Mary Meachum, wife of John Berry Meachum. She and her husband were both freed persons engaged in the efforts of the Underground Railroad through their church, home, and school. On the early morning of May, 21st of 1855 nine enslaved persons including four owned by Henry Shaw; Esther, her two children, and one unnamed male made their break for freedom utilizing the Underground Railroad with the assistance of Mary Meachum. They attempted crossing the Mississippi River to the free state of Illinois. Unfortunately bounty hunters awaited them and they were soon captured and Mary Meachum would be jailed for the attempt. The location of this historic event on the banks of Mississippi River north of downtown St. Louis is today memorialized as the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.
John Berry Meachum, husband of Mary Meachum. He and his wife were both freed persons engaged in the efforts of the Underground Railroad through their church, home, and school. A pastor and founder of the oldest black church in Missouri he was also a skilled carpenter. A trade he taught to those he assisted, a skill that afforded him income to help free enslaved people by buying their freedom. As an educator he operated a school which taught both free and enslaved black students. When the state of Missouri banned all education for blacks in 1847 he circumvented the law by teaching classes on a steamboat on the Mississippi River. The efforts of John and Mary Meachum are today celebrated with the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.
While a merchant in St. Louis Shaw began buying enslaved people in the 1820s with the earliest existing record being that of Peach in 1828. 1850 census records indicate Shaw owned nine enslaved people and by 1853 that number had grown to eleven, 1860 census records show him with eight enslaved people. Their names were not listed in either the 1850 or 1860 U.S. Census. Please see the historical timeline section for more information on this subject. Image is for reference.