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"Arrest of Stephen S. Hill"

As this newspaper announcement indicates, the status of slaves in California was unclear and fluid. Even though California was admitted as a free state to the Union in 1850, many southerners, claiming their stay was temporary, brought their slaves as property with them to the gold fields. Enslaved people took advantage of the uncertainty, running away and setting up mining operations for themselves, often sending money back east to buy relatives out of slavery. In 1852, the California legislature, heavily dominated by southerners who had migrated west, passed a Fugitive Slave Law. Slaves continued to run away and several, with the help of abolitionist allies, went to court to claim that they had been in California long enough not to be considered “temporary” residents and therefore should be free.

ARREST UNDER THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW OF THIS STATE.—A negro named Stephen S. Hill, who was brought to this State by his master in 1849, was arrested and brought before Justice Lane last Saturday as a fugitive, his master, Mr. Tucker of Arkansas, having sent on a power of Attorney from [Arkansas], to which he returned some year or two ago, for the purpose of having this man arrested. Hill says that he purchased or got his freedom from his master before he went home; and in order to give him an opportunity to bring forward proof to this effect, the Judge remanded him for ten days. Hill has a garden at Gold Springs, and property said to be worth altogether about $4,000, and is a universal favorite among the inhabitants of that place, from his good and industrious habits. — Sonora Herald.

Source | “Arrest of Stephen S. Hill,” 1854; The California Underground Railroad Digital Archive,
Creator | Sonora Herald
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Sonora Herald, “"Arrest of Stephen S. Hill",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed March 2, 2024,

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