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Federal Writer Project Collection of Slave Article of Interest


Negro Conspiracy in Austin

Escape of Slaves - Nathan James


Francois Ludgere Diard, Mobile Alabama


The following story is from The New Bedford Mercury and printed inthe Mobile Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, June 27, 1849.


A SLAVE CAPTURED - Capt. Pope of the waling bark Jaspar, arrived at this port yesterday from St. Helena, has favored us with the following report:

"On the 23rd March, 1849, arrived at St. Helena a schooner called the Zenobia, of Baltimore, (for adjudication in the Vice Admiralty Court) which vessel had been captured by H. B. M. sloop Philomel on the west coast of African, with a cargo of slaves numbering 550, (33 of them are females), the vessel not being over 100 tons burthen.  She was eleven days on her passage to St. Helena and lost ten or eleven of them.  These poor creatures were in a perfect state of nudity, and many of them (the women in particular) bearing the brands of a hot iron recently in pressed on their breasts; the vessel being so small and the number of Negroes so great that it was next to an impossibility to go from one end of the vessel to the other.  It appears that when the schooner was dispatched by the Philomel, that she was about giving chase to an American brig of taking on board a cargo of Negroes.  It is only lately that a brig has been brought to St. Helena with upwards of 800 slaves on board; her name was the Harriet, lately of Philadelphia, and commanded by Captain Thomas Duling, who has sold the vessel at Ambre to a Brazilian, leaving his crew, (Americans) eight in umber on board to shift for themselves, and being unable to get away from the coast were obliged to remain in the vessel and were captured by H. B. M. sloop Cygnet.

  These seamen have been the Consul at St. Helena a faithful account of their ill treatment by Captain Duling and have been provided with vessels to get from the Island.  At the time the Harriet was boarded by Cygnet's boats, she had the American flag flying at the peak, and in consequence of the brig firing upon the boats, one of the American seamen was shot in the shoulder, and who is now in the hospital at St. Helena under medical treatment.

Also lying in the harbor at St. Helena, a slave vessel condemned, formerly the bark California, of Boston".--(New Bedford Mercury).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Mobile Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, June 27, 1849. 


Negro Conspiracy in Austin

Copied from "Eufaula Express" August 30, 1860


Austin, August 3rd.  A meeting of the council in this city, the day before yesterday, it was decided to make a general search of the Negro quarters, and a committee of investigators was accordingly appointed.  One keg of powder, a large quantity of bullets, lead, muskets, caps, and bowie knives, were found distributed at several places.  The Negroes implicated in the conspiracy belonged to Messers Edward Black (our present Lieut. Governor), Samuel Harris and Mrs. Beal.  The investigation is still going on, and it is supposed that the leaders, who were white men, have fled from the city.  The slaves had been told that there was a candidate for President, who if elected, would free them.


Copied from Eufaula Express - Escape of Slaves - Nathan James

Thursday, May 10, 1860 from "Nashville Banner"

Collected by Gertha Couric (P. W) 

The free Negro, Nathan James, who was arrested and confined in jail on a charge of assisting in the abduction of Aleck, slave of Mr. McClure of this city, was yesterday brought up for trial before Esquires Robertson and Faris.  The magistrate's office was crowded to its utmost capacity and the excitement was considerable.  Aleck, the first witness examined, testifies that a white man, whose name he never learned, agreed to send him off to Cincinnati for $60 in money and a watch.  The white man, he says, furnished the box and labeled it Nathan James, or "Brother Nathan" as he calls him, (for it seems they are brethren in the same church), nailed down the lid after he was stowed away.  Aleck's description of the adventure in the box was quite diverting to the audience, who continued to laugh immoderately.  In the cross examination, Aleck stated that Nathan told him good bye before he nailed him in the box, and shortly afterwards he was carried out and put on a dray".  He says his heels, "flew up a little as he rolled out the door."  He was next taken to the express office that the white man who got his money and watch accompanied him to the train as he could hear his voice.  Some one said on the cars, "What's that in that box"?  He heard his unknown white friend say, "venison".  He heard the other man say, "Venison, H---l, you've got a d---d nigger in that box".  Nothing further occurred till he got to Seymore where they rolled the box so much that the planks were burst off and he rolled out and "white man done come and tuk him back".  Other witnesses were examined and Nathan's own statement about the transaction was taken down on paper.  The prisoner was then committed to jail to await trial at the next term of the Criminal Court.  The magistrates decided that he would be allowed to renew his bail for his appearance.  The other Negroes connected in the transaction, being slaves, will doubtless come in for a liberal distribution of rawhide on the bare cuticle.      

Allen Foster (P. W.) - Birmingham, Alabama



William R. King's slave whose name was "Jackson" was said to have been aided by the Underground Railroad in making his escape.  This slave who was a very good barber ran away the first time while he was in the city of Washington with Mr. King.  He mad his way to Cincinnati and opened a barber shop.  While in that city he evidently informed himself about the Underground Railroad.

After some difficulties Mr. King succeeded in having him captured and returned to his Alabama plantation.

Some time later "Jackson" married a Mobile Creole woman of whom it is said that she could easily have passed for a white person, and that she really had the appearance of an elegant Southern lady.  The woman was not a slave and her husband's position distressed her.  They soon formed a plan by which they believed he could escape forever from bondage.  The wife was to act the part of a lady traveling to Baltimore on business and the husband who was small in stature disguised himself as her maid.  These two took passage at Mobile and went to New Orleans, where they took passage on a river boat and arrived without detection in Cincinnati.  There they interviewed Levi Coffin the President of the Underground Railroad who advised them it would not be safe for them to remain in that city.  He directed them to go to Cleveland and locate there so in case of detection and enforced them to return to Alabama, they would have a better chance to escape by boat out of Cleveland for Canada.  Once in Canada they would be safe under the British law.  Coffin says he heard from this couple later and that they were getting along very well in Cleveland, nor were they later troubled concerning the escape

Reminiscences of Levi Coffin p-337-341   

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