The Lin Uprising of 1849

Herbert Aptheker's account of the Lewis County revolt, in American Negro Slave Revolts, is based on contemporaneous newspaper accounts. Unknown at the time were the recollections of W. K. Moore, a grandson of the enslaver on whose farm the revolt took place, and published in the Missouri Historical Review in 1958.

What we learn from Moore, which is striking, is that this rebellion was led by a woman. Contemporaneous accounts make no mention of this. This is a good example of how the role of women in slave revolts has largely been subsumed to those of men, a point made by Rebecca Hall in her graphic novel Wake; The hidden history of women-led slave revolts.

This woman, Lin, was the enslaved cook on W. K. Moore's grandfather's farm, the McCutchan farm, during his mother's childhood:

When I knew it as a small boy Lin's cave was a little mound, back of a truck patch, with a few rotting poles protruding from one side. Lin, the Negro cook in my grandfather's home, had dug out a hole, lined and roofed it with poles and dirt, and in it kept her "roots and 'arbs," as she called them, along with various trinkets and some mysterious powders believed to be effective in working charms and conjurings....

Moore goes on to recount that the insurrection was prompted by a vision had by Lin's grandson, Henry, to whom Lin ascribed prophetical powers. In his vision Henry saw the McCutchan family in heaven. Lin interpreted this vision as a signal that they were to murder their enslavers and escape to freedom.

We often come across accounts of the use of magic and potions by the enslaved. (See Critical Places; The Margaret Bradley Conspiracy of 1803). Clearly Lin, with her "roots and 'arbs," and her dream interpretations, was one such person. And clearly she had a wide influence in the area because when it came time to rise up there were a total of about 25 men, women, and children participating.

As they gathered during the night on field near the McCutchan farm, the commotion awoke the McCutchans and an alert was sent out. By daybreak the slave owners had a force of some 30 men pursuing the rebels.

Emboldened by drinking Lin's magical potions, the enslaved fearlessly confronted their enslavers. As recounted by Moore, Lin and the enslaved man John charged the enslavers. Lin was armed with a pot of boiling water and John with a large corn knife. Shots were fired and John fell dead. Lin and the others then surrendered.

In the aftermath those who revolted were sold off down south, as was the common practice with rebellious or even just difficult slaves, tearing them away from familial relations, and sending into yet harsher working conditions. I wonder what happened to Lin. I haven't been able to find anything further.

In the closest town, Canton, there is a historic Lincoln Colored School which had recently been restored by a local retired nurse, Phyllis Dean. She brought me over to the Lewis County Historical Society, where several volunteers combed through old surveys and property records to locate the original McCutchan homestead. (The difficulty was that there are many McCutchan farms the area —exemplifying of how land has remained in the hands of the White people, thus excluding of Black ownership.) Phyllis was hesitant about coming with me visit to the farm, not feeling comfortable, as a Black woman, venturing that far out into the countryside. She finally agreed, bringing along a (White) friend.

Living on what had been the original McCutchan homestead is Dennis McCutchan. He'd never seen any evidence of Lin's cave but he pointed out that his large artificial pond covered the area that had been the slave quarters. He asked me if he should feel bad about that?

Elect Denis McCutchan Presiding Commissinor. La Grange, Lewis County. Missouri. 2022.

La Grange, Lewis County. Missouri. 2022.

4th of July. La Grange, Lewis County. Missouri. 2022.

Lewis County Historical Society. Canton, Missouri. 2022.

Canton. Lewis County, Missouri. 2022.

The Hornet Diner. Williamstown, Lewis County, Missouri. 2022.

Monticello. Lewis County, Missouri. 2022.

McCutchan Farm. Lewis County, Missouri. 2022.

McCutchan Farm. Lewis County, Missouri. 2022.