For information about Charles Nalle, a “fugitive slave,” and his rescue in Troy involving Harriet Tubman, see e.g.
“Walkabout: The Rescue of Charles Nalle — A Troy Story” by Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris). March 18, 2014. http://www.brownstoner.com/history/walkabout-the-rescue-of-charles-nalle-a-troy-story-part-one/
What follows here is information about a lesser-known person who played a part in the attempt to rescue Charles Nalle, John M. Van Buskirk of Lansingburgh, the son of Morris Smith Van Buskirk (1802-1881) and Catharine Knickerbocker (1808-1894).
[From the Troy Times, July 18.]
At the time of the excitement prevailing on account of the Nalle rescue case in this city, we stated—what was undoubtedly true then—that movements were making for the arrest of parties alleged to be implicated. The names of those who would probably be made to “suffer” were given at the time by a contemporary, and for awhile the affair was the main subject of town-talk. No immediate steps being taken, however, the matter gradually died out from the public mind, under the [?] presumption that nothing was to be done. [But] officials having the case in hand have been [slowly] preparing for operations, which were commenced this morning by the arrest of one of the implicated parties, and we may soon expect to see the cauldron boiling as furiously as ever.
About seven o’clock this morning Mr. John Van Buskirk, who occupies rooms in the Phoenix Hotel at Lansingburgh, was aroused from pleasant dreams of approaching breakfast, by “a rapping and a tapping, tapping at his chamber door.” Demanding what was wanted, he received in reply the categorical information, “Thou art the man.” John requested the visitor to go down into the bar-room, but was told by that yet unknown individual that he guessed he would wait where he was. Just as Mr. Van Buskirk was arranging his cravat, his wife having hardly stepped into another room, the door opened, and a gentleman whom he recognized as United States Marshal John L. Holmes, entered, stepped up to him, and taking him by the arm, said he had a warrant for him as a Nalle rescuer. Mr. Van Buskirk expressed a willingness to go, but preferred to breakfast first. The official at first demurred, fearing “another d⎯⎯⎯⎯d n[…]r crowd,” but finally consented, and sat down and breakfasted with his prisoner.
After the meal, Mr. Van Buskirk was escorted by the Marshal to Albany, and taken before United States Commissioner Hilton, by whom he was held to bail in the sum of $500 to appear for examination on Friday. The peculiar charge against him is that at a moment when the excitement was at its height, he stood up in his carriage, and said he “would give two hundred and fifty dollars to see the man rescued.” This is, we believe, the allegation of the affidavit.
In addition, we learn that warrants have been issued for the arrest of other well-known citizens, who will probably receive a visitation for which they may as well be prepared. There is an evident disposition to push the matter forward to the utmost extent of the law, and we shall doubtless have a revival of the “rescue” excitement in full force.
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer. July 20, 1860: 3
THE NALLE RESCUE—The Albany Journal says: Th examination of John M. Van Buskirk, of Lansingburgh, for participation in the Nalle rescue, in Troy, has been in progress before U. S. Commissioner Hilton for two or three days past.—The only important fact thus far elicited is that he applied for but did not obtain a horse and wagon to convey Nalle out of West Troy. There are some doubts as to the truth of this, and we question, even with all the enthusiasm attributed to him on that occasion, whether any jury would convict him upon such testimony.
Lansingburgh Democrat. July 28, 1860: 2 col 3.
☞ THE NALLE RESCUE CASE.—John T. Percy Esq., a well-known lawyer of this city, was arrested on Saturday, on a charge of aiding and abetting the escape of Charles Nalle. Marshal Holmes took him to Albany before Commissioner Hilton, when he waived an examination, and was held to bail in the sum of $1,000 to appear at the next term of the United States District Court, to be held at Auburn on the third Tuesday in August next.
Mr. J. M. Van Buskirk’s examination was concluded at the same time, and he was held in the same amount. […]
☞ REMOVAL.—[…] It is said that Simeon B. Jewett, U. S. Marshal, on his way home from the Nalle rescuers’ examination on Saturday, was in the same train with the “papers” containing his removal. In Court, Saturday, Van Buskirk, after he was held to bail, wanted to bet him $50 he would not be Marshal after Monday, but “Sim” did not respond.
Troy Daily Whig. July 30, 1860: 3 cols 3, 4.
☞ A term of the United States District Court commences its session in this city to-day. The Grand Jury will have under consideration the cases of persons charged with effecting the rescue of the fugitive slave Nalle in West Troy, some time since. John M. Van Buskirk, one of the alleged rescuers, iss a delegate from his District, to the Republican State Convention, at Syracuse. It is said that the outrageous manner in which the Government Officials treated Mr. Van Buskirk has lost to the Democrats of Lansingburgh and vicinity, at least five hundred votes. “The mills of the gods grind slowly,” but they grind surely and equitably neveretheless.
Auburn Daily Union. August 21, 1860: 3 col 1.
ACTION OF THE GRAND JURY IN THE FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE.—It is currently report, and truthfully we are disposed to think, that the Grand Jury, now in session in this city, have unanimously refused to find a bill against Van Buskirk, charged with assisting in the rescue of the fugitive Slave, Nalle, at Troy. It is stated that there were about twenty witnesses examined in this case, but their testimony amounted to nothing. [Auburn Advertiser.
New-York Daily Tribune. August 24, 1860: 5 col 6.
The telegraphic wires brought a sad message to many hearts in this vicinity yesterday morning when the news was communicated of the death of John M. Van Buskirk of Lansingburgh at the city of Washington, where he has resided for some time. Mr. Van Buskirk was in the prime of life and had always enjoyed a large measure of health and strength. On Friday last he was seized with a congestive chill which rapidly developed into acute pneumonia, and at 8 1/2 o’clock yesterday he breathed his last. His friends here barely knew that he was ill; and the intelligence of his sudden death is therefore all the more startling and poignant.
Mr. Van Buskirk was born in Lansingburgh, October 3, 1834. Graduating from the village academy, in 1853 he entered a banking house in Cincinnati and subsequently the land office at Des Moines, Iowa. Four years later he returned to his native village, married a daughter of the late Charles R. Kellogg, and for two years engaged in the malting business. During this time the celebrated Nalle rescue slave case occurred in this city, and Mr. Van Buskirk with characteristic impetuosity took part with the rescuers, offering $1,000 reward to any man who would run the fugitive off. For this offense against the law he was indicted but never tried. Mr. Lincoln rewarded him by an important appointment in the postoffice department at Washington, wither he removed in 1869. Subsequently, the Hon. John A. Griswold appointed him his private secretary, and in this capacity he served during the whole of Mr. Griswold’s congressional career. The friendship between the two was brotherly in its nature, and marked by a mutual confidence rarely surpassed. In many of their predominant traits—in generosity and devotion to friends, especially—Mr. Griswold and Mr. Van Buskirk were singularly alike. By a fortunate investment Mr. Van Buskirk made a competence, and for five years he lived in retirement at Lansingburgh—almost the idol of the village. When the Columbia bank note company was formed in Washington he became connected with it, its president and managing director, and since then he has resided at the national capital superintending the printing of note paper for our government and for many of the principal banks of the country. Mr. Van Buskirk’s wife and an adopted daughter [Jessie Young Van Buskirk] seven years of age survive him. The funeral will occur in Washington on Wednesday.
—John M. Van Buskirk was a warm-heated, generous and genial man. A large portion of his mission on earth seemed to be to make others happy. In Washington he knew everybody, from the President of the United States down to the page boys around the capitol. Everybody liked him. He had a kind word and warm greeting for all and for none more [kind?] than for his old friends from Troy and Lansingburgh who called upon him at Washington. Many there are all over this [?] and who will treasure his memory as [?] brave, true-hearted, noble man.
Troy Daily Times. January 28, 1878: 3 col 1.