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History & Genealogy


(Previously Published in 1879 with title: The Underground Railroad)
For many years connected with the Anti-Slavery Office in Philadelphia, and Chairman of the Acting
Vigilant Committee of the Philadelphia Branch of the Underground Rail Road.

Illustrated with 70 Fine Engravings by Bensell, Schell and Others,
and Portraits from Photographs from Life.

Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant that has escaped from his master unto thee. - Deut. xxiii 16.



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     This candidate for Canada managed to secure a. private berth on the steamship City of Richmond.  He was thus enabled to leave his old mistress, Mary A. Ely, in Norfolk, the place of her abode, and the field of his servitude.  Solomon was only twenty-two years of age, rather under the medium size, dark color, and of much natural ability.  He viewed Slavery as a great hardship, and for a length of time had been watching for an opportunity to free himself.  He had been in the habit of hiring his time of his mistress, for which he paid ten dollars per month.  This amount failed to satisfy the mistress, as she was inclined to sell him to North Carolina, where Slave stock, at that time, was commanding high prices.  The idea of North Carolina and a new master made Solomon rather nervous, and he was thereby prompted to escape.  On reaching the Committee he manifested very high appreciation of the attention paid him, and after duly resting for
a day, he was sent on his way rejoicing.  Seven days after leaving Philadelphia, he wrote back from Canada as follows:

                                                                                                           ST. CATHARINES, Feb. 20th, 1854.
     MR. STILL - DEAR SIR:  It is with great pleasure that I have to inform you, that I have arrived safe in a land of freedom.  Thanks to kind friends that helped me here.  Thank God that I am treading on free soil.  I expect to go to work to-morrow in a steam factory.  I would like to have you, if it is not too much trouble, see Mr. Minhett, the steward on the boat that I came out on, when he gets to Norfolk, go to the place where my clothes are, and bring them to you, and you direct them to the care of Rev. Hiram Wilson, St. Catharines, Niagara District, Canada West, by rail-road via Suspension Bridge.  You mentioned if I saw Mr. Foreman.  I was to deliver a message - he is not here.  I saw two yesterday in church, from Norfolk, that I had known there.  You will send my name, James Henry as you knew me by that name; direct my things to James Henry.  My love to your wife and children.
                                                              Yours Respectfully,                              SOLOMON BROWN.



     WILLIAM fled from Lewis Roberts, who followed farming in Baltimore county, Md.  In speaking of him, William gave him the character of being a "fierce and rough man," who owned nine head of slaves.  Two of William's sisters were held by Roberts, when he left.  His excuse for running away was, "ill-treatment."  In traveling North, he walked to Columbia (in Pennsylvania), and there took the cars for Philadelphia.  The Committee took charge of him, and having given him the usual aid, sent him hopefully on his way.  After safely reaching Canada, the thought of his wife in a land

of bondage, pressed so deeply upon his mind, that he was prompted to make an effort to rescue her.  The following letter, written on his behalf by the Rev. H. Wilson, indicates his feelings and wishes with regard to her:
                                                                                                   ST. CATHARINES, Canada West, 24th July, 1854.

     DEAR FRIEND, WILLIAM STILL: - Your encouraging letter, to John Smith, was duly received by him, and I am requested to write again on his behalf.  His colored friend in Baltimore county, who would favor his designs, is Thomas Cook, whom he wishes you to address, Baltimore post-office, care of Mr. Thomas Spicer.
He has received a letter from Thomas Cook, dated the 6th of June, but it was a long time reaching him.  He wishes you to say to Cook that he got his letter, and that he would like to have him call on his wife and make known to her, that he is in good health, doing well here, and would like to have her come on as soon as she can.
     As she is a free woman, there will, doubtless, be no difficulty in her coming right through.  You will please recollect to address Thomas Cook, in the care of Thomas Spicer, Baltimore Post-office.  Smiths wife is at, or near the place he came from, and, doubtless, Thomas Cook knows all about her condition and circumstances.  Please write again to John Smith, in my care, if you please, and request Thomas Oak to do the same.
     Very respectfully yours in the cause of philanthropy,                                  HIRAM WILSON.



     As the way of travel, via the Underground Rail Road, under the most favorable circumstances, even for the sterner sex, was hard enough to test the strongest nerves, and to try the faith of the bravest of the brave, every woman, who won her freedom, by this perilous undertaking deserves commemoration.  It is, therefore, a pleasure to thus transfer from the old Record book the names of Ann Johnson and Lavina Woolfley who fled from Maryland in 1857.  Their lives, however, had not been in any way very remarkable.  Ann was tall, and of a dark chestnut color, with an intelligent countenance, and about twenty-four years of age.  She had filled various situations as a Slave.  Sometimes she was required to serve in the kitchen, at other times she was required to toil in the field, with the plow, hoe and the like.  Samuel Harrington, of Cambridge District, Maryland, was the name of the man for whose benefit Ann labored during her younger days.  She had no hesitation in saying, that he was a very "ill-natured man;" he however, was a member of the "old time Methodist Church."  In Slave property he had invested only to the extent of some five or six head.  About three years previous to Ann's escape, one of her brothers fled and went to Canada.  This circumstance so enraged the owner, that he declared he would "sell all" he owned.  Accordingly Ann was soon put on the auction block, and was bought by a man who went by the name of William Moore.  Moore was a married man, who, with his wife, was addicted to in

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temperance and carousing.  Ann found that she had simply got “out of the fire into the frying-pan.”  She was really at a loss to tell when
her lot was the harder, whether under the “rum drinker,” or the old time Methodist.  In this state of mind she decided to leave all and go to Canada, the refuge for the fleeing bondman.  Lavina, Ann’s companion, was the wife of James Woolfley.  She and her husband set out together, with six others, and were of the party of eight who were betrayed into Dover jail, as has already been described in these pages.  After fighting their way out of the jail, they separated (for prudential reasons).  The husband of Lavina, immediately after the conflict at the jail, passed on to Canada, leaving his wife under the protection of friends.  Since that time several months had elapsed, but of each other nothing had been known, before she received information on her arrival at Philadelphia.  The Committee was glad to inform her, that her husband had safely passed on to Canada, and that she would be aided on also, where they could enjoy freedom in a free



     CAPTAIN F. was certainly no ordinary man.  Although he had been living a sea-faring life for many years, and the marks of this calling were plainly enough visible in his manners and speech, he was, nevertheless, unlike the great mass of this class of men, not addicted to intemperance and profanity.  On the contrary, he was a man of thought, and possessed, in a large measure, those humane traits of character which lead men to sympathize with suffering humanity wherever met with.
     It must be admitted, however, that the first impressions gathered from a hasty survey of his rough and rugged appearance, his large head, large mouth, large eyes, and heavy eye-brows, with a natural gift at keeping concealed the inner-workings of his mind and feelings, were not calculated to inspire the belief, that he was fitted to be entrusted with the lives of unprotected females, and helpless children; that he could take pleasure in risking his own life to rescue them from the hell of Slavery; that he could deliberately enter the enemy's domain, and with the faith of a martyr, face the dread slave-holder, with his Bowie-knives and revolvers—Slave-hunters, and blood-hounds, lynchings, and penitentiaries, for humanity's sake.  But his deeds proved him to be a true friend of the Slave; whilst his skill, bravery, and success stamped him as one of the most daring and heroic Captains ever connected with the Underground Rail Road cause.
     At the time he was doing most for humanity in rescuing bondsmen from

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Slavery, Slave-laws were actually being the most rigidly executed.  To show mercy, in any sense, to man or woman, who might be caught assisting a poor Slave to flee from the prison-house, was a matter not to be thought of in Virginia.  This was perfectly well understood by Captain F.; indeed he did not hesitate to say, that his hazardous operations might any day result in the "sacrifice" of his life.  But on this point he seemed to give himself no more concern than he would have done to know which way the wind would blow the next day.  He had his own convictions about dying and the future, and he declared, that he had "no fear of death," however it might come.  Still, he was not disposed to be reckless or needlessly to imperil his life, or the lives of those he undertook to aid.  Nor was he averse to receiving compensation for his services.  In Richmond, Norfolk, Petersburg, and other places where he traded, many slaves were fully awake to their condition.  The great slave sales were the agencies that served to awaken a large number. Then the various mechanical trades were necessarily given to the Slaves, for the master had no taste for "greasy, northern mechanics."  Then, again, the stores had to be supplied with porters, draymen, etc., from the slave population. In the hearts of many of the more intelligent amongst the slaves, the men, as mechanics, etc., the women, as dress-makers, chamber-maids, etc., notwithstanding all the opposition and hard laws, the spirit of Freedom was steadily burning.  Many of the slaves were half brothers, and sisters, cousins, nephews, and nieces to their owners, and of course " blood would tell."
     It was only necessary for the fact to be made known to a single reliable and intelligent slave, that a man with a boat running North had the love of Freedom for all mankind in his bosom to make that man an object of the greatest interest.  If an angel had appeared amongst them doubtless his presence would not have inspired greater anxiety and hope than did the presence of Captain F.  The class most anxious to obtain freedom could generally manage to acquire some means which they would willingly offer to captains or conductors in the South for such assistance as was indispensable to their escape.  Many of the slaves learned if they could manage to cross Mason and Dixon's line, even though they might be utterly destitute and penniless, that they would then receive aid and protection from the Vigilance Committee. Here it may be well to store that, whilst the Committee gladly received and aided all who might come or be brought to them, they never employed agents or captains to go into the South with a view of enticing or running off slaves.  So when captains operated, they did so with the full understanding that they alone were responsible for any failures attending their movements.
     The way is now clear to present Captain F. with his schooner lying at the wharf in Norfolk, loading with wheat, and at the same time with twenty-one fugitives secreted therein.  While the boat was thus lying at her moor-

(Twenty-eight fugitives were concealed in this vessel.)

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ing, the rumor was flying all over town that a number of slaves had escaped, which created a general excitement a degree less, perhaps, than if the citizens had been visited by an earthquake.  The mayor of the city with a posse of officers with axes and long spears repaired to Captain F.'s boat.  The fearless commander received his Honor very coolly, and as gracefully as the circumstances would admit.  The mayor gave him to understand who he was, and by what authority he appeared on the boat, and what he meant to do.  "Very well," replied Captain F., " here I am and this is my boat, go ahead and search."  His Honor with his deputies looked quickly around, and then an order went forth from the mayor to "spear the wheat thoroughly."  The deputies obeyed the command with alacrity.  But the spears brought neither blood nor groans, and the sagacious mayor obviously concluded that he was "barking up the wrong tree."  But the mayor was not therefor nothing.  "Take the axes and go to work," was the next order; and the axe was used with terrible effect by one of the deputies.  The deck and other parts of the boat were chopped and split; no greater judgment being exercised when using the axe than when spearing the wheat; Captain F. all the while wearing an air of utter indifference or rather of entire composure.  Indeed every step they took proved conclusively that they were wholly ignorant with regard to boat searching.  At this point, with remarkable shrewdness, Captain F. saw wherein he could still further confuse them by a bold strategical move. As though about out of patience with the mayor's blunders, the captain instantly reminded his Honor that he had "stood still long enough" while his boat was being "damaged, chopped up," &c.  "Now if you want to search," continued he, " give me the axe, and then point out the spot you want opened and I will open it for you very quick."  While uttering these words he presented, as he was capable of doing, an indignant and defiant countenance, and intimated that it mattered not where or when a man died provided he was in the right, and as though he wished to give particularly strong emphasis to what he was saying, he raised the axe, and brought it down edge foremost on the deck with startling effect, at the same time causing the splinters to fly from the boards.  The mayor and his posse seemed, if not dreadfully frightened, completely confounded, and by the time Captain F. had again brought down his axe with increased power, demanding where they would have him open, they looked as though it was time for them to retire, and in a few minutes after they actually gave up the search and left the boat without finding a soul.  Daniel in the lions' den was not safer than were the twenty-one passengers secreted on Captain F.'s boat.  The law had been carried out with a vengeance, but. did not avail with this skilled captain.  The "five dollars" were paid for being searched, the amount which was lawfully required of every captain sailing from Virginia.  And the captain steered direct for the City of Brotherly Love.  The wind of heaven favoring the good cause, he arrived safely in due time, and delivered

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his precious freight in the vicinity of Philadelphia within the reach of the Vigilance Committee.  The names of the passengers were as follows:
     ALAN TATUM, DANIEL CARR, MICHAEL BAUGHN, THOMAS NIXON, BROWN, THOMAS FREEMAN, JAMES FOSTER, GODFREY SCOTT, WILLIS WILSON, NANCY LITTLE, JOHN SMITH, FRANCIS HAINES, DAVID JOHNSON, PHILLIS GAULT, ALICE JONES, NED WILSON, and SARAH C. WILSON, and one other, who subsequently passed on, having been detained on account of sickness.  These passengers were most "likely-looking articles;" a number of them, doubtless, would have commanded the very highest prices in the Richmond market.  Among them were some good mechanics - one excellent dress-maker, some "prime" waters and chamber=maids: - men and women with brains, some of them evincing remarkable intelligence and decided bravery, just the kind of passengers that gave the greatest satisfaction to the Vigilance Committee.  The interview with these passengers was extremely interesting.  Each one gave his or her experience of Slavery, the escape, etc., in his or her own way, deeply impressing those who had the privilege of seeing and hearing them, with the fact of the growing spirit of Liberty, and the wonderful perception and intelligence possessed by some of the sons of toil in the South.  While all the names of these passengers were duly entered on the Underground Rail Road records, the number was too large, and the time they spent with the Committee too short, in which to write out even in the briefest manner more than a few of the narratives of this party.  The following sketches, how ever, are important, and will, doubtless, be interesting to those at least who were interested in the excitement which existed in Norfolk at the time of this memorable escape:

     ALAN TATUM.  Alan was about thirty years of age, dark, intelligent, and of a good physical organization.  For the last fourteen years he had been owned by Lovey White, a widow and the owner of nine slaves, from whom she derived a comfortable support.  This slave-holding madam was a member of the Methodist Church, and was considered in her general deportment a "moderate slave-holder."  For ten years prior to his escape, Alan had been hiring his time,—for this privilege he paid his mistress, the widow, $120 per annum.  If he happened to be so unfortunate as to lose time by sickness within the year, he was obliged to make that up.  In addition to these items of expenditure, he had his own clothes, etc., to find.  Although Alan had at first stated, that his mistress was "moderate," further on in his story, as he recounted the exactions above alluded to, his tune turned, and he declared, that he was prompted to leave because he disliked his mistress; that "she was mean and without principle."  Alan left three sisters, one brother, and a daughter.  The names of the sisters and brother were as follows: Mary Ann, Rachel and William—the daughter, Mary.

     DANIEL CARR.  Daniel was about thirty-eight years of age, dark mu-

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latto, apparently of sound body,—good mind and manly.  The man to whom he had been compelled to render hard and unpaid labor and call master, was known by the name of John C. McBoleMcBole lived at Plymouth, North Carolina, and was in the steam-mill business.  McBole had bought Daniel in Portsmouth, where he had been raised, for $1150, only two years previously to his escape.  Twice Daniel had been sold on the auction-block.  A part of his life he had been treated hard.  Two unsuccessful attempts to escape were made by Daniel, after being sold to North Carolina; for this offence, he was on one occasion stripped naked, and flogged severely.  This did not cure him.  Prior to his joining Captain F.'s party, he had fled to the swamps, and dwelt there for three months, surrounded with wild animals and reptiles, and it was this state of solitude that he left directly before finding Captain FDaniel had a wife in Portsmouth, to whom he succeeded in paying a private visit, when, to his unspeakable joy, he made the acquaintance of the noble Captain F., whose big heart was de lighted to give him a passage North.  Daniel, after being sold, had been allowed, within the two years, only one opportunity of visiting his wife; being thus debarred he resolved to escape. His wife, whose name was Hannah, had three children—slaves—their names were Sam, Dan, and "baby."  The name of the latter was unknown to him.

     MICHAEL VAUGHN.  Michael was about thirty-one years of age, with superior physical proportions, and no lack of common sense.  His color was without paleness - dark and unfading, and his manly appearance was quite striking.  Michael belonged to a lady, whom he described as a "very disagreeable woman."  "For all my life I have belonged to her, but for the last eight years I have hired my time.  I paid my mistress $120 a year; a part of the time I had to find my board and all my clothing."  This was the direct, and unequivocal testimony that Michael gave of his slave life, which was the foundation for alleging that his mistress was a " very disagreeable woman."
     Michael left a wife and one child in Slavery; but they were not owned by his mistress.  Before escaping, he felt afraid to lead his companion into the secret of his contemplated movements, as he felt, that there was no possible way for him to do anything for her deliverance; on the other hand, any revelation of the matter might prove too exciting for the poor soul; —her name was Esther.  That he did not lose his affection for her whom he was obliged to leave so unceremoniously, is shown by the appended letter:

                                                                                     NEW BEDFORD, August 22d, 1855
     DEAR SIR: - —I send you this to inform you that I expect my wife, to come that way.  If she should, you will direct her to me.  When I came through your city last Fall, yon. took my name in your office, which was then given you, Michael Vaughn; since then my name is William Brown, No. 130 Kempton street.  Please give my wife and child's name to Dr. Lundy, and tell him to attend to it for me . Her name is Esther, and the child's name Louisa.

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Michael worked in a foundry. In church fellowship he was connected with the Methodists—his mistress with the Baptists. 4

     THOMAS NIXON was about nineteen years of age, of a dark hue, and quite intelligent.  He had not much excuse to make for leaving, except, that he was "tired of staying" with his "owner," as he "feared he might be sold some day," so he " thought " that he might as well save him the trouble.  Thomas belonged to a Mr. Bockover, a wholesale grocer, No. 12 Brewer street.  Thomas left behind him his mother and three brothers.  His father was sold away when he was an infant, consequently he never saw him.  Thomas was a member of the Methodist Church; his master was of the same persuasion.

     FREDERICK NIXON was about thirty-three years of age, and belonged truly to the wide-awake class of slaves, as his marked physical and mental appearance indicated.  He had a more urgent excuse for escaping than Thomas; he declared that he fled because his owner wanted "to work him hard without allowing him any chance, and had treated him rough."  Frederick was also one of Mr. Bockover's chattels; he left his wife, Elizabeth, with four children in bondage.  They were living in Eatontown, North Carolina.  It had been almost one year since he had seen them.  Had he remained in Norfolk he had not the slightest prospect of being reunited to his wife and children, as he had been already separated from them for about three years.  This painful state of affairs only increased his desire to leave those who were brutal enough to make such havoc in his domestic relations.

     PETER PETTY was about twenty-four years of age, and wore a happy countenance; he was a person of agreeable manners, and withal pretty smart.  He acknowledged, that he had been owned by Joseph Boukley, Hair inspector.  Peter did not give Mr. Boukley a very good character, however; he said, that Mr. B. ws "rowdyish in his habits, was deceitful and sly, and would sell his slaves any time.  Hard bondage—something like the children of Israel," was his simple excuse for fleeing.  He hired his time of his master, for which he was compelled to pay $156 a year.  When he lost time by sickness or rainy weather, he was required to make up the deficiency, also find his clothing.  He left a wife—Lavinia—and one child, Eliza, both slaves.  Peter communicated to his wife his secret intention to leave, and she acquiesced in his going.  He left his parents also.  All his sisters and brothers had been sold.  Peter would have been sold too, but his owner was under the impression, that he was "too good a Christian" to violate the laws by running away.  Peter's master was quite a devoted Methodist, and was attached to the same Church with Peter.  While on the subject of religion, Peter was asked about the kind and character of preaching that he had been accustomed to hear; whereupon he gave the following graphic specimen:  "Servants obey your masters; good servants make good masters;

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when your mistress speaks to you don't pout out your mouths; when you want to go to church ask your mistress and master," etc., etc.  J Peter declared, that he had never heard but one preacher speak against slavery, and that "one was obliged to leave suddenly for the North."  He said, that a Quaker lady spoke in meeting against Slavery one day, which resulted in an out break, and final breaking up of the meeting.

     PHILLIS GAULT.  Phillis was a widow, about thirty years of age; the blood of two races flowed in about equal proportions through her veins.  Such was her personal appearance, refinement, manners, and intelligence, that had the facts of her slave life been unknown, she would have readily passed for one who had possessed superior advantages.  But the facts in her history proved, that she had been made to feel very keenly the horrifying effects of Slavery; not in the field, for she had never worked there; nor as a common drudge, for she had always been required to fill higher spheres; she was a dress-maker—but not without fear of the auction block.  This dreaded destiny was the motive which constrained her to escape with the twenty others; secreted in the hold of a vessel expressly arranged for bringing away slaves.  Death had robbed her of her husband at the time that the fever raged so fearfully in Norfolk.   This sad event deprived her of the hope she had of being purchased by her husband, as he had intended.  She was haunted by the constant thought of again being sold, as she had once been, and as she had witnessed the sale of her sister's four children after the death of their mother.
     Phillis was, to use her own striking expression in a state of "great horror;" she felt, that nothing would relieve her but freedom.  After having fully pondered the prospect of her freedom and the only mode offered by which she could escape, she consented to endure bravely whatever of suffering and trial might fall to her lot in the undertaking—and as was the case with thousands of others, she succeeded.  She remained several days in the family of a member of the Committee in Philadelphia, favorably impressing all who saw her.  As she had formed a very high opinion of Boston, from having heard it so thoroughly reviled in Norfolk, she desired to go there.  The Committee made no objections, gave her a free ticket, etc.  From that time to the present, she has ever sustained a good Christian character, and as an industrious, upright, and intelligent woman, she has been and is highly respected by all who know her.  The following letter is characteristic of her:

                                                                             BOSTON, March 22, 1858.
     MY DEAR SIR - I received your photograph by Mr. Cooper and it afforded me much pleasure to do so i hope that these few liens may find you and your family well as it leaves me and little Dicky at present  i have no interesting news to tell you more than there is a great revival of religion through the land  i all most forgoten to thank you for your kindness and our little Dick he is very wild and goes to school and it is my desire and prayer for him to grow up a useful man  i wish you would try to gain some informa-

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tion from Norfolk and write me word how the times are there for i am afraid to write i wish yoo would see the Doctor for me and ask hi in if he could carefully find out any way that we could steal little Johny for i think to raise nine or ten hundred dollars for such a child is outraigust just at this time i feel as if i would rather steal him than to buy him give my kinde regards to the Dr and his family tell Miss Margret and Mrs Landy that I would like to see them out here this summer again to have a nice time in Cambridge Miss Walker that spent the evening with me in Cambridge sens much love to yoo and Mrs. Landy give my kindes regards to Mrs Still and children and receive a portion for yoo self i have no more to say at present but remain yoor respectfully .
                                                                                                  FLARECE P. GAULT
     When you write direct yoo letters Mrs. Flarece P. Gault, No 62 Pinkney St.

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