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Servitude and Emancipation Rec of Ill 1720-1965

St Clair County

Name Name other Sex Race Doc type Date

Patience Isham Reavis F N Indenture Nov 1809

Lucy ditto " " ditto ditto

Ginger " M N " "

Thomas " " " " Dec 1810


Will of Isham Reavis d/16 August 1824 died 1829 Prob Saline Co Mo

"I constitute and appoint Solomon Reavis as my sole executor. Free Ginger

and Patient."

s/Isham Reavis

Witnesses: Geo H. Arnold, Harmon Bingham, Edward Reavis, Warren P. Reavis,

and Margaret (X) Reavis

Heavenly Event Freed a Slave

"The Standard-Times by James J. Fisher Boonville, Mo

Like many slaves back in the early 1830’s, the young black man belonging to the

Isham Reavis estate had but a single name–"Sant"

Sant as it turned out, was a man who could "thank his lucky stars" and literally mean it.

Sant’s story, put down later by a newspaperman here named W.F. Switzler, began in

1816 when Reavis and his family emigrated from Kentucky to Missouri.

The moved slaves included Sant, then a child; his mother; and Sant’s brothers and sisters.

Their destination was the rich land of the so-called "Bourbon counties" along the Missouri

River. Reavis was a prudent man. Halfway to Missouri, Reavis, his kin and his slaves

resumed their trek, eventually settling in Saline County, where they lived and worked until

the late 1820s.

Then the elder Reavis died. The slaves (Sant’s mother had apparently died by then) were

parceled out like any other property. Sant went to one of the sons.

But an odd thing happened.

In those years, well before the Civil War, there were those who preached abolition. It was

mostly furtive, useless talk. Missouri was a slave state. But among the Reavis blacks,

abolitionists found something more–slaves who were not’ slaves any longer. Because of

their six months’ residence in Illinois–a free state–the Reavis chattels were technically


What to do?

Sant somehow–perhaps the abolitionists helped–found a lawyer named Peyton Hayden.

Sant sued for his freedom. It was a big case. The Reavis family hired its own defense

counsels, including Austin A. King, later governor of Missouri, and Abiel Leonard, who

would distinguish himself as a judge of the state Supreme Court. The trial was held in

Columbia in 1833. Judge David Todd presided. "In spite of bitter prejudice," wrote

Switzler, "the Negro received a fair trial." In its verdict, the court faced Sant, saying the

time in Illinois had made him free and there was nothing Missouri could do about it. No

unexpected, some found the verdict wanting. A plot was hatched to seize Sant and "run

the Negro south," meaning return him to bondage. Ned Camplin, a slaver, paid $1,200

for the young man. There upon Sant was seized, tried hand and foot Sant was seized, tied

hand and foot, and whisked to a landing to catch the next steamboat heading for St. Louis

and points south. Sant and his guards waited until the small hours of the morning. Then,

as the steamboat pulled abreast, the sky lighted up. It was a meteor shower. "Terror struck

every heart." Wrote Switzler. "The white men were good farmers but their astronomical

teaching had been neglected. They believed Judgement Day had come as they were en-

gaged in the questionable business of "running south" a miserable Negro whom the courts

had declared free."

The guilt worked, Sant was freed from his bonds. He headed one way, his captors another.

Those who had let Sant go were soon the laughing stock of the community. Strong men

scared by some falling stars?

Sant" He headed down the Santa Fe Trail, eventually becoming a successful freighter and

a well to do New Mexican. His brothers and sisters weren’t so lucky. Within days of

Sant’s dash to freedom, and before any court could act, they were "run south".