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Home2. Hatcher & McGehee Slave Depot

2. Hatcher & McGehee Slave Depot

Slave trading in Columbus, Georgia was centered around four primary companies: Harrison & Pitts, S. Ogletree, A. K. Ayer, and Hatcher & McGehee,

The Company of A. K. Ayer was located on the block of Broadway located between 10th and 11th Streets with the action house at the Loeb and Kern's corner (possibily at 9th Street and First Avenue).  

Hatcher & McGehee was owned by Samuel J Hatcher, a native of Virginia, and Allen Clements McGehee, a native of Jones County, Georgia. This company was said to have been the last to import slaves to the city. The Hatcher & McGehee Slave Depot was located on the northwest corner of Broadway & 12 th Street, Slave depots functioned as active trading sites and as detention facilities where the enslaved were held captive until they were auctioned. The slave ledger now archived at Columbus State University indicates that over 450 slaves were sold by the company between April 1858 and April 1860 with an average price of $1200 (adjusted for inflation this would be over $33,000 in 2017). 

Between 1790 and 1850 slave labor increased in Georgia as cotton prices increased, cotton demand grew as mill manufacturing developed. Upland cotton grown in the region's Black Belt demanded a greater slave workforce than sea island cotton grown on Georgia's coastline, and rice cultivation was established. At the time of the Civil War, nearly 90,000 enslaved African Americans made up almost half the entire population of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia and Alabama, and though many worked in agriculture, urban slavery also played an important part in the region's economy.

Federal laws prohibiting the African slave trade and slaveholders were reluctant to give slaves their freedom. Slave working conditions deteriorated and both enslaved men and women sought to resist by absconding. The city's local newspaper the Columbus Enquirer regularly published notices of "runaway" slaves. Indeed, escaped slave notices and advertisements offer a powerful window on the lives, relationships and conditions of enslaved men and women in the community. 

Description of runaway slaves typically included age, color, weight, height and occasionaly other identifyhing features. The owners name was also included. This slave notice from the Columbus Enquirer listed Morris, twenty-six years old, mulatto, 150 or 160 pounds, with straight hair, and a front tooth missing. The notice included that Morris was good cook and house servant, and the property of H. L. Whitehurst. (14 January I858)

Slaves often ran from violence or sudden changes in the slave holder family such as the death of the owner. Others left in search of loved ones. This situation was poigniently captured in William B. Robinson's notice of a newly purchased slave.

"Hartwell is twenty-eight years old. . . .He is somewhere in the vicinity of Columbus, as he has wife at Col. Seaborn, and does not want to leave her to go with me to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He has lived in Columbus for the last fifteen years." (15th March 1853)