In 1849, Abe Losford learned some terrifying news; he was to be sold to the Deep South. The proceeds of the sale of Abe and two other enslaved men were to satisfy the debt of a Boone County enslaver who had gotten in over his head. The men were taken to the landing along the river, where they would be loaded onto a boat headed to cotton country. Before they could be placed onboard, they broke free. One man was caught almost immediately, another attempted to swim across the Ohio River, but was also soon captured. Abe sprinted to a small, unattended boat, jumped aboard, and rowed across to Indiana. 

Once ashore, he hid in the thick brush along the river, remaining undetected until nightfall. Since his decision to escape had come on the heels of the unexpected circumstance of being sold, Abe had not visited with his family, who were also enslaved in Boone County. Abe knew attempting to escape with his wife and two children under five was nearly impossible, but he couldn’t leave the area without seeing them. He crossed back into Boone County that night and said his goodbyes to his wife, son Benjamin, and daughter Sally. 

What followed was a series of harrowing near-captures as Abe made his way toward Canada. After leaving his family, Abe was accosted by several men who he tangled with but he was able to fight them off and flee. Unfortunately, they caught up to him and put him on a horse, with a rider on each side of him. Though he was flanked and likely had his hands tied, Abe jumped off his horse and fled into a dark, wooded area nearby. He was able to stay hidden from capture over the next seven weeks of his journey. 

Abe got word along the way that he was being pursued and was concerned that bloodhounds might catch his scent. As he passed through pastures he occasionally stopped to coat the bottom of his feet with manure to throw the dogs off his trail. In the 1851 census, a man named Abraham, born the same year as Losford, was living in the household of Joseph Sanford in Amherstburg, Ontario, where many freedom seekers from Boone County settled. The Sanfords were an African American family who had come to Canada from Kentucky. 

After a time, Abe came back across the border and made his way to Howell, Michigan, where he settled in 1854 and began work as a barber. He returned to Kentucky after the Civil War only to discover his wife had died, but he located his children and brought them back to Michigan. Abe’s son and grandson followed in his footsteps, both becoming successful barbers. 

By Hillary Delaney