Frank Rust

Implicated in the kidnapping of Henrietta Wood, Franklin B. Rust or Frank Rust was also involved in other slave trading and kidnapping activities in earlier years.

The 1850 census locates Franklin B. Rust, born in Virginia in 1816, living in Boone County. The 1860 census puts him in Kenton County and gives his birth year as 1817.1

The Covington Journal suggests that he died in the early 1870s, before Wood v. Ward finally came to a verdict.2 His tombstone confirms this with a date of March 16, 1873.

He was one of the Kentucky slaveowners involved in the so-called Kentucky Raid into Michigan of 1847.3

In 1848, he was implicated in the suicide of a slave family. The Cincinnati Enquirer identified him as a “negro trader by the name of Rust” who bought a family (man, wife, and child) from a Grant County, Kentucky, slaveholder and brought them to Covington, intending to “start with them the next day down the river,” but sometime in the night, “the man murdered both his wife and child, committing the act with a common pocket-knife, and then cut his own throat, but not so as to destroy himself.”4

Rust may also have been connected to the Kenton County Association, a secretive organization founded in Covington to capture and return runaway slaves. A much later recollection connected him with efforts of Kentucky slaveholders like Thornton Timberlake to go to Michigan and recapture runaways like the Adam Crosswhite family.5

A receipt from February 18, 1852, also shows that Rust sold a woman and child, Maria (aged 24 years) and William (aged 5 years), for $660 to Lewis Robards. That receipt describes Rust as bring from Boone County.6

In 1862, he and another Kentuckian were charged with “smuggling guns across the river in a skiff” but was set free “upon the promise of proving themselves loyal men.” The article reporting this again described him as residing “five miles back of Covington.”7

  1. The [1860 census] and 1870 census also identify a Frank Rust living in Campbell County and gives “Hanover” as his place of birth, around 1823-1824.

  2. See Covington Journal, April 8, 1876.

  3. See paper on the raid and brief description. Debian Marty confirms in an email of May 23, 2017, that Rust was one of the slave-catchers involved, which is verified by the legal papers of the Kentuckians’ lawyer Francis Troutman (at University of Kentucky Special Collections) and the Michigan Quakers’ lawyer Jacob Merritt Howard (at Detroit Public Library). She says Rust was a material witness in a later lawsuit filed by Thornton Timberlake against the Michigan abolitionists who had intervened. See marty2015 for summary of the raid.

  4. “Horrible Murder,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 20, 1848, p.3. See also “Bloody Tragedy,” Lancaster (Ohio) Gazette, June 2, 1848, which identifies him as “an individual, named Frank Rust, a slave trader living in Boone county, Ky.” Also “Murder and Attempted Suicide,” Anti-Slavery Bugle, June 2, 1848, which identifies him as “a Mr. Rust, living back of Covington.” Also “Most Sad and Bloody Tragedy,” Sandusky (Ohio) Clarion, June 5, 1848, p. 2. My thanks to Hillary Delaney for providing me with these articles.According to Debian Marty, the story was also covered by Frederick Douglass’ Paper and National Era.

  5. For the article identifying Rust, see Boone County Recorder, July 11, 1906, p. 5. See also “Kenton County Association,” Licking Valley Register, November 27, 1841. My thanks to Hillary Delaney for these articles.

  6. See Lewis Robards Receipt Book, Box 2, Black History Collection, 1700-2008, Library of Congress. My thanks to Adam Rothman for finding this book and sending me an image of the receipt.

  7. “Contrabanding,” Cincinnati Daily Press, February 3, 1862.See also “Seizure of Smuggled Arms,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, February 4, 1862, which described him as living “on the Lexington pike, near Florence,” and working in concert with James Glendon.