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John Rhodes Affair

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Baker, Jesse
Hodson, Uri
Rhodes, John  [001]
Rhodes, John, Jr. [S11]  [S13] [S15] [S16]
Timeline [002]
Underground Railroad (EN0981)
Vaughn, Singleton  [S8[S11]
It is not my intent to re-write the John Rhodes Story.  This has been accomplished in fine fashion by David Heighway, and the web page of the Indiana Historical Bureau. 

My intention here is to create a Timeline and then point out the involvement of some of my Family Members.  They were Quakers who supported the Underground Railroad and were available to be of assistance when needed.  I have created links when their names are mentioned on this page. 

First read the fine article by David Heighway (S11).  He does an excellent job of developing the narrative and gives a good account of the events as they unfolded.  The web site of the Indiana Historical Bureau (S8) focuses on the Historical Marker for the Rhodes Family Incident and gives a good account of the trial and its outcome with sources. 

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[001] John Rhodes, Sr, -
Original Names:
    -  Sam, Maria and Amy Burk
    -  Sam became John, Maria became Louann and Amy became Lydia
-  John and Louann had a total of 5 children  [S11]
John was born a slave in Missouri [S9]
John Died between 1850 and 1857  [S11]  [S16]
Their surname was spelled in a few different way depending who was writing the story.  Some of the spellings were:  Rhodes, Rhoads, Rhoades.

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[002] Timeline -
1837-1839 -  Sam Burk, wife Maria and daughter Lydia traveled from Missouri to Illinois and then on to Hamilton County via the Underground railroad to get away from their owner Singleton Vaughn [S2] [S8] [S9[S10] [S11]
Settled in Washington Township, Hamilton County, Indiana.  Changed their names to John and Louann Rhodes  [S9] [S11]
-  In Hamilton County, Owen Williams and Nehemiah Baker encouraged John and his family to settle there   [S11]
-  The Rhodes family purchased land near Bakers Corner close to present day 236th St. and U.S. 31    [S11]
     -  Rhodes purchased Section 1, Township 19, Range 3 in the Southeast corner of the Northwest quarter of the lot. Index of Deeds for Hamilton County [S9]
     - The family settled near the Roberts Settlement, an area founded by free black families from North Carolina. (Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana: A Study of a Minority(Indianapolis, 1957), [S9]
1844 Slave owner Vaughn learned of their whereabouts and came to reclaim his property  [S4] [S5] [S9[S10] [S11]
-  Vaughn apprehended them but with the help of some members of the Quaker and Wesleyan members of the Underground Railroad they managed to escape.  They were hidden on the farms of Aaron Lindley and Robert Tomlinson    [S11]
     -  Milton Tomlinson and many others were also involved
1844/1845 Trial first in Noblesville and then moved to Indianapolis - The Rhoads family won the case  [S9 [S11]
1845 -  In Vaughn v. Williams, 1845, jury found defendants not guilty, finding Rhodes family had been freed when a previous owner moved them to Illinois, a free state.  [S8]  [S11]
-  Son John, Jr. was born   [S11]
1850 John Rhodes, Sr. wrote his will   [S11]  [S16]
Bef 1857 John Rhodes, Sr. dies   [S11]  [S16]
1857 The will of John Rhodes, Sr. was probated  [S11] [S16]
1860 US Census shows John, Jr. living with his sister Lydia - Lydia had married Charles Allen   [S11] [S15]
1870 US Census shows a John Rhodes as a farmhand for Jesse Baker    [S11] [S13]
     -  This census Record shows that John Rhodes is white, however.
1871 John Rhodes, Jr. was part of a posse to go after the Harbaugh Gang    [S11]
1873 John Rhodes, Jr. and his sister sold the rest of John Sr. Land    [S11]
1875 John Rhodes, Jr. involved in an altercation which resulted in a $15.00 fine    [S11]

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Source Citation

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 Tomlinson, Asher K., Family Tree of Robert and Lydia Kellum. (Indiana:, 1925, Revised Aug 1967, Bk2964) (Doc0244.pdf), page 17 (PDF page 13).
Book URL:
Research notes:
"While this slavery agitation was going on, another line of work sprung up known as the Under Ground Railroad. Some of the slaves had found out, by some means or other, that if they could get across the Ohio river into Indiana or Ohio that they would find friends that would hide them from the slave hunter, and help them through to Canada. Grandfather was very active in this work. One instance of this work we might mention: This was known as the "John Rhodes Case."
Shirts, Augustus Finch. A History of the Formation, Settlement and Development of Hamilton County, Indiana, from the year 1818 to the close of the Civil War. 1901. Bk2957, pages 247-261.
Page 258 - a part of the John Rhoads Story:
"John and Louan, in the meantime, had called loudly for help, and Owen Williams and Jesse Baker were the first to respond, but they were halted by the slave-hunting party and officers, who were well supplied with arms. Joseph Baker next arrived, and the men ordered him to assist them in making the arrest, but this he refused to do and made for the door of the cabin which John opened for him. John and Louan had made a gallant fight, indeed, but they were largely outnumbered and began to despair, but Joseph Baker's [page 259] appearance gave them new courage and they were again ready for the fight. Owen Williams and Jesse Baker soon spread the news, and it was not long until people from Deming and Westfield heard of this attempted arrest and were upon the scene."
Page 261: "The first night after John Rhoads and family had 'spilled' out of the wagon, they were taken to a haystack, belonging to Robert Tomlinson, where they remained till morning."
Newspaper Article, "Hamilton County's 'Who's Who'" Esther Tomlinson. Noblesville Ledger (Noblesville, Indiana), 18 Dec 1928, page 1. Repository: Hamilton East Public Library, Noblesville, Indiana, Mircrofilm. Doc2835.pdf, Doc2835-001.txt.
Hamilton County's "Who's Who"
Photo of Esther Caption: Esther Tomlinson
Esther Tomlinson is living on the farm, two miles north and a quarter mile west of Westfield, near the Chester meeting house, where she was born 89 years ago, October 3, 1841.
The log cabin where she spent her early days with eight brothers and sisters stood where the orchard is now. Her parents, Robert and Lydia (Kellam) Tomlinson, Quakers, had an Underground Railroad Station on their farm during the days of slavery in the South, and often slaves were cared for in their home until taken to the next station.
She received her higher education at Union High in 1864-65 when Lewis and Huldah Estes taught. Aunt Esther taught school at Millwood, now Sheridan, Bakers Corner, No. 7, in Washington Township and a subscription school at Chester.
She with her niece, Abbie T. Carey, live in the old house, being both from Quaker parentage the plain language, "thee and thou," are always used. She has taught in the Sunday school at Chester for many years. She had a birthright membership in the Westfield Friends church but when Chester meeting was established, took her membership there.
Although advanced in years, she is still active, doing the outside chores, milking two cows and helping with the housework.
S4  Newspaper Article, "Pageant to Depict Early History of Hamilton County: ---- Cast made up of Tomlinson Family - Will be Given on Tomlinson Homestead near Westfield." Noblesville Daily Ledger, 9 Sept 1927, page 3. Acc000902/ Doc0274.pdf Doc2851.pdf.  (The John Rhodes Affair) -   
Newspaper Article, "Pageant Depicted Incidents in the John Rhodes Case" Noblesville Ledger (Noblesville, Indiana), 12 Sept 1927, page 1, Page 6. Repository: Hamilton East Public Library (Noblesville, Indiana), Indiana Room, microfilm. Doc2852.pdf.
Transcription:  Doc2852-005.pdf
S6  Newspaper Article, "Most Famous Railroad in All History" Noblesville Ledger (Noblesville, Indiana), 8 June 1916, page 1, Col. 3., accessed 30 Jan 2018. Doc4620.pdf.
Page 1:
People Still Have Some of the Characteristics of Fathers -- Route 35's Next Move Awaited
Editor Ledger:
Deming was the scene of the last line of defense presented for Route 29, in its contest with Route 35, and from Deming, let the judges now take their way, in though, and follow the line of Jay Gunn's route, . . . over territory bristling with history and covered now by happy homes.
. . .
The next farm is as well known perhaps as any farm in the community. It is occupied now by Mrs. Alfred Graham and family, but it was formerly the Jesse Foulke farm. The big barn on the Foulke farm was the scene in the early days of many exciting scenes. It was here that some big public meetings were held, including debates on religious topics, and the early debates as to spiritualism. William W. Conner, of Noblesville, formerly had the habit of coming out to pit his wits against the best brains of the community, and many exciting controversies took place in the big barn. Then, across the road, hidden away from sight now, is the old Mt. Pleasant cemetery, and the site of the old church, where great religious occasions happened fifty and more years ago. Orators of that day did not mince words and they did not save their strength by talking by "main strength and awkwardness," as they expressed it, but they could make an audience rise to heights of exaltation.
The route reaches the Cicero-Sheridan road, soon after passing the Graham farm, which is one of the finest and best cared for farms in the community. . .
Page 7, col. 2 & 3:
Route 29 is made up in part of the route of the most famous railroad in hustory, the Underground Railroad. This road led from the South to Westfield, and Westfield at that time was perhaps more widely known than any other town in Indiana, even including the capital. Westfield was a station, and the route then ran through the Tomlinson neighborhood, by Chester, on north, to Bakers Corner, to Boxley, then through Tipton county to New London, then on, by way of the North Star to Canada, and freedom. About 1856, this Underground Railroad was in full operation. The trains were smokeless and noiseless, but they ran day and especially at night. For Example, the Rhoads family, a colored family, whose son, John Rhoads, later was a character well known in the county and especially at Deming, came up from the South and located just southeast of Bakers Corner, near what was later the Jones Sawmill. The Southern planters located the colored family and came after them. The old man Rhoads' name was John, too, and his wife's name was Lou Ann. There were three girls, Jane Ann, Sallie Ann and Phoebe Ann. The slave driver located the house and he and his fellow slave hunters surrounded the house, but windows and doors in the old log house were barred. Lou Ann Rhoads was full of plans, and she used a straw tick, burning a little straw at a time, to keep the fugitive slave hunters from coming down the chimney. The old man Rhoads struck at one of the men who tried to get in the door, and the slave drive left some of his hair and blood on the door jam. The colored family kept the drivers at bay until morning, and then some of the Bakers and Hodsons and other neighbors heard the disturbance and rallied to save the negroes.
Then it was agreed to go to Noblesville and have a trial of the case. They put the negroes all in a covered wagon, and started to Noblesville. They got down to old Tile Factory Corner and then some of the white men who were interested in the freedom of the Negros said the negroes should be tried at Westfield, instead of Noblesville. The slave owners said, no, they should go to Noblesville and one of them said he would shoot anybody who tried to change the course of the caravan, for it was a caravan by by this time, for the community had been aroused. Daniel Jones, who lived at Westfield, had arrived, and he jumped up on the wagon, took the lines and said, Let him shoot! Asa Beals was also present and he was an orator of some force, and he continued a speech to the people as they journeyed on toward Westfield. Westfield was finally reached, and everybody including the "innocent" Jones and Beals, looked in the wagon for the colored family but they had "all leaked out." Mr. Moon, father of Anna Maria Beals, was one of the men who helped the negroes "leak" from the wagon:
Many other tragic incidents are told of he Underground Railroad days, but now they are merely laughable, showing kind f stuff of which the railroaders of that day were made and they give a distinct hale of honor to all who had a part in the organization, financing, building and management of the famous old Underground Railroad.
    -  Transcribed from Shirts History (See [S2] above) 
 Historical Marker "Rhodes Family Incident":  Link:
-  Location:  Asa Bales Park, Hoover and SR 31, Westfield (Hamilton County, IN)
-  Marker ID# 29.2008.1
- Installed 2008 Indiana Historical Bureau, Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Town of Westfield
-  See Web Page for Annotated Text with notes/sources
-  Text, Side one:  
    Rhodes Family Incident
In 1837, an enslaved family of three escaped from Missouri  settled six miles north of here 1839 with the name Rhodes.  In 1844 Singleton Vaughn arrived at their home to claim them; family resisted until neighbors arrived.  Vaughn agreed to take family to Noblesville for trial.  In route, a crowd stopped Vaughn, demanding the family be taken to Westfield.
-  Text, Side two:
Urged on by the crowd, driver of wagon carrying family sped to Westfield; family escaped before wagon reached town.  Vaughn sued some in crowd, for interfering with his right to reclaim slave sin Vaughn v. Williams, 1845, jury found defendants not guilty, finding Rhodes family had been freed when a previous owner moved them to Illinois, a free state.

(EN0983) - (Ph12026-001, 002.jpg) -
"Threat of Being Sold 'Down the River' Drives Slaves to Cross River on Raft" by Dr. Joseph C. Carroll. [John Rhodes Story] The Indianapolis Recorder (Indianapolis, Indiana), 11 Apr 1942, page 9. (, accessed 7 Feb 2018)  (Doc4640.pdf Full Page) - (Transcription:  EN0984)
-  Story of the John Rhodes family's flight from Missouri to Hamilton County, Indiana
-  Col. 6:  "When he reached Westfield he found that he had driven in an empty wagon, the Rhoads had been spilled out along the roadside and had taken to the woods for safety.  They spent the night under a haystack on the farm of one Robert Tomlinson, a friend of humanity.  The next morning another friend brought them, wet and cold to the home of a man named Lindley, where they were provided with dry clothes and food.
S10 Hamilton County History Timeline:  
S11 Heighway, David. The Law in Black and White: The Story of a Hamilton County Family. n.d. Westfield, Hamilton County, Indiana.  (, accessed 8 Feb 2018) Doc4642.pdf   (John Rhodes and his family)
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen.  Civil Disobedience:  An Encyclopedic History of Dissidence in the United States. Rutledge, 2015.  (Google Books extract:, accessed 8 Feb 2018)
 "In 1844, Quakers assisted John Rhodes, Rhuann Maria Rhodes, and their infant Lydia in making a home in Hamilton County, Indiana.  To ensure the safety of the newcomers, congregation members mediated between the black couple and their owner, Singleton Vaughan. Quaker transporters relayed the Rhodes family to the safehouse of Joseph Bailey near Deming, Indiana, and defended the runaways in court against recapture."
1870 US Census, Adams Township, Hamilton County, Indiana, Page 23A, Line 19, Dwelling 341, Family 342, Jesse Baker household. Original NARA data: Roll: M593_319; Page: 23A; Family History Library Film: 545818., accessed 9 Feb 2018. Doc4646.pdf
From Image:
1]  Jesse Baker:  Head of household - 65, White, Male - Farmer - Born Pennsylvania -
2]  Ann Baker:  55, White Female, Keeping House, Born Tennessee
3]  Emmor M. Baker:  15, White Male, at home - Born Indiana - Attended School
4]  John Rhodes:  25, White Male - Farm Laborer - Born Indiana - Cannot Write [Note]
5]  Emily Bray:  15, White female - at home - Born Indiana - Attended School
-  Real Estate Value $4000 - Personal Value $2580
Note:   John Rhodes, Jr.  ?? - The John Rhodes in this census is listed as white - This is quite possible, however, since Jesse Baker is one of the witnesses to the will of John Rhodes [Sr.] see, S16,
S14 Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 100, Issue 1, March 2004, pp 3-25.  "A Great and Good People":  Midwestern Quakers and the Struggle Against Slavery.  Thomas D. Hamm, and others.  (, accessed 8 Feb 2018)  
S15 1860 US Census - Jackson Township, Hamilton County, Indiana. 20 June 1860. Page 58A, Line 32, Dwelling and Family 396, Charles Allen household. Original NARA Data: Roll: M653_263; Page: 58; Family History Library Film: 803263., accessed 10 Feb 2018.   Doc4648.pdf

From Images:
Page 58: 
1]  Charles Allen:  Head of Household, 30, Black Male, Farmer - Born Tennessee
2]  Lydia Allen:  24, Black Female, born Kentucky
3]  Aaron W. Allen:  6, Black Male, Born Indiana, Attended School
4]  Elizabeth A. Allen:  4, Black Female, Born Indiana, Attended School
5]  Harvey I. Allen:  3, Black Male, Born Indiana
6]  Jessie V. Allen:  7 months, Black Male, Born Indiana
7]  Selby Rhodes:  21, Black Female, Born Indiana
8]  John Rhodes:  15, Black Male, Born Indiana
9]  Elizabeth Rhodes:  13 Black Female, Born Indiana
Page 59:
10]  Samantha Rhodes:  11, Black Female, Born Indiana
-  Value of Personal Estate:  $175 -
S16 Database Online:  "Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999".  John Rhodes Will Records.  Original Records:  Will Records, 1824-1920, Hamilton County, Indiana Circuit Court., accessed 10 Feb 2018.  Doc4649.pdf  (Will Records, Vol B, 1835-1844; Vol C, 1851-1865; Vol D, 1865-1876; Vol E, 1876-1884)

From Images:
Index:  Rhodes John 209 ( Image 158/851)

Page 209:  ( Image 267/851)
John Rhodes' Will (Case Number 261)
August 24, 1830 [Ancestry Index says 1850]
I John Rhodes of the County of Hamilton and State of Indiana, being of a sound disposing mind & Memory do make and publish this my last will and Testament in Manner and form following that is to say.  First:  It is my will that my funeral expenses and all my past debts be paid fully.  Second:  I give devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Lewann Rhodes in lieu of her dower the plantation on which we now reside, situate in the county of Hamilton and State of Indiana, containing eighty acres.  Also all my personal Estate such as horses, Cattle, Sheep, hogs, Farming utensils, household furniture.  After disposing at sufficiency to pay my just debts so long as she remains my (my) widow. If so she should see cause to marry another man after my departure. Then and at that time she relinquishes all her right and interest of my Estate and at the death of my wife Lewann Rhodes or at the marrying another man, after my departure my Estate to equally divided among my Children Share and Share alike.  Lydia Rhodes, Silvey Ann Rhodes, Jane Ann Rhodes, Elizabeth V. Rhodes, John Rhodes, Mary Samantha Rhodes And lastly I hereby constitute and appoint Lewann Rhodes to be the Executrise of this my last will and Testament, revoking and annulling all former wills by me made and ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.  In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th day of August 1830.  After my departure I give to my son John Rhodes one gun and one horse.  John (His Mark) Rhodes.  Signed, published, and declared by the above named John Rhodes as and for his last will and Testament in presence of us who at his request have Signed as witnesses to the same.
Uri Hodson
Jesse Baker

Page 210:  (Ancestry Image 268/851)
John Rhodes Will Continued
State of Indiana, Hamilton County SS.
Jesse Baker one of the subscribing witnesses to the will hereto attached being duly sworn upon oath says that said will was executed by said Testatrix in the presence of said witness; and that Said Testator was at the time of executing the same of full age t devise his property; and of sound mind and memory, and not under coercion or restraint and that this affiant and Uri Hodson Signed Said will in the presence and at the request of Said Testator
Jesse Baker [Signature]
Subscribed and Sworn to before me this 9th day of January A.D. 1857 [looks like 1837].  In witness of which I hereunto Subscribe my name and office the Seal of said Court at Noblesville, the date above written.  James Obrien Clerk
   State of Indiana, Hamilton County Sct.
I James Obrien Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of said County certify that the ??? last will of John Rhodes late of said county deceased has been duly admitted to Probate, that is due execution was this day proven by Jesse Baker, one of the Subscribing witnesses thereto whose proof together with such will have been duly recorded on pages 209 & 210 on Record of Wills "C" in my office.  Witness my signature and the seal of said Court at Noblesville January 9th 1857 [Looks a lot like 1837]
James Obrien

1.  Page 209:  Some of this matches up with the John Rhodes of this page, but the date of 1830 on this page is certainly out of place.  The will on the page before (Page 208) is for John Humbles and is dated Sept 1856.  The one following on page 211 for Johnson Gibson is dated 3 June 1849.

2.  Page 210:  The dates on this page definitely look to be 1837 and not 1857.

3.  Page 210:  According to the Clerk he recorded this will in Wills Book "C" in his office.  According to the record Volume C is from 1851-1865. 
S17 Campbell, Frank S. The Story of Hamilton County Indiana. Noblesville, Indiana: Hudler Press, Inc, 1962. Bk2877

Pages 151, 160, 161


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