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Loguen, J. W.

J. W. Loguen

Minister, abolitionist

Jermain Wesley Loguen was born into slavery, and had no formal education skills when he and a friend decided to run away from Tennessee. Having to rely on the help of others to complete their journey northwards, the two runaways soon realized how poorly prepared they were to successfully navigate the journey they had undertaken. As soon as Lougen reached Detroit, he was determined to get an education and then set out to teach others and promote abolition through his efforts with the Underground Railroad. He later became a bishop in the American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and wrote articles for African American journals.

Jermain Wesley Loguen began life as a slave February 5, 1813, near Nashville, Tennessee, on a plantation/distillery belonging to David Logue. "Jarm," as he was called on the plantation, was the son of a slave named Cherry (formerly Jane) from Ohio and David Logue, a Tennessee plantation owner. Jane remembered being hoisted into a wagon filled with many other terrified children and afterward being sold to three very rough and crude men: David, Manasseth, and Carnes Logue. Initially, she lived on the rundown plantation and distillery with them and their mother. After the other two brothers sold their shares to David, Cherry worked only for him.

Cherry, like most slaves, knew little of her lineage or heritage, since slavery had separated her from family and identity. Slave marriages were seldom recorded and master to slave marriage was forbidden because of miscegenation laws. But if master-slave intercourse occurred, the relationship and the offspring were usually not publicly acknowledged. During childhood, Jarm, the son of the master, did receive recognition and kindness from his father, primarily because he resembled his father so strongly. As Jarm grew older, however, he was frequently beaten and misused, and suffered life-threatening injuries at the hands of his father and uncles.

The destiny of slaves was entirely in the hands of their masters and such was the case with Jarm. He, his mother, and her other children were placed with Manasseth Logue even though Dave had promised that he would not sell them. When he was about to lose the family plantation, Dave failed to stand by that promise. Soon all of the black Logues were living at Manasseth's plantation and distillery. Manasseth's slaves, including Cherry and her children, were constantly subjected to beatings and torture as a result of his liquor-induced rages.

Life at Manasseth's

Like that of his brother, Manasseth's property consisted of a plantation and distillery. Distilleries by their very nature were subject to fire, and soon after the black Logues arrived at Manasseth Plantation, the distillery burned to the ground, leaving the white Logues short on cash. Even though Manasseth had promised his brother to keep Cherry and her children together, he began to feel his losses after the distillery burned and, determined to turn a profit, he arranged for the sale of Jarm's younger siblings to traders.

The events that followed the sale and the break up of the family ushered in the worst of times for both Cherry and Jarm. Cherry was beaten like an animal when she tried to prevent her children from being taken and was devastated by the separation when she failed. Jarm, as he was still called, was nearly beaten to death (so painful was his suffering that he cried out, "Kill me, Kill me"). Manasseth regretted the beating, once he had sobered up, and his treatment of Jarm improved markedly. Jarm was then mortgaged to one Mr. Preston—a name invented in his autobiography for a well-known man that he did not want to expose. It was after his experience with the Preston family that Jarm began to plot his escape from Manasseth and slavery.

Jarm was keenly aware of his own worth and this coupled with a newfound hatred of all servitude made him determined to seek freedom or die trying. Sometime during 1834, he heard from a childhood friend that there was a free state nearby called Illinois and that he could get there on horseback in less than a week. Jarm and two friends—John Farney and Jerry, a slave—decided to flee. Before they set off, however, Jerry decided he could not leave his wife and children. His withdrawal, which took away a third of the resources, put the enterprise in jeopardy, but despite shortness of funds, John and Jarm departed.


Born on a plantation near Nashville, Tennessee on February 5
Runs away; escapes to Canada after a lengthy and dangerous journey
Moves from Canada to New York
Enters the Oneida Institute, Utica, New York
Becomes minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Marries Caroline Storum
Buys half-acre of ground on which to build a school house
Involved in the Jerry Rescue; flees to Canada to avoid indictment
Returns from Canada without pardon
Publishes autobiography The Reverend J. W. Lougen, as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life
Elected to the office of bishop at the American Methodist Episcopal Zion General Conference
Dies in Saratoga Springs, New York on September 30

Flight North

Although the two had planned to arrive in Illinois within the week, a series of misadventures plagued the travelers and extended the journey. First, they narrowly missed recapture by slave catchers and nearly drowned while crossing the partly frozen Ohio River into Indiana. Later they lost their way and wandered back south toward their starting point in Tennessee where they were again in danger of being retaken. Finally, after many days of hunger, cold, and fear, they again reached Indiana. Here they spent three very comfortable weeks in a Quaker village and received advice and directions for fleeing north into Canada. Following the North Star, as instructed by one of the Quakers, they continued their northward journey. Passing through thick woodlands, they came upon Indians—some of whom were helpful, while others merely ignored them. From this point on, they asked no one for directions. Meeting a hunter during their ramblings in the wild, Jarm and John learned that they were lost again. Though weather conditions had frequently obscured the North Star, the two were heading toward the North Pole, but drifting westward. As the hunter directed, Jarm and John traveled southeasterly and arrived in Detroit, Michigan, with about fifty cents between them. Jarm and John separated to find obscure, affordable lodgings. Jarm crossed over into Canada and John stayed in Detroit; here John lodged with several unscrupulous men who took his horse and Jarm's saddle. The men knew no action would be lodged against them because John was obviously a runaway. Distraught over the loss of the horse and saddle and obsessed by the desire to get them back, John and Jarm parted ways, never seeing each other again.

Life in Canada

Jarm's fortunes took a happier turn when he settled in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he took a $10-a-month job clearing land for a nearby farmer. Neighbors were impressed with Jarm's diligence and hard work, and as a reward he was admitted to the Sabbath School to learn to read and subsequently attended Ancaster where he received the title of Bible reader. Jarm, now about twenty-four years old, took on a new name to match his new station in life. He added an "n" to his father's sir name and used Jarmain instead of Jarm (his slave name), and he took Wesley as his middle name to satisfy his Methodist friends.

In 1836, Loguen moved from Canada to New York and worked at a variety of positions: farmer, proprietor, porter, and confidential servant at the Rochester House, the grand hotel of Rochester, New York. Talking to hotel patrons, Loguen began to gain a broader knowledge of freedom, slavery, and politics. Realizing his own lack of knowledge, Loguen decided to enter Oneida Institute around 1837, to study with the distinguished Reverend F. P. Rogers. Following his third winter under Rogers' tutelage, Loguen had grasped the larger issues of slavery and gone to Utica to investigate the situation of fellow blacks and to establish a school for their children.

While teaching a class of Sunday scholars, Loguen made the acquaintance of Caroline Storum, who was there visiting friends. The two grew close and married in 1840. By then Loguen had become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church and preached throughout the area around Bath and Ithaca. He also represented the Liberty Party, an abolitionist group that developed in 1840. Its supporters wanted to put an immediate end to slavery. By 1844, Loguen was an antislavery lecturer and in 1846, when he returned to Syracuse, he began preaching to the African Methodists.

Loguen bought a half-acre of land in 1848. A house may have already occupied part of the land, but the rest was reserved for a schoolhouse. Mrs. Loguen joined her husband in Syracuse around this time, and they built an apartment for runaway slaves that became an important station on the Underground Railroad.

After passage of the Fugitive Slave and the Compromise Acts of 1850, a biracial committee was formed to protect fugitives entering Syracuse. Loguen spoke strongly against the acts and explained the danger that he and all runaways would face if the legislation passed. In October 1851, the Vigilance Committee and the Onondaga County Agricultural Society were meeting in Syracuse. Suddenly the church bells started to toll, a signal that slave catchers were present. Soon it was announced that a fugitive, Jerry, had been taken. Jerry was handcuffed and taken to the commissioner's office where he learned the reason for his arrest. Loguen, coordinating a rescue effort, urged fugitives and blacks, if whites would not help, to strike down officials or die trying. A great mob formed and the Jerry Rescue, as it was called, got underway. Violence soon broke out and several people were injured, including Jerry himself. Afterwards Jerry was moved continuously to avoid being retaken. He stayed a while in Mexico but returned to New York and sailed on a British boat to Canada where he remained until his death from tuberculosis on October 8, 1853.

In the weeks following, twenty-five persons were charged for their role in the Jerry Rescue. All but seven of the men fled to Canada, including Loguen. From Canada, Loguen wrote the governor of New York asking for permission to return to Syracuse and promising that he would stand trial for his role in rescuing Jerry but asking for a guarantee that he would not be tried as a fugitive slave. Governor Hunt refused, but Loguen returned to his family during the spring of 1852 anyway.

By 1855, Jermain and Caroline Lougen had six children ranging in age from one to thirteen. Additionally they housed three other adults. Loguen, despite his full household, continued to operate the Syracuse Underground Railroad, reputed to be the central depot for the entire state of New York, and Loguen was dubbed the "Underground Railroad King."

Prior to the Civil War, Loguen distinguished himself in other ways. He became the general agent of Syracuse's Fugitive Aide Society, he sought employment for slaves, and in 1868 he was elected bishop at the AMEZ General Conference. Once the war broke out, he was able to field a company of African Americans called the "Lougen's Guards." Lougen published articles in several African American newspapers and had his own autobiography, The Reverend J. W. Lougen, as a Slave and as a Free-man: A Narrative of Real Life, published in 1859. In 1872, he planned to begin new mission work on the Pacific Coast. But learning that he had tuberculosis, he went to Saratoga Springs for a cure at the mineral springs. He died there on September 30, 1872 and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.



Hunter, Carol M. "The Rev. Jermain Loguen: A Narrative of Real Life." Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 13 (July 1989), 33-46. (Accessed 13 March 2006).

Lougen, Jermain Wesley. The Reverend J. W. Lougen, as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life. Syracuse, N.Y.: J. G. K. Truair & Co., 1859. (Accessed 13 March 2006).

                                     Lois A. Peterson

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