The Hunt

Dover, Kentucky, March 24, 1852

Mr. Editor -I will venture to say thee is scarcely a man in the north, but what has heard of the cruel, lawless, and savage manner in which the poor unoffending negro, (or slave, let him be black, white, or yellow") is hunted, when he may have had the courage enough to declare himself his own; and for the sake of sweet liberty, which is dearer to man than life itself, he will leave the tyrant who had robbed him, in peaceable possession of all of his former life's earnings, to seek a home in the land of strangers;  but where he can be recognized as a man, and not as a thing, to be bought and sold.  It has then been my special privilege to witness a recruit for this ignoble purpose- for what they call here "going to hunt niggers"

Between 8 and 9 o'clock A.M., on Sunday last, I heard the report of a gun in the street, and looking out, saw a dozen or more of men, collected together on a corner, in the most public part of the village; several of them having double barreled guns.  Soon the village people were all on the move.  The firing of the gun seemed to be a signal for the recruit.  And be it remembered this was on a  Sunday, and right in the face of two churches; in one of which sacrament was taken, and the other a funeral sermon preached a few hours afterward.

It appeared the discovery had just been made, that a skiff had been broken loose the night before, and the tracks of four persons (there was snow on the ground) leading toward the locality of the skiff.  Of course they were niggers, and these men were volunteer hunters. And yet there was no other evidence of any slave having escaped; but I have learned these signs are common, and are always rightly understood.

There were the tracks of four niggers, and the country has a standing offer of $50 reward for the capture of each and every escaping slave taken within its limits, and a still greater one of taken outside the state; and to this it is always understood that the owner will add a liberal consideration. No time was lost.  A party was soon made up, armed with revolvers and double barreled guns, and away they went into Ohio in broad day light. They landed and I could see them plodding their way on foot, on the trail of the poor slaves for half a mile on the Ohio side.  My blood boiled with indignation, when I sat an contemplated the scene before me.  Pirates armed to the teeth, hunting innocent men and women in open daylight, on the free spoil of Ohio.  But I had hoped - nay, more, I had “interior” assurance, as Davis would say, that the fugitives would make their escape good.  And to this hour, all the efforts of the slave hunters to find even a track, after the snow had melted (which lasted but a few hours) has proved almost glorious failure.

The party returned from Ohio soon after noon.  After the snow had melted they continued their course without being able to get any information to the whereabouts of the slaves, til they got weary and so gave up the chase.  One of them said he had been in two houses where he made the inmates stare a good deal, but they offered no resistance to his going up the stairs to look for niggers. He was as ugly a looking fellow as I ever saw, and used as ugly and rough language as it was possible for a man to use.  And when he said he walked right in with a gun in his hand, and told the inmates that he was “going upstairs to look for niggers,” I did not wonder they thought it safest to stand back.

While the party were over the river the people here were very busy talking, and it was from my observation, and from the street, and bar room gossip, that I got my intelligence.

Ill and extravagant language about the abolitionists, free niggers, and the lately escaped slaves, was all one could hear in the street or bar room.  Some declared that if the niggers had got to Ripley which is two miles above in Ohio, they might just as well be in Canada; for there were many abolitionists there and it was impossible to get them.  But if they had gone to Georgetown they were certain to get them, as the people there were even more dexterous in taking runaways than Kentuckians!

And here let me drop a word of congratulations and encouragement to the abolitionists of Ohio.  The slaveholders here are aware of the power and influence which you are wielding against their iniquitous institution.  They fear and curse you.  When their slaves get amongst you they think (and well they may) it is good bye niggers.  They offer large rewards - $800 are now offered for the capture of those five who escaped on Saturday night - two men, one woman, and two children.

In the afternoon the owners of the escaping slaves arrived and then thee proved to be six on the missing list instead of four.  Five slaves and a free man.

The free man had been in town a few days before, trying to make a sale of tobacco.  The people say it was to look for a skiff and not to sell tobacco.  They brand him with infamy of the deepest dye for stealing his wife and his children.  Against him they pour out their vilest epithets.  Some wished when he was in town to sell his tobacco, they had put him under a tobacco press.  The vicious ugly man I before alluded to, wished for a chance at him with his gun and he would “bring him down.”

But I have been too tedious and perhaps have written too much for your paper, about what every abolitionist knows full well to be true.

                                                                                       -  KENTUCKIAN


a letter to The Anti-Slavery Bugle, a newspaper published in New Lisbon, Ohio. April 3, 1852.  Their title to the article was “Nigger Hunt.”  The italicization of the N-word throughout is in the original.