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 - 50 of 314

Up to 14 freedom seekers escaped from St. Louis and passed through Springfield, Illinois in January 1850, where they received help from Jameson Jenkins, a free black neighbor of Abraham Lincoln's.

Start Date:
Tuesday, January 1, 1850
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed

On Tuesday night, February 12, 1850, an enslaved man named Hilliard Small, aged about 25, escaped from the farm of slaveholder Lewis Bryan near Palmyra, Missouri. The same night, Small was accused of setting fire to the livery stable of Bradley & Lee in downtown Palmyra. B.B. King, sheriff for Marion county, advertised a $150 reward for Small's recapture. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, February 12, 1850
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Sometime in June 1850, a group of 16 enslaved people fled from Baltimore county, Maryland, journeying to Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania. But slaveholders offered a hefty $2,000 reward for the freedom seekers' recapture, and they were discovered hiding in the outhouse of a farm near Shrewsbury. The freedom seekers were re-enslaved and taken back to Maryland. 

Start Date:
Saturday, June 1, 1850
Numbers:
16
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

An enslaved person, who was not identified by name, escaped from New Madrid county, Missouri around 1850 and sought refuge at Sparta, Illinois. When the slaveholder, a man named Sherwood, discovered the escapee's location, Sherwood dispatched his son and a posse in pursuit. Local anti-slavery activists protected the escapee with threats of force, sending the Missourians returning south empty-handed. 

Start Date:
Monday, July 1, 1850
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

An enslaved man named Moses Johnson escaped from slaveholder Crawford E. Smith in Lafayette county, Missouri on July 4, 1850. Johnson was recaptured by U.S. officers under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law nearly a year later, in Chicago, in early June 1851. He was released following a rendition hearing before U.S. Commissioner George W. Meeker.

Start Date:
Thursday, July 4, 1850
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

Sometime in early August 1850, seven freedom seekers escaped in concert from Baltimore, Calvert, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties. On Wednesday, August 7, a group of Pennsylvanians observed the freedom seekers at the home of a free black man near Shrewsbury, who was not identified by name, and attempted to trick the runaways with promises of help.

Start Date:
Thursday, August 1, 1850
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed

On Sunday night, August 18, 1850, a sizable group ranging in number from 30 to 40 freedom seekers escaped from Prince George's county, Maryland. Their ultimate fate remains unknown.

Start Date:
Sunday, August 18, 1850
Numbers:
40
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, September 7, 1850, a 26-year-old enslaved man named Anthony, and a 22-year-old woman named Margaret, escaped from a farm 10 miles south of the town of Florida in Monroe county, Missouri. They took with them a bay mare. Their enslavers, James F. Botts and James Wilfley, advertised a $300 reward for the pair's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 7, 1850
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Soon after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, reports described the flight of fugitive slaves from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most contemporaries believed that these individuals had long since escaped from bondage in the Upper South, and now took flight to avoid re-enslavement under the new federal code. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 21, 1850
Numbers:
140
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday, January 11, 1851, an enslaved man named Oliver escaped from a farm near Fayette in Howard county. His enslaver, Robert W. Baskett, advertised a $200 reward for Oliver's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, January 11, 1851
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Tuesday, January 21, 1851, an enslaved man named Reuben, approximately 20 years of age, escaped from a farm near Ramsey's Creek in Pike county, Missouri. His enslaver, George Wilson, advertised a $100 reward for Reuben's re-enslavement.

Start Date:
Tuesday, January 21, 1851
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Sunday, March 30, 1851, an enslaved man named Edmond, aged about 20, escaped from Franklin county, Missouri. His enslaver, Henry W. Hudley, suspected that Edmond was "lurking around" Bredell's old copper works in Franklin county, and advertised a $100 reward for Edmond's recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, March 30, 1851
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Throughout late April 1851, a number of "stampedes" were launched from Mason and Nicholas counties, Kentucky. On Sunday night, April 27 alone, more than 14 freedom seekers escaped from around Maysville, while "several" others left Nicholas county during the same week. 

Start Date:
Sunday, April 27, 1851
Numbers:
22
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Around May 1, 1851, a "stampede" of roughly 20 freedom seekers took place from Lewis county, Kentucky. Among the group was an enslaved mother and her seven children, ranging in age from 25 to 12. However, after crossing the Ohio river the group was recaptured, with a sizable $4,000 reward doled out to the captors. Following their recapture, the mother and her seven children were sold by a Lewis county slaveholder named Fagan for $4,200. 

Start Date:
Thursday, May 1, 1851
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

Sometime in May or June 1851, a group of "several" enslaved people near LaGrange, Texas made a plan to escape to Mexico. However, one of the prospective escapees set out early, was recaptured, and confessed the whole plot, thwarting the escape.

Start Date:
Sunday, June 1, 1851
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

During the summer of 1851, an enslaved woman named Missouri, around 24-25 years old, was granted permission to visit her sister in St. Louis, but she "violated the confidence reposed in her and left, and is now at large," slave master Robert Caldwell declared much later.

Start Date:
Tuesday, July 1, 1851
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

Three freedom seekers, and a man named B. Thompson who had been sentenced to 10 years in the state penitentiary for "negro stealing," escaped from the Lauderdale county jail in what contemporaries called a "stampede." Along with them was a man named Thomas Boyd, imprisoned for assault and battery. 

Start Date:
Saturday, March 27, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Tuesday, April 27, 1852, an enslaved man named Harrison escaped from Bridgeton in St. Louis county. His enslaver, a man named Edwards, advertised a $100 reward for Harrison's recapture. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, April 27, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Reports that a U.S. deputy marshal was in Rochester with warrants under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act prompted the flight of at least three individuals fearing recapture. According to contemporary accounts, it was believed that these three individuals--and possibly more--had previously escaped from slavery and taken refuge in New York. 

Start Date:
Thursday, May 13, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

An enslaved person was captured aboard a steamboat en route to Alton, Illinois. 

Start Date:
Saturday, May 15, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

A 14-year-old enslaved child named Harris escaped from his enslaver in St. Louis. His slaveholder, P.D. Papin, promised that anyone who recaptured Harris would be "liberally rewarded."

Start Date:
Saturday, May 15, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Monday, May 24, 1852, an enslaved man named Jerry, around 23-24 years old, escaped from Elk Grove in Lafayette county, Missouri. His enslaver, James Backley, advertised a $200 reward for Jerry's recapture. 

Start Date:
Monday, May 24, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On June 27, 1852, a roughly 19-year-old enslaved man, who was not named, escaped from Portland in Callaway county, Missouri. His enslaver suspected "there is another Negro man in company with him, who may have free papers," and advertised a $100 reward for the man's recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, June 27, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Sometime during the early summer of 1852, four enslaved people escaped from Palmyra, Missouri. Two were recaptured by an Illinois sheriff near Quincy.

Start Date:
Thursday, July 1, 1852
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed

A 26-year-old enslaved man named George escaped from the small village of Ohio in St. Clair County, Missouri. His enslaver, John Means, offered a $150 reward for George's recapture. 

Start Date:
Thursday, July 1, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Monday, July 5, 1852, a 22-year-old enslaved man named Bill escaped from Howard county, Missouri. His enslaver, G.W. Walker, Sr., advertised a $100 reward for Bill's recapture. 

Start Date:
Monday, July 5, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Tuesday, July 13, 1852, four enslaved people escaped from St. Louis: 23-year-old George (or William Johnson), who had a free wife in St. Louis, 36-year-old John, 20-year-old Henry, and 16-year-old Isaac. Their enslaver, John Mattingly, advertised a $400 reward for their recapture.

Start Date:
Tuesday, July 13, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

Two enslaved people, Barry, held by slaveholder William Spratt, and an unnamed enslaved person held by John J. Reese, were dressed as Indians and helped to escape by two New England-born white emigrants, Samuel and Miriam Clements. The group was overtaken, the freedom seekers re-enslaved and the Clements convicted to two years in the Missouri penitentiary 

Start Date:
Thursday, July 15, 1852
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Thursday, July 15, 1852, a roughly 20-year-old enslaved man named Henry escaped from Beaufort in Franklin county, Missouri. His enslaver, Pierce N. Butler, advertised a $100 reward for Henry's recapture. 

Start Date:
Thursday, July 15, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Wednesday night, July 28, 1852, six enslaved people, who were not identified by name, escaped from Pendleton county, Virginia. Three were held by a local attorney and slaveholder named Z. Dyer, two by another attorney, Cyrus Hopkins, and another claimed by Elijah Stonestreet. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, July 28, 1852
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

In the summer of 1852, an enslaved man named Abner, around 24 years old, escaped from Jonesboro (modern-day Napton) in Saline county, Missouri. His enslaver, C.E. Smith, advertised a $150 reward for his recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, August 1, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, August 7, 1852, some 14 enslaved people, both men and women, escaped from Washington county, Maryland. All were claimed by a slaveholder identified as Mrs. Pendleton of Hagerstown, Maryland, who had hired out (or rented) the enslaved people to work throughout surrounding Washington county. Pendleton offered a sizable $1,400 reward for their recapture. Days later, the freedom seekers were captured at Harrisburg.

Start Date:
Saturday, August 7, 1852
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, August 24, 1852, seven heavily-manacled men escaped from the infamous Arterburn slave pen in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Courier described it as a "stampede," and suspected the seven freedom seekers were "lying out" in cornfields near the city, a common resistance tactic adopted by enslaved southerners. Their ultimate fate is unknown. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, August 24, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, September 4, 1852, eight enslaved workers from the Valle mines coordinated a stampede through Ste. Genevieve.  Three of the enslaved men --Isaac, Joseph and Bill-- escaped from Valle Lead Mines in Jefferson county, some 30 miles west. Their escape was coordinated with five other freedom seekers from the town of Ste. Genevieve where the Valle family lived.  These young men (all named in a runaway advertisement) included Bernard, Edmund, Henry, Joseph and Theodore.

Start Date:
Saturday, September 4, 1852
Numbers:
8
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, September 7, 1852, eight enslaved people--five men, a woman, and two children--escaped from Mason county, Kentucky apparently "in concert," in what the Maysville Eagle termed a "stampede." Although the fate of the eight freedom seekers is unknown, the group escape prompted calls for slaveholders to ramp up their patrols. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 7, 1852
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday, September 25, 1852, an enslaved man named Anderson, aged about 25 years old, escaped from Rocheport in Boone county, Missouri. His enslaver, Moses U. Payne, advertised a $150 reward for Anderson's recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 25, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday night, September 25, 1852, seven enslaved people, who were not identified by name, escaped from Wood county, Virginia for "parts unknown." Six of the freedom seekers were claimed by slaveholding lawyer William Spencer, while the seventh escapee was held by the estate of the deceased enslaver George W. Kincheloe. The freedom seekers' ultimate fate remains unknown, though the Baltimore Sun commented that "stampedes have been very frequent this season in that vicinity."

Start Date:
Saturday, September 25, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Sunday night, September 26, 1852, a group of 31 freedom seekers escaped from Augusta and Dover, Kentucky. Slaveholders pursued the freedom seekers to Ripley, Ohio, where they found some of the escapees' belongings and managed to recapture three. But African American residents of Ripley threatened to resist the slaveholders' efforts with violence if necessary, and local authorities refused to cooperate with the white Kentuckians.

Start Date:
Sunday, September 26, 1852
Numbers:
31
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On Saturday, October 16, 1852, a group of 16 enslaved people escaped from near Hagerstown, Maryland. Fifteen of the freedom seekers were claimed by slaveholding lawyer Elias Cheney, and another person held by lawyer Alexander Mitchell. A $1000 reward was offered for their recapture. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 16, 1852
Numbers:
16
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Sunday, October 31, 1852, approximately 25 enslaved people escaped from Bourbon county, Kentucky on horseback. Some of the freedom seekers were recaptured near Blue Licks, Kentucky, while others were believed to have crossed the Ohio river. Several Kentucky slave catchers visited Cincinnati days later, but apparently without success. The fate of the remainder of the freedom seekers is unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, October 31, 1852
Numbers:
25
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

An enslaved man named Johnson escaped from St. Louis and made his way to Alton, Illinois, where he was recaptured by two St. Louis policemen. 

Start Date:
Monday, November 15, 1852
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

Two enslaved men and a woman board a train and escaped from south of West Liberty, Kentucky. But on the train a former local judge, Don Piatt, recognized the three freedom seekers, who belonged to a relative. Piatt persuaded the three freedom seekers to disembark with him at West Liberty, with promises that he would pay them for their labor. Antislavery activists, however, doubted the sincerity of Piatt's motives and freed the three freedom seekers through a writ of habeas corpus.

Start Date:
Monday, November 15, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

Sometime in early 1853, a slaveholder recaptured a freedom seeker at a black settlement in Illinois called Wood River.

Start Date:
Saturday, January 1, 1853
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Saturday night, January 15, 1853, nine freedom seekers escaped from Cumberland, Maryland in a "stampede." Eight of the escapees were claimed by J.G. Lynn, a slaveholding attorney, and the ninth person by another attorney, Joseph Dilley. The nine freedom seekers charted a course some 25 miles into Bedford county, Pennsylvania, where they were overtaken by slave catchers. The eight freedom seekers claimed by Lynn were all recaptured.

Start Date:
Saturday, January 15, 1853
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

An unidentified enslaved man escaped from a St. Louis jail and traversed the Mississippi by steamboat, but his location was given up by a free African American, and Missouri slave catchers recaptured him. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, February 1, 1853
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Recapture/Death

On Saturday night, April 2, 1853, 25 enslaved people escaped from Boone county, Kentucky. Reports suggest they may have travelled north, through Cincinnati to Preble county, Ohio, where Underground Railroad activists reported that "twenty-four Fugitives passed through." This account may have been referencing the same group of freedom seekers.

Start Date:
Saturday, April 2, 1853
Numbers:
29
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Freedom

On Sunday, April 17, 1853, a 23-year-old enslaved man named Jack escaped from Farmington in St. Francois county, Missouri. His enslaver, D. McKenzie, advertised a $100 reward for Jack's recapture.  

Start Date:
Sunday, April 17, 1853
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

On Saturday, April 23, 1853, an enslaved man named Lewis, about 25 years old, escaped from St. Louis. His enslaver, Henry L. Tevis, advertised a $100 reward for his recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, April 23, 1853
Numbers:
1
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Unknown

In mid-May 1853, a group of 15 enslaved people escaped in a "stampede" from Ray county, Missouri, bound for Iowa. "Several" were recaptured in Grundy county, but "the larger number" successfully escaped. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, May 11, 1853
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed

Three enslaved people escaped from slaveholder R. Meek in Weston, Missouri. A report noted that the freedom seekers were "making for the Plains." However, two were later recaptured. Contemporary reports described the escape of these three bond people as part of a wave of recent "slave stampedes" unsettling the institution throughout western Missouri. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, May 18, 1853
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcome:
Mixed