Addison White was an escaped slave from Kentucky.
Little is known of White's life while he was a slave. He was probably born in 1821 and lived in Fleming County, Kentucky with his owner, Daniel White. In 1856, he ran away to Ohio along the Underground Railroad. He eventually made his way to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, in Champaign County. Here, he sought refuge in the home of Udney Hyde. White remained in the Hyde home for eight months, purportedly helping Hyde recover from a broken ankle. White's owner and some federal marshals eventually located the fugitive slave at Hyde's home. The marshals attempted to capture Addison White, who had barricaded himself in the loft of a log cabin with a gun. White was able to drive the marshals away, but they soon returned. Mechanicsburg townspeople had also arrived on the scene and surrounded the barn. Armed with pitchforks and other weapons, they refused to let the marshals take the fugitive slave, who, the mob falsely said, had fled to Canada. The marshals did arrest several people for aiding White in his escape.
The sheriff of Clark County attempted to arrest the federal marshals for illegally detaining the men. The marshals refused to release the captives and proceeded to beat the sheriff and the posse severely. Eventually, a mob of Ohioans detained the marshals and jailed them in Springfield, Ohio on the charge of assault with intent to kill, due to the altercation with the Clark County sheriff. Eventually, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase negotiated the release of the federal prisoners as well as of the marshals, with all charges being dropped against both groups.
Daniel White was determined to reclaim his property. He brought suit in a court of law, demanding the return of the fugitive slave. Fearful that the court might return Addison White to his owner, Mechanicsburg residents raised 950 dollars to purchase the slave's freedom from his owner. Daniel White agreed to the sale.
Addison White spent the remainder of his life as a free man in Mechanicsburg. He served two years in the Union Army during the American Civil War. White was married to a free black woman in Kentucky. She refused to join her husband in Ohio, preferring to remain in Kentucky. Addison White eventually remarried.
Addison White illustrates the difficulties African Americans faced in the United States of America in 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. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others, like White, sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners.
- Prince, Benjamin F. "The Rescue Case of 1857." Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 16 (January 1907): 292-309.