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The Battle of Red Oak.

If R.C Rankin was correct in recalling the December 1844 date for the escape of

the 11 freedom seekers led by Peter Dent and aided by Sally Henry, it is no wonder that this time was marked by rising hostilities between Ohio and Kentucky.


Early in December 1844, the following appeared in the Lexington Gazette,

"The nefarious acts of the abolitionist of Ohio in aiding and abetting the escape of our slaves

are producing their natural an inevitable results hostility and blood shed.” 


Later that month, Alexander Gilliland was attacked by a group of slave hunters

led by slave holder Colonel Edward Towers from Mason County, Kentucky looking

for six "runaway slaves.” Gilliland was “tor[n] from his family,

and beat almost to death."


Gilliland was not the only person to

sustain injuries in "the affray.” Before the attack on Gilliland,

the slave hunters had gone to the Brown County homes of Robert Miller and Absalom King.

Robert Miller, at whose home two of the freedom seekers had found refuge,

was stabbed to death while trying to get the freedom seekers to safety.

The slave hunters then proceeded to the home of Absalom King,

who Ann Hagedorn describes as "one of Brown County's strongest supporters of the Liberty

and a participant in the underground for at least five years."

By the time the slave hunters arrived at King's home, a number of abolitionists,

including members of the Red Oak community had assembled to stave off the posse.

An armed conflict erupted during which King was shot.

The Georgetown sheriff arrived and arrested those involved on both sides, however, some of

the slave hunters were able to escape and they ended up lynching one of the freedom seekers, burning the homes of Miller and King, and attacking Alexander Gilliland.

 See: Ann Hagedorn, Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. Additional information on this page is based on the research and writing of Déanda Johnson,

National Parks Service Historian, as part of the Church application for Network to Freedom Site status. 

For a copy of the research, including citations, contact us at

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