John Hunn

John Hunn the Abolitionist was born in 1818 and died in 1894. He was the half-brother of Ezekiel Hunn, II the owner of Wildcat.

In December 1845, John Hunn of Middletown, Delaware, along with Thomas Garrett of Wilmington, Delaware, assisted in the escape of the Hawkins family from slavery. The father of the family was a freedman.

In 1848 John Hunn and Thomas GarrettĀ  were found guilty under the Fugitive Slave Law of helping them and were both fined a significant amount of money.

Swarthmore College has transcribed notes from the trial. This is from the Introduction:

Introduction to the Trial of 1848

In December, 1845, The Hawkins family escaped from Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. The father, Samuel Hawkins, was a free man, but his wife Emeline and six children were enslaved. The two oldest children belonged to Charles Glanding, and Emeline and the other four children belonged to Elizabeth Turner. The Hawkins family was captured by slavehunters while hiding at the Underground Railroad Station of John Hunn, and taken to the New Castle County Jail. The sheriff, Jacob Caulk, told the slavehunters that the commitment that they had obtained to imprison the Hawkins family was not legal, and that they had to get a new commitment. Meanwhile, Thomas Garrett learned of the family’s plight, and brought the fugitives before Judge Booth (Chief Justice of the state of Delaware) on a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Booth ordered the family’s release. Garrett ordered a coach for the fugitives, and sent them to Pennsylvania.

In May of 1846, Thomas Garrett and John Hunn received summonses. The owners of the Hawkins family brought the abolitionists to trial under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. There were six trials: John Hunn was involved in two and Thomas Garrett was involved in four. The trials took place in the U.S. Circuit Court in Delaware. Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who would later deliver the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case, presided over the trials.

Samuel Burris

Samuel Burris was a free black man who worked with John Hunn to help escaped slaves reach freedom. He lived in Philadelphia. On one of his trips to Delaware in 1847, he was captured and held in jail for 14 months. At his trial he was found guilty and his punishment was to be sold into slavery. At the slave auction, he was “purchased” by abolitionists who took him back to Philadelphia and set him free. He vowed to never again visit the south.

Burris was pardoned on November 2, 2015 of all crimes by Delaware Governor Jack Mackell.

Pardon sought for John Hunn and Thomas Garrett

At this time, late 2015, people are working to obtain pardons for John Hunn and Thomas Garrett.


A historical site near Camden, Delaware