The Otsego Herald for Feb. 15, 1819, compiled, with comments:

Back to Misery

Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Georgia, to his friend in Newark, N.J.

“My neighbor, Mr. B. had purchased 20 of that unfortunate race, a few weeks ago in Charleston, among whom was a woman about 20 years of age. On the way home, they stopped to pass the night at a house on the road, just as the negroes belonging to the owner of the place were returning from their labor in the field.

“One of them proved to be the husband of the woman. They had been torn asunder two years before in Africa. They met in this distant clime, and with such emotions of joy, mixed with bitterness and grief, on the recollection of their past and present condition as may be more easily conceived than described.

“They flew to each other — asked an hundred questions — and looking at the spectators, who sympathized in their feelings, declared they should never be parted.

“Mr. B. who is a man of humanity, was present at this affecting scene. He immediately offered the owner of the husband to sell the wife, or purchase the husband — but in vain! He then offered two negroes for the man — but the wretch would do neither.

“The momentary pleasure the poor creatures experienced, when Mr. B. was endeavoring to prevent their being separated, was converted into frantic agony when they saw nothing would avail.

“All who were present, black and white, united in entreaties; and every eye but the miscreant owner of the husband, was in tears. Nothing would soften his obdurate heart — and the unhappy victims of his cruelty were a second time literally torn asunder.”

COMMENT: I have rarely encountered a story about enslaved Africans as moving as this. Moreover, since the Atlantic slave trade to America had been illegal since 1809, how was this unfortunate couple “torn asunder two years before in Africa?”

Captured Slaves Resold

Governor Rabun, in a communication to the legislature of Georgia, states, that the African slaves introduced into that state, which had been seized by the proper authority, had been sold for the benefit of the state and produced a clear gain of $34,376. — Albany Gazette

COMMENT: Maybe this is the answer. Africans illegally brought into Georgia as slaves might be seized by the authorities — but then they were sold, as slaves, by Georgia for its own benefit!


Died — In this village, on Thursday morning last (Feb. 8), Mr. SETH COOK, a respectable merchant, aged 37 years. Mr Cook had long been ill, but had attended to his business till a short time previous to his death.

COMMENT: Seth Cooke (c. 1782-1819) had been active in local politics. In 1812 he had married Lucy Crafts (1790-1873) who bore him three children. She remarried, to a prominent lawyer, after his death.

Died — In Albany, on the evening of Friday, the 5th (February), after a lingering illness, Mrs. HANNAH VAN BUREN, wife of the hon. Martin Van Buren, in the 36th year of her age.

COMMENT: Hannah Hoes Van Buren (1783-1819) was a close relative of Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), whom she had married in 1807, but died 18 years before he was elected president of the United States. Both she and her husband were of purely Dutch origin. She bore him five sons and a daughter.

An execution

Bellefonte, (Pennsylvania) Jan. 25.

On Saturday last was executed ... Jas. Munks, for the murder of Reuben Guild, a traveller from Hunterdon county, New-Jersey.

The prisoner expressed a wish to be permitted to walk to the place of execution. Sheriff Mitchell, who has ever treated him with attention and humanity, showed him all the indulgence in his power. He was attended in prison since his conviction by the Rev. Mr. Lion, and other religious persons of every denomination, who have full confidence in his sincere repentance.

He left the prison about 12 o’clock, guarded by a company of militia, commanded by capt. Lowrey, and attended by the Rev. John Thomas. and other pious persons — his countenance appeared perfectly calm and placid — he made a full confession of the crime he had committed — expressed a full belief in the justice of his sentence, and his confidence in the christian religion.

He was launched into eternity at 45 minutes after one o’clock. The scene was truly affecting. The assemblage of spectators from this and the adjacent counties was very great.

COMMENT: “The Historical View of Clinton County” (1876) says of this incident (p. 221): “About the year 1816, a man by the name of James Munks, who was employed at one of the mills on Beech Creek, made a trip to Clearfield county and returned with a horse, saddle and bridle and a new suit of clothes. Soon after it was discovered that a man named Reuben Giles (sic) had been murdered, and suspicion rested upon Munks as being the perpetrator of the deed, whereupon he was arrested and taken to jail, tried, convicted and sentenced; after his sentence he made a full confession, saying that he met Giles riding alone in the woods and when he got a short distance past he leveled his gun and shot him through the back. Giles fell from his horse, and when Munks came up to him he said ‘My friend, you have killed me.’”

This suggests that Munks had stolen the horse, saddle and bridle, and even the suit of clothes (but where was the bullet hole?) from the murdered Guild (or Giles), though it doesn’t say so. As was common at this time, Munks’ confession was duly printed as an 8 page pamphlet by the local Bellefonte Patriot, with the note that “this publication was intended for the use of his family, and especially for the education of his two children.”

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