A Freedom Seeker from Aldie: The Story of Daniel Dangerfield
A teenager named Daniel Dangerfield worked in Aldie sometime during the 1840s, possibly here at Aldie Mill. Enslaved, he received no pay for his work, having been rented out to the miller by a local farmer and enslaver, French Simpson, who lived about two miles north of here on Oatlands Road. In 1854, Daniel Dangerfield decided to take his fate into his own hands.
Seeking freedom, Dangerfield fled north to Pennsylvania. We can only speculate on his route north across the Potomac or who may have helped him as a fugitive along the way. He began a new life in the city of Harrisburg, working as a laborer, marrying and having two children. Described as a "good looking stalwart" man of color in his mid-twenties, he gained a free life, yes, but one with the constant fear of being captured and returned to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In April of 1859, the Simpson family heard a rumor that Dangerfield was living in Harrisburg. Searching for him due to his significant financial value, a Simpson son-in-law headed north with a private detective in tow.
Dangerfield was accosted at the public marketplace in Harrisburg, arrested,
The outcome? When Commissioner J. Cooke Longstreth began to summarize the testimony and render his judgment, th sight of the courtroom amazed even the reporters. One newspaper printed "There was not an inch of standing room, and the silence was so intense that even a sigh might have been heard." Longstreth released Daniel Dangerfield on the opinion that there was not enough proof of his identity. Charlotte Forten, a free black woman in Philadelphia, commented in her journal that it was likely overwhelming public opinion, and especially pressure from the women inLongstreth's family, that caused him to rule in Dangerfield's favor. Black and white abolitionists celebrated his freedom long into the night, carrying him on their shoulders and placing him in a carriage that they pulled throughout the city in a torchlight parade.
Daniel Dangerfield quickly disappeared from public view, being spirited to Canada. There, he made a successful life for himself and his family as a farmer in the small village of Drummondville near Niagara Falls. Quakers visited him and other former Virginia freedom seekers in this part of Ontario. One wrote to abolitionist and Quaker Samuel Janney in Loudoun County: "We found [Dangerfield] living comfortably in a neat house with sufficient ground to raise his own provisions...."
Daniel Dangerfield had triumphed. He gained his freedom, and played a role in the Underground Railroad to help others to do the same. The Aldie Mills, meanwhile, ground away.
Good news! … the alleged fugitive, Daniel Dangerfield has been released. — The Commissioner said that he released him because he was not satisfied of his identity. Others are inclined to believe that the pressure of public sentiment — which was, strange to say, almost universally on the right side — was too overwhelming for the Com.[missioner] to resist, particularly as his own family — even his wife, it is said, declared that they would discard him if the sent the man into slavery.
Charlotte Forten Grimke, Journal, April 6, 1859
Erected by NOVA Parks.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Law Enforcement. In addition, it is included in the NOVA Parks, and the Quakerism series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1859.
Location. 38° 58.52′ N, 77° 38.467′ W. Marker is in Aldie, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker is on John Mosby Highway (Route 50) just west of Tall Race Road (Virginia Route 612), on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 39407 John Mosby Hwy, Aldie VA 20105, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Battle of Aldie (here, next to this marker); Lee Moves North Again (here, next to this marker); The Aldie Mill (a few steps from this marker); Waterpower System (within shouting distance of this marker); The Milling Complex (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Aldie Mill (within shouting distance of this marker); Mercer’s Home (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Snickersville Turnpike (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Aldie.
Also see . . . Daniel Dangerfield’s Flight to Freedom Hailed for Lasting Lessons. Article from Loudoun Now dated February 2, 2021. (Submitted on May 22, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 22, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 22, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 121 times since then and 53 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 22, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.