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June 11, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: 1855 Runaway Slave


Advertisements for runaway slaves were a common thing in mid-nineteenth century Virginia newspapers. Few were as persistent in finding their property as Robert H. Johnson of Buckingham County.

On January 3, 1855, his “Negro boy,” named Harrison, commonly called Dick, absconded from New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia. Dick was described as twenty years of age, very black, and 5 feet 1 or 2 inches tall. Initially Johnson offered a reward of twenty dollars if the slave would be delivered to him at his house in New Canton.

Late in summer, Johnson continued to advertise, elaborating, “He may have passed himself off as a free boy, and be in the company of some white person. He has heretofore been advertised, with a reward of $50.00 if taken out of the State and $20 if taken in the State and delivered to me.”

Did Harrison, known as Dick, have a white friend who was an accomplice in his escape?

In October, Johnson advertised again, determined that Dick be returned to him, this time under a headline $100 Reward.

We will likely never know Dick’s fate.

If a Slate River Ramblings reader recognizes Robert H. Johnson of New Canton, please comment below.

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