introduced a few out of a very large number of
interesting letters, designed for other parts of the
book as occasion may require. All letters will be
given precisely as they were written by their respective
authors, so that there may be no apparent room for
charging the writer with partial colorings in any
instance. Indeed, the originals, however
ungrammatically written or erroneously spelt, in their
native simplicity possess such beauty and force as
corrections and additions could not possibly enhance -
LETTER FROM THOMAS GARRETT (U. G. R.
STILL: - Since I wrote thee
this morning informing thee of the safe arrival of the
Eight from NOrfolk, Harry Craige has informed me,
that he has a man from Delaware that he proposes to take
along, who arrived since noon. He will take the
man, woman and two children from here with him, and the
four men will get in at Marcus Hook. Thee may take
Harry Craige by the hand as a brother, true to the
cause; he is one of our most efficient aids on the Rail
Road, and worthy of full confidence. May they all
be favored to get on safe. The woman and three
children are no common stock. I assure thee finer
specimens of humanity are seldom met with. I hope
herself and children may be enabled to find her husband,
who has been absent some years, and the rest of their
days be happy together.
I am, as ever, thy friend, THOS.
LETTER FROM MISS G. A. LEWIS (U. G. R.
KIMBERTON, October, 28th, 1855
FRIEND: - This evening a company of eleven friends
reached here, having left their homes on the night of
the 26th inst. They came into Wilmington, about
ten o'clock on the morning of the 27th, and left there,
in the town, their two carriages, drawn by two horses.
They went to Thomas Garrett's by open day-light
and from thence were sent hastily onward for fear of
pursuit. They reached Longwood meeting-house in
the evening, at which place a Fair Circle had convened,
and stayed a while in the meeting, then, after remaining
all night with one of the Kennet friends, they were
brought to Downingtown early in the morning, and from
thence, by daylight, to within a short distance of this
They come from New Chestertown, within five miles of
the place from which the nine lately forwarded came, and
left behind them a colored woman who knew of their
intended flight and of their intention of passing
through Wilmington and leasing their horses and
I have been thus particular in my statement because the
case seems to us one of unusual danger. we have
separated the company for the present, sending a mother
and five children, two of them quite small, in one
direction, and a husband and wife and three lads in
another, until I could write to you and get advice if
you have any to give, as to the best method of
forwarding them, and assistance pecuniarily, in getting
them to Canada. The mother and children we have
sent off of the usual route, and to a place where I do
not think they can remain many days.
We shall await hearing from you. H. Kimber
will be in the city on third day, the 30th, and any
thing left at 408 Green Street directed to his care,
will meet with prompt attention.
Please give me again the direction of Hiram Wilson
and the friend in Elmira, Mr. Jones I think.
If you have heard from any of the nine since their safe
arrival, please let us know when you write.
Very Respectfully, G. A. LEWIS.
morning, 29th. - The person who took the husband and
wife and three lads to E. F. Pennypacker, and
Peart, has returned and reports that L. Peart
sent three on to Norristown. We fear that there
they will fall into the hands of an ignorant colored man
Daniel Ross, and that he may not understand the
necessity of caution. Will you please write to
some careful person there? The woman and children
detained in this neighborhood to some careful person
there? The woman and children detained in this
neighborhood are a very helpless set. Our plan was
to assist them as much as possible, and when we get
things into the proper train for sending then on, to get
the assistance of the husband and wife, who have no
children, but are uncle and aunt to the woman with five,
in taking with them one of the younger children, leaving
fewer for the mother. Of the lads, or young men,
there is also one whom were thought capable of
accompanying one of the older girls - one to whom he is
paying attention, they told us. Would it not be
the best way to get those in Norristown under your own
care? It seems to me their being sent on could
then be better arranged. This, however, is only a
Hastily yours, G. A. LEWIS
LETTER FROM E. L. STEVENS, ESQ.
(The reader will interpret for himself.)
C., July 11th, 1858.
DEAR SIR: -
Susan Bell left here yesterday with the
child of her relative, and since leaving I have thought,
perhaps, you had not the address of the gentleman in
Syracuse where the child is to be taken for medical
treatment, etc. His name is Dr. H. B. Wilbur.
A woman living with him is a most excellent nurse and
will take a deep interest in the child, which, no doubt,
will under Providence be the means of its complete
restoration to health. Be kind enough to inform me
whether Susan is with you, and if she is give her
the proper direction. Ten packages were
sent to your address last evening, one of them belongs
to Susan, and she had better remain with you till
she gets it, as it may not have come to hand.
Susan thought she would go to Harrisburg when she
left here and stay over Sunday, if so, she would not get
to Philadelphia till Monday or Tuesday. Please
acknowledge the receipt of this, and inform me of her
arrival, also when the packages came safe to hand,
inform me especially if Susan's came safely.
Truly Yours, E. L. STEVENS.
LETTER FROM S. H. GAY, ESQ., EX-EDITOR
OF THE ANTI-SLAVERY STANDARD AND NEW YORK TRIBUNE.
STILL: - The two women, Laura
and Lizzy, arrived this morning I shall
forward them to Syracuse this afternoon.
The two men came safely yesterday, but went to Gibbs'.
He has friends on board the boat who are on the lookout
for fugitives, and send them, when found, to his house.
Those whom you wish to be particularly under my charge,
must have careful directions to this office.
There is now no other sure place, but the office, or
Gibbs', that I could advise you to send such
persons. Those to me, therefore, must come in
office hours. In a few days, however, Napoleon
will have a room down town, and at odd times they can be
sent there. I am not willing to put any more with
the family where I have hitherto sometimes sent them.
When it is possible I wish you would advise me two days
before a shipment of your intention, as Napoleon
is not always on hand to look out for them at short
notice. In special cases you might advise me by
Telegraph, thus: "One M. (or one F.) this morning.
W. S." By which I shall understand that one Male,
or one Female, as the case may be, has left Phihla. by
the 6 o'clock train - one or more, also, as the
case may be.
April 17th, 1855.
Truly Yours, S. H. GAY.
LETTER FROM JOHN H. HILL, A FUGITIVE,
APPEALING IN BEHALF OF A POOR SLAVE IN PETERSBURG, VA.
HAMILTON, Sept. 15th, 1856.
- I write to inform you that Miss Mary Wever
arrived safe in this city. You may imagine the
happiness manifested on the part of the two lovers,
Mr. H. and Miss W. I think they will be
married as soon as they can get ready. I presume
Mrs. Hill will commence to make up the articles
to-morrow. Kind Sir, as all of us is concerned
about the welfare of our enslaved brethren at the South,
particularly our friends, we appeal to your sympathy to
do whatever is in your power to save poor Willis
Johnson from the hands of his cruel master. It
is not for me to tell you of his case, because Miss
Wever has related the matter fully to you. All
I wish to say is this, I wish you to write to my uncle,
at Petersburg, by our friend, the Capt. Tell my
uncle to go to Richmond and ask my mother whereabouts
this man is. The best for him is to make his way
to Petersburg; that is, if you can get the Capt. to
bring him. He have not much money. But I
hope the friends of humanity will not withhold their aid
on the account of money. However we will raise all
the money that is wanting to pay for his safe delivery.
You will please communicate this to the friends as soon
JOHN H. HILL.
LETTER FROM J. BIGELOW, ESQ.
C., June 22d, 1854.
STILL: - Sir - I have just received a letter from
my friend, Wm. Wright, of Your Sulphur Springs,
Pa., in which he says, that by writing to you, I may get
some information about the transportation of some
property from this neighborhood to your city or
A person who signs himself Wm. Penn, lately
wrote to Mr. Wright, saying he would pay $300 to
have this service performed. It is for the
conveyance of only one SMALL package; but it has
been discovered since, that the removal cannot be so
safely effected without taking two larger
packages with it. I understand that the three
are to be brought to this city and stored in
safety, as soon as the forwarding merchant in
Philadelphia shall say he is ready to send on. The
storage, etc., here, will cost a trifle, but the $300
will promptly paid for the whole service. I think
Mr. Wright's daughter, Hannah, has also
seen you. I am also known to Prof. C. D.
Cleveland, of your city. If you answer this
promptly, you will soon hear from Wm. Penn
LETTER FROM HAM & EGGS, SLAVE (U. G.
R. R. AG'T)
Oct. 17th, 1860.
W. STILL: - Dear Sir -
I am happy to think, that the time has come when we no
doubt can open our correspondence with one another
again. Also I am in hopes, that these few lines
may find you and family well and in the enjoyment of
good health as it leaves me and family the same. I
want you to know, that I feel as much determined to work
in this glorious cause, as ever I did in all of my life,
and I have some very good
hams on hand that I would like very much for you to
have. I have nothing of interest to write about
just now, only that the politics of the day is in a high
rage, and I don't know of the result, therefore, I want
you to be one of those wide a-wakes as is mentioned from
your section of country noe-a-days,&c. Also, if
you wish to write to me, Mr. J. Brown will inform
you how to direct a letter to me.
No more at present, until I hear from you; but I want
to be a wide-a-wake.
Yours in haste,
HAM & EGGS
LETTER FROM REV. H. WILSON (U. G. R.
C. W., July 2d, 1855.
- Mr. Elias Jasper and Miss Lucy Bell having
arrived here safely on Saturday last, and found their
"companions in tribulation," who had arrived before
them, I am induced to write and let you known the fact.
They are a cheerful, happy company, and very grateful
for their freedom. I have done the best I could
for their comfort, but they are about to proceed across
the lake to Toronto, thinking they can do better there
than here, which is not unlikely. They all
remember you as their friend and benefactor, and return
to you their sincere thanks. My means of support
are so scanty, that I am obliged to write without paying
postage, or not write at all. I hope you are not
moneyless, as I am. In attending to the wants of
numerous strangers, I am much of the time perplexed from
lack of means; but send on as many as you can and I will
divide with them to the last crumb.
LETTER FROM SHERIDAN FORD, IN DISTRESS
Feb. 15th, 1855.
No. 2, Change Avenue.
- Allow me to take the liberty of addressing you and at
the same time appearing troublesomes you all friend.
but subject is so very important that i can not but ask
not in my name but in the name of the Lord and humanity
to do something for my Poor Wife and children who lays
in Norfolk Jail and have Been there for three month i
Would open myself in that frank and bones manner.
Which should convince you of my cencerity of Purpoest
don't shut your ears to the cry's of the Widow and the
orphant & i can but ask in the name of humanity and God
for he knows the heart of all men. Please ask the
friends humanity to do something for her and her two
lettle ones i cant do any thing Place as i am for i have
to lay low Please lay this before the churches of
Philadelphaise beg them in name of the Lord to do
something for him i love my freedom and if it would do
her and her two children any good i mean to change with
her but cant be done for she is Jail and you most no she
suffer for the jail in the South are not like yours for
any thing is good enough for negros the Slave hunters
Save & may God interpose in behalf of the demonstrative
Race of Africa Whom i claim desendent i am sorry to say
that friendship is only a name here but i truss it is
not so in Philada i would not have taken this liberty
had i not considered you a friend for you treaty as such
Please do all you can and Please ask the Anti Slavery
friends to do all they can and God will Reward them for
it i am shure for the earth is the Lords and the
fullness there of as this note leaves me not very well
but hope when it comes to hand it may find you and
family enjoying all the Pleasure life Please answer this
and Pardon me if the necessary sum can be required i
will find out from my brotherinlaw i am with respectful
SHERIDAN W. FORD
the first time i have heard from home Sence i left and i
have not got any thing yet i have a tear yet for my
fellow man it is in my eyes now for God knows it
is tha truth i sue for your Pity and all and may God
open their hearts to Pity a poor Woman and two children.
The Sum is i believe 14 hundred Dollars Please write to
day for me and see if the cant do something for
LETTER FROM E. F. PENNYPACKER (U. G.
R. R. DEPOT)
mo., 7th day, 1857.
STILL: - Respected Friend:
- There are three colored friends at my house now,
who will reach the city by the Phil. & Reading train
this evening. Please meet them.
E. F. PENNYPACKER.
We have within
the past 2 mos. passed 43 through our hands,
,transported most of them to Norristown in our own
E. F. P.
LETTER FROM JOS. C. BUSTILL (U. G. R.
- I suppose ere this you have seen those five large and
three small packages I sent by way of Reading,
consisting of three men and women and children.
They arrived here this morning at 8½
o'clock and left twenty minutes past three. You
will please send me any information likely to prove
interesting in relation to them.
Lately we have formed a Society here, called the
Fugitive Aid Society. This is our first case, and
I hope it will prove entirely successful.
When you write, please inform me what signs or symbols
you make use of in your despatches, and any other
information in relation to operations of the Underground
Our reason for sending by the Reading Road, was to gain
time; it is expected the owners will be in town this
afternoon, and by this Road we gained five hours' time,
which is a matter of much importance, and we may have
occasion to use it sometimes in future. In great
JOS. C. BUSTILL.
LETTER FROM A SLAVE SECRETED IN
Oct. 18th, 1860.
- Dear Sir - Please do me the favor as to write
to my uncle a few lines in regard to the bundle that is
for John H. Hill, who lives in Hamilton, C. W.
Sir, if this should reach you, be assured that it comes
from the same poor individual that you have heard of
before; the person who was so unlucky, and deceived
also. If you write, address your letter John M.
Hill, care of Box No. 250. I am speaking of a
person who lives in P.va. I hope sir, you will
understand this is from a poor individual.
LETTER FROM G. S. NELSON (U. G. R. R.
STILL: - My Dear Sir -
I suppose you are somewhat uneasy because the goods did
not come safe to hand on Monday evening, as you expected
- consigned from Harrisburg to you. The train only
was from Harrisburg to Reading, and as it happened, the
goods had to stay all night with us, and as some
excitement exists here about goods of the kind, we
thought it expedient and wise to detain them until we
could hear from you. There are two small boxes and
two large ones; we have them all secure; what had better
be done? Let us know. Also, as we can
learn. there are three more boxes still in Harrisburg.
Answer your communication at Harrisburg. Also,
fail not to answer this by the return to mail, as things
are rather critical, and you will oblige us.
G. S. NELSON,
Reading, May 27, '57.
We knew not that these goods were to come,
consequently we were all taken by surprise. When
you answer, use the word, goods. The reason of the
excitement, is: some
three weeks ago a big box was consigned to us by J.
Bustill, of Harrisburg. We received it, and
forwarded it on to J. Jones, Elmira, and the next
day they were on the fresh hunt of said box; it got safe
to Elmira, as I have had a letter from Jones, and
all is safe.
G. S. N.
LETTER FROM JOHN THOMPSON
- You will oblige me much Iff you will Direct this
Letter to Vergenia for me to my Mother & iff it well
sute you Beg her in my Letter to Direct hers to you &
you Can send it to me iff it sute your Convenience.
I am one of your Chattle.
Syracuse, Jeny 6th.
FROM JOHN THOMPSON, A FUGITIVE, TO HIS MOTHER.
MY DEAR MOTHER:
- I have imbrace an opportunity of writing you these few
lines (hoping) that they may fine you as they Leave me
quite well I will now inform you how I am geting
I am now a free man Living By the sweet of
my own Brow and serving a nother man & giving him all I
Earn But what I make is mine and iff one Plase do
not sute me I am at Liberty to Leave and go some where
elce & can ashore you I think highly of Freedom and
would not exchange it for nothing that is offered me for
it I am waiting in a Hotel I suppose you Remember
when I was in Jail I told you the time would Be Better
and you see that the time has come when I Leave you my
heart was so full & youre But I new their was a Better
Day a head, & I have Live to see it I hird when I
was on the Underground R. Road that the Hounds was on my
Track but it was no go I new I was too far out of
their Reach where they would never smell my track when I
Leave you I was carred to Richmond & sold & From their I
was taken to North Carolina & sold & I Ran a way & went
Back to Virginia. Between Richmond & home & their
I was caught & Put in Jail & their I Remain till the
oner come for me then I was taken & carred Back to
Richmond then I was sold to the man who I now Leave he
is nothing But a But of a Feller. Remember me to
your Husband & all in quirin Friends & say to Miss Rosa
that I am as Free as she is & more happier I no I am
getting $12 per month for what Little work I am Doing.
I hope to here from you a gain I your Son & ever
LETTER FROM "WM. PENN" (OF THE BAR)
C., Dec. 9th, 1856.
SIR: - I was unavoidably prevented
yesterday, from replying to yours of 6th instant, and
although I have made inquiries, I am unable to-day,
to answer your questions satisfactorily. Although
I know some of the residents of Loudon county, and have
often visited there, still I have not practiced much in
the Courts of that county. There are several of my
acquaintances here, who have lived in that county, and
possibly, through my assistance, your commissions
might be executed. If a better way shall not
suggest itself to you, and you see fit to give me the
facts in the case, I can better judge of my
ability to help you; but I know not the man resident
there, whom I would trust with an important suit.
this it is now some four or five weeks since,
that some packages left this vicinity, said to be from
fifteen to twenty in number, and as I suppose, went
through your hands. It was at a time of uncommon
vigilance here, and to me it was a matter of extreme
wonder, how and through whom, such a work was
accomplished. Can you tell me? It is
needful that I should know! Not for curiosity
merely, but for the good of others.
An enclosed slip contains the marks of one of the
packages, which you will read and then immediately
If you can give me any
light that will benefit others, I am sure you
will do so.
A traveler here, very reliable, and who knows
his business, has determined not to leave home again
till spring, at least not without extraordinary
I think, however, he or others, might be tempted to
travel in Virginia.
LETTER FROM MISS THEODOCIA GILBERT
STILL: - Dear Friend and
Brother - A thousand thanks for your good, generous
It was so kind of you to have in mind my intense
interest and anxiety in the success and fate of poor
Concklin! That he desired and intended to
hazard an attempt of the kind, I well understood; but
what particular one, or that he had actually embarked in
the enterprise, I had not been able to learn.
His memory will ever be among the sacredly cherished
with me. He certainly displayed more real
disinterestedness, more earnest, unassuming devotedness,
than those who claim to be the sincerest friends
of the slave can often boast. What more Saviour-like
than the willing sacrifice he has rendered!
Such generosity! at such a moment!
The emotions it awakened no words can bespeak!
They are to be sought but in the inner chambers of one's
own son!! He as earnestly devised the means as
calmly counted the cost, and as unshrinkingly turned him
to the task, as if it were his own freedom he would have
Through his homely features, and bumble garb, the
intrepidity of soul came out in all its lustre!
Heroism, in its native majesty, commanded one's
admiration and love!
Most truly can I enter into your sorrows, and painfully
appreciate the pang of disappointment which must have
followed this and intelligence. But so inadequate
are words to the consoling of such griefs, it were
almost cruel to attempt to syllable one's sympathies.
I cannot bear to believe, that Concklin has been
actually murdered, and yet I hardly dare hope it is
And the poor slaves, for whom he periled so much, into
what depths of hopelessness and woe are they again
plunged! But the deeper and blacker for the loss
of their dearly sought and new-found freedom. How
long must wrongs like these go unredressed?
"How long, O God, how long?"
Very truly yours,
WILLIAM BOX PEEL JONES
Came boxed up via Erricson line of Steamers
ARRIVED PER ERRICSON LINE OF STEAMERS,
WRAPPED IN STRAW AND BOXED UP, APRIL, 1859.
is twenty-five years of age, unmistakably colored,
good-looking, rather under the medium size, and of
pleasing manners. William had himself boxed
up by a near relative and forwarded by the Erricson
line of steamers. He gave the slip to Robert H.
Carr, his owner (a grocer and commission merchant),
after those wise, and for the following reasons:
For some time previous his master had been selling off
his slaves every now and then, the same as other
groceries, and this admonished William that he
was liable to be in the market any day; consequently, he
preferred the box to the auction-block.
He did not complain of having been treated very badly
by Carr, but felt that no man was safe while
owned by another. In fact, he "hated the very name
of slaveholder." The limit of the box not
admitting of straightening himself out he was taken with
the cramp on the road, suffered indescribable misery,
and had his faith taxed to the utmost, - indeed was
brought to the very verge of "screaming aloud" ere
relief came. However, he controlled himself,
though only for a short season, for before a great while
an excessive faintness came over him. Here nature
became quite exhausted. He thought he must "die;"
but his time had not yet come. After a severe
struggle he revived, but only to encounter a third
ordeal no less painful than the one through which he had
just passed. Next a very "cold chill" came over
him, which seemed almost to freeze the very blood in his
veins and gave him intense agony, from which he only
found relief on awaking, having actually fallen asleep
in that condition. Finally, however, he arrived at
Philadelphia, on a steamer, Sabbath morning. A
devoted friend of his, expecting him, engaged a carriage
and repaired to the wharf for the box. The bill of
lading and the receipt he had with him, and likewise
knew where the box was located on the boat.
Although he well knew freight was not usually delivered
on Sunday, yet his deep solicitude for the safety of his
friend determined him to do all that lay in his power to
rescue him from his perilous situation. Handing
his bill of lading to the proper officer looked at the
bill and said, "No, we do not deliver freight on
Sunday;" but, noticing the anxiety of the man, he
asked him if he would know it if he were to see it.
Slowly - fearing that too much interest manifested might
excite suspicion - he replied: "I think I should."
Deliberately looking around amongst all the "freight,"
he discovered the box,
and said, "I think that it is there." Said officer
stepped to it, looked at the directions on it, then at
the bill of lading, and said, "That is right, take it
along." Here the interest in these two bosoms was
thrilling in the highest degree. But the size of
the box was too large for the carriage, and the driver
refused to take it. Nearly an hour and a half was
spent in looking for a furniture car. Finally one
was procured, and again the box was laid hold of by the
occupant's particular friend, when, to his dread alarm,
the poor fellow within gave a sudden cough. At
this startling circumstance he dropped the box; equally
as quick, although dreadfully frightened, and, as if
helped by some invisible agency, he commenced singing,
"Hush, my babe, lie still and slumber," with the most
apparent indifference, at the same time slowly making
his way from the box. Soon his fears subsided, and
it was presumed that no one was any the wiser on account
of the accident, or coughing. Thus, after
summoning courage, he laid hold of the box a third time,
and the Rubicon was passed. The car driver,
totally ignorant of the contents of the box, drove to
the number to which he was directed to take it - left it
and went about his business. Now is a moment of
intense interest - now of inexpressible delight.
The box is opened, the straw removed, and the poor
fellow is loosed; and is rejoicing, I will venture to
say, as mortal never did rejoice, who had not been in
similar peril. This particular friend was scarcely
less overjoyed, however, and their joy did not abate for
several hours; nor was it confined to themselves, for
two invited members of the Vigilance Committee also
partook of a full share. This box man was named
Wm. Jones. He was boxed up in Baltimore by the
friend who received him at the wharf, who did not come
in the boat with him, but came in the cars and met him
at the wharf.
The trial in the box lasted just seventeen hours before
victory was achieved. Jones was well cared
for by the Vigilance Committee and sent on his way
rejoicing, feeling that Resolution, Underground Rail
Road, and Liberty were invaluable.
On his way to Canada, he stopped at Albany, and the
subjoined letter gives his view of things from that
- I take this opportunity of writing a few lines to
you hoping that tha may find you in good health and
femaly. i am well at present and doing well at
present i am now in a store and getting sixteen dollars
a month at the present. i fell very much oblige to
you and your family for your kindes to me while i was
with you i have got a long without any trub le a tal.
i am now in Albany City. give my lov to mrs and mr
miller and tel them i am very much a blige to them
for there kind ns, give my lov to my Brother more
Jones tell him i should like to here from him very
much and he must write. tel him to give my love to
all of my perticular frends and tel them i should like
to see them very much. tel him that he must come
to see me for i want to see him for sum thing very
perticler. please ansure this letter as soon as
posabul and excuse me for not writing sooner as i dont
write myself. no more at teh present.
to one hundred 125 lydus, stt
His good friend returned to Baltimore the same day the
box man started for the North, and immediately
dispatched through the post the following brief letter,
worded in Underground Rail Road parables:
- Dear brother i have taken the opportunity of writing
you these few lines to inform you that i am well an
hoping these few lines may find you enjoying the same
good blessing please to write me word at what time was
it when isreal went to Jerico i am very anxious to hear
for thare is a mighty host will pass over and you and I
my brother will sing hally luja i shall notify you when
the great catastrophe shal take place No more at
the present but remain your brother.
N. L. J.
WESTLEY HARRIS ALIAS ROBERT JACKSON,
CRAVEN MATTERSON AND TWO BROTHERS
In setting out
for freedom, Wesley was the leader of this party.
After two nights of fatiguing travel at a distance of
about sixty miles from home, the young aspirants for
liberty were betrayed, and in an attempt made to capture
them a most bloody conflict ensued. Both fugitives
and pursuers were the recipients of severe wounds from
gun shots, and other weapons used in the contest.
Wesley bravely used his fire arms until almost
fatally wounded by one of the pursuers, who with a
heavily loaded gun discharged the contents with deadly
aim in his left arm, which raked the flesh from the bone
for a space of about six inches in length. One of
Wesley's companions also fought heroically and
only yielded when badly wounded and quite overpowered.
The two younger (brothers of C. Matterson) it
seemed made no resistance.
In order to recall the adventures of this struggle, and
the success of Wesley Harris, it is only
necessary to copy the report as then penned from the
lips of this young hero, while on the Underground Rail
Road, even then in a very critical state. Most
fearful indeed was his condition when he was brought to
the vigilance Committee in this City.
UNDERGROUND RAIL ROAD RECORD.
November 2d, 1853. - Arrived: Robert Jackson
(shot man), alias Wesley Harris; age
twenty-two years; dark color; medium height, and of
Robert was born in Martinsburg, Va., and was
owned by Philip Pendleton. From a boy he
had always been hired out. At the first of this
year he commenced services with Mrs. Carroll,
proprietress of the United States Hotel at Harper's
Ferry. Of Mrs. Carroll he speaks in very
grateful terms, saying that she was kind to him and all
the servants, and promised them their freedom at her
death. She excused herself for not giving them
their freedom on the ground that her husband died
insolvent, leaving her the responsibility of settling
But while Mrs. Carroll was very kind to her
servants, her manager was equally as cruel. About
a month before Wesley left, the overseer for some
trifling cause, attempted to flog him, but was resisted,
and himself flogged. This resistance of the slave
was regarded by the overseer as an unpardonable offence;
consequently he communicated the intelligence to his
owner, which had the desired effect on his mind as
appeared from his answer to the overseer, which was
nothing less than instructions that if he should again
attempt to correct Wesley and she should repel
the wholesome treatment, the overseer was to put him in
prison and sell him. Whether he offended again or
not, the following Christmas he was to be sold without
Wesley's mistress was kind enough to apprise him
of the intention of his owner and the overseer, and told
him that if he could help himself he had better do so.
So from that time Wesley began to contemplate how
he should escape the doom which had been planned for
"A friend," says he, "by the name of C. Matterson,
told me that he was going off. Then I told him of
my master's writing to Mrs. Carroll concerning
selling, etc., and that I was going off too. We
then concluded to go together. There were two
others - brothers of Matterson - who were told of
our plan to escape, and readily joined with us in the
undertaking. So one Saturday night, at twelve
o'clock, we set out for the North. After traveling
upwards of two days and over sixty miles, we found
ourselves unexpectedly in Terrytown, Md. There we
were informed by a friendly colored man of the danger we
were in and of the bad character of the place towards
colored people, especially those who were escaping to
freedom; and he advised us to hide as quickly as we
could. We at once went to the woods and hid.
Soon after we had secreted ourselves a man came near by
and commenced splitting wood, or rails, which alarmed
us. We then moved to another hiding-place in a
thicket near a farmer's barn, where we were soon
startled again by a dog approaching and barking at us.
The attention of the owner of the dog was drawn to his
barking and to where we were. The owner of the dog
was a farmer. He asked us where we were going.
We replied to Gettysburg - to visit some relatives, etc.
He told us that we were running off. He then
offered friendly advice, talked like a Quaker, and urged
us to go with him to his barn for protection.
After much persuasion, we consented to go with him.
"Soon after putting us in his barn, himself and
daughter prepared us a nice breakfast, which cheered our
spirits, as we were hungry. For this kindness we
paid him one dollar. He next told us to hide on
the mow till eve, when he would safely direct us on our
road to Gettysburg. All, very much fatigued from
traveling, fell asleep, excepting myself; I could not
sleep; I felt as if all was not right.
"About noon men were heard talking around the barn.
I woke my companions up and told them that that man had
betrayed us. At first they did not believe me.
In a moment afterwards the barn door was opened, and in
came the men, eight in number. One of the men
asked the owner of the barn if he had any long straw.
'Yes,' was the answer. So up on the mow came three
of the men, when, to their great surprise, as they
pretended, we were discovered. The question was
then asked the owner of the barn by one of the men, if
he harbored runaway negroes in his barn? He
answered 'No,' and pretended to be entirely ignorant of
their being in his barn. One of the men replied
that four negroes were on the mow, and he knew of it.
The men then asked us where we were going. We told
them to Gettysburg, that we had aunts and a mother
there. Also we spoke of a Mr. Houghman, a
gentleman we happened to have some knowledge of, having
seen him in Virginia. We were net asked for our
passes. We told them that we hadn't any, that we
had not been required to carry them where we came from.
They then said that we would have to go before a
magistrate, and if he allowed us to go on, well and
good. The men all being armed and furnished with
ropes, we were ordered to be tied. I told them if
they took me they would have to take me dead or
crippled. At that instant one of my friends cried
out -- 'Where is the man that betrayed us?' Spying him
at the same moment, he shot him (badly wounding him).
Then the conflict fairly began. The constable
seized me by the collar, or rather behind my shoulder.
I at once shot him with my pistol, but in consequence of
his throwing up his arm, which hit mine as I fired, the
effect of the load of my pistol was much turned aside;
his face, however, was badly burned, besides his
shoulder being wounded. I again fired on the
pursuers, but do not know whether I hit anybody or not.
I then drew a sword, I had brought with me, and was
about cutting my way to the door, when I was shot by one
of the men, receiving the entire contents of one load of
a double barreled gun in my left arm, that being the arm
with which I was defending myself. The load
brought me to the ground, and was able to make further
struggle for myself. I was then badly beaten with
guns, &c. In the meantime, my friend Craven,
who was defending himself, was shot badly in the face,
and most violently beaten until he was conquered and
tied. The two young brothers of Craven
stood still, without making the least resistance.
After we were fairly captured, we were taken to
Terrytown, which was in sight of where we were betrayed.
By this time I had lost so much blood from my wounds,
that they concluded my situation was too dangerous to
admit of being taken further; so I was made a prisoner
at a tavern, kept by a man named Fisher.
There my wounds were dressed and thirty-two shot were
taken from my arm. From three days I was crazy,
and they thought I would die. During the first two
weeks, while I was a prisoner at the tavern, I raised a
great deal of blood, and was considered in a very
dangerous condition - so much so that persons desiring
to see me were not
DESPERATE CONFLICT IN A BARN.
permitted. Afterwards I began to get better, and was
then kept very privately - was strictly watched day and
night. Occasionally, however, the cook, a colored
woman (Mrs. Smith), would manage to get to see
me. Also James Matthews succeeded in
getting to see me; consequently, as my wounds healed,
and my senses came to me, I began to plan how to make
another effort to escape. I asked one of the
friends, alluded to above, to get me a rope. He got it.
I kept it about me four days in my pocket; in the
meantime I procured three nails. On Friday night,
October 14th, I fastened my nails in under the window
sill; tied my rope to the nails, threw my shoes out of
the window, put the rope in my mouth, then took hold of
it with my well hand, clambered into the window, very
weak, but I managed to let myself down to the ground.
I was so weak, that I could scarcely walk, but I managed
to hobble off to a place three quarters of a mile from
the tavern, where a friend had fixed upon for me to go,
if I succeeded in making my escape There I was
found by my friend, who kept me secure till Saturday
eve, when a swift horse was furnished by James Rogers,
and a colored man found to conduct me to Gettysburg.
Instead of going direct to Gettysburg, we took a
different road, in order to shun our pursuers, as the
news of my escape had created general excitement.
My three other companions, who were captured, were sent
to Westminster jail, where they were kept three weeks,
and afterwards sent to Baltimore and sold for twelve
hundred dollars a piece, as I was informed while at the
tavern in Terrytown."
The Vigilance Committee procured good medical attention
and afforded the fugitive time for recuperation,
furnished him with clothing and a free ticket, and
sent him on his way greatly improved in health, and
strong in the faith that, "He who would be free, himself
must strike the blow." His safe arrival in Canada,
with his thanks, were duly announced. And some
time after becoming naturalized, in one of his letters,
he wrote that he was a brakesman on the Great Western R.
R., (in Canada - promoted from the U. G. R. R.,) the
result of being under the protection of the British
DEATH OF ROMULUS HALL - NEW NAME
1857, Abram Harris fled from John Henry
Suthern, who lived near Benedict, Charles county,
Md., where he was engaged i the farming business, and
was the owner of about seventy head of slaves. He
kept an overseer, and usually had flogging administered
daily, on males and females, old and young.
Abram becoming very sick of this treatment,
resolved, about the first of March, to seek out the
Underground Rail Road. But for his strong
attachment to his wife (who was owned by Samuel
Adams, but was "pretty well treated"), he never
would have consented to "suffer" as he did.
Here no hope of comfort for the future seemed to
remain. So Abram consulted with a fellow-servant,
by the name of Romulus Hall, alias George
Weems, and being very warm friends, concluded to
start together. Both had wives to "tear themselves
from," and each was equally ignorant of the distance
they had to travel and the dangers and sufferings to be
endured. But they "trusted in God" and kept the
North Star in view. For nine days and nights,
without a guide, they traveled at a very exhausting
rate, especially as they had to go fasting for three
days, and to endure very cold weather. Abram's
companion, being about fifty years of age, felt obliged
to succumb, both from hunger and cold, and had to be
left on the way. Abram was a man of medium
size, tall, dark chestnut color, and could read and
write a little and was quite intelligent; "was a member
of the Mount Zion Church," and occasionally officiated
as an "exhorter," and really appeared to be a man of
genuine faith in the almighty, and equally as much in
In substance, Abram gave the following
information concerning his knowledge of affairs on the
farm under his master -
"Master and mistress very frequently visited the
Protestant Church, but were not members. Mistress
was very bad. About three weeks before I left, the
overseer, in a violent fit of bad temper, shot and badly
wounded a young slave man by the name of Henry Waters,
but no sooner than he got well enough he escaped, and
had not been heard of up to the time Abram left.
About three years before this happened, an overseer of
my master was found shot dead on the road. At once
some of the slaves were suspected, and were all taken to
the Court House, at Serentown, St. Mary's county; but
all came off clear. After this occurrence a new
overseer, by the name of John Decket,
nevertheless, concluded that it was not 'too late' to
flog the secret out of some of the slaves.
Accordingly, he selected a young slave man for his
victim, and flogged him so cruelly that he could
scarcely walk or stand, and to keep from being actually
killed, the boy told an untruth, and confessed that he
and his Uncle Henry killed Webster, the
overseer; whereupon the poor fellow was sent to jail to
be tried for his life."
But Abram did not wait to hear the verdict.
He reached the Committee safely in this city, in advance
of his companion, and was furnished with a free ticket
and other needed assistance, and was sent on his way
rejoicing. After reaching his destination, he
wrote back to know how his friend and companion (George)
was getting along; but in less than three weeks after he
had passed the following brief story reveals the sad
fate of poor Romulus Hall, who had
journeyed with him till exhausted from hunger and badly
A few days after his younger companion had passed on
DEATH OF ROMULUS HALL
was brought by a pitying stranger to teh Vigilance
Committee, in a most shocking condition. The frost
had made sad havoc with his feet and legs, so much so
that all sense of feeling had departed therefrom.
How he ever reached thsi city is a marvel. On his
arrival medical attention and other necessary comforts
were provided by the Committee, who hoped with himself,
that he would be restored with the loss of hsi toes
alone. For one week he seemed to be improving; at
the expiration of this time, however, his symptoms
changed, indicating not only the end of slavery, but
also the end fo all his earthly troubles.
Lockjaw and mortification set in in the most malignant
form, and for nearly thirty-six hours the unfortunate
victim suffered in extreme agony, though not a murmur
escaped him for having brought upon himself in seeking
his liberty this painful infliction and death. It
was wonderful to see how resignedly he endured his fate.
Being anxious to get his testimony relative to his
escape, etc., the Chairman of the Committee took his
pencil and expressed to him his wishes in the matter.
Amongst other questions, he was asked: "Do you regret
having attempted to escape from slavery?" After a
severe spasm he said, as his friend was about to turn to
leave the room, hopeless of being gratified in his
purpose: "Don't go: I have not answered your question.
I am glad I escaped from slavery?
He then gave his name, and tried to tell the name of his master, but was
so weak he could not be understood.
At his bedside, day and night, Slavery looked more
heinous than it had ever done before. Only think
how this poor man, in an enlightened Christian land, for
the bare hope of freedom, in a strange land amongst
strangers, was obliged not only to bear the sacrifice of
his wife and kindred, but also of his own life.
Nothing ever appeared more sad than seeing him in a
dying posture, and instead of reaching his much coveted
destination in Canada, going to that "bourne whence no
traveler returns." Of course it was expedient,
even after his death, that only a few friends should
follow him to his grave. Nevertheless, he was
decently buried in the beautiful Lebanon Cemetery.
In his purse was found one single five cent piece, his
whole pecuniary dependence.
This was the first instance of death on teh Underground
Rail Road in this region.
The Committee were indebted to the medical services of
the well-known friends of the fugitive, Drs. J. L.
Griscom and H. T. Childs, whose faithful
services were freely given; and likewise to Mrs. H.
S. Duterte and Mrs. Williams, who generously
performed the offices of charity and friendship at his
From his companion, who passed on Canada-ward without
delay, we re-
ceived a letter, from which, as an item of interest, we
make the following extract:
"I am enjoying
good health, and hope when this reaches you, you may be
enjoying the same blessing. Give my love to Mr.
____ _____, and family, and tell them I am in a land
of liberty~ I am a man among men~" (The
above was addressed to the deceased.)
letter, from Rev. L. D. Mansfield, expressed on
behalf of Romulus' companion, his sad feelings on
hearing of his friend's death. And here it may not
be inappropriate to add, that clearly enough is it to be
seen, that Rev. Mansfield was one of the rare
order of ministers, who believed it right "to do unto
others as one would be done by" in practice, not in
theory merely, and who felt that they could no more be
excused for "falling down," in obedience to the Fugitive
Slave Law under President Fillmore, than
could Daniel for worshiping the "golden image"
YORK, MAY, 4TH,
STILL: - Henry Lemmon
wishes me to write to you in reply to your kind letter,
conveying the intelligence of the death of your fugitive
guest, Geo. Weems. He was deeply affected
at the intelligence, for he was most devotedly attached
to hi and had been for many years. Mr. Lemmon
now expects his sister to come on, and wishes you to aid
her in any way in your power - as he knows you will.
He wishes you to send the coat and cap of Weems
by his sister when she comes. And when you write
out the history of Weems' escape, and it is published,
that you would send him a copy of the papers. He
has not been very successful in getting work yet.
Mr. and Mrs. Harris left for Canada last week.
The friends made them a purse of $15 or $20, and we hope
they will do well.
Mr. Lemmon sends his respects to you and Mrs.
Still. Give my kind regards to her and accept
Yours very truly,
L. D. MANSFIELD.
JAMES MERCER, WM. H. GILLIAM, AND
STOWED AWAY IN A HOT BERTH.
arrival came by Steamer. But they neither came in
State-room nor as Cabin, Steerage, or Deck passengers.
A certain space, not far from the boiler, where the
heat and coal dust were almost intolerable,- the colored
steward on teh boat in answer to an appeal from these
unhappy bondmen, could point to no other place for
concealment but this. Nor was he at all certain
that they could endure the intense heat of that place.
It admitted of no other posture than lying flat down,
wholly shut out from the light, and nearly in the same
predicament in regard to the air. Here, however,
was a chance of throwing off the yoke, even if it cost
them their lives. They considered and resolved to
try it at all hazards.
Henry Box Brown's sufferings were nothing,
compared to what these men submitted to during the
They reached the house of one of the Committee about
three o'clock, A.M.
All the way from the wharf the cold rain poured down in
torrents and they got completely drenched, but their
hearts were swelling with joy and gladness unutterable.
From the thick coating of coal dust, and the effect of
the rain added thereto, all traces of natural appearance
were entirely obliterated, and they looked frightful in
the extreme. But they had placed their lives
in mortal peril for freedom.
Every step of their critical journey was reviewed and
commented on, with matchless natural eloquence, - how,
when almost on the eve of suffocating in their warm
berths, in order to catch a breath of air, they were
compelled to crawl, one at a time, to a small aperture;
but scarcely would insist that he should "go back to his
hole." Air was precious, but for the time being
they valued their liberty at still greater price.
After they had talked to their hearts' content, and
after they had been thoroughly cleansed and changed in
apparel, their physical appearance could be easily
discerned, which made it less a wonder whence such
outbursts of eloquence had emanated. They bore
every mark of determined manhood.
The date of this arrival was Feb. 26, 1854, and the
following description was then recorded -
Arrived, by Steamer Pennsylvania, James Mercer,
William H. Gilliam and John Clayton, from
James was owned by the widow, Mrs. T.
E. White. He is thirty-two years of age, of
dark complexion, well made, good-looking, reads and
writes, is very fluent in speech, and remarkably
intelligent. From a boy he had been hired out.
The last place he had the honor to fill before escaping,
was with Messrs. William and Brother,
wholesale commission merchants. For his services
in this store the widow had been drawing one hundred and
twenty-five dollars per annum, clear of all expenses.
He did not complain of bad treatment from his mistress,
indeed, he spoke rather favorably of her. But he
could not close his eyes to the fact, that at one time
Mrs. White had been in possession of thirty head
of slaves, although at the time he was counting the cost
of escaping, two only remained - himself and William,
save a little boy) and on himself a mortgage for seven
hundred and fifty dollars was then resting. He
could, therefore, with his remarkably quick intellect
calculate about how long it would be before he reached
the auction block.
He had a wife but no child. She was owned by
Mr. Henry W. Quarles. So out of that Sodom he
felt he would have to escape, even at the cost of
leaving his wife behind. Of course he felt hopeful
that the way would open by which she could escape at a
future time, and so it did, as will appear by and by.
His aged mother he had to leave also.
Wm. Henry Gilliam likewise belonged to the
Widow White, and he had been hired to Messrs.
White and Brother to drive their bread wagon.
William was a baker by trade. For his
services his mistress had received one hundred and
thirty-five dollars per year. He thought his
mistress quite as good, if not a little better than most
slave-holders. But he had never felt persuaded to
believe that she was good enough for him to remain a
slave for her support.
Indeed, he had made several unsuccessful attempts
before this time to escape from slavery and its horrors.
He was fully posted from A to Z, but in his own person
he had been smart enough to escape most of the more
brutal outrages. He knew how to read and write,
and in readiness of speech and general natural ability
was far above the average of slaves.
He was twenty-five years of age, well made, of light
complexion, and might be put down as a valuable piece of
This loss fell with crushing weight upon the
kind-hearted mistress, as will be seen in a letter
subjoined which she wrote to the unfaithful William,
some time after he had fled.
LETTER FROM MRS. L. E. WHITE.
HENRY: - Your mother and
myself received your letter; she is much distressed at
your conduct; she is remaining just as you left her, she
says, and she will never been reconciled to our conduct.
I think Henry, you have acted most dishonorably;
had you have made a confidant of me I would have been
better off; and you as you are. I am badly
situated, living with Mrs. Palmer, and having to
put up with everything - your mother is also
dissatisfied - I am miserably poor, do not get a cent of
your hire or James', besides losing you both, but
if you can reconcile so do. By renting a
cheap house, I might have lived, now it seems starvation
is before me. Martha and the Doctor are
living in Portsmouth, it is not in her power to do much
for me. I know you will repent it. I heard
six weeks before you went, that you were trying to
persuade him off - but we all liked you, and I was
unwilling to believe it - however, I leave it in God's
hands He will know what to do. Your mother says
that I must tell you servant Jones is dead and
old Mrs. Galt. Kit is well,
but we are very uneasy, losing your and James'
hire, I fear poor little fellow, that he will
be obliged to go, as I am compelled to live, and it will
be your fault. I am quite unwell, but of course,
you don't care.
Yours, L. E. White
epistle was given by the disobedient William to a
member of the Vigilant Committee, when on a visit to
Canada, in 1855, and it was thought to be of too much
value to be lost. It was put away with other
valuable U. G. R. R. documents for future reference.
Touching the "rascality" of William and James and
the unfortunate predicament in which it placed the
kind-hearted widow, Mrs. Louisa White, the
following editorial clipped from the wide-awake Richmond
Despatch, was also highly
appreciated, and preserved as conclusive testimony to
the successful working of the U. G. R. R. in the Old
Dominion. It reads thus -
SOMEWHERE. - We called attention yesterday to the
advertisement of two negroes belonging to Mrs. Louisa
White, by Toler & Cook, and in the call we
expressed the opinion that they were still lurking about
the city, preparatory to going off. Mr. Toler,
we find, is of a different opinion. He believes
that they have already cleared themselves - have escaped
to a Free State, and we think it extremely probably that
he is in the right. They were both of them
uncommonly intelligent negroes. One of them, the
one hired to Mr. White, was a tip-top baker.
He had been all about the country, and had been in the
habit of supplying the U. S. Pennsylvania with bread;
Mr. W. having the contract. In his visits for
this purpose, of course, he formed acquaintances with
all sorts of sea-faring characters; and there is every
reason to believe that he has been assisted to get off
in that way, along with the other boy, hired to the
Messrs. Williams. That the two acted in
concert, can admit of no doubt. The question is
now to find out how they got off. They must
undoubtedly have had white men in the secret.
Have we then a nest of Abolition scoundrels among us?
There ought to be a law to put a police officer on board
every vessel as soon as she lands at the wharf.
There is one, we believe for inspecting vessels before
they leave. If there is not there ought to be one.
"These negroes belong to a widow lady and constitute
all the property she has on earth. They have both
been raised with the greatest indulgence. Had it
been otherwise, they would have had an opportunity to
escape, as they have done. Their flight has left
her penniless. Either of them would readily have
sold for $1200; and Mr. Toler advised their owner
to sell them at the commencement of the year, probably
anticipating the very thing that has happened. She
refused to do so, because she felt to much attachment to
them. They have made a fine return, truly."
No comment is necessary on the above editorial except
simply to express the hope that the editor and his
friends who seemed to be utterly befogged as to how
these "uncommonly intelligent negroes: made their
escape, will find the problem satisfactorily solved in
However, in order to do even-handed justice to all
concerned, it seems but proper that William and
James should be heard from, and hence a letter
from each is here appended for what they are worth.
True they were intended only for private use, but since
the "True light" (Freedom) has come, all things may be
LETTER FROM WILLIAM HENRY GILLIAM.
C. W., MAY 15th, 1854
About my being in A free State, I am and think A great
del of it. Also I have no compassion on the
penniless widow lady, I have Served her 25 yers 2
months, I think that is long Enough for me to live A
Slave. Dear Sir, I am very sorry to hear of the
Accadent that happened to our Friend Mr. Meakins,
I have read the letter to all that lives in St.
Catharines, that came from old Virginia, and then I
Sented to Toronto to Mercer & Clayton to see, and
to Farman to read for themselves. Sir, you
must write to me soon and let me know how Meakins
gets on with his tryal, and you must pray for him, I
have told all here to do the same for him. May God
bless and protect him from prison, I have heard A great
del of old Richmond and Norfolk. Dear Sir, if you
see Mr. or Mrs. Gilbert Give my love to them and
tell them to write to me, also give my respect to your
Family and A part for yourself, love from the friends to
you Soloman Brown, H. Atkins, Was. Johnson, Mrs.
Brooks, Mr. Dykes. Mr. Smith is better at
presant. And do not forget to write the News of
Meakin's tryal. I cannot say any more at this
time; but remain yours and A true Friend ontell Death.
W. H. GILLIAM, the widow's Mite.
JAMES MERCER'S LETTER.
- I take this method of informing you that I am well,
and when this comes to hand it may find you and your
family enjoying good health. Sir, my particular
for writing is that I wish to hear from you, and to hear
all the news from down South. I wish to know if
all things are working Right for the Rest of my
Bretheran whom in bondage. I will also Say that I
am very much please with Toronto, So also the friends
that came over with. It is true that we have not
been Employed as yet; but we are in hopes of be'en so in
a few days. We happen here in good time jest about
time the people in this country are going work. I
am in good health and good Spirits, and feeles Rejoiced
in the Lord for my liberty. I Received cople of
paper from you to-day. I wish you see James
Morris whom are Abram George the first and
second on the Ship Penn., give my respects to them, and
ask James if he will call at Henry W. Quarles
on May street oppisit the Jews synagogue and call for
Marena Mercer, give my love to her ask her of all
the times about Richmond, tell her to Send me all the
news. Tell Mr. Morris that there will be no
danger in going to that place. You will also tell
M. to make himself known to her as she may know who sent
him. And I wish to get a letter from you.
JAMES M. MERCER.
JOHN H. HILL'S LETTER.
FRIEND, I would like to hear from
you, I have been looking for a letter from you for
Several days as the last was very interesting to me,
please to write Right away.
Yours most Respectfully, JOHN
weeping over the sad situation of his "penniless"
mistress and showing any signs of contrition for having
wronged the man who had the mortgage of seven hundred
and fifty dollars on him, James actually "feels
rejoiced in the Lord for his liberty," and is "very much
Toronto;" but is not satisfied yet, he is even
concocting a plan by which his wife might be run off
from Richmond, which would be the cause of her owner (Henery
W. Quarles, Esq.) losing at least one thousand
FRIEND: - I received a letter from
the poor old widow, Mrs. L. E. White, and she
says I may come back if I choose and she will do a good
part by me. Yes, Yes I am choosing the western
side of the South for my home. She is smart, but
cannot bung my eye, so she shall have to die in the poor
house at least, so she says, and Mercer and
myself will be the cause of it. That is all right.
I am getting even with her now for I was in the poor
house for twenty-five years and have just got out.
And she said she knew I was coming away six weeks before
I started, so you may know my chance was slim. But
Mr. John Wright, said I came off like a gentleman
and he did not blame me for coming for I was a great
boy. Yes I here him enough he is all gas. I
am in Canada, and they cannot help themselves.
About that subject I will not say anything more.
You must write to me as soon as you can and let me here
the news and how the Family is and yourself. Let
me know how the times is with the U. G. R. R. Co.
Is it doing good business? Mr. Dykes sends
his respects to you. Give mine to your family.
Your true friend, W. H. GILLIAM
the companion is tribulation of William and James,
must not be lost sight of any longer. He was owned
by the Widow Clayton and was white enough to have
been nearly related to her, being a mulatto. He
was about thirty-five years of age, a man of fine
appearance, and quite intelligent. Several years
previous he had made an attempt to escape, but failed.
Prior to escaping in this instance, he had been laboring
in a tobacco factory at $150 a year. It is
needless to say that he did not approve of the "peculiar
institution." He left a wife and one child behind
to mourn after him. Of his views of Canada and
Freedom, the following frank and sensible letter, penned
shortly after his arrival, speaks for itself.
- I take this method of informing you that I am well
both in health and mind. You may rest assured that
I fells myself a free man and do not fell as I did when
I was in Virginia thanks be to God I have no
master into Canada but I am my own man. I arrived
safe into Canada on friday last. I must request of
you to write a few lines to my wife and jest state to
her that her friend arrived safe into this glorious land
of liberty and I am well and she will make very short
her time in Virginia. tell her that I likes here
very well and hopes to like it better when I gets to
work I don't meane for you to write the same words that
are written above but I wish you give her a clear
understanding where I am and Shall Remain here untel She
comes or I hears from her.
Nothing more at present but remain yours most
You will please to direct the to Petersburg Luenena
Johns or Clayton John is best.
Arrived in Male Attire
fled from Portsmouth, Va., in May, 1854, with two of her
brothers. Two months and a half before she
succeeded in getting off, Clarissa had made a
desperate effort but failed. The brothers
succeeded, but she was left. She had not given up
all hope of escape, however, and therefore sought "a
safe hiding-place until an opportunity might offer," by
which she could follow her brothers on the U. G. R. R.
Clarissa was owned by Mrs. Brown and
Mrs. Burkley, of Portsmouth, under whom she had
Of them she spoke favorably, saying that she "had not
been used as hard as many others were." At this
period, Clarissa was about twenty-two years of
age, of a bright brown complexion, with handsome
features, exceedingly respectful and modest, and
possessed all the characteristics of a well-bred young
lady. For one so little acquainted with books as
she was, the correctness of her speech was perfectly
For Clarissa and her two brothers a "reward of
one thousand dollars" was kept standing in the papers
for a length of time, as there (articles) were
considered very rare and valuable; the best that could
be produced in Virginia.
In the meanwhile the brothers had passed safely on to
New Bedford,,, but Clarissa remained secluded,
"waiting for the storm to subside." Keeping up
courage day by day, for seventy-five days, with the fear
of being detected and severely punished, and then sold,
after all her hopes and struggles required the faith of
a martyr. Time after time, when she hoped to
succeed in making her escape, ill luck seemed to
disappoint her, and nothing but intense suffering
appeared to be in store. Like many others, under
the crushing weight of oppression, she thought she
"should have to die" ere she tasted liberty. In
this state of mind, one day, word was conveyed to her
that the steamship, City of Richmond, had arrived from
Philadelphia, and that the steward on board (with whom
she was acquainted), had consented to secrete her this
trip, if she could manage to reach the ship safely,
which was to start the next day. This news to
Clarissa was both cheering and painful. She had
been "praying all the time while waiting," but now she
felt "that if it would only rain right hard the next
morning about three o'clock, to drive the police
officers off the street, then she could safely make her
way to the boat. Therefore she prayed anxiously
all that day that it would rain, "but no sign of rain
appeared till towards midnight." The prospect
looked horribly discouraging; but she prayed on, and at
the appointed hour (three o'clock - before day), the
rain descended in torrents. Dressed in male
attire, Clarissa left the miserable coop where
she had been almost without light or air for two and a
half months, and unmolested,
reached the boat safely, and was secreted in a box by
Wm. Bagnal, a clever young man who sincerely
sympathized with the slave, having a wife in slavery
himself; and by him she was safely delivered into the
hands of the Vigilance Committee.
Clarissa Davis here, by advice of the Committee,
dropped her old name, and was straightway christened "Mary
D. Armstead." Desiring to join her brothers
and a sister in New Bedford, she was duly furnished with
her U. G. R. R. passport and directed thitherward.
Her father, who was left behind when she got off, soon
after made his way on North, and joined his children.
He was too old and infirm probably to be worth anything,
and had been allowed to go free, or to purchase himself
for a mere nominal sum. Slaveholders would, on
some such occasions, show wonderful liberality in
letting their old slaves go free, when they could work
no more. After reaching New Bedford, Clarissa
manifested her gratitude in writing to her friends in
Philadelphia repeatedly, and evinced a very lively
interest in the U. G. R. R. The appended letter
indicates her sincere feelings of gratitude and deep
interest in the cause -
NEW BEDFORD, August 26, 1855
- I avail my self to write you thes few lines hopeing
they may find you and your family well as they leaves me
very well and all the family well except y father he
seams to be improving with his shoulder he has been
able to work a little. I received the papers I was
highly delighted to receive them I was very glad to hear
from you in the wheler case I was very glad
to hear that the persons ware safe I was
very sory to hear that mr Williamson
was put in prison but I know if the praying part of the
people will pray for him and if he will put his trust in
the lord he will brig him out more than conquer please
remember my Dear old farther and sisters and brothers to
your family kiss the children for me I hear that the
yellow fever is very bad down south now if the
underground railroad could have free course the emergent
would cross the river of gordan rapidly. I hope it
may continue to run and I hope the wheels of the Car may
be greesed with more substantial greese so they may run
over swiftly I would have wrote before but
circumstances would not permit me. Miss Sanders
and all the friends desired to be remembered to you and
your family I shall be pleased to hear from the
underground rail road often
MARY D. ARMSTEAD.
BLOW ALIAS HENRY LEVISON
Secreted Ten Months - Eight days on the
Steamship City of Richmond bound for Philadelphia
Norfolk, about the 1st of November, 1854. Ten
months before starting, Anthony had been closely
concealed. He belonged to the estate of Mrs.
Peters, a widow, who had been dead about one year
before his concealment.
On the settlement of his old mistress' estate, which
was to take place one year after her death, Anthony
was to be transferred to Mrs. Lewis, a daugh-
of Mrs. Peters (the wife of James Lewis, Esq.).
Anthony felt well satisfied that he was not the
slave to please the "tyrannical whims" of his
anticipated master, young Lewis, and of course he
hated the idea of having to come under his yoke.
And what made it still more unpleasant for Anthony
was that Mr. Lewis would frequently remind him
that it was his intention to "sell him as soon as he got
possession - the first day of January." "I can get
fifteen hundred dollars for you easily, and I will do
it." This contemptuous threat had caused
Anthony's blood to boil time and again. But
Anthony had to take the matter as calmly as
possible, which, however, he was not always able to do.
At any rate, Anthony concluded that his "young
master had counted the chickens before they were
hatched." Indeed here Anthony began to be a
deep thinker. He thought, for instance, that he
had already been shot three times, at the instance of
slave-holders. The first time he was shot was for
refusing a flogging when only eighteen years of age.
The second time, he was shot in the head with squirrel
shot by the sheriff, who was attempting to arrest him
for having resisted three "young white ruffians," who
wished to have the pleasure of beating him, but got
beaten themselves. And in addition to being shot
this time, Anthony was still further "broke in"
by a terrible flogging from the Sheriff. The third
time Anthony was shot he was about twenty-one
years of age. In this instance he was punished for
his offence - he "would not be whipped."
This time his injury from being shot was light,
compared with the two preceding attacks. Also in
connection with these murderous conflicts, he could not
forget that he had been sold on the auction block.
But he had still deeper thinking to do yet. He
determined that his young master should never get
"fifteen hundred dollars for him on the 1st of January,"
unless he got them while he (Anthony) was
running. For Anthony had fully made up his
mind that when the last day of December ended, his
bondage should end also, even if he should have to
accept death as a substitute. He then began to
think of the Underground Rail Road and of Canada; but
who the agents were, or how to find the depot, was a
serious puzzle to him. But his time was getting so
short he was convinced that whatever he did would have
to be done quickly. In this frame of mind he found
a man who professed to know something about the
Underground Rail Road, and for "thirty dollars" promised
to aid him in the matter.
The thirty dollars were raised by the hardest effort
and passed over to the pretended friend, with the
expectation that it would avail greatly in the
emergency. But Anthony found himself sold
for thirty dollars, as nothing was done for him.
However, the 1st day of January arrived, but Anthony
was not to be found to answer to his name at roll call.
He had "took out" very early in the morning. Daily
he prayed in his place of concealment how to find the U.
G. R. R. Ten months passed away, during which time
he suffered almost death, persuaded himself to believe
that even that was better than slavery. With
Anthony, as it has been with thousands of others
similarly situated, just as everything was looking the
most hopeless, word came to him in his place of
concealment that a friend named Minkins, employed
on the steamship City of Richmond, would undertake to
conceal him on the boat, if he would be crowded in a
certain place, which was about the only spot that would
be perfectly safe. This was glorious news to
Anthony; but it was well for him that he was
ignorant of the situation that awaited him on the boat,
or his heart might have failed him. He was
willing, however, to risk his life for freedom, and,
therefore, went joyfully.
The hiding-place was small and he was large. A
sitting attitude was the only way he could possibly
occupy it. He was contented. This place was
"near the range, directly over the boiler," and of
course, was very warm. Nevertheless, Anthony
felt that he would not murmur, as he knew what suffering
was pretty well, and especially as he took it for
granted that he would be free in about a day and a half
- the usual time it took the steamer to make her trip.
At the appointed hour the steamer left Norfolk for
Philadelphia, with Anthony sitting flat down in
his U. G. R. R. berth, thoughtful and hopeful. But
before the steamer had made half her distance the storm
was tossing the ship hither and thither fearfully.
Head winds blew terribly, and for a number of days the
elements seemed perfectly mad. In addition to the
extraordinary state of the weather, when the storm
subsided the fog took its place and held the mastery of
the ship with equal despotism until the end of over
seven days, when finally the storm, wind, and fog all
disappeared, and so the eighth day of her boisterous
passage the steamship City of Richmond landed at the
wharf of Philadelphia, with this giant and hero on board
who had suffered for ten months in his concealment on
land and for eight days on the ship.
Anthony was of very powerful physical
proportions, being six feet three inches in height,
quite black, very intelligent, and of a temperament that
would not submit to slavery. For some years his
master, Col. Cunnagan, had hired him out in
Washington, where he was accused of being in the
schooner Pear, with Capt. Drayton's memorable
"seventy fugitives on board, bound for Canada." At
this time he was stoker in a machine shop, and was at
work on an anchor weighing "ten thousand pounds."
In the excitement over the attempt to escape in the
Pearl, many were arrested, and the officers with irons
visited Anthony at the machine shop to arrest
him, but he declined to let them put the hand-cuffs on
him, but consented to go with them, if permitted to do
so without being ironed. The officers yielded, and
Anthony went willingly to the jail. Passing
unnoticed other interesting conflicts in his hard life,
suffice it to say, he left his wife, Ann, and
three children, Benjamin, John and Alfred,
all owned by Col. Cunnagan. In this
brave-hearted man, the Committee felt a deep interest,
and accorded him their usual hospitalities.
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