Passed by the spot where two negro traders had been murdered by their chained slaves 2 or 3 weeks before. The torn fragments of their clothes were scattered about, the bushes beat down, the grass and leaves torn up, and other marks of a violent contest. Seven of the negroes are in jail and six of them will be hanged. We crossed a steep mountain, the dividing line between the Greenup and Lewis Counties, came down the valley of Montgomeries Creek and again came to the Ohio River. Traveled several miles down the river to Vanceburg, a small trifling village, on the Ohio River, of 14 houses. Saw a steamboat packet going the river, We encamped 1/2 mile above the town, near some salt furnaces which make about 100 bushels per day.*
The National Gazette – Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 2 September 1829
Portsmouth, Ohio August 22 – Affray and Murder! – A most shocking outrage was committed in Kentucky about eight miles from this place, on the 14th instant. A negro driver, by the name of Gordon, who had purchased in Maryland about sixty negroes, including all sexes and ages, was taking them, assisted by an associate named Allen, and the wagoner who conveyed the baggage, to the Mississippi. The men were handcuffed and chained together in the usual manner for driving these poor wretches, while the women and children were suffered to proceed without incumbrance. It appears that, by means of a file, the negroes, unobserved, had succeeded in separating the irons which bound their hands, in such a way as to be able to throw them off at any moment. – About eight o’clock in in the morning, while proceeding on the state road leading from Greenup to Vanceburg, two of them dropped their shackles and commenced a fight, when the wagoner Petit rushed in with his whip to compel them to desist. At this moment every negro was found perfectly at liberty; and one of them seizing a club, gave Petit a violent blow and laid him dead at his feet, and Allen, who had come to his assistance, met a similar fate, from the contents of a pistol fired by another of the gang. Gordon was then attacked, seized and held by one of the negroes, whilst another fired, twice at him with a pistol, the ball of which each time grazed his head, but not proving effectual, he was beaten with clubs and left for dead. They then commenced pillaging the wagon, and with an axe split open the trunk of Gordon, rifled it of the money, about $2,400; sixteen of the negroes then took to the woods. Gordon in the mean time, not being materially injured, was enabled by the assistance of one of the women, to mount his horse and flee; pursued, however, by one of the gang, on another horse, with a drawn pistol. Fortunately he escaped with his life, barely arriving at a plantation as the negro came in sight; who then turned about and retreated. The neighborhood was immediately rallied, and a hot pursuit given – which we understand has resulted in the capture of the whole gang, and the recovery of the greater part of the money. Seven of the negro men and one woman, it is said were engaged in the murders, and will be brought to trial at the next court in Greenupsburg.
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. There are now 53 people in this caravan, 25 of which are enslaved. A child of James and Nancy Alexander has died. Among the enslaved is Archer Alexander, born in 1806. This journal is located in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor and author is Dorris Keeven-Franke.