Their quest for freedom was the first case to test the Ohio Constitution concerning slaves, fugitive slaves, and indentured persons.
In 1804 Lucy and Ned were brought to Ohio along with the family and slaves of Colonel Robert Patterson, founder of Lexington, KY, and Cincinnati, OH. Both Dr. Andrew McCalla and Patterson had bought land near Dayton on which they planned to have a permanent home for their families and their slaves.
The Ohio Constitution prohibited slavery but allowed for fugitive slaves to be recaptured, and stated that only free persons could become indentured. The constitution had more than a few ambiguities as to when a slave would become a free person in Ohio in reference to slaves visiting the state for an undetermined time period, as well as for enforcing the time period a slave (now indentured freeman) would be bound for service. Slave owners from Virginia and Kentucky who moved to Ohio had not had a problem keeping their slaves/indentured servants indefinitely.
So, McCalla and Patterson planned for their slaves, once in Ohio, to be referred to as indentured persons, and knowing that Lucy and Ned Page would attempt an escape, had a bill of sale showing that Patterson had sold Lucy and Ned to McCalla. Less than a year after Patterson’s first load of belongings arrived in Ohio, the plan began to unravel. Patterson’s slave, William Patterson, went before the Court of Common Plea’s clerk to have his name placed in the Record of Black and Mulatto (Free persons). Sarah Ball did the same.
In 1805, whites in Dayton encouraged Moses and two other slaves to leave Patterson’s farm. With the help of attorneys George F. Tennery and Richard S. Thomas, Moses filed an affidavit saying that he was being held as a slave and forced to work at the Patterson farm. Patterson challenged Moses’ claim, stating that Moses, a slave, had helped with the move to Ohio, but that he actually belonged to his brother-in-law, William Lindsay, and under the contract terms, Moses was to return to Kentucky to his life as a slave. The court decided in Patterson’s favor, and within days Lindsay arrived in Ohio and took Moses back to Kentucky.
Lucy and Ned Page also filed an affidavit, but unlike Moses’ case, there was evidence that Lucy and Ned Page were Patterson’s slaves before leaving Kentucky. When the case went to court, Patterson changed his story, saying that the Pages were actually indentured servants. The courts decided in favor of the Pages.
Patterson and McCalla devised a plan to take the Pages by force back to Kentucky, as had been done with Moses. But, when McCalla and slave catcher David Sharp arrived in Dayton, their efforts were resisted by a group of whites and Ned Page, who had armed himself with a pistol.
Sharp was arrested for breach of peace and McCalla filed civil suits in the federal district courts.
Lucy and Ned Page left Dayton for an unknown location.
McCalla’s suits were tied up in the courts for ten years.
For more see E. Pocock, “Slavery and Freedom in the Early Republic: Robert Patterson’s Slaves in Kentucky and Ohio, 1804-1819,” Ohio Valley History, vol. 6, issue 1 (2006), pp. 3-26; and for what was thought to be the first case (1808), see The First Fugitive Slave Case of Record in Ohio, by W. H. Smith.
Subjects: Early Settlers, Freedom, Migration North, Riots and Protests Outside Kentucky, Court Cases – http://nkaa.uky.edu/subject.php?sub_id=32
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Dayton, Ohio