Slave Information in Newspapers
Early American newspapers are full of announcements from masters about their slaves or servants. Notices offered slaves for sale or hire, listed runaways, reported captures, and sought the return of runaways, indentured servants, and apprentices. Physical descriptions and descriptions of clothing are usually very detailed.
Newspapers are important sources for tracing blacks before the Civil War. Announcements of sales, with complete physical descriptions, can be combined with probate files, slave census schedules, cemetery inscriptions, church records, and other resources to provide as complete a record as possible for a slave or a free black family. For blacks involved in rebellions or accused of local crimes, the news accounts can be combined with court and coroner’s records to round out information.
The plea of Samuel Shilling, published in the Ohio Repository (Canton, Ohio) 22 March 1827 offered three cents and a thimble reward, stating,
- Ran away from the subscriber, living in Lawrence township, on Saturday night the 10th of March inst. an indented apprentice to the Tailoring Business, named Frederic Shopley, a ruff-tuff bull of a Dutchman, 20 years old; about 5 feet 5 inches high; fair hair and complexion—Had on light clothes and mixed stockings. The public are cautioned against harboring him—Any person taking up and returning him shall have the above reward but no charges.
- Samuel Shilling
- March 17, 1827