York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Freed slaves living north of Mason-Dixon Line often faced return to bondage

This mural, part of the York County Heritage Trust’s Murals of York series, traces William C. Goodridge’s life from bondage to freedom as a prominent part of 19th-century York County life. Goodridge may have temporarily left town during the Confederate campaign of 1863, but his business operated until 1865. This large panel is on a West Market Street building.
No question freed slaves living north of the Mason-Dixon Line had to be concerned about kidnappers who would carry them back into bondage.
A York Sunday News story details the life of Kitty Payne finding freedom, who was freed in 1843, moved to Adams County, was kidnapped and transported to Virginia, and eventually returned to Adams County.
When the Confederates crossed the Mason-Dixon line in the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1863, they did not discern between freedman and fugitives… .

All this has spawned the notion that William C. Goodridge, ex-slave and longtime York businessman, moved out of the area as the Confederates approached in late June 1863.
Goodridge might have left town during the two-day rebel stay in York. At least, there’s no record of his presence during the occupation.
But here’s the deal: Advertisements appeared in local newspapers touting his ongoing enterprises until 1865. See skyscraper.
He was also an active lobbyist among York’s citizenry to apply pressure on the governor to get his son, Glenalvin, out of prison where he was incarcerated following fishy sexual assault charges in the early 1860s. (His campaign eventually succeeded, but Glenalvin contracted tuberculosis during his lockup and died an untimely death in 1867.)
At any rate, life for freedman living in York and other border counties before the Civil War probably never was totally peaceful. They were always one greedy slave catcher away from losing their freedoms.