OF ELKTON, MARYLAND.
EYE KNOCKED OUT, ETC.
Perry's exit was in November, 1853. He was
owned by Charles Johnson, who lived at Elkton.
The infliction of a severe "flogging" from the hand of
his master awakened Perry to consider the
importance of the U. G. R. R. Perry had the
misfortune to let a "load of fodder upset," about which
has master became exasperated, and in his agitated state
of mind he succeeded in affixing a number of very ugly
stationary marks on Perry's back. However,
this was no new thing. Indeed he had suffered at
the hands of his mistress even far more keenly than from
these "ugly marks." He had but one eye; the other
he had been deprived of by a terrible stroke with a
cowhide in the "hand of his mistress." This lady
he pronounced to be a "perfect savage," and added that
"she was in the habit of cowhiding any of her slaves
whenever she felt like it, which was quite often."
Perry was about twenty-eight years of age and a
man of promise. The Committee attended to his
wants and forwarded him on North.
ISAAC FORMAN, WILLIAM
DAVIS, AND WILLIS REDICK.
HEARTS FULL OF JOY FOR FREEDOM - VERY ANXIOUS FOR WIVES
passengers all arrived together, concealed, per
steamship City of Richmond, December, 1853.
Isaac Forman, the youngest of the party -
twenty-three years of age and a dark mulatto - would be
considered by a Southerner capable of judging as "very
likely." He fled from a widow by the name of
Mrs. Sanders, who had been in the habit of hiring
him out for "one hundred and twenty dollars a year."
She belonged in Norfolk, Va.; so did Isaac.
For four years Isaac had served in the capacity
of steward on the steamship Augusta. He stated
that he had a wife living in Richmond, and that she was
confined the morning he took the U. G. R. R. Of
course he could not see her. The privilege of
living in Richmond with his wife "had been denied him."
Thus, fearing a render her unhappy, he was obliged to
conceal from her his intention to escape. "Once or
twice in the year was all the privilege allowed" him to
visit her. This only added "insult to injury," in
Isaac's opinion; wherefore he concluded that he
would make one less to have to suffer thus, and common
sense said he was wise in the matter. No
particular charges are found recorded on the U. G. R. R.
books against the mistress. He went to Canada.
In the subjoined letters (about his wife) is clearly
revealed the sincere gratitude he felt towards those who
aided him; at the same time it may be
seen how the thought of his wife being in bondage
grieved his heart. It would have required men with
stone hearts to have turned deaf ears to such appeals.
Extract from letter soon after reaching Canada - hopeful
and happy -
EXTRACT OF LETTER
FROM ISAAC FORMAN.
STILL: - Sir - Your kind letter arrived safe
at the hand on the 18th, and I was very happy to receive
it. I know feel that I should return you some
thanks for your kindness. Dear sir I do pray from
the bottom of my heart, that the high heavens may bless
you for your kindness; give my love to Mr. Babnel
and Mr. Minkins, ask them if they have heard
anything from my brother, tell Mr. Bagnel to give
my love to my sister-in-law and mother and all the
family. I am now living at Russell's Hotel; it is
the first situation I have had since I have been here
and I like it very well. Sir you would oblige my
by letting me know if Mr. Minkins has seen my
wife; you will please let me know as soon as possible.
I wonder if Mr. Minkins has thought of any way
that he can get my wife away. I should like to
know in a few days. Your well wisher, ISAAC
letter from Isaac. He is very gloomy and
his heart is almost breaking about his wife.
TORONTO, May 7, 1854.
STILL: - Dear Sir - I take this opportunity
of writing you these few lines and hope when they reach
you they will find you well. I would have written
you before, but I was waiting to hear from my friend,
Mr. Brown. I judge his business has been of
importance as the occasion why he has not written
before. Dear sir, nothing would have prevented me
from writing, in a case of this kind, except death.
My soul is vexed, my troubles are inexpressible.
I often feel as if I were willing to die. I must
see my wife in short, if not, I will die. What
would I not give no tongue can utter. Just to gaze
on her sweet lips one moment I would be willing to die
the next. I am determined to see her some time or
other. The thought of being a slave again is
miserable. I hope heaven will smile upon me again,
before I am one again. I will leave Canada again
shortly, but I don't name the place that I go, it may be
in the bottom of the ocean. If I had known as much
before I left, as I do now, I would never have left
until I could have found means to have brought her with
me. You have never suffered from being absent from
a wife, as I have. I consider that to be nearly
superior to death, and hope you will do all you can for
me, and inquire from your friends if nothing can be done
for me. Please write to me immediately on receipt
of this, and say something that will cheer up my
drooping spirits. You will oblige me by seeing
Mr. Brown and ask him if he would oblige me by going
to Richmond and see my wife, and see what arrangements
he could make with her, and I would be willing to pay
all his expenses there and back. Please to see
both Mr. Bagnel and Mr. Minkins, and ask
them if they have seen my wife. I am determined to
see her, if I die the next moment. I can say I was
once happy, but never will be again, until I see her;
because what is freedom to me, when I know that my wife
is in slavery? Those persons that you shipped a
few weeks ago, remained at St. Catherine, instead of
coming over to Toronto. I sent you two letters
last week and I hope you will please attend to them.
The post-office is shut, so I enclose the money to pay
the post, and please write me in haste.
I remain evermore your obedient servant,
He was owned by S. J. Wilson, a merchant, living
in Portsmouth, Va. Willis was of a very
dark hue, thick set, thirty-two years of age, and
possessed of fair share of mind. The owner had
been accustomed to hire Willis out for "one
hundred dollars a year." Willis thought his
lot "pretty hard," and his master rather increased this
notion by his severity, and especially by "threatening"
to sell him. He had enjoyed, as far as it was
expected for a slave to do, "five months of married
life," but he loved slavery no less on this account.
In fact, he had just begun to consider what it was to
have a wife and children that he "could not own or
protect," and who were claimed as another's property.
consequently he became quite restive under these
reflections and his master's ill-usage, and concluded to
"look out," without consulting either the master or the
The step looked exceedingly hard, but what else could
the poor fellow do? Slavery existed expressly for
the purpose of crushing souls and breaking tender
William might be described as a good-looking
mulatto, thirty-one years of age, and capable of
thinking for himself. He made no grave complains
of ill-usage under his master, "Joseph Reynolds,"
who lived at Newton, Portsmouth, Va. However, his
owner had occasionally "threatened to sell him."
At this was too much for William's sensitive
feelings, he took umbrage at it and made a hasty and
hazardous move, which resulted in finding himself on the
U. G. R. R. The most serious regret William
had to report to the Committee was, that he was
compelled to "leave" his "wife," Catherine, and
his little daughter, Louisa, two years and one
month, and an infant son seven months old. He
evidently loved them very tenderly, but saw no way by
which he could aid them, as long as he was daily liable
to be put on the auction block and sold far South.
this argument was regarded by the Committee as logical
and unanswerable; consequently they readily
endorsed his course, while they deeply sympathized with
his poor wife and little ones. "Before escaping,"
he "dared not: even apprise his wife and child, whom he
had to leave behind in the prison house.
JOSEPH HENRY CAMP.
THE AUCTION BLOCK IS DEFEATED AND A SLAVE TRADER LOSES
FOURTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS.
In November, 1853, in the twentieth year of his age,
Camp was held to "service of labor" in the City of
Richmond, Va., by Dr. K. Clark. Being
uncommonly smart and quite good-looking at the same
time, he was a saleable piece of merchandise.
Without consulting his view of the matter or making the
least intimation of any change, the master one day
struck up a bargain with a trader for Joseph, and
received Fourteen Hundred Dollars cash in
Mr. Robert Parrett, of Parson & King's
Express office, happened to have a knowledge of what had
transpired, and thinking pretty well of Joseph,
confidentially put him in full possession of all the
facts in the case. For reflection he hardly had
five minutes. But he at once resolved to strike
that day for freedom - not to go home that evening to be
delivered into the hands of his new master. In
putting into execution his bold resolve, he secreted
himself, and so remained for three weeks. In the
meantime his mother, who was a slave, resolved to escape
also, but after one week's gloomy foreboding, she became
"faint-hearted and gave the struggle over." But
Joseph did not now what surrender meant. His sole
thought was to procure a ticket on the U. S. R. R. for
Canada, which by persistent effort he succeeded in
doing. He hid himself in a steamer, and by this
way reached Philadelphia, where he received every
accommodation at the usual depot, was provided with a
free ticket, and sent off rejoicing for Canada.
The unfortunate mother was "detected and sold South."
SECRETED IN THE WOODS - ESCAPES IN A STEAMER
About the twenty-ninth of January, 1855, Sheridan
arrived from the Old Dominion and a life of bondage, and
was welcomed cordially by the Vigilance Committee.
Miss Elizabeth Brown of Portsmouth, Va. claimed
Sheridan as her property. He spoke rather
kindly of her, and felt that he "had not been used very
hard" as a general thing, although, he wisely added,
"the best usage was bad enough." Sheridan
had nearly reached his twenty-eighth year, was tall and
well made, and possessed of a considerable share of
Not a great while before making up his mind to escape,
for some trifling offence he had been "stretched up with
a rope by his hands," and "whipped unmercifully."
In addition to this he had "got wind of the fact," that
he was to be auctioneered off; soon these things brought
serious reflections to Sheridan's mind, and among
other questions, he began to ponder how he could get a
ticket on the U. G. R. R., and get out of this "place of
torment," to where he might have the benefit of his own
labor. In this state of mind, about the fourteenth
day of November, he took his first and during step.
He went not, however, to learned lawyers or able
ministers of the Gospel in his distress and trouble, but
wended his way "directly to the woods," where he felt
that he would be safer with the wild animals and
reptiles, in solitude, than with the barbarous
civilization that existed in Portsmouth.
The first day in the woods he passed in prayer
incessantly, all alone. In this particular place
of seclusion he remained "four days and nights," "two
days suffered severely from hunger, cold and thirst."
However, one who was a "friend" to him, and knew of his
whereabouts, managed to get some food to him and
consoling words; but at the end of the four days this
friend got into some difficulty and thus Sheridan
was left to "wade through deep waters and head winds" in
an almost hopeless state. There he could not
consent to stay and starve to death.
Accordingly he left and found another place of seclusion
- with a friend in town - for a pecuniary consideration.
A secret passage was procured for him on one of the
steamers running between Philadelphia and Richmond, Va.
When he left his poor wife Julia, she was then
"lying in prison to be sold," on the simple charge of
having been suspected of conniving at her husband's
escape. As a woman she had known something of the
"barbarism of slavery," from every-day experience, which
the large scars about her head indicated - according to
Sheridan's testimony. She was the mother of
two children, but had never been allowed to have the
care of either of them. The husband, utterly
powerless to offer her the least sympathy in word or
deed, left this dark habitation of cruelty, as above
referred to, with no hope of ever seeing wife or child
again in this world.
The Committee afforded him the usual aid and comfort,
and passed him on to the next station, with his face set
towards Boston. He had heard the slaveholders
"curse" Boston so much, that he concluded it must be a
pretty safe place for the fugitive.
JOSEPH KNEELAND, ALIAS
Joseph Kneeland arrived November 25, 1853.
He was prepossessing man of twenty-six, dark complexion,
and intelligent. At the time of Joseph's
escape, he was owned by Jacob Kneeland, who had
fallen heir to him as a part of his father's estate.
Joseph spoke of his old master as having treated
him "pretty well," but he had an idea that his young
master had a very "malignant spirit;" for even before
the death of his old master, the heir wanted him,
"Joe," sold, and after the old man died, matters
appeared to be coming to a crisis very fast. Even
as early as November, the young despot had distinctly
given "Joe" to understand, that he was not to be
hired out another year, intimating that he was to "go
somewhere," but as to particulars, it was time enough
for Joe to know him.
Of course, "Joe" looked at his master "right
good" and saw right through him, and at the same time,
saw the U. G. R. R., "darkly." Daily slavery grew
awfully mean, but on the other hand, Canada was looked
upon as a very desirable country to emigrate to, and he
concluded to make his
way there, as speedily as the U. G. R. R. could safely
convey him. Accordingly he soon carried his design
into practice, and on his arrival, the Committee
regarded him as a very good subject for her British
Majesty's possessions in Canada.
HOUSEHOLD LOSES AN ARISTOCRATIC "ARTICLE"
James Hambleton Christian is a remarkable
specimen of the "well fed, &c." In talking with
him relative to his life as a slave, he said very
promptly, "I have always been treated well; if I only
have half as good times in the North as I have had in the
South, I shall be perfectly satisfied. Any time I
desired spending money, five or ten dollars were no
object." At times, James had borrowed of
his master, one, two, and three hundred dollars, to loan
out to some of his friends. With regard to apparel
and jewelry, he had worn the best, as an every-day
adornment. With regard to food also, he had fared
as well as heart could wish, with aboundance of leisure
time at his command. His deportment was certainly
very refined and gentlemanly. About fifty per cent
of Anglo-Saxon blood was visible in his features and his
hair, which gave him no inconsiderable claim to sympathy
and care. He had been to William and Mary's
College in his younger days, to wait on young master
James B. C., where, through the kindness of some of
the students he had picked up a trifling amount of book
learning. To be brief, this man was born the slave
of old Major Christian, on the Glen Plantation,
Charles City county, Va. The Christians
were wealthy and owned many slaves, and belonged in
reality to the F. F. V.'s. On the death of the old
Major, James fell into the hands of his son,
Judge Christian, who was executor to his father's
estate. Subsequently he fell into the hands of one
of the Judge's sisters, Mrs. John Tyler (wife of
Ex-President Tyler), and then he became a member
of the President's domestic household, was at the White
House, under the President, from 1841 to 1845.
Though but very young at that time, James was
only fit for training in the arts, science, and mystery
of waiting, in which profession, much pains were taken
to qualify him completely for his calling.
After a lapse of time, his mistress died.
According to her request, after this event, James
and his old mother were handed over to her nephew,
William H. Christian, Esq., a merchant of Richmond.
From this gentleman, James had the folly to flee.
Passing hurriedly over interesting details, received
from him respecting his remarkable history, two or three
more incidents too good to omit must suffice.
"How did you like Mr. Tyler?" said an
inquisitive member of the Vigilane Committee. "I
didn't like Mr. Tyler much," was the reply.
"Why?" again inquired the member of the Committee.
"Because Mr. Tyler was a poor man. I never
did like poor people. I didn't like his marrying
to our family; who were considered very far Tyler's
superiors." "On the plantation," he said, "Tyler
was a very cross man, and treated the servants very
cruelly; but the house servants were treated much
better, owing to their having belonged to his wife, who
protected them from persecution, as they had been
favorite servants in her father's family."
James estimated that "Tyler got about
thirty-five thousand dollars and twenty-nine slaves,
young and old, by his wife."
What prompted James to leave such pleasant
quarters? It was this: He had become
enamored of a young and respectable free girl in
Richmond, with whom he could not be united in marriage
solely because he was a slave, and did not own himself.
The frequent sad separations of such married couples
(where one or the other was a slave) could not be
overlooked; consequently, the poor fellow concluded that
he would stand a better chance of gaining his object in
Canada than by remaining in Virginia. So he began
to feel that he might himself be sold someday, and thus
the resolution came home to him very forcibly to make
tracks for Canada.
In speaking of the good treatment he had always met
with, a member of the Committee remarked, "You must be
akin to some one of your master's family?" To
which he replied, "I am Christian's son."
Unquestionably this passenger was one of that happy
class so commonly referred to by apologists for the
"Patriarchal Institution." The Committee, feeling
a deep interest in his story, and desiring great success
to him in his Underground efforts to get rid of slavery,
and at the same time possess himself of his affianced,
made him heartily welcome, feeling assured that
the struggles and hardships he had submitted to in
escaping, as well as the luxuries he was leaving behind,
were nothing to be compared with the blessings of
liberty and a free wife in Canada.
EDWARD MORGAN, HENRY JOHNSON, JAMES AND STEPHEN
"TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD. The above Reward
will be paid for the apprehension of two blacks, who
escaped on Sunday last. It is supposed they have
made their way to Pennsylvania. $500 will be paid
for the apprehension of either, so that we can get them
again. The oldest is named Edward Morgan,
about five feet six or seven inches, heavily made - is
dark black, has rather a down look when spoken to, and
is about 21 years of age.
"Henry Johnson is a colored negro, about five
feet seven or eight inches, heavily made, aged nineteen
years, has a pleasant countenance, and has a mark on his
neck below the ear.
"Stephen Butler is a dark-complexioned negro,
about five feet seven inches; has a pleasant
countenance, with a scar above his eye; plays on the
violin; about twenty-two years old.
"Jim Butler is a dark-complexioned negro, five
feet eight or nine inches; is rather sullen when spoken
to; face rough; aged about twenty-one years. The
clothing not recollected. They had black frock
coats and slouch hats with them. Any information
of them address Elizabeth Brown, Sandy Hook P.O.,
of the Thomas Johnson, Abingdon P. O., Harford
FROM THE UNDERGROUND
RAIL ROAD RECORDS.
The following memorandum is made, which, if not too
late, may afford some light to "Elizabeth Brown
and Thomas Johnson," if they have not already
gone the way of the "lost cause" -
June 4, 1857. - Edward is a hardy and
firm-looking young man of twenty-four years of age,
chestnut color, medium size, and "likely," - would
doubtless bring $1,400 in the market. He had been
held as the property of the widow, "Betsy Brown,"
who resided near Mill Green P. O., in Harford county,
Md. "She was a very bad woman; would go to church
every Sunday, come home and go to fighting amongst the
colored people; was never satisfied; she treated my
mother very hard, (said Ed.); would beat her with a
walking-stick, &c. She was an old woman and
belonged to the Catholic Church. Over her slaves
she kept an overseer, who was a very wicked man; very
bad on colored people; his name was "Bill Eddy;'
Elizabeth Brown owned twelve head."
Henry is of a brown skin, a good-looking young
man, only nineteen years of age, whose prepossessing
appearance would insure a high price for him in the
market - perhaps $1,700. With Edward, he
testifies to the meanness of Mrs. Betsy Brown, as
well as to his own longing desire for freedom.
Being a fellow-servant with Edward, Henry was a
party to the plan of escape. In slavery he left
his mother and three sisters, owned by the "old woman"
from whom he escaped.
James is about twenty-one years of age, full
black, and medium size. As he had been worked hard
on poor fare, he concluded to leave, in company with his
brother and two cousins, leaving his parents in slavery,
owned by the "Widow Pyle," who was also the owner
of himself. "She was upwards of eighty, very
passionate and ill-natured, although a member of the
Presbyterian Church." James may be worth
Stephen is a brother of James', and is
about the same size, though a year older. His
experience differed in no material respect from his
brother's; was owned by the same woman, whom he "hated
for her bad treatment" of him. Would bring $1,400,
In substance, and to the considerable extent in the
exact words, these facts are given as they came from the
lips of the passengers, who though having been kept in
ignorance and bondage, seemed to have their eyes fully
the wrongs that had been heaped upon them, and were
singularly determined to reach free soil at all hazards.
The Committee willingly attended to their financial and
other wants, and cheered them on with encouraging
They were indebted to "The Baltimore Sun" for the
advertisement information. And here it may be
further added, that the "Sun" was quite famous for this
kind of U. G. R. R. literature, and on that account
alone the Committee subscribed for it daily, and never
failed to scan closely certain columns, illustrated with
a black man running away with a bundle on his back.
Many of these popular illustrations and advertisements
were preserved, many others were sent away to friends at
a distance, who took a special interest in the U. G. R.
R. matters. Friends and stockholders in England
used to take a great interest in seeing how the fine
arts, in these particulars, were encouraged in the
South. ("the land of chivalry").
BROKE JAIL, JUMPED OUT OF THE WINDOW AND MADE HIS
fled from Buckstown, Dorchester Co., Md., March, 1857.
Physically he is a giant. About 27 years of age,
stout and well-made, quite black, and no fool, as will
appear presently. Only a short time before he
escaped, his master threatened to sell him south.
To avoid that fate, therefore he concluded to try his
luck on the Underground Rail Road, and, in company with
seven others - two of them females - he started for
Canada. For two or three days and nights they
managed to outgeneral all their adversaries, and
succeeded barely in making the best of their way to a
In the meantime, however, a reward of $3,000 was
offered for their arrest. This temptation was too
great to be resisted, even by the man who had been
intrusted with the care of them, and who had faithfully
promised to pilot them to a safe place. One night,
through the treachery of their pretended conductor, they
were all taken into Dover Jail, where the Sheriff and
several others, who had been notified beforehand by the
betrayer, were in readiness to receive them. Up
stairs they were taken, the betrayer remarking as they
were going up, that they were "cold, but would soon have
a good morning." On a light being lit they
discovered the iron bars and the fact that they had been
betrayed. Their liberty-loving spirits and
purposes, however, did not quail. Though resisted
brutally by the sheriff with revolver in hand, they made
their way down one flight of stairs, and in the moment
of excitement, as good luck would have it, plunged into
the sheriff''s private apartment where his wife and
children were sleeping. The wife cried murder
lustily. A shovel full of fire, to the great
danger of burning
the premises, was scattered over the room; out of the
window jumped two of the female fugitives. Our
hero Henry, seizing a heavy andiron, smashed out
the window entire, through which the others leaped a
distance of twelve feet. The railing or wall
around the jail, though at first it looked forbidding,
was soon surmounted by a desperate effort.
At this stage of the proceedings, Henry found
himself without the walls, and also lost sight of his
comrades at the same time. The last enemy he spied
was the sheriff in his stockings without his shoes.
He snapped his pistol at him, but it did not go off.
Six on the others, however, marvellously got off
safely together; where the eighth went, or how he
got off, was not known.
fled from Buckstown, Dorchester Co., also. His
owner's name was Richard Meredith, a farmer.
Daniel is one of the eight alluded to above.
In features he is well made, dark chestnut color, and
intelligent, possessing an ardent thirst for liberty.
The cause of his escape was: "Worked hard in all sorts
of weather - in rain and snow," so he thought he would
"go where colored men are free." His master was
considered the hardest man around His mistress was
"eighty-three years of age," "drank hard," was
"very stormy," and a "member of the Methodist Church"
(Airy's meeting-house). He left brothers and
sisters, and uncles and aunts behind. In the
combat at the prison he played his part manfully.
is also one of the brave eight who broke out of Dover
Jail. He was about twenty-three years of age, well
made, wide awake, and of a superb black complexion.
He too had been owned by Richard Meredith.
Against the betrayer, who was a black man, he had
vengeance in store if the opportunity should ever offer.
Thomas left only one brother living; his "father
and mother were dead."
The excitement over the escape spread very rapidly next
morning, and desperate efforts were made to recapture
the fugitives, but a few friends there were who had
sympathy and immediately rendered them the needed
The appended note from the faithful Garrett and
Samuel Rhoads, may throw light upon the
occurrence to some extent.
WILMINGTON, 3d mo. 13th, 1857.
DEAR COUSIN, SAMUEL RHOADS: - I have a letter this day
from an agent of the Underground Rail Road, near Dover,
in this state, saying I must be on the look out for six
brothers and two sisters, they were decoyed and
betrayed, he says by a colored man
named Thomas Otwell, who pretended to be their
friend, and sent a white scamp ahead to wait for
them at Dover till they arrived; they were arrested and
put in Jail there, with Tom's assistance, and
some officers. On third day morning about four
o'clock, they broke jail; six of them are secreted in
the neighborhood and the writer ahs not known what
became of the other two. The six were to start
last night for this place. I hear that their
owners have persons stationed at several places on the
road watching. I fear they will be taken. If
they could lay quiet for ten days and two weeks, they
might then get up safe. I shall have two men sent
this evening some four or five miles below to keep them
away from this town, and send them (if found to Chester
County). Thee may show this to Still and
McKim, and oblige they cousin,
about this exciting contest, may be gathered from a
colored conductor on the Road, in Delaware, who wrote as
follows to a member of Vigilance Committee at
March 23d, 1857.
DEAR SIR: - I tak my pen in hand to write to you, to
inform you what we have had to go throw for the last two
weaks. Thir wir six men and two woman was betraid
on the tenth of this month, thea had them in prison but
thea got out was conveyed by a black man, he told them
he wood bring them to my hows, as he wos told, he had
ben ther Befor, he has com with Harrett, a woman
that stops at my hous when she pases tow and throw yau.
You don't no me I supos, the Rev. Thomas H. Kennard
dos, or Peter Lowis. He Road Camden
Cirduit, this man led them in dover prisin and left them
with a whit man; but tha tour out the winders and jump
out, so cum back to camden. We put them throug, we
hav to carry them 19 mils and cum back the sam night
wich maks 38 mils. It is tou much for our littel
horses. We must do the bes we can, ther is much
Bisness dun on this Road. We hav to go throw dover
and smerny, the two wors places this sid of mary land
lin. If you have herd or sean them ples let me no.
I will Com to Phila be for long and then I will call and
se you. There is much to do her. Ples
to right, I Remain your frend,
Remember me to Thom. Kennard.
The balance of
these brave fugitives, although not named in this
connection, succeeded in getting off safely. But
how the betrayer, sheriff and hunters got out of their
dilemma, the Committee was never fully posted.
The Committee found great pleasure in assisting these
passengers, for they had the true grit. Such were
always doubly welcome.
MARY EPPS, ALIAS EMMA
BROWN - JOSEPH AND ROBERT ROBINSON
A SLAVE MOTHER LOSES HER SPEECH AT THE SALE OF HER CHILD
- BOB ESCAPES FROM HIS MASTER, A TRADER, WITH $1500 IN
NORTH CAROLINA MONEY
fled from Petersburg and the Robinsons from
Richmond. A fugitive slave law-breaking captain by
the name of B., who owned a schooner, and would
bring any kind of freight that would pay the most, was
the conductor in this instance. Quite a number of
passengers at different times
availed themselves of his accommodations and thus
succeeded in reaching Canada.
His risk was very great. On this account he
claimed, as did certain others, that it was no more than
fair to charge for his services - indeed he did not
profess to bring persons for nothing, except in rare
instances. In this matter the Committee did not
feel disposed to interfere directly in any way, further
than to suggest that whatever understanding was agreed
upon by the parties themselves should be faithfully
Many slaves in cities could raise, "by hook or by
crook," fifty or one hundred dollars to pay for a
passage, providing they could find one who was willing
to risk aiding them. Thus, while the Vigilance
Committee of Philadelphia especially neither charged nor
accepted anything for their services it was not to be
expected that any of the Southern agents could afford to
The husband of Mary had for a long time wanted
his own freedom, but did not feel that he could go
without his wife; in fact, he resolved to get her off
first, then to try and escape himself, if possible.
The first essential step towards success, he considered,
was to save his money and make it an object to the
captain to help him. So when he had managed to lay
by one hundred dollars, he willingly offered this sum to
Captain B., if he would engage to deliver his wife into
the hands of the Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia.
The captain agreed to the terms and fulfilled his
engagement to the letter. About the 1st of March,
1855, Mary was presented to the vigilance
Committee. She was of agreeable manners, about
forty-five years of age, dark complexion, round built,
and intelligent. She had been the mother of
fifteen children, four of whom had been sold away from
her; one was still held in slavery in Petersburg; the
others were all dead.
At the sale of one of her children she was so affected
with grief that she was thrown into violent convulsions,
which caused the loss of her speech for one entire
month. But this little episode was not a matter to
excite sympathy in the breasts of the highly refined and
tender-hearted Christian mothers of Petersburg. In
the mercy of Providence, however, her reason and
She had formerly belonged to the late Littleton
Reeves, whom she represented as having been
"kind" to her, much more so than her mistress (Mrs.
Reeves) Said Mary, "She being of a
jealous disposition, caused me to be hired out with a
hard family, where I was much abused, frequently
flogged, and stinted for food," etc.
But the sweets of freedom in the care of the Vigilance
Committee now delighted her mind, and the hope that her
husband would soon follow her to Canada, inspired her
with expectations that she would one day "sit under her
own vine and fig tree where none dared to molest or make
The Committee rendered her the usual assistance, and in
due time, for-
warded her on to Queen Victoria's free land in Canada.
On her arrival she wrote back as follows -
TORONTO, March 14th, 1855
STILL: - I take this
opportunity of addressing you with these few lines to
inform you that I arrived here to day, and hope that
this may find yourself and Mrs. Still well, as
this leaves me at the present. I will also say to
you, that I had no difficulty in getting along.
the two young men that was with me left me at Suspension
Bridge, they went another way.
I cannot say much about the place as I have ben here
but a short time but so far as I have seen I like very
well. you will give my Respect to your lady, &
Mr. & Mrs. Brown. If you have not written to
Petersburg you will please to write as soon as can I
have nothing More to Write at present yours Respectfully
(old name MARY EPPS.)
and Robert (Mary's associate passenger
from Richmond) very active and intelligent, and
doubtless, well understood the art of behaving himself.
He was well acquainted with the auction block - having
been sold three times, and had had the misfortune to
fall into the hands of a cruel master each time.
Under these circumstances he had had but a few
privileges. Sundays and week days alike he was
kept pretty severely bent down to duty. He had
been beaten and knocked around shamefully. He had
a wife, and spoke of her in most endearing language,
although, on leaving, he did not feel at liberty to
apprise her of his movements, "fearing that it would not
be safe so to do." His four little children, to
whom he appeared warmly, he left as he did his wife - in
Slavery. He declared that he "stuck to them as
long as he could." George E. Sadler, the
keeper of an oyster house, held the deed for "Joe," and
a most heartless wretch he was in Joe's
estimation. The truth was, Joe could not
stand the burdens and abuses which Sadler was
inclined to heap upon him. So he concluded to join
his brother and go off on the U. G. R. R.
Robert, his younger brother, was owned by
Robert Slater, Esq., a regular negro trader.
Eight years this slave's duties had been at the slave
prison, and among the daily offices he had to attend to,
was to lock up the prison, prepare the slaves for sale,
etc. Robert was a very intelligent young
man, and from long and daily experience with the customs
and usages of the slave prison, he was as familiar with
the business as a Pennsylvania farmer with his barn-yard
stock. His account of things was too harrowing for
detail here, except in the briefest manner, and that
only with reference to a few particulars. In order
to prepare slaves for the market, it was usual to have
them greased and rubbed to make them look bright and
shining. And he went on further to state, that
"females as well as males were not uncommonly stripped
naked, lashed flat to a bench, and then held by two men,
sometimes four, while the brutal trader would strap them
with a broad leather strap." The strap preferred
to the cow-hide, as it would not
break the skin, and damage the sale.
"One hundred lashes would only be a common flogging."
The separation of families was thought nothing of.
"Often I have been flogged for refusing to flog others."
While not yet twenty-three years of age, Robert
expressed himself as having become so daily sick of the
brutality and suffering he could not help witnessing,
that he felt he could not possibly stand it any longer,
let the cost be what it might. In this state of
mind he met with Captain B. Only one obstacle
stood in his way - material aid. It occurred to
Robert that he had frequent access to the money
drawer, and often it contained the proceeds of fresh
sales of flesh and blood; and he reasoned that if some
of that would help him and his brother to freedom, there
could be no harm in helping himself the first
The captain was all ready, and provided he could get
three passengers at $100 each he would set sail without
much other freight. Of course he was too shrewd to
get out papers for Philadelphia. That would betray
him at once. Washington or Baltimore, or even
Wilmington, Del., were names which stood fair in the
eyes of Virginia. Consequently, being able to pack
the fugitives away in a very private hole of his boat,
and being only bound for a Southern port, the captain
was willing to risk his share of the danger. "Very
well," said Robert, "to-day I will please my master so
well, that I will catch him at an unguarded moment, and
will ask him for a pass to go to a ball to-night
(slave-holders) love to see their slaves fiddling and
dancing of nights), and as I shall be leaving in a
hurry, I will take a grab from the day's sale, and when
Slater hears of me again, I will be in Canada."
So after having attended to all his disagreeable duties,
he made his "grab," and got a hand full. He did
not know, however, how it would hold out. That
evening, instead of participating with the gay dancers,
he was just one degree lower down than the regular
bottom of Captain B's deck, with several hundred
dollars in his pocket, after paying the worthy captain
one hundred each for himself and his brother, besides
making the captain an additional present of nearly one
hundred. Wind and tide were now what they prayed
for to speed on the U. G. R. R. schooner, until they
might reach the depot at Philadelphia.
The Richmond Dispatch, an enterprising paper in
the interest of slaveholders, which came daily to the
Committee, was received in advance of the passengers,
when lo! and behold, in turning to the interesting
column containing the elegant illustrations of "runaway
negroes," it was seen that the unfortunate Slater
had "lost $1500 in North Carolina money, and also his
dark orange-colored, intelligent, and good-looking
turnkey, Bob." "Served him right, it is no
stealing for one piece of property to go off with
another piece," reasoned a member of the Committee.
In a couple of days after the Dispatch brought the
news, the three U. G. R. R. passengers were safely
landed at the usual place, and so accurate were
the descriptions in the paper, that, on first seeing
them, the Committee recognized them instantly, and,
without any previous ceremonies, read to them the
advertisement relative to the "$1500 in N. C. money,
&c.," and put the question to them direct: "Are you the
ones?" "We are," they owned up without hesitation.
The Committee did not see a dollar of their money, but
understood they had about $900, after paying the
captain; while Bob considered he made a "very
good grab," he did not admit that the amount advertised
was correct. After a reasonable time for
recruiting, having been so long in the hole of the
vessel, they took their department for Canada.
From Joseph, the elder brother, is appended a
short letter, announcing their arrival and condition
under the British Lion -
April 16, 1855.
STILL, DEAR SIR: - Your letter of date April
7th I have just got, it had been opened before it came
to me. I have not received any other letter from
you and can get no account of them in the Post Office in
this place, I am well and have got a good situation in
this city and intend staying here. I should be
very glad to hear from you as soon as convenient and
also from all of my friends near you. My Brother
is also at work with me and doing well.
There is nothing here that would interest you in any
way of news. There is a Masonic Lodge of our
people and two churches and societys here and some other
institutions for our benefit. Be kind enough to
send a few lines of the Lady spoken of for that mocking
bird and much oblige me. Write me soon and believe
me your obedient Servt.
Love & respects to Lady and daughter
As well as
writing to a member of the Committee, Joe and Bob
had the assurance to write back to the trader and
oyster-house keeper. In their letter they stated
that they had arrived safely in Canada, and were having
good times, - in the eating line had an abundance of the
best, - also had very choice wines and brandies, which
they supposed that they (trader and oyster-house keeper)
would give a great deal to have a "smack at." And
then they gave them a very cordial invitation to make
them a visit, and suggested that the quickest way they
could come, would be by telegraph, which they admitted
was slightly dangerous, and without first greasing
themselves, and then hanging on very first, the journey
might not prove altogether advantageous to them.
This was wormwood and gall to the trader and
oyster-house man. A most remarkable coincidence
was that, about the time this letter was received in
Richmond, the captain who brought away the three
passengers, made it his business for some reason or
other, to call at the oyster-house kept by the owner of
Joe, and while there, this letter was read and
commented on the torrents of Billingsgate phrases; and
the trader told the captain that he would give him two
thousand dollars if he would get them;" finally he told
him he would "give every cent they would bring, which
would be much over $2000," as they were "so very
likely." How far the captain talked approvingly,
he did not
exactly tell the Committee, but they guessed he talked
strong Democratic doctrine to them under the frightful
circumstances. But he was good at concealing his
feelings, and obviously managed to avoid suspicion.
GEORGE SOLOMON, DANIEL NEALL, BENJAMIN R. FLETCHER AND MARIA DORSEY.
representatives of the unrequited laborers of the South
fled directly form Washington, D. C. Nothing
remarkable was discovered in their series of slave life;
their narratives will therefore be brief.
George Solomon was owned by Daniel Minor,
of Moss Grove, Va. George was about
thirty-three years of age; mulatto, intelligent, and of
prepossessing appearance. His old master valued
George's services very highly, and had often
declared to others, as well as to George himself,
that without him he should hardly know how to manage.
And frequently George was told by the old master
that at his "death he was not to be a slave any longer,
as he would have provision made in his will for his
freedom." For a long time this old story was clung
to pretty faithfully by George, but his "old
master hung on too long," consequently George's
patience became exhausted. And as he had heard a
good deal about Canada, U. G. R. R., and the
Abolitionists, he concluded that it would do no harm to
hint to a reliable friend or two the names of these hard
places and bad people, to see what impression would be
made on their minds; in short, to see if they were ready
to second a motion to get rid of bondage. In thus
opening his mind to his friends, he soon found a willing
accord in each of their hearts, and they put their heads
together to count up the cost and to fix a time for
leaving Egypt and the host of Pharaoh to do their own
"hewing of wood and drawing of water." Accordingly
George, Daniel, Benjamin and Maria, all of
one heart and mind, one "Saturday night" resolved that
the next Sunday should find them on the U. G. R. R.,
with their faces towards Canada.
Daniel was young, only twenty-three, good
looking, and half white, with a fair share of
intelligence. As regards his slave life, he
acknowledged that he had not had it very rough as a
general thing; nevertheless, he was fully persuaded that
he had "as good a right to his freedom" as his "master
had to his," and that it was his duty to contend for it.
Benjamin was twenty-seven years of age, small of
stature, dark complexion, of a pleasant countenance, and
quite smart. He testified, that "ill-treatment
from his master," Henry Martin, who would give
him "no chance at all," was the cause of his leaving.
He left a brother and sister, belonging to Martin,
besides he left two other sisters in bondage, Louisa
and Letty, but his father and mother were
both dead. Therefore, the land of slave-whips
auction-blocks had no charms for him. He loved his
sisters, but he knew if he could not protect himself,
much less could he protect them. So he concluded
to bid them adieu forever in this world.
Turning from the three male companions for the purpose
of finding a brief space for Maria it will be
well to state here that females in attempting to
escape from a life of bondage undertook three times the
risk of failure that males were liable to, not to
mention the additional trials and struggles they had to
contend with. In justice, therefore, to the heroic
female who was willing to endure the most extreme
suffering and hardship for freedom, double honors were
Maria, the heroine of
the party, was about forty years of age, chestnut color,
medium size, and possessed of a good share or common
sense. She was owned by George Parker.
As was a common thing with slave-holders, Maria
had found her owners hard to please, and quite often,
without the slightest reason, they would threaten to
"sell or make a change." These threats only made
matters worse, or rather it only served to nerve
Maria for the conflict. The party walked
almost the entire distance from Washington to
In the meantime George Parker, the so-called
owner of Daniel and Maria, hurriedly
rushed their good names into the "Baltimore Sun," after
the following manner -
- Ranaway from my house on Saturday night, August 30, my
negro man 'Daniel,' twenty-five years of age,
bright yellow mulatto, thick set and stout made.
Also, my negro woman, 'Maria,' forty years of
age, bright mulatto. The above reward will be paid
if delivered in Washington city.
While this advertisement was in the Baltimore papers,
doubtless these noble passengers were enjoying the
hospitalities of the Vigilance Committee, and finally a
warm reception in Canada, by which they were greatly
pleased. Of Benjamin and Daniel, the
subjoined letter from Rev. H. Wilson is of
importance in the way of throwing light upon their
whereabouts in Canada:
C. W., Sept. 15th, 1856.
- Dear Sir - Two young men arrived here on Friday
evening last from Washington, viz: Benjamin R.
Fletcher and Daniel Neall. Mr. Neall
(or Neale) desires to have his box of clothing
forwarded on to him. It is at Washington in the
care of John Dade, a colored man, who lives at
Doct. W. H. Gilman's, who keeps an Apothecary store
on the corner of 4½ and
Pennsylvania Avenue. Mr. Dade is a slave,
but a free dealer. You will please write to
John Dade, in the care of Doct. W. H. Gilman,
on behalf of Daniel Neale, but make use of the
name of George Harrison, instead of Neale,
and Dade will understand it. Please have
John Dade direct the box by express to you in
Philadelphia; he has the means of paying the charges on
it in advance, as far as Philadelphia; and soon as it
comes you will please forward it on to y care at St.
Catherine. Say to John Dade, that George
Harrison sends his love to his sister and Uncle
Allen Sims, and all inquiring friends. Mr.
Fletcher and Mr. Neale both send their
respects to you, and I may add mine.
P. S. - Mr. Benjamin R. Fletcher wishes to have
Mr. Dade call on his brother James,
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