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Levi Pownall

Birthdate: (79)
Birthplace: Sadsbury, Lancaster, PA, USA
Death: January 25, 1863 (79)
Sadsbury, Lancaster, PA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Levi Pownall and Elizabeth Pownall
Husband of Sarah Pownall
Father of Martha Pownall; Eleanor Pownall; Elizabeth Buckman Steele; Levi Pownall; Thomas Henderson Pownall and 1 other
Brother of Catherine Griest; Elizabeth Scarlet; Joseph Pownall and Simeon Pownall

Managed by: Edward Malcolm King
Last Updated:

About Levi Pownall

From Friends' Intelligencer and Journal, Volume 45 "P. E. Gibbons. Lancaster Co., Pa., Seventh month 14." page 490-491


A Few days ago I was visiting Levi Scarlett, of Christiana, brother of Joseph P. Scarlett, a member of the Society of Friends; who in the year 1851 lay several months in the Moyamensing jail in Philadelphia, waiting a trial for high treason. Levi Scarlett now owns the farm on which the celebrated Christiana riot occurred, and he was so kind as to take me to the place.

In 1851 the farming people in that neighborhood were in a considerable degree members among Friends, and some of them strongly anti-slavery. Tiiey belonged to Cain Quarterly meeting, not a large and wealthy one, but regarded as the strongest anti-slavery quarter of the Yearly Meeting. A considerable number of colored people lived here also, of whom some at least were fugitives from slavery, the Maryland line being only about thirty-five miles distant. The Pennsylvania Railroad cuts near here through a range of hills at a place called the Gap, and the neighborhood was then infested by a band of desperate characters, called "the Gap gang," including thieves and "kidnappers," as the colored people called those who seized them to take them South. Thus, at evening, in a farm-house about two miles from Christiana, the family saw their hired man seized; he was knocked down, gagged and bound, put into a two-horse wagon, and carried off without any form of law. By such things the colored people were put into great fear, (for free people might be carried off as well as runaways). They became greatly excited; provided themselves to some extent with arms, and on one occasion were seen "training" on a public road,by James Jackson, a minister of our Society. James asked them to go to their work and invited them to come at a future time to his house where he endeavored to persuade those who came that peaceable measures were for their interest.

Levi Pownall, a Friend, and not a member of an anti-slavery society, owned two farms in the neighborhood, one of which was that which I visited, now belonging to Levi Scarlett. On tha farm stands a strong, two-story stone tenant house, then occupied by two colored families, the heads of which were probably all from Virginia. One of these was William Parker, who was employed by Levi Pownall's nephew, Joseph P. Scarlett, to go 'round with his threshing machine. (This is the Joseph, Scarlett who lay three months in Moyamensing prison.) It was the fall of the year, in corn-cutting time, and there had been at night an apple-butter boiling in the stone tenant house ; two or three men of the party had remained over night. About daybreak, as they were leaving, they came running back, crying " kidnappers!"

The presence of a deputy marshal of the United States upon the scene is one of the striking incidents in the affair. There was, it appears, an unusual amount of preparation upon both sides, and the skirmish was the outcome of deliberate plans. The presence of the marshal was in accordance with the newly enacted Fugitive Slave Law, so odious in many of its features. The party from Maryland did not make an immediate attack upon the stone house (it was stronger than most southern cabins, I fancy.) The two apple-butter boilers ran back to the house, and up stairs, crying "kidnappers!" The women went above and blew the horn from a garret window. Parker tried to defend the staircase with a fish-gig, a corn cutter, and a gun that would not go off. ....


  1. Elizabeth Pownall letter to her aunt (1851) Moores Memorial Library, Christiana, Pa.
  2. Friends' Intelligencer and Journal, Volume 45 (Google eBook) Friends' Intelligencer Association, 1888 - Society of Friends. Page 490. "Notes by the Way: The Christiana Riot of 1851"
  3. Riot House with Pownall farm in background (1896) Moores Memorial Library, Christiana, Pa. (photographs)
  4. Death Recalls stories of the famous Christiana Riots Reading Eagle, Dec 23, 1907
  5. The Christiana Riot Historical Marker
  7. Christiana Resistance Finding Aid
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Levi Pownall's Timeline

June 23, 1783
Sadsbury, Lancaster, PA, USA
February 18, 1820
Age 36
Sadsbury Township, Lancaster , Pennsylvania, United States
September 24, 1822
Age 39
Sadsbury Township, Lancaster , Pennsylvania, United States
May 16, 1825
Age 41
Sadsbury Township, Lancaster , Pennsylvania, United States
October 16, 1827
Age 44
Sadsbury Township, Lancaster , Pennsylvania, United States
May 8, 1830
Age 46
Sadsbury Township, Lancaster , Pennsylvania, United States
July 3, 1833
Age 50
Christiana, Lancaster, PA, USA