I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up there, I learned that the Queen City has a rich history. As I have made my way through undergrad and then two graduate degrees, I have learned so much about my hometown. During Fall semester of 2013, I was able to share some of this history with my classmates in our Research in Local History class. This post is about Margaret Garner, her ties Cincinnati, and her tragic story.
Margaret Garner was born into slavery on June 4, 1834 on the Maplewood plantation in Boone County, Kentucky to a slave mother and a plantation owner father. Working as a house slave for much of her life, Garner often traveled with her masters and even accompanied them on shopping trips to free territories in Cincinnati. She married Robert Garner in 1849. The couple had four children (this piece of information is conflicting because multiple sources claim they had six).
(Photo courtesy of rarenewspapers.com)
During the 1850s, the Underground Railroad was at its height helping slaves to escape enslavement. On Sunday January 27th, 1856, the Garners fled with her husband and children from Kentucky to Cincinnati via the Ohio River. The family made it safely to Cincinnati taking refuge in Joseph Kite’s home. Within a couple of hours, Garner’s master A.K. Gaines, and federal marshals stormed Kite’s home with warrants for the Garners. Margaret decided that she would rather take the lives of her children and herself before being enslaved again. The marshals found her and her children in a back room. Margaret had slit the throat of one of her daughter’s, killing her. The other children were on the floor injured but alive.
She was taken into custody and tried. This trial became known as one of the longest fugitive slave trials in history. The Hamilton County Grand jury indicted both parents on charges of murder. A United States commissioner demanded that the Garners be released from jail and returned to their owner. A federal judge agreed with this order and had a Hamilton County sheriff turn them over to a United States marshal who then returned the Garners back to their owner and back to slavery.