In the race relations of blacks and whites in the United States, none proved more intriguing than the case of Addison White, a slave of Daniel White, who escaped from Fleming County, Kentucky in 1856 using the Underground Railroad. He resided at Ohio leading to a face-off between U.S. marshals and a posse which had formed.
When Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Laws in 1793 and 1850, it allowed federal marshals to arrest slaves that had escaped to the North and take them back to their southern owners, as well as, arrest northerners suspected of aiding runaway slaves. Southern slave owners viewing African slaves making a dash for freedom in the north, lost investment and formed hunting groups to recapture such fugitive slaves.
But strong-willed White likely enslaved in 1821 had support from an unlikely source. On the run, White arrived in Mechanicsburg in August 1856 where he met abolitionist Udney Hyde and stayed at his farm while Hyde recovered from a leg injury.
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Meanwhile, White’s owner was on his heels; he came to town in April 1857 with federal marshals. White was informed that John C. Elliot (a federal marshal) and his men were coming to arrest him. He hid in a nearby cabin but was discovered, and forced to shoot at Elliot with his six-shooter, according to records. Elliot was, however, not mortally injured.
As the marshals attempted to take White and Hyde for violating the Fugitive Slave Law, Hyde’s daughter ran to town and brought back residents with pitchforks and shovels to fight the marshals. Fearing for their lives, the marshals left but came back six days later to arrest the men who protected White. White escaped and managed to elude the marshals for several weeks.
Meanwhile, locals Charles Taylor, Edward Taylor, Russell Hyde, and Hiram Gutridge were arrested without a warrant by the marshals but they were confronted by a large number of Champaign County citizens on horseback demanding the freedom of their neighbors.
The Clark County sheriff, John E. Layton, came off worse as he was shot and badly beaten near South Charleston when trying to stop the marshals.
It took Greene County Sheriff McInteire to arrest the marshals. Charles Taylor then decided to sue White’s owner Daniel White over the case. As a settlement, Taylor and the citizens of Mechanicsburg agreed to buy White’s freedom from Daniel White for $950.
Thus winning freedom for White who stayed on in Mechanicsburg and worked for the city’s street department except during the Civil War, when he joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and fought for his country for two years.