Migration From Kentucky to Maine
No records have been located at this time to support the existence of a major migration of escaped enslaved people from Kentucky that led to their settling in Maine before or after the U.S. Civil War. This entry is in response to a reference question as to whether fugitive slaves from Kentucky, whose intended destination was Canada, may have settled in Maine.
Looking at the logistics of the geographic distance, an enslaved person leaving Kentucky and going through Michigan could have traveled a much shorter route to Canada than traveling through Maine to Canada. Escaping enslaved people did not have the luxury of spare travel time when seeking their freedom. Traveling to Maine from Kentucky would have added hundreds of miles to the journey.
At the time of the writing of this entry, no written history has been found that documents an escaped enslaved community from Kentucky nor any significant population of Kentucky-born African Americans living in the state of Maine.
The Underground Railroad did run through Maine, and the route was used by enslaved people escaping to Canada, but not necessarily enslaved people from Kentucky. Also, no documentation has been located at this time to support the speculation concerning whether there were significant numbers of enslaved in Maine who had been purchased in Kentucky.
Answers to such speculations will require very detailed research beyond this NKAA entry. There were enslaved people in Maine as early as the 1600s. Once slavery was declared illegal in Maine, there was a population of free African Americans; in 1850 they numbered around 652 persons, in 1860 about 739 persons [sources: U.S. Census records].
Maine had not become a state and was still part of Massachusetts when slavery there became illegal in 1783. [Kentucky would not become a state until 1792]. The Maine Antislavery Society was formed in 1834.
Sources with more information on slavery and African Americans in Maine include the online article "'North to freedom' statue in Brewer only official Maine memorial to Underground Railroad," Bangor Daily News, 9/1/2012; The Second Maine Cavalry in the Civil War, by Ned Smith; Colonial New England Slavery, by P. A. Lenz; Massachusetts Freemen, by M. J. Denis; Maine History Online website; Maine's Visible Black History, by H. H. Price and G. E. Talbot; and many other sources, including the Maine State Library.
As for the freemen from Kentucky living in Maine, what is known about them comes from the U.S. Census and military records. Chad Hurd (a laborer born around 1805 in Kentucky) and his family were living in Augusta, ME in 1850. Hurds' wife Abigail was born in North Dakota, and their four children were all born in Maine. Isam Crawford from Bedford, KY enlisted in the Union Army in Maine on November 15, 1864 and served with the 46th U.S. Colored Infantry [source: Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops, records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and online at Ancestry.com].
In 1870, Kentucky natives Wesley (b. 1830) and Louisa Williams (b. 1840) lived in Brownville, ME with their six children. The oldest two children were born in Kentucky, the last four in Maine. Wesley Williams was employed in the slate quarry. Jonah Jackson, born around 1845 in Kentucky, lived with a family in Norway, ME. Jackson worked on a farm. Josephine Williams, born around 1822 in Kentucky, lived in Portland, ME. Her occupation is listed as keeping house. Samuel Guess, a day laborer from Kentucky, was born around 1829. Guess lived in Bangor, ME with his wife and three children; his wife was from Cape De Verde Islands. All of the children were born in Maine.
Samuel Guess served in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. He enlisted in Maine on April 3, 1865 and served with the 41st U.S. Colored Infantry. After 1870, less than five African Americans born in Kentucky are listed in the annual U.S. Census as living in the state of Maine until the year 1900, when there were seven.
As a side note, Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Brunswick, ME, where she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852. The Stowe family had moved to Maine when Harriet's husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, became an instructor at Bowdoin College. Uncle Tom's Cabin was meant to educate northerners about the horrors of slavery in the south. The book was inspired by the slave narrative The Life of Josiah Henson. Henson, born in Maryland, was an enslaved person in Owensboro, KY before he escaped to Canada. Author Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist before and after she lived in Maine. She was born and died in Connecticut.