Smith, Adam

From Ohio History Central
Revision as of 18:11, 24 April 2013 by (Talk)

Adam Smith was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Meigs County, Ohio. 

Little is known of Smith's life beyond his Underground Railroad activities. In 1823, Smith found employment with Hamilton Carr, an abolitionist and a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Meigs County. Smith and Carr assisted many slaves in attaining their freedom. They concentrated their efforts in the vicinity of Point Pleasant, Virginia (modern day West Virginia).

Virginia slaveowners quickly sought to stop Smith and Carr. In October 1824, four Virginia slaveowners entered Meigs County and arrested Smith. They placed him in jail in Point Pleasant, intending to try him for stealing their slaves. Authorities refused to grant Smith bail. Meigs County abolitionists quickly established a committee to warn each other of the approach of other Virginia slaveowners. Eight abolitionists, including Martin Meaker, William Hatch, John Woods, David Tyler, Obadiah Ralph, William Terry, Charles Giles, and John S. Giles, Sr., also instigated a plan to secure Smith's release.

Six weeks after Smith's arrest, the eight abolitionists proceeded to Point Pleasant under the cover of darkness. They were heavily armed and proceeded to break Smith out of the Point Pleasant jail. The nine men safely returned to Meigs County. The Virginia governor immediately requested that Ohio's governor transport the men involved to Point Pleasant. Ohio Governor Jeremiah Morrow issued arrest warrants for three of the men. Ohio authorities turned the men over to Virginia officials. At their trials, two of the men were found innocent. The third conspirator was sentenced to pay a thirty dollar fine and was released.

Smith and his colleagues represent the growing tensions over slavery between Northerners and Southerners during the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners, such as Smith. Northern abolitionists were risking their very lives to assist slaves in attaining freedom.