KIDNAPPING — This most odious, and I might even say, worst of crimes, which has hitherto been principally confined to the southern states, has of late found its way among us. On Thursday last, information was lodged with the Manumission Society, that a gang of scoundrels were engaged in seducing, and decoying free men of color, on board a small schooner, called the Creole, then lying up the North River, a little distance above the state-prison [Sing-Sing], with the intention of transporting them abroad and selling them as slaves for life.
Assistance was procured from the police-office, the schooner boarded, and a search took place, when behold, on opening the hatches, 9 poor unfortunate sons of Africa, who were huddled together in her hold, half suffocated, leaped upon deck, and disclosed to their deliverers the scene of villainy which had been practiced upon them.
One of the owners of the schooner, James H. Thompson, who belongs to Virginia, attempted to make his escape in the long-boat, but was overtaken, secured, and together with the people of colour were taken to the police-office. Upon examination it appeared that one Moses Nichols, who keeps a brothel in Love-lane, in the vicinity of this city [of New York], and one Royal Bowen, were accomplices of Thompson in his odious traffic in human flesh. They have likewise been taken into custody and all three sent to Bridewell [the city of New York’s jail].
The following are the names of the blacks who were kidnapped: — Stephen aged 12, Jacob aged 19, Hannah aged 23, Mink aged 18, Mary aged 8, Harvey aged 10, Henry James aged 20, Caty aged 20 and Ann Freedland. Two of the above were brought from Albany, six from Poughkeepsie, and one belonged to this city. Various were the strategems used to deceive these poor ignorant creatures, and keep them in the dark as to the hard fate which awaited them. At one time they were told that they would be employed as gentlemen’s servants; at others they were to be hostlers. They were conveyed to the schooner in a coach last Thursday afternoon, in a violent rainstorm, and soon after put under hatches, and would, in all probability, have been taken to sea that night, had not the authority interposed.
One of the colored women was brought to this city in a sloop from Poughkeepsie, by one of the above named fellows, (Nichols,) who pretended to be her master, and during the whole passage was observed to read frequently in the bible, and at other times to weep, and refuse all sustenance offered her. On the captain of the sloop inquiring of her the cause, she told him she was apprehensive that there was a scheme on foot to transport her out of the country.
Thompson, the principal actor in this disgraceful traffic [had claimed last winter to have been] knocked down in Warren street and robbed of a large sum of money. We understand from the police officers he is an old offender, and was concerned with a couple of fellows who were indicted last winter for kidnapping. It would, perhaps, be no more than fair to state, that the captain of the schooner, who was supposed to be implicated, has been examined and discharged. It is therefore presumable that he had no knowledge of the nature of the voyage he was about to enter upon.
KIDNAPPERS TAKEN. It gives great pleasure to state that a number of villains, engaged in the atrocious crime of kidnapping people of colour, have lately been discovered in this city, through the benevolent exertions of Mr. S. Kelly, of Poughkeepsie, who suspecting the plot, came to this city on Thursday last, and communicated the intelligence to the [New-York] Manumission Society. Immediate measures were taken to secure them and rescue the unfortunate victims that had fallen into their clutches.
The principal of the gang is a man calling himself James H. Thompson, who last fall purchased some slaves of a Captain Storer, who sailed from this port in a vessel called the Alligator, with four blacks on board kidnapped here, touched at Philadelphia and procured two more, and then proceeded to Baltimore, where they were sold. Thompson undertook to convey them to Georgia, but in passing through North Carolina, the blacks procured an opportunity to communicate their situation to some travellers, who interceded on their behalf.
On reaching the town of Winton, Thompson was seized, and bound to appear at Court. Having got bail, he came on to this city, for the purpose of procuring testimony concerning his slaves. During the winter, he was knocked down in Warren-street, by Arthur Miles, Captain Storer’s mate, and robbed, as he stated, of rising one thousand dollars. After this he went back to Georgia, where he resides, being, according to his own story, a farmer in King’s county, and has a family of seven children. Some time ago, he took passage in a vessel at Savannah, & came to this city, accompanied by a fellow who calls his name Crabtree. Here the nefarious combination was formed.
Their head quarters was at a notorious gambling house, occupied by Moses Nichols, in Love‑Lane, a road but little travelled, about two and a half miles from the city. Nichols was supplied with funds, and sent out on a Northern tour — at Albany he procured two, and at Poughkeepsie six blacks, pretending he purchased them for his own use, and had them conveyed to his brothel, where they were kept secure by the rest of the gang. While Nichols was busy to the North, Thompson, Crabtree and others were to work here.
In the whole ten blacks had fallen into their hands, This being a tolerable cargo, and delays dangerous, they were preparing to depart with their booty, and would no doubt have left this port on Friday last, had not a discovery taken place. On Thursday, the standing committee of the Manumission Society watched their manouvres. In the night, while the rain fell in torrents, the blacks were conveyed in a carriage by Thompson, from the house of Nichols, and put on board a small schooner called the Creole of New‑York, then lying in the North River, about a half a mile above Fort Gansevoort. On Friday morning, information was given to the Police, who promptly afforded assistance. The vessel was boarded, and eight blacks found on board, secured in the hold and cabin.
On enquiry of Thompson, who appeared as the owner of the vessel, he stated that two of the blacks were his own property, the rest were passengers, put on board by Nichols, who were to be landed at Poughkeepsie and Albany, where the vessel was bound for a load of cheese, and from thence to Baltimore. The schooner was seized by the Custom House Officer, and Thompson and his accomplices conveyed to Bridewell.
On Saturday Thompson was brought before the Police for examination — in the course of his evidence he stated he had purchased the schooner for coasting, and that the blacks were bought for his relations in Baltimore. He denied having any connexion with Nichols, and pretended he knew no such man as Crabtree, but being more closely questioned, acknowledged they came passengers together from Savannah. After his affidavit was drawn up, it was handed him to read, and notwithstanding he stated it to be correct, refused to sign it.
The following is Mr. Stilwell’s affidavit, who was employed to navigate the vessel, but who it appears had no knowledge of the villainy going on. He was accordingly discharged.
CITY OF NEW-YORK, ss.
William Stilwell of No. 22 Hester-street, being duly sworn, says that eight or ten days since he was employed by James H. Thompson, the man now here, to act as captain of the vessel called “The Creole of New-York” — That deponent obtained coasting licence, and was to sail yesterday to a place called Darien, [Georgia] about 60 or 70 miles from Savannah, in South Carolina — that said Thompson said that he was to take nothing but passengers out, together with a few blacks, their servants, and he was to return to this port with a cargo of wheat.
Sworn the 27th day of June, 1817. J. HEDDEN, Police Justice.
When this villainous conspiracy shall have undergone a full examination, we have no doubt other actors will be discovered, and that it will be found to have consisted of a gang of BLOODY THIEVES who have long been engaged in kidnapping this unfortunate race of people. We thank God that through the exertions of the friends of Africans, they have at length been taken, and are about to suffer the just sentence of the law for their atrocious crimes.
For more information see Dr. Jonathan Daniel Wells’ presentation for the Hudson River Maritime Museum lecture series, of his book The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War at Youtube here.
Thanks to Hudson River Maritime Museum volunteer researcher George A. Thompson for finding and transcribing this article. If you enjoyed this post and would like to support the Hudson River Maritime Museum become a member or make a contribution.
Illustration: Internal Slave Trade, Staunton, Virginia, 1853 courtesy slaveryimages.org.