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Washington Navy Yard
Reward Notices for Runaway Apprentices and Runaway Slaves

Furnished by : John Sharp ©

Runaway Apprentice Reward Notices

In the early United States the formal apprenticing of children was the method used for nearly two hundred years to train the young for useful occupations. The apprenticeship system of the District of Columbia, provided for formal indentures or contracts, in which young people were legally bound to labor for a set number of years in given trade or occupation, and in return for their service they would receive trade or occupation instruction and tutelage from their master. While most apprentices entered into their apprenticeship voluntarily with the consent of their parents some other young people (orphans and poor children) were placed unwillingly while other from dislike of their chosen trade or more often disagreements with their master ran away. Perhaps the most famous of these was Benjamin Franklin who broke his indentures by running away from his brother James in 1723 for New York City. Since the apprenticeship was legal contract the law gave the master the right to take action to recover errant apprentice and if necessary take the apprentice by force. The Washington Navy Yard was for nearly two centuries the District of Columbia's largest employer and had has many as 50 apprentices working at the Navy Yard prior to 1814.

The following letter gives some idea of how Department of the Navy regulated apprentice labor.



Circular   Nav. Comm: off: 1st May 1817


    When Master Workmen shall be attached to the Navy Yard under your command,  they are
to be allowed under restrictions, the number of apprentices as follows.

Master Carpenter............ Three

Cooper............ Two

Mast Maker............ Two

Sail Maker..........Two

Boat Builder............ Two

Blockmaker............ Two

				Apprentices are not allowed to be taken into the yard 
unless they shall, be bound for seven years, and shall have attained the age of fourteen -   For 
the first two years of their apprenticeship, they shall be allowed one fourth the pay allowed to a 
mechanic of the trade at which they are serving , for the third & fourth  years, one half , 
for the fifth & sixth two thirds, and for the Seventh three fourths the pay allowed to a mechanic of 
the trade at which they are serving. {Manuscript is heavily damaged for the following 
sentence]Their progress shall be allowed to the judgment of the master mechanic.

	The Number of apprentices are not allowed, unless the master workmen shall be 
permanently attached to the yard by the authority of the Department. 


Capt 	Macdonough	}			J. Rodgers
	Hull		}					Pres NBoard
	Evans		}
Comm	Murray		}
	Tingey		}


Runaway Apprentice Reward Notices

The following three reward notices document the efforts of young apprentices to escape their labor and their masters to reclaim them.


All Runaway Apprentice Reward Notices are from the Washington DC Newspapers listed below.

The Board of Naval Commissioners 1 May 1817 letter quoted above is from the National Archives and Records Administration RG 45

Benjamin Franklin Essays, Articles, Bagnatelles, and Letters Poor Richard's Almanac Autobiography Library of America edited by J.A. Leo Lemay 1987

Provine Dorothy S. District of Columbia Indentures of Apprenticeship 1801 -1893, Willow Bend Books Inc Louisville VA 1998

Sharp, John G. History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799-1962.
Stockton, CA: Vindolanda Press, 2005.
[This volume has full bibliography for most of the works cited in the preface.
[Available online at Navy Yard_History.pdf.



Reward - $ 5 . for Strayed Cow
Daily National Intelligencer
Wednesday, May 15, 1805

William Wearey, Master of the Boat Builders Department
Navy Yard Washington

Reward - $ 5 . for Runaway
Daily National Intelligencer
Wednesday, December 7, 1805

John Melco apprentice lad about 16 years of age
Daniel Mc Dougal
Navy Yard

Daily National Intelligencer
May 14, 1814

Ranaway from the subscriber, living at the Navy yard, Washington, an indented apprentice to the Painting business, named JESSE CROSS, he is about 18 years old, fair complexion, has on his right hand apparently a double thumb. It is said he enlisted in Baltimore under Captain Martin. He left this place on the 19th of this month. This is to forewarn all persons from harboring or employing him, or crediting him on my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of his contracting. I will pay nothing for the delivering him to me, as I have always treated him well, and his ingratitude has dissolved all obligations on my part.

May 2 -

Patrick Kain, Master Painter at the Washington Navy Yard is listed on the1811 WNY Paroll as was Painter Apprentice Jesse Cross. Patrick Kain as a Master Painter was paid $2.50 per day and Jesse Cross 65 cents per day apprentice wages.
see: Washington Navy Yard 1811 Payroll

Five Dollars Reward [Runaway Apprentice]
Daily National Intelligencer
May 29, 1816

Ran away from the subscriber a House Carpenter and Joiner, an Indentured Apprentice named William Green five feet six or seven inches this swarthy carpenter answers back when spoken to being fond of the company and of traffic particularly of Negroes together with every bad principal. He is a complete hand at drinking whiskey. He has been I am told employed by George Lake to go by water and by Robert Brown a house carpenter both of Navy Hill. The above boy has been seen lurking about the shops at Navy Yard where he has a father and I have reason to believe makes his home.
John Mulloy
Capital Hill

Note: William Green was indentured in John Mulloy March of 1815 and ran away from his 
master and his apprenticeship one year later. 
"Apprenticeship Number 574 (Volume II, 109) 
William Green to John Mulloy 				Recorded 18 April 1815
William Green, with the consent of his father, Simon Green, binds himself to John 
Mulloy for a term of 4 years 2 months 23 days, to learn the trade of house carpenter and 
joiner (Dated 30 March 1815; Simon X Green; John Mulloy)."
District of Columbia Indentures of Apprenticeship 1801 -1893, Dorothy Provine 1998 p. 72

Six Cents Reward [Runaway Apprentice]
Daily National Intelligencer
June 3, 1820

Ran away from the subscriber the 16th inst an apprentice to the Blacksmith Business Thomas Quade between 18 and 19 years of age
Seth Robinson
Living near Navy Yard

Reward [Runaway Apprentice]
Daily National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser
March 30, 1810

From the subscriber on the 20th inst an apprentice by the name of William Addrey about 20 years of age any person return said to the subscriber shall receive a reward of six cents from Benjamin King
Navy Yard Washington

Note: We know by October 1812, William (Addrey) Ardrey, was back at the Washington 
Navy Yard blacksmith shop working once again for Master Blacksmith Benjamin King. 
In October 1812 he and nine other WNY blacksmiths signed a petition to the Secretary of 
the Navy, Paul Hamilton, complaining of the "insolence of negros employed in the Navy 
Yard" they also requested higher wages and the right to get periodic "refreshment" (liquor).  
Source: Dudley, William S., et al. eds. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History."
 Vol. 1. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985. Page 524 ALS, DNA, 
RG45, CL, 1812, Vol.3, No. 102 and petition.



Some Examples of Runaway Slave Notices from the District of Columbia Newspapers

Slaves resisted in a variety of different ways some by passive resistance that is working slowly or just enough to get bye while others used every opportunity to break for freedom. From the reward notices of the first three decades of the nineteenth century published in the National Intelligencer and other DC area newspapers of the antebellum era we can get a real sense of just how active resistance to enslavement was. Many daily newspapers had multiple notices and rewards for runaways. Some escaped slaves like Tilhman Beall were young, strong and had the education to possibly forge their own travel papers or freedom certificates. Some enslaved individuals like 'Jim" and "David" were "old runaways" who had been caught in previous attempts for freedom but had never given up their dream to live free. Some were women like "Anna" who may have been in advanced pregnancy but was still ready to take her chances, and to risk the danger of slave catchers and life on the road, rather then be enslaved. All those running or escaping were putting themselves and their own families at great risk since runaways and their accomplices were often sold to that most notorious firm of slave traders, Franklin & Armfield (see below) for sale and shipment to the Deep South.

Most enslaved people like Tilhman Beall, Jim and David and Anna and Nate left no account of their attempts to escape but fortunately Frederick Douglas who made his own daring brake from slavery to freedom later described what he felt as he set out on that long path North in 1836.

I felt assured that, if I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one - it would seal my fate as slave forever. I could not hope to get off with anything less then the severest punishment, and being placed beyond the means of escape. It required no very vivid imagination to depict the frightful scenes through which I would have to pass in case I failed. The wretchedness of slavery, and the blessedness of freedom, were perpetually before me. It was life and death with me.
Frederick Douglas

For more about runaway slaves see John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger's Runaway Slaves Rebels on the Plantation, Oxford University Press New York 1999. Franklin and Schweninger, have examined thousand escaped slave accounts and notices and compiled much of their information on who it was that ran away, what the methods of escape and evasion were and what the odds of success for escaped slaves really were like see particularly chapter 9. Generally runaway slaves who were younger and stronger and those who were able to read or write had the greatest chance of success. Another important factor was family, friends and those with connections in the District of Columbia and Baltimore MD would fare better since the large free black populations might be able to provide assistance or help them to get them further north.

This transcription was made from copies of the original in the Library of Congress newspaper collection. The spelling, punctuation and the use of ampersands are those of the original documents. The racial designations such as "Mullato" or "Yellow" are those of the original reward notices


Daily National Intelligencer 
October 10, 1810

	50 Dollars Reward 
RAN AWAY from the subscriber, a negro
lad named TILHMAN BEALL about 17 
years old; he is a bright mulatto, tall and spare,
has no marks by which he may be known; 
took with him  a pair of brown stuff pantaloons, 
and a brown coat - he also has other clothes that 
cannot be described.  He is a smart sensible lad,
and as he can write and read, it probable that
he will have a pass and endeavor to make it
believed that he is free.  He left the city of
Washington on Friday last to go to the camp
meeting in the neighborhood, and disappeared 
from the meeting on Sunday evening, and it is 
supposed made towards Baltimore, and will no 
doubt, endeavor to get into Pennsylvania - 
he has no cause to leave his employer.  
Whoever takes up the said lad and lodges him
in jail, so that get him again shall be entitled to 
a reward of 20 dollars, if taken in the District of 
Columbia or neighborhood, or the above reward 
if taken in Baltimore or out the state of Maryland, 
on application to James Belt Merchant, Fells Point
Baltimore or to the subscriber in Georgetown. 


Rachael Pratt was a wealthy Maryland landowner who owned numerous slaves.
Pratt also owned Alethia Browning Tanner other members of the Browning family.
See Alethia Tanner's manumission
See too Rachael Pratt's notice in the National Intelligencer of June 19, 1809 for "Jim" Bell a young a runaway .and son of George and Sophia Bell.
For more on the Bell family see Biography of George Bell

Tilhman Beall, may be related to the Bell family who were also owned by Rachael Pratt see above for George Bell

- - - - - - -

United States Telegraph 
July 24, 1829


We wish to purchase One Hundred likely negroes of both sexes, from 12 to 23 years of 
age, field hands - and mechanics of every description. Persons wishing to sell, will to 
well to give us a call, as we are determined to give the highest prices for slaves then any 
purchaser who is now or may hereafter in this market. Any communication in writing 
will be promptly attended to. We can at all times be found at our residence west end of 
Duke Street, Alexandria D.C 

FRANKLIN & ARMFIELD By the mid 1830's Isaac Franklin and his business partner, John Armfield had become the most active and notorious slave traders in the United States. Franklin and Armfield were among the first professional slave traders to take advantage of the relatively low prices for slaves in the Virginia-Maryland area, and the profit potential offered by the growing market for slaves in the Deep South.
John Armfield managed the firm of Franklin and Armfeild 's slave pen which was located at 1315 Duke Street Alexandria, Virginia. While his partner Nicholas Franklin established and ran the firm's markets at Natchez and New Orleans. By the 1830s, these two men were sending more than 1,000 slaves annually from Alexandria to their Natchez and New Orleans markets to help meet the demand for field slaves in Mississippi and surrounding states. Slaves were usally sent overland on a long march; male slaves with male slaves usually manacled and chained together in double files, and were under the close supervision of mounted and armed drivers. Women would have walked also with their children and injured slaves and the very young might be allowed to ride in the wagons that accompanied the coffle. The white males guarding the coffles were normally armed with both guns and whips. In the period between 1825 and 1830, the average price for young adult male slaves in Virginia was $400. In contrast, Isaac Franklin sold four slaves (sex unspecified) at the Forks of the Road in 1826-27 for $700, $600, $500, and $450.

  In the 1850's the firm of Franklin & Armfeild sold their slave buiness to Price and Birch but their slave jail remained in use till the end of the war.

And today their old building can still be visited. Michael Shiner also mentioned this Jail in his Diary entires for 1833 as the place where his family was held.


The real horror of what Franklin & Armfield were doing to African Americans is graphically recounted in Michael Shiner's diary entry for 5 June 1833. On that day Shiner's whole world was savagely disrupted. His wife Phillis and the couple's three young children who were owned by a different master, the Phumphry family were sold and Phillis and her three children were placed in Franklin and Armfeilds slave pen at Alexandria. Michael Shiner's family had been given no notice but was suddenly and forcibly taken as they walked down a public street in the District of Columbia by Franklin & Armfield slave catchers. John Armfield used part of his profits on human misery to become one of the largest donors to the new University of the South with his gift of $ 25,000. and pledging 25,000 per annum see Steven Dyle's superb Carry Me Back The Domestic Slave Trade In American Life Oxford University Press New York 2005 pp 206-207

Michael Shiner's Diary entries for June 1833 (the spelling, punctuation etc is that of the original) is his account of what happen:
the 5 day of June 1833 on wensday my Wife and Childdren philis Shiner [Phillis Shiner] wher sold to couple of gentelman Mr Franklin and mr John armfield and wher caried down to alexandria on the Six day of June 1833 on Thursday the 7 day of June 1833 on friday i went to alexandria 3 times in one day over the long Bridge and i wher in great distress But never the less with the assistance of god i got My Wife and Childdren Clear

i am under ten thousand oblagation to the Hon major genral Ham lin for his kindness to me and my Wife and Children on the 7 day of June 1833 on friday the General laid a Detachment on my Wife and 3 childdren at mr armfield Jail and takein them from ther and put them in the county Jail of alexandria to wait action of the court and my wife and childdren Reemained in the county Jail in alexandria from the 7 of June 1833 until the eleven of June 1833 on Tusday and the Same day Mr levy pumphrey exacuted papers and Manermited them free The papers wher exacuted at the City Hall in washington she [Phillis Shiner ] came up from alexandria on the 12 day of June 1833 on wensday and i am allso under oblagations to Mr Steil and Mrs Steil for ther kindness to my Wife and Childdren while they wher in the Jail and may the allmighty Bless them they gave me such a race at that time that all the people that wher acquainted with the affair in alexandria wher sorry for me and appeard to be wiling to Relieve me of my disstress

- - - - - - -

Daily National Intelligencer 
April 30, 1817

				  20 Dollars Reward 
          RANAWAY from the subscriber,  on Sunday afternoon, the 13th ist a negro 
woman named ANNA, about 22 or 3 years old,  5 feet 6 or 7 inches high , light 
complexion , speaks quick and confusedly when questiioned closely - stout made, 
fat,  appears to be advanced in pregnancy, and is remarkably lazy.  Had on when 
she went away a cross-barred home-spun frock, cross-barred handkerchief on her 
head and a white one on her neck- besides which she conveyed some weeks ago a 
variety of clothing, among them a black silk and one or two white cambric frocks.  
Her wool, which is very long and plaited, she generally wears nicely combed.  
She was purchased about nineteen months ago, from Joseph N. Stonestreet near 
Piacataqua Md., a few miles below which she has a grandmother who is free. It is 
supposed that she is accompanied by a yellow man who calls himself Nat. 
Cummins, who formerly lived with Captain Haraden, in the Navy yard and with a 
few weeks with Capt. James Cassin in Georgetown. He is about 5 feet 10 or 11 
inches high, slender male; had on when seen last the habit of a sailor.  Whoever 
will take up and secure said women so that I get her again, shall receive a reward 
of ten dollars if in the District, or if taken out of the District the above reward of 
twenty dollars will be given, and all reasonable expenses if brought home. 
     	April 15 - 				JOHN D. BARCLAY        

- - - - - - -

National Intelligencer 
	June 16, 1809

	For Apprehending the following NEGRO MEN, the property of the subscriber, 
residing at Washington city, and who runaway on the night of the 14th inst.
	DAVID is of dark color, about 25 years of age, and has lost a joint off one finger 
of his right hand.  
	The other by the name of JIM, about 35 years of age, also stout made, has been 
sickly, and is of a jet black.  David was brought of Major Calvert, Mount Airy, 
and it was expected will be about there.   Jim was brought of Mr. Samuel G. 
Griffith, of Baltimore, and will no doubt make for that city.  They are both old
 runaways, and will try to pass as freemen.  The above reward will be given for 
both or half the sum for either, with reasonable charges. 

	June 16 - 				JAMES CASSIN 

- - - - - - -

From our nation's founding slavery was an integral and legally recognized part of the new United States and slaves made up a significant but generally unacknowledged part of the District of Columbia's antebellum workforce. Many of Washington DC residents owned slaves. Some of these slaves worked as household servants while others worked at various trades or were leased out to employers with a need for more labor. One of the more insidious images is that slaves were generally happy, with only a few instances of rebellion. Records in newspapers such as the National Intelligencer or Washington Gazette are replete with accounts of runaway slaves and rewards for their capture. These reward notices show that many slaves were willing to risk all to gain their freedom and that the picture of a contented slave population is fiction. As these accounts suggest many slaves in Washington DC and the surrounding areas who sought their freedom were some were the most trusted house servants. In 1820 according to the US Census the total population of Washington DC was: 33, 039 of that figure 23, 164 were enumerated as white while 4, 048 were listed as Free Negro and 6, 277 were listed as slaves. The relatively large population of free blacks made the District of Columbia an important destination for fugitive slaves, here, slaves could attempt to find help and to blend in with the free black population. Another attraction for blacks fleeing slavery was large number of merchant ships moving about the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers where runaways might try to get work or even passage with a sympathetic ship-owner.

Today these accounts written exclusively by slave owners often make difficult reading but they are important both as a historical and genealogical record. Through these short summaries we can glimpse African- American resistance in the District of Columbia to slavery which was largely unrecorded in the 19th century press and we can also occasionally learn about particular individuals and their families.


Bolster W. Jeffrey Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail Harvard University Press 1998

Brown, Letitia Woods Free Negroes In the District of Columbia 1790-1846 Oxford University Press New York 1972

Franklin John Hope & Schweninger Loren Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation Oxford University Press New York 2000

Green, Constance McLaughlin. The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.

____. Washington: A History of the Capital 1800 -1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.

Hibben, Henry B. Navy Yard Washington: History From Organization, 1799, to the Present Day. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1899.
[online at].

Sharp, John G. History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799-1962. Stockton, CA: Vindolanda Press, 2005.
[This volume has full bibliography for most of the works cited in the preface.
[Available online at Navy Yard_History.pdf.

The Diary of Michael Shiner Slave and Freeman at the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869 Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard
Shiner Diary


Reward - $ 25 . for Runaway
Daily National Intelligencer
Friday, November 22, 1805

Len, Negro age about 38 years old, formerly belonged to Major Chew, living at the head of Herring Bay who disposed of him to Mr. William Campbell near Fredericktown, Maryland. Doctor Manuel Kent who lives at Lower Marlboro purchased him of Mr. Campbell and sold him to Nicholas Voss, Navy Yard, Washington City.

Ran away from the Subscriber [Runaway Slave]
National Intelligencer
January 15, 1807

living near the Eastern Branch bridge, a negro women of about 32 year of age of a middle stature, rather blacker then common. Somewhat pitted with small pox about the nose; she has liberty at different time to choose a master, she has a suckling child and I believe has contracted an acquaintance with a certain Cato Day, a black man who worked some years past in the Navy Yard in the city of Washington. I have reason to believe she is either harbored or concealed or rather conveyed from this place under him; she has a change of clothing, therefore cannot be well described by her dress.

Whoever takes up the said negro and secures her so I get her again shall have TEN DOLLARS reward and all reasonable expenses if brought home.


June 8

It is more than probable she taken the route towards Baltimore. All persons are warned against harboring or concealing her at their peril.


John Masters is listed on the 1800 Census for the District of Columbia, formerly Prince Georges County ( Source US Census1800 District of Columbia Roll 5; page 910 image 45), as owning 15 slaves. Although Masters posted a $10 reward notice, he never lists the name of his fugitive female slave. Did he even know her name?

Cato Day is listed in a 12 May 1808 letter as a ship caulker. The 1808 letter is from Commodore Thomas Tingey , Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, to the Secretary of the Navy. Navy Secretary, Robert Smith, had requested the names, status (free or slave), occupations and wages of all blacks at the Washington Navy Yard. Commodore Thomas Tingey replied that Cato Day was "free black" ship caulker, and earned $ 1.75 per day. Cato Day apparently later moved to Baltimore Maryland and is listed as a free African American in the 1819 Directory for the City of Baltimore, compiled by Samuel Jackson.
(Transcribed by Louis S. Diggs Sr. :
Day's address is given as Day, Cato, caulker, 62 Strawberry al. fp [al fp are abbreviations for Strawberry Alley, Fells Point]

The runaway who fled toward the Washington Navy Yard was making a logical choice for the yard had significant numbers of black employees both free and enslaved who may have provided help. For those blacks who were fortunate enough to find work as freemen, the caulking trade while difficult and onerous often provided them an opportunity to work at competitive wages and to gain some measure of independence. Among the other Washington Navy Yard black caulkers listed on the 1808 report with Cato Day are Moses Liverpool and Nicholas Franklin. In 1807 Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool along with George Bell another caulker founded the first school for African-American children in the District of Columbia.

National Intelligencer
June 19, 1809

Ranaway - Jim, mulatto lad; his father lives in Washington City near the Navy Yard by the name of George Beall, who served his time with Mr. John Addison jr & a mother, Sophy, who I sold to her husband a few years past, has relatives in Baltimore.

Rachel Pratt, Prince Georges County Maryland


In June of 1809, two of the George Bell's son's ran away from their owner Rachel Pratt, yet George Bell and wife Sophia Browning Bell, were somehow able to purchase their sons "running" that is to buy the young men free prior to their capture by the sheriff or a slave catcher, from the Pratt family. James Bell (AKA Jim Beall) James Bell died young see George Bell's Biography & Last Will and Testament for information on the Bell family and Rachel Pratt.

see : George Bell's Biography & Last Will and Testament

Fifty Dollars Reward [Runaway Slave]
Daily National Intelligencer
November 11, 1817

Absconded from the Subscriber, living near Bladensburg, Prince George's county, MD on the 27th of May last a Negro man named JOE, who calls himself Joe Mason. He is rather of a small size, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, a little bow legged, and has lost one of his jaw teeth next his middle teeth. He is of a dark or distant appearance, but speaks orderly in conversation, but low. His clothing, when he went away, were a black hat, nearly new, a dark colored coat, a little worn, with yellow buttons, a dark colored vest, a common coarse pair of linen trowsers and old boots. The above slave I purchased two years ago of the administrators of Ann Ray, who formerly kept him hired out in the city of Washington and Georgetown, & a considerable time at the Navy Yard, a part of which time he lived with Capt. John Cassin as waiter and is very well known by the great part of the inhabitants of that quarter of that city and has many acquaintances in every part of the city and Georgetown. Joe is a handy fellow, a tolerable waiter and good laborer, and has been a litle by water, and I have some apprehension he may endeavor to get off in that way, having in his possession some money. If he is taken ten miles from home I will give ten dollars, if twenty fifteen dollars, and if out of the District of Columbia and State of Maryland, I will give the above reward , if secured in jail so that I get him again. All masters of vessels and other persons are cautioned against employing and carrying away the above slave.


June 13   

Fifty Dollars Reward [Runaway Slave]
Daily National Intelligencer
December 23, 1817

Runaway from the subscriber, living near the Falls Church, Fairfax County, VA on the 14th Aug a negro man named Jack Proctor, aged about 23 years. He is a mulatto, about 5 feet 8 inches high, has a down look when spoken to. He had on when he left home a osnaburg shirt and trowsers, an a seersucker coat much worn. Jack was raised and has lived in about the City of Washington for several years past - he was hired last year to Henry Burford near the navy yard, and worked in his brick yard. He has a number of relations in the city and Georgetown, and it is possible is now lurking in one or another of the said places, as he was seen in Georgetown but a few days past.

N.B. - Jack has been seen on Fell's Point in Baltimore, but a few days past, and no doubt is now in Baltimore or its vicinity.

If secured in any gaol so that I can get him again, I will give $ 50, and all reasonable charges paid if brought home.



40 Dollars Reward [Runaway Slave]
National Intelligencer
April 25, 1818

For apprehending, and securing so that I get him again, my Negro man Henry; well know in this city by the name of Henry Carroll. He ran away in June last, and had been sometimes well fixed, probably as a thief, or receiver of stolen goods, in New York. He was sent from thence by the municipal authorities on board the sloop Eagle, - Wright master, and arrived at Alexandria yesterday; when, by an unaccountable carelessness or delinquency, he was suffered to escape. As he cannot be far off, but may be in part of the district or its vicinity, where unknown - he is about 5 feet 8 inches high, yellow complexion, rather large round and full eye, and when spoken too sternly gets easily alarmed; and at such times hesitates, or rather stammers in his speech. All persons whatever are forbid harboring him, under pain of having every nerve of the law strained to obtain satisfaction.

					Thos. Tingey 
					Navy Yard, Washington   

Note: See Diary of Michael Shiner for his 1828 account of Thomas Tingey's treatment of his slave.

35 Dollars Reward [Runaway Slave]
City of Washington Gazette
March 22, 1821

Ran Away from the subcriber in May last a servant woman by the name of Minty, about 4 feet 11 inches high , very black with a rough skin and bushy hair and a very scary countenance. I purchased her in September 1819 of James Friend, near Navy yard of this city. She formerly belonged to Major Forrest of the marine corps , who now owns her husband. She has been seen near Nottingham, Prince George's County. Md and has been lurking there ever since she absconded - Whosoever takes up said negro women and secures her in the Washington County jail shall receive the above reward by applying to C. Tippett.


Note: C. Tippett was the Washington County Jail turnkey.

Reward [Runaway Slave]
Daily National Intelligencer
August 16, 1821

Whereas my servant Surrey calling herself Sukey Dean is strolling about the city, or in the vicinity sometimes attempting to hire herself out as a free women asserting she has my assent to do so; neither are true. She is short thick women of a yellow complexion now advancing to forty years of age, is a very good family cook, washes and irons well and understands the management of same - in short if her tongue were safely extracted she would be a most excellent servant. She has been a short time at the residence of Samuel H. Smith Esq. but finding that I assented to her remaining there immediately left. But whosoever will secure her in jail or otherwise of the three days advertisement in the city newspapers sells her at public venue for cash shall have on fourth of what she sells for in full cash less any charges.

					Thos. Tingey 
					Navy Yard, Washington   

Note: The term "servant" was routinely used in the District of Columbia in reward notices, newspapers and in letters of the anti bellum era as a euphemism for slave.

Daily National Intelligencer

Washington D.C.

March 2, 1825


RANAWAY from the subscriber, on the night of the 26th of February, a Negro Man names Jerry about 21 or 22 years of age about 5 feet, 5 or 6 inches high, of rather a red cast of complexion, with a wide mouth and thick lips, a scar over one eye by a burn, tolerably bushy head He is a tolerable smith and has worked much at the Anchor Smith business. He is artful and plausible in his discourse. I have little doubt but that he has procured forged papers; and will make for Hayti; by the first chance. He professes to belong to the African Bethel Methodists. He has a variety of clothes, so that his dress cannot be well described; they are however generally good and he is fond of being well dressed. Ten dollars reward will be given if taken in the District, and thirty if taken elsewhere, and all reasonable charges paid.



Washington Navy Yard

N.B. Master of vessels are warned, at their peril against carrying him off. He was seen on the road between Washington and Baltimore.

March 2 -3


Daily National Intelligencer

Washington D.C.

3 March 1825



RANAWAY from the subscriber, on the night of the 26th of February, a Negro Man names Terry, (but who calls himself NATHAN BROWN) about 21 or 22 years of age about 5 feet, 5 or 6 inches high, of rather a red cast of complexion, with a wide mouth and thick lips, a scar over one eye by a burn, tolerably bushy head He is a tolerable smith and has worked much at the Anchor Smith business in the Navy Yard. He is artful and plausible in his discourse. I have little doubt but that he has procured forged papers; as a man answering his description took passage yesterday in the 10 o’clock stage for Baltimore, and having papers signed by Truman Tyler, Clerk of Prince George’s County. He will make for Hayti; by the first chance. He professes to belong to the African Bethel Methodists. He has a variety of clothes, so that his dress cannot be well described; they are however generally good and he is fond of being well dressed. Ten dollars reward will be given if taken in the District, and thirty if taken elsewhere, and all reasonable charges paid.


Washington Navy Yard

N.B. Master of vessels are warned, at their peril against carrying him off. He was seen on the road between Washington and Baltimore.




John Davis of Abel (1774 – 1853), worked as a Master Blacksmith at Washington Navy Yard for fifty years. For a biography of Davis see:

While John Davis owned Nathan Brown, he apparently could not remember if his first name was Terry, Jerry or Nathan. Davis was not unique, many slaves were simply not accorded a surname, slave owners used whatever name suited their fancy and newspaper notices for runaways in the District of Columbia, are replete with vague and incomplete descriptions.  Davis posted his second notice with more information and what he believed was Brown’s correct name.


John Davis of Abel and his colleague, Benjamin King, WNY Master Blacksmith, employed the majority of the Yard’s enslaved workers making anchors. Work in the anchor shop was physically demanding. The shop employed both free and enslaved workers who worked twelve hour days; shaping, hammering and beating molten metal into anchors and other nautical equipment. Enslaved workers most often worked as “strikers” wielding large heavy hammers and mallets to shape the anchor. All anchor shop employees were worked surrounded by intense heat and superheated metal with a constant danger of injury from metal chips or hot sparks. Both Davis and King were slave owners with reputations excellent craftsmen but rough bosses.   In a letter to Commodore Thomas Tingey, Davis who benefited directly from his enslaved workforce bluntly made the case for the utilization of enslaved workers: “…we found by long experience that Blacks have made the best Strikers in the execution of heavy work & are easily subjected to the Discipline of the Shop - & less able to leave us on any change of wages.” Source: Davis of Abel to Tingey, 15 March 1817, RG 45/M125, NARA. i

Nathan Brown, sadly except for the description provided by John Davis there is as yet, no further information as to Brown’s life or if he made his bid for freedom in Haiti successfully.

[National Intelligencer, Feb 14, 1821. Submitted by Kim Torp]
$50 reward for runaway mulatto boy, Henson, about 19 years of age; on first view might be taken for a white man.  John Pickrell, Gtwn, DC 


Baltimore Sun

23 August 1842


Ranaway from the subscriber living in Washington county, D.C., on the 18th ultimo, a negro man named HENRY HAWKINS , about twenty seven of twenty –eight years of age, supposed to be five feet eight or ten inches high rather inclined to be copper colored broad for forehead thin visage front teeth very much decayed. Had on when he left a pair of coarse brown linen pantaloons, a light mixed cloth round jacket, a new cotton shirt and old fur hat. He took with him a carpet bag containing a dark frock coat, a pair of drab pantaloons and a pair of fine boots. When spoke to he has a pleasant countenance. I will for the above described slave, give $ 50 if taken in the District of Columbia and $ 100 if taken in any of the States, and secured in jail so that I get him again.

He formerly belonged to Mr. Alexander Talburt living on 7th Street, has a free wife on the corner of 10th street and H Streets, Washington and a mother at he Navy Yard by the name of Sarah Brown.



Alexander Talburt 1778 -1853

Death: 10 November 1853

Alexander Talburt AKA Talbert, worked as a carpenter at Washington Navy Yard, as did his father Thomas Talburt see 1808 Muster Roll for WNY civilians

The 1850 US Census lists Alexander Talburt as age 72 living in Washington DC 4th Ward, born Maryland about 1778. His occupation is listed as carpenter.

Talburt family enumerated as follows:

Sarah, age 58

Truman, age 21, carpenter.

Charles, A., age 21 carpenter.

John, H. Walton, age 10

Source: 1850 United States Census Washington Ward 4, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll  M432_56; Page: 265B; Image: 535.

Henry Hawkins; Nothing more than the reward notice posted by Talburt is known of Henry Hawkins,. Hawkins may have moved into a larger city like Baltimore and simply changed his name.

The 1850 US Census Slave Schedule enumerates Alexander Talburt as a slaveholder, with one female slave age 21.

Gracy Ann Marlow: Talburt’s last will signed 30 May 1853 stated that” I will and desire my servant women Gracy Ann commonly called Mitt shall not be sold out of the city of Washington, but to remain in service until the first day of January eighteen hundred and Sixty one or to the time of the death of my wife Sarah Talburt if she should live longer than that time when she is to be free and at liberty to do for [her]self unless I myself dispose of said servant previous to my decease.”

Source: Provine , Dorothy S. District of Columbia Free Negro Registers 1821-1861 volume 2 Bowie Maryland: Heritage Books,Inc, 1996p. 606 -607.  Submitted by John Sharp.


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