Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Courthouse and the Underground Railroad

Thanks to the National Park Service, we have acquired copies of the Courthouse's nomination for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The following text, copied from the nomination form, summarizes the event that led to the listing.

"The Port Tobacco Courthouse, Charles County, Maryland (MD), is verifiably associated with the Underground Railroad, because there Mark Caesar (presumably free from Charles County) and Bill Wheeler (from Charles County, master Benjamin Contee) were tried in 1845. Mark Caesar was considered an "accomplice of slave flight." While some contemporary white accounts refer to an "insurrection" led by the two, it is possible that the African Americans involved considered it a break for freedom and were equipped with weapons for self-defense. Mark Caesar and Bill Wheeler left Charles County (Co.) and were accompanied by more and more armed freedom seekers. The group reached the area of Rockville, MD where 31 were captured and others continued to flee, some as far as Carroll Co. MD (which borders with Pennsylvania). Although court records of the trial are missing, Maryland State Archives (MSA) researchers found documentation of Mark Caesar in the Maryland Penitentiary Prisoners Record (1850), found a special law passed to ensure life imprisonment for Wheeler if he were not executed, and found numerous newspaper accounts of the 1845 escape, which frightened local whites by its daring. Previously, Mark Caesar did not enter official documentation -- not in the censuses for Anne Arundel Co., Baltimore Co., Charles Co. (1830-50) nor among landowners listed for the 3 counties."

Scott is on the case and will bring us more details about the individuals involved in the near future.

No comments: