Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Arthur W. Leverton (b. 1806 - d. 1880)
MSA SC 5496-24684
Acomplice to slave flight, Caroline County, Maryland, 1858


    Arthur W. Leverton, was heir to a strong tradition of abolitionism among the Quakers of Caroline County. His family resided near Preston in the southern portion of the county, placing them along the path of countless slaves fleeing toward Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Leverton's father Jacob and step-mother Hannah had been active in the Underground Railroad network as well, likely since the early 1800’s.1 Much of the their dedication to the cause was derived from their membership in the Society of Friends, which had formally condemned slavery and expelled nearly all slaveholders from its ranks by the late 18th century. In fact, many Maryland Quakers, including Leverton own’s family, had decided to move to the newly-opened free territories of Ohio and Indiana in order to avoid the repugnant institution.2

    Arthur W. Leverton’s anti-slavery activities became increasingly dangerous as the animosity grew toward abolitionism in Maryland during the middle of the century. Dozens of blacks fled from the region during the 1850's, many with help from sympathetic free blacks and whites, Quaker or otherwise. On the night of December 31, 1857, a black woman named Margaret Haskins, who had just received her freedom, made off from Cambridge with her still-enslaved husband and five children.3 The owners, James E. Hall and Francis Phelps, filed a runaway advertisement in the first week of January. This was only unusual in that the slave holders claimed that " It is said that they had a white guide a part of the way."4 Since they also noted that the group had already been recaptured in Caroline County, this ad may have been placed in order to elicit information about the alleged white accomplice. A March 27th issue of the Quaker publication, The Friends' Intelligencer, claimed that the fugitives had been betrayed by "some pretended friend," and that they had ultimately given up information that would implicate Leverton.5 It did not take long for this impression to leak into the Dorchester white community, sparking the rage that was typically directed toward suspected abolitionists on the Shore.

    Arthur realized that the longer he stayed in Maryland, the more he would endanger his life and those of his family. On January 10, Leverton gave John R. Stack power of attorney, granting him authority over his real estate and personal property.6 On January 14, he fled the state. Local newspapers published an account, "Departure of a Conductor of the Underground," which specifically named the Quaker as an abolitionist agent.7 The author claimed that "his precipitated flight appears to be conclusive evidence of his guilt," and that, "he has long been suspicioned of tampering with slaves." A collection of area whites were likely disappointed that they were unable to exact revenge upon Leverton, so they expressed their intention to punish another Caroline County resident suspected of being involved. Arthur's neighbor, a free black man named Daniel Hubbard, was the next target. He also managed to escape from the area just in time, seeking refuge in Philadelphia, likely with the support of anti-slavery figures who were aware of the situation.8

    Arthur W. Leverton ended up in Indiana, where members of his family had earlier joined the growing Quaker community there. John Stack had sold his much of his Caroline County property by 1860, and Margaret and their eight children moved to their new home in the midwest. The Leverton family were living in Marion County, Indiana, as of that year.9 Arthur was working as a farmer, with labor from his elder sons Baynard and Francis. However, they were never able to reach the level of prosperity that had been achieved over several generations on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Arthur Leverton died in that area on July 4, 1880.10

Footnotes -

1. Patricia C. Guida, Arthur W. Leverton, Underground Railroad Agent, and His Family: The Levertons, Whiteleys and Wrights. Caroline County Historical Society Inc. 2007.

2. Ibid.

3. "Runaways and Arrests," Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser. 14 January, 1858.

4. Ibid.

5. "American Slavery," Friends' Intelligencer, Vol. XV, No. 2, Third Month 27, 1858, pp. 24-25. (Guida, p. 129)

6. CAROLINE COUNTY COURT (Land Records), Book CC, p. 529, January 10, 1858.

7. "Departure of a Conductor of the Under Ground," Easton Gazette. 23 January, 1858. (Guida, p. 124)

8. "American Slavery"

9. 1860 United States Federal Census, Marion County, Indiana, p. 20.

10. Guida, p. 4.

Researched and Written by David Armenti, 2012.

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