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

Veney, Anderson

(born: 1845  -  died: 1894) 

Anderson Veney was born in Kentucky. He and his family were slaves who eventually escaped from Kentucky to Canada, led by Anderson's stepfather, Levi Veney. The family settled in Amherstburg, Upper Canada.

Amherstburg had a receiving station for those escaping from slave-holding states in the U.S.; as a major tobacco growing territory, it attracted escaped slaves from Kentucky who had experience raising tobacco.

Anderson Veney remained in Amherstburg as an adult, working as  a barber but not making much money. He therefore became a ship steward.

When his first wife died, he moved in with a woman named Mattie or Martha, and she took his last name. In 1892, while in Cleveland, OH, Anderson  began having severe headaches, became forgetful, and had a difficult time sleeping. He became convinced that his wife was cheating on him, and a few months after he returned to Amherstburg, he killed her.

In court, Veney was defended by African Canadian lawyer Delos Rogest Davis of Amherstburg and Mahlon K. Cowan of Windsor, ON. Veney's sanity at the time of the murder was argued over: the final verdict was that he was sane when he killed Mattie and, therefore, should be hanged.

In one version of the story, the federal cabinet reviewed the case, and rather than hang an insane man, commuted Veney's sentence to life in prison; in less than a year, he died of phthisis in the Kingston Penitentiary hospital. In another version, he was hanged in 1893.

For more see Anderson Veney in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography OnlineDisorder in the court: trials and sexual conflict at the turn of the century, by G. Robb and N. Erber; and Race on Trial: Black Defendants in Ontario's Criminal Courts, 1858-1958, University of Toronto Press, 2011, by Barrington Walker. To learn about the early history of Amherstburg, see Jenson, Carole, History of the Negro community in Essex County 1850--1860, thesis, University of Windsor.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Disorder in the court: trials and sexual conflict at the turn of the century

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Veney, Anderson,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 28, 2021,

Last modified: 2021-03-05 18:01:20