Source: Milo Quaife, “When Detroit Invaded Kentucky, ” The Filson Club History Quarterly, I (January, 1927), 58-59.
“William Dummer Powell (later for several years a judge at Detroit) was in 1780 a young lawyer of Montreal. Passing along the street one day he encountered a detachment of soldiers convoying a band of women and children to the Provost prison. The young attorney’s inquiry elicited the information that the prisoners were Kentuckians taken captive on Bird’s invasion and sent down from Detroit to Montreal. Powell actively interested himself in the welfare of the captives, and to this circumstance we owe the story of Mrs. Agnes La Force.
Her husband was a Virginia Loyalist who about the year 1777 sought refuge from the persecutions of his neighbors by removing to the wilds of Kentucky. He was a man of means, with several sons and sons in-law and a considerable number of slaves. The removal to Kentucky was a wholesale family migration, and, although La Force was accidentally killed en route, the others persisted in the enterprise and built a palisaded settlement, where they dwelt in fancied security until a detachment of Bird’s marauders appeared. “Relying upon british faith,” records Powell, “they open’d their Gate on condition of Protection to their Persons and their property from the Indians; but they had no sooner surrendered and received that promise than her sons and son-in-laws had to resort to arms to resist the Insults of the Indians to their wives and Slaves. Several lives were lost and the whole surviving Party was marched into Detroit, about six hundred miles, where the Slaves were distributed among the Captors and the rest marched or boated eight hundred miles further to Montreal and driven into the Provost Prison as Cattle into a Pound.”
“In consequence of Powell’s able championing of her cause, Mrs. La Force gained the ear of Governor Haldimand, who, on learning that she had been despoiled of her slaves, her only remaining source of support, directed that the commandant at Detroit find the slaves, “in whose ever possession they might be,” and forward them to Montreal for restoration to their rightful owner. But this intervention availed Mrs. La Force nothing, for, although De Peyster transmitted a list of thirteen of the slaves, several of whom were in possession of officials of the government at Detroit, he professed his inability to recover them. Thus was the might of the British government defied by a group of its own officials and certain influential citizens of Detroit. The expressive word “graft,” coined by Americans of a later generation, would seem most fitly to characterize this situation.” [For the story of Mrs. La Force I have drawn upon Judge William Renwick Riddell’s Life of William Dummer Powell, First Judge at Detroit and Fifth Chief Justice of Upper Canada (Lansing, 1924).]
Mrs. LaForce’s Slaves at Detroit,
“List of Slaves formerly the propery of Mrs. Agnes Le Force now in possession of:
Negro Scipio in possessin of Simon Girty
do Tim –Mr. Le Due
do Ishener –Do Do
do Stephen –Captn. Graham
do Joseph — Capt. Elliot
do Keggy Do Do
do Job — Mr. Baby
do Hannah — Mr. Fisher
do Candis — Capt. McKee
do Bess, Grace, Rachel, and Patrick — Indians