Rebellion at Christiana, and: Resistance at Christiana: The Fugitive Slave Rebellion, Christiana, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1851. A Documentary Account (review)
- Quaker History
- Friends Historical Association
- Volume 66, Number 2, Autumn 1977
- pp. 119-120
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BOOK REVIEWS AND NOTES119 phase in clock development brought somewhat larger dials and occasionally a moon wheel in the lunette. With the third and final phase came enamelled or painted iron faces, usually accompanied by moon wheels, which became almost universal by 1790. Then, in the first quarter of the 19th century the trade in Chester County began to decline. As the author points out, clockmaking was a complex process. Some men dealt only with the works, such as George Baldwin of Sadsburyville, whose cases were made by West Chester's Thomas Ogden. Others did only the cabinetmaking; while still others supplied both. Most cases were made of native walnut, cherry, or maple, and on occasion a purchaser might take his own log to the sawmills of Isaac Thomas of Willistown or Benjamin Garrett of neighboring Goshen, who would make him a clock case out of the home grown lumber. Many craftsmen were Friends or had Quaker ancestry, including the wellknown Chandlees, the various Jacksons of New Garden and of Unionville— then known as Jacksontown—and perhaps most significantly the Willistown group. For the above mentioned Isaac Thomas was Chester County's most prolific clock maker, a tradition continued by his son Mordecai and grandson Caleb Hibbard. And to these we must add two remarkable characters: Joel Baily, the friend of Mason and Dixon, and Benedict Darlington, "a many sided entrepreneur," whose stories are among the many attractions of this excellent book. Pendle HillEleanore Price Mather Rebellion at Christiana. By Margaret Hope Bacon. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1975. 216 pages. $5.95. Resistance at Christiana: The Fugitive Slave Rebellion, Christiana, Pennsylvania , September 11, 1851. A Documentary Account. By Jonathan Katz. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1974. 359 pages. $7.95. The similarity of these two titles is no coincidence, for both books cover substantially tiie same ground. The subject is the so-called Christiana Riot of 1851, when a group of black people, accused of harboring four fugitive slaves, resisted their arrest. In the resulting melee in Lancaster County, the slaveowner, Edward Gorsuch, was killed, and Gorsuch's son was critically wounded. Two black men were also wounded in the fray. The leader of the resistance was William Parker, himself an escaped slave, who had earlier organized a local black self-defense organization to prevent the kidnapping of free black people or the return of alleged fugitive slaves to bondage. After the brief skirmish at Christiana the four fugitives fled to Canada, as did Parker and another member of the resistance group. The government's response to the Christiana rebellion was to indict forty-one local residents for treason, including five white men, William Parker and Gorsuch's slaves who had escaped to Canada. Castner Hanway, a white neighbor who had witnessed part of the "riot," was the first to be tried. The charge was outrageous , and when, after fifteen minutes deliberation, a jury found Hanway not guilty, all die treason charges were dropped. Even indictments for 120QUAKER HISTORY lesser offenses growing out of the incident failed to bring convictions. The entire affair and the treason trials growing out of it received nationwide attention and proved the contention of the abolitionists diat slavery had become a truly national institution. Margaret Bacon's book is primarly for young adult readers. Much of it is a reprinting of the important document which William Parker wrote and published in 1866 in The Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Freedman's Story." The author provided background material in chapters which are alternated with Parker's own version of the events. In addition, the book includes a reprint of George Steele's account. Steele, who had lived in the area of Christiana and witnessed the aftermadi of the riot, wrote his narrative in 1918. Rebellion at Christiana relates the basic information concerning the riot and the treason trials. It is short and well written, though alternating source material with historical narrative tends to become confusing. Margaret Bacon points out the dilemma of nonviolent Quaker sympathizers who became involved in the tragic events of 1851, and views the resistance of Parker and others as "an act of rebellion" which helped bring an end to slavery and...