Arrivals from Virginia; an excerpt from Still’s Underground Rail Road Records (1886)


In this excerpt from Still’s Underground Rail Road Records, William Still describes the experiences of men and women who escaped slavery in Virginia via the Underground Railroad. A black abolitionist who worked for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Still assisted fugitive slaves who passed through Philadelphia and published his records and recollections in several editions, beginning in 1872. This edition appeared in 1886. Still died in 1902. These narratives, along with other slave narratives, offer a composite portrait of authors’ self-styled personal stories. The amanuensis’ interests, lived experiences, and editing choices, as well as their social relations and expectations shaped the relationship and conversation with the authors. Although the narratives aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.



William Triplett and Thomas Harper.

Ran Away from the subscriber, on Saturday night, 22d instant, William Triplett, a dark mulatto, with whiskers and mustache, 23 to 26 years of age; lately had a burn on the instep of his right foot, but perhaps well enough to wear a boot or shoe. He took with him very excellent clothing, both summer and winter, consisting of a brown suit in cloth, summer coats striped, check cap, silk hat, &c. $50 reward will be paid if taken within thirty miles of Alexandria or in the State of Virginia, and $150 and necessary expenses if taken out of the State and secured so that I get him again. He is the property of Mrs. A. B. Fairfax, of Alexandria, and is likely to make his way to Cincinnati, where he has friends, named Hamilton and Hopes, now living. ROBT. W. WHEAT.

— page 411 —

William, answering to the above description, arrived safely in company with Thomas Harper, about six days after the date of their departure from the house of bondage.

Mrs. A. B. Fairfax was the loser of this “article.” William spoke rather favorably of her. He said he did not leave because he was treated badly, but simply because he wanted to own himself—tobe free. He also said that he wanted to be able to take care of his family if he should see fit to marry.

As to Slavery, he could see no justice in the system; he therefore made up his mind no longer to yield submission thereto. Being a smart “chattel,” he reasoned well on the question of Slavery, and showed very conclusively that even under the kindest mistress it had no charms for him—that at best, it was robbery and an outrage.

Thomas Harper, his comrade, fled from John Cowling, who also lived near Alexandria. His great trouble was, that he had a wife and family, but could do nothing for them. He thought that it was hard to see them in want and abused when he was not at liberty to aid or protect them. He grew very unhappy, but could see no remedy except in flight.

Cowling, his master, was an Englishman by birth, and followed blacksmithing for a living. He was a man in humble circumstances, trying to increase his small fortune by slave-labor.

He allowed Thomas to hire himself for one hundred dollars a year, which amount he was required to raise, sick or well. He did not complain, however, of having received any personal abuse from his blacksmith master. It was the system which was daily grinding the life out of him, that caused him to suffer, and likewise escape. By trade Thomas was also a blacksmith. He left a wife and three children.



— page 412 —

Abram Wooders.

Although slave-holders had spared no pains to keep Abram in the dark and to make him love his yoke, he proved by his actions, that he had no faith in their doctrines. Nor did he want for language in which to state the reasons for his actions. He was just in the prime of life, thirty-five years of age, chestnut color, common size, with a Scar over the left eye, and another on the upper lip.

Like many others, he talked in a simple, earnest manner, and in answer to queries as to how he had fared, the following is his statement:

“I was held as the property of the late Taylor Sewell, but when I escaped I was in the service of W. C. Williams, a commission merchant. My old master was a very severe man, but he was always very kind to me. He had a great many more colored folks, was very severe amongst them, would get mad and sell right away. He was a drinking man, dissipated and a gambler, a real sportsman. He lived on Newell Creek, about twelve miles from Norfolk. For the last eight years I was hired to W. C. Williams, for $150 a year—if I had all that money, it might do me some good. I left because I wanted to enjoy myself some. I felt if I staid and got old no one would care for me, I wouldn’t be of no account to nobody.”

“But are not the old slaves well cared for by their masters?” a member of the Committee here remarked. “Take care of them! no!” Abram replied with much earnestness, and then went on to explain how such property was left to perish. Said Abram, “There was an old man named Ike, who belonged to the same estate that I did, he was treated like a dog; after they could get no more work out of him, they said, ‘let him die, he is of no service; there is no use of getting a doctor for him.’ Accordingly there could be no other fate for the old man but to suffer and die with creepers in his legs.”

It was sickening to hear him narrate instances of similar suffering in the case of old slaves. Abram left two sisters and one brother in bondage.



— page 421 —

Pascal Quantence.

Pascal fled from Virginia, and accused Bannon and Brady of doing violence to his liberty. He had, however, been in their clutches only a short while before escaping, but that short while seemed almost an age, as he was treated so meanly by them compared with the treatment which he had experienced under his former master.

According to Pascal’s story, which was evidently true, his previous master was his own father (John Quantence), who had always acknowledged Pascal as his child, whom he did not scruple to tell people he should set free; that he did not intend that he should serve anybody else. But, while out riding one day, he was thrown from his horse and instantly killed. Naturally enough, no will being found, his effects were all administered upon and Pascal was sold with the farm. Bannon and Brady were the purchasers, at least of Pascal. In their power, immediately the time of trouble began with Pascal, and so continued until he could no longer endure it. “Hoggishness,” according to Pascal’s phraseology, was the most predominant trait in the character of his new masters. In his mournful situation and grief he looked toward Canada and started with courage and hope, and thus succeeded. Such deliverances always afforded very great joy to the Committee.



— page 430 —

Mary arrived from Delaware, Moses from Norfolk, Virginia, and happened to meet at the station in Philadelphia.

Mary was twenty years of age, of a chestnut color, usual size, and well disposed. She fled from Nathaniel Heme, an alderman. Mary did not find fault with the alderman, but she could not possibly get along with his wife; this was the sole cause of her escape.

Moseswas twenty-four years of age, of a chestnut color, a bright-looking young man. He fled from Norfolk, Virginia, having been owned by the estate of John Halters. Nothing but the prevailing love of liberty in the breast of Moses moved him to seek his freedom. He did not make one complaint of bad treatment.



— page 435 —

William Carney and Andrew Allen.

William was about fifty-one years of age, a man of unmixed blood. Physically he was a superior man, and his mental abilities were quite above the average of his class.

He belonged to the estate of the late Mrs. Sarah Twyne, who bore the

— page 436 —

reputation of being a lady of wealth, and owned one hundred and twelve slaves. Most of her slave property was kept on her plantation not far from Old Point Comfort. According to William’s testimony “of times Mrs. Twyne would meddle too freely with the cup, and when under its influence she was very desperate, and acted as though she wanted to kill some of the slaves.”

After the evil spirit left her and she had regained her wonted composure, she would pretend that she loved her “negroes,” and would make a great fuss over them. Not infrequently she would have very serious difficulty with her overseers. Having license to do as they pleased, they would of course carry their cruelties to the most extreme verge of punishment. If a slave was maimed or killed under their correction, it was no loss of theirs. “One of the overseers by the name of Bill Anderson once shot a young slave man called Luke and wounded him so seriously that he was not expected to live.” “At another time one of the overseers beat and kicked a slave to death.” This barbarity caused the mistress to be very much “stirred up,” and she declared that she would not have any more white overseers; condemned them for everything, and decided to change her policy in future and to appoint her overseers from her own slaves, setting the property to watch the property. This system was organized and times were somewhat better.

William had been hired out almost his entire life. For the last twelve or fifteen years he had been accustomed to hire his time for one hundred and thirty dollars per annum. In order to meet this demand he commonly resorted to oystering. By the hardest toil he managed to maintain himself and family in a humble way.

For the last twenty years (prior to his escape) the slaves had constantly been encouraged by their mistress’ promises to believe that at her death all would be free, and transported to Liberia, where they would enjoy their liberty and be happy the remainder of their days.

With full faith in her promises year by year the slaves awaited her demise with as much patience as possible, and often prayed that her time might be shortened for the general good of the oppressed. Fortunately, as the slaves thought, she had no children or near relatives to deprive them of their just and promised rights.

In November, previous to William’s escape, her long looked-for dissolution took place. Every bondman who was old enough to realize the nature and import of the change felt a great anxiety to learn what the will of their old mistress said, whether she had actually freed them or not. Alas! when the secret was disclosed, it was ascertained that not a fetter was broken, not a bond unloosed, and that no provision whatever had been made looking towards freedom. In this sad case, the slaves could imagine no other fate than soon to be torn asunder and scattered. The fact was soon made known that the High Sheriff’ had administered on the estate of the late mis-

— page 437 —

tress; it was therefore obvious enough to William and the more intelligent slaves that the auction block was near at hand.

The trader, the slave-pen, the auction-block, the come gang, the rice swamp, the cotton plantation, bloodhounds, and cruel overseers loomed up before him, as they had never done before. Without stopping to consider the danger, he immediately made of his mind that he would make a struggle, cost what it might. He knew of no other way of escape than the Underground Rail Road. He was shrewd enough to find an agent, who gave him private instructions, and to whom he indicated a desire to travel North on said road. On examination he was deemed reliable, and a mutual understanding was entered into between William and one of the accommodating Captains running on the Richmond and Philadelphia Line, to the effect that he, William, should have a first class Underground Rail Road berth, so perfectly private that even the law-officers could not find him.

The first ties to be severed were those which bound his wife and children, and next to the Baptist Church, to which he belonged. His family were slaves, and bore the following names: his wife, Nancy, and children, Simon Henry, William, Sarah, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Louis, and Cornelius. It was no light matter to bid them farewell forever. The separation from them was a trial such as rarely falls to the lot of mortals; but he nerved himself for the undertaking, and when the hour arrived his strength was sufficient for the occasion.

Thus in company with Andrew they embarked for an unknown shore, their entire interests entrusted to a stranger who was to bring them through difficulties and dangers seen and unseen.

Andrew was about twenty-four years of age, very tall, quite black, and bore himself manfully. He too was of the same estate that William belonged to. He had served on the farm as a common farm laborer. He had had it “sometimes rough and sometimes smooth,” to use his own language. The fear of what awaited the slaves prompted Andrew to escape. He too was entangled with a wife and one child, with whom he parted only as a friend parts with a companion when death separates them. Catharine was the name of Andrew’s wife; and Anna Clarissa the name of his child left in chains.



— page 442 —

Townsend Derrix.

The above-named escaped from a “Dutchman” by the name of Gallipappick, who was in the confectionery business. For the credit of our German citizens, it may be said, that slave-holders within their ranks were very few. This was a rare case. The Committee were a little curious to know how the German branch of civilization conducted when given unlimited control over human beings.

In answering the requisite questions, and in making his statement, Townsend gave entire satisfaction. His German master he spoke of as being a tolerably fair man, “considering his origin.” At least he (Townsend), had not suffered much from him; but he spoke of a woman, about sixty, who had been used very badly under this Dutchman. He not only worked her very hard, but, at the same time, he would beat her over the head, and that in the most savage manner. His mistress was also “Dutch,” a “great swabby, fat woman,” with a very ill disposition. Master and mistress were both members of the Episcopal Church. “Mistress drank, that was the reason she was so disagreeable.”

Townsend had been a married man for about seven months only. In his effort to obtain his own freedom he sought diligently to deliver his young wife. They were united heart and hand in the one great purpose to reach

— page 443 —

free land, but unfortunately the pursuers were on their track; the wife was captured and carried back, but the husband escaped. It was particularly with a view of saving his poor wife that Townsend was induced to peril his life, for she (the wife) was not owned by the same party who owned Townsend, and was on the eve of being taken by her owners some fifty miles distant into the country, where the chances for intercourse between husband and wife would no longer be favorable. Rather than submit to such an outrage, Townsend and his wife made the attempt aforementioned.



— page 444 —

James Mason.

This passenger brought rare intelligence respecting the manner in which he had been treated in Slavery. He had been owned by a lady named Judith Burton, who resided in Petersburg, and was a member of the Baptist Church. She was the owner of five other slaves. James said that she had been “the same as a mother” to him; and on the score of how he came to escape, he said: “I left for no other cause than simply to get my liberty.” This was an exceptional case, yet he had too much sense to continue in such a life in preference to freedom. When he fled he was only twenty-four years of age. Had he remained, therefore, he might have seen hard times before he reached old age; this fact he had well considered, as he was an intelligent young man.



— page 449 —

Ebenezer Allison.

“Eb” was a bright mulatto, handsome, well-made, and barely twenty years of age. He reported that he fled from Mr. John Tilghman Foster, a farmer, living in the vicinity of Richmond. His master, Ebenezer unhesitatingly declared, was a first-rate man. “I had no right to leave him in the world, but I loved freedom better than Slavery.” After fully setting forth the kind treatment he had been accustomed to receive under his master, a member of the Committee desired to know of him if he could read, to which he answered that he could, but he admitted that what knowledge he had obtained in this direction was the result of efforts made stealthily, not through any license afforded by his master. John Tilghman Foster held deeds for about one hundred and fifty head of slaves, and was a man of influence.

Ebenezer had served his time in the barber’s shop. On escaping he forsook his parents, and eight brothers and sisters. As he was so intelligent, the Committee believed he would make his mark in life some time.


John Thompson Carr, Ann Mountain and Child, and William Bowler.

Johnwas a sturdy-looking chattel, but possessed far less intelligence than the generality of passengers. He was not too old, however, to improve. The fact that he had spirit enough to resent the harsh treatment

— page 450 —

of one Albert Lewis, a small farmer, who claimed to own him, showed that he was by no means a hopeless case. With all his apparent stupidity he knew enough to give his master the name of a “free whiskey drinker” likewise of “beating and fighting the slaves.” It was on this account that John was compelled to escape.

Ann Mountain arrived from Delaware with her child about the same time that John did, but not in company with him; they met at the station in Philadelphia. That Slavery had crippled her in every respect was very discernible; this poor woman had suffered from cuffing, etc., until she could no longer endure her oppression. Taking her child in her arms, she sought refuge beyond the borders of slave territory. Ann was about twenty-two years of age, her child not quite a year old. They were considered entitled to much pity.

William was forty-one years of age, dark, ordinary size, and intelligent. He fled from Richmond, where he had been held by Alexander Royster, the owner of fifteen slaves, and a tobacco merchant. William said that his master was a man of very savage temper, short, and crabbed. As to his social relations, William said that he was “a member of nothing now but a liquor barrel.”

Knowing that his master and mistress labored under the delusion that he was silly enough to look up to them as kind-hearted slave-holders, to whom he should feel himself indebted for everything, William thought that they would be sadly puzzled to conjecture what had become of him. He was sure that they would be slow to believe that he had gone to Canada. Until within the last five years he had enjoyed many privileges as a slave, but he had since found it not so easy to submit to the requirements of Slavery. He left his wife, Nancy, and two children.



— page 452 —

Alfred S. Thornton.

The subject of this sketch was a young man about twenty-two years of age, of dark color, but bright intellectually. Alfred found no fault with the ordinary treatment received at the hands of his master; he had evidently been on unusually intimate terms with him. Nor was any fault found with his mistress, so far as her treatment of him was concerned ; thus, comparatively, he was “happy and contented,” little dreaming of trader or a change of owners. One day, to his utter surprise, he saw a trader with a constable approaching him. As they drew nearer and nearer he began to grow nervous. What further took place will be given, as nearly as possible, in Alfred’s own words as follows:

“William Noland (a constable), and the trader was making right up to me almost on my heels, and grabbed at me, they were so near. I flew, I took off my hat and run, took off my jacket and run harder, took off my vest and doubled my pace, the constable and the trader both on the chase hot foot. The trader fired two barrels of his revolver after me, and cried out is loud as he could call, G–d d–n, etc., but I never stopped running, but run for my master. Coming up to him, I cried out, Lord, master, have you sold me? ‘Yes,’ was his answer. ‘To the trader,’ I said, ‘Yes,’ he

— page 453 —

answered. ‘Why couldn’t you sold me to some of the neighbors?’ I said. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, in a dry way. With my arms around my master’s neck, I begged and prayed him to tell me why he had sold me. The trader and constable was again pretty near. I let go my master and took to my heels to save me. I run about a mile off and run into a mill dam up to my head in water. I kept my head just above and hid the rest part of my body for more than two hours. I had not made up my mind to escape until I had got into the water. I run only to have little more time to breathe before going to Georgia or New Orleans; but I pretty soon made up my mind in the water to try and get to a free State, and go to Canada and make the trial anyhow, but I didn’t know which way to travel.”

Such great changes in Alfred’s prospects having been wrought in so short a while, together with such a fearful looking-for of a fate in the far South more horrid than death, suddenly, as by a miracle, he turns his face in the direction of the North. But the North star, as it were, hid its face from him. For a week he was trying to reach free soil, the rain scarcely ceasing for an hour. The entire journey was extremely discouraging, and many steps had to be taken in vain, hungry and weary. But having the faith of those spoken of in the Scriptures, who wandered about in dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, afflicted and tormented, he endured to the end and arrived safely to the Committee.

He left his father and mother, both slaves, living near Middleburg, in Virginia, not far from where he said his master lived, who went by the name of C. E. Shinn, and followed farming. His master and mistress were said to be members of the “South Baptist Church,” and both had borne good characters until within a year or so previous to Alfred’s departure. Since then a very serious disagreement had taken place between them, resulting in their separation, a heavy lawsuit, and consequently large outlays. It was this domestic trouble, in Alfred’s opinion, that rendered his sale

— page 454 —

indispensable. Of the merits of the grave charges made by his master against his mistress, Alfred professed to have formed no opinion; he knew, however, that his master blamed a school-master, by the name of Conway, for the sad state of things in his household. Time would fail to tell of the abundant joy Alfred derived from the fact, that his “heels” had saved him from a Southern market. Equally difficult would it be to express the interest felt by the Committee in this passenger and his wonderful hair-breadth escape.



— page 459 —

Mary Frances Melvin, Eliza Henderson, and Nancy Grantham.

Mary Frances hailed from Norfolk; she had been in servitude under Mrs. Chapman, a widow lady, against whom she had no-complaint to make; indeed, she testified that her mistress was very kind, although fully allied to slavery. She said that she left, not on account of bad treatment, but simply because she wanted her freedom. Her calling as a slave had been that of a dress-maker and house servant. Mary Frances was about twenty-three years of age, of mixed blood, refined in her manners and somewhat cultivated.

Eliza Henderson, who happened at the station at the same time that Frances was on hand, escaped from Richmond. She was twenty-eight years of age, medium size, quite dark color, and of pleasant countenance. Eliza alleged that one William Waverton had been wronging her by keeping her down-trodden and withholding her hire. Also, that this same Waverton had, on a late occasion, brought his heavy fist violently against her “jaws,” which visitation, however “kindly” intended by her chivalrous master, produced such an unfavorable impression on the mind of Eliza that she at once determined not to yield submission to him a day longer than she could find an Underground Rail Road conductor who would take her North.

The blow that she had thus received made her almost frantic; she had however thought seriously on the question of her rights before this outrage.

In Waverton’s household Eliza had become a fixture as it were, especially with regard to his children; she had won their affections completely, and she was under the impression that in some instances their influence had saved her from severe punishment; and for them she manifested kindly feelings. In speaking of her mistress she said that she was “only tolerable.”

It would be useless to attempt a description of the great satisfaction and delight evinced by Eliza on reaching the Committee in Philadelphia.

Nancy Grantham also fled from near Richmond, and was fortunate in that she escaped from the prison-house at the age of nineteen. She possessed a countenance peculiarly mild, and was good-looking and interesting, and although evidently a slave her father belonged strictly to the white man’s party, for she was fully half white. She was moved to escape simply to shun her master’s evil designs; his brutal purposes were only frustrated by the utmost resolution. This chivalric gentleman was a husband, the father of nine children, and the owner of three hundred slaves. He belonged to a family bearing the name of Christian, and was said to be an M. D. “He was an old man, but very cruel to all his slaves.” It was said that Nancy’s sister was the object of his lust, but she resisted, and the result was that she was sold to New Orleans. The auction-block was not the

— page 460 —

only punishment she was called upon to endure for her fidelity to her womanhood, for resistance to her master, but before being sold she was cruelly scourged.

Nancy’s sorrows first commenced in Alabama. Five years previous to her escape she was brought from a cotton plantation in Alabama, where she had been accustomed to toil in the cotton-field. In comparing and contrasting the usages of slave-holders in the two States in which she had served, she said she had “seen more flogging under old Christian “than she had been accustomed to see in Alabama; yet she concluded, that she could hardly tell which State was the worst; her cup had been full and very bitter in both States.

Nancy said, “the very day before I escaped, I was required to go to his (her master’s) bed-chamber to keep the flies off of him as he lay sick, or pretended to be so. Notwithstanding, in talking with me, he said that he was coming to my pallet that night, and with an oath he declared if I made a noise he would cut my throat. I told him I would not be there. Accordingly he did go to my room, but I had gone for shelter to another room. At this his wrath waxed terrible. Next morning I was called to account for getting out of his way, and I was beaten awfully.” This outrage moved Nancy to a death-struggle for her freedom, and she succeeded by dressing herself in male attire.

After her harrowing story was told with so much earnestness and intelligence, she was asked as to the treatment she had received at the hand of Mrs. Christian (her mistress). In relation to her, Nancy said, “Mrs. Christian was afraid of him (master); if it hadn’t been for that I think she would have been clever; but I was often threatened by her, and once she undertook to beat me, but I could not stand it. I had to resist, and she got the worst of it that time.”

All that may now be added, is, that the number of young slave girls shamefully exposed to the base lusts of their masters, as Nancy was—truly was legion. Nancy was but one of the number who resisted influences apparently overpowering. All honor is due her name and memory!

She was brought away secreted on a boat, but the record is silent as to which one of the two or three Underground Rail Road captains (who at that time occasionally brought passengers), helped her to escape. It was hard to be definite concerning minor matters while absorbed in the painful reflections that her tale of suffering had naturally awakened. If one had arisen from the dead the horrors of Slavery could scarcely have been more vividly pictured! But in the multitude of travelers coming under the notice of the Committee, Nancy’s story was soon forgotten, and new and marvellous narratives were told of others who had shared the same bitter cup, who had escaped from the same hell of Slavery, who had panted for the same freedom and won the same prize.


— page 461 —

Orlando J. Hunt.

When Orlando escaped from Richmond the Underground Rail Road business was not very brisk. A disaster on the road, resulting in the capture of one or two captains, tended to damp the ardor of some who wanted to come, as well as that of sympathizers. The road was not idle, however. Orlando’s coming was hailed with great satisfaction. He was twenty-nine years of age, full black, possessed considerable intelligence, and was fluent in speech; fully qualified to give clear statements as to the condition of Slavery in Richmond, etc. While the Committee listened to his narrations with much interest, they only took note of how he had fared, and the character of the master he was compelled to serve. On these points the substance of his narrations may be found annexed:

“I was owned by High Holser, a hide sorter, a man said to be rich, a good Catholic, though very disagreeable; he was not cruel, but was very driving and abusive in his language towards colored people. I have been held in bondage about eighteen years by Holser, but have failed, so far, to find any good traits in his character. I purchased my mother for one hundred dollars, when she was old and past labor, too old to earn her hire and find herself; but she was taken away by death, before I had finished paying for her; twenty-five dollars only remained to be paid to finish the agreement. Owing to her unexpected death, I got rid of that much, which was of some consequence, as I was a slave myself, and had hard work to raise the money to purchase her.”

Thus, finding the usages of Slavery so cruel and outlandish, he resolved to leave “old Virginny” and “took out,” via the Underground Rail Road. He appeared to be of a religious turn of mind, and felt that he had “a call to preach.”

After his arrival in Canada, the following letter was received from him:

St. Catharines, C. W., May 6th, 1858.
My Dear Friend:—Wm. Still:—Mr. Orlando J. Hunt, who has just arrived here from Richmond, Va, desires me to address to you a line in his behalf. Mr. Hunt is expecting his clothing to come from Richmond to your care, and if you have received them, he desires you to forward them immediately to St. Catharines, in my care, in the safest and most expeditious way in your power. Mr. Hunt is much pleased with this land of freedom, and I hope he may do well for himself and much good to others. He preached here in the Baptist church, last evening.

He sends his kind regards and sincere thanks to you and your family, and such friends as have favored him on his way. Very respectfully yours,

Hiram Wilson, for Orlando Hunt.


— page 462 —

William Mackey.

William made no complaint against his master of a serious nature touching himself. True, he said his “master was a frolicker, and fond of drink,” but he was not particularly unkind to him. His name was Tunis; he was a military man, and young; consequently William had not been in his hands long. Prior to his being owned by the young master, he had lived with old mistress Tunis. Concerning her the following is one of William’s statements:

“My sister about the first of this month, three weeks after her confinement, had word sent to her by her mistress, Mrs. Tunis, that she thought it was time for her to come out and go to work, as she had been laying by long enough.” In reply to this message, William said that “his sister sent word to her mistress, that she was not well enough, and begged that her mistress would please send her some tea and sugar, until she got well enough to go to work. The mistress’ answer was to the effect that she did not intend to give her anything until she went to work, and at the same time she sent word to her, that she had better take her baby down to the back of the garden and throw it away, adding ‘I will sell her, etc.'”

It was owing to the cruelty of Mrs. Tunis that William was moved to flee. According to his statement, which looked reasonable and appeared truthful, he had been willed free by his master, who died at the time that the plague was raging in Norfolk. At the same time his mistress also had the fever, and was dreadfully frightened, but recovered. Not long after this event it was William’s belief that the will was made away with through the agency of a lawyer, and in consequence thereof the slaves were retained in bondage.



— page 463 —

Peter Nelson. (Resembled an Irishman.)

The coming of this strange-looking individual caused much surprise, representing, as he did, if not a full-blooded Irishman, a man of Irish descent. He was sufficiently fair to pass for white anywhere, with his hat on—with it off, his hair would have betrayed him; if was light, but quite woolly. Nor was he likely to be called handsome; he was interesting, nevertheless. It wad evident, that the “white man’s party” had damaged him seriously. He represented that he had been in the bonds of one James Ford, of Stafford county, Virginia, and that this “Ford was a right tough old fellow, who owned about two dozen head.” “How does he treat them?” he was asked. “He don’t treat them well no way,” replied the passenger. “Why did you leave?” was the next question. “Because of his fighting;knocking and carrying on so,” was the prompt answer. The Committee fully interviewed him, and perceived that he had really worn the fetters of Slavery, and that he was justified in breaking his bonds and fleeing for refuge to Canada, and was entitled to aid and sympathy. Peter was about twenty-four years of age. He left nine brothers and sisters in bondage.



— page 464 —

William Carpenter.

Escaped from the Father of the Fugitive Slave Law—Senator [James Murray] Mason.

It was highly pleasing to have a visit from a “chattel” belonging to the leading advocate of the infamous Fugitive Slave Bill. He was hurriedly interviewed for the sake of reliable information.

That William possessed a fair knowledge of slave life under the Senator there was no room to doubt, although incidents of extreme cruelty might not have been so common on Mason’s place as on some others. While the verbal interchange of views was quite full, the hour for the starting of the Underground Rail Road train arrived too soon to admit of a full report for the record book. From the original record, however, the following statement is taken as made by William, and believed to be strictly true. We give it as

— page 465 —

it stands on the old Underground Rail Road book: “I belonged to Senator Mason. The Senator was down on colored people. He owned about eighty head—was very rich and a big man, rich enough to lose all of them. He kept terrible overseers; they would beat you with a stick the same as a dog. The overseers were poor white trash; he would give them about sixty dollars a year.”

The Fugitive Slave Law and its Father are both numbered with the “Lost Cause,” and the “Year of Jubilee has come.”


Nine Very Fine “Articles.” Lew Jones, Oscar Payne, Mose Wood, Dave Diggs, Jack, Hen, and Bill Dade, and Joe Ball.

The coming of this interesting party was as gratifying, as their departure must have been disagreeable to those who had been enjoying the fruits of their unpaid labor. Stockholders of the Underground Rail Road, conductors, etc., about this time were well pleased with the wonderful success of the road, especially as business was daily increasing.

Upon inquiry of these passengers individually, the following results were obtained:

Lewis was about fifty-two years of age, a man of superior stature, six feet high, with prominent features, and about one third of Anglo-Saxon blood in his veins. The apparent solidity of the man both with respect to body and mind was calculated to inspire the idea that he would be a first-rate man to manage a farm in Canada

Of his bondage and escape the following statement was obtained from him: “I was owned by a man named Thomas Sydan, a Catholic, and a former. He was not a very hard man, but was very much opposed to black folks having their liberty. He owned six young slaves not grown up. It was owing to Sydan’s mother’s estate that I came into his hands; before her death I had hoped to be free for a long time as soon as she died. My old mistress’ name was Nancy Sydan; she was lame for twenty years, and couldn’t walk a step without crutches, and I was her main support. I was foreman on the farm; sometimes no body but me would work, and I was looked up to for support. A good deal of the time I would have to attend to her. If she was going to ride, I would have to pick her up in my arms and put her in the carriage, and many times I would have to lift her in her sick room. No body couldn’t wait upon her but me. She had a husband, and he had a master, and that was rum; he drank very hard, he killed himself drinking. He was poor support. When he died, fifteen years ago, he left three sons, Thomas, James, and Stephen, they were all together then,

— page 466 —

only common livers. After his death about six years mistress died. I felt sure then I would be free, but was very badly disappointed. I went to my young masters and asked them about my freedom; they laughed at me and said, no such thought had entered their heads, that I was to be free. The neighbors said it was a shame that they should keep me out of my freedom, after I had been the making of the family, and had behaved myself so faithful. One gentleman asked master John what he would take for me, and offered a thousand dollars; that was three months before I ran away, and massa John said a thousand dollars wouldn’t buy one leg. I hadn’t anything to hope for from them. I served them all my life, and they didn’t thank me for it. A short time before I come away my aunt died, all the kin I had, and they wouldn’t let me go to the funeral. They said ‘the time couldn’t be spared.'” This was the last straw on the camel’s back.

In Lewis’ grief and disappointment he decided that he would run away the first chance that he could get, and seek a home in Canada. He held counsel with others in whom he could confide, and they fixed on a time to start, and resolved that they would suffer anything else but Slavery. Lewis was delighted that he had managed so cunningly to leave master Tom and mistress Margaret, and their six children to work for their own living. He had an idea that they would want Lew for many things; the only regret he felt was that he had served them so long, that they had received his substance and strength for half a century. Fortunately Lewis’ wife escaped three days in advance of him, in accordance with a mutual understanding. They had no children. The suffering on the road cost Lewis a little less than death, but the joy of success came soon to chase away the effects of the pain and hardship which had been endured.

Oscar, the next passenger, was advertised as follows:

$200 Reward.—Ran away from the service of the Rev. J. P. McGuire, Episcopal High School, Fairfax county. Va., on Saturday, 10th in«t. Negro Man, Oscar Payne, aged 30 years, 5 feet 4 inches in height, square built, mulatto color, thick, bushy suit of hair, round, full face, and when spoken to has a pleasant manner—clothes not recollected.
I will give $200 for his recovery if taken out of the State, or $150 if taken in the state, and secured that I can get him.
T. D. Fendall. jyl7–6t.

Such announcements never frightened the Underground Rail Road Committee; indeed, the Committee rather preferred seeing the names of their passengers in the papers, as, in that case, they could all the more cautiously provide against Messrs. slave-hunters. Oscar was a “prime, first-class article,” worth $1800. The above description of him is endorsed. His story ran thus:

“I have served under Miss Mary Dade, of Alexandria—Miss Dade was a very clever mistress , she hired me out. When I left I was hired at the Episcopal school—High School of Virginia. With me times had been very

— page 467 —

well. No privilege was allowed me to study books. I cannot say that I left for any other cause than to get my freedom, as I believe I have been used as well as any slave in the District. I left no relatives but two cousins; my two brothers ran away, Brooks and Lawrence, but where they went I can’t tell, but would be pleased to know. Three brothers and one sister have been sold South, can’t tell where they are.” Such was Oscar’s brief narrative; that he was truthful there was no room to doubt.

The next passenger was Moses or “Mose,” who looked as though he had been exceedingly well-cared for, being plump, fat, and extra-smart. He declared that General Briscoe, of Georgetown, D. C, had been defrauding him out of thirteen dollars per month, this being the amount for which he was hired, and, instead of being allowed to draw it for himself, the general pocketed it. For this “kind treatment” he summed up what seemed to be a true bill for ten years against the general. But he made another charge of a still graver character: he said that the general professed to own him. But as he (Moses) was thoroughly tired, and believed that Slavery was no more justifiable than murder, he made up his mind to leave and join the union party for Canada. He staged that the general owned a large number of slaves, which he hired out principally. Moses had no special fault to find with his master, except such as have been alluded to, but as to mistress Briscoe, he said, that she was pretty rough. Moses left four sisters in bondage.

David, the next member of this freedom-loving band, was an intelligent man; his manners and movements were decidedly prepossessing. He was about thirty-seven years of age, dark, tall, and rather of a slender stature, possessing very large hopes. He charged Dr. Josiah Harding of« Rockville, Montgomery county, with having enslaved him contrary to his wish or will.

As a slave, David had been required at one time to work on a farm, and at another time to drive carriage, of course, without pay. Again he had been bound as a waiter on the no pay system, and again he had been called into the kitchen to cook, all for the benefit of the Doctor—the hire going into the Dr.’s pocket. This business David protested against in secret, but when on the Underground Rail Road his protestations were “over and above board.”

Of the Doctor, David mid, that “he was clever, but a Catholic;” he also said, that he thought his wife was “tolerable clever,” although he had never been placed under her where he would have had an opportunity of learning her bad traits if she had any.

The Doctor had generously bargained with David, that he could have himself by paying $1000; he had likewise figured up how the money might be paid, and intimated what a nice thing it would be for “Dave” to wake up some morning and find himself his own man. This was how it was to be accomplished: Dave was to pay eighty-five dollars annually, and in about

— page 468 —

twelve years he would have the thousand, and a little over, all made up. On this principle and suggestion Dave had been digging faithfully and hard, and with the aid of friends he had nearly succeeded. Just when he was within sight of the grand prize, and just as the last payment was about to be made, to Dave’s utter surprise the Doctor got very angry one day about some trifling matter (all pretension) and in his pretended rage he said there were too many “free niggers” going about, and he thought that Dave would do better as a slave, etc.

After that, all the satisfaction that he was able to get out of the Doctor, was simply to the effect, that he had hired him to Mr. Morrison for one hundred and fifty dollars a year. After his “lying and cheating” in this way, David resolved that he would take his chances on the Underground Rail Road. Not a spark of faith did he have in the Doctor. For a time, however, before the opportunity to escape offered, he went to Mr. Morrison as a waiter, where it was his province to wait on six of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the meantime his party matured arrangements for their trip, so Dave “took out” and left the Judges without a waiter. The more he reflected over the nature of the wrongs he had suffered under, the less he thought of the Doctor.

Joe, who also came with this band, was half Anglo-Saxon; an able-bodied man, thirty-four years of age. He said, that “Miss Elizabeth Gordon, a white woman living in Alexandria,” claimed him. He did not find much fault with her. She permitted him to hire his time, find his own clothing, etc., by which regulation Joe got along smoothly. Nevertheless he declared, that he was tired of wearing the yoke, and felt constrained to throw it off as soon as possible. Miss Gordon was getting old, and Joe noticed that the young tribe of nephews and nieces was multiplying in large numbers. This he regarded as a very bad sign; he therefore, gave the matter of the Underground Rail Road his serious attention, and it was not long ere he was fully persuaded that it would be wisdom for him to tarry no longer in the prison-house. Joe had a wife and four children, which were as heavy weights to hold him in Virginia, but the spirit of liberty prevailed. Joe, also, left two sisters, one free, the other a slave. His wife belonged to the widow Irwin. She had assured her slaves, that she had “provided for them in her will,” and that at her death all would be freed. They were daily living on the faith thus created, and obviously thought the sooner the Lord relieved the old mistress of her earthly troubles the better.

Although Joe left his wife and children, he did not forget them, but had strong faith they would be reunited. After going to Canada, he addressed several letters to the Secretary of the Committee concerning his family, and as will be seen by the following, he looked with ardent hopes for their arrival:

— page 469 —

Toronto,Nov.7th, 1857.
Dear Mr.Still:—As J must again send you a letter fealing myself oblidge to you for all you have done and your kindness. Dear Sir my wife will be on to Philadelphia on the 8th 7th, and I would you to look out for her and get her an ticket and send her to me Toronto. Her name are May Ball with five children. Please send her as soon as you can. Yours very truly, Joseph Ball.
Will you please to telegraph to me, No. 31 Dummer st.

Jake, another member of the company of nine, was twenty-two years of age, of dark hue, round-made, keen eyes, and apparently a man of superior intelligence. Unfortunately his lot had been of such a nature that no helping opportunity had been afforded for the cultivation of his mind.

He condemned in very strong terms a man by the name of Benjamin B. Chambers, who lived near Elkton, but did not there require the services of Jake, hiring Jake out just as he would have hired a horse, and likewise keeping his pay. Jake thought that if justice could have been awarded him, Chambers would either have had to restore that of which he had wronged him, or expiate the wrong in prison.

Jake, however, stood more in awe of a young master, who was soon likely to come into power, than he did of the old master. This son had already given Jake to understand that once in his hands it “wouldn’t be long before he would have him jingling in his pocket,” signifying, that he would sell him as soon as his father was gone.

The manner of the son stirred Jake’s very blood to boiling heat it seemed. His suffering, and the suffering of his fellow-bondsmen had never before appeared so hard. The idea that he must work, and be sold at the pleasure of another, made him decide to “pull up stakes,” and seek refuge elsewhere. Such a spirit as he possessed could not rest in servitude.

Mary Ann, the wife of Jake, who accompanied him, was a pleasant-looking bride. She said that she was owned by “Elias Rhoads, a farmer, and a pretty fair kind of a man.” She had been treated very well.

John And Henry Dade, ages twenty and twenty-five years, were from Washington. They belonged to the class of well-cared for slaves; at least they said that their mistress had not dealt severely with them, and they never would have consented to pass through the severe sufferings encountered on their journey, but for the strong desire they had to be free. From Canada John wrote back as follows:

St.Catharines,Canada. Mr. Still, Sir:—I arrivd on Friday evenen bot I had rite smart troble for my mony gave out at the bridge and I had to fot et to St. Catherin tho I went rite to worke at the willard house for 8 dolor month bargend for to stae all the wentor bot I havent eny clonso nor nrnnpv please send my tronke if et has come. Derate et to St. Catharines to the willard house to John Dade and if et ant come plice rite for et soon as posable deract your letter to Rospnen Dade Washington send your deraction please tend to this rite a way for I haf made good start I think that I can gate a longe en this plase. If my brother as

— page 470 —

well send him on for I haf to plase for him ef he ant well please dont send him for this as no plase for a sik possan. The way I got this plase I went to, see a fran of men from Washington. Dan al well and he gave me werke. Fleas ancer this as soon as you gat et you must excues this bad riting for my chance wars bot small to line this much,
John H. Dane.
If you haf to send for my tronke to Washington send the name of John Trowharte. Sir please rite as soon as you gat this for; et as enporten. John H.Dade.



— page 478 —

Richard Bayne, Carter Dowling and Benjamin Taylor.

Richard stated that a man named “Rudolph Massey, a merchant tailor, hard rum-drinker, card player, etc.” claimed to own him, and had held him, up to the time of his escape, as with bands of brass.

— page 479 —

Richard said, “I was hired out for ten dollars a month, but I never suffered like many—didn’t leave because I have been abused, but simply to keep from falling into the hands of some heirs that I had been willed to.” In case of a division, Richard did not see how he could be divided without being converted into money. Now, as he could have no fore-knowledge as to the place or person into whose hands he might be consigned by the auctioneer, he concluded that he could not venture to risk himself in the hands of the young heirs. Richard began to consider what Slavery was, and his eyes beheld chains, whips, hand-cuffs, auction-blocks, separations and countless sufferings that had partially been overlooked before; he felt the injustice of having to toil hard to support a drunkard and gambler. At the age of twenty-three Richard concluded to “lay down the shovel and the hoe,” and look out for himself. His mother was owned by Massey, but his father belonged to the “superior race” or claimed so to do, and if anything could be proved by appearances it was evident that he was the son of a white man. Richard was endowed with a good share of intelligence. He not only left his mother but also one sister to clank their chains together.

Carter, who accompanied Richard, had just reached his majority. He stated that he escaped from a “maiden lady” living in Alexandria, known by the name of Miss Maria Fitchhugh, the owner of twenty-five slaves. Opposed to Slavery as he was, he nevertheless found no fault with his mistress, but on the contrary, said that she was a very respectable lady, and a member of the Episcopal Church. She often spoke of freeing her servants when she died; such talk was too uncertain for Carter, to pin his faith to, and he resolved not to wait. Such slave-holders generally lived a great while, and when they did die, they many times failed to keep their promises. He concluded to heed the voice of reason, and at once leave the house of bondage. His mother, father, five brothers and six sisters all owned by Miss Fitchhugh, formed a strong tie to keep him from going; he “conferred not with flesh and blood,” but made a determined stroke for freedom.

Benjamin, the third in this company, was only twenty years of age, but a better-looking specimen for the auction-block could hardly be found. He fled from the Meed estate; his mistress had recently died leaving her affairs, including the disposal of the slaves, to be settled at an early date. He spoke of his mistress as “a very clever lady to her servants,” but since her death, he had realized the danger that he was in of being run off south with a coffle gang. He explained the course frequently resorted to by slave-holders under similar circumstances thus: “frequently slaves would be snatched up, hand cuffed and hurried off south on the night train without an hour’s notice.” Fearing that this might be his fate, he deemed it prudent to take a northern train via the Underground Rail Road without giving any notice.

— page 480 —

He left no parents living, but six brothers and four sisters, all slaves with the exception of one brother who had bought himself. In order to defend themselves if molested on the road, the boys had provided themselves with pistols and dirks, and declared that they were fully bent on using them rather than be carried back to slavery.



— page 493 —

Cornelius Henry Johnson. Face Canada-ward for Years.

Quite an agreeable interview took place between Cornelius and the Committee. He gave his experience of Slavery pretty fully, and the Committee enlightened him as to the workings of the Underground Rail Road, the value of freedom, and the safety of Canada as a refuge.

Cornelius was a single man, thirty-six years of age, full black, medium size, and intelligent He stated that he had had his face set toward Canada

— page 494 —

for a long while. Three times he had made an effort to get out of the prison-house. “Within the last four or five years, times have gone pretty hard with me. My mistress, Mrs. Mary F. Price, had lately put me in charge of her brother, Samuel M. Bailey, a tobacco merchant of Richmond. Both believed in nothing as they did in Slavery; they would sooner see a black man dead than free. They were about second class in society. He and his sister own well on to one hundred head, though within the last few years he has been thinning off the number by sale. I was allowed one dollar a week for my board; one dollar is the usual allowance for slaves in my situation. On Christmas week he allowed me no board money, but made me a present of seventy-five cents; my mistress added twenty-five cents, which was the extent of their liberality. I was well cared for. When the slaves got sick he doctored them himself, he was too stingy to employ a physician. If they did not get well as soon as he thought they should, he would order them to their work, and if they did not go he would beat them. My cousin was badly beat last year in the presence of his wife, and he was right sick. Mr. Bailey was a member of St. James’ church, on Fifth street, and my mistress was a communicant of the First Baptist church on Broad Street. She let on to be very good.”

“I am one of a family of sixteen; my mother and eleven sisters and brother are now living; some have been sold to Alabama, and some to Tennessee, the rest are held in Richmond. My mother is now old, but is still in the service of Bailey. He promised to take care of her in her old age, and not compel her to labor, so she is only required to cook and wash for a dozen slaves. This they consider a great favor to the old ‘grandmother.’ It was only a year ago he cursed her and threatened her with a flogging. I left for nothing else but because I was dissatisfied with Slavery. The threats of my master caused me to reflect on the North and South. I had an idea that I was not to die in Slavery. I believed that God would assist me if I would try. I then made up my mind to put my case in the hands of God, and start for the Underground Rail Road. I bade good-bye to the old tobacco factory on Seventh street, and the First African Baptist church on Broad street (where he belonged), where I had so often heard the minister preach ‘Servants obey your masters;’ also to the slave pens, chain-gangs, and a cruel master and mistress, all of which I hoped to leave forever. But to bid good-bye to my old mother in chains, was no easy job, and if my desire for freedom had not been as strong as my desire for life itself, I could never have stood it; but I felt that I could do her no good; could not help her if I staid. As I was often threatened by my master, with the auction-block, I felt I must give up all and escape for my life.”

Such was substantially the story of Cornelius Henry Johnson. He talked for an hour as one inspired, and as none but fugitive slaves could talk.



— page 497 —

Stepney Brown.

Stepney was an extraordinary man, his countenance indicating great goodness of heart, and his gratitude to his heavenly Father for his deliverance proved that he was fully aware of the Source whence his help had come. Being a man of excellent natural gifts, as well as of religious fervor and devotion to a remarkable degree, he seemed admirably fitted to represent the slave in chains, looking up to God with an eye of faith, and again the fugitive in Canada triumphant and rejoicing with joy unspeakable over his deliverance, yet not forgetting those in bonds, as bound with them. The beauty of an unshaken faith in the good Father above could scarcely have shone with a brighter lustre than was seen in this simple-hearted believer.

Stepney >was thirty-four years of age, tall, slender, and of a dark hue. He readily confessed that he fled from Mrs. Julia A. Mitchell, of Richmond; and testified that she was decidedly stingy and unkind, although a member of St. Paul’s church. Still he was wholly free from acrimony, and even in recounting his’ sufferings was filled with charity towards his oppressors. He said, “I was moved to leave because I believed that I had a right to be a free man.”

He was a member of the Second Baptist church, and entertained strong faith that certain infirmities, which had followed him through life up to within seven years of the time of his escape, had all been removed through the Spirit of the Lord. He had been an eye-witness to many outrages inflicted on his fellow-men. But he spoke more of the sufferings of others than his own.

His stay was brief, but interesting. After his arrival in Canada he turned his attention to industrial pursuits, and cherished his loved idea that the Lord was very good to him. Occasionally he would write to express his gratitude to God and man, and to inquire about friends in different localities, especially those in bonds.

The following letters are specimens, and speak for themselves:

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, August the 27.
Dear Brother:—It is with pleasure i take my pen in hand to write a few lines to inform you that i am well hopeping these few lines may fine you the same i am longing to hear from you and your family i wish you would say to Julia Anderson that he must realy excuse me for not writing but i am in hopes that he is doing well, i have not heard no news from Virgina. plese to send me all the news say to Mrs. Hunt an you also forever pray for me knowing that God is so good to us. i have not seen brother John Dungy for 5 months, but we have corresponded together but he is doing well in Brandford. i am now at the falls an have been on here some time an i shall with the help of the lord locate myself somewhere this winter an go to school excuse me for not annser your letter sooner

— page 498 —

knowing that i cannot write well you please to send me one of the earliest papers send me word if any of our friends have been passing through i know that you are very busy but ask your little daughter if she will answer this letter for you i often feel that i cannot turn god thanks enough for his blessings that he has bestoueth upon me. Say to brother snel ihat he must not forget what god has consighn to his hand, to do that he must pray in his closet that god might teach him. say to mr. Anderson that i hope he have Tetrad an has seeked the lord an found him precious to his own soul for he must do it in this world for he cannot do it in the world to come, i often think about the morning that i left your house it was such a sad feeling but still i have a hope in crist do you think it is safe in boston my love to all i remain your brother, Stepney Brown.

Brantford,March 3d, 1860.
Mr. William Still, Dear Sir:—I now take the pleasure of writing to you a few lines write soon hoping to find you enjoying perfect health, as I am the same.
My joy within is so great that I cannot find words to express it. When I met with my friend brother Dungy who stopped at your house on his way to Canada after having a long chase after me from Toronto to Hamilton, he at last found me in the town of Brantford Canada West and ought we not to return Almighty God thanks for delivering us from the many dangers and trials that beset our path in this wicked world we live in.
I have long been wanting to write to you but I entirely forgot the number of your house Mr. Dungy luckily happened to have your directions with him.
Religion is good when we live right may God help you to pray often to him that he might receive you at the hour of your final departure. Yours most respectfully.
Stepney Beown per Jas. A. Walk.
P. S. Write as soon as possible for I wish very much to hear from you. I understand that Mrs, Hunt has been to Richmond, Va. be so kind as to ask her if she heard anything about that money. Give my love to all inquiring friends and to your family especially. I now thank God that I have not lost a day in sickness since I came to Canada.
Kiss the baby for me. I know you are busy but I hope you will have time to write a few lines to me to let me know how you and your family are getting on. No more at present, but I am yours very truly, Stepney Brown, per Jas. A. Walkinshaw.

Brantford, Oct. 25, ’60
Dear Sir:—I take the pleasure of dropping you a few lines, I am yet residing in Brantford and I have been to work all this summer at the falls and I have got along remarkably well, surely God is good to those that put their trust in him I suppose you have been wondering what has become of me but I am in the lands of living and long to hear from you and your family. I would have wrote sooner, but the times has been such in the states I have not but little news to send you and I’m going to school again this winter and will you be pleased to send me word what has become of Julius Anderson and the rest of my friends and tell him I would write to him if I knew where to direct the letter, please send me word whether any body has been along lately that knows me. I know that you are busy but you must take time and answer this letter as I am anxious to hear from yon, but nevertheless we must not forget our maker, so we cannot pray too much to our lord so I hope that mr. Anderson has found peace with God for me myself really appreciate that hope that I have in Christ, for I often find myself in my slumber with you and I hope we will meet some day. Mr. Dungy sends his love to you I suppose you are aware that he is married, he is luckier than I am or I must get a little foothold before I do marry if I ever do. I am in a very comfortable room all fixed for the winter and we have had one snow. May the lord be with you and all you and all your household. I remain forever your brother in Christ, Stepney Brown.



— page 503 —

James Taylor, Albert Gross, and John Grinage.

To see mere lads, not twenty-one years of age, smart enough to outwit the very shrewdest and wisest slave-holders of Virginia was very gratifying. The young men composing this arrival were of this keen-sighted order.

James was only a little turned of twenty, of a yellow complexion, and intelligent. A trader, by the name of George Ailer, professed to own James. He said that he had been used tolerable well, not so bad as many had been used. James was learning the carpenter trade; but he was anxious to obtain his freedom, and finding his two companions true on the main question, in conjunction with them he contrived a plan of escape, and ‘took out.’ His father and mother, Harrison and Jane Taylor, were left at Fredericksburg to mourn the absence of their son.

Albert was in his twentieth year, the picture of good health, not

— page 504 —

homely by any means, although not of a fashionable color. He was under the patriarchal protection of a man by the name of William Price, who carried on farming in Cecil county, Maryland. Albert testified that he was a bad man.

John Grinage was only twenty, a sprightly, active young man, of a brown color. He came from Middle Neck, Cecil county, where he had served under William Flintham, a farmer.



— page 506 —

Henry Jones and Turner Foster.

Henry was left free by the will of his mistress (Elizabeth Mann), but the heirs were making desperate efforts to overturn this instrument. Of this, there was so much danger with a Richmond court, that Henry feared that the chances were against him; that the court was not honest enough to do him justice. Being a man of marked native foresight, he concluded that the less he talked about freedom and the more he acted the sooner he would be out of his difficulties. He was called upon, however, to settle certain minor matters, before he could see his way clear to move in the direction of Canada; for instance, he had a wife on his mind to dispose of in some way, but how he could not tell. Again, he was not in the secret of the Underground Rail Road movement; he knew that many got off, but how they managed it he was ignorant. If he could settle these two points satisfactorily, he thought that he would be willing to endure any sacrifice for the sake of his freedom. He found an agent of the Underground Rail Road, and after surmounting various difficulties, this point was

— page 507 —

settled. As good luck would have it, his wife, who was a free woman, although she heard the secret with great sorrow, had the good sense to regard his step for the best, and thus he was free to contend with all other dangers on the way.

He encountered the usual suffering, and on his arrival experienced the wonted pleasure. He was a man of forty-one years of age, spare made, with straight hair, and Indian complexion, with the Indian’s aversion to Slavery>!

Turner, who was a fellow-passenger with Henry, arrived also from Richmond. He was about twenty-one, a bright, smart, prepossessing young man. He fled from A. A. Mosen, a lawyer, represented to be one of the first in the city, and a firm believer in Slavery. Turner differed widely with his master with reference to this question, although, for prudential reasons, he chose not to give his opinion to said Mosen.


Runaway Servants (1643) “Against Runawayes” (1699) “An act concerning Servants and Slaves” (1705) “A Caution to All Travellers to Philadelphia,” Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser (March 30, 1786) Letter from George Washington to Robert Morris (April 12, 1786) “An Act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters” (1793) “An ACT to amend an act, intituled, ‘An act to reduce into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes, and for other purposes’” (1795) “Tales of Oppression” by Isaac T. Hopper, National Anti-Slavery Standard (March 25, 1841) “Abolitionism,” New York Spectator (September 26, 1842) “Miraculous Escape,” Boston Emancipator and Free American (May 11, 1843) “The Albany Forwarding Trade,” Boston Emancipator and Free American (May 20, 1843) Chapter VII; an excerpt from the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown (1851) “More Fugitive Slaves,” New York Daily Times (May 14, 1852) “Fugitive Slaves in Ohio,” New York Daily Times (September 7, 1853) “The United States Bond”; an excerpt from Isaac T. Hopper by L. Maria Child (1854) The Thomas Hughes Affair; an excerpt from Isaac T. Hopper by L. Maria Child (1854) Chapter II; an excerpt from Twelve Years a Slave (1855) Arrivals from Virginia; an excerpt from The Refugee (1856) “An ACT providing additional protection for the slave property of citizens of this commonwealth” (1856) Excerpt from Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1880) “The Quakers”; an excerpt from A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1896)

APA Citation:
Still, William. Arrivals from Virginia; an excerpt from Still’s Underground Rail Road Records (1886). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Still, William. "Arrivals from Virginia; an excerpt from Still’s Underground Rail Road Records (1886)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 30 May. 2024
Last updated: 2022, July 29
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