June 15, 1848
The Salem Affair
worthy correspondent was not on the ground and consequently unable to give a
full account of the transaction which has caused so much excitement, we feel it
due to the citizens of Salem to assert the following, which is gleaned from two
old and worthy citizens of that town, who are not identified with the third
party. They are men of veracity and we
think the facts as they detailed them to us and as we publish them, may be
relied on as correct.
On the 4th
inst. eight or ten men were seen coming to the town of Salem,
by a fishing party who had just left the river, in their wagon. The fishermen, either suspecting who these
men were, or for the sake of sport, whipped up their horses as they saw the men
approaching them with considerable speed.
It afterwards appeared that these 8 or 10 men were Missourians, in
pursuit of runaway Negroes, and seeing the wagon they supposed the Negroes
might be secreted in it. Their suspicion
induced them to give it chase. But the
wagon entered town and was out of their sight, before they carried. It seems that the Missourians in this
instance were ahead of their game. The b
Negroes they were pursuing had secreted themselves in the Des
Moines timer, about sixteen miles distant from Salem
during the drenching rain of Saturday night.
What we have thus far related happened we are sorry to say, on Sunday,
of last week.
citizens of Salem were much amazed
at the appearance of the Missourian, and much more so when they asserted that
the runaways were in town and they were accused of stealing them. The citizens protested that they were
ignorant of any runaways being in their midst, and gave the men full opportunity
to search the town, which they did in small squads, without success. It was ascertained subsequently that during
this time, the Negroes left their hiding place in the Des
Moines timber and came over to the Cedar timber,
contiguous to town. One of the citizens
of Salem by the name of B____ (Brown) volunteered to hunt with the
Missourians. They went into the timber
and soon found two colored men and one child, whom they brought to the edge of
the town. Just as they had arrived at
that point, one of the Negro men said he must turn back and find his wife. He was permitted to do so without
molestation. They then entered the town
with the other negro and his
child, for the purpose as they said of having a trial. It was ascertained that no legal process had
been issued, and that no evidence could be adduced to identify the negroes. The citizens then told the remaining negro that there was no evidence
against him, and hat they could not detain him if he was disposed to
leave. He then left the room, and as he
went behind the house he found a horse, which he mounted with the child in his
arms, and started off.
meantime it is said that B____ sent word to Farmington
and Missouri, stating that they
had found the negroes, but
that the abolitionists had raised a mob and had taken the negroes
from them. This news produced great
excitement in Missouri, who soon
raised in their own State and on their way through Farmington
about one hundred men, who entered Salem
on Wednesday in a threatening attitude, armed with guns, pistols and bowie
took the citizens by surprise and stationed different parties throughout the
town to stop all egress. They then
threatened to search every house in town.
To this the citizens assented, provided they would do it without violence.
had made an unsuccessful search__ accompanied by a great amount of severe
threatening, they proceeded to arrest, at the instigation of B____, several of the most
prominent citizens. Those thus arrested
demanded that authority for their incarceration. Having no legal process, their jailers could
show none. The citizens thus imprisoned
protested against the treatment they were receiving but their complaints were
only met by threats and abuses. In one
instance one of the Missourians snapped a pistol at an old crippled man, whom
they held a prisoner in his own house.
In their rounds about the town several of the citizens were most grossly
attacked, and guns were presented at them frequently and the most provoking
threats were uttered for their not telling where the negroes
had gone__ a
fact which they protested they did not know.
citizens, during the affray, had sent to Mount Pleasant
for the Sheriff. He arrived on Thursday
morning, and finding the Missourians had no legal authority for their action,
ordered them to release their prisoners_ ten or fifteen of the most prominent
citizens, who had been kept in durance the whole night__and
Missourians then left for a little town called Washington,
six miles distant, where it is said they visited a grocery and drank up all the
liquor they could find. During their
visit to this place they threatened to return to Salem,
set fire to the town and hang some of the abolitionists, if they did not
recover their negroes. They afterwards left for home and it is
reported they got into a great quarrel because the owners of the lost negroes refused to give them the
five hundred dollars reward, offered for their recovery!
news reached Denmark,
in Lee county, about forty well armed men started to
assist their brethren in Salem, and
if the Missourians had returned to carry their threats into execution, they
would have met with a warm reception.