Upon his arrival to the United States from England in 1819 Henry Shaw was initially opposed to the idea of slavery questioning its benefit. He expressed his thoughts at the time in an 1820 letter to his mother in regards to the heated national debate about Missouri entering into the Union as a slave state. “This is truly a country of knavery, oppression, and slavery.” Slavery at the time was considered an economic institution in the southern states and Missouri, admitted to the Union in 1821 was no exception. While a merchant in St. Louis Shaw apparently had a change of opinion and began buying enslaved people beginning in 1828 and by 1853 he owned eleven slaves. Shaw sometimes hired his enslaved people out to others, they worked as farm hands, as well as performing such duties as common laborer, maids, and cooks. Between 1853 and 1855, slaves under Shaw's ownership escaped and bounty hunters charged steeply to return them. One such event is memorialized today as the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. Located on the banks of Mississippi River north of downtown St. Louis the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing marks where a group of runaway slaves led by Mrs. Meachum (herself a former slave) made their bid for freedom in 1855 by crossing the river to Illinois utilizing the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately bounty hunters awaited them and along with the others four slaves belonging to Shaw were captured; Mary Meachum would be jailed. Shaw apparently divested his ownership of slaves soon after as his tax assessment for 1855 would be the last one to list slaves under property which was common practice at the time; there is no listing of them in his 1856 assessment. Unfortunately Shaw left behind no papers in which he shared his thoughts on the institution of slavery, his participation in it, nor his thoughts on the Civil War.