The Addison White Affair

Kaufmann, Theodor, and Hoff & Bloede. Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law. , 1850. New York: Publ. by Hoff & Bloede. Photograph.

The Addison White affair was a Fugitive Slave case that led to a literal battle of legal jurisdictions in Ohio.

It began when an enslaved man named Addison White escaped from his owner Daniel White in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, in August 1856. He went north, crossing the Ohio River, to Mechanicsburg, Ohio. There he took work with Udney Hyde.

On May 26, 1857, a posse of fugitive slave hunters led by United States Deputy Marshals B.P. Churchill and John C. Elliott went to Mechanichsburg to arrest Addison White. As they approached the cabin he was staying in, Addison hid up in the loft.

Deputy Marshal Elliott fired shots into the loft after seeing a board creak. Then he began to climb up into it. As he neared the top, Addison White took a shot at him. The bullet struck Elliott in the chest but at such an angle that it apparently “glanced off”. 

The slave catcher quickly went back down the ladder. He fired up into the loft again and fled the cabin. Once outside, no one in the posse dared another attempt to take Addison, at least not before a crowd of abolitionists and people of similar mindset swarmed the scene.

Udney Hyde, who owned the cabin and had apparently admitted Addison was there readily when confronted by the warrant, had also, more to his credit, sent his daughter out to spread the news of the affair.

The posse retreated. Addison White escaped from them, and eventually made his way to Canada.

However, Deputy Marshal Churchill returned to Cincinnati and easily obtained warrants from Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt for the arrest of four men who had aided Addison White: Russell Hyde, Edward Taylor, Charles Taylor and Hiram Guthridge.

Russell Hyde was Udney Hyde’s son. Udney appears to have laid low in the aftermath of the attempted arrest of Addison White. He stayed in hiding for some nine months. 

The slave catching posse, which now included, along with Churchill and Elliott, three other Deputy Marshals plus five assistants, arrested the four men from Mechanicsburg the next day.

However, the anti-slavery men had their allies. A writ of habeas corpus was made out by the Champaign County Probate Court and given to Sheriff John Clark. The sheriff overtook the posse only to discover that Churchill refused to recognize his authority.

The sheriff went on to Springfield, Ohio, and gave the warrant to Clarke County Sheriff John E. Layton. Layton was of firmer stuff. He and his deputy Bill Compton tried to halt the posse near South Charleston.

The marshall’s men resisted. Shots were fired. Overwhelming the pair sent against them, Deputy Marshall Churchill and his men seized Sheriff Layton and beat him badly.

Then they continued on their way to Cincinnati with their four prisoners.

Greene County Sheriff Daniel Lewis tried to halt them next. He and his men managed to arrest Churchill’s posse near Lumberton. Apparently, as Sheriff Lewis grabbed the reins to Churchill’s carriage, the following exchange occurred:

the Marshal with great show of authority cried out, “hold on there old man!” Sheriff – “I intend to hold on.” Marshal – “I am an officer and doing my duty.” Sheriff – “So am I, and doing my duty.”

The four prisoners, now free, but much abused, were sent back to Champaign County while the posse, now prisoners, were taken by train to South Charleston.

Judge Christie of Springfield set a bond of $2,500 for each member of the posse. With none of them able to pay it, they were all remanded to jail. On May 29th, Sheriff Layton received an order from Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt demanding the prisoners be brought to Cincinnati.

Layton complied.

A hearing was set for the first day of June. The case “involves a direct conflict between the State of Ohio and the United States, as to whether the former has any jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. officers, within her bounds.”

It took some time for the court to make its decision. Meanwhile, the marshals were clearly released on some kind of bond. Both Churchill and Elliott were involved in the June 13th seizure of Irwin and Angeline Broadus.

The Broadbus’s were enslaved people who belonged to C.A. Withers of Covington, Kentucky. After their escape, they hid in Taft’s Building on Vine Street in a room occupied by William Connelly, editor of the abolitionist newspaper Cincinnati Gazette.

When the marshals attempted to enter the room, Irwin Broadus stabbed Deputy Marshal John C. Elliott twice. Another marshal shot Broadus and the fugitive was then arrested. Both Elliott and Broadus would recover from their wounds.

The slaves were taken before United States Commissioner E.R. Newhall. He sent them back to C.A. Withers and issued a warrant for the arrest of William Connelly for violating the Fugitive Slave Act.

As to the Addison White affair, on July 9, 1857, Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt officially discharged Churchill and the rest from the custody of Sheriff Layton. (The custody was not literal, clearly.) Leavitt declared “the Marshals to be right in resisting the state process . . .”

On October 29th, 1857, Clarke County Sheriff John Layton, Deputy Bill Compton, Greene County Sheriff Daniel Lewis, and Champaign County Sheriff John Clark, among others, were indicted by the Southern District Court of Ohio for “resisting and obstructing” United States marshals.

Those indictments appear to have gone nowhere.

As to William Connelly, the newspaperman whose room the Broadbus’s had hid in, he apparently left Cincinnati rather than be arrested. 

In February of 1858, Deputy Marshal John C. Elliott went to New York City to find him. Marshal Isaiah Rynders of New York sent one of his men to the daily paper where Connelly now worked.

Deputy Marshal O’Keefe spoke to Connelly, who said he would come with him freely, but wanted to arrange the papers in his room first. O’Keefe allowed it. Connelly, naturally, took the opportunity to escape.

Connelly was eventually arrested. He was tried in May 1858 before Judge Humphrey H. Leavitt. It was found that Withers had been in the habit of letting his slaves visit Cincinnati. The slave crossing the Ohio River with their master’s permission argument won another case.

Connelly didn’t get off scot free, though. He was fined ten dollars and sentenced to be imprisoned for twenty days.



Addison White refuge with Udney Hyde.  The History of Champaign County, Ohio. Chicago: W.H. Beers &, 1881. Pages 605-611. A Champaign County-centric history of the affair.

Posse comes for White. Robinson, Marius R., ed. “Slave Catchers Baffled.” The Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio), May 30, 1857. Page 3. Behind paywall.

Elliott goes into loft. Keen, G.W., and H.N. Lewis, eds. “Arrest of Fugitive Slaves in Cincinnati.” The Wyandot Pioneer(Upper Sandusky, Ohio), June 18, 1857. Page 3. Mostly about the Broadbus affair but confirms Elliott’s role in Addison affair.

Churchill gets warrants for men who helped Addison White. Knapp, H.S. “The Champaign Co. Slave Case – Four White Men Arrested.” The Ashland Union(Ashland, Ohio), June 03, 1857. Behind paywall.

Udney Hyde lays low.  see above The History of Champaign County, Ohio.

The posse grows. Allen, C.N., ed. “The Rescue Case.” The Cadiz Sentinel (Cadiz, Ohio), June 11, 1857. Accessed August 16, 2019. Behind paywall.

The posse captured. McBratney, Samuel, ed. “The Man Hunt – Slave Catching – Resistance of Officers – High Handed Outrages.” The Marysville Tribune (Marysville, Ohio), June 03, 1857. Page 2. Behind paywall.

Leavitt demands marshals be brought to him. McKee, H.L., ed. “The Sequel to the Slave Hunt.” The Tiffin Tribune (Tiffin, Ohio), June 05, 1857. Behind paywall.

The Broadbus case. Walker, Alexander, ed. “Frightful Tragedy! United States Deputy Marshal Stabbed. A Runaway Slave Shot.” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio), June 14, 1857. Behind paywall.

Leavitt discharges marshals from Sheriff Layton. May, Samuel, Jr. The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims. New York, NY: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1861. Page 71. Good overview of case from pages 68-73.

Sheriffs and others indicted by grand jury. “United States District Court – Indictments by the Grand Jury.” Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio), October 30th, 1857. Page 2. Available at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The capture and trial of William Connelly. May, Samuel, Jr. The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims. New York, NY: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1861. Pages 94-95.

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