These records cover more than 300 recorded escapes from Missouri --including more than two dozen newspaper-identified stampedes-- during the period between 1840 and 1865. The total number of freedom seekers documented here exceeds 1,500 people, with more than half from the wartime period. Newspaper articles and runaway advertisements provide the sources for these escape episodes. In all cases, we have indicated the proper source citation and in any case involving stampedes, we have also provided the full-text transcription of the actual newspaper coverage.

View All Escapes // 1840s // 1850s // 1860s

Displaying 1 - 35 of 35

On Tuesday, November 3, 1840, an enslaved man named John, around 48 years in age, escaped from Bois Brule Bottom in Perry county, Missouri. His enslaver, F.L. Jones, advertised a $50 reward for his recapture, calling him "an artful fellow and a great rogue."

Start Date:
Tuesday, November 3, 1840
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown
An enslaved man named Charlie escaped from Monticello, Missouri in August 1842, swimming to Quincy and finding refuge with a free African American, Berryman Barnett. While being escorted by Dr. Richard Eels.  Charlie was recaptured, and Eels was later convicted in April 1843 and fined $400, though the case also prompted a lengthy legal dispute between Missouri and Illinois state authorities that ultimately wound its way to the Supreme Court.  
Start Date:
Monday, August 1, 1842
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Monday, December 19, 1842, an enslaved man named Jefferson escaped from near Richmond in Ray county. Noting that Jefferson "is a keen shrewd fellow, and will in all probability be furnished with free papers," his enslaver Henry Jacobs advertised a $20 reward for his recapture. 

Start Date:
Monday, December 19, 1842
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, August 12, 1843, an enslaved man named Simon, aged 25, escaped from a farm three miles south of Fayette in Howard county, Missouri. His enslaver, B.F. Broaddus, advertised a $50 reward for Simon's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, August 12, 1843
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, September 23, 1843, three enslaved men––Clem, Peter (age 20), and Robert (age 18)––escaped from a farm near Salt Creek in Chariton county, Missouri. Their enslaver, G.W. Gauss, suspected the three men "will probably aim to go down on a steamboat," and offered a $30 reward for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 23, 1843
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Four enslaved people escaped from St. Louis in 1844, and successfully reached Chicago. Despite slaveholder James Bissell's efforts to send slave catchers in pursuit, the four freedom seekers' bid for liberty was successful. 

Start Date:
Monday, July 1, 1844
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom
On Sunday, December 27, 1846, three enslaved men, 29-year-old Addison, 22-year-old Frederick,  and 26-year-old Charles, escaped from near Fayette in Howard county, Missouri. Their enslavers, Robert Baskett (who claimed Addison and Frederick) and John W. White (who claimed Charles) were "incline[d] to the opinion that they will go towards the Mississippi and perhaps to Canada," and advertised a $150 reward for their recapture. 
Start Date:
Sunday, December 27, 1846
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Wednesday, April 28, 1847, a roughly 21-year-old enslaved man named Ben escaped from St. Louis. Ben had formerly been enslaved in Hannibal by M.P. Owsley. His current salveholder, B.W. Alexander, offered a $200 reward for his return. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, April 28, 1847
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On either Friday or Saturday night, May 7-8, 1847, between 20 to 25 enslaved people escaped from different plantations in Kenton county, Kentucky. Their enslavers offered a $4,000 reward for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Friday, May 7, 1847
Numbers:
25
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

In mid-May 1847, five to six enslaved people fled from Maysville, Kentucky across the Ohio River to free soil. The Covington, Kentucky Register pointed the finger at members of the Northern Methodist Church. A "distinguished preacher of that denomination" was reportedly seen at the very house where five enslaved people escaped, and around the same time.

Start Date:
Thursday, May 20, 1847
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

A 20-year-old enslaved man named Harry escaped from the steamer St. Paul on Friday afternoon, September 24, 1847. Harry's enslaver, B.F. Thomas, had hired him out to a St. Louis hotel, but since September 6 Harry had been working as fireman aboard the steamboat. 

Start Date:
Friday, September 24, 1847
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Sunday, April 23, 1848, an enslaved man named Adrian, aged about 23, escaped from Lexington, Missouri. His enslaver, Thomas Henker, suspected that Adrian was "now in St. Louis, as it is known that he has brothers and sisters living in that place," and advertised a $100 reward for his recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, April 23, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On April 27, 1848, a 26-year-old enslaved carpenter named Matison broke out of the jail at Fulton in Callaway county. The St. Louis slave trading firm White & Tooly advertised $100 for Matison's recapture. 

Start Date:
Thursday, April 27, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Thursday, June 1, 1848, an enslaved man named Armstead escaped from St. Louis. His enslaver, William North, suspected that Armstead had escaped along with a recently sold enslaved man "of notorious charachter." North offered $200 for Amstead's recapture. 

Start Date:
Thursday, June 1, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Friday evening, June 2, 1848, at least nine enslaved people--John and Mary Walker, their four children, and Sam and Dorcas Fulcher, along with their pregnant daughter Julia--escaped from the Daggs Farm in Luray, Missouri. Their enslaver, Ruel J. Daggs, sent a slave-catching posse in pursuit, led by his son.  At first, the runaways received help and shelter at a Quaker-dominated settlement in Salem, Iowa.

Start Date:
Friday, June 2, 1848
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed

On Saturday afternoon, June 24, 1848, a 37-year-old enslaved woman named Dicy escaped from St. Louis. Slaveholder Elizabeth Walker predicted that Dicy would change her clothes and likely would seek out her husband, a free African American man named Andy. Her husband had left St. Louis several days before Dicy's escape, and Walker seethed that Andy had "doubtless made arrangements for her escape."

Start Date:
Saturday, June 24, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, August 5, 1848, a group ranging in number from 50 to 80 enslaved people fled from near Lexington, Kentucky. Accompanying the group was a white man named Patrick Doyle. The freedom seekers were overtaken and recaptured after a violent confrontation. Reports later emerged suggesting that Doyle had instigated the escape with the plan to betray the freedom seekers and pocket the reward.

Start Date:
Saturday, August 5, 1848
Numbers:
80
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Legal Action, Violence, Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, September 5, 1848, a group of 12 to 20 enslaved people fled from two slaveholders in Baltimore county, Maryland. Six were claimed by slaveholder J.T.H. Worthington. According to reports, the group succeeded in crossing into Pennsylvania, despite being pursued by white Marylanders.

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 5, 1848
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday, September 30, 1848, a 20-year-old enslaved man named Jonas escaped from St. Louis. Reports placed Jonas on board the steamer Swiss Boy, bound for Illinois. Jonas's enslaver, James McFadin, advertised a $200 reward for his recapture.

Start Date:
Saturday, September 30, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

In the fall of 1848, a 35-year-old enslaved man named Joe escaped from a farm seven miles south of Danville in Montgomery county, Missouri. His enslaver, Richardson Culpepper, advertised a $100 reward for Joe's recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, October 1, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Tuesday, October 3, 1848, a 30-year-old enslaved man named Jack Holliday escaped from slaveholder W.G. Clark's sawmill north of St. Louis. Clark advertised a $150 reward for Holliday's recapture. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, October 3, 1848
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Armed with free passes, "about forty" enslaved people were planning a stampede from Woodford county, Kentucky on Saturday night, October 7, 1848. But the plot was discovered when one enslaved person confessed, and the escape "frustrated" before it could begin. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 7, 1848
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

Throughout late October 1848, multiple "stampedes" occurred from near Maysville, Kentucky. One "stampede" saw "some four or five" enslaved people escape, evidently heading for Ripley, Ohio, and "several others" were also missing. Meanwhile, three enslaved people from neighboring Montgomery county were captured near Ripley before they were able to cross the Ohio river. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 28, 1848
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, December 16, 1848, two enslaved people, a man and a woman, escaped from their enslaver in Maysville, Kentucky. Reports suspected that "several others have left the city and county."

Start Date:
Saturday, December 16, 1848
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Monday, March 26, 1849, an enslaved couple, 40-year-old Aaron and 30-year-old Ann, escaped from Potosi in Washington county, Missouri. Their enslaver, Michael Pierpont, advertised a $200 reward for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Monday, March 26, 1849
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Around April 1, 1849, an enslaved man named Tom, aged 16, escaped from a farm near the town of Ashley in Pike county, Missouri. His enslaver, John J. Lewis, offered a $100 reward for Tom's recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, April 1, 1849
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Monday night, May 7, 1849, an 18-year-old enslaved woman named Caroline, and a 24-year-old enslaved woman named Martha, escaped from their enslavers in St. Louis. A $300 reward was offered for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Monday, May 7, 1849
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Facing imminent separation, John and Lucinda Henderson, with their two children in tow, escaped from St. Louis. With the aid of vigilance operatives near Alton, the Hendersons reached Chicago.

Start Date:
Sunday, July 1, 1849
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

On Wednesday, July 18, 1849, an enslaved child named Joseph White escaped from St. Louis. His enslaver, J. Small, advertised a $50 reward for his recapture. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, August 14, 1849
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On the morning of August 14, 1849, a 16-year-old enslaved boy named George Ben (or Ben George) escaped from St. Louis. His enslaver, A.G. Switzer, advertised a $50 reward for his recapture.

Start Date:
Tuesday, August 14, 1849
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Around the beginning of September 1849, a group of freedom seekers, heavily armed "with bowie-knives, dirks, &c.," fled from Jefferson county, Virginia, heading north towards Pennsylvania. Two miles north of Wolfsville, Maryland, the group was overtaken by slave catchers. A violent confrontation ensued, and it "required a strong force" to re-enslave the freedom seekers. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 1, 1849
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Violence, Recapture/Death

On Saturday night, September 29, 1849, an enslaved man named Henry, around 21-22 years in age, escaped from the town of Savannah in Andrew county, Missouri. His enslaver, William R. King, offered a $75 reward for Henry's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 29, 1849
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, October 27, 1849, a group of six enslaved people escaped from St. Louis for "parts unknown," according to the local newspaper. The flight came in the wake of a series of recent group escapes, leading many in the city to suspect "that they have been stampeded."  This appears to be the very first newspaper reference to a slave stampede from Missouri.

Start Date:
Saturday, October 27, 1849
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed

On Saturday night, October 27, 1849, two enslaved men, Emmanuel and Bill, escaped from Ste. Genevieve county, Missouri. Slaveholding judge William James offered a $50 reward for Emmanuel's recapture, and slaveholder Kavin Byrne advrtised a $50 reward for Bill's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 27, 1849
Numbers:
2
Outcome:
Unknown

In early November 1849, somewhere between 35 and 50 enslaved people around Canton in Lewis County, Missouri, led by a woman named Lin and a man known as Miller's John, planned a stampede for freedom but were betrayed and cornered before they could cross the Mississippi River.  There was a violent shootout that left at least one dead and resulted in dozens of newspaper articles across the nation.

Start Date:
Friday, November 2, 1849
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death