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‘Pretends to Understand Ditching’
A Thirty-Year-Old Man Escaped from his Third Term of Service

August 18, 1763

The Pennsylvania Gazette

RUN away, on the 9th of August, a certain James McKnight, born in the North of Ireland, about 30 Years of Age, about 5 Feet 6 Inches high, by Trade a Shoemaker, but pretends to understand Ditching, and working in Stone Quarries;

says he has been enlisted in the Army, [2] but got his Discharge; served his Time in Nottingham, Chester County, and it is likely he may be gone that Way;

Had on, when he went away, an old Hat, blue cloth

Jacket, Ozenbrigs Shirt, wide Ozenbrigs Trowsers, old Shoes, no Stockings.

Whoever secures the said James McKight in Chester Goal, shall have five Pounds Reward, or if in any other Goal, Three Pounds, paid by the Subscriber, living in Ridley Township, Chester County. JOHN CROSBY.


1. This French & Indian War veteran, had, before the war, served out his [probably seven years] previous term of enslavement in Chester County [his master admits so much in the ad], then, after discharge from the army [this his master does not seem to believe or disbelieve], he somehow became the property of a shoemaker, therefore he is a shoemaker by trade, and any other thing he claims to be skilled in is a pretense—he is what his master says he is. Note that the servants of men in this area of Pennsylvania were grudgingly released to fight the Delaware Indians and many may have been disarmed, rounded up and sold after the end of hostilities. [3]

2. It was unusual to be sold for the first time at an age exceeding 18. Most boys were purchased at 14-18 years of age.

3. Sea Stillbirth of a Nation, page 132

Books by James LaFond

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