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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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     IN the long list of names who have suffered and died in the cause of freedom, not one, perhaps, could be found whose efforts to redeem a poor family of slaves were more Christlike than Seth Concklin's, whose noble and daring spirit has been so long completely shrouded in mystery.  Except John Brown, it is a question, whether his rival could be found with respect to boldness, disinterestedness and willingness to be sacrificed for the deliverance of the oppressed.
     By chance one day he came across a copy of the Pennsylvania Freeman, containing the story of Peter Still, "the Kidnapped and the Ransomed," -  how he had been torn away from his mother, when a little boy six years old; how, for forty years and more, he had been compelled to serve under the yoke, totally destitute as to any knowledge of his parents' whereabouts; how the intense love of liberty and desire to get back to his mother hand unceasingly absorbed his mind through all these years of bondage; how, amid the most appalling discouragements, prompted alone by his undying determination to be free and be reunited with those from whom he had been sold away, he contrived to buy himself; how, by extreme economy, from doing over-work, he saved up five hundred dollars, the amount of money required for his ransom, which, with his freedom, he, from necessity, placed unreservedly in the confidential keeping of a Jew, named Joseph Friedman, whom he had known for a long time and could venture to trust, - how he had further toiled to save up money to defray his expenses on an expedition in search of his mother and kindred; how, when this end was accomplished, with an earnest purpose he took his carpet-bag in his hand, and his heart throbbing for his old home and people, he turned his mind very privately towards Philadelphia, where he hoped, by having notices read in the colored churches to the effect that "forty-one or forty-two years before two little boys.*
* Sons of Levin and Sidney - the last names of his parents he was too young to remember.

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were kidnapped and carried South" - that the memory of some of the older members might recall the circumstances, and in this way he would be aided in his ardent efforts to become restored to them.
     And, furthermore, Seth Concklin had read now, on arriving in Philadelphia, after traveling sixteen hundred miles, that almost the firt man whom Peter Still sought advice from was his own unknown brother (whom he had never seen or heard of), who made the discovery that he was the long-lost boy, whose history and fate had been enveloped in sadness so long and for whom his mother had shed been enveloped in sadness so long, and for whom his mother had shed so many tears and offered so many prayers, during the long years of their separation; and, finally, how this self-ransomed and restored captive, notwithstanding his great success, was destined to suffer the keenest pangs of sorrow for his wife and children, whom he had left in Alabama bondage.
     Seth Concklin was naturally too singularly sympathetic and humane not to feel now for Peter, and especially for his wife and children left in bonds as bound with them.  Hence, as Seth was a man who seemed wholly insensible to fear, and to know no other law of humanity and right, than whenever the claims of the suffering and the wronged appealed to him, to respond unreservedly, whether those thus injured were amongst his nearest kin or the greatest strangers, - it mattered not to what race or clime they might belong, - he, in the spirit of the good Samaritan, owning all such as his neighbors, volunteered his services, without pay or reward, to go and rescue the wife and three children of Peter Still.
     The magnitude of this offer can hardly be appreciated.  It was literally laving his life on the alter of freedom for the despised and oppressed whom he had never seen, whose kins-folk even he was not acquainted with.  At this juncture even Peter was not prepared to accept this proposal.  He wanted to secure the freedom of his wife and children as earnestly as he had ever desired to see his mother, yet he could not, at first, hearken to the idea of having them rescued in the way suggested by Concklin, fearing a failure.
     To J. M. McKim and the writer, the bold scheme for the deliverance of Peter's family was alone confided.  It was never submitted to the Vigilance Committee, for the reason, that it was not considered a matter belonging thereto.  On first reflection, the very idea of such an undertaking seemed perfectly appalling.  Frankly was he told of the great dangers and difficulties to be encountered through hundreds of miles of slave territory.  Seth was told of those who, in attempting to aid slaves to escape, had fallen victims to the relentless Slave Power, and had either lost their lives, or been incarcerated for long years in penitentiaries, where no friendly aid could be afforded them; in short, he was plainly told, that without a very great chance, the undertaking would cost him his life.  The occasion of this interview and conversation, the seriousness of Concklin and the utter failure in presenting the various obstacles to his plan, to create the slightest apparent misgiving in his mind, or to produce the slightest sense of fear or

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hesitancy, can never be effaced from the memory of the writer.  The plan was, however, allowed to rest for a time.
     In the meanwhile, Peter's mind was continually vacillating between Alabama, with his wife and children, and his new-found relatives in the North.  Said a brother, "If you cannot get your family, what will you do?  Will you come North and live with your relatives?"  "I would as soon go out of the world, as not to go back and do all I can for them," was the prompt reply of Peter.
     The problem of buying them was seriously considered, but here obstacles quite formidable lay in the way.  Alabama laws utterly denied the right of a slave to buy himself, much less his wife and children.  The right of slave masters to free their slaves, either by sale or emancipation, was positively prohibited by law.  With these reflections weighing upon his mind, having stayed away from his wife as long as he could content himself to do, he took his carpet-bag in his hand, and turned his face toward Alabama, to embrace his family in the prison-house of bondage.
     His approach home could only be made stealthily, not daring to breathe to a living soul, save his own family, his nominal Jew master, and one other friend - a slave - where he had been, the prize he had found, on anything in relation to his travels.  To his wife and children his return was unspeakably joyous.  The situation of his family concerned him with tenfold more weight than ever before.
     As the time drew near to make the offer to his wife's master to purchase her with his children, his heart failed him through fear of awakening the ire of slaveholders against him, as he knew that the law and public sentiment were alike deadly opposed to the spirit of freedom in the slave.  Indeed, as innocent as a step in this direction might appear, in those days a man would have stood about as good a chance for his life in entering a lair of hungry hyenas, as a slave or free colored man would, in talking about freedom.
     He concluded, therefore, to say nothing about buying.  The plan proposed by Seth Concklin was told to Vina, his wife; also what he had heard from his brother about the Underground Rail Road, - how, that many who could not get their freedom in any other way, by being aided a little, were daily escaping to Canada.  Although the wife and children had never tasted the pleasures of freedom for a single hour in their lives, they hated slavery heartily, and being about to be far separated from husband and father, they were ready to assent to any proposition that looked like deliverance.
     So Peter proposed to Vina, that she should give him certain small articles, consisting of a cape, etc., which he would carry with him as memorials, and, in case Concklin or any one else should ever come for her from him, as an unmistakable sign that all was right, he would send back, by

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whoever was to befriend them, the cape, so that she had the children might not doubt but have faith in the man, when he gave her the sign, (cape).
     Again Peter returned to Philadelphia, and was now willing to accept the offer of Concklin.  Ere long, the opportunity of an interview was had, and Peter gave Seth a very full description of the country and of his family and made known to him, that he had very carefully gone over with his wife and children the matter of their freedom.  This interview interested Concklin most deeply.  If his own wife and children had been in bondage, scarcely could he have manifested greater sympathy for them.
     For the hazardous work before him he was at once prepared to make a start.  True he had two sisters in Philadelphia for whom he had always cherished the warmest affection, but he conferred  not with them on this momentous mission.  For full well did he know that it was not in human nature for them to acquiesce in this perilous undertaking, though one of these sisters, Mrs. Supplee, was a most faithful abolitionist.
     Having once laid his hand to the plough he was not the man to look back, - not even to bid his sisters good-bye, but he actually left them as though he expected to be home to his dinner as usual.  What had become of him during those many weeks of his perilous labors in Alabama to rescue this family was to none a greater mystery than to his sisters.  On leaving home he simply took two or three small articles in the way of apparel with one hundred dollars to defray his expenses for a time; this sum he considered ample to start with.  One course he had very safely concerned about him Vina's cape and one or two other articles which he was to use for his identification in meeting her and the children on the plantation.
     He first thought was, on reaching his destination, after becoming acquainted with the family, being familiar with Southern manners, to have them all prepared at a given hour for the starting of the steamboat for Cincinnati, and to join him at the wharf, when he would boldly assume the part of a slaveholder, and the family naturally that of slaves, and in this way he hoped to reach Cincinnati direct, before their owner had fairly discovered their escape.
     But alas for Southern irregularity, two or three days delay after being advertised to start, was no uncommon circumstance with steamers; hence this plan was abandoned.  What this heroic man endured from severe struggles and unyielding exertions, in traveling thousands of miles on water and on foot, hungry and fatigued, rowing his living freight for seven days and seven nights in a skiff, is hardly to be paralleled in the annals of the Underground Rail Road.
     The following interesting letters penned by the hand of Concklin convey minutely his last struggles and characteristically represent the singleness of heart which impelled him to sacrifice his life for the slave -

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     TO WM. STILL: - Our friends in Cincinnati have failed finding anybody to assist me on my return.  Searching the country opposite Paducah, I find that the whole country fifty miles round is inhabited only by Christian wolves.  It is customary, when a strange negro is seen, for any white man to seize the negro and convey such negro through and out of the State of Illinois to Paducah, Ky., and lodge such stranger in Paducah jail, and there claim such reward as may be offered by the master.
     There is no regularity by the steamboats on the Tennessee River.  I was four days getting to Florence to Paducah.  Sometimes they are four days starting, from the time appointed, which alone puts to rest the plan for returning by steamboat.  The distance from the mouth of the river to Florence, is from between three hundred and five to three hundred and forty-five miles by the river; by land, two hundred and fifty, or more.
     I arrived at the shoe-shop on the plantation, one o'clock, Tuesday, 28th.  William and two boys were making shoes.  I immediately gave the first signal, anxiously waiting thirty minutes for an opportunity to give the second and main signal, during which time I was very sociable.  It was rainy and muddy - my pants were rolled up to the knees.  I was in the character of a man seeking employment in this country.  End of thirty minutes gave the second signal.
     William appeared unmoved; soon sent out the boys; instantly sociable; Peter and Levin at the Island; one of the young masters with them; not safe to undertake to see them till Saturday night, when they would be at home; appointed a place to see Vina, in an open field, that night; they to bring me something to eat; our interview only four minutes; I left; appeared by night; dark and cloudy; at ten o'clock appeared William; exchanged signals; led me a few rods to where stood Vina; gave her the signal sent by Peter; our interview ten minutes; she did not call me "master," nor did she say "sir," by which I knew she had confidence in me.
     Our situation being dangerous, we decided that I meet Peter and Levin on the bank of the river early dawn of day, Sunday, to establish the laws.  During our interview, William prostrated on his knees, and face to the ground; arms sprawling; head cocked back, watching for wolves, by which position a man can see better in the dark.  No house to go to safely, traveled round till morning, eating hoe cake which William had given me for supper; next day going around to get employment.  I thought of William who is a Christian preacher, and of the Christian preachers in Pennsylvania.  One watching for wolves by night, to rescue Vina and her three children from Christian licentiousness; the other standing erect in open day, seeking the praise of men.
     During the four days waiting for the important Sunday morning, I thoroughly surveyed the rocks and shoals of the river from Florence seven miles up, where will be my place of departure.  General notice was taken of me as being a stranger, lurking around.  Fortunately there are several small grist mills within ten miles around.  No taverns here, as in the North; any planter's house entertains travelers occasionally.
     One night I stayed at a medical gentleman's, who is not a large planter; another night at the ex-magistrate's house in South Florence - a Virginian by birth - one of the late census takers; told me that many more persons cannot read and write than is reported; one fact, amongst many others, that many persons who do not know the letters of the alphabet, have learned to write their own names; such are generally reported readers and writers.
     In being customary for a stranger not to leave the house early in the morning where he has lodged.  I was under the necessity of staying out all night Saturday, to be able to meet Peter and Levin, which was accomplished in due time.  When we approached, I gave my signal first; immediately they gave theirs.  I talked freely.  Levin's voice, at first, evidently trembled.  No wonder, for my presence universally attracted attention by the lords

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of the land.  Our interview was less than one hour; the laws were written.  I to go to Cincinnati to get a rowing boat and provisions; a first class clipper boat to go with speed.  To depart from the place where the laws were written, on Saturday night of the first of March.   I to meet one of them at the same place Thursday night, previous to the fourth Saturday from the night previous to the Sunday when the laws were written.  We go to down the Tennessee river to some place up the Ohio, not yet decided on, in our row boat.  Peter and Levin are good oarsmen.  So am I.  Telegraphy station at Tuscombia, twelve miles from the plantation, also at Paducah.
     Came from Florence to here Sunday night by steamboat.  Eastport is in Mississippi.  Waiting here for a steamboat to go down; paying one dollar a day for board.  Like other taverns here, the wretchedness is indescribable; no pen, ink, paper or newspaper to be had; only one room for everybody, except the gambling rooms.  It is difficult for me to write.  Vina intends to get a pass for Catharine and herself for the first Sunday in March.
     The bank of the river where I met Peter and Levin is two miles from the plantation.  I have avoided saying I am from Philadelphia.  Also avoided talking about negroes.  I never talked so much about milling before.  I consider most of the trouble over, till I arrive in a free State with my crew, the first week in March; then will I have to be wiser than Christian serpents, and more cautious than doves.  I do not consider it safe to keep business in these post-offices that notice might be taken.
     I am evidently watched; everybody knows me to be a miller.  I may wright again, when I get to Cincinnati.  If I should have time.  The ex-magistrate, with whom I stayed in South Florence, held three hours' talk with me, exclusive on our morning talk.  Is a man of good general information; he was exceedingly inquisitive.  "I am from Cincinnati, formerly from the State of New York."  I had no opportunity to get anything to eat from seven o'clock Tuesday morning till six o'clock Wednesday evening, except the hoe cake, and no sleep.
     Florence is the head of navigation for small steamboats.  Seven miles, all the way up to my place of departure, is swift water, and rocky.  Eight hundred miles to Cincinnati.  I found all things here as Peter told me, except the distance of the river.  South Florence contains twenty white families, three warehouses of considerable business, a post-office, but no school.  McKiernon is here waiting for a steamboat to go to New Orleans, so we are in company.


     To WM. STILL: - The plan is to go to Canada, on the Wabash, opposite Detroit.  There are four routes to Canada.  One through Illinois, commencing above and below Alton; one through the North Indiana, and the Cincinnati route, being the largest route in the United States.
     I intended to have gone through Pennsylvania, but the risk going up the Ohio river has caused me to go to Canada.  Steamboat traveling is universally condemned; though many go in boats, consequently many get lost.  Going in a skiff is new, and is approved of in my case.  After I arrive at the mouth of the Tennessee river, I will go up the Ohio seventy-five miles, to the mouth of the Wabash, then up the Wabash, forty-four miles to New Harmony, where I shall go ashore by night, and go thirteen miles east, to Charles Grier a farmer, (colored man), who will entertain us, and next night convey us sixteen miles to David Stormon, near Princeton, who will take the command, and I be released.
     David Stormon estimates the expenses from his house to Canada, at forty dollars, without which, no sure protection will be given.  They might be instructed concerning the course, and beg their way through without money.  If you wish to do what should be done, you will send my fifty dollars, in a letter, to Princeton, Gibson county, Inda., so as

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to arrive there by the 8th of March.  Eight days should be estimated for a letter to arrive from Philadelphia.
     The money to be State Bank of Ohio, or State Bank, or Northern Bank of Kentucky, or any other Eastern bank.  Send no notes larger than twenty dollars.
     Levi Coffin had no money for me.  I paid twenty dollars for the skiff.  No money to get back to Philadelphia.  It was not understood that I would have to be at any expense seeking aid.
     One half of my time has been used in trying to find persons to assist, when I may arrive on the Ohio river, in which I have failed, except Stormon.
     Having no letter of introduction to Stormon from any source, on which I could fully rely, I traveled two hundred miles around, to find out his stability.  I have found many abolitionists, nearly all who have made propositions, which themselves would not comply with, and nobody else would.  Already I have traveled over three thousand miles.  Two thousand and four hundred by steamboat, two hundred by railroad, one hundred by stage, four hundred on foot, forty-eight in a skiff.
     I have yet five hundred miles to go to the plantation, to commence operations.  I have been two weeks on the decks of steamboats, three nights out, two of which I got perfectly wet.  If I had had paper money, as McKim desired, it would have been destroyed.  I have not been entertained gratis at any place except Stormon's.  I had one hundred and twenty-six dollars when I left Philadelphia, one hundred from you, twenty-six mine.
     Telegraphed to station at Evansville, thirty-three miles from Stormon's, and at Vinclure's, twenty-five miles from Stormon's.  The Wabash route is considered the safest route  No one has ever been lost from Stormon's to Canada.  Some had been lost between Stormon's and the Ohio.  The wolves have never suspected Stormon.  Your asking aid in money for a case properly belonging east of Ohio, is detested.  If you have sent money to Cincinnati, you should recall it.  I will have no opportunity to use it.

SETH CONCKLIN, Princeton, Gibson county, Ind.

     P. S. First of April, will be about the time Peter's family will arrive opposite Detroit.  You should inform yourself how to find them there.  I may have no opportunity.
     I will look promptly for your letter at Princeton, till the 10th of March, and longer if there should have been any delay by the mails.

     In March, as contemplated, Concklin arrived in Indiana, at the place designated, with Peter's wife and three children, and sent a thrilling letter to the writer, portraying in the most vivid light his adventurous flight from the hour they left Alabama until their arrival in Indiana.  In this report he stated, that instead of starting early in the morning, owing to some unforeseen delay on the part of the family, they did not reach the designated place till towards day, which greatly exposed them in passing a certain town which he had hoped to avoid.
     But as his brave heart was bent on prosecuting his journey without further delay, he concluded to start at all hazards, notwithstanding the dangers he apprehended from passing said town by daylight.  For safety he endeavored to hide his freight by having them all lie flat down on the bottom of the skiff; covered them with blankets, concealing them from the effulgent beams of the early morning sun, or rather from the "Christian Wolves" who might perchance espy him from the shore in passing the town.

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     The wind blew fearfully.  Concklin was rowing heroically when loud voices from the shore hailed him, but he was utterly deaf to the sound.  Immediately one or two guns were fired in the direction of the skiff, but he heeded not this significant call; consequently here ended this difficulty.  He supposed, as the wind was blowing so hard, those on shore who hailed him must have concluded that he did not hear them and that he meant no disrespect in treating them with seeming indifference.  Whilst many straits and great dangers had to be passed, this was the greatest before reaching their destination.
     But suffice it to say that the glad tidings which this letter contained filled the breast of Peter with unutterable delight and his friends and relations with wonder beyond degree.*  No fond wife had ever waited with more longing desire for the return of her husband than Peter had for this blessed news.  All doubts had disappeared, and a well grounded hope was cherished that within a few short days Peter and his fond wife and children would be reunited in Freedom on the Canada side, and that Concklin and the friends would be rejoicing with joy unspeakable over this great triumph.  But alas, before the few days had expired the subjoined brief paragraph of news was discovered in the morning Ledger.

     RUNAWAY NEGROES CAUGHT - At Vincennes, Indiana, on Saturday last, a white man and four negroes were arrested.  The negroes belong to B. McKiernon of South Florence, Alabama, and the man who was running them off calls himself John H. Miller.  The prisoners were taken charge of by the Marshall of Evansville.  - April 9th.

     How suddenly these sad tidings turned into mourning and gloom the hope and joy of Peter and his relatives no pen could possibly describe; at least the writer will not attempt it here but will at once introduce a witness who met the noble Concklin and the panting fugitives in Indiana and proffered them sympathy and advice.  And it may safely be said from a truer and more devoted friend of the slave they could not have received counsel.


     WM. STILLDear Sir, - On last Tuesday I mailed a letter to you, written by Seth Concklin.  I presume you have received that letter.  I gave an account of his rescue of the family of your brother.  If that is the last news you have from them, I have very painful intelligence for you.  they passed  on from near Princeton, where I saw them and had a lengthy interview with them, up north, I think twenty-three miles above Vincennes, Ind., where they were seized by a party of men, and lodged in jail.  Telegraphic dispatches were sent all through the South.  I have since learned that the Marshall of Evansville received a dispatch from Tuscumbia, to look out for them.  By some means, he and the master, so says report, went to Vincennes and claimed the fugitives, chained Mr. Concklin and hurried all off.  Mr. Concklin wrote to Mr. David Stormon, Princeton, as soon as he was cast into prison, to find bail.  So soon as we got the letter and could get off, two of us were about setting off to render all possible aid, when we were told they

* In some unaccountable manner this the last letter Concklin ever penned, perhaps, ahs been unfortunately lost.

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all had passed, a few hours before, through Princeton, Mr. Concklin in chains.  What kind of process was had, if any, I know not.  I immediately came down to this place, and learned that they had been put on a boat at 3 P. M.  I did not arrive until 6.  Now all hopes of their recovery are gone.  No case ever so enlisted my sympathies.  I had seen Mr. Concklin in Cincinnati.  I had given him aid and counsel.  I happened to see them after they landed in Indiana.  I heard Peter and Levin tell their tale of suffering, shed tears of sorrow for them all; but now, since they have fallen a prey to the unmerciful blood hounds of this state, and have again been dragged back to unrelenting bondage, I am entirely unmanned.  And poor Concklin!  I fear for him.  When he is dragged back to Alabama, I fear they will go far beyond the utmost rigor of the law, and vent their savage cruelty upon him.  It is with pain I have to communicate these things.  But you may not hear them from him.  I could not get to see him or them, as Vincennes is about thirty miles from Princeton, where I was when I heard of the capture.
     I take pleasure in stating that, according to the letter he (Concklin) wrote to Mr. D. Stewart, Mr. Concklin did not abandon them, but risked his own liberty to save them.  He was not with them when they were taken; but went afterwards to take them out of jail upon a writ of Habeas Corpus, when they seized him too and lodged him in prison.
     I write in much haste.  If I can learn any more facts of importance, I may write you.  If you desire to hear from me again, or if you should learn any thing specific from Mr. Concklin, he pleased to write me at Cincinnati, where I expect to be in a short time.  If curious to know your correspondent, I may say I formerly Editor of the "New Concord Free Press," Ohio.  I only add that every case of this kind only tends to make me abhor my (no!) this country more and more.  It is the Devil's Government, and God will destroy it.

Yours for the slave, N. R. JOHNSTON

     P. S. I broke open this letter to write you some more.  The foregoing pages were written at night.  I expected to mail it next morning before leaving Evansville; but the boat for which I was waiting came down about three in the morning; so I had to hurry on board, bringing the letter along.  As it now is I am not sorry, for coming down, on my way to St. Louis, as far as Paducah, there I learned from a colored man at the wharf that, that same day, in the morning, the master and the family of fugitives arrived off the boat, and had then gone in their journey to Tuscumbia, but that the "white man" (Mr. Concklin) had got away from them," about twelve miles up the river.  It seems he got off the boat some way, near or at Smithland, Ky., a town at the mouth of the Cumberland River.  I presume the report is true, and hope he will finally escape, though I was also told that they were in pursuit of him.  Would have the others had also escaped.  Peter and Levin could have done so, I think, if they had had resolution.  One of them rode a horse, he not tied either, behind the coach in which the others were.  He followed apparently "contented and happy."  From report, they told their master, and even their pursuers, before the master came, that Concklin had decoyed them away, they coming unwillingly.  I write on a very unsteady boat.

Yours, N. R. JOHNSTON.

     A report found its way into the papers to the effect that "Miller," the white man arrested in connection with the capture of the family, was found drowned, with his hands and feet in chains and his skull fractured.  It proved as his friends feared to be Seth Concklin.  And in irons, upon the river bank, there is no doubt he was buried.
     In this dreadful hour one sad duty remained to be performed.  Up to this moment the two sisters were totally ignorant of their brother's whereabouts.  Not the first whisper of his death had reached them.  But they must now be made acquainted with all the facts in the case.  Accordingly

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an interview was arranged for a meeting, and the duty of conveying this painful intelligence to one of the sisters, Mrs. Supplee, devolved upon Mr. McKim.  And most tenderly and considerably did he perform his mournful task.
    Although a woman of nerve, and a true friend to the slave, an earnest worker and a liberal giver in the Female Anti-Slavery Society, for a time she was overwhelmed by the intelligence of her brother's death.  As soon as possible, however, through very great effort, she controlled her emotions, and calmly expressed herself as being fully resigned to the awful event.  Not a word of complaint had she to make because she had not been apprised of his movements; but said repeatedly, that, had she known ever so much of his intentions, she would have been totally powerless in opposing him if she had felt so disposed, and as an illustration of the true character of the man, from his boyhood up to the day he died for his fellowman, she related his eventful career, and recalled a number of instances of his heroic and daring deeds for others, sacrificing his time and often periling his life in the cause of those who he considered were suffering gross wrongs and oppression.  Hence, she concluded, that it was only natural for him in this case to have taken the steps he did.  Now and then overflowing tears would obstruct this deeply thrilling and most remarkable story she was telling of her brother, but her memory seemed quickened by the sadness of the occasion, and she was enabled to recall vividly the chief events connected with his past history.  Thus his agency in this movement, which cost him his life, could readily enough be accounted for, and the individuals who listened attentively to the story were prepared to fully appreciate his character, for, prior to offering his services in this mission, he had been a stranger to them.
     The following extract, taken from a letter of a subsequent date, in addition to the above letter, throws still further light upon the heart-rending affair, and shows Mr. Johnston's deep sympathy with the sufferers and the oppressed generally -


     My heart bleeds when I think of those poor, hunted and heart-broken fugitives, though a most interesting family, taken back to bondage ten-fold worse than Egyptian.  And then poor Concklin!  How my heart expanded in love to him, as he told me his adventures, his trials, his toils, his fears and his hopes!  After hearing all, and then seeing and communing with the family, now joyful in hopes of soon seeing their husband and father in the land of freedom; now in terror lest the human blood-hounds should be at their heels, I felt as though I could lay down my life in the cause of the oppressed.  In that hour or two of intercourse with Peter's family, my heart warmed with love to them.  I never saw more interesting young men.  They would make Remonds or Douglasses, if they had the same opportunities.
     While I was with them, I was elated with joy at their escape, and yet, when I heard their tale of woe, especially that of the mother, I could not suppress tears of deepest emotion.

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     My joy was short-lived.  Soon I heard of their capture.  The telegraph had been the means of their being claimed.  I could have torn down all the telegraph wires in the land.  It was a strange dispensation of Providence.
     On Saturday the sad news of their capture came to my ears.  We had resolved to go to their aid on Monday, as the trial was set for Thursday.  On Sabbath, I spoke from Psalm xii. 5.  "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise," saith the Lord: "I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at (from them that would enslave) him."  When on Monday morning I learned that the fugitives had passed through the place on Sabbath, and Concklin in chains, probably at the very time I was speaking on the subject referred to, my heart sank within me.  And even yet, I cannot but exclaim, when I think of it - O, Father! how long are Thou wilt arise to avenge the wrongs of the poor slave!  Indeed, my dear brother, His way are very mysterious.  We have the consolation, however, to know that all is for the best.  Our Redeemer does all things well.  When He hung upon the cross, His poor broken-hearted disciples could not understand the providence; it was a dark time to them; and yet that was an event that was fraught with more joy to the world than any that has occurred or could occur.  Let us stand at our post, and wait God's time.  Let us have on the whole armor of God, and fight for the right, knowing that though we may fall in battle, the victory will be ours, sooner or later.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

     May God lead you into all truth, and sustain you in your labors, and fulfill your prayers and hopes. 

Adieu.              N. R. JOHNSTON


     The following letters on the subject were received from the untiring and devoted friend of the slave, Levi Coffin, who for many years had occupied in Cincinnati a similar position to that of Thomas Garrett in Delaware, a sentinel and watchman commissioned for God to succor the fleeing bondman -


     FRIEND WM. STILL: - We have sorrowful news from our friend Concklin, through the papers and otherwise.  I received a letter a few days ago from a friend near Princeton, Ind., stating that Concklin and the four slaves are in person in Vincennes, and that their trial would come on in a few days.  He states that they rowed seven days and nights in the skiff and got safe to Harmony, Ind., on the Wabash river, thence to Princeton, and were conveyed to Vincennes by friends, where they were taken.  The papers state, that they were all given up to the Marshal of Evansville, Indiana.
     We have telegraphed to different points, to try to get some information concerning them, but failed.  The last information is published in the Times of yesterday, though quite incorrect in the particulars of the case.  Inclosed is the slip containing it.  I fear all is over in regard to the freedom of the slaves.  If the last account be true, we have some hope that Concklin will escape from those bloody tyrants.  I cannot describe my feelings on hearing this sad intelligence.  I feel ashamed to own my country.  Oh I what shall I say.  Surely a God of justice will avenge the wrongs of the oppressed.

Thine for the poor slave,              LEVI COFFIN

     N. B. - If thou hast any information, please write me forthwith.

CINCINNATI, 5TH, MO., 11TH, 1851.

     WM. STILL: - Dear Friend - Thy letter of 1st inst., came duly to hand, but not being able to give any further information concerning our friend, Concklin, I thought best to wait a little before I wrote, still hoping to learn something more definite concerning him.

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We that became acquainted with Seth Concklin and his hazardous enterprises (here at Cincinnati), where were very few, have felt intense and inexpressible anxiety about them.  And particularly about poor Seth, since we heard of his falling into the hands of the tyrants.  I fear that he has fallen a victim to their to their inhuman thirst for blood.
     I seriously doubt the rumor, that he had made his escape.  I fear that he was sacrificed.
     Language would fail to express my feelings; the intense and deep anxiety I felt about them for weeks before I heard of their capture in Indiana, and then it seemed too much to bear.  O! my heart almost bleeds when I think of it.  The hopes of the dear family all blasted by the wretched blood-hounds in human shape.  And poor Seth, after all his toil, and dangerous, shrewd and wise management, and almost unheard of adventures, the many narrow and almost miraculous escapes.  Then to be given up to Indianans, to these fiendish tyrants, to be sacrificed.  O! Shame, Shame!!
     My heart aches, my eyes fill with tears, I cannot write more.  I cannot dwell longer on this painful subject now.  If you get any intelligence, please inform me.  Friend N. R. Johnston who took so much interest in them, and saw them just before they were taken, has jsut returned to the city.  He is a minister of the Coventer order.  He is truly a lovely man, and his heart is full of the milk of humanity; one of our best Anti-Slavery spirits.  I spent last evening with him.  He related the whole story to me as he had had it form friend Concklin and the mother and children, are then the story of their capture.  We wept together.  He found they letter when he got here.
     He said he would write the whole history to thee in a few days, as far as he could.  He can tell it much better than I can.
     Concklin left his carpet sack and clothes here with me, except a shirt or two he took with him.  What shall I do with them?  For if we do not hear from him soon, we must conclude that he is lost, and there port of his escape all a hoax.

Truly thy friend,   LEVI COFFIN

     Stunning and discouraging as this horrible ending was to all concerned, and serious as the matter looked in the eyes of Peter's friends with regard to Peter's family, he could not for a moment abandon the idea of rescuing them from the jaws of the destroyer.  But most formidable of rescuing them from the jaws of the destroyer.  But most formidable difficulties stood in the way of opening correspondence with reliable persons in Alabama.  Indeed it seemed impossible to find a merchant, lawyer, doctor, planter or minister, who was not too completely interlinked with slavery to be relied upon to manage a negotiation of this nature.  Whilst waiting and hoping for something favorable to turn up, the subjoined letter from the owner of Peter's family was received and is here inserted precisely as it was written, spelled and punctuated -



Mr. WILLIAM STILL No 31 North Fifth street Philadelphia.
Sir a few days sinc mr Lewis Tarenton of Tuscumbia Ala shewed me a letter dated 6 June 51 from cincinnati signd samuel Lewis in behalf of a Negro man by the name of peter Gist who informed the writer of the Letter that you ware his brother and wished an answer to be directed to you as he peter would be in philadelphi.  the object of the letter was to purchis from me 4 Negros that is peters wife & 3 children 2 sons & 1 Girl the Name of said Negres are the woman Viney the (mother) Eldest son peter 21 or 2 years old second son Leven 19 or 20 years 1 Girl about 13 or 14 years old.  the Husband & Father of these people once Belonged to a relation of mine by the name of Gist now

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Decest & some few years since he peter was sold to a man by the Name of Freedman who removed to cincinnati ohio & Tuck peter with him of course peter became free by the volentary act of the master some time last march a white man by the name of Miller apperd in the nabourhood & abducted the bove negroes was caut at vincanes Indi with said negroes & was there convicted of steling & remanded back to Ala to Abide the penalty of the law & on his return met his Just reward by Getting drownded at the mouth of cumberland River on the ohio in attempting to make his escape I recovered & Braught Back said 4 negroes or as You would say coulard people under the Belief that peter the Husband was accessery to the offence thareby putting me to much Expense & Truble to the amt $1000 which if he gets them he or his Friends must refund these 4 negroes are worth in the market about 4000 for thea are Extraordinary fine & likely & but for the fact of Elopement I would not take 8000 Dollars for them but as the thing now stands you can say to peter & his new discovered Relations in philadelphia I will take 5000 for the 4 culerd people & if this will suite him & he can raise the money I will delever to him or his agent at paduca at mouth of Tennessee river said negroes but the money must be Deposeted in the Hands of some respectabl person at paduca before I remove the property it wold not be safe for peter to come to this countery write me a line on recpt of this & let me Know peters views on the above

I am Yours &c B. McKIERNON


     To B. McKIERNON, ESQ.: Sir - I have received your letter from South Florence, Ala., under date of the 6th inst.  To say that it took me by surprise, as well as afforded me pleasure, for which I feel to be very much indebted to you, is no more than true.  In regard to your informants of myself - Mr. Thornton, of Ala., and Mr. Samuel Lewis, of Cincinnati - to them both I am a stranger.  However, I am the brother of Peter, referred to, and with the fact of his having a wife and three children in your service I am also familiar.  This brother, Peter, I have only had the pleasure of knowing for the brief space of one year and thirteen days, although he is now past forty and I twenty-nine years of age.  Time will not allow me at present, or I should give you a detailed account of how Peter became a slave, the forty long years which intervened between the time he was kidnapped, when a boy, being only six years of age, and his arrival in this city, from Alabama, one year and fourteen days ago, when he was re-united to his mother, five brothers and three sisters.
     None but a father's heart can fathom the anguish and sorrows felt by Peter during the many vicissitudes through which he has passed.  H looked back to his boyhood and saw himself snatched from the tender embraces of his parents and home to be made a slave for life.  
During all his prime days he was in the faithful and constant service of those who had no just claim upon him.  In the meanwhile he married a wife, who bore him eleven children, the greater part of whom were emancipated from the troubles of life by death, and three only survived.  To them and his wife he was devoted.  Indeed I have never seen attachment between parents and children, and wife, more entire than was manifested in the case of Peter.
Through these many years of servitude, Peter was sold and resold, from one State to another, from one owner to another, till he reached the forty-ninth year of his age, when, in a good Providence, through the kindness of a friend and the sweat of his brow, he re-

[Pg. 36]
gained the God-given blessings of liberty.  He eagerly sought his parents and home with all possible speed and pains, when, to his heart's joy, he found his relatives.
     Your present humble correspondent is the youngest of Peter's brothers, and the first one of the family he saw after arriving in this part of the country.  I think you could not fail to be interested in hearing how we became known to each other, and the proof of our being brothers, etc., all of which I should be most glad to relate, but time will not permit me to do so.  The news of this wonderful occurrence, of Peter finding his kindred, was published quite extensively, shortly afterwards, in various newspapers, in this quarter, which may account for the fact of "Miller's" knowledge of the whereabouts of the "fugitives."  Let me say, it is my firm conviction that no one had any hand in persuading "Miller" to go down from Cincinnati, or any other place, after the family.  As glad as I should be, and as much as I would do for the liberation of Peter's family (now no longer young), and his three "likely" children, in whom he prides himself - how much, if you are a father, you can imagine; yet I would not, and could not, think of persuading any friend to peril his life, as would be the case, in an errand of that kind.
     As regards the price fixed upon by you for the family, I must say I do not think it possible to raise half that amount, through Peter authorized me to say he would give you twenty-five hundred for them.  Probably he is not as well aware as I am, how difficult it is to raise so large a sum of money from the public.  The applications for such objects are so frequent among us in the North, and have always been so liberally met, that it is no wonder if many get tired of being called upon.  To be sure some of us brothers own some property, but no great amount; certainly not enough to enable us to hear so great a burden.  Mother owns a small farm in New Jersey, on which she has lived for nearly forty years, from which she derives her support in her old age.  This small farm contains between forty and fifty acres, and is the fruit of my father's toil.  Two of my brothers own small places also, but they have young families, and consequently consume nearly as much as they make, with the exception of adding some improvements to their places.
     For my own part, I am employed as a clerk for a living, but my salary is quite too limited to enable me to contribute any great amount towards so large a sum as is demanded.  Thus you see how we are situated financially.  We have plenty of friends, but little money.  Now, sir, allow me to make an appeal to your humanity, although we are aware of your power to hold as property those poor slaves, mother, daughter and two sons, - that in no part of the United States could they escape and be secure from your claim - nevertheless, would your understanding, your heart, or your conscience reprove you, should you restore to them, without price, that dear freedom, which is theirs by right of nature, or would you not feel a satisfaction in so doing which all the wealth of the world could not equal?  At all events, could you not so reduce the price as to place it in the power of Peter's relatives and friends to raise the means for their purchase?  At first, I doubt not, but that you will think my appeal very unreasonable; but, sir, serious reflection will decide, whether the money demanded by you, after all, will be of as great a benefit to you, as the satisfaction you would find in bestowing so great a favor upon those whose entire happiness in this life depends mainly upon your decision in the matter.  If the entire family cannot be purchased or freed, what can Vina and her daughter be purchased for?  Hoping sir, to hear from you, at your earliest convenience, I subscribe myself. 

Your obedient servant,                       WM. STILL

     No reply to this letter was ever received from McKiernon.  The cause of his reticence can be as well conjectured by the reader as the writer.
     Time will not admit of further details kindred to this narrative.  The life, struggles, and success of Peter and his family were ably brought before


PETER STILL, The Kidnapped and Ransomed
CHARITY STILL, Twice Escaped from Slavery.

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the public in the "Kidnapped and the Ransomed," being the personal recollections of Peter Still and his wife "Vina," after forty years of slavery, by Mrs. Kate E. R. Pickard; with an introduction by Rev. Samuel J. May and an appendix by William H. Furness, D. D., in 1856.  But, of course, it was not prudent or safe, in the days of Slavery, to publish such facts as are now brought to light; all such had to be kept concealed in the breasts of the fugitives and their friends.
     The following brief sketch, touching the separation of Peter and his mother, will fitly illustrate this point, and at the same time explain certain mysteries which have been hitherto kept hidden -


     With regard to Peter's separation from his mother, when a little boy, in few words, the facts were these: His parents, Levins and Sidney, were both slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  "I will die before I submit to the yoke," was the declaration of his father to his young master before either was twenty-one years of age.  Consequently he was allowed to buy himself a very low figure, and he paid the required sum and obtained his "free papers" when quite a young man - the young wife and mother remaining in slavery under Saunders Griffin, as also her children, the latter having increased to the number of four, two little boys and two little girls.  But to escape from chains, stripes, and bondage, she took her four little children and fled to a place near Greenwich, New Jersey.  Not a great while, however, did she remain there in a state of freedom before the slave-hunters pursued her and one night they pounced upon the whole family and without judge or jury, hurried them all back to slavery.  Whether this was kidnapping or not is for the reader to decide for himself.
     Safe back in the hands of her owner, to prevent her from escaping a second time, every night for about three months she was cautiously "kept locked up in the garret," until, as they supposed, she was fully "cured of the desire to do so again."  But she was incurable.  She had been a witness to the fact that here own father's brains had been blown out by the discharge of a heavily loaded gun, deliberately aimed at his head by his drunken master.  She only needed half a chance to make still greater struggles than ever for freedom.
     She had great faith in God, and found much solace in singing some of the good old Methodist tunes, by day and night.  Her owner, observing this apparently tranquil state of mind, indicating that she "seemed better contented than ever," concluded that it was safe to let the garret door remain unlocked at night.  Not many weeks were allowed to pass before she resolved to again make a bold strike for freedom.  This time she had to leave the two little boys, Levin and Peter, behind.
     On the night she started she went to the bed where they were sleeping,

[Pg. 38]
kissed them, and, consigning him into the hands of God, bade her mother good-bye, and with her two little girls wended her way again to Burlington County, New Jersey, but to a different neighborhood from that where she had been seized.  She changed her name to Charity, and succeeded in again joining her husband, but, alas, with the heart-breaking thought that she had been compelled to leave her two little boys in slavery and one of the little girls on the road for the father to go back after.  Thus she began life in freedom anew.
     Levin and Peter, eight and six years of age respectively, were now left at the mercy of the enraged owner, and were soon hurried off to a Southern market and sold, while their mother, for whom they were daily weeping, was they knew not where.  They were too young to know that they were slaves, or to understand the nature of the afflicting separation.  Sixteen years before Peter's return, his older brother (Levin) died a slave in the State of Alabama, and was buried by his surviving brother, Peter.
No idea other than that they had been "kidnapped" from their mother ever entered their minds; nor had they any knowledge of the State from whence they supposed they had been taken, the last names of their mother and father, or where they were born.  On the other hand, the mother was aware that the safety of herself and her rescued children depended on keeping the whole transaction a strict family secret.  During the forty years of separation, except two or three Quaker friends, including the devoted friend of the slave, Benjamin Lundy, it is doubtful whether any other individuals were let into the secret of her slave life.  And when the account give of Peter's return, etc., was published in 1850, it led some of the family to apprehend serious danger from the partial revelation of the early condition of the mother, especially as it was about the time that the Fugitive Slave law was passed.
     Hence, the author of "The Kidnapped and the Ransomed" was compelled to omit these dangerous facts, and had to confine herself strictly to the "Personal recollections of Peter Still" with regard to his being "kidnapped."  Likewise, in the sketch of Seth Concklin's eventful life, written by Dr. W. H. Furness for similar reason he felt obliged to make but bare reference to his wonderful agency in relation to Peter's family, although he was fully aware of all the facts in the case.

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