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Lancaster in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835

Lancaster County Sheriff, 'Dare Devil Dave' Miller secretly liberated women jailed by bounty hunters

 
 
African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, July 7, 2019
1. African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835 Marker
Inscription.  Fulton Theatre, directly opposite of this block, is among the nation's oldest continually operating performance halls. When this site was the location of the Lancaster County Jail, a dramatic episode in the Underground Railroad history occurred. The eighteenth-century Prison and Workhouse was demolished down to its foundations in 1851. The Fulton was built on portions of those prison walls, remnants of which are visible along North Water Street.

An unusual escape occurred here in 1835. Two formerly enslaved African-American women, Mrs. John Urick and Mrs. William (Margaret) Wallace, were living freely with their families in rural Lancaster. Bounty hunters abducted the women and Wallace's oldest child took them by wagon to Lancaster County Jail, with plans to hold them temporarily before returning to the Carolinas.

But an unlikely co-conspirator, Sheriff David Miller, released them.

Surprisingly, the women and child appeared the next morning at the farm of Abolitionist Daniel Gibbons, telling of an incredible escape using only a knife. "I broke jail," one woman said. For several days they moved from safe-house
African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, July 7, 2019
2. African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835 Marker
to safe-house telling this story and 'covering' for Miller, who years later admitted to a confidant he opened their cell and let them walk out.

Known as "Dare-Devil Dave," Miller was a veteran, horse racer, entrepreneur and humanitarian. As Sheriff, he suppressed race riots against African Americans in Columbia, Pennsylvania in 1835. The secret jail release was documented in a 2008 report to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, earning the Fulton and its workhouse foundations the designation as a site with an authentic Underground Railroad connection.

Read this report at:
LancasterHistory.org/aah-markers

[Aside:]
"Dave delivered the papers to the Courtroom on horseback."
The Sunday News, Lancaster, PA. July 8, 1934. Article details many tales of the swashbuckling sheriff who once rode his steed into a courtroom to impress a judge.
 
Erected by Junior League of Lancaster; African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania; and National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, a program of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
Location. 40° 2.269′ N, 76° 18.458′ W. Marker is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in Lancaster County. Marker is
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at the intersection of West King Street (Pennsylvania Route 462) and South Prince Street (U.S. 222), on the right when traveling west on West King Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 53 West King Street, Lancaster PA 17603, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John F. Reynolds (within shouting distance of this marker); Old Jail (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Conestoga Indian Massacre (within shouting distance of this marker); John Durang (within shouting distance of this marker); The Steinman Hardware Building (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Bailey's Printshop (about 300 feet away); Historic Site in Journalism (about 300 feet away); John Frederick Steinman, Ph. B., LL. D. (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lancaster.
 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansNotable EventsWomen
 

More. Search the internet for African-American Women Escape County Jail, 1835.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 9, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 9, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 57 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 9, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
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