O'Nealls and slavery
The O'Nealls and slavery
The O'Nealls in South Carolina were slave owners. William O'Neall's
son, Abijah, and his brothers all owned slaves at one time, as did their cousins,
the Kellys. But they were not all happy about it and did something about it.
Abijah O'Neall was one of the instigators of the migration of Quakers from
Bush Creek, South Carolina, to Ohio, a land free of slavery. This story
is told in more detail in The Life and Times of Abijah
O'Neall. However, in 1794, five years before moving to Ohio, he,
Samuel Kelly, John Kelly, and Robert Kelly "believing that Liberty is the
Natural Right of all Mankind", manumitted the slaves they had inherited at
the decease of John Kelly, Sr, so that they should be "from the bonds of
slavery forever set free." You can consult a photocopy of the original document. In 1799, Abijah moved to
Ohio, having chosen to leaving the land of slavery behind him.
His brother, Thomas, was disowned by the Society of Friends for military
activities and owning slaves on 30 September 1809 in Bush River. He moved
in 1819 to Greene County, Ohio, presumably having already disposed of his
slaves; he later moved, in 1830, to Tippecanoe County and then to Warren
Abijah's brother, Henry Frost O'Neall, sold all his slaves before moving
with his wife, Mary Miles O'Neall, to Daviess County, Indiana, in 1832.
Abijah's own son, also named Abijah, moved to Indiana in 1833. Like
his father, he was opposed to slavery and became an active Abolitionist.
During the Civil War, he and others "...held meetings at Yountsville and
Alamo and rallied the citizens to the cause of the Union..." (Sugar Creek
Saga) Such actions often aroused the wrath of his neighbors. He
and his wife, Eleanor Hall O'Neall, participated in a number of dangerous
activities during the Civil War. The following article is a quotation from
Mrs O'Neall's obituary, entitled "Remarkable Woman Gone."
"It was during the civil war that the fine character of Mrs. O'Neal [sic]
manifested itself most strongly. The neighborhood in which she and her husband
lived was fairly swarming with "copperheads" and Knights of the Golden Circle,
and their lives and property were constantly threatened. Their adult sons
were in the army, and the outspoken unionism of Mr. O'Neal caused him to
be cursed and hated by the rebel sympathizers for miles around. Open resistance
was made to the drafts at Jackville and other points near Mr. O'Neal's home,
and as the excitement grew it became necessary to have a guard constantly
at his home. Several recruiting officers disappeared mysteriously in the
neighborhood, and Mr. O'Neal finally set to work to break up the several
lodges of the Knights of the Golden Circle in that community. He was the
personal friend of Governor Morton and at his request the Governor sent several
detectives to Yountsville, who worked under the direction of Mr. O'Neal.
"Plot to Burn and Destroy
"One of these men secreted himself at night in the loft of an old schoolhouse
where the Knights met, and remained there until the following night, when
the regular meeting was held. At this meeting it was voted to burn the barns
and houses of every "war widow" in the township, and a night was fixed for
the work. The spy in the loft obtained the names of all present, information
as to who was to do the work, and the place where arms were concealed.
"The next day Mr. O'Neal, accompanied by his wife, waited on the head officer
of the lodge, a wealthy and prominent citizen of Yountsville, and reviewed
to him the proceedings of the meeting of the evening prior. He then demanded
that the burning order be canceled, and that the arms which were concealed
be delivered within a week to the provost marshal, Mr. Ramey, at Crawfordsville.
The man was simply terrorized by the damning evidence, and really did all
that Mr. O'Neal demanded, although his own life was openly threatened by
ignorant members of the treasonable organization of which he had been the
head. Not a barn was burned in the O'Neal neighbohood, and the lodge of the
knights was broken up. Mrs. O'Neal was the constant companion of her husband
in his perilous rides about the country and stood ready each night to fire
a gun in case the house was attacked. The O'Neal residence, a handsome brick
house, over sixty yeards old, still stands on a beautifully shaded hill overlooking
The article goes on to point out that Abijah O'Neal was the basis for the
character Abner Neal in Caroline Krout's novel, Knights in Fustian.
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