I began this project looking to find information on a runaway slave named Perry Johnson. Fragments of his story appear in the diary of William Still’s, “The Underground Railroad/A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c.” written and recorded in 1871 and published in 1872. Still’s, as Chairman of the Acting Vigilent Committee of the Philadelphia branch of the Underground Rail Road, recorded the experiences of those slaves passing through his office. He notes Perry’s owners name as Charles Johnson of Elkton, (Ceil County) Maryland, along with the tragic circumstances leading to Perry’s escape. Sadly, outside of this, Perry’s life remains a mystery, for I was unable to locate any further information for either of these men.
With this said, I became partners with another student searching for a Sam Meads. The initial information we had was that Sam Meads had been “arrested for aiding and abetting an escape of four, to be tried in Baltimore.” Digging through Baltimore Sun Archives, land records for Baltimore County and court documents of Baltimore City we have been able to construct a portion of the environment in which Sam was an active participant. Exact details of his life, outside of the arrest and trial, are yet to be discovered, but now we have a somewhat clearer picture of Samuel Meads the man.
Our original Google search for Sam Meeds, even though this in itself is not a primary document, found the arrest report printed in the Baltimore Sun.
- Newspapers.com, Online home to millions of historical newspapers, 2014. http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/34636080/
This article offered us places to start out research. It provided names of the arresting officers, the judge Sam was brought before, names for the attorney’s, how the four slaves escaped the city and where “just beyond BelAir.” It told us that the trial was postponed to collect more evidence and that his bail was increased from $300 to $1,000. This led us to the Maryland State Archive criminal dockets for Baltimore City and County.
- Baltimore City Jail (City Criminal Docket) 1842-1844, C2057, December 1842, 1104, MSA C2057-6, MdHR#: 6662.
This criminal document for the hearing of “Samuel Meeds, col’d,” 1842-1844, C2057, confirmed information printed in the Baltimore Sun. The arresting Officers name, Keller, appeared along with that of Justice Barnard, and minor specifics stating Samuel was “aiding and enticing 4 slaves to abscond from their masters.” It also reiterated that the trial was postponed until Dec 16/42. Other important information was an alternative spelling of Sam’s last name and that he was described as colored.
- Baltimore Sun Collection, “arrest,” Saturday December 3, 1842, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.
Since we only had a secondary source for Sam Meads arrest, the Baltimore Sun Newspaper collection housed in the UMBC Albin O Kuhn Library, Special Collections provided us with the primary source. Here we were able to locate the original arrest report printed on December 3, 1842.
- Baltimore Sun Collection, “re-examination,” Saturday December 17, 1842, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.
Using the postponement date provided in the City Criminal docket we were able to locate a newspaper report regarding the re-examination of the Sam Mead case. This provided us with more critical information as to how to proceed in our research. Here we found the names of the slave owners: Mr. Uriah Carpenter, Mrs. McSweeny, Mr. W. Whitman and Mr. William Reese. Now we could try to connect these people to particular slaves and possible areas within the city. If we could find evidence they were aquatinted with each other this could open new avenues to question and search.
- Baltimore Sun Collection, “Runaway Advertisements, Mary Turner”, Tuesday December 8, and Wednesday December 9, 1842, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.
Searching through the December issue of the Baltimore Sun newspaper I also located two runaway advertisements for Mary Turner or Mary Smalls posted by Uriah Carpenter. The advertisement provided a description of Mary with signs of possible abuse in the past. It also provided and address for Carpenter in Baltimore “the corner of Sharp and Hill Streets.” Since it was indicated in the lower corner of the advertisement that it should be printed 3 times and I only found two printings, this suggest Mary may have been returned to her owner having only escaped for a short time.
- Baltimore Sun Collection, “Trial,” Monday March 6, 1843, Ledger: Jan, 1843-April 1843, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.
This Newspaper report on the outcome of Sam Meads Trial is a valuable source for it also provides new information for our story. Here Samuel Meads is described as a free mulato. If this is truly the case he may have also owned property in Baltimore, however I have not located any conformation of this within the Land Records for Baltimore County. The article also provides the names of the escaped slaves and the full names of their owners with an alternative spelling for Caroline (McCeny) McSweeny. Here too Mary is referred to as Mary Smallwood, a new alias for her. The article reports that “two of the fugitives… appeared to testify against him,” which indicates that half, if not all, had been apprehended at the time of his trial. Since we now know that the trial verdict was reported to the Baltimore Sun on Saturday, March 4, 1843 we can go back to the Maryland State Archives Criminal dockets and locate these original records. Meads also appears to have been known sufficiently in the community for his acquaintances to provide a strong enough alibi to have him acquitted.
- Maryland State Archives, Archive of Maryland Online, “Matchett’s Baltimore Director for 1842″, volume 0490, p. 20 & 0398
Within this volume (0490) of Matchett’s Baltimore Director we found an advertisement for WHITMAN’S EAGLE HOTEL, West Pratt Street, Opposite Baltimore and Ohio, Philadelphia and Washington Rail Road Depots. Whitfield Whitman is also listed at the proprietor of this hotel. Now we have a connection within the city for the third of four slave owners listed in the trial records.
Maryland Land Records
We used these land records to denote possible connections that may have existed between Uriah Carpenter and William Reese. It appears these two men owned property along the same street within the city. On page 71 of the Baltimore County land records Book: TK 258 records for 1836, Uriah Carpenter is recorded as leasing property at the corner of Sharp St. and Hill St. for 99.9 years. William Reese also appears on page 256 in the land records Book: TK 261 as leasing land at the W. side of Sharp St. and Lee St. which places them within two blocks of each other. Due to their close proximity, Mary Turner/Smalls and Harriet Cooper could have maintained some form of contact. William Reese also shows up in the land records as mortgaging property with what looks to be a brother along the S side of Water & High Streets, possibly a business venture. Unfortunately we were not able to find any information in the Baltimore County land records for Caroline McSweeny (her husband may have died) or Whitfield Whitman.
To access the links below you will need to login to Mdlandrec.net
- Baltimore Land Records Uriah Carpenter, 1836-1838, Book: TK 258, folio 71 – MSA CE 66-308.
- Baltimore Land Records William Reese, 1836-1838, Book: TK 261, folio 256/257, MSA CE 66-311
- Baltimore Land Records William Reese & John L Reese, 1836-1838, Book: TK 270 folio 301/303, MSA CE 66-320
- Mitchell Map of Baltimore, “Plan of Baltimore,” S Augustus Mitchell.
Using a historic map of Baltimore, even though this map is 1864, we are able to locate original street names and locations within the city to coordinate the residence of the owners and link their possible knowledge or acquaintance with each other and their slaves. This might indicate the relationship between Mary Turner, Harriet Cooper, Louisa Augustus and Theodore Augustus and Sam Meads that lead to their escape.
Sources for the Digital Map
- McDougall, Harold A., Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community (Temple University Press, 1993)
- Rockman, Seth, Scrapping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011)
- Johnson, Michael T, Black Lives and White Minds: Race and Perception in Antebellum Baltimore, Dissertation (Stony Brook University, 2002)
- Definition for carter http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/c.html
- Bond equivalent to today http://www.westegg.com/inflation/