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Who were the Randolph Slaves?

Some Miami County residents can trace their roots to the early Randolph slave group. The Randolph slaves acquired their name from John Randolph, a plantation owner in Charlotte County, Virginia. At his death in 1833, Randolph freed his slaves and provided $8,000 for the purchase of land in a free state. Judge William Leigh was appointed to carry out the will's provisions. Following lengthy litigation in the Virginia courts, Leigh purchased 2,000 of land in Mercer County. Leigh immediately transported over 300 slaves down the Ohio River to Cincinnati, then northward by canal boat to Minster in Auglaize County. Unfortunately, a group of armed farmers refused to allow the slaves to disembark. Turning back the boat, they were permitted to unload at Piqua. The July 25, 1846 Piqua Register carried the following account of the "Randolph Negroes".

"These unfortunate creatures have again been driven from lands selected for them. As we noted last week, an effort, which it was thought would be successful, was made to settle them in Shelby county, but like the previous attempt in Mercer, it has failed. They were driven away by threats of violence. About one third of them, we understand, remained at Sidney, intending to scatter, and find homes wherever they can. The rest of them came down here to-day (Thursday) and are now at the wharf in boats. The present intention is to leave them wherever places can be obtained for them. We presume, therefore, they will all remain in the State, as it is probable they will find situations for the whole of them between this and Cincinnati. The necessity which now separates and scatters them over the whole country (connected as they are by ties of kindred, being as it were, but one family,) is a hard one, but it is probably the best thing that can be done."

A sizable group finally settle in the Knowles Addition just east of the village of Rossville, now annexed to Piqua. The 1850 census of Springcreek Township cites 74 blacks living in Rossville. Sampson Riley, Shadrack White, Guy Howell, and Gabriel White, all listed as laborers, owned property worth a combined total of $950. This figure is all the more significant when compared to white property ownership in Rossville which totaled only $1,100. The black population remained about equal, at 71, by the 1860 census. However, the group was somewhat more prosperous, showing property and cash valued at $3,530. Of the fourteen black property owners, Shadrack and Gabriel White were the only two 1850 census property owners still listed. Gabriel's estate had increased from $300 to $350 while Shadrack's holdings had climbed from $200 to $350. The largest estate belonged to Isaac Guy, a day laborer, who claimed property and cash valued at $700.

Other groups of Randolph slaves moved throughout Miami County, especially to the Troy and West Milton areas. In Union Township (West Milton), the West Branch Quakers sponsored a large colony of the former slaves. The 1850 census counts 90 blacks living in the township itself with two other young children living with white families in West Milton. While most of the men are listed as laborers, the group did claim a combined estate valued at $1,540. But 1860, the 93 Randolph Slaves were still living as a group within the township. One member, Isaac Cole, age 67, is listed as a farmer who owned land valued at $2,000 and had a cash estate of $370.

A suit, later filed in Mercer County to recover their lost lands, was decided against the Randolph slave group.

Connie Porcher, March 1979

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