Absalom Hazlett: Abolitionist from Indiana County

Absalom Hazlett

Absalom Hazlett was born near Devil’s Elbow, Green Township, Indiana County, PA in September 1837.  Before leaving to go to Kansas with his brother John in 1857 he steals some overcoats from the lounge of the American Hotel on Philadelphia Street, but never appears for trial.  In 1858, Hazlett meets the infamous John Brown and is designated a lieutenant in John Brown’s command not long after.  This is when Hazlett learns of Brown’s plan to raid Harper’s Ferry.  Over the next few months Hazlett participates in many different raids across the country, leading up to October 16-18, 1859 when the raid on Harper’s Ferry occurred.  Hazlett was arrested in Newville, PA on October 22, 1859 and thrown into jail at Carlisle, but gives the authorities his alias, William H. Harrison.  In the Winter of 1860 the prosecuting attorney for the trial against Hazlett for his involvement in the raid of Harper’s Ferry, writes to the Indiana, PA Postmaster seeking locals who could identify Hazlett, but correspondence suggests that “the feeling in some places in Pennsylvania on these questions.” might hinder finding someone to identify Hazlett.

On February 16, 1860, Absalom Hazlett was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged on Friday, March 16, 1860 between 10am and 2pm.  There were several petitions for clemency from Indiana County and Carlisle as well as ones form the Senate and House of Pennsylvania.  There were raids to free Hazlett by did not succeed.  In correspondence with Rebecca B. Spring of the Raritan Bay Union, a communitary society in New Jersey, Hazelett tells her “I am willing to die in the cause of liberty; if I had ten thousand lives, I would willingly lay them all down for the same cause. My death will do more good than if I had lived.”  On March 16, 1859, Hazlett is hung at Charles Town, Virginia
and dies quickly and Mrs. Spring removes his body to New Jersey.  In 1899, the body is disinterred and taken to New York to be buried with John Brown and the other raiders.  Absalom Hazlett was 22 years old when he died.

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Through a broad range of activities, The Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County seeks to promote a greater appreciation of the Indiana community's rich heritage and a better understanding of life today.

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