From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Pickard, Joseph

Joseph Pickard, a barber, had escaped from his enslavement in Kentucky and settled in Lockport, NY. In the fall of 1823, two slave catchers from Kentucky took him into custody. However, the people of Lockport would not allow Pickard to be taken back to Kentucky, and the case went to court.

Lockport had a number of Quaker residents  opposed to slavery. When Pickard attempted to escape from the courtroom by jumping out a window, he was aided by Irish canal workers, employees of the Quaker brothers Joseph and Darius Comstock.

The prior year, the Christmas Eve Riot in Lockport was blamed on the Irish workers having had too much to drink and getting rowdy. John Jennings was killed, which led to the first trial in Lockport. The case of Joseph Pickard took place the following year, and it almost led to a second riot.

When Pickard jumped out the window, the Kentucky slave catchers went after him with pistols drawn. There was a brief standoff between the canal workers and the slave catchers before Pickard was again taken into custody and returned to the courtroom. After the case was heard, Pickard was released because of a lack of proof that he was the property of a Kentucky slave owner. The slave catchers promptly left Lockport. The Joseph Pickard case is believed to be the first and only fugitive slave case in Lockport.

For more see Lockport: historic jewel of the Erie Canal, by K. L. Riley; and 1823b. Fugitive Slave Case, Lockport on The Circle Association's African American History of Western New York State, 1770-1830 website.

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NKAA Source: Lockport: Historic jewel of the Erie Canal

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“Pickard, Joseph,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-03-13 16:10:24