Calvin Fairbank

Last updated
Calvin Fairbank
Rev. Calvin Fairbank Book Plate.jpg
Rev. Calvin Fairbank
BornNovember 3, 1816 (1816-11-03)
Pike, New York
DiedOctober 12, 1898 (1898-10-13) (aged 81)
Angelica, New York
Alma mater Oberlin College
OccupationMethodist minister,
abolitionist
Notable work
Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times
Spouse(s)(1) Mandana Tileston
(2) Adeline Winegar
Signature
Calvin Fairbank signature.jpg

Calvin Fairbank (November 3, 1816 – October 12, 1898) was an American abolitionist and Methodist minister from New York state who was twice convicted in Kentucky of aiding the escape of slaves, and served a total of 19 years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort. Fairbank is believed to have aided the escape of 47 slaves.

Contents

Pardoned in 1849 after four years of his first sentence, Fairbank returned to his Underground Railroad work. He was arrested in 1851 with the aid of the governor of Indiana, who was enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Fairbank was convicted again in Kentucky and served the full sentence of 15 years.

Early life

Calvin Fairbank was born in 1816 in Pike, in what is now Wyoming County, New York, to Chester Fairbank and his wife; he grew up in an intensely religious family environment. It was also the period of the Second Great Awakening, and western New York was a center of evangelical activity. Listening to the stories told by two escaped slaves whom he met at a Methodist quarterly meeting, the young Fairbank became strongly anti-slavery.

He began his career freeing slaves in 1837 when, piloting a lumber raft down the Ohio River, he ferried a slave across the river to free territory. Soon he was delivering escaped slaves to the Quaker abolitionist Levi Coffin for transportation on the Underground Railroad to northern US cities or to Canada.

Aliases

Calvin Fairbank used aliases: Samuel P. King, [1] Samuel S. King, John Doe, Richard Roe/Rowe and John Rowe. [2]

Methodist Episcopal Church

The Methodist Episcopal Church licensed Fairbank to preach in 1840 and ordained him as a minister in 1842. Hoping to improve his education, he enrolled in 1844 in the "preparatory division" of Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio, now Oberlin College. It was interracial and a center of anti-slavery sentiment. At Oberlin, Fairbank met future AME bishop, John M. Brown and the pair worked together in underground railroad activities. [3]

Abolitionist

Gilson Berry

Responding to an appeal to rescue the wife and children of an escaped slave named Gilson Berry, Fairbank went to Lexington, Kentucky, where he made contact with Delia Webster, a teacher from Vermont who was working there and had become active as an abolitionist. She was to help with the rescue, but Berry's wife failed to meet Fairbank as planned.

By chance, he met Lewis Hayden and his family, who were planning an escape. He asked Hayden, "Why do you want your freedom?" Hayden responded, "Because I am a man." [4]

Lewis Hayden, ex-slave, abolitionist, businessman, and Republican representative from Boston to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1873; 19th-century portrait Lewis Hayden Portrait.png
Lewis Hayden, ex-slave, abolitionist, businessman, and Republican representative from Boston to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1873; 19th-century portrait

The Haydens

Fairbank and Webster transported Hayden, his wife Harriet and Harriet's son Joseph by carriage to freedom in Ripley, Ohio. (See John Rankin (abolitionist).) The fugitive couple put flour on their faces to appear white and, in times of danger, would hide their son under the wagon seat. As Fairbank and Webster returned to Kentucky, they were identified and arrested for assisting the runaway slaves.

Webster was tried in December 1844 and sentenced to two years in the Kentucky state penitentiary, but she was pardoned by the governor after serving less than two months of her sentence. Fairbank was tried in 1845 and sentenced to a 15-year term, five years for each of the slaves he helped free.

He was pardoned in 1849 [5] in an effort begun by his father. [6] Effectively Lewis Hayden ransomed Fairbank, as he raised the $650 demanded by his former master to approve the pardon. Hayden had quickly collected the money within a few weeks from 160 people in Boston, where he and his family had settled. [7]

Tamar

In 1851, Fairbank helped a slave named Tamar escape from Kentucky to Indiana. On November 9 of that year, with the connivance of the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana and Indiana Governor Joseph A. Wright, marshals from Kentucky abducted Fairbank and took him back to their state for trial. In 1852, he was sentenced to 15 years in the state penitentiary. While imprisoned, he was singled out for exceptionally harsh treatment; he was frequently flogged and overworked.

Imprisonment effects

Over his combined imprisonment of more than 17 years, Fairbank was reported to have received 35,000 lashes in prison floggings. In an April 5, 1850 article, The Liberator summarized a letter from Fairbank to William Lloyd Garrison: "He expresses gratitude to the people of Boston, indicates an intention to write a book about his experiences, and indicates that letters to him can be sent in care of Lewis Hayden." [8]

Finally, in 1864, three years into the American Civil War, Fairbank was pardoned by Acting Governor Richard T. Jacob, who had long advocated the activist's release. When Thomas Bramlette returned to office, he had Jacob arrested and expelled from the state for his attacks on Lincoln during the presidential campaign and support for George B. McClellan.

Marriage and family

Mandana Tileston Fairbank Mandana Tileston Fairbank.gif
Mandana Tileston Fairbank

Once free, Fairbank married Mandana Tileston, to whom he had been engaged for thirteen years, since his brief period of freedom in 1851. Known as "Dana," she moved from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, to Oxford, Ohio, in order to visit Fairbank in prison as often as possible and to press the case for his pardon with the Governor of Kentucky. Their only child, Calvin Cornelius Fairbank, was born in 1868.

The conditions of Fairbank's life in prison broke his health. Although he held jobs with missionary and benevolent societies, he was not able to support his family. At one point, he and his wife tried to earn a living operating a bakery in the utopian community of Florence, Massachusetts. After Mandana Fairbank died of tuberculosis in 1876, Calvin gave their son to the care of her sister and brother-in-law. Fairbank remarried in 1879, but little is known of his second wife, Adeline Winegar, except that she was the daughter of Henry and Jane Winegar and like Calvin, a native of Pike. In the 1870 census she had been listed as a domestic servant. She died of cancer on February 12, 1901 in Angelica, and was buried next to Calvin in the local cemetery.

Memoirs

Fairbank wrote his memoir, publishing it in 1890 under the title, Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He "Fought the Good Fight" to Prepare "the Way." This effort earned him little money. He died in near-poverty in Angelica, New York. He was buried there in the Until the Day Dawn Cemetery. He is generally credited with helping free 47 slaves. [9]

Push for posthumous pardon

In the 21st century, James Pritchard, a retired state archivist for Kentucky who has published articles about the Underground Railroad, and several other persons worked to petition Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to pardon Fairbank and others convicted of helping slaves escape. [5] From 1844 to 1870, Kentucky imprisoned 44 persons for activities to free slaves in the state, not releasing the last man until five years after the end of the American Civil War. Eight of these persons died in prison. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Act of the United States Congress

The Fugitive Slave Act or Fugitive Slave Law was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern interests in slavery and Northern Free-Soilers.

Fugitive slaves in the United States

In the United States, fugitive slaves or runaway slaves were terms used in the 18th and 19th century to describe enslaved people who fled slavery. The term also refers to the federal Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850. Such people are also called freedom seekers to avoid implying that the enslaved person had committed a crime and that the slaveholder was the injured party.

Joseph A. Wright

Joseph Albert Wright was the tenth governor of the U.S. state of Indiana from December 5, 1849, to January 12, 1857, most noted for his opposition to banking. His positions created a rift between him and the Indiana General Assembly who overrode all of his anti-banking vetoes. He responded by launching legal challenges to the acts, but was ruled against by the Indiana Supreme Court. The state's second constitutional convention was held during 1850–1851 in which the current Constitution of Indiana was drafted. He was a supporter of the new constitution and gave speeches around the state urging its adoption. He was opposed throughout his term by Senator Jesse D. Bright, the leader of the state Democratic Party.

Samuel Green (freedman) African American slave

Samuel Green was a slave, freedman, and minister of religion. A conductor of the Underground Railroad, he was tried and convicted in 1857 of possessing a copy of the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe following the Dover Eight incident. He received a ten-year sentence, and was pardoned by the Governor of Maryland Augustus Bradford in 1862, after he served five years.

Jermain Wesley Loguen

Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, born Jarm Logue, in slavery, was an African-American abolitionist and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and an author of a slave narrative.

Lewis Hayden American abolitionist, lecturer, businessman and politician (1811-1889)

Lewis Hayden escaped slavery in Kentucky with his family and escaped to Canada. He established a school for African Americans before moving to Boston, Massachusetts to aid in the abolition movement. There he became an abolitionist, lecturer, businessman, and politician. Before the American Civil War, he and his wife Harriet Hayden aided numerous fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, often sheltering them at their house.

Shadrach Minkins American slave

Shadrach Minkins was an African-American fugitive slave from Virginia who escaped in 1850 and reached Boston. He also used the pseudonyms Frederick Wilkins and Frederick Jenkins. He is known for being freed from a courtroom in Boston after being captured by United States marshals under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Members of the Boston Vigilance Committee freed and hid him, helping him get to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Minkins settled in Montreal, where he raised a family. Two men were prosecuted in Boston for helping free him, but they were acquitted by the jury.

Samuel Burris

Samuel D. Burris was a member of the Underground Railroad. He had a family, who he moved to Philadelphia for safety and traveled into Maryland and Delaware to guide freedom seekers north along the Underground Railroad to Pennsylvania.

Reverse Underground Railroad

The Reverse Underground Railroad is the name given, sardonically, to the pre-American Civil War practice of kidnapping in free states not only fugitive slaves but free blacks as well, transporting them to slave states, and selling them as slaves, or occasionally getting a reward for return of a fugitive. Those who used the term were pro-slavery and angered at an "underground railroad" helping slaves escape. Also, the so-called "reverse underground railroad" had incidents but not a network, and its activities did not always take place in secret. Rescues of blacks being kidnapped were unusual.

History of slavery in Indiana Aspect of history surrounding slavery in Indiana

Slavery in Indiana occurred between the time of French rule during the late seventeenth century and 1826, with a few traces of slavery afterward. When the United States first forcibly removed the Native Americans from the region, slavery was accepted as a necessity to keep peace with the Indians and the French. When the Indiana Territory was established in 1800, William Henry Harrison, a former slaveholder, was appointed governor and slavery continued to be tolerated through a series of laws enacted by the appointed legislature.

History of slavery in Kentucky Aspect of history

The history of slavery in Kentucky dates from the earliest permanent European settlements in the state, until the end of the Civil War. Kentucky was classified as the Upper South or a border state, and enslaved African Americans represented 24% by 1830, but declined to 19.5% by 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. The majority of enslaved people in Kentucky were concentrated in the cities of Louisville and Lexington, in the fertile Bluegrass Region as well the Jackson Purchase, both the largest hemp- and tobacco-producing areas in the state. In addition, many enslaved people lived in the Ohio River counties where they were most often used in skilled trades or as house servants. Few people lived in slavery in the mountainous regions of eastern and southeastern Kentucky. Those that did that were held in eastern and southeastern Kentucky served primarily as artisans and service workers in towns.

Boston Vigilance Committee US abolitionist organization

The Boston Vigilance Committee (1841–1861) was an abolitionist organization formed in Boston, Massachusetts, to protect escaped slaves from being kidnapped and returned to slavery in the South. The Committee aided hundreds of escapees, most of whom arrived as stowaways on coastal trading vessels and stayed a short time before moving on to Canada or England. Notably, members of the Committee provided legal and other aid to George Latimer, Ellen and William Craft, Shadrach Minkins, Thomas Sims, and Anthony Burns.

Underground Railroad in Indiana

The Underground Railroad in Indiana was part of a larger, unofficial, and loosely-connected network of groups and individuals who aided and facilitated the escape of runaway slaves from the southern United States. The network in Indiana gradually evolved in the 1830s and 1840s, reached its peak during the 1850s, and continued until slavery was abolished throughout the United States at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It is not known how many fugitive slaves escaped through Indiana on their journey to Michigan and Canada. An unknown number of Indiana's abolitionists, anti-slavery advocates, and people of color, as well as Quakers and other religious groups illegally operated stations along the network. Some of the network's operatives have been identified, including Levi Coffin, the best-known of Indiana's Underground Railroad leaders. In addition to shelter, network agents provided food, guidance, and, in some cases, transportation to aid the runaways.

Charles Turner Torrey American abolitionist

Charles Turner Torrey was a leading American abolitionist. Although largely lost to historians until recently, Torrey pushed the abolitionist movement to more political and aggressive strategies, including setting up one of the first highly organized lines for the Underground Railroad and personally freeing approximately 400 slaves. Torrey also worked closely with free blacks, thus becoming one of the first to consider them partners. John Brown cited Torrey as one of the three abolitionists he looked to as models for his own efforts.

Lewis and Harriet Hayden House

Lewis and Harriet Hayden House was the home of African-American abolitionists who had escaped from slavery in Kentucky; it is located in Beacon Hill, Boston. They maintained the home as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the Haydens were visited by Harriet Beecher Stowe as research for her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Lewis Hayden was an important leader in the African-American community of Boston; in addition, he lectured as an abolitionist and was a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee, which resisted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Delia Webster

Delia Ann Webster was an American teacher, author, businesswoman and abolitionist in Kentucky who, with Calvin Fairbank, aided many slaves, including Lewis Hayden, his wife Harriet, and their son Joseph to escape to Ohio. She was convicted and sentenced to two years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort for aiding the Haydens' escape, but pardoned after two months.

George DeBaptiste was a prominent African-American conductor on the Underground Railroad in southern Indiana and Detroit, Michigan. Born free in Virginia, he moved as a young man to the free state of Indiana. In 1840, he served as valet and then White House steward for US President William Henry Harrison, who was from that state. In the 1830s and 1840s DeBaptiste was an active conductor in Madison, Indiana. Located along the Ohio River across from Kentucky, a slave state, this town was a destination for refugee slaves seeking escape from slavery.

John M. Brown African-American bishop

John Mifflin Brown was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. He was a leader in the underground railroad. He helped open a number of churches and schools, including the Payne Institute which became Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina and Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas. He was also an early principal of Union Seminary which became Wilberforce University.

Harriet Bell Hayden

Harriet Bell Hayden (1816-1893) was an African-American antislavery activist in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her husband, Louis Hayden, were the primary operators of the Underground Railroad in Boston and also aided the John Brown slave revolt conspiracy.

Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort

The Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort was the first prison built West of the Allegheny Mountains and completed June 22, 1800 when Kentucky was still virtually a wilderness. The Kentucky Legislature of 1798 had appointed Harry Innes, Alexander S. Bullitt, Caleb Wallace, Isaac Shelby and John Coburn as commissioners to choose a location for a “penitentiary house.” The house was described "to be built of brick, or stone, containing cells, workshops, with an outside wall high enough and strong enough to keep the prisoners from getting away." The site chosen was Frankfort, Kentucky. Henry Innis, one of the commission, gave one acre of land and the legislature appropriated $500 towards its building with more funds to be allocated later.

References

  1. Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, KY 11 Nov 1851 p3 Arrest of a Kidnapper.
  2. The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 18 Nov 1851 p3 Samuel S. King alias Calvin Fairbanks for arresting the slave of Mrs. Shotwell.
  3. Runyon, Randolph Paul. Delia Webster and the Underground Railroad. University Press of Kentucky, 2015. p33
  4. Fairbank, Calvin (1890). Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He "fought the Good Fight" to Prepare "the Way.". Patriotic Publishing Company. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  5. 1 2 Cheves, John (2010-03-12). "Pardons pushed for Kentuckians convicted of helping slaves escape". Kentucky.com. Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  6. Tom Calarco, People of the Underground Railroad: A Biographical Dictionary, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, p. 155
  7. "Lewis Hayden Clothing Store Opened". The Liberator. September 1849. Archived from the original on October 18, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  8. "Calvin Fairbank, (the one finally with 35,000 lashes on his back), writes to Garrison". The Liberator. April 5, 1850. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  9. Fairbank, Calvin. Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times; How He Fought The Good Fight to Prepare The Way. Patriotic Publishing Co.,1890. Reprinted, (Angelica: Heritage Days Press, 2016).
  10. James Pritchard, Into the Fiery Furnace, Part I: Anti-Slavery Prisoners in the Kentucky State Penitentiary 1844–1870 Archived 2016-05-27 at the Wayback Machine , 2006, Kentucky's Underground Railroad, KET-TV, accessed 3 December 2013

Bibliography