The next set of posts will come from my own research on the movement of freedom seekers to, though, and from Cecil County, located at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and bordering Pennsylvania and Delaware. As noted in previous posts, the county is at the mid-way point between Philadelphia and Baltimore and was an important transportation link on the Underground Railroad. William Still, Sydney Gay, the Cecil Whig, and the Cecil Democrat will be the main source of these narratives. Occasionally, some narratives will come from memoirs and other first-person narratives, and some from secondary sources. Stories already presented in the series on the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal will be excluded. I will start with the stories of those freedom seekers whose escapes are mentioned in local newspapers and their arrival in Philadelphia and New York is documented by William Still or Sydney Gay in the 1850s.
On August 21, 1852, the Cecil Democrat reported that Henry Chamberlain lost a “valuable servant,” but did identify the absconder by name. Chamberlain lived in Perryville, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of the Chesapeake Bay. “He is believed to have been conveyed away by a suspicious looking craft seen lurking in the Susquehanna,” noted the Democrat. On February 10, 1853, William Still recorded the arrival of William Allen, alias Parnet, in Philadelphia after escaping from Chamberlain of Perrysville [sic], Maryland. Still’s entry was brief, with just enough information to confirm the connection with the escape reported in the Democrat, and the committee expense of $2 for forwarding the next station. Unfortunately Still did not explain how the man escaped. The wording in the Democrat of “a suspicious looking craft seen lurking in the Susquehanna” suggested the possibility of an Underground Railroad operation on the tidewater of the Susquehanna, and confirmation by Still would have added to our understanding of UGRR activity on the Chesapeake Bay.
Freedom Seekers and Freedom Stealers along the Mason - Dixon Line
Milt Diggins, M. ed., an independent scholar, author, public historian, and public speaker.