589 Enslaved Counted in 1860 as “Escaped”
By Jim Surkamp on June 17, 2011 698 words
Why So Many Enslaved Persons Got Away
The 1860 Census, taken by Mr. Joseph Coyle across Jefferson County during the summer following the raid, trials, and executions related to John Brown’s group, shows 589 persons, listed as “slaves,” as having escaped. The escapes on the Census form are denoted as “E” , (shorthand for “escaped”), under column number six, denoting “fugitives, out of state.” Moreover, pages 11-51 all show at least one recorded escape, except one page (45), and the first ten pages record no “escapes”, suggesting that the Census-taker may have not begun deliberately counting the escapes until the eleventh page of the Slave Schedule Census. Census takers in adjacent counties do not record escapes in any significant number in column number six. Very, very few, in fact. Escaping enslaved persons, it appears, was a major problem unique in the region to Jefferson County.
NOTE: Recording the “escaped” might have been a peculiarity of Mr. Coyle’s recording preferences. In 1860, an escaped person was still considered, under existing laws as “missing property” still owned by the person being interviewed for the Census. Mr. Coyle had reported for himself the loss from an “escape.”)
The pattern of escape puts much of the escaping in the southeastern portion of the county where the farm land is uniformly the most fertile, and where the most mills were operating on the Shenandoah River.
The following four maps show the property locations of persons who reported five or more persons escaping them. While no conclusions can be drawn, the ferry to the famous resort – the Shannondale Springs – in that area but on the eastern, mountainous side – was run by the Goens or “Goins,” a family of free, black boatman in 1860.
Moreover, Thomas Goens bought, in early 1859, 29 acres of land adjacent to a ten-acre parcel recently bought by another free black man, named Jackson Newman. They bordered the Shenandoah River and were a short distance south of the Shannondale Springs and its ferry ramp. The conditions and opportunity existed for an enslaved person to escape, depending on the willingness of the Goens family.
Osbourn Anderson, a free black man with John Brown who escaped successfully, chose this same mountainous ridge as the safest way to get to his destination, Chambersburg, PA.
Anderson, Osborne. (1861). “A Voice from Harper’s Ferry: A Narrative of Events at Harper’s Ferry; with Incidents Prior and Subsequent to its Capture by Captain Brown and His Men.” Boston MA: self-published. Print.
Anderson, Osborne. (1861). “A Voice from Harper’s Ferry: A Narrative of Events at Harper’s Ferry; with Incidents Prior and Subsequent to its Capture by Captain Brown and His Men.” Date of publication online not available. Web. 29 Dec. 2010.
United States. Bureau of the Census; United States. National Archives and Records Service. (1967).
“Population schedules of the eighth census of the United States, 1860, Virginia. [microform]
(Volume Reel 1392 – 1860 Virginia Federal Population Census Schedules Slave – Henrico, James City, Jefferson, Kanawha, King George, King and Queen, and King William Counties).”
Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Sept. 2010.