A slave owner, General Robert Matson, would bring his slaves from Kentucky to an Illinois farm to harvest crops. Anthony Bryant, one of his slaves, always remained at the Illinois farm. During the harvest of 1847, Bryant heard rumors about his wife and children being put up for sale. Bryant and his family decided to flee during the night. They were provided shelter at Gideon Ashmore's hotel with Ashmore and Dr. Hiram Rutherford's connivance. The wife and children were soon placed in jail.
General Robert Matson filled a suit against Ashmore and Rutherford asking for $2500 because they took his human property. Rutherford and Ashmore argued that under the Illinois Constitution of 1818 slavery was illegal, therefore they were not his property. They settled in 1847 in favor of the Bryants and they were provided passage to Africa.