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‘On Suspicion of Being Runaway Servants’
Two Whites Arrested and held for not Having Freedom Paper—and a Sooty Colored Negro Too!

November 17, 1768

The Pennsylvania Gazette

York Town, in York County, October 30, 1768.

TAKEN up, and committed to this Goal, some time ago, two Men, on Suspicion of being Runaway Servants;

one goes by the Name of WILLIAM ROBESON, pretty well set, about 5 Feet 7 or 8 Inches high, of a fair Complexion, has brown Hair, tied behind, and has a Lump on one of his Eyebrows.

The other calls himself THOMAS WILKINSON, a thick short Fellow, about 5 Feet 5 Inches high, of a fair Complexion, round visaged, and has long Hair, tied behind.

They are lately from Ireland, but poorly clothed, and cannot be described from their Dress;

they are both young Fellows. Also a Negroe Man, about 28 Years old, named Joseph Butler, who says he is a Freeman; he is a stout likely Fellow, of a sutty black Colour. Any Person, or Persons, claiming said suspected Persons, are desired to come and prove their Property, pay their Fees, and take them away, otherwise they will be sold out for the same, in 4 Weeks from this Date, by JACOB GRAYBELL, Goaler.


1. These men were abducted by law officers and will be sold, no matter what, for they did not have paperwork on their persons declaring that they had been freed, which means all poor whites and all blacks were regarded as being ownable property. Perhaps Joseph Butler’s freedom papers where soaked in a rain storm. Perhaps William Robeson’s freedom papers were taken from him by the Gaol-keeper.

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