New York Herald, “A Singular Slave Case in Indiana,” December 18, 1854

    Source citation
    "A Singular Slave Case in Indiana," New York Herald, December 18, 1854, p. 8: 4.
    Original source
    Cincinnati (OH) Gazette
    Newspaper: Publication
    New York Herald
    Newspaper: Headline
    A Singular Slave Case in Indiana
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    A Singular Slave Case in Indiana.


    [From the Cincinnati Gazette, Dec. 15.]

    The Indianapolis Journal, of the 13th inst., contrive a report of a trail which took place in that city last week, it being the first case which has been tried in Indiana, and as far as know, in the United States, under the seventh section of the act of 1850, for the rendition of fugitives from service. The case is a singular one, in many points of view, and receives additional interest from the fact that one of the chief witnesses for the persecution was Cyrus Fillmore, a brother of Millard Fillmore, ex-President of the Unite States. We were informed of the material facts of the case by a distinguished legal gentleman of Indiana, several days ago, but we were given to understand that the case would be reported in a few days, and therefore we refrained from speaking of it until we should have the whole case before us in an authentic form.

    The facts of the case, as we understand, are substantially these: - Benjamin Waterhouse was indicted last March on the charge of aiding slaves to escape. He was riding in August, 1853, in his wagon, and when he stopped at the town of Orland he had with him three colored persons. He stopped to get something to eat for himself and the negroes. Cyrus Fillmore was present at the time, and asked him "if he was on the underground railroad." After refreshing themselves, Waterhouse and the negroes passed on. He was indicted in March 1854, for aiding the escape of slaves, but the indictment being defective in several important portions, it was quashed. The chief defects were, that the negroes were not known to have been slaves; and if slaves, was not known who their owners was; or that Waterhouse knew them to be slaves, and was aiding their escape. The Marshal, however, was determined to make an example of Mr. Waterhouse, and Cyrus Fillmore was engaged by him to go to Canada with Mr. Payne, of Lexington, Kentucky, the son of the alleged owner of the men, and try to discover the negroes and ascertain from them evidence against Waterhouse, & c. Here we prefer to let Fillmore's testimony speak of the part he took.

    Second witness, Cyrus Fillmore- I am brother to the ex-President; live in Lagrange county, Indiana' and acquainted with defendant; in August, 1853, was standing on the steps of a public house in Orland, and some colored folks with defendant drove up in a two horse buggy, one of the negroes driving; asked defendant if he was on the underground railroad; he said yes, and that he had three fine fellows, and inquired for Capt. Barry; I told him of Clark, who was also an abolitionist, and he finally drove up there; Thomas Clark came out when they drove up, but can't say I saw them get out; saw them no more after they drove to Clark's; I was within ten feet of the negroes as the wagon turned in the street; this was 20th to 25th August, 1853; one hundred and fifty miles from Orland to Detroit; went to Canada with Payne, and found, as I suppose, one of the same negroes; this was the latter part of June last: the same negro I think, from being a thin light colored negro, and from his having a peculiar nod or wink, which I had noticed before at Orland; he was pretty near all black, about as black as those we call black here; I would not call him copper colored; I might be mistaken in his being the same negro; I understood underground railroad to mean a concern got up to run away fugitives; defendant lives on the road leading from Union Mills to Fort Wayne.

    Cross-examined- Had a conversation with defendant last May; saw the negroes in the wagon only; might have been twenty or thirty feet from them, but did not scrutinize them; noticed the one who was driving the most; Marsh was to pay me; supposed I was to be paid in addition to expenses.

    It appears from the testimony of Mr. Payne that Robinson, the marshal of Indiana, induced him to go to Canada, and take Fillmore with him, and that their expenses would be paid. The two then started for Canada, and Dr. Marsh, the deputy marshal, accompanied them as far as Detroit. Mr. Payne found his slave Tom at Windeer, Canada, sick; they recognized each other; Fillmore was with him. Tom was one of the negroes whom Mr. Gillmore supposed he saw at Orland, in the wagon with Mr. Waterhouse, in August previous.

    Upon this evidence Mr. Waterhouse was again indicted, and was tried in Indianapolis last week. The trial lasted three days, and all the power of the Court was brought to bear against Waterhouse. George W. Julian and E. H. Brackett appeared for the defence and the District Attorney and R. W. Thompson for the prosecution. The report in the Journal says that Mr. Thompson spoke over three hours, most of his speech "being a regular old-fashioned diatribe on the Union." The Court pursued the same line of argument, and was at pains to tell the jury "that the constitution could never have been formed unless it should contain the clause in relation to fugitives." he also informed the jury that a slave when found in Indiana (where the law presumes every man to be free), nevertheless, prima facie a slave, and it lies with the party denying it to controvert that presumption. These are a few of the points made by the court in explaining the law and the evidence to the jury, who were strongly invoked to bring in a verdict of guilty.

    The jury, after being out several hours, returned as a verdict that Mr. Waterhouse pay a line of fifty dollars and be imprisoned in the courtroom one hour, and that the government pay the costs. This is all they would do. We have been informed, though the fact does not appear in the report of the trial in the Journal, that the jury refused to impose the fine of fifty dollars unless the court would first agree to immediately remit it, and that the fine was so remitted.

    Such is the result of the first case tried in Indiana, under the 7th section of this Fugitive law. The case affords much material upon which to seriously ponder. It is, we believe, a new feature in our criminal jurisprudence, for the government to pay the owner of lost property for his time and expense in hunting it up, and also to furnish men at the public expense to aid him in the search.

    How to Cite This Page: "New York Herald, “A Singular Slave Case in Indiana,” December 18, 1854," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,