The Cleveland Daily Herald
Cleveland, April 7, 1859
The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case.
Third Day – Morning Session.
Jacob Wheeler, Postmaster at Rochester, Lorain Co., sworn. Was at Wellington the day of the rescue. Arrived there at 2 o’clock; remained until after the “fuss” was over. About four hundred people were there. A good many of them were armed. Some of them said they were after a slave that had been taken from Oberlin. The principal talk was that they would rescue the slave if they had to pull the house all down. Went into the room where the negro was, as did Barnabas Meacham, the old Mr. Seiples, Walter Soules, Mr. Himes, Mr. Mandeville, John Wheeler and Conrad Wheeler – both white and brothers of witness, and Mr. Patten. None of these men were black men. Squires Bennet and Howt were in an adjoining room and examined the papers. The power of attorney was shown by Marshal Lowe. Several saw the papers. Witness was in the room where the negro was. Lowe called on witness to assist him. Witness went down for the purpose of stilling the crowd. Told them there was no question that the officers had a legal right to take the negro, and that Squire Bennett and Howk had seen the papers and were satisfied with them. Lowe said that he was willing to go to the town hall or anywhere, that his papers might be examined. Some of the men took hold of John and tried to get him out. Witness told the crowd that Lowe was perfectly willing any one that disputed his right should see the papers.
Mr. Backus objected to this portion of the testimony. The “paper” referred to by witness was a warrant held by Lowe which in fact gave no power, nor was it claimed to do so by the prosecution. Objections overruled.
At the time Lowe made his remark, referring to the papers, there were in the room Messrs. Mitchell, Davis and Jennings. Mr. Patten stopped out on the platform several times to “pacify” the crowd; he told the crowd he had no doubt the men had a perfect right to detain the negro, and if the crowd did anything, they must take legal steps to do it; Langston also addressed the crowd to the same effect; thinks the crowd could mostly bear what was said; some of what witness should call the “lower order” and some that were intoxicated used “harsh expressions” in reply, and cussed and swore they would have the negro at any rate; saw the negro after he was brought down; he was brought down in “quite a hurry;” several men carried him; saw “some part” of the negro put in the carriage; did not know who was in the carriage; witness does not know Simeon Bushnell; the carriage went off towards the North; stood at the foot of the first flight of stairs when the negro was brought out; was with Mr. Wadsworth at the time, keeping people from going up; saw a ladder put up to a window and people going up; then I heard people in the room above; after witness found out where he had a better chance to see, saw negro go out on the platform; witness obtained leave of Mr. Lowe to ask the negro questions; negro said he belonged to a man named Bacon; said his master gave him enough to eat and clothed him; appeared to hesitate when he was asked if he had been misused, witness remarked to the negro that it was frequently necessary for white people to correct their children, and asked if his master corrected him more than white people corrected their own children; replied he didn’t know that he did; witness did not tell the negro that it was necessary for black men to correct their children.
The negro said he had started to go back to Kentucky, but the Oberlin folks overtook him and brought him back. Said he supposed that, according to the laws of the country, he was obliged to go back, - meant this country – Ohio. Witness advised him, if he wanted to go back, to say so to the people below, for they were acting like crazy folk. Negro partly said that he was willing to go back. Hesitated considerable, but gave witness the impression that he was willing to tell the crowd of his willingness to go back. Witness then advised Lowe to take the negro on the platform, where he might tell the crowd. Lowe and others took the negro out. – The negro commenced to speak, when the colored people below told him to come down. From the balcony the negro requested the crowd to be peaceable, as according to the laws of the State of Ohio he supposed he must go back. Some of the colored folks below told him to come down; climb down the post.
Understood there was a fire at Wellington; my three brothers went down. Witness asked permission to go up stairs and see the Kentuckian and the negro; reason why he wished to go up was that witness has a brother in Kentucky, and though he might hear from him, or perhaps the brother might be one of the Kentuckians; Mitchell knew witness’ brother; lived close by him. After the crowd gathered the Kentuckians seemed to be a little scared, and witness went down out of the room; the door to the room was unfastened to let witness in and was fastened again when he went out; the colored men, numbering some forty, stood guard around the house when witness came down; saw a gun in the hands of a white man; that man; pointing to the correspondent of the Free South, who occupied the reporter’s seat: his name is Lincoln; Lincoln is one of the indicted; witness told Lincoln he ought to have more sense than to coerce these colored people where there was danger; witness speech was not a set speech, but occasional snatches; witness snatched a gun out of a man’s hands, threw it against the wall, and broke the gun and then witness threw it out into the street; witness was excited some.
Witness had a talk with Lincoln, who said to witness “I am a child of God and fear nothing, and had rather die in a good cause than live in a bad one;” witness said that God would let a bullet go into his (Lincoln’s) body as soon as one of the black mans.
Mr. Backus suggested that this was a Theological discussion, and therefore irrelevant to the issue. (Great laughter, and raps from the officers.)
[Witness testified his going to Oberlin, seeing John in the street, and arresting him between Oberlin and Wellington, the scene at Wellington as before described by witnesses; not differing particularly from the version as given by other witnesses.]
John told the crowd he was willing to go anywhere with Mr. Mitchell, that if he went with Mr. M. he should see his old mass John, and he wanted to see his mother.
[Defence objected to what the negro said as not being evidence, but the Court held that what the negro said in presence of the crowd or portions of it was competent.]
John told witness that he had once got as far as Columbus on his way home, but they would not let him go home, but sent him back to Oberlin on the cars, paying his way back.