Black Kidnappings in Southeastern Illinois

Children of Jesse Alsup and Milly, his black mistress
 According to Gen. Raum one of the first crimes which led to the creation of the Regulators was the kidnapping of three children brought to Pope County from Alabama and freed by Alsup. Annable found the freedom papers to three mulatto children brought to Illinois by a Jesse Alsup. The two girls’ and one boy’s names were Mary, Cosbey and Patrick Henry. No information about when they came to Illinois or their ages was listed. Alsup also brought to Illinois his black mistress, Milley, and her five children: Harriet, William Boliver, Lafayette, Virginia and Mary. Alsup also claimed to be the father of the five children. The only record of the kidnapping is Raum’s following account:
    The home of the children was entered at night and they were seized and carried away. The plan of the kidnappers had been so carefully carried out that they made their escape with the children without leaving a trace as to their identity, or whither they went. Indeed, the doers of these bold crimes were never detected. Knowledge of this crime created great excitement throughout the county. A hue and cry was at once raised when the facts became known. A number of prominent citizens came together to devise means for recovering the children and the discovery of the offenders. To secure these ends a large reward was offered, and inquiries were sent out to various points — It turns out that the children had been taken to St. Louis and sold in the open slave market.
The first purchaser was a Mr. Vaughn, a merchant and trader living at the present site of Bay City, in Pope County. Mr. Vaughn resold these negro children to a planter in Mississippi who took them home. The children were traced and recovered and Mr. Vaughn’s connection with the affair laid bare. But he was a respectable citizens; he made a plausible explanation of his visits to St. Louis to buy goods, and his innocent act of buying these children on speculation without any knowledge of their antecedents. While he was required to repay the Mississippi planter, he was not prosecuted for kidnapping the children. The detection of this crime was due entirely to the intelligent energy of citizens who took the matter up.
    Therefore, Rhodes had some clues as to where to look for information concerning the Morris kidnapping. After he learned where the children were he and the children’s father went to Mississippi. Upon reaching Dorsey’s plantation, the sheriff explained to the planter that he had in received stolen property, that four of his slaves were free blacks who had been kidnapped. Dorsey agreed to return the children, if it could be proven that they were Elijah’s. Upon reaching a plan, the three men left the plantation house for the fields where the children and other field hands were working. Page later wrote what occurred:
They walked slowly, pausing here and there, as though examining the growing crop, and went so as to pass near the children without going directly to them. While yet as some distance from the children, they could see that they were observing them, and when they were nearer — Elijah being in the rear — one of the children called out, ‘La! yonder comes Mr. Rhodes, yes and papa, too!
    And dropping their hoes, the children came running to them at their utmost speed. Mr. Dorsey said that he was satisfied, and would not contest against the evidence so brought before him, but that the old man should have his children restored to him, which was done, and Mr. Rhodes returned home with his charge, the father and children.
    Page wrote that before leaving, Rhodes asked Dorsey the name of the man who sold the slaves. Dorsey then showed him a bill of sale signed by Vaughn. It is likely that Rhodes already suspected Vaughn’s involvement before this time, but by seeing the bill of sale for himself, he would be in position to testify against Vaughn as a witness. Later, the indictments against Vaughn listed Rhodes as a witness for the prosecution. Boazman recalled that Rhodes, Morris and his children arrived back in Golconda exactly one year after the kidnapping. If Boazman is correct, then it was just five days before the circuit court was to meet on October 15, the third Monday of October. It was during this session of court that the grand jury indicted Vaughn.
Based on the dates in the Pope County Circuit Court Order Book 1, Vaughn named Peyton H. Gordon, William G. W. Fitch, Caleb Slankard, Joshua S. Hanly, John Simpkins and Joseph Lynn as the kidnappers on either May 17 or May 18, 1844. On May 18, Judge Walter B. Scates approved State’s Attorney Willis Allen’s motion to continue the case until the fall term in order to take depositions of the Missouri men. On October 17, 1844, Scates accepted Allen’s motions to drop the kidnapping case against Vaughn since he had died, and to have more time to find witnesses against the other six men. Apparently, after Vaughn’s death none of the Missouri men answered the interrogatories as well as there are no answers preserved in the court file. On October 19, 1844, Scates accepted Allen’s motion to drop the kidnapping charges against the six men. He also dropped the assault to murder charge against Simpkins from an unrelated crime.
The court records do not tell how Vaughn died, but the Rose Manuscript does. Within ten days after the indictment of the other six men on May 18, Vaughn was dead, according to Page. “Everyone on being informed of his death, asked who killed him. His death was caused by apoplexy, and there being no other witnesses against the prisoners, they were discharged from custody.” Boazman provided a slightly different account, but one with the same ending:
    After Vaughn was discharged with a scathing lecture from Judge Scates, he retired to his fine home and family at the mouth of the Bay, where after a few weeks he died suddenly, probably from poison. He died a few hours after drinking from a whisky bottle offered by a man who had some relatives among the men Vaughn had so lately betrayed.
This is part of an article written April-May 1997, for Dr. John Y. Simon’s Seminar in Illinois History at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois
Reba’s Notes
Jesse Alsop, son of George Alsop and Lucy Harrison Strother. Jesse spent most of his life in Tennessee, but lived in Tippah County, Mississippi with his slave lady Millie and their 6 children. For the safety of his wife and children he bought some land in Pope County, Illinois and was in the process of moving his family from Tippah County, Mississippi, when he was killed in ambush on a return trip from Illinois to Mississippi in 1848. His children were, Harriet, born about 1829, James Franklin, born about 1833, Virginia Jane, born about 1835, Mary, born about 1836, Cosby, born about 1838, William Boliver, born about 1840, and Patrick Henry, born about 1842. In the last will of Jesse Alsop, describes his children as “children of my own body.”

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