The Civil War in Missouri

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Slave Pass for the “Boy Barney,” Signed by Samuel Grove.

1852
MHM Archives

Missouri law required slaves to carry a written pass if they traveled without their owner. Though barely legible, this handwritten document was official enough to allow for the safe passage of a slave named Barney to Columbia, Missouri. Barney used the pass to attempt an escape, but he was captured. According to a Howard County court document dated June 2, 1852, “Joseph Mattose makes oath and says that he apprehended a negro man about 19 or 20 years old…he calls himself Barney and says he belongs to Samuel Grove of Ray County.” Slave escapes had been a problem for slaveholders since Missouri’s territorial days. Numerous laws were passed to prevent enslaved people from running away, but none of them proved to be effective.