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18th-Century Runaway Slave Advertisements

These newspaper advertisements seeking runaway slaves offer interesting details about the individual lives of eighteenth-century slaves and their masters.

Virginia Gazette: May 2 to May 9, 1745.
RAN away, about the 10th of April last, from the Hon. John Custis, Esq; of Williamsburg, a Negro Man named Peter, of a middle Stature, about 30 Years of Age; has a Scar in his Forehead, or somewhere about the upper Part of his Face, occasion'd by falling into the Fire when a Child, is Virginia-born; he went away with Irons on his Legs, a Kersey Waistcoat, and a Cotton Pair of Breeches, laced on the Sides for Conveniency of putting them on over his Irons; he has robb'd me, in Cash, Houshold Linen, and other Goods to a considerable Value; and notwithstanding he is Out-law'd will not be taken or return home; he can read, and I believe write. Whoever apprehends and conveys him safe to me, shall have Two Pistoles Reward, besides what the Law allows.

Virginia Gazette: October 3 to October 10, 1745.
RAN away from the Subscriber, living in Hanover, two new Negroe Men, imported from Gambia, in the Brig. Ranger, and sold at Newcastle the 5th of September last; they understand no English, and are near 6 Feet high, each; one of them is nam'd Jack, a right Black, with a Scar over the Right Eye-brow; the other a yellow Fellow, with 3 small Strokes on each Side of his Face, like this Mark (|). They had on, each, a nap'd new Cotton Jacket and Breeches, without either Buttons or Button-holes, a new Oznabrig Shirt, and new Felt Hats. They stole a fine Damask Table-Cloth, 10 qrs. square, 5 Yards and a Half of fine Scot Linen, 3 Yards and a Half of Scots 3 qr. Check, a white Holland Shirt, and a Silk Handkerchief. Whoever takes up the said Negroes, and Goods, and brings them to me, or to Mr. Robert Brown, Merchant, in Newcastle, shall be rewarded as the law allows. Margaret Arbuthnott.

Virginia Gazette: From November 14 to November 21, 1745.
RAN away from the Subscriber, living in Hanover County, near Newcastle Town, about the End of September last, a new Negroe Man; he understands no English; is about 5 Feet 11 Inches high, a right Black Fellow; with a Scar over his Right Eye-brow; had on, a new Cotton Jacket and Breeches, without either Button or Button-holes, a new Felt Hat, and an Oznabrig Shirt. Whoever takes up the said Negroe and brings him to me, or to Mr. Robert Brown, Merchant, in Newcastle, shall have a good Reward, besides what the Law allows. Margaret Arbuthnott. N.B. It’s desired that he may receive sufficient Correction in his Way home.

Maryland Gazette: May 5, 1768.
Loudoun County, Virginia, April 29, 1768. FIFTEEN POUNDS REWARD. RAN away from the Subscriber, living in Loudoun County, near Rocky-Run Chapel, Two English Convict Servant Men, both Blacksmiths, viz. JOHN BENHAM, about 28 Years of Age, a slender made fellow, stoops in his Shoulders, and has a very hoarse Voice, wears his own short Hair, is about 5 feet 5 or 6 inches high; Had on, when he went away, an Oznabrig shirt, a short Cotton Jacket, Cotton Breeches, coarse Stockings, and Country Shoes or Pumps. JOHN MILLER, a short well-set Fellow, wears his own short Hair, has a large Scar in his Forehead, is about 5 Feet 2 or 3 Inches high, and about 28 Years of Age, he talks very much, and is very deceitful; Had on, when he went away, a grey Bearskin Jacket and Breeches, an Osnabrig Shirt, no Stockings, and Country Shoes. . . . They took with them, a Negro Lad, named Jack, about 18 Years of Age, a short well-set Fellow, has lost the greatest Part of his Toes with the Frost, is a very brisk lively Fellow, and remarkably black. They stole out of my Stable, Two Horses . . . The Negro Boy took with him, a small grey Horse . . . . Whoever takes up said Servants, and Negro, and brings them to my House, in Loudoun County, near Rocky-Run Chapel, shall receive the above Reward, and if taken apart, Five Pounds Reward for each. WILLIAM CARR LANE. It is supposed they have black’d themselves, as there was some Coal and Tallow found in a Kettle of theirs.

Virginia Gazette: July 9, 1772.
RUN away from the Subscriber, in King and Queen, about a Fortnight ago, a NEGRO WOMAN about twenty one Years of Age; she is tall and black, very lusty, and supposed to be pretty far gone with Child; her Dress cannot be well described, having several Changes of Apparel, and generally wears a blue Cloth Cloak. At the same Time went away an indented Servant Man named JAMES BRUCE, a Seaman, from Scotland, about five Feet seven or eight Inches high, twenty five Years of Age, and wears his own dark coloured Hair. Whoever brings the Negro Woman to me shall have FORTY SHILLINGS, and be allowed all Expenses; and, as it is supposed the Servant Man carried her away, whoever apprehends him with the Woman shall have TEN POUNDS on his Conviction. All Masters of Vessels are hereby forbid carrying either of them out of the Colony. WILLIAM BLACK.

Virginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser: June 5, 1788.
Thirty Dollars Reward. RAN away, from the subscriber, living in Culpeper county, about 20 miles from Fredericksburg, on Monday the 12th of May, eight Negroes, purchased of the executors of James Hunter, esq., late of Stafford county, deceased, on the 10th of Feb. 1787, viz.----JOE, about 6 feet high, between 40 and 50 years old, is stout and well made, and has a hole in each of his ears.----HANNAH, Joe's wife, a remarkably large wench, about 40 years old, and has a female child with her, about 2 or 3 years old, named Griffy.----JOHN, son of Joe, about 7 or 8 years old, very well grown.----HARRY, a spare made fellow, about 60 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches high, is a very artful fellow, appears very religious; he has acquaintance about Annapolis, in Maryland, and Williamsburg, Portsmouth and Norfolk; he is supposed to have money with him.----DUMBO, wife of HARRY, a spare wench, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, and about 50 years old.----PATTY, about 18 years old, about 5 feet high, has a scar upon one of her arms below the elbow, and sundry others on her breast which appear like burns, and her back appears to have been used to the whip; she has a child with her about 2 years old.----It is suspected they have forged passes and may endeavour to pass for Mr. Hunter's, or for free, negroes.----All masters of vessels and others are hereby forbid to carry off or harbour the said slaves under the penalty of the law.----Whoever takes up the said negroes and brings them to the subscriber, shall have the above reward; or for Harry 10 dollars; or either of the others 4 dollars; and if taken 50 miles from home, or out of the state, all necessary charges will be paid by Basil Nooe June 2d, 1788.

Source | Tom Costa, ed., The Geography of Slavery in Virginia (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia, 2005), The Virginia Center for Digital History,
Creator | Various
Item Type | Advertisement
Cite This document | Various, “18th-Century Runaway Slave Advertisements,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 19, 2024,

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