Category Archives: StoryMap Sources and Research

Samuel Meads, Online home to millions of historical newspapers, 2014

The public OCR text of a Baltimore Sun article from Saturday, December 3, 1842 is not a primary source document, however it did serve as a starting point for the research my partner and I began to do on Samuel Meads. This article identified Samuel Meads as a “colored man” who had been arrested for “aiding and abetting in the escape of four slaves” from the city of Baltimore. This text enabled us to find out the names of the arresting officers, the judge, the attorneys, and two witnesses. The text also told us that Meads took the slaves “just beyond Bel Air” in a carriage from Baltimore and that his bail had been increased from $300 to $1,000.

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Saturday December 3, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

My partner was able to locate the original Baltimore Sun article from the Baltimore Sun Newspaper collection housed in the Albin O. Kuhn Library, Special Collections at UMBC. The original arrest report appeared on December 3, 1842.

Baltimore City Jail (City Criminal Docket) 1842-1844, C2057, December 1842, 1104, MSA C2057-6, MdHR#: 6662.

The Baltimore Sun sources led us to the Baltimore City Jail Criminal Docket for 1842-1844 where we hoped to find out more about  the outcome of Meads’ trial. The criminal docket for “Samuel Meeds, col’d,” reiterated some of the information from the Baltimore Sun and indicated that the trial was scheduled for Dec 16, 1842. The inclusion of the trial date was important for enabling us to track the aper trail of Meads’ arrest. It was also helpful to see that his name was spelled differently than it had been in the Baltimore Sun article, because that let us know we might have to consider different spellings as we continued our search for Samuel Meads.

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Saturday December 17, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

Identifying the trial date in the Baltimore City Jail Criminal Docket allowed for further research into the Albin O. Kuhn Library, Special Collections at UMBC. My partner was able to locate an article from the Baltimore Sun dated Saturday, December 17, 1842 that re-examined Meads’ arrest. This article provided us with the names of the people who owned the enslaved people Meads had helped. They were Mr. Uriah Carpenter, Mrs. McSweeny, Mr. W. Whitman, and Mr. William Reese. Identifying the slave owners helped us plan the next course of our research: looking for any information relating to the owners. It is often better to start researching the slave owners as they would have more of a paper trail. For example, their names might be  attached to runaway ads or property records.

 Baltimore Sun Collection, “Runaway Advertisements, Mary Turner”, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Tuesday December 8, and Wednesday December 9, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

We used the database at the Maryland State Archives Legacy of Slavery in Maryland website to search for these owners’ names. We were able to find a runaway ad placed by Uriah Carpenter and my partner was able to locate the original document at the Albin O. Kuhn Library, Special Collections. The ad described a “One Hundred Dollars Reward” for the return of one “Mary Turner” who apparently was also known as “Mary Small.” The ad included a physical description of Mary, including her age, approximate height, skin color, figure, and scar. The ad also indicated Mary was “rather surly when spoken to.” The ad also helped us locate Uriah Carpenter’s residence at the “corner of Sharp and Hill streets, Baltimore.”

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: Jan, 1843-April 1843, Monday March 6, 1843, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

This article detailing the outcome of State vs. Samuel Meads provided us with important information about Meads and helped us confirm the identities of the slaves he had assisted. Of course, it also gave us the result of his trial. Samuel Meads was, according to this document, a “free mulato.” This is important because it suggests that, as a free man, he was able to move more freely than an enslaved person. This accounts for his  ability to aid in the escape of slaves.
The document connected the names of the slaves with that of their owners, helping us to find the  full names of slave owners as well as an alternative spelling for Caroline McCeny (Mrs. McSweeny) and two more aliases for Mary Turner: Mary Smallwood and Maria Turner.
The case “occupied nearly two days in the development” and that two of the slaves whom Meads’ helped were present to testify against him and to confirm that they knew him before their escape. Meads’ acquaintances provided him with an alibi and the somewhat surprising outcome of the trial, based on this evidence, was that Samuel Meads was found not guilty.

Adapted from Annotated Bibliography for Samuel Meads by Kymberly Peters and Robin Martin

The Case of Thomas Mitchell: Finding Meaning in Limited Sources

The case of alleged fugitive slave Thomas Mitchell is both fascinating and confusing. Mitchell was apparently a slave of John Hayes of Cecil County, Maryland. Many years after he fled, Mitchell was captured by slave trader Thomas McCreary in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Mitchell had been living there, in close proximity to his employer, George Martin. Both Mitchell and Martin were guilty of undermining the institution of slavery. Mitchell was imprisoned in Wilson’s slave jail in Baltimore. Martin was arrested for depriving Mitchell’s master of his slave’s labor. Martin was quickly released and he returned to Chester County. Thomas Mitchell was vulnerable for sale to the Deep South. This is where Thomas Mitchell’s physical trail ends.

The case of Thomas Mitchell has many unanswered questions. Practically speaking, it is difficult to trace the facts of this case. Although there is almost no information on Mitchell the man, and only a little more on his owners, the story was apparently considered important. Newspapers on  both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line reported it, though the paper trail is filled with holes and accounts of Mitchell’s capture tend to vary by region. Southern editors used his capture as a way to threaten northern abolitionists and potential fugitive slaves. Northern abolitionists and anti-slavery activists portrayed Mitchell’s capture as an invasion of the free north by slave-catching riffraff. While the story rarely includes much about the men involved, it provides a window into how the meaning of freedom changed along borders, how those borders were used to perpetuate conflict and social control. This case also shows how sources can serve multiple purposes, even if they sometimes offer more questions than answers.

Pennsylvania Freeman (Philadelphia, PA). “The Chester County Abduction Case.” September 6, 1849.

This is clearly written by abolitionists. Although it tells the story of the Mitchell abduction, when viewed in conjunction with Maryland articles of the same event, it reveals the biases in both versions. However, perhaps the value of this article is in the confirmation it provides that Thomas (Albert) Mitchell’s fate. Although some online secondary sources state that Mitchell was purchased by the Quaker community that housed him, this article and the one from Cecil County confirm that Mitchell was left in the hands of a slave trader and sold south. The author also insists that Mitchell was not a fugitive and that he was a free man under Maryland law when he came to Chester County. The article is designed to stir outrage and make the case that Marylanders have no business or legal right to venture North to capture innocent people and profit off of their sale into bondage.

 The Cecil Democrat and Farmers’ Journal (Elkton, MD). “Slave Case.” September 1, 1849.

This article tells the story of Mitchell’s capture and sale from the point of view of his owner’s hometown in Elkton, Maryland. The editor clearly seeks to defend slavery and reinforce the social structure of white dominance. George Martin is painted not as a a humanitarian but as a middling abolitionist, someone who  agitates against slavery but isn’t willing to fully relieve the plight of the people for whom they advocate. The article uses Mitchell’s story as fable to warn slaves that they have no true friends in the North, and that if they try to run away, abolitionists will deny them and they will be sold into a worse fate in the deep south.

1830 U.S. Census Slave Assessment for John Hayes of Cecil County Maryland, source page 40.

In 1830, John Hayes is listed as owning three slaves, one male and one female under the age of ten, and a female between twenty-four and twenty-five. Although this source doesn’t name names, it does show what kind of slaveholder Hayes was. He wasn’t a large slaveholder, and he probably owned an enslaved mother and her children. We know Mitchell lived in Chester County for a few years before he was taken back to Maryland, but when he left is unclear and no runaway advertisements seem to exist. This lack of records could give merit to the claim that Mitchell was a free man rather than a slave.



Adapted from  The Case of Thomas Mitchell and Meaning in Limited Sources by Talbot Kuhn

Hope Slatter: A Maryland Slave Trader

Deyle, Steven Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade In America (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2005)

This book examines the business of slave trading in America and how it not only shaped the antebellum south but also American Society. The author mentions Hope Slatter and his influence on the business of slave trading and makes a connection between Hope Slatter and a British abolitionist named Joseph Sturge. Slatter apparently entered into a debate with Sturge, a story that is worth pursuing further as part of our project to map the changing meanings of slavery and freedom.

Pacheco. F Josephine The Pearl: A Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac (Chapel Hill and London:    University of North Carolina Press, 2005)

This book recounts an attempt by 76 slaves to seek freedom in Pennsylvania aboard a ship named The Pearl.  Hope Slatter played a role in thwarting their efforts, and, according to the author, so angered New York Congressman, John I. Slingerland, that he set in motion the events that would end the slave trade in Washington, DC.

Prince, Brian One More River To Cross (Dundurn Press, 2014)

This book recounts the story of Isaac Brown, a black man who was found guilty of attempted murder in Maryland.  As punishment, Brown was sold to Hope Slatter who promptly sent Brown to New Orleans to be sold into slavery in the deep south. From there, however, he made a daring escape to Pennsylvania. Brown described his time in Slatter’s slave prison as well as his interactions with the notorious slave dealer. Ann Arbor District Library Accessed November 3, 2014.

The Ann Arbor District Library contains a collection of the Signal of Liberty, an anti-slavery newspaper published by an abolitionist in Michigan. Hope Slatter is the subject of several articles, including a study of the slave slave sale advertisements Slatter ran in the Baltimore Sun and reports on a variety of legal cases in which he was involved. This source helps demonstate that Slatter was a significant figure in the slave trade, and he was a frequent subject of abolitionist agitation.

Struge, Joseph A Visit To The United States In 1841 (Carlisle, Massachusetts:  Applewood Books, 1842)

This is a narrative written by a British abolitionist who came to the United States to witness the horrors of the slavery. He met the, apparently, charismatic and charming Hope Slatter who gave Sturge a tour of his Baltimore Slave Pen. Sturge reports feeling both appalled by the treatment of people held in captivity by Slatter and also enamored of Slatter himself. The two main maintained a correspondence.  The sections of the book that depict the relationship between the two men raise interesting questions about the political climate of slavery and abolition in the 1830s and early 1840s.

Adapted from  Annotated Bibliography for future project by Francis Mohammed for a collaborative project with Yamid Andres Macias

Landscapes of Slavery and Freedom

On September 8, 1830, an enslaved teenager named Sarah disappeared from Charles County, Maryland. According to the census of 1830, she was the only slave owned by Richard Smallwood. She was twelve years old.

Slavery was legal in Maryland, but the number of slave holders was declining in many counties by 1830.  African Americans –both slave and free– created opportunities to escape, disappearing into the free state of Pennsylvania, running north to Canada, or hiding with free people of color in Maryland. Indeed, Smallwood suspected that Sarah was hiding in the Prince George’s County home of Theophelus McDaniel, a free black man.

Slave. Free Person. Slave-catching. Kidnapping. These ideas meant different things for different people in different places at different times. Controversy over their meaning –always simmering in the decades before the Civil War– tended to explode when people crossed borders, challenging their status and asserting their rights.

This website will follow their journey and explore the importance of their acts.

It will illuminate the lives of people like Sarah, Theophelus McDaniel, and Richard Smallwood, and it will help us think about borders, freedoms, and the way they come to have meaning.

This is a collaborative project that will grow over time. The original team includes the Maryland State Archives, particularly the project team responsible for the Legacy of Slavery Project, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County Department of History, particularly students and instructors from the Public History track.