Goodspeed's History of Stewart County

Published 1897

Part 4: Slave Insurrection

    In 1856 a plot was discovered among the slaves of Stewart County for a general uprising of the race and the striking of a blow for freedom. A feeling of unrest and apprehension prevailed among the white people throughout 1854 and 1855, it being evident to a careful observer that mischief was brewing among the blacks. They would hold meetings on Sundays and of nights in secret places, and were instigated by several white men who claimed to be preachers. The plot was disclosed to the whie citizens in December, 1856, and a vigilance committee was at once organized at Dover. Slaves from all parts of the county were arrested and carried before the committee and under pain of severe punishment or death were made to confess. The object was that on a given day the slaves would arise, overpower their masters, arm themselves, and push across the country to Hopkinsville, Ky., and then march into Ohio, where they supposed they would be free. Six of the ringleaders were captured and hung by the vigilats at Dover a few days before Chirstmas, in 1856, and a large number were severely whipped. To make the execution of the negroes impressive a citizen of Dover (now living) cut off the heads of the dead slaves, and hoisting them on poles paraded the streets during the day of the hanging, displaying the ghastly gory objects to the terrified negro population.

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