I'm not Kate Larson, but your post poses some interesting questions.
To Kate Larson,
I cannot offer any specifics about the lawn jockey story, but have the following information.
The William West letter mentions "Davis Hunt and Asa Williams." The former is actually Rev. David P. Hunt (1806-1893). Hunt's first wife was Sarah Marmon, of "Marmon Valley" (rather than "mormon valley" as transcribed with the question mark in West's letter).
The Ohio Historical Society holds the Marmon Family Papers 1846-1905. One very interesting letter in that collection, dated 17 Sep 1847,is written by David Hunt's brother-in-law, James Watkins Marmon, who complains to another Marmon brother about Hunt's "political abolitionism."
The Marmon family and relatives were deeply involved in Logan County's UGRR network in Ohio.
Also, you may be aware of this citation, but since it hasn't been mentioned, the Piatt rescue was covered in Frederick Douglass' paper:
December 31, 1852
FREDERICK DOUGLASS PAPER
Rochester, New York
A chase after Fugitives.
Some days since the Cincinnati Gazette noticed a stampede among Kentucky slaves, in which a number succeeded in effecting their escape. Three of them, two men and a woman, got upon the cars of M.L. & L. road, south of West Liberty. On the cars they were met by one Don Piatt, an ex judge of the Hamilton Common Pleas Court. He recognized them as the property of a relative. - He approached them, made himself known to them, told them that his father, who resides near West Liberty, was in want of laborers, and he assured them that if they would stop with him, that he (Don) and his friends would purchase them, and give them their freedom. The fugitives confided in him - left the cars at West Liberty and took up quarters with old Piatt.
Question.....Is the M.L & L. a railroad line? I know of the Little Miami Line which came up thru this area. South of West Liberty...that could be Springfield, Urbana, Springfield and other points south. And it was frequently used by Conductors Alexander Cole and John Buxton to transport fugitive slaves, but not in the passenger cars.
After they had been there a few days the arrangement between Don and the fugitives leaked out, and the result was that the friends of the fugitives, who understood the character of the Piatts, sued out a writ of habeas Corpus requiring old man Piatt to bring them before a judge at Bellefontaine, and to show by what authority he held them. Piatt not being able to show any authority for detaining them, the negroes were declared to be free to go where they pleased. They were immediately taken in charge by some abolitionists and started on their way to Canada
Question.....who could be "friends of the fugitives"? Had they spent time in the area just south of West Liberty? While in the area who, what, where & when were these friendships made?
Question.....They were immediately taken in charge by some abolitionists and started on their way to Canada. Wonder who these "some" abolitionist could be. Othe UGRR operatives in the area?
It seems that the fugitives were being helped in either Chamapign, Clark or some county futher south and not in Logan county where West Liberty is located.
- Within two hours after, the Kentucky claimants arrived in hot pursuit of their "property." But they found nobody there to promote their object. The lawyers declined their fees - and the owners of horses declined to hire them. After much difficulty they succeeded in getting under way in the chase; but they had not been long in pursuit before they were met by a young Quaker, who under the pretence of aiding them, led them so far off in the wrong direction, as to put all hope of the question. The fugitives are, doubtless, by this time safe in Canada, whilst the Kentuckians have returned to their homes to meditate upon the advantages and "finality" of the modern fugitive slave law.
We have information in relation to the chase, from gentlemen of Bellefontaine. - Xenia Torchlight.
Question......were the PIATTS helping the slaves to make their way to Canada or holding them for the slave owners to reclaim their "property? The latter seems to be the case, not exactly what a "friend" of the fugitives, or an UGRR operator would do. Also the time span between the arrival of the Kentucky claimants, their unsuccessful efforts in being helped and the surmise that fugitives would already be in Canada is quite fuzzy.
West Liberty is a good 140 miles from Lake Erie and Canada, it would have taken days, perhaps even weeks for the fugitives to have made it into Canada from Logan county.
The connection bewtween Xenia and the newspaper "Xenia Torchlight" and the gentlemen in Bellefontaine giving the information is another question. Again time and distance...Bellefontaine is at least 50 miles from Xenia, a fair piece to travel in the 1840's & 50's.
Oh well, Siebert's title "Mysteries of the Ohio Underground Railroad" is certainly appropiate.