The escape of William Allen, alias Parnet, from the Perryville area was presented in a previous post, and the railroad series in this blog frequently featured the railroad steamboat ferry and station at Perryville. The Perryville area, at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and at the mouth of the Susquehanna, offered freedom seekers several options for escape—water, road, and rail.
William Still does not reveal how this next group escaped from the Perryville area. He stated that eight people were in this group, but he only named six in his book.
GEORGE RHOADS, age 25.
He had come from under the control of John P. Dellum, [Dellam] a farmer, and a crabbed master, who ‘would swear very much when crossed, and would drink moderately every day,’ except sometimes he would ‘take a spree’ and would then get pretty high. Withal he was a member of the Presbyterian church at Perryville, Maryland; he was a single man and followed farming. Within the last two or three years, he had sold a man and woman; hence, George thought it was time to take warning. Accordingly he felt it to be his duty to try for Canada, via Underground Rail Road. As his master had always declared that if one run off, he would sell the rest to Georgia, George very wisely concluded that as an effort would have to be made, they had better leave their master with as "few as possible to be troubled with selling." Consequently, a consultation was had between the brothers, which resulted in the exit of a party of eight. The market price for George would be about $1400. A horrid example professed Christians set before the world, while holding slaves and upholding Slavery.
JAMES RHOADS, brother of George, was twenty-three years of age, and Sarah Elizabeth Rhoads, was seventeen. Still noted that it was fortunate that James was able to bring his wife and eight month old child along on the journey, and Sarah was “exceedingly fortunate in having rescued herself and child from the horrid fate of slaves.” Still added that “James was also held by the same task-master who held George. Often had he been visited with severe stripes, and had borne his full share of suffering from his master.” Still does not identify who held Sarah in bondage.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, was around age fifteen.
George was claimed as the lawful property of Benjamin Sylves a Presbyterian, who owned besides, two men, three girls, and a boy. He was "tolerable good "sometimes, and sometimes" bad." Some of the slaves supposed themselves to be on the eve of being emancipated about the time George left; but of this there was no certainty. George, however, was not among this hopeful number, consequently, he thought that he would start in time, and would be ready to shout for Freedom quite as soon as any other of his fellow-bondmen. George left a father and three sisters.
MARY ELIZABETH STEPHENSON, was twenty years of age, and “hard treatment had been her lot. Left her mother, two sisters and four brothers in bond-age.”
“Although these travelers were of the ‘field hand’ class, who had never been permitted to see much off of the farm, and had been deprived of hearing intelligent people talk,” Still observed that “the spirit of Freedom, so natural to man, was quite uppermost with all of them. The members of the Committee who saw them, were abundantly satisfied that these candidates for Canada would prove that they were able to ‘take care of themselves.’”
The only local information to add was the correction to the spelling of Dellam. Dellam was a prominent name in Cecil County and even more so across the Susquehanna in Harford County. Neither Dellam nor Sylves are on the 1858 map of Cecil County. The Dellam and Stump families were related and it is possible Dellam had arranged to farm on a portion of the large Stump estate. The Stamp were outspoken supporters of slavery and have a role in my book, Stealing Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland.
William Still made a point of mentioning that Dallam and Sylves attended a Presbyterian church. He often included the religious affiliation of the enslaver in his narratives. He considered it distressing that a religion advocating charity towards all and motivating many to oppose slavery, is used by others to justify slavery and the cruelties inflicted to preserve it.
For those who wish to see the original narratives, click here and scroll down to 145-146.