1829 Fugitive Slave Broadside from Greenbrier County, WV

Here’s another interesting item I found in the Cowan’s auction records, which pertains to local history here in the Greenbrier Valley: a fugitive slave “broadside,” dated 1829 seeking the return of an escaped slave, and giving a detailed description of the individual. Here’s the information from Cowan’s:

Fugitive Slave Broadside, Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia, 1829
9.5 x 11 in., dated at Stephen’s Ferry, Greenbrier Co., Va., October 20, 1829, printed at Lewisburg, Va., with bold heading RANAWAY, and a description of the slave, Daniel, who escaped three days prior, and the promise of a liberal reward for his capture. Signed in print, Robert Stephen. Daniel is described as six feet tall, upwards of 35 years old, with thick lips, remarkably broad feet, and a remarkably soft and effeminate voice. He formerly worked in the Kanawha Salines, so his master writes that “it is quite probable he is lurking in that neighborhood, or on his way to Ohio.”

Estimate: $800 – $1,200
Price Realized Including Buyer’s Premium

I find the description of Daniel to be quite unusual. He describes his toes, his manner of speech, as well as a “whiteness” in his eyes, if one looks closely. It also mentions that he previously worked in the “Kanawha Salines,” which I suppose is the salt works along the Kanawha River, towards Charleston, West Virginia.

James Madison University in Virginia has a collection of the papers of Robert Stephen, dating from 1815-1849, who is the slave owner who produced the broadside. According to the description from JMU’s library:

Robert Stephen (alternately appearing as Steven, Stevens, and Stephens) was born in Augusta County, Virginia on September 22, 1767. Stephen married Mary Craig (1767-1838), who was also born in Augusta County, on November 14, 1788 in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Stephen was a land owner, enslaver, and proprietor of Stephen’s Ferry at Fort Spring along the Greenbrier River. Stephen died February 24, 1851 and is buried at McVey-Stephen Cemetery in Greenbrier County.

The Robert Stephen Papers, 1815-1849, primarily document the taxes paid by Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia) resident, Robert Stephen. The collection is comprised of 13 documents. The tax receipts document the taxes Stephen paid to the sheriff of Greenbrier County and include parish levies and taxes paid for enslaved persons, cattle, and land. A tax receipt for E. R. Skeggs of Greenbrier County is also included.

I believe I located the actual location of Stephen’s Ferry, where presumably Stephens lived, which is Fort Spring, West Virginia. There’s remnants of an old, old bridge which still exists. I would speculate that it’s directly on the site of the old ford. The water is pretty shallow there.

This is roughly the spot – just slightly downriver by a couple hundred yards:

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