Elisha Young was a runaway slave from Kentucky, who settled in Morrow County, Ohio.
Little is known of Young's life. He was a slave in Kentucky, and in 1837, he ran away from his owner, arriving in Morrow County. Young left behind his wife and two children in Kentucky. They were also slaves. Once in Morrow County, Young changed his name to John Green, hoping to make it more difficult for his owner to track him. Young became a farm laborer for Aaron Benedict.
Benedict agreed to assist Young in rescuing the fugitive's family from bondage. In late 1837, Benedict transported Young to Ripley, Ohio, where John Rankin assisted Young in crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky. Young then traveled nearly sixty miles and rescued his family. Both Rankin and Benedict then assisted the four runaways in crossing the Ohio River into Ohio. Benedict, Young, and his family returned to Morrow County.
Approximately six weeks after the fugitives' escape from Kentucky, six men traveled from Delaware, Ohio to Morrow County. They seized Young's wife and two children, while Young and Aaron Benedict, cousin of the Aaron Benedict who employed Young, were hunting. These six men were slave catchers and intended to return the three fugitives to Kentucky. Benedict pursued the six men and their detainees. He secured a warrant for the men's arrest. Now accompanied by nearly eight other anti-slavery men, Benedict found a constable, who joined Benedict's group. These men eventually located the six slave catchers and their prisoners at a tavern in West Jefferson, Ohio. The constable refused to arrest the slave catchers, and a mob of pro-slavery men threatened Benedict and his cohorts with physical violence. Benedict and his supporters returned to Morrow County without the fugitive slaves.
Upon arriving in Morrow County, Benedict told Young of his failed attempt to save Young's family. Young quickly went to Canada, fearful that the slave catchers might return for him. In Canada, he married. He later discovered that his first wife died two years after being returned to Kentucky. Young eventually moved to Van Wert County, Ohio. Following the American Civil War, he located one of his children by his first wife. She and her husband left Kentucky to join Young in Ohio.
Young represents the growing tensions over slavery between Northerners and Southerners during the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Despite arriving in a free state, fugitive slaves, like Young and his family, could still be forcibly returned to their owners. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others, like the Youngs, sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners.
- "Aaron Benedict Account of Fugitive Slaves." The Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection. The Ohio History Connection. Columbus, OH.