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Regional Fugitive Slave Advertisements


October 21, 1796: Teenaged Bob Escaped from Temple Smith While in York, Pennsylvania

1796 advertisement to recover enslaved teenager Bob who escaped from Temple Smith while in York, Pennsylvania.

Twenty-five Dollars REWARD.

RAN away from the subscriber, in the borough of York, on the 18th inst. --
a Negro Lad, named BOB, about 16 years of age, 5 feet 5 or 6 inches high; had on a striped nankeen coat, an old drab-coloured great coat, the one side of which is torn, and a pair of shoes, with the soles full of nails. Whosoever takes up the said Negro, and delivers him to York jail, shall have Ten Dollars reward, if taken within 10 miles, and Twenty-five Dollars, if taken at any further distance.
in Loudon county, Virginia
near to Frying-pan Spring.
Oct. 21, 1796

Notes: Few details are available about Temple Smith of Loudon County, Virginia. He appears in numerous Virginia court documents as a land owner and is named by the local courts as one of the persons responsible for inspecting the condition of and reporting back on local roads. In October 1796 he was apparently in or travelling through York, Pennsylvania when his enslaved boy Bob made an escape. Smith ran the above advertisement in a Lancaster County newspaper, perhaps expecting that Bob would make his way east. The ad in the Lancaster Intelligencer appears only twice, appearing again in the November 4, 1796 issue, possibly indicating that the escaped Bob had been promptly recovered.

This ad illustrates a much-complained-of problem faced by southern slaveholders who thraveled with enslaved persons through Pennsylvania. Whether Bob was influenced to make his escape by local free Blacks, or acted entirely of his own volition is not known. He certainly would have encountered other Blacks, both free and enslaved while in York. The federal census of 1790 enumerated 837 free Blacks and 499 enslaved Blacks in York County, which then included present day Adams County. Local free Blacks as well as regional Quaker abolitionists had already begun actively aiding freedom seekers at this time.

Sources: Lancaster Intelligencer and Journal, 28 October 1796; this ad ran through November 4, 1796.

Covering the history of African Americans in central Pennsylvania from the colonial era through the Civil War.

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