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Luther A. Donnell court record

 Collection — Folder: S3480
Identifier: S3480

Scope and Contents

This collection includes a document from the 1848 spring term of the Decatur County Circuit Court in Indiana regarding the grand jury indictment of Luther A. Donnell for knowingly encouraging and assisting Amanda, a fugitive slave from Kentucky, in deserting her "master and owner," George Ray, on November 5, 1847. The indictment has several signatures, including those of prosecuting attorney J. S. Scobey, jury foreman A.R. Forsyth, and witnesses Woodson Clark (the reported slave catcher and friend of Ray) and his son Richard Clark.


  • 1848

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Luther A. Donnell was born July 6, 1809 in Nicholas County, Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Jean (Barr) Donnell. Born into a family of abolitionists, his father helped establish the Kentucky Abolitionist Society and his Uncle Samuel Donnell served as the society’s president and wrote anti-slavery narratives as early as 1792. By 1823, the Donnells and other anti-slavery proponents from their Kentucky community had moved to Decatur County, Indiana. Luther helped establish the Decatur County Anti-Slavery Society around 1836 and became a founding member of the Indiana State Antislavery Society in 1838. In the spring of 1848, five indictments were brought against him by a Decatur Circuit Court grand jury for aiding Caroline, an enslaved mother from Trimble County, Kentucky, and her four children (Francis, John, Amanda, and Henry) in their escape from their slave owner George Ray. The following year he was found guilty on one of the indictments, but the case was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1852. Though Ray sued and won a judgment against Donnell for the value of his slaves, it is believed that Caroline and her children made it to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Mr. Donnell died at the age of 58 on January 16, 1868.


Donnell, Luther A. "A Statement of Facts Connected with the Slave Case of Luther A. Donnell." National Era (Washington, D.C.), November 15, 1849. "Luther Addison Donnell." Find a Grave Memorial ID 85245084. Accessed October 7, 2021.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources. "The Story of Luther Donnell." Historic Preservation and Archaelogy. Accessed October 7, 2021.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of one item.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Jens Christian Bay on 1931/01/03.


No further additions expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2021/10/07 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2021/10/07 by Laura Eliason.
Luther A. Donnell court record
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.