What's Historic About Brookville, Pennsylvania?

Black History of Jefferson Country

By Monica Collins

The first Black man ever to come to Jefferson County was Fudegon ("Fudge") Vancamp. He started on foot from Easton, PA to come to the Barnett settlement (near present day Brookville), in 1798. He was accompanied by Stephen Roll and August Shultz. The three men were traveling by foot since no road had been cut at that time to the Barnett settlement on the Sandy Lick. They were doing pretty well on their journey until they reached the mouth of Anderson's Creek. Because they were not fully adjusted to traveling so late in the season, they started the last stage of their journey, which was a long distance of 35 miles, despite the threat of a snowstorm. Soon after they had left, a heavy snow had begun to fall and continued all day, soon reaching a depth of two feet.

"Fudge" was the strongest and largest of the three men so he took to the task of breaking the trail for the other two. By this time they were without food and soon without much hope of making it through the dense woods to the safety of Barnetts. Roll and Shultz soon fell behind, urging Vancamp to push on and bring back a rescue party. Vancamp pushed on alone but the cold and fatigue soon overcame him. He was within a mile of the Barnetts when he was reduced to crawling on his hands and knees the rest of the way.

It was near midnight when VAncamp reached the Barnett cabin. He was nearly frozen and exhausted but told Barnett of the plight of his two companions. Barnett and five other men went out and found the other two. Shultz lost three toes on one foot and the big toe off the other. He did not recover from his injuries and died a few months later. Roll and Vancamp both settled near Port Barnett and lived to be old men.

Vancamp was a free man but other black men who came to Jefferson County were fugitive slaves. In 1851 four escaped slaves from Maryland made their way into Adams County to the home of William and Phebe Wright. William sent two of the escapees to a neighbor's house, Joel Wierman's, a relative. The other two slaves remained with the Wrights.

Slave hunters came the following day looking for the fugitives. Wright was able to get his two charges safely away before the slave catchers arrived. The other two slaves, Sam and George, were caught, Phebe asked the slave's owner not to put him up for sale back at the plantation and to her surprise he said all he wanted to do was to make the slave comfortable and take him back home. The Wright's daughter advised Sam to run away again the first chance he got. No one knows what happened to Sam when he returned to "Dixie's Land."

During the Civil War Blacks were permitted to join the Union Army for the first time. A father and son named Enty both joined but died before they could return home. Major John McMurray was a captain in the 6th United States Colored Troops (USCT). The segregated regiments could have only white officers but many of the enlisted Blacks soon attained stripes. This was, for many Black Americans, truly their war of independence.

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