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Kidnapping of Thomas Hall, 1851


Seeking information on the fate of Thomas Hall and his wife Tamer.  Both were born in MD c1815.  Thomas was kidnapped by slave catchers in 1851 from his home in Sandy Hill, West Caln Township, Chester County, PA.  The slave catchers left paperwork at the scene indicating they were from the Emmittsburg, MD area. 

[email protected]  posted March 6, 2005


Thomas Hall Kidnapped by Slavecatchers

Thomas Hall and his wife Tamer lived in Sandy Hill located in West Caln Township in Chester County, PA. Thomas and Tamer, both African Americans, were born in Maryland about 1815. The Halls lived next to Daniel and Mary Dixon also African Americans and near Phineas Ash and his farm.1 

Thomas and Tamer’s life took an unexpected turn just prior to March 20, 1851 when Thomas was kidnapped from the safety of his home. The following letter to the editor appeared in the American Republican on March 25, 1851:

“A Bold Outrage”
Correspondence of the Republican and Democrat
West Caln, Chester County
Sandy Hill, March 20, 1851

Messrs Editors:
“There has been a case of Kidnapping in our vicinity, which seems too cruel to be untold. The house of a colored man, named Thomas Hall, was broken into on Saturday night last, by three persons who immediately fell to beating Hall and his wife, with clubs, until Hall was beat down and secured. He was then hurried into a wagon, without any clothing except his night clothes, and instantly carried away. The wife fled to the nearest house, a distance of about 100 yards, and aroused its inmates. The cries of the captive were heard by the neighbours, as they passed, but the rapid flight of the wagon prevented persons from seeing what was going on.

Hall’s house is situated within hollowing distance of some dozen of houses, but the business was done so expeditiously that he was out of the neighborhood before the inhabitants were appraised of it. Hall was an honest, civil, sober, colored man, and much respected by his neighbours. His wife was just recovering from a severe spell of sickness.

There were found in the house, the morning after his capture, a six barrelled revolver, fully loaded, a silk handkerchief, and an advertisement describing two negroes who escaped from Maryland in 1849. (Hall has been in our vicinity for 4 years.) Also 3 other advertisements carelessly twisted up, which was notice of a bear beat that took place in Emetsburg, in December last. These articles are supposed to be the contents of one of the Marauder’s pockets, and create a suspicion that some of the party were from Emetsburg, MD.

One of the party seems to have been well acquainted in our vicinity, as he first called upon the colored man, naming him, to get up and go to Phinehas Ash’s (a near neighbor;) that one of the children was sick, and they wanted him. Being interrogated by Hall, as to who he was, he gave the name of a person living at Mr. Ash’s.”2 

The letter was unsigned. It is unknown who wrote the letter. Was it Phineas Ash or could it have been Thomas Bonsall who operated an Underground Railroad Station less than a mile away?

1850 U.S. Census, Chester County, PA, Roll 766 Book 1, Page 261.
2. Newspaper Clipping File, Chester County Historical Society.

Al Brown
West Caln Historic Commission
February 11, 2005

More Accounts

"Near Sandy Hill, Chester County, Penn., in March, 1851, a very worthy and estimable colored man, named Thomas Hall, was forcibly seized, his house being broken into by three armed ruffians, who beat him and his wife with clubs. He was kidnapped." 

Anti-Slavery Tracts. No. 18.  The Fugitive Slave Law and its Victims.
American Anti-Slavery Society, 138 Nassau Street, New York. 1856.

"About a fortnight since, a letter was brought to our office, from a well-known friend, the contents of which were in substance as follows: A case of kidnapping had occurred in the vicinity of West Caln Township, Chester county, at about half past one on Sunday morning, the 16th March. A black man, by the name of Thomas Hall, an honest, sober, and industrious individual, living in the midst of a settlement of farmers, had been stolen by persons who knocked at his door, and told him that his nearest neighbor wanted him to come to his house, one of his children being sick. Hall, not immediately opening his door, it was burst in, and three men rushed into his house; Hall was felled by the bludgeons of the men. His wife received several severe blows, and on making for the door was told, that if she attempted to go out or halloo, she would have her brains blown out. She, however, escaped through a back window, and gave the alarm; but before any person arrived upon the ground, they had fled with their victim. He was taken without any clothing, except his night clothes. A six-barrelled revolver, heavily loaded, was dropped in the scuffle, and left; also a silk handkerchief, and some old advertisement of a bear bait, that was to take place in Emmittsburg, Maryland. In how many cases the persons stolen are legally liable to capture, it is impossible to state. The law, you know, authorizes arrests to be made, with or without process, and nothing is easier under such circumstances than to kidnap persons who are free born."

"Still: The Underground Rail Road." Microsoft® Encarta® Africana Third Edition. © 1998-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.  (Original page 581)


Does anyone know the fate of Thomas Hall and his wife Tamer?  Any information regarding the fate of these persons after the kidnapping incident are requested to contact Al Brown of the West Caln Historic Commission.

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This page was updated March 06, 2005.