Given the rarity of the surname, it is likely that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is related to deputy federal marshal Edward Gorsuch, who was killed in a violent episode that left the nation shocked and terrified, and was an overture to a long and bloody military conflict.
Deputy Marshal Gorsuch was 57 years old at the time he received his commission, and was killed on the second day of his service. The US Marshals Service deputized him on September 10, 1851, to enforce a warrant issued under the Fugitive Slave Law to recover two human beings Gorsuch claimed as his property. He and Marshal Henry H. Kline, along with several other deputies, had the "law" on their side when they traveled to Christiana, Pennsylvania, bearing a warrant that authorized them to abduct four men who had freed themselves – and to conscript any white citizen they encountered to serve as accomplices in that act.
Late in the evening of September 10, the kidnappers, who included at least two of Gorsuch's sons, surrounded a two-story fieldstone home owned by William Parker, a 29-year-old farmer and militia organizer who had escaped from slavery nine years earlier. Operatives of the Underground Railroad had warned Parker of the impending raid.
Gorsuch imperiously demanded the surrender of his former captives. When no answer came from inside the home, the marshals invaded the domicile – and were promptly driven out by the occupants, one of whom wielded a pitchfork.
Standing in the front yard of the home, the marshals read the warrants to Parker, who looked down on them contemptuously from a second-floor window.
"I don't care about your warrant, your demands, or your government," Parker replied. "You can burn us, but you can't take us. Before I give up, you will see my ashes scattered on the earth."
"I want my property, and I shall have it," bellowed Gorsuch, pretending as if words scribbled by a functionary on a piece of paper gave him a title of ownership over other human beings. Realizing that such a claim would avail nothing with Parker, Gorsuch appealed to biblical passages enjoining servants to obey their masters.
"Where do you see it in Scripture that a man should traffic in his brother's blood?" Parker demanded of the deputy marshal.
"Do you call a n*gger my brother?" Gorsuch exclaimed.
"Yes, I do," Parker defiantly replied.
The situation congealed into a standoff that lasted until daybreak. Shortly after dawn, Parker's wife used a horn to summon help from Parker's militia, who arrived bearing whatever weapons they could muster. The alarm also brought two local Quakers named Elijah Lewis, a shopkeeper, and Castner Hanway, a local miller. Both of these white men were well-known for their sympathies toward escaped slaves.