[Pg. 97 - continued]
THE ARRIVALS OF A SINGLE MONTH
SIXTY PASSENGERS CAME IN ONE MONTH - TWENTY-EIGHT IN ONE
ARRIVAL - GREAT PANIC AND INDIGNATION MEETING -
INTERESTING CORRESPONDENCE FROM MASTERS AND FUGITIVES.
number of cases to be here notice forbids more than a
brief reference to each passenger. AS they arrived
in parties, their narratives will be given in due order
as found on the book of records:
William Griffen, Henry Moor, James Camper, Noah
Ennells and Levin Parker. This party
came from Cambridge, Md.
WILLIAM is thirty-four years of age, of medium
size and substantial appearance. He fled from
James Waters, Esq., a lawyer, living in Cambridge.
He was "wealthy, close, and stingy," and owned nine head
of slaves and a farm, on which William served.
He was used very hard, which was the cause of his
escape, though the idea that he was entitled to his
freedom had been entertained for the previous twelve
years. On preparing to take the Underground, he
armed himself with a big butcher-knife, and resolved, if
attacked, to make his enemies stand back. His
master was a member of the Methodist Church.
HENRY is tall, copper-colored, and about thirty
years of age. He complained not so much of bad
usage as of the utter distaste he had to working all the
time for the "white people for nothing." He was
also decidedly of the opinion that every man should have
his liberty. Four years ago his wife was "sold
away to Georgia" by her young master; since which time
not a word had he heard from her. She left three
children, and he, in escaping also had to leave them in
the same hands that sold their mother. He was
owned by Levin Dale, a farmer near Cambridge.
Henry was armed with a six-barrelled revolver, a
large knife, and a determined mind.
JAMES is twenty-four years of age, quite black,
small size, keen look, and full of hope for the "best
part of Canada." He fled from Henry Hooper
"a dashing young man and a member of the Episcopal
Church." Left because he "did not enjoy
privileges" as he wished to do. He was armed with
two pistols and a dirk to defend himself.
NOAH is only nineteen, quite dark,
well-proportioned, and possessed of a fair average of
common sense. He was owned by "Black-head Bill
LeCount," who "followed drinking, chewing tobacco,
catching 'runaways,' and hanging around the court
house." However, he owned six head of slaves, and
had a "rough wife," who belonged to the Methodist
Church. Left be
cause he "expected every day to be sold" - his master
being largely in "debt." Brought with him a
LEVIN is twenty-two, rather short built, medium
size and well colored. He fled from Lawrence G.
Colson, "a very bad man, fond of drinking, great to
fight and swear, and hard to please. His mistress
was "real rough; very bad, worse than he was as 'fur' as
she could be." Having been stinted with food and
clothing and worked hard, was the apology offered by
Levin for running off.
STEBNEY SWAN, John Stinger, Robert Emerson, Anthony
Pugh and Isabella _____. This company
came from Portsmouth, Va. Stebney is
thirty-four years of age, medium size, mulatto, and
quite wide awake. He was owned by an oysterman by
the name of Jos. Carter, who lived near
Portsmouth. Naturally enough his master "drank
hard, gambled" extensively, and in every other respect
was a very ordinary man. Nevertheless, he "owned
twenty-five head," and had a wife and six children.
Stebney testified that he had not been used hard,
though he had been on the "auction-block three times."
Left because he was "tired of being a servant."
Armed with a board-axe and hatchet, he started, joined
by the above-named companions, and came in a skiff, by
sea. Robert Lee was the brave
Captain engaged to pilot this Slavery-sick party from
the prison-house of bondage. And although every
rod of rowing was attended with inconceivable peril, the
desired haven was safely reached, and the overjoyed
voyagers conducted to the Vigilance Committee.
JOHN is about forty years of age, and so near white
that a microscope would be required to discern his
colored origin. His father was white and his
mother nearly so. He also had been owned by the
oysterman alluded to above; had been captain of one of
his oyster-boats, until recently. And but
for his attempt some months back to make his escape, he
might have been this day in the care of his kind-hearted
master. But, because of this wayward step on the
part of John, his master felt called upon to
humble him. Accordingly, the captaincy was taken
from him, and he was compelled to struggle on in a less
honorable position. Occasionally John's
mind would be refreshed by his master relating the hard
times in the North, the great starvation among the
blacks, etc. He would also tell John how
much better off he was as a "slave with a kind master to
provide for all his wants," etc. Notwithstanding
all this counsel, John did not rest contented
until he was on the Underground Rail Road.
ROBERT was only nineteen, with an intelligent
face and prepossessing manners; reads, writes and
ciphers; and is about half Anglo-Saxon. He fled
from Wm. H. Wilson, Esq.., Cashier of the
Virginia Bank. Until within the four years
previous to Robert's escape, the cashier was
spoken of as a "very god man;" but in consequence of
speculations in a large Hotel in Portsmouth, and the
then financial embarrassments, "he had become ser
ESCAPING FROM NORFOLK, IN CAPT. LEE'S SKIFF.
ously involved," and decidedly changed in his manners.
Robert noticed this, and concluded he had "better
get out of danger as soon as possible."
ANTHONY and Isabella were an engaged
couple, and desired to cast their lot where husband and
wife could not be separated on the auction block.
The following are of the Cambridge party, above alluded
to. All left together, but for prudential reasons
separated before reaching Philadelphia. The
company that left Cambridge on the 24th of October may
be thus recognized: Aaron Cornish and wife,
with their six children; Solomon, George Anthony,
Joseph, Edward James, Perry Lake, and a nameless
babe, all very likely; Kit Anthony and wife Leah,
and three children, Adam, Mary, and Murray;
Joseph Hill and wife Alice, and their son Henry;
also Joseph's sister. Add to the above,
Marshall Dutton and George Light, both single
young men, and we have twenty-eight in one arrival, as
hearty-looking, brave and interesting specimens of
Slavery as could well be produced from Maryland.
Before setting out they counted well the cost.
Being aware that fifteen had left their neighborhood
only a few days ahead of them, and that every
slave-holder and slave-catcher throughout the community,
were on the alert, and raging furiously against the
inroads of the Underground Rail Road, they provided
themselves with the following weapons of defense: three
revolvers, three double-barreled pistols, three
single-barreled pistols, three sword-canes, four butcher
knives, one bowie-knife, and one paw.* Thus, fully
resolved from freedom or death, with scarcely
provisions enough for a single day, while the rain and
storm was piteously descending, fathers and mothers with
children in their arms (Aaron Cornish had two) -
the entire party started. Of course, their
provisions gave out before they were fairly on the way,
but not so with the storm. It continued to pour
upon them for nearly three days. With nothing to
appease the gnawings of hunger but parched corn and a
few dry crackers, wet and cold, with several of the
children sick, some of their feet bare and worn, and one
of the mothers with an infant in her arms, incapable of
partaking of the diet, - it is impossible to imagine the
ordeal they were passing. It was enough to cause
the bravest hearts to falter. But not for a moment
did they allow themselves to look back. It was
exceedingly agreeable to hear even the little children
testify that in the most trying hour on the road, not
for a moment did they want to go back. The
following advertisement, taken from The Cambridge
Democrat of November 4, shows how the Rev. Levi
Traverse felt about Aaron -
||$300 REWARD. - Ran away from the subscriber,
from the neighborhood of Town Point, on Saturday
night, the 24th inst., my negro man, AARON
CORNISH, about 35 years old. He is
about five feet ten inches high, black,
good-looking, rather pleasant countenance and
carries himself with a confident manner.
He went off with his wife, DAFFNEY, a
negro woman belonging to Reuben E. Phillips.
I will give the above reward if taken out of the
county, and $200 if taken in the county; in
either case to be lodged in Cambridge Jail.
October 25, 1857.
LEVI D. TRAVERSE
* a paw is a weapon with iron prongs,
four inches long, to be grasped with the hand and used
in close encounter.
understand the Rev. Mr. Traverse's
authority for taking the liberty he did with Aaron's
good name, it may not by amiss to give briefly a
paragraph of private information from Aaron,
relative to his master. The Rev. Mr. Traverse
belonged to the Methodist Church, and was described by
Aaron as a "bad young man; rattle-brained; with
the appearance of not having good sense, - not enough to
manage the great amount of property (he had been left
wealthy) in his possession." Aaron's
servitude commenced under this spiritual protector in
May prior to the escape, immediately after the death of
his old master. His deceased master, William D.
Traverse, by the way, was the father-in-law, and at
the same time own uncle of Aaron's reverend
owner. Though the young master, for marrying his
own cousin and uncle's daughter, had been for years the
subject of the old gentleman's wrath, and was not
allowed to come near his house, or to entertain any
reasonable hop of getting any of his father-in-law's
estate, nevertheless, scarcely had the old man breathed
his last, ere the young preacher seized upon the
inheritance, slaves and all; at least he claimed two
thirds, allowing for the widow one-third.
Unhesitatingly he had taken possession of all the slaves
(some thirty head), and was making them feel his power
to the fullest extent. To Aaron this
increased oppression was exceedingly crushing, as he had
been hoping at the death of his old master to be free.
Indeed, it was understood that the old man had his will
made, and freedom provided for the slaves. But,
strangely enough, at his death no will could be found.
Aaron was firmly of the conviction that the
Rev. Mr. Traverse knew what became of it.
Between the widow and the son-in-law, in consequence of
his aggressive steps, existed much hostility, which
strongly indicated the approach of a law-suit;
therefore, except by escaping, Aaron could not
see the faintest hope of freedom. Under his old
master, the favor of hiring his time had been granted
him He had also been allowed by his wife's
mistress (Miss Jane Carter, of Baltimore), to
have his wife and children home with him - that is,
until his children would grow to the age of eight and
ten years, then they would be taken away and hired out
at twelve or fifteen dollars a year at first. Her
oldest boy, sixteen, hired the year he left for forty
dollars. They had had ten children; two had died,
two they were compelled to leave in chains; the rest
they brought away. Not one dollar's expense had
they been to their mistress. The industrious
Aaron not only had to pay his own hire, but was
obliged to do enough-over-work to support his large
Though he said he had no special complaint to make
against his old master, through whom he, with the rest
of the slaves, hoped to obtain freedom, Aaron,
nevertheless, spoke of him as a man of violent temper,
severe on his slaves, drinking hard, etc., though he was
a man of wealth and stood high in the community.
One of Aaron's brothers, and others, had been
sold South by him. It was on account of his
inveterate hatred of his son-in-law, who,
he declared, should never have his property (having no
other heir but his niece, except his widow), that the
slaves relied on his promise to free them. Thus in
view of the facts referred to, Aaron was led to
commit the unpardonable sin of runaway with his wife
Daffney, who, by the way, looked like a woman fully
capable of taking care of herself and children, instead
of having then stolen away from her, as though they were
JOSEPH VINEY and family- Joseph was
'held to service or labor," by Charles Bryant,
of Alexandria, VA. Joseph had very nearly
finished paying for himself. His wife and children
were held by Samuel Pattison, Esq., a member of
the Methodist Church, "a great big man," "with red eyes,
bald heard, drank pretty freely," and in the language of
Joseph, "wouldn't hear nothing." Two of
Joseph's brothers - in - law had been sold by his
master. Against Mrs. Pattison his complaint
was, that "she was mean, sneaking, and did not want to
give half enough to eat."
For the enlightenment of all Christendom, and coming
posterity especially, the following advertisement and
letter are recorded, with the hope that they will have
an important historical value. The writer was at
great pains to obtain these interesting documents,
directly after the arrival of the memorable
Twenty-eight; and shortly afterwards furnished to the
New York Tribune, in a prudential manner, a brief sketch
of these very passengers, including the advertisements,
but not the letter. It was safely laid away for
$2,000 Reward. - Ran away from the subscriber on
Saturday night, the 24th inst., FOURTEEN
HEAD OF NEGROES,
viz: Four men, two women, one boy and seven children.
KIT is about 35 years of age, five feet six or
seven inches high, dark chestnut color, and has a scar
on one of his thumbs. JOE is about 30 years
old, very black, his teeth are very white, and is about
five feet eight inches high. HENRY is about
22 years old, five feet ten inches high, of dark
chestnut color and large front teeth. JOE is about
20 years old, about five feet six inches high, heavy
built and black. TOM is about 16 years old,
about five feet high, light chestnut color.
SUSAN is about 35 years old, dark chestnut color,
and rather stout built; speaks rather slow, and has with
her FOUR CHILDREN,
varying from one to seven years of age. LEAH
is about 28 years old, about five feet high, dark
chestnut color, with THREE CHILDREN,
two boys and one girl from one to eight years old.
I will give $1,000 if taken in the county, $1,500 if
taken out of the county and in the State, and $2,000 if
taken out of the State; in either case to belonged in
Cambridge (Md.) Jail, so that I can get them again; or I
will give a fair proportion of the above reward of any
part be secured.
Near Cambridge, Md
October 26, 1857.
P. S. - Since
writing the above, I have discovered that my negro
woman, SARAH JANE,
25 years old, stout built and chestnut color, has also
run off. S. P.
SAMUEL PATTISON'S LETTER
L. W. THOMPSON:
- SIR, this morning I received
your letter wishing an accurate description of my
Negroes which ran away on the 24th of last month and the
amt of reward offered &c &c. The description is as
follows. Kit is about 35 years old,
five feet, six or seven inches high, dark chestnut color
and has a scar on one of his thumbs, he has a very
quick step and walks very straight, and can read and
write. Joe, is about 80 years old,
very black and about five feet eight inches high, has a
very pleasing appearance, he has a free wife who left
with him she is a light molatoo, she has a child not
over one year old. Henry is about 22
years old, five feet, ten inches high, of dark chestnut
large front teeth, he stoops a little in his walk and
has a downward look. Joe is about 20
years old, about five feet six inches high, heavy built,
and has a grum look and voice dull, and black.
Tom is about 16 years old about five feet
high light chestnut coller, smart active boy, and
swagers in his walk. Susan is about 35
years old, dark chesnut coller and stout built, speaks
rather slow and has with her four children, three
boys and one girl - the girl has a
thumb or finger on her left hand (part of it) cut off,
the children are from 9 months to 8 years old.
(the youngest a boy 9 months and the oldest whose name
is Lloyd is about 8 years old) The husband
of Susan (Joe Viney) started off with her, he is
a slave, belonging to a gentleman in Alexandria D. C. he
is about 40 years old and dark chesnut coller rather
slender built and about five feet seven or eight inches
high, he is also the Father of Henry, Joe and
Tom. A reward of $400 will be given for
his apprehension. 2 Boys and 1 girl, they are from
one to eight years old, the oldest boy is called
Adam, Lee is the wife of Kit, the first named
man in the list. Sarah Jane is about
25 years old, stout built and chesnut coller, quick and
active in her walk. Making in all 15 head, men,
women and children belonging to me, or 16 head including
Joe Viney, the husband of my woman Susan.
A Reward of $2250 will be given for
my negroes if taken out of the State of Maryland and
lodged in Cambridge or Baltimore Jail, so that I can get
them or a fair proportion for any part of them.
If you should want any information, witnesses to prove
or indentify the negroes, write immediately on to me.
Or if you should read any information with regard to
provign the negroes, before I could reach Philadelphia,
you can call on Mr. Burroughs at Martin &
Smith's store, Market Street, No. 308.
Phila and he can refer you to a gentleman who knows
Yours & c SAML.
This letter was
in answer to one written in Philadelphia and signed, "L.
W. Thompson." It is not improbable that Mr.
Pattison's loss had produced such a high state of
mental excitement that he was hardly in a condition for
cool reflection, or he would have weighed the matter a
little more carefully exposing himself to the U. G. R.
R. agents. But the letter possesses two
commendable features, nevertheless. It was
tolerably well written and prompt.
Here is a wonderful exhibition of affection for his
contented and happy negroes. Whether Mr.
Pattison suspended on suddenly learning that he was
minus fifteen head, the writer cannot say. But
that there was a great slave hunt in every direction
there is no room to doubt. Though much more might
be said about the parties concerned, it must suffice to
add that they came to the Vigilance Committee in a very
sad plight - in tattered garments, hungry, sick, and
penniless; but they were kindly clothed, fed, doctored,
and sent on their way rejoicing.
STANLY, Nat Amby, John Scott, Hannah Peters,
Henrietta Dobson, Elizabeth Amby, Josiah Stanly,
Caroline Stanly, Daniel Stanly, jr.,
TWENTY-EIGHT FUGITIVES ESCAPING FROM THE EASTERN SHORE
John Stanly and Miller Stanly (arrival
from Cambridge.) Daniel is about 35,
well-made and wide-awake. Fortunately, in
emancipating himself, he also, through great
perseverance, secured the freedom of his wife and six
children; one child he was compelled to leave behind.
Daniel belonged to Robert Calender, a
farmer, and, "except when in a passion," said to be
"pretty clever." However, considering as a father,
that it was his "duty to do all he could" for his
children, and that all work and no play makes Jack
a dull boy, Daniel felt bound to seek refuge in
Canada. His wife and children were owned by
"Samuel Count, an old, bald-headed, bad man," who
"had of late years been selling and buying slaves as a
business," thought he stood high and was a "big
bug in Cambridge." The children were truly
Nat is no ordinary man. Like a certain
other Nat known to history, his hnest and
independent bearing in every respect was that of a
natural hero. He was full black, and about six
feet high; of powerful physical proportions, and of more
the Port of Canada safely, he had resolved to be
"carried back," if attacked by the slave hunters, "only
as a dead man." He was held to service by John
Muir, a wealthy farmer, and the owner of 40 or 50
slaves "Muir would drink and was generally
devilish." Two of Nat's sisters and one of
his brothers had been "sold away to Georgia by him."
Therefore, admonished by threats and fears of having to
pass through the same firey furnace, Nat's
mistress to his present owner that he came into Muir's
hands. "Up to the time of her death," he had been
encouraged to "hope" that he would be "free;" indeed, he
was assured by her "dying testimony that the slaves were
not to be sold." But regardless of the promises
and will of his departed wife, Muir soon
extinguished all hopes of freedom from that quarter.
But not believing that God had put one man here to "be
the servant of another - to work," and get none of the
benefit of his labor, Nat armed himself with a
good pistol and a big knife, and taking his wife with
him, bade adieu forever to bondage. Observing that
Lizzie (Nat's wife) looked pretty
decided and resolute, a member of the committee
remarked, "Would your wife fight for freedom?"
"I have heard her say she would wade through blood and
tears for her freedom," said Nat, in the most
The following advertisement from The Cambridge
Democrat of Nov. 4, speaks for itself -
$300 REWARD. - Ran away from the
subscriber, on Saturday night last, 17th inst., my negro
woman Lizzie, about 28 years old. She is
medium sized, dark complexion, good-looking, with rather
a down look. When spoken to, replies quickly.
She was well dressed, wearing a red and green blanket
shawl, and carried with her a variety of clothing.
She ran off in company with her husband, Nat Amby
(belonging to John Muir, Esq.), who is about 6
feet in height, with slight impediment in his speech,
dark chestnut color, and a large scar on the side of his
I will give the above reward if taken in this County,
or one-half of what she sells for if taken out of the
County or State. In either case to be lodged in
Cambridge, Oct. 21, 1857.
ALEXANDER H. BAYLY
P. S. - For the
apprehension of the above-named negro man Nat,
and delivery in Cambridge Jail, I will give $500 reward.
Nat's master has been introduced in the above order,
it seems but appropriate that Nat should be heard
too; consequently the following letter is inserted for
what it is worth:
STILL: - Sir, will you be so
Kind as to write a letter to affey White in straw
berry alley in Baltimore city on the point. Say to
her at nat Ambey that I wish to Know from her the
Last Letar that Joseph Ambie and Henry Ambie
to Brothers and Ann Warfield a couisin of them
two boys. I state above I would like to hear from
my mother sichy Ambie you will Please write to my
mother and tell her that I am well and doing well and
state to her that I perform my Relissius dutys and I
would like to hear from her and want to know if she is
performing her Relissius dutys yet and send me word from
all her children I left behind say to affey White
that I wish her to write me a Letter in Hast my wife is
well and doing well and my nephew is doing well
Please tell affey White when she writes to me to
Let me know where Joseph and Henry Ambie is.
My Still Please Look on your Book and you will
find my name on your Book. They was eleven of us
children and all when we came through and I feal
interrest about my Brothers. I have never heard
from them since I Left home you will Please Be Kind
annough to attend to this Letter When you send the
answer to this Letter you will Please send it to P.
R. Freeman Auburn City Cayuga County New
is 25, complexion brown, intellect naturally good, with
no favorable notions of the peculiar institution.
He was armed with a formidable dirk-knife, and declared
he would use it if attacked, rather than be dragged back
is a hearty-looking young woman of 23 or 24, with a
countenance that indicated that liberty was what she
wanted and was contending for, and that she could not
willingly submit to the yoke. Though she came with
the Cambridge party, she did not come from Cambridge,
but from Marshall Hope, Caroline County, where
she had been owned by Charles Peters, a man who
had distinguished himself by getting "drunk, scratching
and fighting, etc.," not unfrequently in his own family
even. She had no parents that she knew of.
Left because they used her "so bad, beat and knocked"
SCOTT." Jack is about thirty-six years
of age, substantially built, dark color, and of quiet
and prepossessing manners. He was owned by
David B. Turner, Esq., a dry goods merchant of New
York. By birth, Turner was a Virginian, and
a regular slave-holder. His slaves were kept hired
out by the year. As Jack had had but slight
acquaintance with his New York owner, he says but very
little about him. He was moved to leave simply
because he had got tired of working for the "white
people for nothing." Fled from Richmond, Va.
Jack went to Canada direct. The following
letter furnishes a clew to his whereabouts, plans, etc.
September 1st 1859
SIR: - It is with extreme pleasure
that I set down to inclose you a few lines to let you
know that I am well & I hope when these few lines come
to hand they may find you & your family in good health
and prosperity. I left your house Nov. 3d, 1857,
for Canada. I Received a letter here from James
Carter in Petersburg, saying that my wife would
leave there about the 28th or the first September and
that he would send her on by way of Philadelphia to you
to send on to Montreal if she come on you be please to
send her on and as there is so many boats coming here
all times a day I may not know what time she will.
So you be please to give her this direction, she can get
a cab and go to the Donegana Hotel and Edmund Turner
is there he will take you where I lives and if he is not
there cabman take you to Mr. Taylors on Durham
St. nearly opposite to the Methodist Church. Nothing
more at resent but remain your well wisher. JOHN
C. HITCHENS. - This individual took his departure
from Milford, Del., where he was owned by Wm. Hill,
a farmer, who took special delight in having "fighting
done on the place." This passenger was one of our
least intelligent travelers. He was about 22.
MAJOR ROSS - Major fled from John Jay, a
farmer residing in the neighborhood of Havre de Grace,
Md. But for the mean treatment received from
Mr. Jay, Major might have been foolish enough to
have remained all his days in chains. "It's an ill
wind that blows nobody any good."
HENRY OBERNE. - Henry was to be free at
28, but preferred having it at 21, especially as he was
not certain that 28 would ever come. He is of
chestnut color, well made, &c., and came from Seaford,
PERRY BURTON. - Perry is about
twenty-seven years of age, decidedly colored, medium
size, and only of ordinary intellect. He
acknowledged John R. Burton, a farmer on Indian
River, as his master, and escaped because he wanted
"some day for himself."
ALFRED HUBERT, Israel Whitney and John
Thompson. Alfred is of powerful
muscular appearance and naturally of a good intellect.
He is full dark chestnut color, and would doubtless
fetch a high price. He was owned by Mrs.
Matilda Niles from whom he had hired his time paying
$110 yearly. He had no fault to find with his
mistress, except he observed she had a young family
growing up, into whose hands he feared he might
unluckily fall some day, and saw no way of avoiding it
but by flight. Being only twenty-eight, he may yet
make his mark.
ISRAEL was owned by Elijah Money.
All that he could say in favor of his master was, that
he treated him "respectfully." though he "drank hard."
Israel was about thirty-six, and another
excellent specimen of an able bodied and wide-awake man.
He hired his time at the rate of $120 a year, and has to
find his wife and child in the bargain. He came
from Alexandria, Va.
HAMILTON, Oct. 16, 1858
WILLIAM STILL - My Dear Friend: - I saw
Carter and his friend a few days ago, and they told
me, that you was well. On the seventh of October
my wife came to Hamilton. Mr. A. Hurberd,
who came from Virginia with me is going to get married
the 20th of
November, next. I wish you would write to me how
many of my friends you have seen since October, 1857.
Montgomery Green keeps a barber shop in Cayuga,
in the State of New York. I have not heard of
Oscar Ball but once since I came here, and then he
was well and doing well. George Carroll is
in Hamilton. The times are very dull at present
and have been ever since I came here. Please write
soon. Nothing more at present, only I still remain
in Hamilton, C. W.
JOHN is nineteen years of age, mulatto, spare made,
but not lacking in courage, mother wit or perseverance.
He was born in Fauquier county, Va., and, after
experiencing Slavery for a number of years there - being
sold two or three times to the "highest bidder" - he was
finally purchased by a cotton planter named Hezekiah
Thompson, residing at Huntsville, Alabama.
Immediately after the sale Hezekiah bundled his
new "purchase" off to Alabama, where he succeeded in
keeping him only about two years, for at the end of that
time John determined to strike a blow for
liberty. The incentive to this step was the
inhuman treatment he was subjected to. Cruel
indeed did he find it there. His master was a
young man, "fond of drinking and carousing, and always
ready for a fight or a knock-down." A short time
before John left his master whipped him so
severely with the "bull whip" that he could not use his
arm for three or four days. Seeing but one way of
escape (and that more perilous than the way William
and Ellen Craft, or Henry Box Brown
traveled), he resolved to try it. It was to get on
the top of the car, instead of inside of it, and thus
ride of nights till nearly daylight, when, at a
stopping-place on the road, he would slip off the car,
and conceal himself in the woods until under cover of
the next night he could mange to get on the top of
another car. By this most hazardous mode of travel
he reached Virginia.
It may be best not to attempt to describe how he
suffered at the hands of his owners in Alabama; or how
severely he was pinched with hunger in traveling; or
how, when he reached his old neighborhood in Virginia,
he could not venture to inquire for his mother, brothers
or sisters, to receive from them an affectionate word,
an encouraging smile, a crust of bread, or a drink of
Success attended his efforts for more than two weeks;
but alas, after having got back north of Richmond, on
his way home to Alexandria, he was captured and put in
prison; his master being informed of the fact, came on
and took possession of him again. At first he
refused to sell him; said he "had money enough and owned
about thirty slaves;" therefore wished to "take him back
to make an example of him." However, through the
persuasion of an uncle of his, he consented to sell.
Accordingly, John was put on the
auction-block and bought for $1,300 by Green McMurray,
a regular trader in Richmond. McMurray
again offered him for sale, but in consequence of hard
times and the high price demanded, John did not
go off, at least not in the way the trader desired to
dispose of him, but did, nevertheless, succeed in going
off on the Underground Rail Road. Thus once more
he reached his old home, Alexandria. His mother
was in one place, and his six brothers and sisters
evidently scattered, where he knew not. Since he
was five years of age, not one of them had he seen.
If such sufferings and trials were not entitled to
claim for the sufferer the honor of a hero, where in all
Christendom could one be found who could prove a
better title to that appellation?
Of his subsequent career the following extract from a
letter written at London shows that he found no rest for
the soles of his feet under the Stars and Stripes in New
I hope that you will remember John Thompson, who
passed through your hands, I think, in October, 1857, at
the same time that Mr. Cooper, from Charleston,
South Carolina, came on. I was engaged at New
York, in the barber business, with a friend, and was
doing very well, when I was betrayed and obliged to sail
for England very suddenly, my master being in the city
to arrest me. (LONDON, December 21st, 1860.)
JEREMIAH COLBURN. - Jeremiah is a bright mulatto,
of prepossessing appearance, reads and writes, and is
quite intelligent. He fled from Charleston, where
he had been owned by Mrs. E. Williamson, an old
lady about seventy-five, a member of the Episcopal
Church, and opposed to Freedom. As far as he was
concerned, however, he said, she had treated him well;
but, knowing that the old lady would not be long here,
he judged it was best to look out in time.
Consequently, he availed himself of an Underground Rail
Road ticket, and bade adieu to that hot-bed of
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