January 26, 1847—was probably the most eventful day in the history of Marshall, Michigan.
On that day in 1847, Michigan had become a state exactly 10 years prior on January 26, 1837. Marshall had been founded only seven years before the statehood date – in 1830 by Sidney Ketchum.
What happened that day? Adam Crosswhite, a black man, was living in Marshall with his family. At 4:00 a.m., four men from Kentucky came into town, to seize Crosswhite and his family under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 and return them to bondage. The men of Marshall were notified of the situation by “Auction Bell” a man riding a horse and ringing a bell. He was shouting that “the slave catchers are at the Crosswhites.” A large group of Marshall residents took over and arrested the men from Kentucky, allowing the Crosswhites to escape.
“The Adam Crosswhite Affair” has been the topic of historical reenactments, a children’s book “January’s Sparrow” by Patricia Polacco, and monuments in the city of Marshall.
What happened to the main character in the gap of history during the Civil War?
The Crosswhites were able to escape and settle in Chatham. (Canada) They later settled in Buxton, returning to Marshall after the Civil War.
The Adam Crosswhite encounter is one of those civil rights encounters memorialized at the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada, about 60 miles east of Detroit. North Buxton was known as a terminus of the Underground Railroad, or a destination for those seeking the land of the free.
A historical display at the Canadian museum contains this description of the Adam Crosswhite affair:
North Buxton was a destination for many black people who were formerly enslaved, including Adam Crosswhite and his family. The museum there shares many details of the freedom that was found by blacks in Canada, and the horror of life during the days of slavery in the United States. There are stories of the slave trade, and of the situation in the United States that led up to the Civil War. There is a description of “first demonstration of political black power on the North American continent.”