Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 18: Slave Owner Sues for Property

On this date in History ... June 18, 1825: 

Samuel Todd of Kentucky sued William Bulla and Bulla's father-in-law, Andrew Hoover,  both from Wayne County, Indiana, for $500.00 each for loss of property. Todd accused the men of helping his slave Peter escape. 

Peter fled Kentucky in August of 1821 and came to Indiana. He was found in 1825 just north of Richmond, a town on the Indiana/Ohio state line, and had changed his name to George Stellow. While the slave hunter went to the Justice of the Peace, asking him to approve Peter’s removal back to Kentucky, a group of people broke Peter out of jail with “bodily force and violence”.  

With Peter was gone, Todd had no other recourse and he sued Bulla and Hoover, who he believed to be responsible for the loss of property. The judge ordered both men to pay the plaintiff to recover his own debt and costs, a total of $1,500.00.  The lawsuit was handled in federal court because of "Diversity of Citizenship", that is when a person from one state sued a person in another state, the issues was moved to a federal court so that one's own state wouldn't have a biased ruling.

While the information does not specify exactly where "north of Richmond" might be, we might speculate that it could be a tiny town of Newport (today named "Fountain City"), Indiana.  In 1826, Levi Coffin and his wife Catherine moved to Newport and built their home and business.  Coffin would eventually become known as the Grand Master Conductor of the Underground Railroad.  For Peter to live a number of years in this Quaker, abolitionist area is not surprising.

However, William Hoover is reported to have lived near the "middle fork" of the Whitewater RIver less than two miles north of Richmond.  Today, Richmond's water is supplied by the Middlefork Reservoir.

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