From Ohio History Central
Poindexter was a slave owned by a Mr. Anderson in Kentucky. In 1854, Judge S.F. Norris in the Clermont County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas awarded Poindexter his freedom.
Beginning in the late 1840s, Anderson routinely allowed his slave to travel to Ohio to carry out business transactions for his owner. Eventually, Poindexter approached Anderson, asking his owner if the slave could purchase his freedom. The two men agreed that Poindexter could purchase his freedom, and the former slave pledged to make payments to Anderson over the next few years. Poindexter, however, failed to make the payments.
Hoping to force Poindexter either to pay him or to be returned to slavery, Anderson sued Poindexter in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas in 1854. The case took place in Clermont County, as Poindexter resided in this jurisdiction. Judge Norris ruled that Poindexter did not have to pay Anderson any money and also that Poindexter could not be returned to slavery due to the fact that Anderson had willingly allowed his slave to travel to Ohio, a free state. Norris contended that as soon as Anderson first sent Poindexter to Ohio on business, the slave had gained his freedom, since slavery was illegal in Ohio.
Norris's ruling illustrated the growing tensions between white Northerners and white Southerners during the 1850s. In 1850, the federal government implemented the Fugitive Slave Law, which required federal officials to actively find runaway slaves and to return them to their masters. Many Northern states, including Ohio, openly opposed the Fugitive Slave Law. Many Northern state and local officials, like Judge Norris, sought to impede enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law.
- "Important Decision." Ironton Register. 17 August 1854
- Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.