Welcome to
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.



pp. 399 - 449

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     FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD. - Ran away from the owner in Alexandria, Va., on the night of the 13th inst. two young negro men, from twenty-twenty-five years of age.  MONTGOMERY is a very bright mulatto, about five feet, six inches in height, of polite manners, and smiles much when speaking or spoken to.  OSCAR is a tawny complexion, about six feet high, sluggish in his appearance and movements, and of awkward manners.
     One hundred dollars each will be paid for the delivery of the above slaves if taken in a slave state, or two hundred dollars each if taken in a free state.  One or more slaves belonging to other owners, it is supposed, went into their company.
                                                                             Address:  JOHN T. GORDON
                                                                                  Alexandria, Va.
     Although the name of John T. Gordon appears signed to the above advertisement, he was not the owner of Montgomery or Oscar.  According to their own testimony they belonged to a maiden lady, by the name of Miss Elizabeth Gordon, both probably thought that the business of advertising for runaway negroes was rather beneath her.
     While both these passengers manifested great satisfaction in leaving their mistress they did not give her a bad name.  On the contrary they gave her just such a character as the lady might have been pleased with in the main.  They described her thus: "Mistress was a spare woman, tolerably tall, and very kind, except when sick, she would not pay much attention then.  She was a member of the Southern Methodist Church, and was strict in her religion."
     Having a good degree of faith in his mistress, Oscar made bold one day to ask her how much she would take for him.  She agreed to take eight hundred dollars.  Oscar wishing to drive a pretty close bargain offered her seven hundred dollars, hoping that she would view the matter in a religious light, and would come down one hundred dollars.  After reflection instead of making a reduction, she raised the amount to one thousand dollars, which Oscar concluded was too much for himself.  If was not, however, as much as he was worth according to his mistress' estimate, for she declared that she had often been offered fifteen hundred dollars for him.  Miss Gordon raised Oscar from a child and had treated him as a pet.  When he was a little "shaver" seven or eight years of age, she made it a practice to have him sleep with her, showing that she had no prejudice.
     Being rather of a rare type of slave-holders she is entitled to special credit.  Montgomery the companion of Oscar could scarcely be distinguished from the white folks.  In speaking of his mistress, however, he did not express himself in terms quite so complimentary as Oscar.  With regard to giving "passes," he considered her narrow, to say the least.  But he was in such perfectly good humor with everybody, owing to the fact that he had succeeded in getting his neck out of the yoke, that he evidently had no desire to say hard things about her.
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     Judging from his story he had been for a long time desiring his freedom and looking diligently for the Underground Rail Road, but he had had many things to contend with when looking the matter of escape in the face.  Arriving in Philadelphia, and finding himself breathing free air, receiving aid and encouragement in a manner that he had never known before, he was one of the happiest of creatures.
     Oscar left his wife and one child, one brother and two sisters.  Montgomery left one sister, but no other near kin.
     Instead of going to Canada, Oscar and his comrade pitched their tents in Oswego, N. Y., where they changed their names, and instead of returning themselves to their kind mistress they were wicked enough to be plotting as to how some of their friends might get off on the Underground Rail Road, as may be seen from the appended letters from Oscar, who was thought to be sluggish, etc.

                                                                             OSWEGO, Oct. 25th, 1857.
     DEAR SIR: - I take this opportunity of writing you these few lines to inform you that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same ( and your family you must excuse me for not writing to you before.  I would have written to you before this but I put away the card you gave me and could not find it until a few days sins.  I did not go out of employ about five weeks I would like to go to Australia.  Do you know of any gentleman that is going there or any other place, except south that wants a servant to go there with him to wait on him or do any other work, I have a brother that wants to come north.  I received a letter from him a few days ago.  Can you tell me of any plan that I can fix to get him give my respects to Mrs. Still and all you family.  Please let me know if you hear of any berth of that kind.  Nothing more at present I remain your obedient servant.
     But my name is now John Delaney.  Direct your letter to John Delaney Oswego, N. Y. care of R. Oliphant.

                                                                                  OSWEGO, Nov. 21st, 1857.
     MR. WILLIAM STILL, ESQ.  DEAR SIR: - Your letter of the 19th came duly to hand I am glad to hear that the Underground Rail Road is doing so well I know those three well that you said come from alex I broke the ice and it seems as if they are going to keep the track open.  but I had to stand and beg of those two that started with me to come and even give one of them money and then he did not want to come.  I had a letter from my brother a few days ago, and he says if he lives and nothing happens to him he will make a start for the north and there is many others there that would start now but they are afraid of getting frost bitten, there was two left alex about five or six weeks ago.  ther names are as follows Lawrence Thornton and Townsend Derrit.  have been to philadelphia from what I can learn they will leave alex in mourning next spring in the last letter I got from my brother he named a good many that wanted to come when he did and the are all sound men and can be trusted.  he reads and writes his own letters.  William Triplet and Thomas Harper passed through hear last summer from my old home which way did those three that you spoke of go times are very dull here at present and I can get nothing to do.  but thank God have a good boarding house and will be sheltered from the weather this winter give my respects to your family Montgomery sends his also  Nothing more at present.        
                                  Yours truly                                 JOHN DELANEY.


N. W. DEPEE                                                                JACOB C. WHITE

CHARLES WISE                                                        EDWIN H. COATES


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     CAROLINE was a stout, light-complexioned, healthy-looking young woman of twenty-three years of age.  She fled from Thornton Poole, of Unionville, Md.  She gave her master the character of being a "very man man; with a wife meaner still."  "I consider them mean in every respect," said Caroline.  No great while before she escaped, one of her brothers and a siter had been sent to the Southern market.  Recently she had been apprized that herself and a younger brother would have to go the name dreadful road.  She therefore consulted with the brother and a particular young friend, to whom she was "engaged," which resulted in the departure of all three of them.  Though the ordinary steps relative to marriage, as far as slaves were allowed, had been complied with, nevertheless on the road to Canada, they availed themselves of the more perfect way of having the ceremony performed, and went on their way rejoicing.
     Since the sale of  Caroline's brother and sister, just referred to her mother and three children had made good theier exit to Canada, having been evidently prompted by said sale.  "Long before that time, however, three other brothers fled on teh Underground Rail Road.  They were encouraged to hope to meet each other in Canada,

     JOHN WOOD.  John was about twenty-eight years of age, of agreeable manners, intelligent and gave evidence of a srong appreciation of liberty.  Times with John had "not been very rough," until within the last year of his bondage.  By the removal of his old master by death, a change for the worse followed.  The executors of the estate - one of whom owed him an old grudge - made him acquainted with the fact, that amongst certain others, he would have to be sold.  Judge Birch (one of the executors), "itching" to see him "broke in," "took particular pains" to speak to a notorious tyrant by the name of Boldin, to buy him.  Accordingly on the day of sale, Boldin was on hand and the successful bidder for John.  Being familiar with the customs of this terrible Boldin, - of the starving fare and cruel flogging usual on his farm, John mustered courage to declare at the sale, that he  "would not serve him."  In the hearing of his new master, he said, "before I will serve him I will CUT my throat!"   The master smiled, and simply asked for a rope; "had me tied and delivered into the hands of a constable," to be sent over to the farm.  Before reaching his destination, John managed to untie his hands and feet and flee to the woods.  For three days he remained secreted.  Once or twice he secretly managed to get an interview with his mother and one of his sisters, by whom he was persuaded to return to his master.  Taking their advice, he commenced service under circumstances, compared with which, the diet, labor and comforts of an

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ordinary penitentiary would have been luxurious.  The chief food allowed the slaves on the plantation consisted of the pot liquor in which the pork was boiled, with Indian-meal bread.  The merest glance at what he experienced during his brief stay on the plantation must suffice.  In the field where John, with a number of others was working, stood a hill, up which they were repeatedly obliged to ascend, with loads on their backs, and the overseer at their heels, with lash in hand, occasionally slashing at first one and then another; to keep up, the utmost physical endurance was taxed.  John, though a stout young man, and having never known any other condition than that of servitude, nevertheless found himself quite unequal to the present occasion.  "I was surprised," said he, "to see the expertness with which all flew up the hill."  "One woman, quite LUSTY, unfit to be out of the house, on RUNNING UP THE HILL, fell; in a moment she was up again with her brush on her back, and on hour afterwards the overseer was whipping her" "MY turn came."  "What is the reason you can't get up the hill faster?"  exclaimed the overseer, at the same time he struck me with a cowhide.  "I told him I would not stand it."  "Old Uncle George Washington never failed to get a whipping every day."
     So after serving at this only a few days, John made his last solemn vow to be free or die; and off he started for Canada.  Though he had to contend with countless difficulties he at last made the desired haven.  He hailed from one of the lower counties of Maryland..
     JOHN was not contented to enjoy the boon alone, but like a true lover of freedom he remembered those in bonds as bound with them, and so was scheming to make a hazardous "adventure" South, on the express errand of delivering his "family," as the subjoined letter will show:

GLANFORD, August 15th, 1858.

     DEAR SIR: - I received your letter and was glad to hear that your wife and family was all well and I hope it will continue so.  I am glad to inform you that this leaves me well.  Also, Mr. Wm. Still, I want for you to send me your opinion repsecting my circustances.  I have made up

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and drunk.  He shot at me.  He never went away but what he would come home drunk, and if any body made him angry out from home, he would come home and take his spite out of his people."
     He owned three grown men, two women and six children.  Thus hating Slavery heartily, George was enthusiastically in favor of Canada.




     ELIZA JANE was a tall, dark, young woman, about twenty-three years of age, and had been held to service by a widow woman, named Sally Spiser, who was "anything but a good woman."  The place of her habitation was in Delaware, between Concord and Georgetown.
     Eliza Jane's excuse for leaving was this:  She charged her mistress with trying to work her to death, and with unkind treatment generally.  When times became so hard that she could not stand her old mistress "Sally" any longer, she "took out."

     HARRIET did not come in company with Eliza Jane, but by accident they met at the station in Philadelphia.  Harriet and daughter came from Washington, D. C.
     Harriet had treasured up a heavy account against a white man known by the name of William A. Linton, whom she described as a large, red-faced man, who had in former years largely invested in slave property, but latterly he had been in the habit of selling off, until only seven remained, and among them she and her child were numbered; therefore, she regarded him as one who had robbed her of her rights, and daily threatened her with sale.
     Harriet was a very likely-looking woman, twenty-nine years of age, medium size, and of a brown color, and far from being a stupid person.  Her daughter also was a smart, and interesting little girl of eight years of age, and seemed much pleased to be getting out of the reach of slave-holders.  The mother and daughter, however, had not won their freedom thus far, without great suffering, from the long and fatiguing distance which they were obliged to walk.  Sometimes the hardness of the road made them feel as though they would be compelled to give up the journey, whether or not; but they added to their faith, patience, and thus finally succeeded.
     Heavy rewards were offered through advertisements in the Baltimore Sun, but they availed naught.  The Vigilance Committee received them safely, fully cared for them, and safely sent them through to the land of refuge.  Harriet's daring undertaking obliged her to leave her husband,

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John Stewart, behind; also one sister, a slave in Georgetown.  One brother had been sold South.  Her mother she had laid away in a slave's grave; but her father she hoped to find in Canada, he having escaped thither when she was a small girl; at least it was supposed that he had gone there.




$500 REWARD. - Ran away on Saturday night, September 5th, Bill Cole aged about 37 years, of copper complexion, stout built, ordinary height, walks very erect, earnest but squint look when spoken to.
     Also, Hanson, copper complexion, well made, sickly look, medium height, stoops when walking, quick when spoken to; aged about 30 years.
     Three hundred dollars will be paid for the apprehension and deliver of Bill if caught out of State, and two hundred if in the State.  Two hundred dollars for Hanson if out of State, and one hundred dollars if in the State.
              W. BAKER DORSET,

Savage P. O., Howard county, Md.

     Such notoriety as was given them by the above advertisement, did not in the least damage Bill and Hanson in the estimation of the Committee.  It was rather pleasing to know that they were of so much account as to call forth such a public expression from the Messrs. Sorsey.  Besides it saved the Committee the necessity of writing out a description of them, the only fault found with the advertisement being in reference to their ages.  Bill, for instance, was put down ten years younger than he claimed to be.  Which was correct, Bill or his master?  The Committee were inclined to believe Bill in preference to his master, for the simple reason that he seemed to account satisfactorily for his master's making him so young; he (the master) could sell him for much more than thirty-seven than at forty-seven.  Unscrupulous horse-jockies and traders in their fellow-men were about on a par as to that kind of sharp practice.

     HANSON, instead of being only thirty, declared that he was thirty-seven the fifteenth of February.  These errors are noticed and corrected because it is barely possible that Bill and Hanson may still be lost to their relatives, who may be inquiring and hunting in every direction for them, and as many others may turn to these records with hope, it is, therefore, doubly important that these descriptions shall be as far as possible, correct, especially as regards ages.
     HANSON, instead of being only thirty, declared that he was thirty-seven the fifteenth of February.  These errors are noticed and corrected because it is barely possible that Bill and Hanson may still be lost to their relatives, who may be inquiring and hunting in every direction for them, and as many others may turn to these records with hope, it is, therefore, doubly important that these descriptions shall be as far as possible, correct especially as regards ages.
     HANSON laughed heartily over the idea that he looked "sickly."   While on the Underground Rail Road, he looked very far from sickly; on the contrary, a more healthy, fat and stout-looking piece of property no one

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need wish to behold, than was this same Hanson.  He confessed, however, that for some time previous to his departure, he had feigned sickness, - told his master that he was "sick all over."  "Ten times a day Hanson said they would ask him how he was, but was not willing to make his task much lighter."  The following description was given of his master, and his reason for leaving him:
     "My master was a red-faced farmer, severe temper, would curse, and swear, and drink, and sell his slaves whenever he felt like it.  My mistress was a pretty cross, curious kind of woman too, though she was a member of the Protestant Church.  They were rich, and had big farms and a good many slaves.  They didn't allow me any provisions hardly; I had a wife, but they did not allow me to go see her, only once in a great while."

     BILL providentially escaped from a well-known cripple, whom he undertook to describe as a "very sneaking-looking man, medium size, smooth face; a wealthy farmer, who owned eighteen or twenty head of slaves, and was Judge of the Orphans' Court."  "He sells slaves occasionally."  "My mistress was a very large, rough, Irish-looking woman, with a very bad disposition; it appeared like as if she hated to see a 'nigger,' and she was always wanting her husband to have some one whipped, and she was a member of the Methodist Church.  My master was a trustee in the Episcopal Church."
     In consequence of the tribulation Bill had experienced under his Christian master and mistress, he had been led to disbelieve in the Protestant faith altogether, and declared that he felt persuaded that it was all a "pretense," and added that he "never went to Church; no place was provided in the church for 'niggers' except a little pen for the coachmen and waiters."
     BILL had been honored with the post of "head man on the place," but of this office he was not proud.




$100 REWARD. - Ran away from the subscriber on Saturday night, Negro Man JIM BELLEJim is about  26 years of age; has a down look; speaks slow when spoken to; he has large, thick lips, and a mustache.  He was formerly owned by Edward Stansbury, late of Baltimore county, and purchased by Edward Worthington, near Reisterstown, in Baltimore county, at the late Stansburys sale, who sold him to B. M. and W. L. Campbell, of Baltimore city, of whom I purchased Jim on the 13th of June last.  His wife lives with her mother, Ann Robertson, in Corn Alley, between Lee and Hill streets, Baltimore city, where he has other relations, and where he is making his way.  I will give the above reward, no matter where taken, so he is brought home or secured in jail so I get him again.
              ZACHARIAH BERRY, of W.,
near Upper Marlboro', Prince George's county, Md.

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     Mr. Zachariah Berry, who manifested so much interest in Jim, may be until this hour in ignorance of the cause of his running off without asking leave, etc.  Jim stated, that he was once sold and flogged unmercifully simply for calling his master "Mr.," instead of master, and he alleged that this was the secret of his eyes being opened and his mind nerved to take advantage of the Underground Rail Road.
     While it may not now do Zachariah Berry much good to learn this secret, it may, nevertheless, be of some interest to those who were of near kin to Jim to glean even so small of ray of light.




     PASCAL fled from Virginia, and accused Bannon and Brady of doing violence to his liberty.  He had, however, been in their clutches only a short while before escaping, but that short while seemed almost an age, as he was treated so meanly by them compared with the treatment which he had experienced under his former master.
     According to Pascal's story, which was evidently true, his previous master was his own father (John Quantence), who had always acknowledged Pascal as his child, whom he did not scruple to tell people he should set free; that he did not intend that he should serve anybody else.  But, while out riding one day, he was thrown from his horse and instantly killed.  Naturally enough, no will being found, his effects were all administered upon and Pascal was sold with the farm.  Bannon and Brady were the purchasers, at least of Pascal.  In their power, immediately the time of trouble began with Pascal, and so continued until he could no longer endure it.  "Hoggishness,"  according to Pascal's phraseology, was the most predominant trait in the character of his new masters.  In his mournful situation and grief he looked toward Canada and started with courage and hope, and thus succeeded.  Such deliverances always afforded very great joy to the Committee.


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     These passengers journeyed together from the land of whips and chains.
     SAM BENTON was about twenty-six years of age, medium size, pretty dark color, and possessed a fair share of intelligence.  He understood very well how sadly Slavery had wronged him by keeping him in ignorance and poverty.
     He stated as the cause of his flight that William Campbell had oppressed him and kept him closely at hard labor without paying him, and at the same time "did not give him half enough to eat, and no clothing."

     JOHN ALEXANDER was about forty-four years of age, a man of ordinary size, quite black, and a good specimen of a regular corn-field hand.
     "Why did you leave, John?"  said a member of the Committee.  He coolly replied that "Handy (his master was named George Handy) got hold of me twice, and I promised my Lord that he should never get hold of me another time."
     Of course it was the severity of these two visitations that made John a thinker and an actor at the same time.  The evil practices of the master produced the fruits of liberty in John's breast.

     JAMES HENRY, the third passenger, was about thirty-two years of age, and quite a spirited-looking "article."  A few months before he fled he had been sold, at which time his age was given as "only twenty."  He had suffered considerably from various abuses; the hope of Canada however tended to make him joyful.
     The system of oppression from which these travelers fled had afforded them no privileges in the way of learning to read.  All that they had ever known of civilization was what they perchance picked up in the ordinary routine of the field.
     Notice of the fourth passenger unfortunately is missing.




     ELIZABETH fled in company with her brother the winter previous to her arrival at the Philadelphia station.  Although she reached free land the severe struggle cost her the loss of all her toes.  Four days and nights out in the bitter cold weather without the chance of a fire left them a prey to

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the frost, which made sad havoc with their feet especially - particularly Elizabeth's.  She was obliged to stop on the way, and for seven months she was unable to walk.
     ELIZABETH was about twenty years of age, chestnut color, and of considerable natural intellect.  Although she suffered so severely as the result of her resolution to throw off the yoke, she had no regrets at leaving the prison-house; she seemed to appreciate freedom all the more in consequence of what it cost her to obtain the prize.
     In speaking of the life she had lived, she stated that her mistress was "good enough," but her "master was a very bad man."  His name was Samuel Ward; he lived in Baltimore county, near Wrightstown.  Elizabeth left her mother, four brothers and one sister under the yoke.



     MARY arrived from Delaware, Moses from Norfolk, Virginia, and happened to meet at the station in Philadelphia.
     MARY was twenty years of age, of a chestnut color, usual size, and well disposed.  She fled from Nathank Herne, an alderman.   Mary did not find fault with the alderman, but she could not possibly get along with his wife; this was the sole cause of her escape.
     MOSES was twenty-four years of age, of a chestnut color, a bright-looking young man.  He fled from NOrfolk, Virginia, having ben owned by the estate of John Halters.  Nothing but the prevailing love of liberty in the breast of Moses moved him to seek his freedom  He did not make one complaint of bad treatment.




     JOHN escaped from near Washington.  He stated that he was owned by an engraver, known by the name of William Stone, and added that himself and seven others were kept working on the farm of said Stone for nothing.  John did not, however, complain of having a hard master in this hard-named personage, (Stone); for, as a slave, he confessed that he had seen good times.  Yet he was not satisfied; he felt that he had a right to his freedom, and that he could not possibly be contented while deprived of it, for this reason, therefore, he dissolved his relationship with his kind master.

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     John was about twenty-seven years of age, tall and slender, of dark complexion, but bright intellectually.  With Lawrence times had been pretty rough.  Dr. Isaac Winslow of Alexandria was accused of defrauding Lawrence of his hire.  "He was anything else but a gentleman," said Lawrence.  "He was not a fair man no way, and his wife was worse than he was, and she had a daughter worse than herself."
     "Last Sunday a week my master collared me, for my insolence he said, and told me that he would sell me right off.  I then untied myself, broke out of prison, and made for the Underground Rail Road immediately."
     Lawrence gave a most interesting account of his life of bondage, and of the doctor and his family.  He was overjoyed at the manner in which he had defeated the doctor, and so was the Committee.




      As usual degree of pleasure was felt in welcoming this party of young men, not because they were any better than others, or because they had suffered more, but simply because they were found to possess certain knowledge and experience of slave life, as it existed under the government of the Chivalry; such information could not always be obtained from those whose lot had been cast among ordinary slave-holders.  Consequently the Committee interviewed them closely, and in point of intellect found them to be above the average run of slaves.  As they were then entered in the record, so in like manner are the notes made of them transferred to these pages.
     Jim was about nineteen years of age, well grown, black, and of prepossessing appearance.  The organ of hope seemed very strong in him.  Jim had been numbered with the live stock of the late Hon. L. McLain, who had been called to give an account of his stewardship about two months before Jim and his companions "took out" before Jim and his companions "took out."
     As to general usage, he made no particular charge against his distinguished master; he had, however, not seen living under his immediate patriarchal government, but had been hired out to a farmer by the name of James Dodson, with whom he experienced life "sometimes hard and some-

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times smooth," to use his own words.  The reason of his leaguing with his fellow-servants to abandon the old prison house, was traceable to the rumor, and that he an some others were to appear on the stage, or rather the auction-block, in Baltimore, the coming Spring.

     TOM, another member of the McLANE








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