Capture of Jack Neal (1801)
In 1801 Jack Neal was held in a prison at this location after being charged with murder. Neal was a former slave who had been manumitted and worked as a blacksmith. After defending himself from men who attempted to capture and sell him back into slavery, Nearl was later accused of a capital crime and held here in prison while awaiting a potential death sentence. However, Neal was granted a reprieve just before he was to be hanged. Sixteen-year-old Samson Sanders witnessed the trial and felt sympathy for Neal. This experience and others were among the reasons Sampson Sanders later manumitted his slaves at the end of his life.
Backstory and Context
Jack Neal was a recently manumitted Maryland blacksmith when Bennett Rogers was buying slaves to take south. Kidnapping Neal, Rogers chained him to four other enslaved persons and headed for the Ohio River and Tennessee. Neal was able to free his bonds and killed Rogers. Since 1801 saw little settlement along the Ohio, Neal and the others people Rogers intended to sell into slavery decided to cross the river where they reported the incident to the nearest authorities in Kanawha County, Virginia.
Rogers was a partner of William Sanders of Tennessee. Because he owned a large amount of property that had been in the possession of the late Rogers, Sanders gathered his family and moved to Kanawha County, Virginia. The Sanders family settled on Mud River in the area that became Cabell County. At that time William Sanders and his sixteen year old son, Samson, attended trials in at the nearby courthouse until the case of Jack Neal was finally settled. Escaping from his captors and a potential miscarriage of justice, Neal was allowed to live with Sanders family.
Eldridge, Carrie: Cabell County's Empire for Freedom, The Manumission of Sampson Sanders Slaves.
Kanawha County Court Minutes 1801-1802
Henry & William Ruffner Papers, privately held, Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, Montreat, NC