Waterford Underground Railroad
Micah "Cajoe" Phillips (1736-1861)
By Henry Robert Burke
Micah "Cajoe" Phillips, an early enslaved African American
in the Mid-Ohio River Valley of "western" Virginia, became one of the earliest Underground Railroad Conductors in Ohio. Cajoe
was a former slave on the Harman Blennerhassett Island Plantation, in Parkersburg, "western" Virginia (West Virginia). At
a rather advanced age Phillips settled as a "free" man on Wolf Creek in Waterford
Township, Washington County, Ohio around 1812. Cajoe lived for 125 years, just three years short of the incredible lifespan
of 128 years lived by another former slave named William Peyton (1792-1919) of Decatur Township, Washington County, Ohio.
Washington promised freedom to enslaved African American Patriots who fought
on the American side during the Revolution, but it is not clear whether or not Cajoe Phillips was actually a soldier the Continental
Army. Regardless, sometime around 1795 he was sold to Harman Blennerhassett,
a wealthy Irish immigrant who had purchased an island in the Ohio River at Parkersburg, Virginia. Blennerhassett brought Cajoe
Phillips with him when he and his wife Margaret settled on Blennerhassett Island in 1798. Cajoe's main job on the island plantation
was pulling the ferry boat back and forth between the mainland and the island.
Late in 1806, Harman Blennerhassett, who had a penchant
for bad business deals, was introduced to Aaron Burr, former vice president of the United States who had killed Alexander
Hamilton in a duel. Blennerhassett loaned Burr a substantial amount of money for an ill conceived plan to take over some Spanish
Territory and start his own republic. In American History this little understood plan is called "The Burr Conspiracy".
Many details of this plot remain a mystery, because Burr
never really revealed many details about his plans. General James Wilkinson, who had been one of Burr's close associates in
the plot, turned coat and denounced Burr to President Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Henderson of Wood County, Virginia also
testified against Burr. President Jefferson had Burr indicted for treason and Harman Blennerhassett was held as a “material
witness”. After a six-month trial in Richmond, Virginia, Burr was acquitted
of treason on September 1, 1807.
Harman Blennerhassett didn't fare as well Aaron Burr.
Blennerhassett was detained in jail at Richmond, Virginia, for 53 days. During his time in jail, the Virginia Militia occupied
his island plantation in the Ohio River in Wood County, Virginia and the plantation house mysteriously burned. Some historians
claim the Virginia Militia set the plantation house on fire, while others blame the fire on a drunken female slave. Be that
as it may, after the fire destroyed the plantation house, Margaret Blennerhassett fled from the island and never returned.
is not clear whether Haman Blennerhassett freed Cajoe Phillips, or whether Phillips just left on his own. Already advanced
in age, Phillips moved across the Ohio River to Marietta in Washington County, Ohio, then out to Waterford in Washington County,
Ohio where he acquired a small farm and soon began working with the Muskingum River Underground Railroad line. For many years
Cajoe operated an Underground Railroad Station at Waterford. Fugitive slaves were shuttled to Waterford from the Underground
Railroad Station ten miles away at Barlow and sent north from Waterford to Morgan County either to the Chesterhill Station
or up the Muskingum River to Stockport.
An interesting true story tells about a young slave girl
with two young children who were sent to Cajoe Philips. Supposedly her owner named Stonaker was in love with her and had already
fathered two boys by her. Stonaker encountered some financial difficulties and wanted to hide his slave girl named Binah so she wouldn’t be taken from him and sold. Philips agreed to hide her, but
even at his advanced age he managed to woo the young lady himself, married her
and raised her two sons. Micah "Cajoe" Phillips lived to be 125 years old, but he died December 8, 1861 four years before
slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865. He now rests at a burial site near where he lived in Waterford Township,
Washington County under a headstone crafted in 1974 by Dr. Richard Walker, a former resident of Stockport, Morgan County,
Ohio who now resides at Micah "Cajoe" Phillips lived to be 125 years old, but he died December 8, 1861 four years before slavery
was abolished in the United States in 1865. Springfield, IL.
|Cajoe Phillips Grave Marker
This marker was crafted by Richard Walker, Ph.D, of Springfield, Illinois, formerly of Stockport, Morgan
County, Ohio, to preserve the inscriptions which have now been erased from the original gravemarker by erosion and time.