“… a Gun was Fired”

black and white countryside
These three men survived the dangerous consequences of Southern anger toward Quaker “abolitionists”: William Tate of Lincoln, Loudoun County is shown on the left, Cyrus Griest of Adams Co. Pennsylvania is in the middle picture. In August 1845 Tate was aged 49, Griest aged 42, and Holmes aged 50. There is, at yet, no known picture of Elijah Holmes, of Lincoln, Loudoun County. Photos of William Tate and Cyrus Griest Courtesy of Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
old virginia civil war map
Portion of 1861 map of northern Virginia counties, including Loudoun, Fauquier and Rappahannock County. The Quakers would have traveled from near Leesburg in Loudoun County, toward Washington, Rappahannock County. Courtesy of Library of Congress

An Alexandria Gazette September 16, 1845 “COMMUNICATIONS” article described a harrowing event involving two Quakers from Lincoln, Loudoun County and one from Adams County, Pennsylvania. On August 20th, the three men, Cyrus Griest (Adams County), William Tate and Elijah Holmes (both of Lincoln, Loudoun County) had traveled over difficult roads to northern Virginia’s Rappahannock County, a distance of 48 miles. The County seat of Rappahannock County is Washington, sometimes known as “Little Washington” to distinguish it from the nation’s capital. The three men were headed to courthouse in Washington, Rappahannock’s county seat. Kitty Payne and her three young children, Eliza, James, and Mary were being held in a jail “for their own safety” there; the Quakers had contacted a local lawyer, Zephaniah Turner, to act on Payne’s behalf and were now headed to meet with him. It is likely they also planned to visit Payne and tell her of their assistance. Flint Hill, a small hamlet mentioned in the article below, is about five and a half miles northeast of the town of Washington.

Kitty Payne and her children had been kidnapped in Pennsylvania and brought into Virginia in late July of 1845. A page on “Nest of Abolitionists” is devoted to Kitty Payne and tells her story in more detail. The Alexander Gazette article from September 16, 1845 adds to the Kitty Payne event. Here is a link to a file of the original newspaper copy. The transcript of that September 16, 1845 article is shown below. It is written by “A Citizen of Loudoun” in a calm and matter of fact way, which only heightens what was, in fact, a violent experience that came close to mob murder.



            Having seen in the Warrenton Flag of ’98 a statement headed “supposed abolitionists arrested,” in which two individuals of this County are mentioned in a manner calculated to injure their reputation, I felt it my duty to ascertain the facts of the case, and if in justice [injustice] had been done, to lay a true representation of them before the public. The following is believed to be a full and fair statement of the whole matter. A letter was received about the 10th of August last, by a private individual here, from Cyrus Grist [sic] of Adams County, Pennsylvania, “stating that a free coloured woman and her three children had been taken by force and carried away in the night by Samuel Maddox, of Rappahannock Co., Va. She had been the property of Mary Maddox, widow of Samuel Maddox, who died in Rappahannock Co., and left his slaves and other property to his widow, who, after executing a deed of manumission in Va. (which is said to be in the Clerk’s Office in Rappahannock Co.) took the slaves to Pennsylvania, and there, after exhibiting her husband’s will, executed another deed of manumission; that she staid about 6 months in Pennsylvania, in order to provide for the manumitted slaves, and then returned to Rappahannock Co., where she has since been married and now lives. The letter also “requested a certified copy of the will and information, if any could be had concerning the woman and children.

           The individual who received the letter, knowing that Elijah Holmes was about to go to Rappahannock County on some private business of his own, called on him, and requested that he would endeavor to procure the information sought for, by his Pennsylvanian correspondent, and if he should find the woman and children were still there, to take legal counsel, what course should be pursued, if, in the opinion of said counsel they were illegally brought to this State from Pennsylvania. Elijah Holmes, one of the individuals named in the article from the Warrenton paper, did go to Rappahannock, and after attending to his own business, called at the Clerk’s office of said County and obtained a certified copy of Samuel Maddox’s will, which he laid before a distinguished Lawyer at the Bar there, who advised him to lay the information before a Justice of the Peace, as it was clearly a case requiring legal investigation. He did so, and the Justice believing that the woman and children were free, took the proper legal steps to have the whole matter fairly tested in a Court of Justice.

Before Elijah Holmes left the County of Rappahannock, he was informed that Samuel Maddox, the individual referred to in the letter from Pa., had proposed leaving his right to hold the woman and children in slavery, to be decided by his Counsel, and if he could not, in the opinion of said Counsel, legally retain them, he would make a surrender of them at once. Elijah Holmes then returned to Loudoun and the very next day after his arrival at home was called on by Cyrus Grist and a neighbor of his from Pa. without having heard a syllable from him on the subject. Upon hearing the information Which Elijah Holmes had obtained and which is stated above, he, Grist, expressed his hope and belief that Maddox would relinquish claim upon the Blacks, and as he was a stranger in county, and his presence in Rappahannock might be necessary to facilitate the investigation then going on, he induced Elijah Holmes to go with him, in order to show him the way and bear him company – The individual who came from Pa with C. Grist having been taken too ill to travel, William Tate was prevailed on to accompany them.

Accordingly they all set off, not anticipating any interruption, until they arrived within three miles of Samuel Maddox’s; there, passing a public house, a gun was fired, and they had reason, from the conduct of persons whom they saw there, to believe that it was in contemplation to molest them. Near dark, thinking they had missed their way, they turned back and observed a man who had been following them, and on perceiving that they had changed their course, he turned also, and in haste got out of sight. They then sought entertainment at a private house and were there informed that there was much excitement in the neighborhood respecting the course the Justice had taken with the woman [Kitty Payne] and children, and receiving such further information as left but little doubt of a disposition on the part of a portion of the people to resort to violence, they decided it most advisable to proceed to the village of Flint Hill, about six miles distant.

Soon after leaving the private house above referred to they perceived several men on horseback, who appeared to be waiting for them, and seeing also a carriage ahead they drove up to it, and inquired of a gentleman in it the way to Flint Hill, who directed them to follow him as he was going thither himself. The horsemen then turned away, but soon returned and rode round the carriage in which Elijah Holmes, and one of his companions were and would again leave them, showing themselves frequently however before they arrived at the village. During the night a crowd assembled around the tavern where they lodged, and next morning E. Holmes called on Dr. Duncan who formerly lived in Loudoun and was informed by him that there was great excitement, and that he had been up till after midnight exerting himself to repress it and that he was still apprehensive for their safety.

After breakfast, the tavern was again surrounded by a crowd of persons, near one hundred, some of whom appeared to be under great excitement. Then two of the persons who assisted Maddox in bringing the woman and children from Pa. appeared to be leaders of the company. Seeing, so far as they were concerned, that there was no just cause for E. Holmes and his companions proposed that they should be examined before a Justice, or Justices of the peace, with a hope that this would satisfy the crowd. The proposition was assented to, on condition that certain Justices, or a certain Justice, should be excluded. The crowd then selected three Justices, who appearing, took them into a private room, ascertained the facts of the case, and acquitted them of any and every charge.

But this did not entirely satisfy the crowd, and they were required to appear before them, that any or every body might question them. This requisition was complied with. They were asked if they were not members of an abolition society? They all replied that they were not. Are you not agents for such a society? No. The inquiry was then made, “has not the Society of Friends, called Quakers, a standing fund for abolition purposes?” They were assured by all three, that if such was the fact neither of them had any knowledge of it. Several more such questions were asked and satisfactory answers given, when they were informed by those who appeared to be leaders of the party that they might return home and stay there. Two of the party now acknowledged that they had attempted to upset their carriage in the river the night before, but were glad they had not succeeded. All three then set off for Loudoun, which they reached without further interruption. This is believed to be a faithful representation of the whole matter which is given to the public without comment.

                                          A CITIZEN OF LOUDOUN  Loudoun County, Sept. 14.

It is not yet possible to know, but from details mentioned in the article, it is likely the author “A CITIZEN OF LOUDOUN” was Yardley Taylor. We know from letters that Cyrus Griest and Yardley Taylor had been in written correspondence about the kidnapping of Payne, and that Yardley was active in getting word out about Kitty Payne’s ordeal, as well as busy raising money to supply her with a “distinguished lawyer at the Bar there.” The lawyer hired, Zephaniah Turner, was a prominent lawyer in the northern Virginia area.

It is frightening to contemplate what the “near one hundred” angry men on August 20-21, 1845 in Flint Hill could have done if they had known a group of Loudoun County Quakers were indeed raising money to pay Kitty Payne’s legal fees for a court case against Samuel Maddox, Jr. But was it a “standing fund”? Apparently not. The Quaker men would not have wanted to lie, even to protect their own safety. Nor would they have considered themselves to be “abolitionists” by the broad definition of that term. But the crowd of men weren’t inclined to debate the fine points of the Quakers’ anti-slavery actions or reputations.

The article mentions that “…two of the persons who assisted Maddox in bringing the woman and children from Pa. appeared to be leaders of the company.” Meghan Bishop’s (now Meghan Bishop Paher) research tells us that the men who helped Maddox with the violent kidnapping in Pennsylvania were Peter Glasscock, John Smith and Charles McGuire, along with Thomas Finnigan. Finnigan left the abduction party in Maryland as it made its way back to Virginia. A census for Rappahannock County in 1850 shows a Peter Glasscock and a John P. Smith in Rappahannock, no Charles McGuire in 1850 (he may have died or moved away, however.) Perhaps Glasscock and Smith, aged 31 and 33 in 1845, were the two kidnappers referred to in the Gaxzette article. More research could uncover further information.

3 comments on ““… a Gun was Fired”

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  3. Pingback: Goose Creek quakers: the audacity of peace and social justice – Nest of Abolitionists

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