On a winter evening in March 1814, two run-away slaves arrived unannounced and unexpectedly at the Spotsylvania County home of George Boxley. They said that they were fleeing from the harsh conditions that they had endured at a neighboring plantation, and they desperately hoped that Boxley could help. In Virginia of that day, where slaves were required to obtain permission from their master in order to leave his plantation, the question is: why was it that the run-aways thought George Boxley would help them?

Haki Shakur – Boxley Slave Rebellion March 6 1815, Spotsylvania Virginia, 27 Afrikans Captured

The end of 1813, Boxley returned to his home and businesses in Spotsylvania County with a renewed fervor for individual liberty. It was not long before he resumed his very public anti-slavery statements. In addition to his mill businesses, he opened at the Grange a small ordinary store. It was said that the Boxley store “acted kindly” to slaves wishing to sell kitchen vegetables that they were able to grow and hand-made articles in order to purchase essential goods for their families.

So by the time the runaways arrived that March evening in 1814; George’s anti-slavery statements, the negative reactions of his neighbors to those comments and the access provided to blacks at his store offered, one would think, enslaved men and women the hope that he just might be counted on to help them if ever they needed it. When the time came, George Boxley did choose to help the runaways. He gave them two horses with which to continue their escape and provided them directions to Greenbrier in Western Virginia where they might receive additional help finding their way to freedom.

Legend contends that a female slave by name of Lucy revealed the escape of the two runaways. Lucy’s white mistress, Ptolemy Powell, added to her allegations that she had heard rumblings of a slave rebellion. A searching party was quickly formed with men from the neighboring plantation, and when the riders came to the Boxley property, they discovered that two of George’s horses were missing for which he could not account. Local authorities imprisoned Boxley in the Spotsylvania jail charged with the crime of assisting slaves fleeing their masters. Despite protests of his innocence, it appears that George languished in jail for nearly two years. Abetting a slave revolt would have been a much more serious allegation, but evidently Boxley was never charged with that crime. In 1816, it’s believed that Boxley’s wife, Hannah, smuggled in to her husband a small saw, concealed in the hem of her dress which George used to escape for jail. Boxley left Virginia permanently and made his way to Pennsylvania. Hannah and the rest of his family would remain temporarily in Virginia. She would sell most of Boxley’s properties and valuables and after several months she and her children would eventually join her husband in Indiana. There, Boxley would become an ardent abolitionist and would operate a major stop on the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad.

Once Boxley escaped and was out of easy reach of the local authorities, the notion of a Slave Revolt was given renewed credibility. Trials resulted with as many as 27 slaves being accused of participating in the “Boxley Revolt”. All were convicted and either hung or sold to plantations in the Deep South. Hannah Boxley, however, was never charged with the crime of assisting in her husband’s escape. The Boxley property was not confiscated and was allowed be sold for the benefit of the owners. So today, the question still remains unanswered; was George Boxley merely a humanitarian or was he the inciter of an unsuccessful Virginia slave revolt?

Boxley served as an ensign in the militia during the War of 1812. By some accounts he was passed over for promotion, and he reportedly also had political ambitions thwarted when he was forced to defer to a member of a more prominent family. During the second half of 1815 Boxley began to conspire against slavery. Few observers agreed about his motivations or even his deeds. Some people assumed that Boxley acted out of resentment for past slights, some that he had become an abolitionist, some that he had become demented, and some that religious delusions motivated him. He allegedly told people that God had spoken to him through a white bird and convinced him of the evils of slavery. Boxley spoke out against slavery and attempted to organize African Americans in Spotsylvania and the neighboring parts of Louisa and Orange counties. He may have been trying either to help slaves flee Virginia or to mount an armed campaign to free them, but before anything took place his activities were exposed by a female slave. Boxley turned himself in on February 27, 1816, and was charged with fomenting an insurrection.

At least twenty-seven slaves were arrested and charged with complicity in Boxley’s alleged uprising. In the largest prosecution for insurrection in Virginia between the discovery of Gabriel’s Conspiracy in 1800 and Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831, five slaves were executed, and six others were sentenced to be transported out of Virginia. Boxley was ordered tried for capital felony and stealing two slaves, but while he was awaiting trial his wife smuggled him a file with which he sawed his way out of the Spotsylvania County jail and escaped.

On November 13, 1816, Boxley executed a power of attorney in Washington County, Pennsylvania, that enabled him to sell his two tracts of Spotsylvania County land totaling 460 acres. During the next several years he moved from place to place in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. In 1818 the superior court in Spotsylvania County outlawed Boxley after he again failed to appear for trial, and on several occasions bounty hunters attempted to capture him and return him to Virginia. One took him prisoner, but Boxley’s friends rescued and released him.

In 1828 Boxley built a cabin north of Indianapolis, Indiana. A nearby town was called Boxleytown and later Boxley. He continued to speak out against slavery and also denounced banks, taxes, courts, and government generally. He may have assisted people escaping from slavery, and his zeal made him appear to fit the stereotype of the wild-eyed radical abolitionist, but he also taught at one of the first schools in Hamilton County, Indiana. Boxley died at his home on October 5, 1865, two months before the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment made slavery illegal anywhere in the United States. He was buried in Boxley.

Boxley Timeline
ca. 1780 – George Boxley is born in Spotsylvania County.
May 27, 1805 – George Boxley and Hannah Jenkins are married.
1815 – George Boxley attempts to organize African Americans in Spotsylvania, Louisa, and Orange counties against slavery.
February 27, 1816 – George Boxley turns himself in on charges of fomenting a slave insurrection. He later escapes jail.
November 13, 1816 – George Boxley executes a power of attorney to sell two tracts of land in Spotsylvania County.
1818 – The superior court in Spotsylvania County outlaws George Boxley after he fails to appear for trial.
1828 – George Boxley builds a cabin north of Indianapolis, Indiana.
October 5, 1865 – George Boxley dies in Hamilton County, Indiana.

 

Haki Kweli Shakur 3-6-53 ADM August Third Collective  NAPLA NAIM MOI