This is the third in a series of posts that will feature the label text from a small exhibit currently on display in Wellington’s downtown, commemorating the capture and rescue of John Price on September 13, 1858. A photo of the display can be seen here.
NOTE: All times are approximate and based on testimony offered in the 1859 trials.
John Price is abducted by a group of three armed men about one to two miles northeast of Oberlin. The men place Price in their buggy, and head south down what is today Hallauer Road, to reach Wellington in time for the late afternoon train to Columbus. The slave catchers want to escape public notice so avoid passing directly through Oberlin, but are spotted en route by people heading there, who alert the town to what has happened.
The buggy containing Price and his captors arrives in Wellington at Wadsworth’s hotel, the public house at the center of the village. The slave catchers eat in the hotel’s public dining room, keeping their prisoner with them to prevent his escape.
Anderson Jennings of Kentucky, leader of the slave catchers, is notified in Oberlin that the abduction was a success. He eats lunch, then departs for Wellington to meet the group at Wadsworth’s.
Word has reached downtown Oberlin that a group of slave catchers has abducted John Price and taken him toward Wellington. Groups of local residents, students and professors prepare to head south to liberate Price in vehicles, on horseback, and on foot. It is a nine-mile journey that can take upwards of one hour to complete, even in a wheeled conveyance.
Anderson Jennings arrives at Wadsworth’s hotel. The town square has approximately 300 people in it, watching the cleanup of a massive morning fire on the west side of South Main Street. The crowd is boisterous and, in some cases, intoxicated. Jennings fears trouble and asks hotel keeper Oliver Wadsworth to relocate his group from the second floor to a more isolated third-floor attic.
Small groups of people from Oberlin begin arriving in Wellington. As word spreads that a young man has been abducted and is being held in the hotel, public focus gradually shifts from the smoldering buildings on the west side of the square, to the hotel on its east side. Witnesses later estimate that 500 people ultimately surround Wadsworth’s hotel.
John Price is brought out onto the second-floor balcony and instructed by his captors to tell the crowd that he is returning to slavery willingly. Some in the crowd aim weapons at the slave catchers and urge Price to jump to safety; he is quickly pulled back inside the hotel.
In an effort to calm the crowd and demonstrate what they believe to be their legal right to hold Price, the slave catchers speak with several local officials, including Constable Barnabas Meacham, lawyer Joseph Dickson, and Justices of the Peace Isaac Bennet and William Howk. Little information from these exchanges reaches the crowd outside, which is increasingly agitated and impatient for action.
The regularly scheduled train from Cleveland arrives. Rumors have circulated through the crowd that troops from the Cleveland Grays may be on board to assist the slave catchers in carrying Price to Columbus, but no troops disembark. The train departs on time, without the slave catchers or Price onboard.
Groups comprised of Oberlin students and residents rush the front and rear doors of Wadsworth’s hotel. A few men force their way into the garret room where Price is being held, encircle him, and quickly remove him from the building. Anderson Jennings is knocked back from the door, but no other violence occurs. Price is placed in a buggy waiting in the center of Wellington’s village square, and rapidly driven north to Oberlin, where he is placed into hiding. The crowd soon disperses.