Kidnapping of Negro boy, in Worcester

From the Christian Reflector

KIDNAPPING IN WORCESTER On the 12th day of Sept, 1839, a colored lad named Sidney Orison Francis, a son of Mr. John Foster Francis, of Worcester, Mass., was stolen from his home by two men, who, it now appears, are citizens of this State, resident in Palmer, not ‘Pelham’ as stated in the following letter from Virginia.  Their names are Perley or Perlin Shearer, and Dickinson or John Dickinson Shearer.  The affidavit of the lad’s mother, Diana Francis, made before W. Lincoln, Esq., Sept. 23d, is as follows:

On Thursday, the 12th of September, two men came to my house  — one called himself John Dickinson, and the other called himself Perley  Shearer.  They said they wanted to get a little boy to do chores in and about a store in Palmer, about thirty miles from Worcester.  It was Shearer that the boy was to live with.  Dickersen  said he has lived with Shearer two years, and never wished to live with a better man.  The father of the child was at work at one of the railroad depots, and they went to see him and get his consent for the child to go.  Then the child and Dickerson came back and said he might go.  I went to work and got him ready.   But before he went, his father came in, and as Dickerson went to go out with the child, my husband told him to stop – he would take their names  — and Dickerson did stop, and my husband wrote down their names in his account book, and the place of residence of Shearer.  They asked me the age of the boy.  I told them he was eight years old the 13th of April.

The next day but one, on making some inquiry about Shearer, my husband became uneasy about the child and started to go after him, and is now gone.  I have received a letter from him, which states that he had been in Palmer, and somebody there told him that the child had been there, but had gone had gone forty miles west of there, and that he (the father) was going to take the stage at 1 o’clock at night to go to Washington.  My husband was born at Middleton, Mass., and is thirty-eight years old.  The boy was born in Woodstock, Conn.’

Fredrisksburg, Va., Sept 19, 1839   To the Postmaster of the town of Worcester.

  • “Sir – On the 15inst, a man calling himself Dickinson Shearer arrived here and had with him a negro boy, whose name he called Franklin, and whom he called his slave.  He parted with this boy last night, and, it is feared, sold him to a trader.  The circumstances were so suspicious as to lead to inquiry and his arrest.  On his examination, he admitted the boy to be free  — that he came with him from Worcester, where his father and mother resided  — that he did not know their names, had never seen them before, and then for an hour only, and they permitted this boy to come with him.  Has admitted that he did not tell them he was bringing the boy to Virginia.   The story is so absurbed as to create a strong impression that he is a kidnapper; and information is sent to you that proper inquiries be made, and, if possible, evidence sent here to procure the boy’s freedom, and to identify him.  This of course must be some white person; and the abolitionists , if there be any among you, have a new an opportunity of displaying their humane feelings.  ….All that humanity requires will be done here to recover the unfortunate boy.  A messenger will be dispatched tonight in pursuit, and the constituted authorities involved to aid him.  This man is in custody, but cannot be long detained without evidence.  You will therefore reply by return mail, and let the statements be made on oath, and let the person to identity be sent immediately.   I am , Sir, respectfully. ”    Benjamin Clark,Mayor
  •                                                           (Liberator,  Oct 4, 1839, pg 2)