Unfortunately, not much is known about the life of Joshua Glover prior to New Years Day, 1850. On this day, Benammi Stone Garland purchased Joshua Glover and transported him to his farm in St. Louis, Missouri.
Glover adjusted as best he could to life in this new place. During the workday, he reported directly to his enslaver. Garland likely tasked Glover with caring for livestock and fixing equipment during the winter months and assisting in the cultivation of corn, oats, and potatoes during the planting season. After a long day of work, Glover probably spent time with the five other individuals that Garland enslaved. They may have discussed rumors of other enslaved persons who escaped. Perhaps they even shared news of the most recent laws put in place to return freedom seekers to their enslavers. Although it is not known what prompted Glover to flee from his enslavers, it is clear that he was no longer willing to live in bondage.
Glover escaped from Garland’s plantation in May of 1852 and travelled 400 miles North until he reached Racine, Wisconsin. The exact route Glover travelled to reach Wisconsin remains a mystery. It is likely that he completed most of his travel at night to evade potential slave catchers. When he arrived in Racine, he found employment and housing with a local mill. He chose the surname “Glover” and began living his life as a free man.
Yet just because Glover had settled North of the Mason Dixon Line did not mean that his freedom was secure. In 1850, Congress passed a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act. This law allowed for Federal Marshalls to travel anywhere in the United States, take freedom seekers into custody, and return them to their enslavers. If abolitionists were to intervene in this process, Marshalls could arrest them. Those who assisted freedom seekers could face up to six months in prison and a fine of $1,000. This law put every freedom seeker in imminent danger of returning to a life of slavery.
Nelson Turner, a now free man who Glover trusted, betrayed him. In 1854, he revealed Glover’s location to Benammi Garland. Garland and a St. Louis Police Officer went to Racine, where they obtained a federal warrant for Glover’s arrest. A group of five slave catchers, led by Garland, went to Glover’s home, surprised him, and took him into custody. The group took Garland to a Milwaukee prison, and planned to take him back to St. Louis in the morning.
Racine’s strong community of abolitionists was not going to surrender Glover’s liberty. Sherman Booth led the charge for rescuing Glover. He secured a warrant from a Judge in Racine for the arrest of Glover’s former enslaver and the US Marshal involved in Glover’s capture. A group of 100 abolitionists from Racine rushed to Milwaukee to serve the warrants. When they arrived, they used a rafter from a nearby construction site to break into the Milwaukee jail. A group extracted Glover from his cell and placed him in a wagon headed out of town. Booth was later arrested for his role in Glover’s rescue. His arrest resulted in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin challenging the Constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Glover, with the support of local abolitionists in Wisconsin, journeyed to Etobicoke, Ontario, where he lived the rest of his days. He met an Irish woman named Ann - and their marriage was one of the first interracial marriages in Ontario. After Ann passed away, Glover remarried Mary-Anne Wattes. He worked for the Montgomery Inn for over twenty years, and developed a close relationship with the innkeeper. This proved to be an important relationship after officials accused Glover of stabbing a white man. Authorities charged Glover with “wounding with intent.” The innkeeper provided Glover with a lawyer, and was ultimately charged with “wounding without intent.” Glover served a three month sentence.
As Joshua Glover aged, he moved into the York Industrial Home. Glover died in Etobicoke, Ontario. Despite attempts of the innkeeper to retrieve Glover’s body and bury him with his family, The York Industrial Home gave Glover’s body to the University of Toronto Medical School.
To learn more, check out this Story Map depicting the life and legacy of Joshua Glover.
Ruby West Jackson and Walter T. McDonald. Finding Freedom: The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007.
C. C. Olin. "Reminiscences of the busy life of C. C. Olin," in The Olin Album, 1893. Indianapolis: Baker Randolph Co., 1893. p. LIII - LX. Transcribed by Burlington Historical Society.
“Joshua Glover.” Wisconsin Historical Society, January 11, 2016.
Joel Winters. “Joshua Glover: A Refugee of the 1850s.” Etobicoke Historical Society.