THE CASE OF MOLLY, A SLAVE, BELONGING TO R B, OF SMYRNA, DELAWARE.
BY JOHN HUNN, ENGINEER OF THE UNDERGROUND RAIL ROAD.
Molly escaped from her master's farm, in Cecil county, Maryland, and found a place of refuge in the house of my cousin, John Alston, near Middletown, Delaware. The man-hunters, headed by a constable with a search warrant, took her thence and lodged her in New Castle Jail. This fact was duly published in the county papers, and her master went after his chattel, and having paid the expenses of her capture took immediate possession thereof.
She was hand-cuffed, and, her feet being tied together, she was placed in the wagon. Before she left the jail, the wife of the sheriff gave her a piece of bread and butter, which her master kicked out of her hand, and swore that bread and butter was too good for her. After this act her master took a drink of brandy and drove off.
He stopped at a tavern about four miles from New Castle and took another drink of brandy. He then proceeded to Odessa, then called Cantwell's Bridge, and got his dinner and more brandy, for the day was a cold one. He had his horse fed, but gave no food to his human chattel, who remained in the wagon cold and hungry. After sufficient rest for himself and horse he started again. He was now twelve miles from home, on a good road, his horse was gentle, and he himself in a genial mood at the recovery of his bond-woman. He yielded to the influence of the liquor he had imbibed and fell into a sound sleep. Molly now determined to make another effort for her freedom. She accordingly worked herself gradually over the tail board of the wagon, and fell heavily upon the frozen ground. The horse and wagon passed on, and she rolled into the bushes, and waited for deliverance from her bonds. This came from a colored man who was passing that way. As he was neither a priest nor a Levite, he took the rope from her feet and guided her to a cabin near at hand, where she was kindly received. Her deliverer could not take the hand-cuffs off, but promised to bring a person, during the evening, who could perform that operation. He fulfilled his promise, and brought her that night to my house, which was in sight of the one whence she had been taken to New Castle Jail.
I had no fear for her safety, as I believed that her master would not think of looking for her so near to the place where she had been arrested. Molly remained with us nearly a month; but, seeing fugitives coming and going continually, she finally concluded to go further North. I wrote to my friend, Thomas Garrett, desiring him to get a good home for Molly. This he succeeded in doing, and a friend from Chester county, Pennsylvania, came to my house and took Molly with him. She remained in his family more than six months.
In the meantime, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed by Congress, and several fugitives were arrested in Philadelphia and sent back to their masters. Molly, hearing of these doings, became uneasy, and finally determined to go to Canada. She arrived safely in the Queen's Dominions, and felt at last that she had escaped from the hell of American Slavery.
Molly described her master as an indulgent one when sober, but when he was on a " spree " he seemed to take great delight in tormenting her. He would have her beaten unmercifully without cause, and then have her stripes washed in salt water, then he would have her dragged through the horse pond until she was nearly dead. This last operation seemed to afford him much pleasure. When he became sober he would express regret at having treated her so cruelly. I frequently saw this master of Molly's, and was always treated respectfully by him. He would have his " sprees " after Molly left him.
ADDING LOCAL INFORMATION:
The following links provide brief overviews on the UGRR activities of John Hunn:
The Samuel M. Rea and Jacob Price map of New Castle County, Delaware, 1849, shows the location of John Hunn's farm, between Middletown and Cantwell's Bridge (now Odessa). John Hunn’s refusal to stop assisting freedom seekers resulted in the loss of his property.