Boone County Kentucky Historical Society

A. M. Yealey - Slavery in Boone County

“Local Historian Tells More About Slaves”
Boone County Recorder 31 Dec 1954
by A. M. Yealey
[Prof. Michael Yealey was a local historian and the first President of the Boone County Historical Society.]

A paper presented to the Boone County Historical Society
Slavery began to wane in Boone County beginning about the year 1850. There were a total of slaves in the whole state of  225,483, at the beginning of the Civil War, and 10,684 free slaves. Boone County, at the beginning of the Civil War had 1,745 slaves and 48 free colored. The state in 1860 had about 115 counties, so we can readily see that Boone County had about an average. The central part of the state or those parts where agriculture was carried on heavily had the more slaves. Fayette county had 10,015 slaves and 685 free colored in 1860. Under the laws of the state, counties especially those bounded by the Ohio River, were allowed to establish Patrols in order to capture runaway slaves. (We shall now refer you to early history where Patrolers caught Kirtley's Negro man "Ben" without a pass and gave him a severe cowhiding) The Captain of these patrols could punish the slave captured by any number of stripes not exceeding ten, or he could be taken before a Justice of the Peace and by his orders punished by 39 stripes. These patrols were paid by order of the County Court and received $1.00 for every 10 hours duty.
For every runaway slave caught by these patrolmen in the county and was put in jail so as the owner where the owner of the slave lived got him back, the patrol received $25.00 but if he was caught in another county he got $50.00 and the owner of the slave had it to pay. The fund established to pay these patrols was created by a poll-tax on each slave in the county, not exceeding one dollar on each blactithable (tax on slave over age 16), and this fund could not be expended or used by the County Court for any other purpose. The legislature in 1851 passed a great number of laws that had considerable to do with slavery and those who shall be deemed slaves and the writer will give a few.
1. No persons shall be slaves in this state, except such as are now slaves by the laws of this commonwealth or some other state or territory of the United States or such free Negroes as may hereafter be sold into slavery under the laws of this state, and the future descendants of such female slaves.
2. Every person who has one-fourth or other larger part of Negro blood shall be deemed a Mulatto and the word Negro, when used in any statute shall be construed to mean Mulatto as well as Negro.
When a runaway slave was captured he was put in the County Jail and the Jailer had to advertise him in a newspaper nearest to his residence, giving an accurate description of him and if his owner failed to call for him within six months the Court appointed two men to value the slave and he was then sold. Also the time and place of sale, and the smallest sum for which he would be sold. One of the severest penalties imposed was an act passed in 1798. When any Negro, Mulatto or Indian, whatsoever, shall be convicted of any offense with the benefit of Clergy judgments of death shall not be given against him or her upon such conviction, but he or she shall be burned in hand, by the jailer, in open court, and suffer such other corporal punishment as the Court shall think fit to inflict.
We have previously stated that Delila Webster had been pardoned for assisting slaves to escape February 15, 1845. Her father came to Lexington and took her to their home in Vermont, but she soon returned and rented a home at Madison, Indiana, where she could hide slaves that crossed the Ohio river and made her home with Reverend Norris Day (who also assisted her). Large meetings were held by them extending to all counties that bordered the Ohio river from Cincinnati to Louisville. These meetings caused a large number of slaves to leave their masters from 1850 to March 12, 1854 when she was requested to leave the state of Kentucky, she refused, and finally she was compelled to leave the state.
Great debates were taking place from 1845 up to 1855 in Cincinnati Ohio, between Reverend J. Blanchard and Reverend Nathan L. Rice on the topic (Is Slavery in Itself Sinful and the Relation between the Master and Slave a Sinful Relation).
These debates caused much friction between the Master and slave and the slave knew if he could reach the land of Ohio or Indiana he would receive protection from arrest.
The Governor of Ohio refused to comply with a requisition of the Governor of Kentucky in cases where men of Ohio kidnapped slaves, we have records showing 55 slaves leaving Boone County in 1853. A Mr. Arnold who lived in the North Bend bottoms found all his slaves gone one morning except one slave woman and he became so exasperated that he traded her for some land in Kenton County and quit the slave trade. On May 1, 1854, 44 slaves who had been freed by their owners left Louisville for Liberia in Africa.
The Detroit Free Democrat had the following announcement on January 14, 1854, "20 fugitive slaves just arrived from Northern Kentucky, they are on their way to Canada." We find from 1850 to 1860 that the counties bordered by the Ohio river were flooded by ministers from the north preaching the abolition of slavery, and devoted their sermons to the cruel laws that had been passed by the state a punishment to those slaves who sought their liberty. The ministers stressed the power of a Captain of patrols to punish with 10 stripes, a Justice of the Peace to punish with 39 stripes and a jailer in open Court to burn the hand. The last whipping under the above laws was administered to a man charged with petty larceny in 1873. The Legislature on December 1, 1873 abolished all whipping laws for crimes.
[Edited by James Duvall, M. A.; typed by Tami Paul.]