A local newspaper, the Cecil Democrat, reported an unsuccessful escape at the canal in April, 1856. A freedom seeker escaped by canoe from Northumberland County, Virginia, a tidewater county located at the mouth of the Potomac River. Along his way north, he managed to sneak onboard a vessel and hide. The vessel entered the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and “at Chesapeake City he discovered himself to the Captain,” according to the ambiguous wording in the newspaper. The sheriff locked him up in the county jail and notified his owner, who had him sold at a public auction in Elkton. Constable Lawrence Simmons bought the man for $525. Constable Simmons’s jurisdiction included the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. If he was the constable who arrested the man, state law awarded Simmons half the proceeds for the sale, and Simmons could sell the man in the Baltimore slave market at a sizable profit.
In 1856, four freedom seekers escaped from slavery in an Eastern Shore county south of Cecil and were assisted by two free blacks in Elkton. Writing about this escape, the Cecil Democrat editor expressed his concern that “several strange boats have been discovered along the shores of the Elk river, which it is believed were abandoned by fugitive slaves.” The editor added that “so strict a watch is kept along the canal and along the Delaware River that it is difficult for fugitives from the lower counties to make their escape in that direction.” This comment expressed the concern slaveholders had about escapes on and across the canal.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was a major transportation route in the antebellum period. Underground Railroad transit through the canal to Philadelphia from the Chesapeake Bay region of tidewater Maryland, and Virginia, and, in a few cases, North Carolina, is well documented, and unsurprising. Some narratives may show a clearer link to the canal than other ones, but for reasons discussed, it was a well-traveled and logical route for waterborne escapes. At best, historical investigation provides an incomplete picture of the Underground Railroad activity at the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. But the incidents recorded above give a partial view of the efforts to resist slavery at the site.
 “Sale of a Runaway Slave,” Cecil Democrat, April 26, 1856;
 Clement Dorsey, The General Public Statutory Law and Public Local Law of the state of Maryland, Laws of Maryland, 1831, An Act Relating to Free Negroes and Slaves, Chapter 323, Archives of Maryland Online, vol. 141, 1068.
 “Fugitive Slaves,” Cecil Democrat, September 27, 1856.