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Christiana Resistance of 1851 Revisited

January 21 @ 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

with Debbie Harner

In November 1849, Noah Buley, Nelson Ford, and George and Joshua Hammond, fled Edward Gorsuch’s Retreat Farm in northern Baltimore County and found refuge from slavery in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Maryland slaveholder Edward Gorsuch attempted to legally re-capture the men, but Pennsylvania authorities and personal liberty laws presented complications. The passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 changed matters: it allowed Gorsuch to legally enter Pennsylvania to capture the fugitives from labor.

On September 11, 1851, Gorsuch, accompanied by a US Marshal and posse, legally entered Pennsylvania and quietly approached a house where several of the men were living. By noon, the ensuing chaos left one man dead and several injured. Lancaster County was in turmoil, two neighboring states were bitterly divided, and a nation was torn between those who believed in the law of the land and those who believed in the higher law of God. The tentative calm that was created a year earlier by the Compromise of 1850 erupted with bloodshed. The Christiana Resistance was the first deadly resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law, the most controversial section of the Compromise of 1850.

The events that unfolded at Christiana, Pennsylvania in September 1851 highlight that the strained relations between Maryland and Pennsylvania were a microcosm of what was happening on a national level on the eve of the Civil War. This presentation will highlight the responses of Marylanders to the many acts of resistance on that fateful day in Pennsylvania as well as the impact on local and national events.

Debbie Harner is the Public Services and Education Archivist in Special Collections and Archives at Goucher College. She previously worked at the Maryland Historical Society as the Associate Editor of Maryland Historical Magazine. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.


Part of our Speaker Series. Admission: FREE to HSBC members; Non-members $5.99, Registration required. If you purchased tickets in September before the postponement, you do not need to purchase again. Please email us at if you are not sure if you have tickets already. 

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January 21
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Event Category:


Historical Society of Baltimore County
(410) 666-1878
View Organizer Website


Historic Almshouse – Galloway Room
9811 Van Buren Lane
Cockeysville, MD 21030 United States
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410) 666-1878
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