[Pg. 124 - continued]
BARNABY GRIGBY, ALIAS JOHN BOYER,
AND MARY ELIZABETH, HIS WIFE; FRANK WANZER, ALIAS ROBERT
SCOTT; EMILY FOSTER, ALIAS ANN WOOD.
(TWO OTHERS WHO STARTED WITH THEM
persons journeyed together from Loudon Co., Va. on
horseback and in a carriage for more than one hundred
miles. Availing themselves of a holiday and their
master's horses and carriage they a deliberately started
for Canada, as though they had never een taught that it
was their duty, as servants, to "obey their masters."
In this particular showing a most utter disregard of the
interest of their "kind-hearted and indulgent owners."
They left home on Monday, Christmas Eve, 1855, under the
leadership of Frank Wanzer, and arrived in
Columbia the following Wednesday at one o'clock.
As willfully as they had thus made their way along, they
had not found it smooth sailing by any means. The
biting frost and snow rendered their travel anything but
agreeable. Nor did they escape the gnawings of
hunger, traveling day and night. And whilst these
"articles" were in the very act of running away with
themselves and their kind master's best horses and
carriage - when about one hundred miles from home, in
the neighborhood of Cheat river, Maryland, they were
attacked by "six white men, and a boy," who, doubtless,
supposing that their intentions were of a "wicked and
unlawful character" felt it to be their duty in kindness
to their masters, if not to the travelers to demand of
them an account of themselves. In other words, the
positively commanded the fugitives to "show what right"
they possessed, to be found in a condition apparently so
The spokesman amongst the fugitives, affecting
no ordinary amount of dignity, told their assailants
plainly, that "no gentleman would interfere with persons
riding along civilly" - not allowing it to be supposed
that they were slaves, of course. These
"gentlemen," however, were not willing to accept this
account of the travelers, as their very decided steps
indicated. Having the law on their side, they were
for compelling the fugitives to surrender without
At this juncture, the fugitives verily believing that
the time had arrived for the practical use of their
pistols and dirks, pulled them out of their concealment
- the young women as well as the young men - and
declared they would not be "taken!" One of the
white men raised his gun, pointing the muzzle directly
towards one of the young women, with the threat that he
would "shoot," etc. "Shoot! shoot!! shoot
!!! she exclaimed, with a double barrelled pistol in one
hand and a long dirk knife in the other, utterly
unterrified and fully ready for a death struggle.
The male leader of the fugitives by this time had
"pulled back the hammers" of his "pistols," and was
about to fire! Their adversaries seeing the
weapons, and the unflinching determination on the part
of the runaways to stand their ground, "spill
blood, kill, or die," rather than be "taken," very
prudently "sidled over to the other side of the road,"
leaving at least four of the victors to travel on their
At this moment the four in the carriage lost sight of
the two on horseback. Soon after the separation
they heard firing, but what the result was, they knew
not. They were fearful, however, that their
companions had been captured.
paragraph, which was shortly afterwards taken from a
Southern paper, leaves no room to doubt, as to the fate
of the two.
Six fugitive slaves from Virginia were arrested at the
Maryland line, near Hood's Mill, on Christmas
day, but, after a severe fight, four of them escaped and
have not since been heard of. They came from
Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
Though the four
who were successful, saw no "severe fight," it is not
unreasonable to suppose, that there was a fight,
nevertheless; but not till after the number of the
fugitives had been reduced to two, instead of six.
As chivalrous as slave-holders and slave-catchers were,
they knew the value of their precious lives and the
fearful risk of attempting a capture, when the numbers
The party in the carriage, after the conflict, went on
their way rejoicing.
The young men, one cold night, when they were compelled
to take rest in the woods and snow, in vain strove to
keep the feet of their female companions from freezing
by lying on them; but the frost was merciless and bit
them severely, as their feet very plainly showed.
The following disjointed report was cut from the
Frederick (Md.) Examiner, soon after the occurrence took
four men and two women, fugitives from Virginia, having
with them two spring wagons and four horses, came to
Hood's Mill, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,
near the dividing line between Frederick and Carroll
counties, on Christmas day. After feeding their
animals, one of them told a Mr. Dixon
whence they came; believing them to be fugitives, he
spread the alarm, and some eight or ten persons gathered
round to arrest them; but the negroes drawing revolvers
and bowie-knives, kept their assailants at bay, until
five of the party succeeded in escaping in one of the
wagons, and as the last one jumped on a horse to flee,
he was fired at, the load taking effect in the small of
the back. The prisoner says he belongs to
Charles W. Simpson, Esq., of Fauquier county, Va.,
and ran away with the others on the preceding evening."
from the Examiner, while it is not wholly
correct, evidently relates to the fugitives above
described. Why the reporter made such glaring
mistakes, may be accounted for on the ground that the
bold stand made by the fugitives was so bewildering and
alarming, that the "assailants" were not in a proper
condition to make correct statements. Nevertheless
the Examiner's report was preserved with other
records, and is here given for what it is worth.
These victors were individually noted on the Record
thus: Barnaby was owned by William
Rogers, a farmer, who was considered a "moderate
slave holder," although of late "addicted to
intemperance." He was the owner of about one
"dozen head of slaves," and had besides a wife and two
Barnaby's chances for making extra "change" for
himself were never favorable; sometimes of "nights" he
would manage to earn a "trifle." He was prompted
to escape because he "wanted to live by the sweat of his
own brow," believing that all men ought so to live.
This was the only reason he gave for fleeing.
Mary Elizabeth had been owned by
Townsend McVee (likewise a farmer), and in Mary's
judgment, be was "severe," but she added, "his wife made
him so." McVee owned about twenty-five
slaves; " he hardly allowed them to talk—would not allow
them to raise chickens," and "only allowed Mary
three dresses a year;" the rest she had to get as she
could. Sometimes McVee would sell
slaves—last year he sold two. Mary said
that she could not say anything good of her mistress.
On the contrary, she declared that her mistress "knew no
mercy nor showed any favor."
It was on account of this " domineering spirit," that
Mary was induced to escape.
Frank was owned by Luther Sullivan,
" the meanest man in Virginia," he said ; he treated his
people just as bad as he could in every respect. "Sullivan,"
added Frank, " would 'lowance the slaves and
stint them to save food and get rich," and "would sell
and whip," etc. To Frank's
knowledge, he had sold some twenty-five head. "He
sold my mother and her two children to Georgia some four
years previous." But the motive which hurried
Frank to make his flight was his laboring under the
apprehension that his master had some "pretty heavy
creditors who might come on him at any time."
Frank, therefore, wanted to be from home in Canada
when these gentry should make their visit. My poor
mother has been often flogged by master, said Frank.
As to his mistress, he said she was "tolerably good."
Ann Wood was owned by McVee also,
and was own sister to Elizabeth. Ann
very fully sustained her sister Elizabeth's
statement respecting the character of her master.
The above-mentioned four, were all young and likely.
Barnaby was twenty-six years of age, mulatto,
medium size, and intelligent —his wife was about
twenty-four years of age, quite dark, good-looking, and
of pleasant appearance. Frank was
twenty-five years of age, mulatto, and very smart;
Ann was twenty-two, good-looking, and smart.
After their pressing wants had been met by the Vigilance
Committee, and after partial recuperation from their
hard travel, etc., they were forwarded on to the
Vigilance Committee in New York. In Syracuse,
Frank (the leader), who was engaged to Emily,
concluded that the knot might as well be tied on the U.
G. R. R., although penniless, as to delay the matter a
single day longer. Doubtless, the bravery,
struggles, and trials of Emily throughout the
journey, had, in his estimation, added not a little to
her charms. Thus after consulting with her on the
matter, her approval was soon obtained, she being too
prudent and wise to refuse the hand of one who had
proved himself so true a friend to Freedom, as well as
so devoted to her. The twain were accordingly made
one at the U. G. R. R. Station, in Syracuse, by
Superintendent—Rev. J. W. Loguen. After
this joyful event, they proceeded to Toronto, and were
there gladly received by the Ladies' Society for aiding
The following letter from Mrs. Agnes
Willis, wife of the distinguished Rev. Dr. Willis,
brought the gratifying intelligence that these brave
young adventurers, fell into the hands of distinguished
characters and warm friends of Freedom:
TORONTO, 28th January, Monday
Dear Sir : —I have very great pleasure in making you
aware that the following respectable persons have
arrived here in safety without being annoyed in any way
after you saw them. The women, two of them, viz:
Mrs. Greegsby and Mrs. Graham,
have been rather ailing, but we hope they will very soon
be well. They have been attended to by the Ladies'
Society, and are most grateful for any attention they
have received. The solitary person, Mrs.
Graves, has also been attended to; also her box will
be looked after. She is pretty well, but
rather dull; however, she will get friends and feel more
at home by and bye. Mrs. Wanzer is
quite well; and also young William Henry
Sanderson. They are all of them in pretty
good spirits, and I have no doubt they will succeed in
whatever business they take up. In the mean time
the men are chopping
wood, and the ladies are getting plenty sewing. We
are always glad to see our colored refugees safe here.
I remain, dear sir, yours respectfully, Agnes
Treasurer to the Ladies' Society to aid colored
For a time
Frank enjoyed his newly won freedom and happy bride
with bright prospects all around; but the thought of
having left sisters and other relatives in bondage was a
source of sadness in the midst of his joy. He was
not long, however, in making up his mind that he would
deliver them or die in the attempt." Deliberately
forming his plans to go South, he resolved to take upon
himself the entire responsibility of all the risks to be
encountered. Not a word did he reveal to a living
soul of what he was about to undertake. With
"twenty-two dollars" in cash and "three pistols" in his
pockets, he started in the lightning train from Toronto
for Virginia. On reaching Columbia in this State,
he deemed it not safe to go any further by public
conveyance, consequently he commenced his long journey
on foot, and as he neared the slave territory he
traveled by night altogether. For two weeks, night
and day, he avoided trusting himself in any house,
consequently was compelled to lodge in the woods.
Nevertheless, during that space of time he succeeded in
delivering one of his sisters and her husband, and
another friend in the bargain. You can scarcely
imagine the Committee's amazement on his return, as they
looked upon him and listened to his "noble deeds of
daring" and his triumph. A more brave and
self-possessed man they had never seen.
He knew what Slavery was and the dangers surrounding
him on his mission, but possessing true courage unlike
most men, he pictured no alarming difficulties in a
distance of nearly one thousand miles by the mail route,
through the enemy's country, where he might have in
truth said, "I could not pass without running the
gauntlet of mobs and assassins, prisons and
penitentiaries, bailiffs and constables, &c." If
this hero had dwelt upon and magnified the obstacles in
his way he would most assuredly have kept off the
enemy's country, and his sister and friends would have
remained in chains.
The following were the persons delivered by Frank
Wanzer. They were his trophies, and this noble
act of Frank's should ever be held as a memorial
and honor. The Committee's brief record made on
their arrival runs thus:
"August 18, 1856. Frank Wanzer, Robert Stewart,
alias Gasberry Robison, Vincent Smith, alias
John Jackson, Betsey Smith, wife of Vincent Smith,
alias Fanny Jackson. They all came from
Adler, Loudon county, Virginia."
Robert is about thirty years of age, medium
size, dark chestnut color, intelligent and resolute.
He was held by the widow Hutchinson, who was also
the owner of about one hundred others. Robert
regarded her as a "very hard mistress" until the
death of her husband, which took place the Fall previous
to his escape. That said affliction, he thought,
was the cause.
of a considerable change in her treatment of her slaves.
But yet " nothing was said about freedom," on her part.
This reticence Robert understood to mean, that she was
still unconverted on this great cardinal principle at
least. As he could see no prospect of freedom through
her agency, when Frank approached him with a good report
from Canada and his friends there, he could scarcely
wait to listen to the glorious news ; he was so willing
and anxious to get out of slavery. His dear old mother,
Sarah Davis, and four brothers and two sisters, William,
Thomas, Frederick and Samuel, Violet and Ellen, were all
owned by Mrs. Hutchinson. Dear as they were to him, he
saw no way to take them with him, nor was he prepared to
remain a day longer under the yoke ; so he decided to
accompany Frank, let the cost be what it might.
Vincent is about twenty-three years of age, very "
likely-looking," dark color, and more than ordinarily
intelligent for one having only the common chances of
He was owned by the estate of Nathan Skinner,
who was "looked upon," by those who knew him, "as a good
slave-holder." In slave property, however, he was
only interested to the number of twelve head.
Skinner "neither sold nor emancipated." A year
and a half before Vincent escaped, his master was
called to give an account of his stewardship, and there
in the spirit laud Vincent was willing to let him
remain, without much more to add about him.
Vincent left his mother, Judah Smith,
and brothers and sisters, Edwin, Angeline,
Sina Ann, Adaline Susan,
George, John and Lewis, all belonging
to the estate of Skinner.
Vincent was fortunate enough to bring his wife
along with him. She was about twenty-seven years
of age, of a brown color, and smart, and was owned by
the daughter of the widow Hutchinson.
This mistress was said to be a "clever woman."
JORDON, ALIAS WILLIAM PRICE.
Governor Badger, of North Carolina,
William had experienced Slavery in its most hateful
form. True, he had only been twelve months under
the yoke of this high functionary. But
William's experience in this short space of time,
was of a nature very painful.
Previous to coming into the governor's hands,
William was held as the property of Mrs.
Mary Jordon, who owned large numbers of
slaves. Whether the governor was moved by this
consideration, or by the fascinating charms of Mrs.
Jordon, or both, William was not able to
decide. But the governor offered her hushand, and
they became united in wedlock. By this
circumstance, William was brought into his
unhappy relations with the Chief Magistrate of the State
of North Carolina. This was the third time
the governor had been married. Thus it may be
seen, that the governor was a firm believer in wives as
well as slaves. Commonly he was regarded as a man
of wealth. William being an intelligent
piece of property, his knowledge of the governor's rules
and customs was quite complete, as he readily answered
such questions as were propounded to him. In this
way a great amount of interesting information was
learned from William respecting the governor,
slaves, on the plantation, in the swamps, etc. The
governor owned large plantations, and was interested in
raising cotton, corn, and peas; and was also a practical
planter. He was willing to trust neither overseers
nor slaves any further than he could help.
The governor and his wife were both equally
severe towards them; would stint them shamefully in
clothing and food, though they did not get flogged quite
as often as some others on neighboring plantations.
Frequently, the governor would be out on the plantation
from early in the morning till noon, inspecting the
operations of the overseers and slaves.
In order to serve the governor, William had been
separated from his wife by sale, which was the cause of
his escape. He parted not with his companion
willingly. At the time, however, he was promised
that he should have some favors shown him; - could make
over-work, and earn a little money, and once or twice in
the year, have the opportunity of making visits to her.
Two hundred miles was the distance between them.
He had not been long on the governor's plantation
before his honor gave him distinctly to understand that
the idea of his going two hundred miles to see his wife
was all nonsense, and entirely out of the question.
"If I said so, I did not mean it," said his honor, when
the slave, on a certain occasion, alluded to the
conditions on which he consented to leave home, etc.
Against this cruel decision of the governor,
William's heart revolted, for he was warmly attached
to his wife, and so he made up his mind, if he could not
see her "once or twice a year even," as he had been
promised, he had rather "die," or live in a "cave in the
wood," than to remain all his life under the governor's
yoke. Obeying the dictates of his feelings, he
went to the woods. For ten months before he was
successful in finding the Under ground Road, this
brave-hearted young fugitive abode in the swamps—three
months in a cave—surrounded with bears, wild cats,
rattle-snakes and the like.
While in the swamps and cave, he was not troubled,
however, about ferocious animals and venomous reptiles.
He feared only man!
From his own story there was no escaping the
conclusion, that if the choice had been left to him, he
would have preferred at any time to have encountered at
the mouth of his cave a ferocious bear than his master,
the governor of North Carolina. How he managed to
subsist, and ultimately effected his escape, was
listened to with the deepest interest, though the
recital of these incidents must here be very brief.
After night he would come out of his cave, and, in some
succeed in making his way to a plantation, and if he
could get nothing else, he would help himself to a "
pig," or anything else he could conveniently convert
into food. Also, as opportunity would offer, a
friend of his would favor him with some meal, etc.
With this mode of living he labored to content himself
until he could do better. During these ten months
he suffered indescribable hardships, but he felt that
his condition in the cave was far preferable to that on
the plantation, under the control of his Excellency, the
Governor. All this time, however, William
had a true friend, with whom he could communicate; one
who was wide awake, and was on the alert to find a
reliable captain from the North, who would consent to
take this " property," or " freight," for a
consideration. He heard at last of a certain
Captain, who was then doing quite a successful business
in an Underground way. This good news was conveyed
to William, and afforded him a ray of hope in the
wilderness. As Providence would have it, his hope
did not meet with disappointment; nor did his ten
months' trial, warring against the barbarism of Slavery,
seem too great to endure for Freedom. He was about
to leave his cave and his animal and reptile
neighbors,—his heart swelling with gladness,—but the
thought of soon being beyond the reach of his mistress
and master thrilled him with inexpressible delight.
He was brought away by Captain F., and turned
over to the Committee, who were made to rejoice with him
over the signal victory he had gained in his martyr-like
endeavors to throw off the yoke, and of course they took
much pleasure in aiding him. William was of
a dark color, stout made physically, and well knew the
value of Freedom, and how to hate and combat Slavery.
It will be seen by the appended letter of Thomas
Garrett, that William had the good luck to
fall into the hands of this tried friend, by whom he was
aided to Philadelphia:
WILMINGTON, 12th mo., 19th, 1855.
—The bearer of this is one of the twenty-one that I
thought had all gone North; he left home on Christmas
day, one year since, wandered about the forests of North
Carolina for about ten months, and then came here with
those forwarded to New Bedford, where he is anxious to
go. I have furnished him with a pretty good pair
of boots, and gave him money to pay his passage to
Philadelphia. He has been at work in the country
near here for some three weeks, till taken sick; he is,
by no means, well, but thinks he had better try to get
further North, which I hope his friends in Philadelphia
will aid him to do. I handed this morning
Captain Lambson's* wife twenty dollars to
help fee a lawyer to defend him. She leaves this
morning, with her child, for Norfolk, to be at the trial
before the Commissioner on the 24th instant.
Passmore Williamson agreed to raise fifty
dollars for him. As none came to hand, and a good
chance to send it by his wife, I thought best to advance
*Captain Lambson had been suspected of
having aided in the escape of slaves from the neighbor
hood of Norfolk, and was in prison awaiting his trial.
GRANT AND JOHN SPEAKS.
TWO PASSENGERS ON THE UNDERGROUND
RAIL ROAD, VIA LIVERPOOL.
It is to
be regretted that, owing to circumstances, the account
of these persons has not been fully preserved.
Could justice be done them, probably their narratives
would not be surpassed in interest by any other in the
history of fugitives. In 1857, when these
remarkable travelers came under the notice of the
Vigilance Committee, as Slavery seemed likely to last
for generations, and there was but little expectation
that these records would ever have the historical value
which they now possess, care was not always taken to
prepare and preserve them. Besides, the cases
coming under the notice of the Committee, were so
numerous and so interesting, that it seemed almost
impossible to do them anything like justice. In
many instances the rapt attention paid by friends, when
listening to the sad recitals of such passengers, would
unavoidably consume so much time that but little
opportunity was afforded to make any record of them.
Particularly was this the case with regard to the
above-mentioned individuals. The story of each was
so long and sad, that a member of the Committee in
attempting to write it out, found that the two
narratives would take volumes. That all traces, of
these heroes might not be lost, a mere fragment is all
that was preserved.
The original names of these adventurers, were Joseph
Grant and John Speaks.
Between two and three years before escaping, they were
sold from Maryland to John B. Campbell a negro
trader, living in Baltimore, and thence to Campbell's
brother, another trader in New Orleans, and subsequently
to Daniel McBeans and Mr. Henry,
of Harrison county, Mississippi.
Though both had to pass through nearly the same trial,
and belonged to the same masters, this recital must be
confined chiefly to the incidents in the career of
Joseph. He was about twenty-seven years of
age, well made, quite black, intelligent and
self-possessed in his manner.
Joseph was a married man, and spoke tenderly of
his wife. She "promised" him when he was sold that
she would " never marry," and earnestly entreated him,
if he "ever met with the luck, to come and see her."
She was unaware perhaps at that time of the great
distance that was to divide them; his feelings on being
thus sundered need not be stated. However, he had
scarcely been in Mississippi three weeks, ere his desire
to return to his wife, and the place of his nativity
constrained him to attempt to return:
accordingly he set off, crossing a lake eighty miles
wide in a small boat, he reached Kent Island.
There he was captured by the watchman on the Island, who
with pistols, dirk and cutlass in hand,
threatened if he resisted that death would be his
instant doom. Of course he was returned to his
He remained there a few months, but could content
himself no longer to endure the ills of his condition.
So he again started for home, walked to Mobile, and
thence he succeeded in stowing himself away in a
steamboat and was thus conveyed to Montgomery, a
distance of five hundred and fifty miles through solid
slave territory. Again he was captured and
returned to his owners; one of whom always went for
immediate punishment, the other being mild thought
persuasion the better plan in such cases. On the
whole, Joseph thus far had been pretty fortunate,
considering the magnitude of his offence.
A third time he summoned courage and steered him course
homewards towards Maryland, but as in the preceding
attempts, he was again unsuccessful.
In this instance Mr. Henry, the harsh
owner, was exasperated, and the mild one's patience so
exhausted that they concluded that nothing short of
stern measures would cause Joe to reform.
Said Mr. Henry; "I had rather lose my
right arm than for him to get off without being
punished, after having put us to so much trouble."
Joseph will now speak for himself.
"He (master) sent the overseer to tie me. I told
him I would not be tied. I ran and stayed away
four days, which made Mr. Henry very anxious.
Mr. Beans told the servants if they saw me, to
tell me to come back and I should not be hurt.
Thinking that Mr. Beans had always stood to his
word, I was over persuaded and came back. He sent
for me in his parlor, talked the matter over, sent me to
the steamboat (perhaps the one he tried to escape on.)
After getting cleverly on board the captain told me, I
am sorry to tell you, you have to be tied. I was
tied and Mr. Henry was sent for. He came;
'Well, I have got you at last, beg my pardon and promise
you will never run away again and I will not be so hard
on you.' I could not do it. He then gave me
three hundred lashes well laid on. I was stripped
entirely naked, and my flesh was as raw as a piece of
beef. He made John (the companion who escaped with
him) hold one of my feet which I broke loose while being
whipped, and when done made him bathe me in salt and
"Then I resolved to 'go or die' in the attempt.
Before starting, one week, I could not work. On
getting better we went to Ship Island; the sailors, who
were Englishmen, were very sorry to hear of the
treatment we had received, and counselled us how we
might got free."
The counsel was heeded, and in due time they found
themselves in Liverpool. There their stay was
brief. Utterly destitute of money, education.
and in a strange land, they very naturally turned their
eyes again in the direction of their native land.
Accordingly their host, the keeper of a sailor's
boarding-house, shipped them to Philadelphia.
But to go back, Joseph saw many things in New
Orleans and Mississippi of a nature too horrible to
relate, among which were the following:
I have seen Mr. Beans whip one of his slaves to
death, at the tree to which he was tied.
Mr. Henry would make them lie down across a log,
stripped naked, and with every stroke would lay the
flesh open. Being used to it, some would lie on
the log without being tied.
In New Orleans, I have seen women stretched out just as
naked as my hand, on boxes, and given one hundred and
fifty lashes, four men holding them. I have helped
hold them myself: when released they could hardly
sit or walk. This whipping was at the "Fancy
The "chain-gangs" he also saw in constant
operation. Four and five slaves chained together
and at work on the streets, cleaning, &c., was a common
sight. He could hardly tell Sunday from Monday in
New Orleans, the slaves were kept so constantly going.
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