Washington Gardner.

History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 74)
Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Clay and his colleagues in Congress. This report was the first legisla-
tive demand for the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Pursuant to the man-
date of the legislature of Kentucky, issued on the exaggerated state of
facts at ;Marshall set forth in the affidavit of Francis Troutman, Henry
Clay brought forth the fugitive slave law of 1850 as a part of the com-
promise scheme. Seldom has the action of a state legislature been so
fruitful and foreseen, and far-reaching results. Therefore the said re-
port and affidavit is inserted in full at this point:


"The committee on Federal Relations to whom was referred the pro-
ceedings of a meeting of the people of the counties of Trimble and
Carroll, in relation to a recent Abolition mob in the town of ^Marshall
in the state of ilichigan, have had the same under consideration and
submit the following report: It appears to the satisfaction of the com-
mittee that one Francis Troutman was employed as agent and attorney
in fact for Francis Giltner of the county of Carroll, to go to said town
of Marshall in the state of ^Michigan to reclaim, take and bring back
to the state of Kentucky certain fugitives and run-awa.y slaves, the
property of said Giltner; and said Troutman proceeded under the au-
thority thus given him, to the said town of Marshall for the purpose
of reclaiming and bringing home to the owner the slaves aforesaid;
and whilst endeavoring to arrest said slaves, a mob composed of free
negroes, run-away slaves and white men to the number of two to three
hundred, forbade said Troutman and those who accompanied him for
that purpose to arrest and take into their possession the slaves aforesaid,
and by their threats, riotous and disorderly conduct did pi'event Trout-
man and those who accompanied him for the purpose, from taking into
their possession the slaves aforesaid. Your committee regret that the
citizens of the town of ^Marshall in the State aforesaid, have thus acted
and conducted themselves; such conduct and such outrages committed
upon the rights and citizens of the state of Kentucky, or any other
state in the Union, must necessarily result in great mischief, and are
well calculated and must, if persisted in by the citizens of Jliehigan or
any other free state in the Union terminate in breaking up and destroy-
ing the peace and hamiony, that is desirable by every good citizen of
all of the states of the I'liion, should exist between the several states.


and is in violation of the laws of the United States and the constitu-
tional rights of the citizens of the slave states. The affidavit of said
Troutman is appended to this report and made part hereof, marked (A)

Be is resolved by the General Assembly of the commonwealth of
Kentucky, That the legislature of the state of IMichigau be and is hereby
respectfulljr, but earnestly requested to give the subject consideration
which its importance demands, and to take such action thereon as in
the judgment of said legislature, is deemed proper and right, with a
view to maintain that peace, amity and good feeling which ought to
exist between the citizens of the states of Michigan and Kentucky and
for the purpose of enabling the citizens of Kentucky to reclaim their
run-away and fugitive slaves to the state of ]\Iichigan.

Resolved further. That our senators and representatives in Congress
be requested to turn their attention to the subject embraced in the fore-
going report and resolution, and urge upon the consideration of Con-
gress the importance of passing such laws as will fully enable the citi-
zens of the state of Kentucky and other slave states, to obtain and
reclaim their slaves that may run away to the free or non-slave-holding
states of the Union; that they also declare by said laws of the severest
penalty for their violation that the Constitution of the United States
will tolerate.

Resolved, That the governor be requested to forward to the governor
of the state of .Michigan a copy of foregoing report and resolutions with
the request that he sulimit the same to the legislature of his state, for
its consideration and action ; that he also forward a copy of the same to
each of our senators and representatives in Congress.

Approved JMarch 1, 1847.

(A) The Affidavit of Francis Troutman.

The affiant states that as the agent and attorney of Francis Giltner,
of Carroll County, Kentucky, he pi'oceeded to the town of Marshall
in the county of Calhoun, and state of .Michigan, and in company with
the deputy sheriff and tlirec Kcntuckians. on tlie morning of the 27th
of January, went to the house in which he found six fugitive slaves, the
property of Giltner. The slaves were directed to accompanj^ us to the
office of a magistrate; some of them were preparing to obey the sum-
mons, but before 1lii' affiant I'ould get them started, he was surrounded
by a mob, which liy its \-iolent threats, menaces and assaults, prevented
the removal of llie slaves to the office of the mayisl rate, Afifiant di-
rected the sheriff time after time, to discharge his duty, and he as often
made an effort to do so ; but so great was the excitement and violence
of the mob, that the officer was afraid to seize the slaves. Resolutions
were offered by some of the influential citizens of the town which were
calculated greatly to excite and encourage the negroes and abolition
rabble, who constituted a jiart of the mob. The negroes engaged in the
mob were estimated at irom fort>- to fifty, many of wdiom are fugitive
slaves from Kentucky as al'tiani was infoi'med and believes. The num-
ber of persons engaged in the mol) wei'e variously estimated at .from
two to three hundred. .VII the resolutions ottered by those engaged in


the moll were sustained by general aeelaniatioii : iiianv of the niijl)
pledged their lives to sustain them, and at the same time had guns,
clubs and other weapons in their hands, with whieli to execute their
purposes. Atfiant contended for some hours with the mob, and still
insisted on taking the slaves before the magistrate for trial, but the
intiuential men in the mob told affiant that there was no need of a
trial, and that an.y further attempt to remove the slaves would jeopard-
ize the lives of all who might make such an attempt, and they were de-
termined to prevent affiant from removing the slaves from town, even
if he proved his right to do so : they stated further that the public was
opposed to southerners reclaiming fugitive slaves, and that although
the law was in our favor, yet public sentiment must supersede the law
in this and in similar cases. Affiant then called upon some of the most
active members of the mob to give him their names, and inform him
if they considered themselves responsible for their words and actions
on that occasion. They promptly gave their names to affiant, and he
was told to write them in capital letters and bear them back to Ken-
tucky, the land of slavery, as evidence of their determination to persist
in the defense of a precedent already established.

The following resolution was offered :

Resolved. That these Kentuckians shall not remove from this place
these (naming the slaves) by moral, physical or legal force. It was
carried by general acclamation. Affiant then directed the sheriff to
summon those leading men in the mob to assist in keeping the peace ; he
did so, but they refused their aid, and affiant understood them to say that
they would assist in preventing the arrest of the slaves. A consultation
was then held liy eight or ten of the mob, out some distance from the
main crowd, as to whether affiant might take the slaves before a magis-
trate ; the decision was in the negative, and the following resolution was
then offered : Resolved. That the Kentuckians shall leave the town in
two hours; (some penalty in event of failure to do so was attached,
which affiant does not recollect). It was sustained by the unanimous
vote of the mob. A warrant for trespass was then issued and served
upon the sheriff, affiant and company. We stood trial. The magistrate,
who was an Abolitionist, fined us $100. A warrant was then taken out
against affiant for drawing a pistol upon a negro and telling him to stand
back when said negro was making an attempt to force himself upon
affiant and into the house where affiant had the slaves. On trial, affiant
proved his agency and that the slaves were the property of Giltner. for
whom he was acting as agent, yet the court recognized the affiant to
appear at the next circuit court for trial, ilany were the insults offered
the affiant by the leading men of the mob, who informed him at the
same time that it was .just such treatment that a Kentuckian deserves,
when attempting to recapture a slave, and that they intended to make
an example of him that others might take warning. That there had been
attempts by slave-holders to reclaim slaves in their town, but that they
had always been repulsed and always shall be. The insults .offered affiant
as a private individual, were treated with contempt, Init such as were
offered him as a Kentuckian, during the time of the mob and progress
of two davs trial which succeeded, were resented in such a mannei- as


this affiant believed tlie lionor, dignity and independence of a Kentuck-
ian demanded. Given under my liaud this 15th daj^ of Febr., 1847.

F. Troutman.
(Franljlin County seal.)

Personally before the undersigned, a Justice of the Peace for said
county, this day came the above named Francis Troutman, who made
oath in due form of law, to the truth of the statement set forth in the
foregoing affidavit. Given under my hand this 15th day of February,


Acts of Kentucky Legislature for 1846-47 (published by the state
printer, pages 385-6-7 and 8).

In connection with Troutman 's affidavit, the version of the affair by
Gen. Charles T. Gorham (1872) and William P. Hobart (1908) are also

Hon. Charles T. Gorham:

Diiring the winter of 1847, there stood on the property now owned
by ]\Ir. James T. Downs, in the eastern part of the city, a humble dwell-
ing. The house was located near a grove. A colored family occupied
the place. The history of that family forms the subject of this sketch.

Adam Crosswhite was born in Bou^-bon County, Kentucky, October
17, 1799. His father was, under the laws of that State, his master,
his mother being, at the time of his birth, a slave. At an early age,
Adam was given by his father to his half-sister, as a servant. ]\Iiss
Crosswhite afterwards married Ned Stone, a notorious slave-dealer,
who if not the original Simon Legree of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" might
have been, so similar were his life and character to those so graphically
portrayed by Mrs. Stowe. Stone retained possession of the boy Adam
for a time and then sold him to a man named Troutman for $200. When
twenty years of age, the boy was traded off to one Frank Giltner, who
lived in Carroll County, and with whom he stayed until forty-five years
of age. When twenty-two Adam married, and at the age of forty-five
was the father of seven children. At that time he became aware of
Giltner 's intentions to sell a portion of his family. Watching his op-
portunity, he obtained a skiff' and with his family, pushed off' for Madi-
son, Indiana. There he was received by the underground railroad
managers and sent north. At Newport, Indiana, the pursuers came upon
the party, by that time swollen into a flock of twenty. ^ The fugitives
were hidden by Quakers and protected for many da.ys.

An incident is related of how a young friend disconcerted the hunt-
ers. He represented himself as a slave-hunter and gained their confi-
dence. Assuring them that he knew of the hiding place, he took the
party, just at night, into a dense swamp, and leaving them on some
slight pretext, failed to return. The party was lost in the woods all
night, thereby relieving the poor slaves of considerable anxietJ^

Crosswhite was compelled to leave his wife and two children at tliis
place and push on. His experience from Indiana into Michigan, and


his wife's experience five weeks later, might he written np to form an
interesting hook. Sucli is a rapidly traced history of tiie occupants
of the little house ahove referred to. Crosswhite was known as an
industrious, quiet man. He had paid a portion of the purchase i)rie('
for his place.

Earlj' in the winter of 18-46-47, there came to ilarsliall a \ouug man
who represented himself as a lawyer. lie did not make known his
business, but strayed through the town as if undecided about his
permanent residence here. There was at that time residing here a man
named Harvey Dixon, a deputy sheriff, whom the stranger seemed to
take an interest in. Evidently some work was to be done and Dixon
was the chosen tool. The stranger was Francis Troutman, grandson
of the former owner of Adam Crosswhite and his business in Marshall
was to recover the fugitives. He had obtained a knowledge of their
whereabouts through a friend to whom it chanced (to what a remote
cause do we trace great events) Mrs. Crosswhite had unwittingly reveal-
ed her history. Troutman was uncertain of the identity of all the chil-
dren and employed Dixon to impersonate a census collector and ascertain
the required facts. This Dixon did. it is alleged for the modest sum of
five dollars.

In the meantime it became noised about so as to reach Crosswhite,
that a systematic attempt was to be made to carry the family off.
Troutman and three as dark brown rascals as one would care to meet,
arranged with a liveryman to have a team ready on a given night at
12 o'clock. The liveryman left word at the stable that the horses
were not to be sent until he gave orders. Orders were not given until
towards morning. Crosswhite was prepared to meet his enemies. It
was understood that a gun was to be the signal for the assembling of
his friends. Earl.v in the morning before it was light, Crosswhite saw
the team coming towards his house. He fired a gun in the air and
awaited outside his house for the approach of the men. There were four
in the party. Jlrs. Crosswhite answered the summons to open the
door with a stout refusal to do so. Two men then sought to persuade
Crosswhite to go with them, saying that they had come to arrest them
and wanted him at the .justice's office down town. They offered to carry
him and his family to the office in a wagon. This subterfuge did not
work. In the meantime about two hundred persons had assem])led and
were ridiculing the slave-hunters. The four men were armed to the
teeth, but were too cowardly to use forcible means to take the i-un-
aways. Troutman .said there was one child he did not want, but the
rest he demajided, as they were fugitive slaves. This speech was re-
ceived by laughter by the crowd. When it was understood that it
was proposed to take the mother and leave the infant, the crowd may
have used threats against the four men, hut that is a disputed point.

Later in the morning, Charles T. Gorham, Jarvis Ilurd, 0. C. Com-
stock, Jr.. and others went to the scene of trouble. They took no part
in the proceedings, but listened to the harangue of Troutman, who was
offering resolutions to the effect that "as law-abiding citizens." the
people would not interfere with his taking Crosswhite off. The fact of


their jiresence was enough to satisfy Troutman. He obtained their

Finally the crowd went down to the Jlarshall House. Crosswhite ap-
peared on the streets and was advised to prosecute Troutman. This he
did. The attacking parties were arrested and fined. i\Ir. Van Arman
appeared in the prosecution. Later in the day George IngersoU cjuietly
obtained funds and sent the family to Jackson in a lumber wagon. At
Jackson, the family entered the cars and were carried to Detroit, from
whence they went to Canada. Troutman and his friends went to Ken-
tucky, vowing vengeance upon the men who had aided in the liberation of
the slaves. The vows made by Troutman were destined to be fulfilled,
although it is probable that the loud-mouthed boastings of his party
while here were more for effect than in earnest when uttered. Fate
set her seal upon the acts of the marauding party and followed it with
an unrelenting assiduity.

Troutman related the incidents of his defeat in IMarsliall to his friends
at home. So indignant were they that steps were taken to convene
a town meeting, the object of which was to insist upon the "observance
of the laws," In due time, the town meeting was held. At it Trout-
man grossly misrepresented the ^larshall affair. The citizens of this
place were described as armed ruffians who resisted the execution of
the laws of the country by force. The out-growth of the town meet-
ing, was a county meeting-, tlic object of which was similar to the pri-
mary assembly. Here again I he story of the "northern outrage" was re-
peated, with graphic cmlifllisliiiicnts. With the increased size of the
meeting grew the ])0]nilai' indigiuilidii and the falsehoods of Troutman 's
friends. Troutman saw thai tln'i'c was im turning back from the course
he had taken and was dcici mined to cairy Ids point by dint of continued

From Ihc county meeting, the matter was taken to the legislatui-e
of Kcninrky, and there an appropriation was made to prosecute the
leaders of the "mob." Troutman, who saw there was no alternative,
accepted the commission of returning and teaching the cursed north-
erners their duty. ^Messrs. Pratt & Crary were retained, in fact nearly
;dl 1lic hiwyi'is and lawyei's' clerks in this section of the country were
retainiMJ liy Troutman. He was a shrewd fellow and immediately set
to woi'k 111 niiinufacture evidence to support the stories he had cir-
I'uhiti'd in Kentucky, and upon the strength of which, the slaie appro-
])riation was made. For several weeks Troutman remainnl in town.
His method of work was to meet some man who Wijs easily inllui'nced
and ask him if he remendiered hearing Dr. Comstock or Air. Cm ham
or Mv. Hurd say .so-and-so on the .lay of the "riot." The I'elinw wmild
partially recollect such speeches. Later at another intervie\v, th,. I'ellow
would be positive, and finally he was ready to go upon the stand and
swear to such language. The man Dixon was Troutman "s right,.bo\ver.
When siifficient testimony had been obtained to warrant trial, suit was
brought in the United States Court in Detroit. The defendants num-
bering a dozen or more at first, then dwindled down to three, C. T. Gor-
ham, Jarvis Hurd and O. C. Comstock. The trial began in the latter
part of 1847 and lasted three weeks. The jury disagreed.


III 1S48, the s.'coiul ti-i.-il iH't^an. Pmiuineut DciiKicrati.- |Kilit ici;iiis
WL-iit 1o oiu' of tlie (Icrciulanls, iiaincly Charles T, ( uii'liain, wlm was
at that time a Deiuoerat, and declared tluit althonuh iiersonally rrieiidls-
to him, they wanted tlie case to go against the tlefenchuits. Lewis Cass
was at that time candidate for president, and tlie politicians wanted,
"at that particular time," as they expressed it, the south to under-
stand that Detroit and i\Iichigau sympathized with the sluve-liolding
element. They were willing to prostitute themselves and commit an act
of gross injustice to a pei-sonal friend in order to secure the southern
vote. They assured the defendants that, should the case be decided
against them, the Democrats would assist in paying the hills.

The case came for trial and was defended by Judge II. II. Emmons,
J. F. Jo.v and Theodore Romeyn. After a hard fought struggle, the
case was decided as Cass wanted it to be, for the slave-huntei's. The
defendants were required to pay about $1,900 and costs. The men who
were so auxious to serve Cass's interests failed to remember their prom-
ises to help, but in that trying hour, when pecuniary injury was heaped
upon wounded friendship, Zachariah Chandler ,'^-' Alanson Sheley'^" and
other prominent men stepped forward and in the name of justice, con-
tributed largely and unexpectedly to the defendants.

The equities of the case were not considered by the court or jury.
As illustrative of the lamentable condition of society in reference to the
question of slavery, and the subservience of northern men to the will
of the soiith, we state that one of the jurors (a Whig) afterwards said
to ;\tr. Gorhain that it was extremely unpleasant to at least a portion
of the jury to bring in a verdict against the defendants, but that they
had concluded that it was best to do so. on account of the popular senti-

They knew that the case would be carried to the higher courts in
the event of a verdict for the defendants, and if there, the result would
be disastrous. It was better to oud the matter in Detroit. The de-
fendants saw that an appeal was woisc than folly. Justice was indeed
l)liiided to their case. There was no |iossiliility of obtaining a verdict
in their favor, for at that time delendaiils could not testify in their
own behalf. The only method of proi'cdure was the impeachment of
complainant's witnesses, and nothing further in that line could be done
than had been accomplished in the two trials in Detroit. The barter
of principle by the Democratic element was illy appreciated by the people,
however. Cass was defeated and Zaehary Taylor elected to the presi-

The case did not stop at the end of the trial. It was written on the
scroll of Fate that the seed sown in the soil of Marshall should bear
abundant fruit. Henry Clay took the case into the Senate chamber and
there advocated the necessity of a moi-e stringent fugitive slave law.
The riotous ( ?) scenes enacted near the humble cabin of Crosswhite re-
ceived national consideration. The law of 1793 was too lenient. Jlr.

VI See Vol. XXII, p. 381 and Vol. Ill, p. I.SO. this series.
'5 See Vol. XXII, pp. 194 and 3S6, this series. Mr. Shelev married
Drurv in 1831 and was the father of eight i-liiMren.


Clay took a personal interest in the matter for the reason that Cross-
white was known to him, the farms of Clay and Giltner being near each
other and the circumstances of Crosswhite's flight and subsequent trials
at Detroit being known to him.

The result of Clay's efforts was the passage of the Fugitive Slave
Law of 1850, the most damnable law that ever received the sanction of
the American Congress, and which lies a bar-sinister athwart the
escutcheon of Fillmore '" and Taney.' ' The law was the straw which
broke the camel 's back. The people of the north would no longer endure
the arrogant demands of the south. The history of the sviceeeding
years was written in blood. The wave of destruction which grew frooi
the ripple caused in Marshall swept over the country. The names of
the few noble men who fought the earlier battles for freedom, and the
million brave souls who faced death for the sake of principle are mem-
tioned with reverence whenever the theme is broached. The martyrs,
Lincoln and John Brown, head a glorious list of fallen heroes, and the
stain of slavery has been obliterated from the Nation's tablet by the
crimson hand of war.

Of the three men who defended their rights before a biased tribunal,
Charles T. Gorhanij'^s 0. C. Comstock''^ and Jarvis Hurd all sleep the
long sleep that knows no waking.'^f

The Crosswhite Case

William W. Hobart:

A little over sixty years ago, Mai'shall, Michigan, was and had been
for years an important station on the "under-ground railroad," that
mysterious abolition organization by whose aid, manj^ thousands of
negro slaves achieved liberty "before the war." For those times, the
Abolitionists were comparatively strong in and about both Battle Creek
and Marshall. I recall to mind that such a man as Erastus Hussey >*>
and Jabez Fitch 's- were open and avowed Abolitionists, Fitch being the
Liberty Party's candidate for governor, in several state campaigns.

For several years, some of these fleeing slaves would drop oft' at Mar-
shall, and finding employment and not being disturbed, would acquire
holdings on the outskirts of the town until they formed quite a settle-

"li Millard Fillmore became president of the United States on the death of Presi-
dent Taylor, July 10, 1850. One of the first achievements of his administration
was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, thereby losing the support
of a large portion of his northern followers.

Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 74)