Rachel Parker Kidnapping

In 1851, a 16 year old free-born black woman was kidnapped by slave catchers in West Nottingham, Pennsylvania and taken to a slave pen in Baltimore. Joseph Miller, Rachel Parker’s employer, along with a number of neighbors gave chase and were able to have Rachel moved from the slave pen into a jail, where she could ‘safely’ await trial to determine her status. As Miller and friends began to head back home to West Nottingham, he was seized by slave catchers bent on revenge. Two days later Miller’s body was found hanging from a tree outside Baltimore. While a Maryland court determined that he committed suicide, an autopsy conducted in Pennsylvania ruled his death to have been caused by cyanide poisoning.

A year later Rachel, and her younger sister Elizabeth who had earlier been kidnapped by slave catchers, finally had their day in court. Sixty neighbors made the brief journey to Baltimore to testify in her behalf. The Judge stopped the trial before all the witnesses could testify, setting both sisters free.


  1. dadoonan says:

    Mary Lynn,

    Guess I have to check the comments on a more regular basis. Our mom’s dad left the family for parts unknown while his five daughters were very young. As a result, we never knew of Joseph until my older sister Polly began to research our family history.

    be well,

  2. Mary Lynn Miller says:

    My grandfather, Jacob Cecil Miller, was the grandson of Joseph Miller. Family folklore is that my great aunt, Juanita, had the scarf they hanged him with. I have a picture of my grandfather with his father and all his siblings of which I knew Cyrus, Fur, Juanita and Maude. My father was John Alden Miller. I hope to come to the memorial in the fall. Thanks for your time. Mary Lynn Miller

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