Joshua Glover - 1854 Underground Railroad journey



As Told by One of His Conductors, Chauncey C. Olin

Joshua Glover appeared in Racine, Wisconsin, about 1852 after escaping from his St. Louis master. There he obtained work at a sawmill and lived in a nearby cabin. On March 10, 1854, he was seized at his cabin about 4 miles from Racine by his master and a U. S. Marshal and taken to the Milwaukee jail.

After Glover was freed from the Milwaukee jail by a crowd using a battering ram, he was taken by buggy to Prairieville (now known as Waukesha) where he was hidden for a short time. From Waukesha, Chauncey C. Olin took Glover through Rochester to Racine, where Olin left Glover with Rev. M. P. Kinney to await a safe means for traveling to Canada. Because no boat was immediately available (the Great Lakes not yet being opened for the shipping season), Glover was taken from Racine to Spring Prairie, near Burlington, where he stayed for "some weeks" before being returned to Racine and placed aboard a ship that took him to Canada.

The following account, written by Olin, is taken from The Olin Album, 1893, by C. C. Olin (Indianapolis: Baker Randolph Co., 1893). The Glover story appears in that portion of The Olin Album called "Reminiscences of the busy life of C. C. Olin," pages LIII - LX.

While Olin's account ends with his leaving Glover with Rev. Kinney, a letter that Sherman Booth, one of the main "players" in the Glover story, sent to Ida Ela, of Rochester, in 1903, tells what happened after that. Booth's letter appears at the end of this article.

While Chauncey C. Olin's account of the Glover story is presented here because of his direct involvement in the incident, other sources contain similar accounts of the case. For example, chapter 23 of volume I of Racine, Belle City of the Lakes, and Racine County, Wisconsin, A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement (Fanny S. Stone, Supervising Editor, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1916, chapter XXIII, pages 426 - 437) contains an account by Eugene W. Leach, Racine historian.


C. C. Olin's page LIII

Between page LII and page LIII is a leaf containing Joshua Glover's picture  (Joshua Glover image at left was drawn by conductor, Chauncey C. Olin, at right.)

The Memorable Year of 1854.

In 1854 we had another very exciting circumstance that came upon us very suddenly. Really it was of more importance to the anti-slavery cause than that of Caroline Quarrles, the remembrance of which still remains in the minds of the people of Wisconsin. It was the arrest and imprisonment of Joshua Glover, the fugitive slave that had escaped from St. Louis. He was captured by his master in Racine, brought to Milwaukee and thrown into jail without warrant or authority of any kind. Even the United States Marshal for the State of Wisconsin lent himself to the dishonorable act of going personally to Racine and capturing Glover while at work trying to earn an honest living. Yes, and further, the United States Marshal had the sanction of the United States Judge, Miller, who was a Virginian by birth and a strong advocate of slavery. Of course Glover resisted and force had to be used to bring him under subjection, and he was brought to the Milwaukee jail covered with dirt and blood. This was on a Friday, and the United States authorities refused to do anything for the poor, panting fugitive, with all his bruises and bloody clothing still on his back, until the next Monday morning. But there was still some humanity in Milwaukee, and a few resolute men said the law should be vindicated; that Glover must and should have a fair and impartial hearing at once. The sequel shows what was done. Greek met Greek and our side won. The following narrative explains all. How Joshua Glover became a free man and thanked God. But the five or six years of vexatious law suits that followed the release of Glover was a disgrace to our Government and the ruin, financially, of some citizens of Wisconsin.

The Joshua Glover Rescue and its Results.

There are indeed but few events upon record in the history of the United States, between the revolution and the rebellion, that stirred the public mind more deeply, brought into question a more important principle or raised the populace to a more (page LIV) dangerous frenzy than the never-to-be forgotten Glover Rescue, and the war upon S. M. Booth, the main instigator of said rescue.

The name of Sherman M. Booth was one of the most familiar in history. He was one of the original anti-slavery men in the country, and believed that almost any means was justifiable in the work of wiping out the system of human bondage so long existing in the United States. He fought for what he believed and what all the world now acknowledges to be right, and attempted to organize power enough to gain the desired end by helping to found a political party on the principles of right and justice. His enemies, who mobbed Elisha P. Lovejoy, threw his press into the Mississippi river at Alton, Illinois, and then shot him to death and dragged Wm. Lloyd Garrison through the streets of Boston, were as bitter against him and persecuted him as ruthlessly and incessantly. Mr. Booth was induced to come to Wisconsin by the State Liberty Publication Association to take charge of their newspaper, the American Freeman, which had been removed from Waukesha to Milwaukee. He arrived in April, 1847, and from that day until President Lincoln sent forth his Emancipation Proclamation, never was silent for a day on the subject of human slavery. He was a graduate of Yale College, and edited the Christian Freeman, at New Haven, Connecticut, with great success, being helped in the enterprise by the great reformer and lecturer, Ichabod Codding. Mr. Booth always aided the escape of fugitives slaves, but had not been able to stir up the country through its entire length and breadth until the arrest of Joshua Glover, who was an alleged fugitive slave, laboring in a mill in Racine, Wisconsin, in the Spring of 1854.

A slave-owner named Garland, obtained a guide at Racine who directed him to the place where Glover was staying, and he was arrested as a runaway slave from St. Louis. In making the arrest, Glover was frightfully abused and mistreated, although it was declared by eyewitnesses that he made no resistance whatever. He was thrown into a wagon, half conscious and bleeding, and was brought at once to Milwaukee, March 11, 1854. At 9:00 a.m., March 11,1854, (page LV) Mr. Booth received a telegram from the mayor of Racine that a negro named Joshua Glover had been kidnapped near that city by Deputy Marshall Cotton the night previous, and asking him if a warrant had been issued for that purpose. On inquiry Marshall Cotton denied all knowledge of the transaction. But Judge Miller, a pro-slavery United States Judge of the first water, said there had been a warrant issued, and no doubt he would be brought before him for examination. The judge expatiated on the liability of the marshal should the slave escape, and hoped there would be no excitement. Mr. Booth saw the judge and said: We want a fair and open trial for the fugitive slave and that he [be] permitted to have counsel. Mr. Booth soon learned that Glover had arrived in Milwaukee and was in the county jail all bruised and bloody and bore marks of the most inhuman and brutal treatment. He at once obtained a saddle horse and rode up and down the street crying at the top of his voice. Ho, to the rescue! Ho, to the rescue! Ho, to the rescue! Of course the people became excited and inquired what was the trouble that so much noise should be made on the streets, and on explanation of the cause became more excited and immediately repaired to the jail to see for themselves what was going on and to prevent, if possible, the spiriting away of a colored man, Glover, without a legal hearing. In the meantime Mr. Booth had returned to the jail with some five hundred citizens. Writs of habeas corpus were issued on both the marshal and sheriff. About this time a dispatch was received from Racine stating that a large meeting had been held and strong resolutions passed in regard to a United States Marshal coming into their midst and kidnapping a citizen without legal process, or even having an examination before their own authorities. On reception of this news from Racine, the public became more and more excited. There was an impromptu meeting held and Dr. E. B. Wolcott was appointed Chairman and A. E. Biefeld Secretary. Mr. Booth explained to the thousand or more people that a second meeting had been called at Racine in which the people pledged themselves to do their utmost to rescue Glover by habeas corpus and secure a fair and impartial trial by jury. Speeches were made, a vigilance (page LVI) committee was appointed of twenty-five to wait on Sheriff Page and ascertain if he would obey a writ of habeas corpus. After doing this, the meeting was adjourned to meet at the ringing of the bells. At 3:00 p.m. the sheriff made returns that Glover was not in his possession but in the hands of the United States Marshal. A writ was at once served upon United States Marshal Cotton, and a committee, of which C. K. Watkins was chairman, waited on Judge Miller to see if he would obey the writ. The judge pompously informed him that he would not do so; that Glover would remain in jail until 10:00 a.m. on Monday; when he would be brought before him for a hearing.

By 5:00 p.m., a hundred delegates from Racine arrived, headed by the sheriff of the county, with a warrant for the arrest of Garland and United States Marshall Cotton for assault and battery on Glover. They landed at the steamboat wharf and marched to the county jail. The bells were ringing and the people assembled in large numbers. Mr. Booth explained to the Racine delegation what had been done and denounced the Fugitive Slave Act. But he cautioned the people against violence. Mr. Watkins reported that Judge Miller had decided that the writ of habeas corpus should not be obeyed and that no earthly power should take Glover from the jail before Monday. Mr. Watkins said it was an outrage to keep Glover in jail over the Sabbath without medical aid, as he had been badly assaulted, maimed and covered with blood by the cruel treatment of Garland and United States Marshal Cotton; that there were times when the people must take the law into their own hands, but whether the present was such a time the people must judge. He would give no advice on that point. After a conference of the vigilance committee with the Racine delegation it was decided to report at the American House, take tea and consult as to the best course to be pursued. Mr. Booth made his announcement publicly, when the crowd made a rush for the jail. On arriving there, a demand was made for the keys of the jail of the under-sheriff of the jail, S. S. Conover. But the request was denied, whereupon, about twenty strong and resolute men seized a large timber some eight or ten inches square and twenty feet long and went for the jail (page LVII) door; bumb, bumb, bumb, and down came the jail door and out came Glover. About this time, the United States Marshal made his appearance upon the scene, and a rescue was attempted from those who had Glover in their possession, and for about twenty minutes or half an hour the devil was to pay. Glover was well kept in hand by his rescuers from the jail to Wisconsin street, about one thousand people following in the wake. Sometimes it seemed as though the marshal and sheriffs posse would rescue him from the angry populace, but on they went from Wisconsin street to East Water street, and down East Water street to what was then called Walkers Point bridge, while the crowd was constantly increasing. But the victory was for the rescuers. On arriving at the bridge, John A. Messenger, a Democrat, came along and wanted to know what was up What was this large crowd in search of, was his inquiry. After being told, he said, Put that man into my buggy, and no quicker said than done, and away he went with the whole posse of the United States Government in his wake. But he had a fleet and strong horse. He took a westerly course out of the city toward Waukesha, but he meandered on several roads, here and there, so that the slave-hunters on his track gave up the chase and exclaimed, Lost, lost, lost. Mr. Messenger continued his journey until he arrived in Waukesha, as that was considered the surest avenue of escape for all fugitives from slavery. When he arrived at Waukesha, his horse was pretty well used up, as the roads were heavy and he had been pursued for some distance by men on horseback and even by men on foot, so that he had to put his horse at the top of his speed to escape such a hungry and anxious crowd.

John A. Messenger was born at Egremont, Berkshire county, Massachusetts in 1810, and came to Milwaukee in 1836, he had studied for the practice of medicine, but being of active, energetic turn of mind he left the slower ways of professional life and entered into real estate operation.

He purchased on the west side of Kilbourntown and began making improvements, saying that the west side had more high and dry land and more room for development than any other quarter of the city. Mr. Messenger early began the manufacture of bricks, and to contract for building public and private edifices. Mr. Messenger was a generous, warm-hearted, (page LVIII) impulsive man. No one ever applied to him in vain for charity. In politics, he was a staunch Democrat, but his name will be forever green in history in connection with the rescue of Joshua Glover, an alleged escaped slave. He took the escaped slave in his carriage and drove him from Milwaukee to Waukesha, where a band of anti-slavery men relieved him of his charge. In mentioning this drive, and Mr. Messingers death soon after, one of the biographers wrote: When the excitement of the ride was over, and Mr. Messinger had time to think over the events just passed through, into which he had been drawn by his humane impulses, he was nearly overwhelmed with anxiety. He was a Democrat and had violated the Fugitive Slave Act. If discovered, he would be punished. His only hope of escaping punishment for his crime was that in the ride from Milwaukee to Waukesha he had not been recognized except by friends. In order, therefore, to better cover his tracks he drove at once from Waukesha to Racine, at which place he had friends with whom he remained over night. Those friends were alarmed by his strange actions. Mr. Messenger was naturally light hearted and jovial, but that night he was gloomy and silent. He paced the floor all night and refused to eat or drink. On his return to Milwaukee he found the excitement running at its highest pitch. The slave sympathizers were eager to catch any one who had aided Glovers escape, and the slave owner was fierce in his demands for legal and summary redress. However Mr. Messenger escaped punishment, but his death, which occurred soon after, August 7, 1854, was said by his friends to have been hastened by the mental suffering from the part he took in the Glover rescue, or rather resulting from his fear of the consequences.

But he arrived late at night. His knowing W. D. Bacon was an Abolitionist, he went direct to his house, which was where the Spring City Hotel is now located, in the village of Waukesha. It was thought best to keep Glover, whose hair was still covered with blood and his clothing dirty and torn from maltreatment received at Racine, hidden in their village. So Vernon Tichenor, W. D. Holbrook, Charlie Blackwell and others were called in for consultation. Two things were necessary: a safe place and a reliable man. Finally, Vernon Tichenor went across the fields in the mud and darkness to the house of Moses Tichenor, his father, about two miles south of the village, and aroused from bed, Mr. Tichenor at once consented to take charge of Glover. On his return, Vernon Tichenor was (page LIX) chosen to act as guide in conducting Glover to his fathers home. On arriving there, Mr. Tichenor saw several persons in the dim light in his fathers house, and instinctively drew back, thinking that Glover had been followed; but on looking more closely, he saw W. D. Bacon and W. D. Holbrook, who kept silently along to see that the fugitive was not captured. Glover was hidden in Mr. Tichenors barn until C. C. Olin had returned from Milwaukee and made arrangements to carry him back to Racine, where only a few days before he had been captured by United States Marshall Cotton and the slave-owner, Garland, from St. Louis.

There was great rejoicing in Racine when the people found that Glover had escaped from the U.S. Marshal Cotton in Milwaukee, and was taken in a round-about way to Waukesha, by John A. Messenger and thence to Racine in the night time by the way of Rochester, by C. C. Olin. At this time of the year, March, 1854, the roads were very muddy and rough, but Mr. Olin, knowing the country pretty well, went directly to Muskego Center, where he struck the Milwaukee and Janesville plank road, and from there on he found good sailing. He had a fleet team, and about three hours from leaving Waukesha he was before the door of R. E. Ely, at Rochester. Hello, he says, who comes there? A friend, C. C. Olin, from Waukesha, was the reply. So out came Mr. Ely. We knowing him well, he said: Well, what has called you here at this time of night? I said, I have a precious load. I have a colored man by the name of Joshua Glover, who is assuming to be an American citizen and is fleeing from the grasp of promoters and abettors of the fugitive slave law. They had him arrested only a few days since in Racine, taken to Milwaukee, and without the least shadow of law put him in the county jail, and were determined to return him to slavery under the infamous fugitive slave code. But a few determined men, S. M. Booth being the ring-leader, was as determined that this thing should not be done. A posse was raised in the city, the jail door was demolished and the slave taken to Waukesha and is here in my wagon, and by the help of such men as you, sir, I am bound for Racine, (page LX) where those infamous scoundrels found him at work as a peaceable citizen. Now, sir, I want your team, as you see mine look a little jaded, as we have been only a little over three hours coming from Waukesha. Have a team, says Mr. Ely. Yes, and here is five dollars to go with it. Mr. Ely says, Is this not glorious that these slave hunters can be thwarted in their vile attempt to send a human being back into human bondage? Mr. Ely got out a team and hitched them to Mr. Olins wagon.

In the meantime we had taken Glover into the house, as Mr. Ely and wife wanted to see him, and after a hot cup of tea and lunch, we started on the underground railroad, as we had done in Waukesha. We met with no resistance on our way. At about 7 o'clock a.m., we deposited Joshua Glover at the house of the Rev. M. P. Kinney, a Congregational minister there, to be protected by the good people of Racine until some safe means could be provided to send him to Canada. It was a fitting place for him to return to, as only a few days before he was at work as a quiet, industrious citizen, trying to enjoy the rights and privileges of a citizen, when he was pounced upon by a Southern slave-owner and hunter, and aid given by a United States Marshal, which our government ought to be ashamed of, and deprived of his liberty. But the citizens of Racine saw justice done. Glover was sent in a few days to the land of freedom, never more to be a slave or recaptured. On March 15, four days after Glover was recaptured, S. M. Booth was publicly burned in effigy by those who favored the slavery party. The house of W. D. Bacon, at Waukesha, referred to as the one in which the fugitive passed the first night after escaping from the Milwaukee jail, and in which he received food and medical aid, now forms a portion of the famous Spring City Hotel. In 1873 Judge Miller, who did everything in his power to deliver Glover over to his master and secure the punishment of Booth and Rycraft, visited this room in the Spring City Hotel, in company with Salmon P. Chase. He then admitted that twenty years had modified his opinion of slave-holding and slave-hunting, and that mere loyalty to party was often stronger than their love for the right.

Olin then goes on to describe the legal aftermath of the Glover case, which included the arrest and conviction of Sherman Booth for violating the Fugitive Slave Act, and Booth's confinement to a Federal prison more or less continuously until pardoned by President James Buchanan, two days before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President in March 1861.

The following are excerpts from typewritten notes obtained from the Rochester Public Library.

The following text was copied from a notebook taken from the old Ela home in the village.

Enclosed in a letter from Mr. Sherman Booth to I. L. Ela, Nov. 8, 1903...

"A ride on the underground R.R. from Waukesha to Racine, of Joshua Glover, a fugitive slave, [from C.C. Olin's History of the John Olin Family, pages 59 & 60, of his Reminiscences of a Busy Life."
                                                                            - - - -

        Added to the above by Mr. Sherman Booth:

        Glover was sent from Racine to Spring Prairie, Walworth Co.- and was harbored by Dr. J. C. Mills, a state senator, and Samuel Pratt, an assemblyman from Walworth, and after some weeks was put on board an east bound propellor and put off on the Canadian side.

Joshua Glover died June 3 or 4, 1888, at the York County Industrial Home / County House in Newmarket, Ontario.

For More Information contact:

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