UNDERGROUND RAIL ROAD RECORDS,
(Previously Published in 1879 with title: The Underground Railroad)
WITH A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
THE HARDSHIPS, HAIRBREADTH ESCAPES AND DEATH STRUGGLES
IN THEIR EFFORTS FOR FREEDOM.
SKETCHES OF SOME OF THE EMINENT FRIENDS OF FREEDOM, AND
MOST LIBERAL AIDERS AND ADVISERS OF THE ROAD
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
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.
SOLD ONLY BY SUBSCRIPTION.
WILLIAM STILL, PUBLISHER
244 SOUTH TWELFTH STREET.
pp. 200 -
THE ESCAPE of HEZEKIAH HILL
(UNCLE of JOHN HENRY HILL)
Impelled by the love of freedom
Hezekiah resolved that he would work no longer
for nothing; that he would never be sold on the auction
block; that he no longer would obey the bidding of a
master, and that he would die rather than be a slave.
This decision, however, had only been entertained
|by him a short time prior to
his escape. For a number of years
Hezekiah had been laboring under the
pleasing thought that he should succeed in
obtaining freedom through purchase, having had
an understanding with his owner with this object
in view. At different times he had paid on
account for himself nineteen hundred dollars,
six hundred dollars more than he was to have
paid according to the first agreement.
Although so shamefully defrauded in the first
instance, he concluded to bear the
disappointment as patiently as possible and get
out of the lion's mouth as best he could.
He continued to work on and save his money until he ha
actually come within one hundred dollars of
paying two thousand. At this point instead
of getting his free papers, as he firmly
believed that he should, to his surprise one day
he saw a notorious trader approaching the shop
where he was at work. The errand of the
trader was soon made known. Hezekiah
simply requested time to go back to the other
end of the shop to get his coat, which he seized
and ran. He was pursued but not captured.
This occurrence took place in Petersburg, Va.,
about the first of December, 1854. On the
night of the same day of his escape from the
trader, Hezekiah walked to Richmond and
was there secreted under a floor by a friend.
He was a tall man, of powerful muscular
strength, about thirty years of age just in the
prime of his manhood with enough pluck for two
A heavy reward was offered for him, but the hunters
failed to find him in this hiding place under
the floor. He strongly hoped to get away
soon; on several occasions he made efforts, but
only to be disappointed. At different
times at least two captains had consented to
afford him a private passage to Philadelphia,
but like the impotent man at the pool, some one
always got ahead of him. Two or three
times he even managed to reach the boat upon the
river, but had to return to his horrible place
under the floor. Some were under the
impression that he was an exceedingly unlucky
man, and for a time captains feared to bring
him. But his courage sustained him
Finally at the expiration of thirteen months, a private
passage was procured for him on the steamship
Pennsylvania, and with a little slave boy, seven
years of age, (the son of the man who had
secreted him) though seven years of age, (the
son of the man who had secreted him) though
placed in a very hard berth, he came safely to
Philadelphia, greatly to the astonishment of the
Vigilance Committee, who had waited for him so
long that they had despaired of his ever coming.
The joy that filled Hezekiah's bosom may be
imagined but never described. None but one
who had been in similar straits could enter into
He had left his wife Louisa, and two little
boys, Henry and Manuel. His
passage cost one hundred dollars.
Hezekiah being a noted character, a number of
the true friends were invited to take him by the
hand and to rejoice with him over his noble
|struggles and his
triumph; needing rest and recruiting, he was
made welcome to stay, at the expense of the
committee, as long as he might feel disposed so
to do. He remained several days, and then
went on to Canada rejoicing. After
arriving there he returned his acknowledgement
for favors received, &c., in the following
||TORONTO, Jan. 24th 1856.
MR. STILL: - this is to inform you that
Myself and little boy, arried safely in this
city this day the 24th, at ten o'clock after a
very long and pleasant trip. I had a great
deal of attention paid to me while on the way.
I owes a great deel of thanks to yourself and friends,
I will just say hare that when I arrived at New
York, I found Mr. Gibbs sick and could
not be attended to there. However, I have
You will please to give my respects to your friend that
writes in the office with you, and to Mr.
Smith, also Mr. Brown, and the
friends, Mr. Still in particular.
Friend Still you will please to send the
enclosed to John Hill Petersburg I want
him to send some things to me you will be so
kind as to send your direction to them, so that
the things to your care. if you do not see a
convenient way to send it by hands, you will
please direct your letter to Phillip Ubank
JAMES - (BROTHER OF
JOHN HENRY HILL).
For three years James suffered in a place
of concealment, before he found the way opened
to escape. When he resolved on having his
freedom he was much under twenty-one years of
age, a brave young man, for three years, with
unfailing spirit, making resistance in the city
of Richmond to the slave Power!
Such heroes in the days of Slavery, did much to make
the infernal system insecure, and to keep alive
the spirit of freedom in liberty-loving hearts
the world over, wherever such deeds of noble
daring were made known. But of his
heroism, but little can be reported here, from
the fact, that such accounts as were in the
possession of the Committee, were never
transferred from the loose slips of paper on
which they were first written, to the regular
record book. But an important letter from
the friend with whom he was secreted, written a
short while before he escaped (on a boat), gives
some idea of his condition:
||RICHMOND, VA., February 16th,
DEAR BROTHER STILL: - I received a
message from brother Julius anderson,
asking me to send the bundle on but I has no way
to send it, I have been waiting and truly
hopeing that you would make some arrangement
with some person, and send for the parcel.
I have no way to send it, and I cannot
communicate the subject to a stranger there is a
Way by the N. y. line, but they are all
strangers to me, and of course I could not
approach them With this subject for I would be
indangered myself greatly. this business
is left to you and to you alone to attend to in
providing the way for me to send on the parcel,
if you only make an arrangement with some person
and let me know the said
|person and the
article which they is to be sent on then I an
send the parcel unless you do make an
arrangement with some person, and assure them
that they will receive the funds for delivering
the parcel this Business cannot be accomplished.
it is in your power to try to make some
provision for the article to be sent but it is
not in my power to do so, the bundle has been on
my hands now going on 3 years, and I have
suffered a great deal of danger, and is still
suffering the same. I have understood Sir
that there were no difficul about the mone that
you had it in your possession Ready for the
bundle whenever it is delivered. But Sir
as I have said I can do nothing now. Sir I
ask you please through sympathy and feelings on
my part & his try to provide a way for the
bundle to be sent and relieve me of the danger
in which I am in. you might succeed in
making an arrangement with those on the New york
Steamers for they does such things but please
let me know the man that the arrangement is made
with - please give me an answer by the bearer.
||yours truly friend
At last, the long, dark night passed away, and this
young slave safely made his way to freedom, and
proceeded to Boston, where he now resides.
While the Committee was looked to for aid in the
deliverance of this poor prayers - not until
after his escape, was it possible so to do.
But his escape to freedom gave them a
satisfaction which no words can well express.
At present, John Henry Hill is a justice
of the peace in Petersburg. Hezekiah
resides at West Point, and James in
Boston, rejoicing that all men are free in the
United States, at last.
FROM VIRGINIA, MARYLAND AND DELAWARE
ARCHER BARLOW, alias EMIT ROBINS
passenger arrived from Norfolk, Va. in 1853.
For the last four years previous to escaping, he
had been under the yoke of Dr. George Wilson.
Archer declared that he had been "very
badly treated" by the Doctor, which he urged as
his reason for leaving. True, the doctor
had been good enough to allow him to hire this
time, for which he required Archer to pay
the moderate sum of $120 per annum. As
Archer had been "sickly" most of the time,
during the last year, he complained that there
was "no reduction" in his hire on this account.
Upon reflection, therefore, Archer
thought if he had justice done him, he would be
in possession of this "one hundred and twenty"
himself, and all his other rights, instead of
having to toil for another without pay; so he
looked seriously into the matter of master and
slave, and pretty soon resolved, that if others
chose to make no effort to get away, for himself
he would never be contented, until he was free.
When a slave reached this decision, he was in a
very hopeful state. He was near the
Underground Rail Road, and was sure to find it,
sooner or later. At this thoughtful
period, Archer was thirty-one years of
age, a man of medium size, and belonged to the
two leading branches of southern
|humanity, i. e., he was half
white and half colored - a dark mulatto.
His arrival in Philadelphia, per one of the
Richmond steamers, was greeted with joy by the
Vigilance Committee, who extended to him the
usual aid and care, and forwarded him on to
freedom. For a number of years, he has
been a citizen of Boston.
SAMUEL BUSH, alias WILLIAM OBLEBEE
This "piece of
property" fled in the fall of 1853. As a
specimen of this article of commerce, he evinced
considerable intelligence. He was a man of
dark color, although not totally free from the
admixture of the "superior" southern blood in
his veins; in stature, he was only ordinary.
For leaving, he gave the following reasons:
"I found that I was working for my master, for
his advantage, and when I was sick, I had to pay
just as much as if I were well - $7 a month.
But my master was cross, and said that he
intended to sell me - to do better by me another
year. Times grew worse and worse,
constantly. I thought, as I had heard,
that if I could raise thirty dollars I could
come away." He at once saw the value of
money. To his mind it meant liberty from
that moment. Theneforth he decided to
treasure up every dollar he could get hold of
until he could accumulate at least enough to get
out of "Old Virginia." He was a married
man, and thought he had a wife and one child,
but on reflection, he found out that they did
not actually belong to him, but to a carpenter,
by the name of Bailey. The man whom
Samuel was compelled to call master was
The Committee's interview with Samuel was quite
satisfactory, and they cheerfully accorded to
him brotherly kindness and material aid at the
JOHN SPENCER AND HIS SON WILLIAM, AND JAMES ALBERT
escaped from the eastern shore of Maryland, in
the Spring of 1853, but were led to conclude
that they could enjoy the freedom they had aimed
to find, in New Jersey. They procured
employment in the neighborhood of Haddonfield,
some six or eight miles from Camden, New Jersey,
and were succeeding, as they thought, very well.
Things went on faorably for about three months, when to
their alarm "slave hunters were discovered in
the neighborhood" and sufficient evidence was
obtained to make it quite plain that, John,
William and James were the identical
persons, for whom the hunters were in "hot
|pursuit." When brought to
the Committee, they were pretty thoroughly
alarmed and felt very anxious to be safely off
to Canada. While the Committee always
rendered in such cases immediate protection and
aid, they nevertheless, felt ,in view of the
imminent dangers existing under the fugitive
slave law, that persons disposed to thus stop by
the way, should be very plainly given to
understand, that if they were captured they
would have themselves the most to blame.
But the dread of Slavery was strong in the minds
of these fugitives, and they very fully realized
their folly in stopping in New Jersey. The
Committee procured their tickets, helped them to
disguise themselves as much as possible, and
admonished the not to stop short of Canada.
HETTY SCOTT alias MARGARET DUNCANS and DAUGHTER
This mother and
daughter had been the "chattels personal" of
Daniel Coolby of Harvard, Md. Their
lot had been prompted them to escape was the
fact that their master had "threatened to sell"
them. He had a right to do so; but
Hetty was a little squeamish on this point
and took great umbrage at her "kind master."
In this "disobedient" state of mind, she
determined, if hard struggling would enable her,
to defeat the threats of Mr. Daniel Coolby,
that he should not much longer have the
satisfaction of enjoying the fruit of the toil
of herself and offspring. She at once
began to prepare for her journey.
She had three children of her own to bring, besides she
was intimately acquainted with a young man and a
young woman, both slaves, to whom she felt that
it would be safe to confide her plans with a
view of inviting them to accompany her.
The young couple were ready converts to the
eloquent speech delivered to them by Hetty
of Freedom, and were quite willing to accept her
as their leader in the emergency. Up to
the hour of setting out on their lonely and
fatiguing journey, arrangements were being
carefully completed, so that there should be no
delay of any kind. At the appointed hour
they were all moving northward in good order.
Arriving at Quakertown, Pa., they found friends of the
slave, who welcomed them to their homes and
sympathy, gladdening the hearts of all
concerned. For prudential reasons it was
deemed desirable to separate the party, to send
some one way and some another. Thus
safely, through the kind offices and aid of the
friends at Quakertown, they were duly forwarded
on to the Committee in Philadelphia. Here
similar acts of charity were extended to them,
and they were directed on to Canada.
THE PASSENGER AVAILS HIMSELF of HOLIDAY WEEK, BETWEEN
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S, TO MAKE HIS NORTHERN
ROBERT was about thirty years
of age, dark color, quite tall, and in talking with him
a little while, it was soon discovered that Slavery had
not crushed all the brains out of his head by a good
deal. Nor was he so much attached to his
"kind-hearted master," John Edward Jackson, of
Anne Arundel, Md., or his old fiddle, that he was
contented and happy while in bondage. Far from it.
The fact was, that he hated Slavery so decidedly and had
such a clear common-sense-like view of the evils and
misery of the system, that he declared he had as a
matter of principle refrained from marrying, in order
that he might have no reason to grieve over having added
to the woes of slaves. Nor did he wish to be
encumbered, if the opportunity offered to escape.
According to law he was entitled to his freedom at the
age of twenty-five.
But what right had a negro, which white slave-holders
were "bound to respect?" Many who had been willed
free, were held just as firmly in Slavery, as if no will
had ever been made. Robert had too much
sense to suppose that he could gain anything by seeking
legal redress. This method, therefore, was
considered out of the question. But in the
meantime he was growing very naturally in favor of the
Underground Rail Road. From his experience
Robert did not hesitate to say that his master was
"mean," "a very hard man,," who would work his
servants early and late, without allowing them food and
clothing sufficient to shield them from the cold and
hunger. Robert certainly had unmistakable
marks about him, of having been used roughly. He
thought very well of Nathan Harris, a
fellow-servant belonging to the same owner, and he made
up his mind, if Nathan would join him, neither
the length of the journey, the loneliness of night
travel, the coldness of the weather, the fear of the
slave-hunter, nor the scantiness of their means should
deter him from making his way to freedom.
Nathan listened to the proposal, and was suddenly
converted to freedom, and the two united during
Christmas week, 1854, and set out on the Underground
Rail Road. It is needless to say that they had
trying difficulties to encounter. These they
expected, but all were overcome, and they reached the
Vigilance Committee, in Philadelphia safely, and were
cordially welcomed. During the interview, a full
interchange of thought resulted, the fugitives were well
cared for, and in due time both were forwarded on, free
This traveler arrived from
Millsboro, Indian River, Delaware, where he was owned by
Wm. E. Burton. While Hansel did not
really own himself, he had the reputation of having a
wife and six children. In June, some six months
prior to her husband's arrival, Hansel's wife had
been allowed by her mistress to go out on a begging
expedition, to raise money to buy herself; but contrary
to the expectation of her mistress she never returned.
Doubtless the mistress looked upon this course as a
piece of the most high-banded stealing. Hansel
did not speak of his owner as being a hard man, but on
the contrary he thought that he was about as "good" as
the best that he was acquainted with. While this
was true, however, Hansel had quite good ground
for believing that his master was about to sell him.
Dreading his fate he made up his mind to go in pursuit
of his wife to a Free state. Exactly where to look
or how to find her he could not tell.
The Committee advised him to "search in Canada."
And in order to enable him to get on quickly and safely,
the Committee aided him with money, &c., in 1853.
ROSE ANNA TONNELL alias MARIA HYDE
She fled from Isaac Tonnell
of Georgetown, Delaware, in Christmas week, 1853.
A young woman with a little boy of seven years of age
accompanied Rose Anna. Further than the
simple fact of their having thus safely arrived, except
the expense incurred by the Committee, no other
particulars appear on the records.
MARY ENNIS alias LICIA HEMMIN.
Mary arrived with her
two children in the early Spring of 1854.
The mother was a woman of about thirty-three years of
age, quite tall, with a countenance and general
appearance well fitted to awaken sympathy at
first sight. Her oldest child was a little
girl seven years of age, named Lydia the
other was named Louisa Caroline, three
years of age, both promising in appearance.
They were the so called property of John
Ennis, of Georgetown, Delaware. For
their flight they chose the dead of Winter.
After leaving they made their way to West
Chester, and there found friends and security
for several weeks, up to the time they reached
Philadelphia. Probably the friends with
whom they stopped thought the weather too
inclement for a woman with children dependent on
|support to travel.
Long before this mother escaped, thoughts of
liberty filled her heart. She was ever
watching from an opportunity, that would
encourage her to hope for safety, when once the
attempt should be made. Until, however,
she was convinced that her two children were to
be sold, she could not quite muster courage to
set out on the journey. This threat to
sell proved in multitudes of instances, "the
last straw on the camel's back." When
nothing else would start them this would.
Mary and her children were the only
slaves owned by this Ennis, consequently
her duties were that of "Jack of all trades;"
sometimes in the field and sometimes in the
barn, as well as in the kitchen, by which, it is
needless to say, that her life was rendered
servile to the last degree.
To bind up the broken heart of such a poor slave
mother, and to aid such tender plants as were
these little girls, from such a wretched state
of barbarism as existed in poor little Delaware,
was doubly gratifying to the Committee.
"SAM," "ISAAC," "PERRY," "CHARLES," AND "GREEN,"
DOLLARS REWARD - Ran away on Saturday night, the
20th September, 1856, from the subscriber,
living in the ninth district of Carroll county,
Maryland, two Negro Men, SAM and ISAAC.
Sam calls himself Samuel Sims; he
is very black; shows his teeth very much when he
laughs; no perceptible marks; he is 5 feet 8
inches high, and about thirty years of age, but
has the appearance of being much older.
Isaac calls himself Isaac Dotson
he is about five feet five or six inches high,
always appears to be in a good humor; laughs a
good deal, and runs on with a good deal of
foolishness; he is of very light color, almost
yellow, might be called a yellow boy; has no
They have such a variety of clothing that it is almost
useless to say anything about them. No
doubt they will change their names.
I will give the above reward for them, of one thousand
dollars, or five hundred dollars for either of
them, if taken and lodged in any jail in
Maryland, so that I get them again.
Also two of Mr. Dade's, living in the
neighborhood, went the same time; no doubt they
are all in company together.
||THOMAS B. OWINGS
These passengers reached the Philadelphia station,
about the 24th of September, 1856, five days
after they escaped from Carroll county.
They were in fine spirits, and had borne
the fatigue and privation of travel bravely.
A free and interesting interview took place,
between these passengers and the Committee,
eliciting much information, especially with
regard to the working of the system on the
farms, from which they had the good luck to
flee. Each of the party was thoroughly
questioned, about how time had passed with them
at home, or rather in the prison house, what
kind of men their masters were, how they fed and
clothed, if they whipped, bought or sold,
whether they were members of church, or not, and
many more questions needless to enumerate
bearing on the domestic relation which had
existed between them-
|selves and their
masters. These queries they answered in
their own way, with intelligence. Upon the
whole, their lot in Slavery had been rather more
favorable then the average run of slaves.
No record was made of any very severe treatment.
In fact, the notices made of them were very
brief, and, but for the elaborate way in which
they were described in the "Baltimore Sun," by
their owners, their narratives would hardly be
considered of sufficient interest to record.
The heavy rewards, beautiful descriptions, and
elegant illustrations in the "Sun," were very
attractive reading. The Vigilance
Committee took the "Sun" for nothing else under
the sun but for this special literature, and for
this purpose they always considered the "Sun" a
cheap and reliable paper.
A slave man or woman, running for life, he with a
bundle on his back or she with a babe in her
arms, was always a very interesting sight, and
should always, be held in remembrance.
Like wise the descriptions given by
slave-holders, as a general rule, showed
considerable artistic powers and a most thorough
knowledge of the physical outlines of this
peculiar property. In deed, the art must
have been studied attentively for practical
purposes. When the advertisements were
received in advance of arrivals, which was
always the case, the descriptions generally were
found so lifelike, that the Committee preferred
to take them in preference to putting themselves
to the labor of writing out new ones, for future
reference. This we think, ought not to be
complained of by any who were so fortunate as to
lose wayward servants, as it is but fair to give
credit to all concerned. True, sometimes
some of these beautiful advertisements were open
to gentle criticism. The one at the head
of this report, is clearly of this character.
For instance, in describing Isaac, Mr. Thomas
B. Owings, represents him as being of a
"very light color," "almost yellow,"
"might be called a yellow boy." In the
next breath he has no perceptible marks.
Now, if he is "very light," that is a well-known
southern mark, admitted everywhere. A hint
to the wise is sufficient. However,
judging from what was seen of Isaac in
Philadelphia, there was more cunning than
"foolishness" about him. Slaves sometimes,
when wanting to get away, would make their
owners believe that they were very happy and
contented. And, in using this kind of
foolishness, would keep up appearances until an
opportunity offered for an escape. So
Isaac might have possessed this sagacity,
which appeared like nonsense to his master.
That slave-holders, above all others, were in
the habit of taking special pains to encourage
foolishness, loud self-respect, banjo playing,
low dancing, etc., in the place of education,
virtue, self-respect and manly carriage,
slave-holders themselves are witnesses.
As Mr. Robert Dade was also a loser, equally
with Mr. Thomas B. Owings, and as his
advertisement was of the same liberality and
high tone, it seems but fitting that it should
come in just here, to give weight and com-
|pleteness to the
story. Both Owings and Dade
showed a considerable degree of southern
chivalry in the liberality of their rewards.
Doubtless, the large sums thus offered awakened
a live feeling in the breasts of old
slave-hunters. But it is to be supposed
that the artful fugitives safely reached
Philadelphia before the hunters got even the
first scent on their track. Up to the
present hour, with the owners all may be
profound mystery; if so, it is to be hoped, that
they may feel some interest in the solution of
these wonders. The articles so accurately
described must now be permitted to testify in
their own words, as taken from the records.
GREEN MODOCK acknowledges that he was
owned by William Dorsey, Perry by
Robert Dade, Sam and Isaac by
Thomas Owings, all farmers, and all "tough"
and "pretty mean men." Sam and
Isaac had other names with them, but not
such a variety of clothing as their master might
have supposed. Sam said he left
because his master threatened to sell him to
Georgia, and he believed that he meant so to do,
as he had sold all his brothers and sisters to
Georgia some time before he escaped.
But this was not all. Sam declared his
master had threatened to shoot him a short while
before he left. This was the last straw on
the camel's back. Sam's heart was
in Canada ever after that. In traveling he
resolved that nothing should stop him.
Charles offered the same excuse as did
Sam He had been threatened with the
auction-block. He left his mother free,
but four sisters he left in chains. As
these men spoke of their tough owners and bad
treatment in Slavery, they expressed their
indignation at the idea that Owings, Dade
and Dorsey had dared to rob them of their
God-given rights. They were only ignorant
farm hands. As they drank in the free air,
the thought of their wrongs aroused all their
manhood. They were all young men, hale and
stout, with strong resolutions to make Canada
their future home. The Committee
encouraged them in this, and aided them for
humanity's sake - Mr. Robert Dad's
advertisement speaks for itself as follows:
AWAY - On Saturday night, 20th inst.,
from the subscriber, living near Mount Airy P.
O., Carroll county, two Negro men, PERRY
and CHARLES. Perry is quite
dark, full face; is about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches
high; has a scar on one of his hands, and one on
his legs, caused by a cut from a scythe; 25
years old Charles is of a copper color,
about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high; round
shouldered, with small whiskers; has one crooked
finger that he cannot straighten, and a scar on
his right leg, caused by the cut of a scythe; 22
years old. I will give two hundred fifty
dollars each, if taken in the State and returned
to me, or secured in some jail so that I can get
them again, or a $1,000 for the two, or $500
each, if taken out of the State, and secured in
some jail in this State so that I can get them
FROM RICHMOND AND NORFOLK, VA.
WILLIAM B. WHITE, SUSAN BROOKS and WILLIAM HENRY ATKINS.
- STOWED AWAY IN THE STEAMSHIP CITY OF RICHMOND.
But for their hope of liberty,
their uncomfortable position could hardly have
been endured by these fugitives.
William had been compelled to dig and delve,
to earn bread and butter, clothing and luxuries,
houses and land, education and ease for H. B.
Dickinson, of Richmond. William
smarted frequently; but what could he do?
Complaint from a slave was a crime of the
deepest dye. So William dug away
mutely, but continued to think nevertheless.
He was a man of about thirty-six years of age,
of dark chestnut color, medium size, and of
pleasant manners to say the least. His
owner was a tobacco manufacturer, who held some
thirty slaves in his own right, besides hiring a
great many others. William was
regularly employed by day in his master's
tobacco factory. He was likewise employed
as one of the carriers of the Richmond Dispatch;
the time allowed to fill the duties of this
office, was however, before sunrise in the
morning. It is but just to state, in favor
of his master, that William was himself
the receiver of a part of the pay for this night
work. It was by this means William
procured clothing and certain other necessaries.
From William's report of his master, he was by
no means among the worst of slave-holders in Richmond;
he did not himself flog, but the overseer was allowed to
conduct this business, when it was considered necessary.
For a long time William had cherished a strong
desire to be free, and had gone so far on several
occasions as to make unsuccessful attempts to accomplish
this end. At last he was only apprised of his
opportunity to carry his wishes into practice a few
moments before the hour for the starting of the
Underground Rail Road train.
Being on the watch, he hailed the privilege, and left
without looking back.
True he left his wife and two children, who were free,
and a son also who was owned by Warner Toliver,
of Gloucester county, Va. We leave the reader to
decide for himself, whether William did right or
wrong, and who was responsible for the sorrow of both
husband and wife caused by the husband's course.
The Committee received him as a true and honest friend
of freedom, and as such aided him.
Susan was also a
passenger on the same ship that brought Wm. B. White.
She was from Norfolk. Her toil, body and
strength were clamed by Thomas Eckels, Esq., a
man of wealth and likewise a man of intemperance
|With those who
regarded Slavery as a "divine institution,"
intemperance was scarcely a mote, in the eyes of
such. For sixteen years, Susanhad
been in the habit of hiring her time, for which
she was required to pay five dollars per month.
As she had the reputation of being a good cook
and chambermaid, she was employed steadily,
sometimes on boats. This sum may therefor
be considered reasonable.
Owing to the death of her husband, about a year
previous to her escape, she had suffered
greatly, so much so, that on two or three
occasions, she had fallen into alarming fits, -
a fact by no means agreeable to her owner, as he
feared into alarming fits, - a fact by no
means agreeable to her owner, as he feared that
the traders on learning her failing health would
underrate her on this account. But
Susan was rather thankful for these signs of
weakness, as she was thereby enabled to mature
her plans and thus to elude detection.
Her son having gone on ahead to Canada about six months
in advance of her, she felt that she had strong
ties in the goodly land. Every day she
remained in bondage, the cords bound her more
tightly, and "weeks seemed like months, and
months like years," so abhorrent had the
peculiar institution become to her in every
particular. In this state of mind, she saw
no other way, than by submitting to be secreted,
until an opportunity should offer, via the
Underground Rail Road.
So for four months, like a true and earnest woman, she
endured a great "fight of affliction," in this
horrible place. But the thought of freedom
enabled her to keep her courage up, until the
glad news was conveyed to her that all things
were ready, providing that she could get safely
to the boat, on which she was to be secreted.
How she succeeded in so doing the record book
fails to explain.
One of the methods, which used to succeed very well, in
skillful and brave hands, was this: In
order to avoid suspicion, the woman intending to
be secreted, approached the boat with a clean
ironed shirt on her arm, bare headed and in her
usual working dress, looking good-natured
of course, and as if she were simply conveying
the shirt to one of the men on the boat.
The attention of the officer on the watch would
not for a moment be attracted by a custom so
common as this. Thus safely on the boat, the man
whose business it was to put this piece of
property in the most safe Underground Rail Road
place, if he saw that every thing looked
favorable, would quickly arrange matters without
being missed from his duties. In numerous
instances, officers were outwitted in this way.
As to what Susan had seen in the way of
hardships, whether in relation to herself or
others, her story was most interesting; but it
may here by passed in order to make room for
others. She left one sister, named Mary
Ann Tharagood, who was wanting to come away
very much. Susan was a woman of
dark color, round built, medium height, and
about forty years of age when she escaped in
WILLIAM HENRY ATKINS.
William Henry was also a fellow-passenger on
the same boat with William B. White and
Ssuan Cooke. These might be set
down, as first-class Underground Rail Road
Henry was a very likely-looking article.
He was quite smart, about six feet high, a dark
mulatto, and was owned by a Baptist minister.
For some cause not stated on the books, not long before
leaving, Henry had received a notice from
his owner, (the Baptist Minister) that he might
hunt himself a new master as soon as possible.
This was a business that Henry had no
relish for. The owner he already had, he
concluded bad enough in all conscience, and it
did not occur to him that hunting another would
mend the matter much. So in thinking over
the situation, he was "taken sick." He
felt the need of a little time to reflect upon
matters of very weighty moment involving his
freedom. So when he was called upon one
day to go to his regular toil, the answer was,
"I am sick, I am not able to budge hardly."
The excuse took and Henry attended
faithfully to his "sick business" for the time
being, while on the other hand, the Baptist
Minister waited patiently all the while for
William to get well enough for hunting a new
master. What had to be done, needed to be
done quickly, before his master's patience was
exhausted. William soon had matters
arranged for traveling North. He had a
wife, Eliza, for whom he felt the
greatest affection; but as he viewed matters at
that time, he concluded that he could really do
more for her in Canada than he could in Norfolk.
He saw no chance, either under the Baptist
minister, or under a new master. His wife
was owned by Susan Langely. When
the hour arrived to start, as brave men usually
do, Henry having counted all the
cost, was in his place on the boat with his face
How he looked at matters on John Bull's side of
the house, letters from Henry will
abundantly revewal as follows:
August 4, 1854.
SIR: - It is with plesure
that I now take my pen to inform you that I am
well at present and I hope that these few lines
may find you injoying good health, and will you
plese to be so kind as to send a leter down home
for me if you plese to my wife, the reason that
I beg the favor of you I have written to you
several times and never recieve no answer, she
don't no whar I am at I would like her to no, if
it is posible elizaran Actkins, and when
you write will you plese to send me all the
news, give my respect to all the fambley and
allso to Mr lundey and his fambley and
tell him plese to send me those books if you
plese the first chance you can git.
Mrs. Wood sends her love to Mr. Stillanswer
this as soon as on hand, the boys all send their
love to all, the reason why i sends for an
answer write away i expect to live this and go
up west nex mounth not why i sends for a answer
write away i expect to live this and go up west
nex mounth not to stay to get some land, I have
no more at present, i remain your frield.
||W. H. ACTKINS.
C. W., October 5th, 1854.
MR. WILLIAM STILL: - Dear Friend: -
I take the liberty to address to you a few
lines in behalf of my wife, who is still at
Norfolk, Va. I have heard by my friend
Richmond Bohm, who arrived lately,
that she was in the hands of my friend Henry
Lovey( the same who had me in hand at the
time I started). I understood that she was
about to make her start this month, and that she
was only waiting for me to send her some means.
I would like for you to communicate the
substance of this letter to my wife, through my
friend Henry Lovey, and for her to come
on as soon as she can. I would like to
have my wife write to me a few lines by the
first opportunity. She could write to you
in Philadelphia, 31 North Fifth Street. I
wish to send my love to you & your family &
would like for you to answer this letter with
the least possible delay in the care of Hiram
||Very respectfully yours,
||W. H. ATKINS
P. S. I would like for my friend Henry
Lovey to send my wife right on to
Philadelphia; not to stop for want of means, for
I will forward means on to my friend Wm.
Still. My love to my father & mother,
my friend Lovey & to all my inquiring
friends. If you cannot find it convenient
to write, please forward this by the Boat.
H. W. A.
CHARLOTTE AND HARRIET ESCAPE IN DEEP MOURNING - MASTER
IN THE SAME CAR HUNTING FOR THEM, SEES THEM, BUT DOES
NOT KNOW THEM - WHITE LADY AND CHILD WITH A COLORED
COACHMAN, TRAVELING - AT CHAMBERSBURG AT A HOTEL, THE
PROPRIETOR DETECTS THEM AS U. G. R. R. PASSENGERS -
THREE "LIKELY" YOUNG MEN FROM BALTIMORE - "FOUR LARGE
AND TWO SMALL HAMS" - POLICE OFFICER IMPARTING
INFORMATION AT THE ANTI-SLAVERY OFFICE - U. G. R. R.
PASSENGERS TRAVELING WITH THEIR MASTERS' HORSES AND
CARRIAGES - "BREAK DOWN" - CONFLICT WITH WHITE MEN - SIX
PASSENGERS RIDING TWO HORSES, &c.
About the 31st of May, 1856, an exceedingly
anxious state of feeling existed with the active
Committee in Philadelphia. In the course
of twenty-four arrivals had come to hand from
different localities. The circumstances
connected with the escape of each party, being
so unusual, there was scarcely ground for any
other conclusion than that disaster was
imminent, if not impossible to be averted.
It was a day long to be remembered. Aside from
the danger, however, a more encouraging hour had
never presented itself in the history of the
Road. The courage, which had so
often been shown in the face of great danger,
satisfied the Committee that there were heroes
and heroines among these passengers, fully
entitled to the applause of the liberty-loving
citizens of Brotherly Love. The very idea
of having to walk for days and nights in
succession, over strange roads, through by-ways,
and valleys, over mountains, and marshes, was
fitted to appeal the bravest hearts, especially
where women and children were concerned.
Being familiar with such cases, the Committee was
measure to observe how wisely and successfully each of
these parties had managed to over come these
|Party No. 1 consisted of
Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin, owned by
Capt. Wm. Applegarth and John Delahay.
Neither of these girls had any great complaint
to make on the score of ill-treatment endured.
So they contrived each to get a suit of mourning, with
heavy black veils, and thus dressed, apparently
absorbed with grief, with a friend to pass them
to Baltimore depot (hard place as pass, except
aided by n individual well known to the R. R.
company), they took a direct course of
While seated in the car, before leaving Baltimore
(where slaves and masters both belonged), who
should enter but the master of one of the girls!
In a very excited manner, he hurriedly
approached Charlotte and Harriet,
who were apparently weeping. Peeping under
their veils, "What is your name," exclaimed the
excited gentleman. "Mary, sir," sobbed
Charlotte. "What is your name?" (to
the other mourner) "Lizzie, sir," was the
fait reply. On rushed the excited
gentleman as if moved by steam - through the
cars, looking for his property; not finding it,
he passed out of the cars, and to the delight of
Charlotte and Harriet soon
disappeared. Fair business men would be
likely to look at this conduct on the part of
the two girls in the light of a "sharp
practice." In military parlance it might
be regarded as excellent strategy. Be this
as it may, the Underground Rail Road passengers
arrived safely at the Philadelphia station and
were gladly received.
A brief stay in the city was thought prudent lest the
hunters might be on the pursuit. They
were, therefore, retained in safe quarters.
In the meantime, Arrival No. 2 reached the Committee.
It consisted of a colored man, a white woman and
a child, ten years old. This case created
no little surprise. Not that quite a
number of passengers, fair enough to pass for
white, with just a slight tinge of colored blood
in their veins, even sons and daughters of some
of the F. F. V., had not on various occasions
come over the U. G. R. R. But this party
was peculiar. An explanation was
|sought, which resulted in
ascertaining that the party was from Leesburg,
Virginia; that David, the colored man,
was about twenty-seven years of age,
intelligent, and was owned, or claimed by
Joshua Pusey. David had no taste for
Slavery, indeed, felt that it would be
impossible for him to adapt himself to a life of
servitude for the special benefit of others; he
had, already, as he thought, been dealt with
very wrongfully by Pusey, who had
deprived him of many years of the best part of
his life, and would continue thus wrong him, if
he did not make a resolute effort to get away.
So after thinking of various plans, he
determined not to run off as a slave with his
"budget on his back," but to "travel as a
coachman," under the "protection of a white
lady." In planning this pleasant scheme,
David was not blind to the fact that
neither himself nor the "white lady," with whom
he proposed to travel, possessed either horse or
master happened to have a vehicle that would
answer for the occasion. David
reasoned that as Joshua, his so called
master, had deprived him of his just dues for so
many years, he had a right to borrow, or take
without borrowing, one of Joshua's horses
for the expedition. The plan was submitted
to the lady, and was approved, and a mutual
understanding here entered into, that she should
hire a carriage, and take also her little girl
with them. The lady was to assume the
proprietorship of the horse, carriage and
coachman. In so doing all dangers would
be, in their judgment, averted. The scheme
being all ready for execution, the time for
departure was fixed, the carriage hired,
David having secured his master Joshua's
horse, and off they started in the direction of
Pennsylvania. White people being so
accustomed to riding, and colored people to
driving, the party looked all
|right. No one suspected
them, that they were aware of, while passing
On reaching Chambersburg, Pa., in the evening, they
drove to a hotel, the lady alighted, holding by
the hand her well dressed and nice-looking
little daughter, bearing herself with as
independent an air as if she had owned twenty
such boys as accompanied her as coachman.
She did not hesitate to enter and request
accommodations for the night, for herself,
daughter, coachman, and horse. Being
politely told that they could be accommodated,
all that was necessary was, that the lady should
show off to the best advantage possible.
The same duty also rested with weight upon the
mind of David.
The night passed safely and the morning was ushered
in the bright hopes which were overcast but only
for a moment, however. Breakfast having
been ordered and partaken of, to the lady's
surprise, just as she was in the act of paying
the bill, the proprietor of the hotel intimated
that he thought that matters "looked a little
suspicious," in other words, he said plainly,
that he "believed that it was an Underground
Rail Road movement;" but being n obliging
hotel-keeper, he assured her at the same time,
that he "would not betray them." Just here
it was with them as it would have been on any
other rail road when things threaten to come to
a stand; they could do nothing more than make
their way of the peril as best they could.
One thing they decided to do immediately,
namely, to "leave the horse and carriage," and
try other modes of travel. They concluded
to take the regular passenger cars. In
this way they reached Philadelphia. In
Harrisburg, they had sought and received
instructions how to find the Committee in
What relations had previously existed between David
and this lady in Virginia, the Committee knew
not. It looked more like the time spoken
of in Isaiah, where it is said, "And a little
child shall lead them," than any thing that had
ever been previously witnessed on the
Underground Rail Road. The Underground
Rail Road never practised the proscription
governing other roads, on account of race,
color, or previous condition. All were
welcome to its immunities, white or colored,
when the object to be gained favored freedom, or
weakened slavery. As the sole aim apparent
in this case was freedom for the slave the
Committee received these travellers as
Underground Rail Road passengers.
Arrival No. 3. Charles H. Ringold, Robert
Smith, and John Henry Richards, all
from Baltimore. They ages ranged from
twenty to twenty-four years. They were in
appearance of the class most inviting to men who
were in the business of buying and selling
slave. Charles and John were
owned by James Hodges, and Robert
by Wm. H. Normis living in Baltimore.
This is all that the records contain of them.
The exciting and hurrying time when they were in
charge of the Committee probably forbade the
writing out of a more detailed account of them,
as was often the case.
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