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Slavery and Anti-slavery in Beaver County: Milestones Special Issue

Milestones Vol 30. No. 2

Slavery in Beaver County

A Pennsylvania law of 1780 had provided for the natural dying out of slavery in the state by declaring free at age twenty-one all children born to slaves there.

The natural outcome of this policy was that by 1803 when Beaver County was formed there were only four slaves in the county. This number grew to eight by 1810 and then down to five in 1820. By 1830 there were none. They all either died or gained their freedom.

James Nicholson, a farmer residing in Big Beaver Township, owned three slaves: Pompey Frazer, Tamar Frazer and Betty Mathers. By a deed dated May 6, 1819, Nicholson and his wife conveyed to the three the farm on which they resided, but not before the death of Nicholson and his wife. Many years later on the death of the Nicholsons, only Pompey and Betty were still alive. Pompey died without heirs, and Betty married a man named Henry Jordan in 1840 with whom she had several sons and daughters.

The land owned by Betty Mathers was sold and the majority of New Galilee was built upon the property. Betty died in 1872.

In 1772, Levi Dungan who lived at the head of King's Creek near the present site of Frankfort Springs, brought two slaves from Philadelphia called Fortune and Lunn. They served Dungan until their death. Lunn was buried under a favorite apple tree which was known as Lunn's Tree for many years.

John Roberts of Hanover Township brought two slaves into the county about 1820. Their names were Henry and Henley Webster. They lived in the Hookstown area.

Anti-Slavery in Beaver County

The antislavery movement with its accompanying underground railroad was very active in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

The 1830s saw the beginnings of the antislavery movement in the county. It grew in intensity throughout the 1840s and 1850s. The most active centers for this movement were New Brighton, with its strongly antislavery Quakers and the Darlington area with its noted abolitionist leader, Arthur Bullus Bradford.

Bausman in his History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania quotes extensively from an address on the movement delivered by the Rev. Paul Weyand of Pittsburgh.

According to Weyand four things of interest to a student of the underground railroad in Beaver County were:
1. The county's geographical position with a natural underground railroad provided by the Ohio River.
2. The active antislavery Quakers of New Brighton.
3. The Free Presbyterian Church movement, which originated here.
4. The work of Arthur Bullus Bradford.

Major Routes Used

Weyand also outlined major routes used by escaped slaves.

One of these followed the west side of the Ohio River to the Beaver River and thence to Canada via Lake Erie or Niagara Falls.

Another led from Washington County to Beaver County and along Raccoon Creek and thence through Black Hawk to Achor in Columbiana County, Ohio, or to Cannelton and on north.

But the route of most importance to this study is that from Wellsville, Ohio, and Wellsburg, Virginia, to the New Brighton Quakers. Here the fugitives were then taken to Buttonwood , the home of Arthur Bullus Bradford between Enon and Darlington, Pennsylvania. From Buttonwood Bradford's son and a hired man transported them to Salem, Ohio, usually making the trip by night. From Salem they were sent by stages to Canada. The slaves knew that they had only to get to New Brighton to find help.

Weyand extolled the Quakers of New Brighton for their honesty, sobriety, and God-fearing legacy to the town.

Despite the enthusiasm and labor of the few to end slavery and to aid runaways, the abolitionist movement grew slowly in the county.