1850 Fugitive Slave Act: (White?) Mother, Daughter, and Grandchild Seized
After Congress passed a strengthened Fugitive Slave Act on Sept. 18, 1850, part of the Compromise of 1850, Northern newspapers began running stories of fugitives captured under the new law. An unusual case involving a seemingly white mother, daughter and grandchild occurred in Indiana, as reported by the local paper. The story was published by the New Albany Ledger on November 12 and reprinted by the Public Ledger (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) on November 20, 1850:
Singular Fugitive Slave Case
Three persons were yesterday brought before Esq. Jocelyn, charged by a man named Dennis Framell, of Arkansas, with being fugitive slaves. The alleged fugitives are: a woman about 55 years of age; her daughter, about 35; and a son of the latter, a boy of 7 or 8. They were put in jail till tomorrow, when the testimony in the case will be examined. What is singular about this case is, that the so-called fugitives are, to all appearances, white persons. No trace of negro or Indian blood is discernible in the oldest woman nor in the boy. Some few of those who have seen the other woman think there is a slight resemblance to the Indian in some of her features but a large majority are of the opinion that she also is of purely white origin. They have been living in this city some four months, during which time the boy—said to be quite sprightly—has been going to one of our schools, and mingling with white children, no one suspecting him to be aught else than white like themselves. About ten days ago, the family were enticed across the river, where they were put on a boat bound south; but when in the neighborhood of Hawsville were (as they say) put on shore by the passengers, and made their way back here. The oldest woman says that she is a native of Baltimore; that many years ago her husband was killed by Indians, and she and her daughter carried away captive by them, among whom she has ever since lived—latterly in Arkansas, but are not slaves, and were never treated as such. Upon the whole, this is one of the most singular cases that has occurred under the fugitive law.
—New Albany (Indiana) Ledger, Nov. 12.
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