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Regional Fugitive Slave Advertisements


September 19, 1797: August Davis in Richmond is seeking carpenter Dick, who escaped in May

August Davis in Richmond is advertising to recover fugitive slave Dick, who escaped in May.

Thirty Dollars Reward.

ELOPED from the service of the subscriber, on the 19th instant, a negro man by the name of DICK, about twenty-five years of age, and five feet nine or ten inches high; by trade a carpenter, and is a very lively brisk workman. His countenance is very good -- When spoken to, he converses with ease and confidence, and is pretty sagacious. I purchased the said fellow of Mr. Dubney Minor, in whose name he has been advertised in the Richmond newspapers. During his last runaway trip (last summer) he was employed a considerable length of time, by some person near Dumfries, from which circumstances, I conjecture, he has taken another northern route. I forewarn all persons from giving him employment, of any kind whatever, and masters of vessels and others, from carrying him out of this state. The above reward will be given if he is taken within forty miles of this city; and an additional sum, in proportion to the distance he may be brought, or the trouble and expence the apprehender may be at, in bringing him to this place.
N.B. His apparel was of the usual negro kind, but he had more cloaths than is customary for them to possess.
Richmond, June 11, 1797.

Notes: "Aug. Davis" in Richmond is likely Augustine Davis (1752-1825), state printer and for a time Postmaster of Richmond. Davis published the Virginia Independent Chronicle, and the Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser and was a prominent printer and supporter during the revolution and in the early Federal era. A good summary of Davis' career and significance is at

Davis bought Dick from "Dubney Minor," which seems to be Dabney Minor I (1749-1798) of Spottsylvania & Orange counties, Virginia. Minor was a successful carpenter with numerous slaves trained in carpentry as part of his work force. A short biography on Minor notes that when the enslaved Dick ran away from Dabney Minor, he took with him "a band saw, jack and long plane."

It is likely that Davis initially published ads to recover Dick in his own newspapers, but as months passed, he found it necessary, given his belief that Dick had gone north, to advertise in a Pennsylvania newspaper. The Gazette of the United States was published in Philadelphia at this time, and was widely circulated throughout much of the mid-Atlantic. With regard to the escaped man's apparel, Davis notes that it was "of the usual negro kind," indicating course, undyed fabric with little style. Compare this with the sometimes elaborate descriptions of apparel worn or taken by freedom seekers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware, in which enslaved persons were typically dressed in cast-off clothing from the slaveholder family or household members, or other everyday clothing obtained secondhand.

Sources: Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia), 19 September 1797, page 4; "DABNEY MINOR I (1749 - 1799)," Virginia and Francis Minor Memorial Institute,; "Augustine Davis (ca. 1752 or 1753 - 1825)," Encyclopedia Virginia,

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

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The Year of Jubilee, Volume One: Men of God, Volume Two: Men of Muscle



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