John Crenshaw

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John Crenshaw
John Crenshaw, a notorious illegal slave trader, holding a crutch, with his wife, Francine "Sina" Taylor, date unknown
Born John Hart Crenshaw
November 19, 1797
North Carolina
Died December 4, 1871 (aged 74)
Hickory Hill estate, Equality, Gallatin County, Illinois
Resting place Hickory Hill Cemetery, Equality, Gallatin County, Illinois
Nationality American
Occupation salt maker, kidnapper, illegal slave trader, slave stealer, farmer
Employer self employed, family business
Known for Illegal slave trader
Spouse(s) Francine "Sina" Taylor
Children Alexander Crenshaw, Mary Hart Crenshaw Hall, Elizabeth Hart Crenshaw Lawler, Nancy Crenshaw, Margaret Taylor Crenshaw Lanphier, Julia A.W. Crenshaw Foster
Parent(s) William Crenshaw and Elizabeth Crenshaw
Relatives Robert Crenshaw (brother)
For the Georgia Tech professor and athletic director, see John Bascom Crenshaw. For the California politician, see John T. Crenshaw.

John Hart Crenshaw (November 19, 1797 – December 4, 1871) was an American landowner, salt maker, and slave trader, and slave breeder, based out of Gallatin County, Illinois. Although Illinois was a free state, Crenshaw leased the salt works in nearby Equality from the government, which permitted the use of slaves for the arduous labor of hauling and boiling brackish water to produce salt. Crenshaw was widely believed to be involved in the kidnapping of free black people in free states to sell them as slaves in the South, an enormously profitable trade, later known as the Reverse Underground Railroad. His great-great grandson was notorious Texas serial killer Joe Ball.

Early life[edit]

Salt making operations and legalized slavery in Illinois at U.S. Salines[edit]

Illegal slave trading[edit]

Due to John Crenshaw's keeping and breeding of slaves and kidnapping of free blacks, who were then pressed into slavery, on his Hickory Hill estate, the house became popularly known as The Old Slave House and is alleged to be haunted. A grand jury indicted Crenshaw for kidnapping, once in the mid-1820s (the outcome unknown) and again in 1842 when a trial jury acquitted him. The case’s victims, Maria Adams and her seven or eight children, ended up as slaves in Texas. In 1828, Crenshaw took Frank Granger and 15 others downriver to Tipton Co., Tennessee, and sold them as slaves. Crenshaw also kidnapped Lucinda and her children in 1828. She ended up in Barren County, Kentucky. Contemporary letters identifying Crenshaw’s role back both cases. Crenshaw also kidnapped Peter White and three others in the 1840s. They were sold into slavery in Arkansas, but later rescued. Stories of strange noises upstairs coming from victims, date to 1851. Despite accounts that the rooms were slave quarters, Crenshaw family stories indicate a distinction between the plantation’s household servants and field hands, and the victim’s of Crenshaw’s criminal activities.[1][2][3][4] However, problems arose in the indicting of Crenshaw because the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required all northern citizens to return runaway slaves to their owners and the Dred Scott decision which stated that all blacks were property whether they were in a free or slave state.


Large landowner[edit]

Underground Railroad National Network to Freedom[edit]

In 2004, the National Park Service named the Crenshaw Mansion, referred to as "The Old Slave House", as part of the Underground Railroad National Network to Freedom program to acknowledge its importance in the reverse underground railroad and the role John Crenshaw played in condemning free blacks to slavery.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Old Slave House". National Park Service Network to Freedom Database. National Park Service. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Troy (2008). Haunted Illinois: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena from the Prairie State. Stackpole Books. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Musgrave, Jon (2005). Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw: The Real Story of the Old Slave House and America's Reverse Underground R.R. p. 608. ISBN 097079844X. 
  5. ^ "The Old Slave House." National Park Service Network to Freedom Database. National Park Service. Accessed online May 23, 2010. [1]
  6. ^ Musgrave, Jon. 2005. Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw: The Real Story of the Old Slave House and America's Reverse Underground R.R. Published by 608 pages.

External links[edit]

This article includes public domain text from the National Park Service website