says that five negroes from the lower end of Mason county, Ky., took a sleigh ride, a short time since, and crossed the Ohio river.  Neither the sleigh, horses, nor blacks have been heard of since.”  The Perrysburg (Ohio) Journal, February 23, 1856
Henry Young, born in Germantown, relocated to Covington. Then to Canada.
Horace Washington relates the story of his escape to freedom.
White woman freed from slavery, 1858, here, and here.
Two slaves successfully escape to Canada; return to Mason County in 1858 to free their friends.
“ANOTHER PASSENGER.—A “likely” thousand-dollar negro, from Maysville, Ky., passed through here last Saturday evening, toward the North Star. Several of our citizens endangered the perpetuity of the Union, by contributing to aid his escape.— Conneaut (Ohio) Reporter.” [Frederick] Douglass’s Monthly, March, 1859
The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was a famous slave rescue incident near Oberlin. Ohio, and involved a runaway slave named John Price, from nearby Maysville, Kentucky.  An account is here, or, read the full account at Wikipedia, or, at Google Books, you can find Jacob Shipherd's entire 301 page book: History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue from 1859.
An 1860 incident near Sandusky, Ohio is reported here, and the follow up is here.

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Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky
Slavery Days in Mason County Eliza Jane Johnson Abolition Outrage

James Sroufe

Slave Enticers
Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky
Colporteur William Haines Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of Price Col Charles Young The Will of James Savage Negro Traders
Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky Mason County, Kentucky

Mason County, Kentucky

Phillips Folly Violence of Slave Hunters Bierbower House Sites on the Tour
Somewhere in our travels we picked up this stack of fliers, all of which pertain to the lives of slaves and roles of slavery in early Bracken and Mason Counties.  Some of these are credited to the Bracken County Tourism Office, and many aren't, but we assume they published all of them.   These are Mason-specific. The full set is on the Bracken pages. Most are the work of Ms. Caroline Miller. See them here.

There are brochures (pdf's) for the Underground Railroad sites in Mason County, and Ripley, Ohio.

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Tricks of the trade.  
The Freedman's Bureau, a post-Civil war group to insure African American rights, comes to Maysville in 1866, here. Slavery matters, from 1867, here.
An African-American newspaper from Indianapolis - The Freeman - got updates from its Maysville correspondent in 1890.  You can read them here, and here, and a pair of officer listings from fraternal organizations, here.

“I was born in Maysville, Ky. I got here [Canada] last Tuesday evening, and spent the Fourth of July in Canada.  I felt as big and free as any man could feel, and I worked part of the day for my own benefit: I guess my master's time is out.  Seventeen came away in the same gang that I did.”  Ben Blackburn, quoted in A North-Side View of Slavery

This piece on the UGRR mentions several Mason County incidents. This kind of item is common in post-Civil War African-American newspapers.
“Eighteen citizens in Mason and Bracken counties, Kentucky, were expelled on account of Anti-Slavery opinions, and arrived in Cincinnati on Monday.” Sacramento Daily Union, February 22, 1860


The Columbus Dispatch has a feature story at its web site about descendents, in Ripley, Ohio who are ancestors of folks who availed themselves of the Underground Railroad.

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Dick Coleman Dick Coleman
Dick Coleman Mrs. James “Molly Lee” Lashbrook

The rape and murder of Mrs. James Lashbrook by Dick Coleman is one of the uglier chapters in Mason County history. Coleman was lynched, and burned, and souvenir hunters took parts of his body. It gets more gruesome from there. The Cincinnati Enquirer covered the story extensively. On December 6, 1899 was the story of Coleman's return to Maysville, from Covington, where he was held to avoid lynching; on December 7, with a full front page of wallowing in the gory details of the lynching; and on December 8, with the after story.

We would ask that you notice that the pro-slavery Enquirer's December 6 story talks of pains the deputies took to keep Coleman's transport a secret, but run a story announcing Coleman's return to Maysville, including the exact time the train will arrive in Maysville. Note also the right hand column on December 7, detailing any number of other brutal lynchings around the country. It wasn't the Enquirer's finest hour either.

Coleman's ashes were placed in an unmarked grave in Potter's Field, in a baking powder can.

...and from an uncredited newspaper clipping: “Horrible as were its scenes, fearful as was the exhibition on Maysville's public streets, there is that about Dick Coleman's lynching which gives it an awful impressiveness. It was the wrath of righteousness unveiled.  It was justice transfigured by a monstrous infamy. No man who participated in the work of mob vengeance today attempted to conceal his identity.  Not a drunken man was on the scene, and the leaders of the awful enterprise spoke no word of reckless violence.”

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