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The Year of Jubilee (1863)

Southern Freedom Seekers, 1787 - 1843

A Sampling of Advertisements

Two African American men in tattered clothing and carrying packs emerge from a covered bridge in 1848.

Advertisements for runaway slaves continued to appear in central Pennsylvania newspapers until the start of the Civil War.  Unlike the advertisements from decades earlier, which were placed by local slaveholders, these advertisements were usually seeking the return of freedom seekers from Virginia and Maryland.  Southern slaveholders often placed ads in newspapers from several central Pennsylvania counties, generally those closest to the Maryland border, or those in which the slaveholder thought the fugitives would seek shelter and aid.

Advertisement for two Maryland slaves, 24 September, 1787, Carlisle Gazette (Carlisle, Pennsylvania).

RAN-AWAY on the 17th of April last, from the subscriber living in Charles county, in the state of Maryland, two Negro Slaves, one a man, about thirty five years old, he is tall slender made fellow, with a remarkable small head and very black, speaks very broken English, his name is Walle, but I am apt to think he will change it, as he is a very artful fellow, and will endeavour to pass as a freeman, he has had a hurt on one of his hands which prevents him from straightening his fingers. The other is a woman, a low squat wench, about forty years old, she is very black, and makes use of a great deal of tobacco, both of chewing and smoking. I have reason to believe that they have got to the state of Pennsylvania, they took with them two horses, one light sorrel, about 14 hands high, nine years old, he had two white feet, a star in his forehead, very flat feet and branded thus W. The other a dark bay, not branded, but has a small nick in one of its ears near the end, about 14 hands high, six years old last spring.--------Whoever takes up the said Negroes, and secures them in any jail, so that their master may get them again, shall receive the above reward, or three guineas for either of them, and two dollars for each horse, paid by me
September 24, 1787

Advertisement for Baker, January 23, 1813, The Oracle of Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

Fifty Dollars reward.
RAN away from the subscriber, in April last, a bright MULATTO MAN, named BAKER,
Formerly the property of Charles Lewis, of Rockingham county, Va. he is about thirty years of age; about six feet high, thin visage; walks quick; he is a straight and handsome built fellow, speaks quick; I believe he has a considerable scar on one of his shins, perhaps has a pass, which is not good without the county seal; not a doubt but he will change his name.  He had on when he left the premises, a wool hat, striped blue and white linsey overalls; he also had a quantity of very good clothing, viz. three great coats, one light blue, one drab made for a low person, one brown rough wool, a superfine black cloth close body coat, covered buttons; two pair of pantaloons of the best kind of dove colored corderoy, a scarlet jacket; two or three white dimity jackets; a bottle green cloth coat and pantaloons; a pair of very good boots, and a number of other clothing that I do not recollect.  BAKER was raised, I believe, in King George county, Va.  The above reward will be given to any person that will deliver him to me and all reasonable charges paid, or confine him in jail so that I can get him again.
Augusta county, Va. Jan-13, 1813.
N.B.  all masters of vessels and others are forbid employing, or harboring said runaway, on their peril.

Advertisement for Luke Johnson, 13 September, 1826.Advertisement for Luke Johnson, 13 September, 1826, Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania).

Text of ad:  "$50 REWARD.  RAN AWAY from the subscriber, living within four miles of Liberty Town, Frederick county, Maryland, on Sunday the 27th of August, Negro LUKE, who calls himself Luke Johnson.  He is 26 or 27 years of age, of a yellowish complexion, coarse features, and rather sour countenance; he is about 5 feet 11 inches high, very stout & strong made; he is a shrewd, sharp, sensible fellow, and is a good hand on a farm, when sober, but is fond of liquor, and will get drunk when he can get it;  he has a small scar on one side of his neck, just under the jaw, occasioned by fighting about a year since;  was ruptured when a child, and still is so, but it never has injured him from work.  He took with him a fur hat, somewhat worn, one fine blue coat, and one coarse coat, of homemade cloth, of a drab or lead colour, one fine linen shirt, one coarse shirt, and trowsers made of cotton and tow, and some other clothes not recollected, but no doubt will change his name & clothes.

"Whoever takes up said Negro, and secures him in jail, or gives me information which will enable me to secure him, shall have the above reward, and all reasonable charges if lodged in Frederick jail.

"John Clemson.  Sept. 12.

"The Editors of the Harrisburg Intelligencer, York Recorder, and Lancaster Journal, will please insert the above 3 times, and charge this office."

Advertisement for Tom Collins of Virginia, 1843.  Reproduced in Old Mercersburg, by the Woman's Club of Mercersburg (1912), page 205.

40 DOLLARS REWARD.  Runaway from the subscriber on Saturday evening, the 12th inst., a negro man commonly called Tom Collins, aged about 43 years, 5 feet, 11 inches high, of slim make, pretty black, forehead runs far back, hair short and nappy, and his feet large and projecting outward.  Said negro is supposed to be in company with two other runaways, lurking in the neighborhood of Mercersburg, Pa.  Whoever takes and delivers him to me or lodge in the nearest jail, so that I can get him again, shall receive the above reward.
HENRY M. NICHOLS. Beddington, Berkeley Co., Va.

Advertisement for Henry of Virginia, 1825.  Transcribed by Susan Salus from the December 13, 1825 edition of the Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, DC (Originally published on RootsWeb at

$100 Reward. Left my farm on Saturday night, 15th instant, in company with three others who have been recovered, Negro HENRY, a bright mulatto, about 18 years of age, of very brisk motion, and sprightly countenance, and apt to stammer or stutter a little if confused. His clothing consists of a few fur hat, a gray frock coat, a pair of brown pantaloons, both domestic cloth twilled, a pair of cassimere pantaloons, and a white cotton shirt with a linen bosom and collar. HENRY has brown wavy hair, showing completely the white man and Negro mixture. His companions were taken near Greencastle, Pennsylvania. The above reward, and all reasonable expenses, will be given for apprehending and delivering to me the above Negro. By WILLIAM C. FITZHUGH, Upperville, Loudoun County, Va, Oct. 17, 1825.

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