“smooth tongued and deceitful”: White New Jersey Runaways, 1767-1783.
Joseph Lee Boyle
This is the second and concluding book for New Jersey by author Joseph Lee Boyle, who has also written multiple volumes that identify colonial era runaway servants for Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. Mr. Boyle’s earlier New Jersey volume covered the period 1720-1766.
Whatever the motivation, runaway servants were not an uncommon phenomenon in the 18th century. One source estimates that between 20-25% of indentured servants fled their masters. From the genealogist’s standpoint, this presents a methodological problem, since it was in the runaway’s best interest to conceal his/her identity after making a successful getaway. In other words, even if the runaway kept the same name, it is quite likely that the link to his original residence in America and to his country of origin was lost–lost, that is, unless his/her identity was uncovered in the thousands of, often very detailed, runaway ads placed in colonial newspapers by the disgruntled “owners.” And this is precisely where the research and publications of Joseph Lee Boyle come in.
Mr. Boyle assembled this list of New Jersey runaways for the period 1767-1783 from The New-Jersey Gazette and 40 other papers published from New England south through Maryland. Among them are the Boston Gazette, The Connecticut Gazette, The New York Chronicle, The Pennsylvania Evening Post, The Maryland Gazette, and the Philadelphia German-language periodical Der Wochentliche Pennsyvlanische Staatsbote. Although we will never know precisely how many New Jersey indentured servants and other runaways fled their masters, Mr. Boyle has transcribed over a thousand ads for missing persons, referencing more than 3,000 persons with New Jersey connections, including this one:
Run away from his bail, in July, 1771, a certain man, named WILLIAM HOPKINS (but it is likely he has changed it to WILLIAM WOOD) a middle aged man, about 5 feet 10 inches high, of a dark complexion, wears his hair tied behind, short fore-teeth, stoop shouldered, and commonly followed ditching; had on, when he went away, a light coloured coat, leather breeches, and a half-worn castor hat. Whoever takes up the said William Hopkins, and secures him in any of his Majesty’s goals, shall have FIFTY SHILLINGS reward, and reasonable charged, paid by JOHN McCUNE.—The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 23, 1772; January 6, 1773; January 27, 1773. See The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 28, 1772, From Tues., December 26, 1771 to Tues., January 1, 1722.
This compilation lists only white male and female runaways; however, for those ads where white and black runaways are listed together, blacks are so identified in the index at the back of the volume.
2019, paper, 440 pp.