My fourth Civil War Sampler block is Catch Me If You Can:
This is another block where I read the stories first and let that help me choose the fabrics. The stories Brackman chose to go with this block were about slavery, escape, emancipation.
I elected to go with something fairly literal to the stories. I chose fabrics with sort of “winding” patterns– zigging and zagging around in various directions, like you were trying to “lose” someone…like if you were running away from someone (or somewhere). And I think you can guess that the warm tans and chocolatey browns are meant to represent the skin tones of the African American slaves.
One of the stories Brackman mentions on the web is about a slaveholder named William Dunbar. While unrelated as far as I know, the library where I work is named after an African American poet from Dayton — Paul Laurence Dunbar — perhaps you’ve heard of him? His parents Joshua and Matilda Dunbar had both been slaves (in central Kentucky). His mother was freed with the 13th amendment; his father had escaped earlier to Canada and served in Massachusetts Regiments during the Civil War. The two didn’t marry until after the war. (Learn more from Wright State University Libraries’ Dunbar biography, this Oxford University Press article, or the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.)
Another of Brackman’s stories talks about “a slave in Kentucky, who accompanied her mistress across the river to Cincinnati in the free state of Ohio” (and promptly made her escape). Can you imagine? Having Ohio RIGHT THERE. I grew up near the Ohio River. It’s…wide…but it’s not THAT wide.
Not surprisingly, there were a number of “stops” on the Underground Railroad that were just across the Ohio River, such as two in Ripley (Brown County) that I heard about for years but still never managed to actually visit: John Rankin House and John P. Parker House.
Despite being a “free” state, an Ohio law passed in 1804 (just one year after statehood) required all free blacks to register with the county courthouse and prove that they were in fact free. These are often called “manumission” registers; manumission meaning “freed from slavery” (in Latin, literally, “sent from hand” or released). We have some of these manumission registers at the archives where I work, such as this 1834 manumission record book from Miami County.
Speaking of manumission, someone I researched extensively in about 2012 was a slave-holder who freed his slaves. Horton Howard was, among other things, a Quaker living in North Carolina in the 1790s. He freed his slaves before moving to Ohio about 1799 or 1800. (You can read more about Horton Howard here, with the slave-holding part starting at about the third paragraph.)
Another local historical figure with whom I am reasonably familiar — but who did not do so well with the whole “manumit when you move to Ohio” thing was Col. Robert Patterson, a founder of Lexington, Kentucky, and later Dayton, Ohio. I don’t know all the details, but let’s just say that some of his servants who were enslaved in Kentucky also came to Ohio with them and continued to work for him, and there was definitely some question as to what the situation. There’s even a court case about it in the Montgomery County Records Center & Archives:
You can learn more about the Robert Patterson slave controversy in this 2006 Ohio Valley History journal article by Emil Pocock or this 2017 news article by Tom Eblen about the Patterson cabin on the campus of Transylvania University, which I have visited (twice), btw:
Just today I stumbled upon the stories of more enslaved people as a result of something a researcher mentioned. A couple traveling the Aviation Trail in pursuit of Wilbear happened to mention that their daughter volunteers at a house museum. I asked them where, and they said Dinsmore House in Burlington, Kentucky. (Never heard of it.) They said it was near the Ohio River, a little ways from Cincinnati. So I Googled it. I do love house museums. I was impressed that they have dedicated an entire page (and a long one at that) to naming all of the known slaves (21 of them) and describing what is known about each of them. Nice work, Dinsmore House!