Author: Lisa A. Severson


Jack Ditcher (b. ca. 1772)

Jack Ditcher, also known as Jack Bowler, was a participant in Gabriel’s Conspiracy, a failed slave uprising in the summer of 1800. At the time he belonged to the estate of William Bowler, of Caroline County likely laboring as a ditch digger. This work allowed him to move around the area, and in the spring of 1800 he met Gabriel, one of several enslaved men planning a revolt. In August the group settled on an audacious plan that included seizing the penitentiary in Richmond and weapons stored at the state Capitol. Ditcher was made second in command, but the plan was betrayed when a rainstorm delayed the action for a day. After managing to elude the authorities for several weeks, Ditcher was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. By then, however, Governor James Monroe had become worried about the numerous executions and commuted the sentences of Ditcher and eight other men. They were sold out of state, probably somewhere in the Mississippi River valley. Nothing else is known of Ditcher’s life.