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Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen: King of the Underground Railroad

On today's date 1860, Sarah Logue, a white woman from Maury County, Tennessee - just to our south - wrote to her runaway slave Jarman,  who was living in Syracuse, New York. She demanded that he pay her as compensation for her financial losses related to his escape and says that, in return, she will "give up all claim I have to you."

Jarman was not just any runaway slave.  He had changed his name and was now the Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen - a prominent abolitionist and minister of the AME Church.  Loguen had been born into slavery around 1813
, in Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of a black woman named Cherry and Sarah's brother-in-law, David Logue, a white man who enslaved Cherry and her children, including Jermain. 

Later in life, with Loguen's assistance - or perhaps at his direction - Loguen's biography was written.  It contains graphic details of his life as an enslaved child in the Nashville area - perhaps near Mansker's Station in Goodlettsville. The memoir provides a compelling view of life for enslaved people in Middle Tennessee. For example, the book includes a graphic description of the night, when he was about 13 years old when his father sold him and his mother Cherry and his half-siblings to a slave trader.

The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman. A Narrative of Real Life., page 67
by Loguen, Jermain Wesley and Rogers, Elymas Payson (1858)
They were driven in a slave coffle through Williamson County to southern Maury County and purchased by Manasseth Logue.  Manasseth was David's brother and Jermain's uncle. 

Life in Maury County.  Manasseth and his wife Sarah Loguen were not kind to Jermain and his family. They not only manufactured but were frequent consumers of whiskey, and this affected their brutal management of their farm and those they enslaved.  Jermain's book described his adolescence - life as a field slave, attendance at a Methodist camp meeting, being leased to a neighboring white man, and the tragic sale of all the plantation's black children to slave traders.  

A portion of Map of the State of Tennessee taken from a survey by Matthew Rhea (1832)
Visible is the Bigbyville and Little Bigby Creek.  I believe Jermain Loguen was enslaved
in this area after his sale to Manasseth and Sarah Loguen.
As he approached adulthood, Jermain Loguen was fortunate to be leased to the white Preston family. The Prestons treated him with respect and introduced him to some basic education. However, during his time with them, Jermain was not shielded entirely from the horrors occuring around him. He witnessed the probate sale of a large number of enslaved people that broke apart many nearby families and the brutal beating of a man named Jerry who they were attempting to separate from his family. After his return to Manasseth Logue, Jermain decided that he could not remain under this barbaric rule and had to escape

Claiming Freedom.  After planning for several months, with a group of men, including Jerry, Jermain, and two other slaves did escape at Christmas time around 1834, journeying north until they reached Canada. At the last minute, Jerry decided to remain in Tennesee with his family.

After an arduous journey, 21-year-old Jermain Logue managed to escape across the United States border to Canada.  In Hamilton, Ontario Jermain learned to read and write. He farmed for a short time but in the fall of 1837, Jermain crossed back into the United States and moved to Rochester, New York. He became an active abolitionist, minister, and school teacher. 

Moved to SyracuseIn 1841, Jermain settled in Syracuse, where he married.  His house at 293 East Genesee Street became an important stop on the Underground Railroad. 

During this time, the residents in nearby Cortland, NY decided to try to raise the money to purchase Jermain's mother Cherry from David Logue and obtain her freedom. With the help of two agents who negotiated on his behalf, a written agreement with David Logue was reached by letter.  Cherry was to be purchased for $250.  One of the agents, Nathaniel Goodwin traveled to Maury County to finalize the sale and bring Cherry home.  Upon his arrival, Goodwin learned that the negotiations were the talk of the area - many white residents were concerned that the plan was to "sell a slave to a slave" - something that was actively discouraged. Goodwin and Logue argued and negotiated for several hours. Logue was determined that Jermain had to buy his own freedom before he would sell his mother to him.  At the end of the discussion, Goodwin was allowed to meet Cherry and her daughter Ann (Jermain's half-sister who lived on a neighboring farm) but he was never able to buy Cherry's freedom.

The following day, Goodwin returned to Nashville on his way home to New York.  That night the Methodist convention was occurring, and he went to hear Bishop Soule preach to a black and white audience.  The Bishop was a strong proponent of the 1844 split in the Methodist Church over the issue of slavery.  Goodwin noted that the Bishop ended his sermon in Nashville with the following advice for the enslaved members of the congregation:

The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman. A Narrative of Real Life., page 386
by Loguen, Jermain Wesley and Rogers, Elymas Payson (1858)
Resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which not only allowed David Logue to come after his former slave but it also required Rev. Jermain Loguen's new friends and neighbors to assist in his capture. However, Rev. Loguen was so popular in Syracuse that the citizens agreed to declare the city a sanctuary from the Law. The voters voted 395 to 96 in favor of Syracuse becoming an “open city” for fugitive slaves. They recognized that while it was legal to participate in the capture of runaway slaves - even required - it was not moral.  Instead, Rev. Loguen's white fellow citizens agreed to resist the Law and protect him and any other runaway slaves if they were threatened. 

On October 1, 1851, the city's commitment to its position was tested for the first time. A man named William Henry who had escaped from bondage was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Loguen joined a committee of abolitionists, black and white, who managed to rescue Henry  (using the code name "Jerry") from slave catchers and assist him in escaping to Canada. Loguen was later indicted for his role in helping Henry, but he was never charged or convicted. I have to wonder if Rev. Loguen used the code name Jerry in honor of his friend that he had to leave behind in Tennessee in 1834.

The following year, on March 13, 1852, Manasseth Logue died in Maury County.  The inventory of his estate included "one negro women named Cherry, aged about fifty-five" [this was Rev. Loguen's mother] as well as "one negro boy named Jerry aged about fifty-two." It is interesting to me that the other enslaved person is named Jerry.  I wonder if this could be his long-lost friend Jerry.  

Manasseth Logue's will left both Cherry and Jerry to his wife Sarah.  

Meanwhile, Rev. Jermain Loguen continued to live and prosper in New York. In 1855, he and his family were counted in the NY State Census living in Syracuse. He was working as a "clergyman."
1855 New York State Census, Syracuse City, Ward 8, Onondaga - page 30

Loguen continued to preach, organize and write - and to work as the "King of the Underground Railroad." His friend Frederick Douglass described how, one night in 1857, he arrived at the Loguen home with a family escaping from slavery:  “The night was exceedingly dark and the rain was very heavy. . . . We had scarcely struck the door when the manly voice of Loguen reached our ear. He knew the meaning of the rap and sang out, “Hold on!” A light was struck in a moment. The door opened, and the whole company, the writer included, were invited to. Candles were lighted in different parts of the house, fires kindled and the whole company made perfectly at home. The reception was whole-souled and manly one, worthy of the noble reputation of brother Loguen.” Post-Standard, November 18, 1857. 

Years later, another member of the Underground Railroad reminisced about the contributions of Rev. Loguen to the Underground Railroad:


In 1859, Rev. Logeun's memoir, The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman. A Narrative of Real Life was published.

The following year - perhaps in reaction to the book - the wife of his former master, Sarah Logue, wrote Jermain Loguen a letter demanding $1000 compensation for his running away:

February 20th, 1860.


I now take my pen to write you a few lines, to let you know how well we all are. I am a cripple, but I am still able to get about. The rest of the family are all well. Cherry is as well as Common. I write you these lines to let you the situation we are in—partly in consequence of your running away and stealing Old Rock, our fine mare. Though we got the mare back, she was never worth much after you took her; and as I now stand in need of some funds, I have determined to sell you; and I have had an offer for you, but did not see fit to take it. If you will send me one thousand dollars and pay for the old mare, I will give up all claim I have to you. Write to me as soon as you get these lines, and let me know if you will accept my proposition. In consequence of your running away, we had to sell Abe and Ann and twelve acres of land; and I want you to send me the money that I may be able to redeem the land that you was the cause of our selling, and on receipt of the above named sum of money, I will send you your bill of sale. If you do not comply with my request, I will sell you to someone else, and you may rest assured that the time is not far distant when things will be changed with you. Write to me as soon as you get these lines. Direct your letter to Bigbyville, Maury County, Tennessee. You had better comply with my request.

I understand that you are a preacher. As the Southern people are so bad, you had better come and preach to your old acquaintances. I would like to know if you read your Bible? If so can you tell what will become of the thief if he does not repent? and, if the the blind lead the blind, what will the consequence be? I deem it unnecessary to say much more at present. A word to the wise is sufficient. You know where the liar has his part. You know that we reared you as we reared our own children; that you was never abused, and that shortly before you ran away, when your master asked if you would like to be sold, you said you would not leave him to go with anybody.

Sarah Logue.

A few weeks later, Rev, 
Jermain Wesley Logan wrote a scathing reply which was published first in the local newspaper and then copied in publications throughout the country:

March 28, 1860.


Yours of the 20th of February is duly received, and I thank you for it. It is a long time since I heard from my poor old mother, and I am glad to know she is yet alive, and, as you say, “as well as common.” What that means I don’t know. I wish you had said more about her.

You are a woman; but had you a woman’s heart you could never have insulted a brother by telling him you sold his only remaining brother and sister, because he put himself beyond your power to convert him into money.

You sold my brother and sister, ABE and ANN, and 12 acres of land, you say, because I ran away. Now you have the unutterable meanness to ask me to return and be your miserable chattel, or in lieu thereof send you $1000 to enable you to redeem the land, but not to redeem my poor brother and sister! If I were to send you money it would be to get my brother and sister, and not that you should get land. You say you are a cripple, and doubtless you say it to stir my pity, for you know I was susceptible in that direction. I do pity you from the bottom of my heart. Nevertheless I am indignant beyond the power of words to express, that you should be so sunken and cruel as to tear the hearts I love so much all in pieces; that you should be willing to impale and crucify us out of all compassion for your poor foot or leg. Wretched woman! Be it known to you that I value my freedom, to say nothing of my mother, brothers and sisters, more than your whole body; more, indeed, than my own life; more than all the lives of all the slaveholders and tyrants under Heaven.

You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “you know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping-post? Did you raise them to be driven off in a coffle in chains? Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters? Can you tell? Who was it that sent them off into sugar and cotton fields, to be kicked, and cuffed, and whipped, and to groan and die; and where no kin can hear their groans, or attend and sympathize at their dying bed, or follow in their funeral? Wretched woman! Do you say you did not do it? Then I reply, your husband did, and you approved the deed- and the very letter you sent me shows that your heart approves it all. Shame on you.

But, by the way, where is your husband? You don’t speak of him. I infer, therefore, that he is dead; that he has gone to his great account, with all his sins against my poor family upon his head. Poor man! gone to meet the spirits of my poor, outraged and murdered people, in a world where Liberty and Justice are MASTERS.

But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than MANNASSETH LOGUE had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother’s cradle and steal me? If he and you infer that I forfeit all my rights to you, shall not I infer that you forfeit all your rights to me? Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and High Heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?

If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here and lay their hands on me to enslave me. Did you think to terrify me by presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to Slavery? Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt. The proposition is an outrage and an insult. I will not budge one hair’s breadth. I will not breathe a shorter breath, even to save me from your persecutions. I stand among a free people, who, I thank God, sympathize with my rights, and the rights of mankind; and if your emissaries and venders come here to re-enslave me, and escape the unshrinking vigor of my own right arm, I trust my strong and brave friends, in this City and State, will be my rescuers and avengers.

Yours, &c.,
J.W. Loguen

A few months after Rev. Loguen penned this letter, in June 1860, he and his family were counted in the federal Census, still living in Syracuse.  Loguen was noted to be a Methodist Clergyman.
1860 Federal Census - Syracuse Ward 8, Onondaga, New York - page 39

Ironically, Rev. Jermain Loguen was quite successful - more than Sarah Logue appears to have been.  He claimed $4,500 worth of real estate and $1,500 worth of personal property - more than enough to buy himself out of bondage.  For slaveholders in the southern states that year, the personal property column would be used to indicate the value of the people kept in bondage. 

Meanwhile, Sarah Logue was living with a son Ephraim Logue.  She claimed no assets in her own name. Ephraim Logue was holding two people in bondage - one was a 67-year-old black woman that I believe could have been Jermain's mother Cherry.

1860 Slave Schedule - Maury County, Tennessee District 7, page 1
Within a year, the Civil War had begun.  Loguen's son-in-law (Frederick Douglass' oldest son) joined the US Army to fight. 

A portion of an article published in the
Clarksville (TN) Jeffersonian_Wed__Nov_7__1860
Reunion.  Following the War, Rev. Loguen came to Maury County to look for his mother.  This newspaper account described their meeting:  
"Mr. Loguen returns to Tennessee, his native State, unmolested, and finds his mother still alive, at or about the age of 75 years or so - Reaching the old log hut, Mr. Loguen sent a man to see if his mother was there. The man came back saying, 'Yes, Old Aunt Cherry is here.' His mother had her right mind and knew her son Jarman Loguen, as soon as she saw him and exclaimed, "Here is my son Jarman!" Old Mrs. Loguen [Sarah Logue? the letter writer?], is still alive  and Mr. Loguen also saw her." [Awkward]   "Old Aunt Cherry heard her son preach while in Columbia. As soon as he had done his sermon, the old lady made her way to the pulpit and hugged and kissed him."

The_Belvidere (Illinois) Standard_Tue__Jul_18__1865
So it appears as though, Rev. Loguen was able to respond to Sarah Logue 1860 letter's challenge. She had written: "I understand that you are a preacher. As the Southern people are so bad, you had better come and preach to your old acquaintances."  She probably never imagined that he would return, a free successful citizen, to take her up on the offer.

Interestingly, in the 1870 Census, Rev. Loguen's mother Cherry was still living in Tennessee - next door to Ephraim Logue's family.  She was 80 years old. 

1870 Federal Census, Maury County, Tennessee District 7

It is not clear why she did not go to live with her son in New York.  Perhaps the ties to her remaining children and her home in Tennessee were too strong to break her away.  Sadly, her reunion with her son was all too brief.

In 1872, at the young age of 59, Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen died while in Saratoga, New York.  The newspapers mourned his death.

New_National_Era, Washington DC - Thu__Oct_3__1872
Ten years later, Cherry Logue was still living in Maury County. She was listed as being 90 years old and "superannuated" (i.e. disabled by old age). She was living with two of Manassas and Sarah Logue's daughters.
1870 Federal Census, Maury County, Tennessee District 7

I have not determined when Cherry Logue died. However, she lived to see freedom, and that of her children. She also witnessed the success of her son at a level that she likely never could have imagined.


  1. Fantastic research and presentation...BRAVO!!!

    Tina I loved this and I continue to be one of your biggest fans....THANK YOU!!!

    1. Thank you so much! I truly appreciate the comment and the encouragement.

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