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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Life Of A Warren Co. Abolitionist

Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

One of the great resident abolitionists from Warren County was Achilles Pugh. His life as a friend to the Negro caused him much strife and disorder. He was challenged for his anti-slavery views and met each challenge with unlimited vigor.
Born in Chester County, Pa., on March 10, 1805, Pugh, four years later, settled with his father in Cadiz, Ohio. At the age of 17, he began the study of the printer's trade at the "Cadiz Informant," a local newspaper.
In 1827 he traveled to Philadelphia to refine his printing abilities. Three years later he was employed in Cincinnati, and soon became manager of the "Evangelist" periodical.
In 1832 he was wed to Anna Maria Davis, daughter of John Davis, of Bedford County, Va.
The Ohio Anti-slavery Society was organized in April 1835. The executive committee handled its business through a newspaper, "The Philanthropist," which was located at New Richmond in Clermont County. Pugh supplied several articles for the newspaper, and it was thought that he would become its new manager, the new location supposedly being in Cincinnati.
His associates, Morgan & Sanxay, reneged, the partnership was dissolved, and he contracted to print it alone.
Because of his unfavorable public standing in defending the Negro, he was unable to rent a building in which to set up his press. Nevertheless, he established one in the rear of his residence on Walnut Street, behind Sixth and Seventh streets.
Printing "The Philanthropist" was a serious matter to Pugh. He stated "if slavery cannot stand discussion, then slavery is wrong; therefore, as a printer, it is in the line of my business to print this paper, charging only the ordinary rates for the work."
As soon as the unpopular newspaper hit the streets the Cincinnati city press threw a fit and immediately a storm began brewing. At midnight on July 12, 1836, a group of local ruffians broke into his office; totally terrified a young lad sleeping there, decimated the week's publication, and dismantled and carried away parts of the press.
Pugh immediately purchased a new press and began printing his weekly publication at 11 o'clock the next day.
A few days later he moved his office to the corner of Seventh and Main streets. At sundown, on the 29th, a second band of roughnecks again rendezvoused, broke into his office and heaved the type cases and press into the middle of the street.
This unruly bunch was about to fire the building when Mayor Samuel W. Davis intervened, climbed onto the pile, and praised them for what they had done. At the same time he advised against setting the building on fire, for it could possibly endanger the nearby property.
With a shout of conquest, the mob hoisted the press by a rope, hauled it to the Ohio River and tossed it in.
Knowing the publication "The Philanthropist" had no future in Cincinnati, Pugh, after the second attack, moved to Springboro, printed the newspaper and carried it down the Miami Canal to Cincinnati.
He was well known throughout the Miami Valley and beyond for his abolitionist views. Cincinnati certainly showed him no favors. Pugh was a marked man in the Queen City. He escaped the tar-and-feather vengeance mainly by sheltering himself after dark, and choosing his field of travel in the city in daylight.
Repeatedly, he was inflicted with sneers and silently ridiculed. He shouldered these insults and dealt with them through complete composure.
As the anti-slavery issue progressively advanced, many a dollar was secretly passed into the hand of Pugh, all of which was given to aid the passage of the Negro fugitives through the Underground Railroad network. As no questions were asked, the giving parties, with a wink and a smile, relied on Achilles Pugh to best use the money for his cause.
He formed a partnership with a Mr. Dodd in 1837 and began the publication of the "Weekly Chronicle," with Benjamin Drake and Morrow's Edward D. Mansfield as editors. This paper was later converted into a daily and continued with Pugh as printer.
Just when the paper began to accumulate financial profits, the pressure of his church and his own faith saw evil in the sale of "spirituous liquors." Every advertisement of this type was taken out of the paper, and, "with them nearly all the profits of the business."
Pugh, in 1869, along with John Butler, was selected by the Executive Committee of the Orthodox Friends Commission, and, under President Grants' orders, were to travel through the Indian Agencies of the Central Superintendency.
One day he was riding unarmed in a buggy through Indian country, escorted by only a guide and an ambulance driver, when two wild Kiowa Indians suddenly overtook them. They abruptly rode up, one on each side of them, their bows and arrows set for action, obviously intending mischief.
Pugh was quick of mind and maneuvered to get rid of them. He instantly placed his hands to his mouth and out came a complete set of false teeth. He shoved them toward the nearest Indian and at the same time dropped his heavy brows in a fierce scowl, while his "squinched" mouth, absent of its support, forced his chin and nose to nearly touch.
The Indians, horrified beyond belief, spurred their ponies, and in a twinkling of an eye, they were nowhere to be seen.
He was a very proud, sensitive individual who would not surrender to a wrong. One incident is described of him in which he was inappropriately attacked by a newspaper, managed by an association of printers, for the way he managed his own office.
He sued for libel and received a judgment of $500 in damages. Refusing the money, he replied, "I don't want their money. My object was to establish a principle."
Pugh's family home was in Waynesville, his assignment in Cincinnati. He was from early life a member of the Society of Friends, and actively engaged in church and Sabbath-school interests; he was also a lifetime member of the American Bible Society. He was a generous friend to the poor and unfortunate, his company displaying both pleasure and direction.

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This page created 4 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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