New York Times, "A Phase of Slavery," January 13, 1859

Source citation
“A Phase of Slavery—A Kentucky Plante [Planter] Selling his Daughter,” New York Times, January 13, 1859, p. 8: 3.
Original source
Bucyrus (KY) Journal
Newspaper: Publication
New York Times
Newspaper: Headline
A Phase of Slavery—A Kentucky Plante Selling his Daughter
Newspaper: Page(s)
Newspaper: Column
Date Certainty
Meghan Allen, Dickinson College
Transcription date

The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

A Phrase of Slavery—A Kentucky Plante [Planter] Selling his Daughter.
From the Bucyrus (Ky.) Journal.

A moving incident came to our knowledge last week, which we lay before our readers. We suppress names for reasons obvious to every one.

Near Louisville, Ky., lives a planter of wealth and standing. He was the possessor of a hundred negroes, and he was noted for his thrifty, money-making disposition. He had never been married and was an incorrigible bachelor of fifty. His house was managed by a young lady of about twenty, his daughter by a quadroon, whose complexion was light by half than his—and in whom the negro blood was scarcely visible. The mother died ten years ago, leaving her daughter with its father’s solemn promise that she should be educated, and should live as a free woman, rather than as a slave, and that she should pass as his daughter, as she was. The planter gave this promise, because he had been really attached to the dying woman, and was greatly attached to her and his beautiful child. And so she grew up, radiantly beautiful—receiving a reasonable education, all that her father could give her, and in time took the management of his household. She never knew that there was any negro blood in her veins, and never dreamed that she was slave.

Last Fall a series of misfortunes overtook the planter. His house burned down and in it the notes, books and papers that composed a large portion of his fortune. His crops failed to a great degree, and some heavy speculations in which he was engaged resulted disastrously. Added to all this, he had lost heavily at play, the besetting sin of Southern gentlemen, and had completely exhausted all his ready means, and found himself in a terrible situation of having more money to pay than he could possible raise in a given time.

He applied to his attorney for counsel in his extremity. The attorney after examining the situation of his affairs, advised him to sell off a portion of his negroes. The planter objected strenuously, first objecting to the sale of negroes, and secondly that his force was barely sufficient to work his plantation. But after full deliberation, he found this to be the only alternation, and sorrowfully consented. A list was made out, and every head that could be possible spared was put down. After all was done, and the most favorable prices for them, the aggregate fell five thousand dollars short of the sum.

The attorney remarked quietly that he had not included all that could be spared.

“I have put down all I can dispense with,” replied the planter.

“I do not see Mary the housekeeper’s name in the list,” replied the lawyer. “She, if offered to the right person, would make up the deficiency. I would give that for her myself.”

At any other time the planter would have taken the suggestion as an insult, but necessity is a hard master, and he grasped at the idea, and before an hour the transaction was closed. It troubled him not a little to disclose the matter to her, but the fear of bankruptcy and ruin drove him to it. The poor girl’s horror and distress may be imagined. She had known nothing but happiness, and now was to be plunged into the deepest and most hopeless misery. She had been sold, and was then the property, soul and body, of one who purchased her merely for gratification of his beastly lists. The idea was too horrible, and she swooned, remaining almost delirious for several days.

There was another upon whom the intelligence came with crushing weight. A junior partner in a produce house in Louisville had frequently visited the planter’s house on business, and, struck with the beauty and intelligence of the supposed daughter, had become enamored, and after prosecuting his suit a proper time had declared his passion, and unknown to the father the two had betrothed themselves. As soon as possible, after her father had told her her fate, she dispatched a messenger to him, stating the facts, and imploring him to save her from the doom that awaited her. Though thunderstruck at the intelligence that his affianced bride was a slave, and had just been sold to a fate worse than death, like a true man he determined to rescue her. That night he saw her, and a plan was formed for flight.

The day she was transferred to the possession of her purchaser they fled, and in due time arrived at Cincinnati, where they were married. Our hero obtained an interview with one of the agents of the Underground Railroad located in that city, who immediately telegraphed instructions to the different agents along the line to keep strict watch, and if woman-catchers were on the watch, at any point, to telegraph back, and give the fugitives timely notice, that they might leave the train. Accordingly they started, purchasing tickets for Chrestline.

In the meantime the lawyer, as soon as he discovered his loss, had commenced active measures to recover it. He had no difficulty in tracing them to Cincinnati, and none whatever in ascertaining that their destination was Crestline. But having arrived several hours after their departure, he was obliged to content himself with telegraphing to Crestline to the proper officers to arrest them at that place. But unfortunately for his prospects, the intended arrest got wind, and when the train reach Galion, two citizens of that place stepped into the car, and a conversation of a few moments ensued; in the lowest kind of whispers, at the close of which the four left the car. A carriage was in waiting, and in two hours the fair fugitive and her husband were domiciled in the house of one of our whole-souled farmers, near Bucyrus, who has long taken pleasure in helping fugitives on their way to the Canadian Canaan.

When the train on which they embarked reached Crestline, the officials were unutterably chagrined at not finding the fugitives, and more so when they learned that she had been within four miles of them.

After a lapse of two weeks they ventured a move, and went to Detroit by the way of Sandusky city, and without accident reached the Canadian shore. They are now residing in Toronto.

How to Cite This Page: "New York Times, "A Phase of Slavery," January 13, 1859," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,