A public meeting was called, and a resolution to prevent the maintenance of the school, if colored students were admitted, was adopted by the citizens. Nevertheless, that brave Quakeress opened her doors to several colored young women. That brought the issue to a head, and then began a system of most remarkable persecutions. The school building was bombarded with clubs and stones, the proprietress found the stores of the village closed against her, and the young lady students were grossly insulted when they appeared upon the streets. Even the well from which drinking water was obtained was polluted.
Finding that there was no law in Connecticut under which the instruction of colored people could be prohibited and punished, the enemies of Miss Crandall went to the Legislature of the State and asked for such an enactment, and, to the eternal disgrace of that body, their request was complied with. It was made a crime in Connecticut to instruct colored people in the rudiments of an ordinary education.
Miss Crandall, as she made no change in her course of action, was arrested, brought before a committing magistrate, and sent to jail. A man had shortly before been confined in the same prison for the murder of his wife, and therefrom had gone to execution. Miss Crandall was confined in the cell this man had occupied. Other indignities were heaped upon this devoted and courageous lady. Physicians refused to attend the sick of her household, and the trustees of the church she was accustomed to attend notified her that she and the members of her family were denied admission to that sanctuary.
Miss Crandall was finally convicted of the crime with which she was charged, but the case, being carried to the highest court of the State, was dismissed on a technicality. But, although the legal prosecution of this poor woman reached an end, her enemies did not cease their opposition. The mob made an attack upon her dwelling, which was also her schoolhouse. Doors and windows were broken in, and the building was so thoroughly wrecked as to be uninhabitable. Having no money with which to make repairs, she was forced to abandon the structure and her educational business at the same time.
The Crandall family became noted for its martyrs. A brother of Prudence Crandall was Dr. Reuben Crandall, of Washington City. He was a man of high attainments, being a lecturer in a public scientific institution. While engaged in his office he received some packages that had been wrapped in newspapers, among which happened to be a copy or two of Abolition journals. At the request of a gentleman who was present at the unpacking he gave him one of the publications. Having looked it over the gentleman dropped it, where it was picked up by some one who was on the lookout for incendiary publications. No little excitement followed its discovery. The community was aroused. Indeed, so great was the agitation occasioned that Dr. Crandall, to whom the inhibited paper had been traced, was in great physical danger from mob violence. He was arrested, and, partly to save his life, was thrust into jail, where he remained for eight months. He was tried and, although acquitted, was really made the subject of capital punishment. Tuberculosis developed as the result of his incarceration, and death soon followed.