Petticoat Abolitionist

Historical Marker # 1099 in Trimble County notes the work of abolitionist Delia Webster.

Born in Vermont and educated at Oberlin College in Ohio, Delia Webster was tried, convicted, and jailed in Kentucky for helping slaves run away from Lexington in 1844.

After serving time in prison, Webster was determined to continue her antislavery efforts. In the winter of 1852, she bought a farm in Trimble County on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. When area slave owners reported that a significant number of their slaves were missing, Webster quickly became a suspect. In February 1854, a community meeting in Bedford passed a resolution stating, "Whereas it is known that Miss Delia A. Webster had recently run off numerous slaves from Trimble county, therefore resolved that it is the will and determination of the citizens of said county that Miss Delia A. Webster leave the State." Unwilling to part with her farm, which was apparently used to shelter escaped slaves, she was arrested. After what she called "a mock trial," she was placed in the Trimble County Jail in Bedford. It proved to be a brief imprisonment. Released on a technicality, she returned to her farm.

In June 1854, she was indicted on an issue related to the 1844 Lexington escapes. This time, Webster avoided arrest by fleeing across the Ohio River to Indiana. After hiding in various locations around Madison, Indiana, Webster was captured and tried there for the 1844 charges. Acquitted, by 1855 she had returned to New England. Four years later, she moved back to Madison.

Webster apparently never risked reentering Kentucky. Instead, she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, Madison, Indiana, and, after the Civil War, in Iowa, where she died in 1904.