William Scott, 19, had been hired out to a farmer at the time of the escape. Scott said a rumor that in the spring they would all be forced to mount an auction block in Baltimore spurred the decision to leave.
Tom Pennington, 25, wished he could have sued McLane for mistreatment. He was deprived of an education and fair wages. McLane not only worked him on the plantation but often hired him out to other farms. At the time of the escape, he was hired out for one hundred dollars a year and McLane withheld all the money from him. But he recognized he could not receive justice in a Maryland court, and he once had a friend of McLane’s tell him that “Negros have no rights which white men are bound to respect.” Tom looked forward to his resettlement in Canada.
Sam Scott, 22, “had fully made up his mind, that slavery was never intended for man, and that he would never wear himself out working for the ‘white people for nothing.’ He wanted to work for himself and enjoy the benefits of education, etc.”
Bill Scott, 21, was confident of a better life in Canada, free of the cruelty of slavery.
Abe Bacon, 22, said they all had hoped that McLane would free them in his will, but “they were left in chains.” “The immediate heirs consisted of six sons and five daughters, who moved in the first circle, were ‘very wealthy and aristocratic.’” Abe was aware of Louis McLane’s distinguished political career. “Some of the servants, Abe said, were ‘treated pretty well, but some others could not say anything in the master's favor.’”
Jack Wells, (apparently the same person as John Wills, age 41, in the Cecil County slave record) told Still that he was never informed of his age and Still simply noted he was middle aged. He resented that Knight had “enslaved him contrary to his will or wishes, and averred that he fled from him because he used him badly and kept mean overseers. Jack said that his master owned six farms and kept three overseers to manage them. The slaves numbered twenty-one head. The names of the overseers were given in the following order: "Alfred King, Jimmy Allen, and Thomas Brockston." In speaking of their habits, Jack said, that they were ‘very smart when the master was about, but as soon as he was gone they would instantly drop back.’ ‘They were all mean, but the old boss was meaner than them all,’ and ‘the overseers were “fraider” of him than what I was, said Jack.” “His master (Mr. Knight), had a wife and seven children, and was a member of the Episcopal Church, in ‘good and regular standing.” He was rich, and, with his family, moved in good society. ‘His wife was too stingy to live, and if she was to die, she would die holding on to something,’ said Jack. Jack had once had a wife and three children, but as they belonged to a slave-holder (‘Jim Price’) Jack's rights were wholly ignored, and he lost them.
The men were determined to avoid capture. Still wrote that “in order to defend themselves on the Underground Rail Road, they were strongly armed. Sam had a large horse pistol and a butcher knife; Jack had a revolver; Abe had a double-barrelled pistol and a large knife; Jim had a single-barrelled pistol and counted on ‘blowing a man down if any one touched’ him. Bill also had a single-barrelled pistol, and when he started resolved to ‘come through or die.’
Still concluded that “although this party was of the class said to be well fed, well clothed, and not over-worked, yet to those who heard them declare their utter detestation of slavery and their determination to use their instruments of death, even to the taking of life, rather than again be subjected to the yoke, it was evident that even the mildest form of slavery was abhorrent.”
Still's account is in his book on the Underground Railroad, pages 431-43. The book is readily available online, including here, for those who wish to read the whole narrative.