Underground Railroad: James Guthrie
In the early 19th century, a substantial number of North Carolinian Quakers migrated to southern Indiana in what is today the Hoosier National Forest. They left to escape the oppressive slave laws of North Carolina. In 1741, North Carolina enacted laws that denied slave owners the right to manumit their slaves. Quakers, who came to oppose slavery altogether, bypassed the state law through a trusteeship emancipation system. Through this system, slaves were entrusted with slave-owning Quakers until they could be freed (with the purchase of bonds) and resettled into free states. James Guthrie, who was born into slavery, received his freedom through the trusteeship system. In 1842, Quaker Nathanial Newlin purchased Guthrie in order to grant him freedom, but then claimed the laws prevented him from doing so. Instead, Nathanial deeded James to his brother, Thomas, with the condition that Thomas grant James his freedom. Thomas left North Carolina with James and joined the pilgrimage of Quakers to Paoli, Indiana, near Lick Creek. Indiana required that all Blacks register with the state. In 1847, James Guthrie was described in the register as a “six-foot pureblooded African.” Despite the struggles of living in Indiana as a free individual, Guthrie found community in the Lick Creek region and was eventually able to purchase 40 acres of land from the government. Sources: Cheryl LaRoche, Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance. Indiana Historical Bureau, “Being Black in Indiana,” http://www.in.gov/history/2548.htm [http://www.in.gov/history/2548.htm] This information about the Underground Railroad is part of a geo-located multi-forest interpretive program. Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Washington Office Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources program leadership with any questions or to make changes. SGV – Recreation Data and Information Coordinator.