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  M & S Library Number: 19747

    (SLAVERY). (CHICKASAW AGENCY). SMITH, BENG'N[!] F. $150 Reward. [Caption title]. Broadside, 6" x 7.5.". [Tuscumbia?, Alabama?: 1826]. Fine. With ink notations on the verso. $9,500.00


    An extraordinary, early and unknown, probably northern Alabama, printed slave reward broadside, evidently sent to a newspaper in southern Illinois for republication. It is evidently signed on the verso in ink by the Chickasaw Indian agent, Benjamin F. Smith.

    Begins: "Ran away from the subscriber three Negro men of the following descriptions." Signed in type by Smith at: "Chickasaw Agency 21st June 1826." Not in Hummel. Not in Ellison. Not in AII, Alabama. Not in the Imprints Survey.

    The first man, Bill, was about 45, played the violin and was a carpenter; he might have a pass "though it must be a base forgery."

    The second man, about 35, with "a peculiarity in his expression which cannot escape notice." Purchased by Smith from Judge Caldwell near Wheeling, Va., "which place he may probably try to get to."

    The third man was about 19. The three men took a rifle and Smith believes they may also try to get to Ohio.

    On the back is an ink stamping which reads: "Tuscumbia 21 June"; there is the ink note referred to above, "Benj. F. Smith/ Tuscumbia Office"; and a larger notation, "To the Editor of the Shawney town Paper Illinois"; plus the notation: "Paid 25."

    Shawneetown was one of the leading towns in southern Illinois during the period. Printing began there in 1818, and in 1826 there was one paper in Shawneetown, the Illinois Gazette.

    According to the ULN, there was at least one newspaper published in Tuscumbia during 1826, the Tuscumbian, and the may have been another, begun in 1824, so it would seem printing presses would have been available, at least nearby, to print this document. Nothing that early is listed in Tuscumbia by the AII, Check List of Alabama Imprints 1807-1840.

    Sumners, Chief Tishomingo (1974), reports, "The Agency remained at this location [Natchez Trace] until 1825 when B. F. Smith,the agent, [emphasis added] moved the agency to a place about twelve miles southeast of Colberts Ferry on the Tennessee River. The Natchez Trace wends its way from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It just touches the northwest corner of Alabama. Tuscumbia lies along the Tennessee River in the northwest corner of Alabama. (On the last day of 1822, the town of Cold Water was renamed Tuscumbia, in honor of Chief Tuscumbia.) "Russellville was the county seat of Franklin County at the time and Tuscumbia was located inside Franklin County, but later a new county was formed and called Colbert County and Tuscumbia was selected as the County Seat of Colbert County, Alabama." Colberts Ferry was located at the Tennessee River in northwest Alabama where the Natchez Trace crosses that river. Smith served as Chickasaw agent from 1823-30. Between 1823-29 the Chickasaw Nation churches were a part of the North Alabama Presbytery. (Gibson, The Chickasaws, 115).

    While it is well known that the Chickasaws, along with the Choctaw, "held blacks in bondage similar to that on Southern white plantations..." (Blassingame, The Slave Community, 211), it appears that these runaways were not tribal slaves, but the "property" of the Indian agent himself, Benjamin F. Smith. The Chickasaws did not emancipate their slaves until 1866.


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