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FREE BOY: Primary Sources

FreeboyIn 2013, Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley published FREE BOY: A True Story of Slave and Master (Seattle: University of Washington Press).FREE BOY explores the decision of slave Charles Mitchell to flee his master James Tilton, on September 24, 1860, following a tiny Puget Sound Underground Railroad. Black residents of the British Crown Colony of Victoria had approached Mitchell in secret, in the small town of Olympia, Washington Territory, to encourage him to stow away on the international mail steamer Eliza Anderson. After Mitchell made his life-changing decision, the steamer’s black cook hid him in a pantry on board ship. But the boy was discovered during the voyage, and the ship’s captain was determined to return him to his owner.

When the Eliza Anderson arrived at Victoria, a crowd of Mitchell’s supporters met the vessel, expecting him to walk onto the dock to freedom. Instead, the captain had imprisoned the boy on board. Mitchell was released from the ship by the local sheriff, spent the night in jail, and was then declared free to join the welcoming black community in Victoria.

Meanwhile, Mitchell’s master, James Tilton, protested again the actions of Victoria authorities and was indignant at what he saw as Charles Mitchell’s ingratitude. Tilton’s racial views were radicalized and hardened after the boy’s escape. In 1865, when Mitchell had been living free in Victoria for five years, Tilton ran for office in Washington Territory as a frank white supremacist. FREE BOY follows the twined biographies of master and slave in the context of the late antebellum and Civil War period.

In an innovative agreement with BlackPast.org, the authors have chosen to post all of the FREE BOY supporting primary documents related to Mitchell’s enslavement and eventual freedom as well as those showing the history of James Tilton.  Charles Mitchell was a boy – just turned 13 – when he made his life-changing decision to flee slavery.  BlackPast.org hopes that teachers find his story of interest to their students, and that work with the document scans, easy-to-read transcriptions and classroom inquiry activities below can help students fulfill history and social studies learning requirements.

Documents Providing Background on Slave and Free Man Charles Mitchell, 1818-1870

1) Deed of Mortgage, Estate of Jacob Gibson, September 14, 1818

Document Description: This four page deed lists the names of slaves at Marengo Plantation

Document Ownership: Land Records, Circuit Court for Talbot County, Maryland, September 14, 1818

Document Source Electronic Address: n.a.

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity


2) 1836 Petition Gibson/Tilton Slave Estate Sale, 1836 Judgment

Document Description: Washington D.C. petition asking Edward Gibson to sell two slaves to satisfy a judgment against James Tilton, administrator of the Gibson estate.

Document Ownership: Public Domain

Document Source Electronic Address: n.a.

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

3) Slave Census-Marengo Plantation, Talbot County, Maryland, (1850)

Document Description: Census record showing unnamed family including 3 year old slave, Charles Mitchell, and unnamed slave mother.

Document Ownership: Ancestry Proprietary Database

Document Source Electronic Address: research via local public library subscribing to this database

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

4) Federal Census, Olympia, Washington Territory (1860)

Document Description: Census shows James Tilton family and slave Charles Mitchell.

Document Ownership: Heritage Quest Proprietary Database
Document Source Electronic Address: research via local public library subscribing to this database

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

 

5) Federal Census, Baltimore, Maryland (1870)

Document Description: Census shows entries for Charles and Rebecca Mitchell.

Document Ownership: Heritage Quest Proprietary Database

Document Source Electronic Address: research via local public library subscribing to this database

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activit
y

Documents Related to the Seizure and Liberation of Charles Mitchell

6) Affidavit-Fleming, September 26, 1860

Document Description: Affidavit protesting British authorities’ seizure of slave (Mitchell) from steamer Eliza Anderson by Capt. John Fleming, Crown Colony of Victoria, September 16, 1860.

Document Ownership: British Columbia Archives

Document Source Electronic Address: http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/bcarchives/

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activit
y

7) Three affidavits protesting Mitchell’s imprisonment on Steamer, September 25, 1850

Document Description: Affidavits (x3: William Davis, James Allen, William Jerome) protesting imprisonment of Charles Mitchell on steamer, Eliza Anderson, September 25, 1860.

Document Ownership: Washington State Archives

Document Source Electronic Address: n/a
Inquiry Activity

Easy-to-Read Transcription

8) Letter James Tilton to Henry McGill, October 30, 1860
Document Description: Letter protesting seizure of slave Charles Mitchell from the steamer, Eliza Anderson, October 30, 1860.

Document Ownership:Washington State Archives

Document Source Electronic Address: n/a

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

 

Newspaper Articles Concerning the Flight of Charles Mitchell to Crown Colony of Victoria, Canada, Septemer 24, 1860

9a) Pioneer Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory) “Fugitive Slave Case,” September 28, 1860

Document Description: newspaper article reporting Charles Mitchell’s escape from Olympia, W.T. to Crown Colony of Victoria on September 24, 1860
Document Ownership: Google Newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=nDos0PVUvP8C&dat=18600928&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

9b) Puget Sound Herald (Steilacoom, Washington Territory), “A Slave Case,” October 5, 1860
Document Description: newspaper article reporting Charles Mitchell’s escape from Olympia, W.T. to Crown Colony of Victoria on September 24, 1860
Document Ownership: Washington Secretary of State-Historic Newspapers Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.sos.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

9c) Victoria Colonist (Crown Colony of Victoria, British Columbia), “Fugitive Slave Case,” September 27, 1860

Document Description: newspaper article reporting Charles Mitchell’s escape from Olympia, W.T. to Crown Colony of Victoria on September 24, 1860

Document Ownership: University of Victoria – Digital Collections – the British Colonist Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.britishcolonist.ca/display.php?issue=18600927

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

9d) Victoria Colonist (Crown Colony of Victoria, British Columbia), “The Last Fugitive Slave Case,” October 4, 1860

Document Description: newspaper article reporting Cha rles Mitchell’s escape from Olympia, W.T. to Crown Colony of Victoria on September 24, 1860

Document Ownership: University of Victoria – Digital Collections – the British Colonist Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.britishcolonist.ca/display.php?issue=18601004

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

9e) Daily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco, California), “A Runaway Slave Case,” October 18, 1860

Document Description: newspaper article reporting Charles Mitchell’s escape from Olympia, W.T. to Crown Colony of Victoria on September 24, 1860

Document Ownership: Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers - Gale Group proprietary database

Document Source Electronic Address: research via local public library subscribing to this database

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

Newspaper Articles Concerning the Race for Washington Territorial Delegate – Spring 1865 – Republican Arthur Denny vs. Democrat James Tilton (Former Master of Charles Mitchell)

Inquiry Activities for All Newspaper Articles Concerning Election 1865

10a) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “For Delegate to Congress: James Tilton,” April 22, 1865

Document Description: Newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650422&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10b) Walla Walla Statesman (Walla Walla, Washington Territory), “General Jas. Tilton – Standard Bearer of the Democracy of Washington Territory,” May 5, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Washington Secretary of State-Historic Newspapers Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.sos.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10c) Seattle Weekly Gazette (Seattle, Washington Territory), “For Delegate to Congress, Arthur A. Denny, The Ball Opened,” April 20, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Denny’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Washington Secretary of State-Historic Newspapers Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.sos.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10d) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “For Delegate to Congress: James Tilton – Democratic Platform,” April 22, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy and listing territorial Democratic platform, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650422&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10e) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “Keep It Before the People,” May 20, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650520&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10f) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “Shall the Negro Vote?,” May 13, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650513&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

 

 

10g) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “Sectional,” May 13, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650513&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

10h) Washington Democrat (Olympia, Washington Territory), “General Tilton’s Loyalty,” May 27, 1865

Document Description: newspaper article promoting Tilton’s candidacy for territorial delegate, 1865

Document Ownership: Google newspapers

Document Source Electronic Address: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=VY6XGRaXF-sC&dat=18650527&printsec=frontpage&HL+EN

Easy-to-Read Transcription

 

Newspaper Article Concerning the Death of Charles Mitchell

11) British Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia), “Accidental and Probable Loss of Life,” February 2, 1876

Document Description: newspaper article reporting the death of Charles Mitchell, 1876

Document Ownership: University of Victoria – Digital Collections – the British Colonist Online

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.britishcolonist.ca/display.php?issue=18760222

Easy-to-Read Transcription
Inquiry Activity

Photos and Drawings Concerning Slave Charles Mitchell and Master James Tilton

Inquiry Activities for All Photos and Drawings Concerning Slave and Master

12a) Portrait Photograph, James Tilton, no date

Image Ownership: University of Washington Special Collections

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.lib.washington.edu/specialcollections/

 

12b) Artist’s Portrait, Charles Mitchell, as a boy of 13

Image Description: cover art by R. Gregory Christie (artist) for FREE BOY

Image Ownership: University of Washington Press

Document Source Electronic Address: n.a.

12c) Photograph, Steamer Eliza Anderson

Image Description: the ship on which Charles Mitchell escaped slavery

Image Ownership: Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.pugetmaritime.org

12d) Drawing, Crown Colony of Victoria, British Columbia, 1860

Image Description: the town to which Charles Mitchell fled slavery, to freedom

Image Ownership: U.S. Library of Congress

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.loc.gov/index.html

12e) Drawing, Olympia, Washington Territory, 1860

Image Description: sketch of the town from which Charles Mitchell fled slavery; from the notebooks of U.S. Navy Lieutenant James Alden

Image Ownership: Washington State Historical Society; reprinted p 20, Gordon R. Newell, Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen (Hangman Press, 1975)

Document Source Electronic Address: http://www.washingtonhistory.org

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BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.