Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Patty Cannon (b. circa ? - d. 1829)
MSA SC 5496-051231
Enslaved Kidnapper, Caroline County, Maryland

Biography:

    Patty Cannon was a kidnapper of enslaved people. Cannon was based out of Delaware, but operated out of a tavern in Johnson's Cross Roads, Maryland. Cannon was from the town of Sussex in Delaware which was on the border of Maryland. Patty worked with her son in law Joe Johnson and his brother Ebenezer. The Johnson brothers were well known negro traders. She was known throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland as a notorious slave catcher who committed many murders. The tavern that Patty Cannon operated was situated at the cross section of three counties, Sussex in Delaware and Caroline and Dorchester in Maryland. Cannon and her gang captured slaves and free blacks in Maryland, Delaware, Philadelphia, and New Jersey to be sold south to unsuspecting customers.

    Patty was a slave owner having at least one negro woman and one negro boy. Cannon's enslaved boy Cyrus James was raised by her from childhood and taught the skill of capturing fugitive slaves. Cyrus James who was a resident of Maryland was captured in Delaware and brought before a justice of the peace. James told officials stories of capture and murder involving Cannon and the Johnson brothers. He also told the justice that Patty killed a baby who was the child of a negro woman belonging to her. Authorities accompanied Cyrus James to Cannon's property and showed where all of the murdered bodies were buried.

    Patty Cannon was arrested in 1829 after the human remains were found on her farm. Joe Johnson is said to have skipped town and relocated to Alabama. Cannon was placed in a Georgetown, DE jail along with Cyrus James and another man by the name of Butler who was a part of the kidnapping gang. At the time of her arrest Cannon was about 60-70 years of age. Patty Cannon died May 11, 1829 in her Delaware jail cell from poisoning. It was reported that Cannon committed suicide. Patty Cannon's legacy lived on after her death within the Maryland community. In 1841 two men, Isaac and Jesse Cannon, were assesed for 25 acres of land part of Patty Cannon in Caroline County, MD.

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