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The Joshua Glover Story

Joshua Glover: Escaping Through Racine County

Joshua Glover

Joshua Glover

“What took place following [Joshua Glover’s and his master’s] association of slightly more than three years would… set in motion a series of events that would have a profound effect on both men and the country as a whole. It would build some careers and wreck others… It would result in a Northern state, Wisconsin, attempting to nullify the U.S. Constitution.”

Finding Freedom, Jackson and MacDonald, 2007.

Rice and Sinclair Sawmill

Rice and Sinclair Sawmill

Escaping from his master in Missouri in 1852, Joshua Glover had become a member of the Racine County community, working at the Sinclair Rice and Saw Mill in town. Two years after settling in Racine, he was captured by several men including his master Benammi Garland, and jailed in Milwaukee.

The story of Joshua Glover is famous, not only for the roughness of his capture, but for the reaction of southeastern Wisconsin’s citizens to his jailing, the subsequent jailbreak and the aftermath that brought national attention to our state.

The Reaction and Jailbreak

“Imagine a crowd of four to six thousand persons smashing in the jail, releasing the negro and then running as they could the distance of a mile, and every man in town running too—windows open, handkerchiefs waving…”

Racine Daily Morning Advocate, March 12, 1854

Upon hearing the news of Glover’s “kidnapping,” Racine citizens gathered in Haymarket Square (today’s Monument Square), the largest gathering to that date ever in Racine. During this gathering, the following was decided:

  • A delegation of representatives would travel to Milwaukee to ensure Glover received a fair trial
  • Resolutions were outlined and the newspapers were given the minutes of the meeting so they could be published and publicized
  • A finance committee began its work, raising money to take care of costs of Glover’s trial

At 5:00pm, the delegation from Racine arrived by boat in Milwaukee where they joined a crowd that had gathered outside the courthouse upon hearing of Glover’s capture. Included in this crowd was Sherman Booth, editor of the newspaper Wisconsin Free Democrat and an outspoken abolitionist. Soon after the arrival of the Racine delegation, the abolitionists took matters into their own hands and, using pickaxes and large pieces of lumber, freed Glover from his cell. He was spirited away onto the Underground Railroad.

Glover’s next three to four weeks were spent in and around Racine County—being helped by men such as John Messenger, C.C. Olin, Alfred Payne, Richard Ela, Joel Cooper, Moses Tichenor and more. Glover traveled through Prairieville (now Waukesha), Rochester, Racine, Burlington, Spring Prairie and other areas, all the while being chased by Garland and his posse.

Glover’s final stop on Racine County’s Underground Railroad was the A.P. Dutton warehouse on Racine’s harbor. Dutton, a noted abolitionist, was privy to information about the ships coming in and out of the harbor including which ships and captains were friendly toward fugitives. It is unclear which ship took Glover to freedom, but evidence of Glover’s arrival in Canada in a note in an account book in Canada. (Finding Freedom, Jackson and MacDonald, 2007.)

Last Stop, Racine

After his rescue from jail in Milwaukee, Joshua Glover, a fugitive slave, made approximately nine stops on the Underground Railroad, in and around Racine County, until reaching his final stop at the warehouse of Dutton and Raymond on Racine’s harbor.

Achas Perry Dutton, a successful and influential early Racine pioneer, was openly anti-slavery. Held in high regard by the community, Dutton was appointed City Humane Commissioner, responsible for looking after the wellbeing of women and children.

An agent for thirteen shipping lines whose vessels passed through the Racine Harbor, Dutton moved a million bushels of grain annually, helping to create a robust West-to-East economy in Racine County. Wheat and grain produced in the western part of the county was transported to the harbor for shipping, which created a steady stream of communication and partnership across Racine County. This market strengthened the Underground Railroad movement in the area.

Lumber produced at sawmills like Rice & Sinclair, where Joshua Glover and other fugitive slaves lived and worked, also contributed to this economy and created a network that would eventually aid in the preservation of Glover’s newfound freedom.

In the years after slavery was abolished A.P. Dutton claimed that over one hundred fugitive slaves escaped through Racine’s harbor on their journey to freedom in Canada. Although it is evident by his aid in Joshua Glover’s escape that Dutton was sympathetic to fugitive slaves, it is interesting to note that A.P. Dutton posted bail for Daniel Houghton, one of Glover’s capturers, and publicly known as “the Slave Catcher of Dover.” The charge Houghton faced was kidnapping.

Life in Canada

After a 130-mile journey including stops in Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Walworth counties, Joshua Glover would once again regain his freedom.

Although we may never know the exact date Joshua Glove embarked for Canada, it is likely that he left within the first two weeks of April 1854. Glover’s journey to Canada would take a few days, likely going north, through the straits on Mackinac, to the Georgian Bay, and landing at Owen Sound or Collingwood, Ontario.

Joshua Glover is first documented in Etobicke, Canada on April 19, 1854. Evidence of his arrival at his final destination is found in an account book of Thomas Montgomery an inn owner, and one of the largest landholders in the area. The entry reads, “Joshua Glover the Negro to cash 15/-.” The charge is 15 shillings, which appear to be an advance against wages. Joshua Glover worked for Montgomery on and off until 1888.

“Joshua Glover’s life in Canada was much like that of any other uneducated, laboring, tax-paying citizen. It was, to other average people, not all that interesting. To Glover himself, on the other hand, what may have been the most marvelous thing about it was its lack of drama and its predictability. There was no worry about being sold away to a cotton or sugar plantation in the Lower South because he had not been enthusiastic in his response to an order. There was no threat of physical punishment. He had ample food, a table to eat it from, and a bed to sleep in. He could indulge in a drink when he wished. He sometimes had money in his pocket and could choose how to spend it. Most of all, he knew that the body that laid itself to rest at night would awaken the next morning still free. He had no guarantee against personal tragedy or death, but he had freedom. For Joshua Glover, that would never be an ordinary life.”

Finding Freedom, Ruby West Jackson and Walter T. McDonald

Haymarket Square

Historical marker on Monument Square

The Aftermath: Nationwide Attention

“Resolved, that inasmuch as the Senate of the United States has repealed all compromises heretofore adopted by the Congress of the United States, we as citizens of Wisconsin, are justified in declaring, and herby declare, the slave-catching law of 1850 disgraceful and also repealed.”

A resolution adopted by the citizens during the Glover incident, printed in the Daily Morning Advocate, March 12, 1854.

While Glover’s arrival in Canada ended his flight to freedom, it began a long legal battle and a state-wide repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act that would bring national attention to Wisconsin.

After warrants were issued for people on both sides of the incident—slaveholder Garland as well as some abolitionists such as Charles Clement, Thomas Mason, John Ryecraft and others—a criminal case was brought against Sherman Booth. Byron Paine, Booth’s attorney, argued that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was unconstitutional by not allowing fugitives a trial by jury. Therefore, Booth had been wrongfully jailed. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Andrew Smith agreed with Paine’s argument, declared the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional and freed Booth. Later, the entire Wisconsin Supreme Court supported Smith’s decision.

This decision brought nation-wide attention to Wisconsin, directly challenging federal law. However, when the decision reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Roger Raney declared the Wisconsin decision wrong. Booth was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment and later underwent a civil case brought by Garland.

While the abolitionist movement was strong throughout northern states, Wisconsin remained the only state to declare the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.

The gathering of Racine County’s citizens in Haymarket Square, today known as Monument Square, is remembered by a marker that was placed in the Square in June 2003. This site is one block north of Racine Heritage Museum, and is recognized by the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Haymarket Square

Haymarket Square, circa 1870s