On September 13, 1858, a federal marshal in Oberlin, Ohio arrested a fugitive slave, John Price. Under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the federal government was required to assist slaveholders in reclaiming fugitive slaves.
The marshal knew that in the area where Price was caught, many of the residents were abolitionists. He decided to take Price to a nearby city, Wellington. After hearing about the capture of Price, an armed crowd of townspeople followed to attempt negotiations. The negotiations failed, and Price continued to remain in custody. The crowd then surrounded the hotel where Price was being held and took him out of custody.
The rescuers quickly returned Price to Oberlin, he hid out in the home of Oberlin College’s president. A short time later, Price was taken to freedom in Canada. Unfortunately Price, died shortly after reaching Canada.
The thirty-seven people involved of taking Price to freedom were indicted by a federal grand jury. Ohio authorities responded by arresting the federal marshal, his deputies, and other men involved in John Price’s detention. Following negotiations between state and federal officials, the arresting officers were set free, as were thirty-five of those arrested under the federal charges. Only two of those indicted went to trial. Simeon Bushnell, a white man, and Charles Langston, an African-American man, were found guilty in federal court in April 1859. Bushnell received a sentence of sixty days in jail, while Langston’s punishment was set at twenty days.