On Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 at 6:30 p.m., the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware will present “Stealing Freedom Along the Mason Dixon Line: The Story of Elkton Slave Catcher and Kidnapper Thomas McCreary,” a lecture by historian and author Milt Diggins. The lecture, which will take place at the Hockessin Friends Meetinghouse located at 1501 Old Wilmington Road in Hockessin, Del., is one of four program-meetings that the coalition presents annually throughout the state. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information about the program, call Debra Martin of the coalition at 302-576-3107.
Retired educator Milt Diggins has served as a member of the board of trustees of the Historical Society of Cecil County and as editor of that organization’s publication, the Cecil Historical Journal. He is the author of the book “Images of America: Cecil County.”
About Thomas McCreary …
Thomas McCreary’s notoriety as a slave hunter surfaced in 1849 and peaked a few years after the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. His most famous kidnappings occurred in Chester County, Md. in December 1851. McCreary’s story illustrates the controversies over slave catching, kidnapping and the underlying slavery debate prior to the Civil War. Proslavery advocates viewed McCreary as a courageous upholder of property rights who refused to get bogged down in states that interfered with recovering defiant property. Maryland politicians esteemed and protected McCreary as a slave catcher, a paladin acting on behalf of respectable slaveholders, but Pennsylvania authorities and citizens denounced him as a villain. Some citizens in the slave states of Maryland and Delaware agreed. They saw him an as an opportunist void of compassion, a slave catcher and a kidnapper unconcerned with the difference between the two activities. Abolitionist Thomas Garrett and the editors of the Blue Hen’s Chicken newspaper spoke out against his activities and his involvement with kidnappings in Delaware. These Delaware connections will be highlighted in Diggins’ Oct. 27 presentation.
Established in 2002, the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization comprised of private and government organizations and individuals dedicated to sharing the profound stories of the people who escaped from slavery and those in Delaware who assisted them in seeking freedom. To this end, the group provides a forum for gathering and encouraging research; linking local, regional and national resources; and sharing information with the public. The coalition also promotes the preservation of Underground Railroad sites in the state so that future generations may experience the power of these genuine historic places. Staff members of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs serve as members of the coalition.