Still, The Underground Railroad, 325-334.
 “Steamboat Sunk,” Cecil Whig, January 5, 1856.
 “Local Affairs,” Cecil Whig, February 2, 1856.
|Stealing Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line||
Still had an additional narrative that indicated the use of the canal by these two captains. The harsh winter conditions for the first months of 1856 turned this route into a trap. On March 23, 1856, Thomas Garrett wrote to Still to announce that Captain Fountain arrived in Wilmington from Norfolk with fourteen passengers: Rebecca Jones, and her three daughters, Sarah Frances, Mary, and Rebecca; Isaiah Robinson; Arthur Spence; Caroline Taylor, and her two daughters, Nancy and Mary; Daniel Robinson; Thomas Page; Benjamin Dickinson; and David Cole and his wife. Garrett arranged their transportation to Philadelphia. Still received two groups of passengers, Fountain’s, and a second group that had arrived with Captain Baylis. Still reported that Fountain and Baylis had arrived less than twelve hours apart, but did not state where Baylis sailed from, only that “both had likewise been frozen up on the route for weeks with their respective live freight on board.” In his book and journal, Still recorded those who arrived with Fountain, but omitted names of those arriving with Baylis. As Garrett stated, Fountain sailed from Norfolk. Baylis may have departed from Norfolk as well, but Still’s narrative remained unclear about Baylis’s point of origin for his voyage. Still commented that, “without a doubt, one of these Captains left Norfolk about the twentieth of January, but did not reach Philadelphia till about the twentieth of March, having been frozen up, of course, for the greatest part of that time.” The Atlantic Ocean and the wide salt-water mouths of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays could not freeze as solidly or as extensively for two months as the brackish waters of the narrowing Elk River and the constricted canal waterway. An Elkton newspaper described weather conditions that explained a two month delay along the canal route. In early January the Cecil Whig reported the following: “The steamboat Union, Capt. Pierson, belonging to the Ericsson Line, was cut through by the ice on the 1st inst. on her way from Baltimore to Chesapeake City. She reached the latter place but sunk after being brought into the canal.” A month later, the Whig reported that “the ice on the Elk river about Courthouse Point is from 15 to 18 inches thick.” Courthouse Point is where ship captains would turn their ships northwest and enter the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
 Still, The Underground Railroad, 325-334.
 “Steamboat Sunk,” Cecil Whig, January 5, 1856.
 “Local Affairs,” Cecil Whig, February 2, 1856.
Registration has begun for Harriet Underground Railroad Conference at Cambridge, Maryland, to be held on June 5 and 6. Anyone interested in Underground Railroad history may sign up to attend these workshops for one day or both days. Details about the events, the schedule of workshops, and the registration page are accessible through the Conference homepage. Attendees will have 3-5 workshops to select from during workshop sessions. On June 6, from 1-2 p.m., my presentation on the story of the kidnapping of the Parker sisters and its significance in the wake of the Christiana Riot will be one of five to choose from at that time.
In November, 1855 Captain Fountain had loaded a cargo of wheat and concealed 21 freedom seekers on board his schooner. The mayor of Norfolk, leading a posse, boarded the vessel, confronted the captain, and insisted on conducting a search for slaves that disappeared from various places around town. The searchers speared the wheat and haphazardly chopped about the ship with axes. The captain took control over the search, grabbing an axe, delivering a few swings into his ship, and offering to drive the axe into any spot they requested. The bluff worked and the mayor backed off the search. Still reported that after the paying the five dollar search fee, “the captain steered direct for the City of Brotherly Love.” This wording by Still is more open to interpretation than the other incidents presented, but sailing a schooner northward from Norfolk in the inland waterway and through the canal was the direct route to Philadelphia, and a safer voyage than the open sea for the twenty-one crowded below decks.
 Still, The Underground Railroad, 165-172; Still recorded the names of all but one of twenty-one rescued from slavery: Alan Tatum, Daniel Carr, Michael Vaughn, Thomas Nixon, Frederick Nixon, Peter Petty, Nathaniel Gardener, John Brown, Thomas Freeman, James Foster, Godfrey Scott, Willis Wilson, Nancy Little, John Smith, Francis Haines, David Johnson, Phillis Gault, Alice Jones, Ned Wilson, and Sarah C. Wilson.
The illustration accompanied the narrative in Still's book.
Captain Fountain Brings Four North Carolinians, Four Virginians, and One Marylander, from Elkton, to Freedom
Captain Fountain arrived in Wilmington in July, 1856 with a passenger list that revealed a stop at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay and near the entrance to the canal. The subtitle in Still’s book stated that Captain Fountain arrived with nine passengers, with one North Carolinian’s name missing in the text. The North Carolinians named were Peter Heines, Eatontown [Edenton?], Matthew Bodams, Plymouth, and James Morris, South End. The Virginians, all from Portsmouth, were Charles Thompson, Charity Thompson, Nathaniel Bowser, and Thomas Cooper. The last name on the list was George Anderson, Elkton, Maryland. Thomas Garrett gave the count as “four able-bodied human beings from North Carolina, and five from Virginia” in a letter he sent to William Still to inform him that the group would divide up and arrive by train and steamboat. Garrett mentioned that employment was available in abolitionist Elijah F. Pennypacker’s Phoenixville, Pennsylvania neighborhood, and North Carolinians would likely be safe there. This employment opportunity could account for the absence of the one North Carolinian name in Still’s list. Garrett must have erroneously added Anderson to the Virginia count. But significantly, among these freedom seekers from the tidewater region of Virginia and North Carolina, Still identified George Anderson as coming from Elkton, Maryland. Elkton, the county seat of Cecil County, lies on the Elk River, the same river as the entrance to Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Elkton harbor and the canal entrance were approximately five miles apart.
 Still, The Underground Railroad, 316-319.
On March 25, 2015, I posted the narrative of Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin escaping from Baltimore on a train. I incorrectly included this narrative among the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad stories. I was on the wrong track. Scott Mingus, a York County, Pennsylvania historian and author alerted me to the error, pointing out that Sydney Gay, a New York City Underground Railroad agent, had recorded their escape. In Gay’s record he noted that they escaped through “Little York,” a reference to York, Pennsylvania, and evidence that they used the North Central Railroad out of Baltimore. I regret the error and I sent a correction to the National Park Service so they can remove this incident from my original report on the PW&B RR.
I also want to thank Scott Mingus for calling my attention to the error. Those of you interested in Civil War history in the region, including stories related to Gettysburg and Antietam, may want to take a look at the books on Scott Mingus’s author page on Amazon.com.
A Symposium on Current Research on the Underground Railroad in Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York
A Symposium on Current Research on the Underground Railroad in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York (and a Maryland slave catcher and Kidnapper) will conducted by the Kennett Underground Railroad Center. The symposium will be held Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm at the London Grove Friends Meetinghouse, 500 West Street Road (Rt. 926), in London Grove, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
9:30 10:30 Opening Session: Introduction and Research Roundtable
10:30 10:45 Coffee Break
10:45 12:00 Morning Session
12:00 1:00 Lunch and Poster Sessions
1:00 2:30 Afternoon Session
Speakers/Panelists and Topics (there may be more)
* Tom Calarco, “Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City.”
* Milt Diggins, “Stealing Freedom: Slave Catchers and Kidnappers.”
* Dr. Cheryl Gooch, “What it Means to be Free: Uncovering the Undocumented History of
Freedom-Seeking: African-Americans of Hinsonville, Chester Co, PA.”
* Robin Krawitz, “The Hunn Family and Samuel D. Burris”
* Nancy Webster, “The Landscape of the Underground Railroad.”
After each presentation there will be a question and answer session.
• Admission to this event is free. Coffee, tea, and water will be provided. A lunch of hoagies, wraps, salad, and fruit will be available for $6, payable by cash or check on the day of the symposium, catered by Triple Fresh Market, East Fallowfield. (Make checks out to KURC). You may of course bring your own lunch.
• If you plan to attend, please respond by May 20 by email or phone to email@example.com or 302-475-0554. Let us know your name and if you will purchase lunch, so the caterer can prepare accordingly.
Schooner Captains, Especially Those with Hidden Passengers, had Logical Reasons to Use the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
A schooner captain (with freedom seekers concealed on board) heading northward out of Norfolk or neighboring ports had an abundance of Southern ports he could visit within the sheltered Chesapeake Bay before going on to Wilmington and the Northern port of Philadelphia through the C&D Canal. Manifests for Southern ports aroused less attention from Virginia authorities than a manifest for Philadelphia. The map is from the author's collection of images, the original source unknown.
In the two Baylis narratives, William Still provided the clearest indicators that schooner captains assisting in the escape of freedom seekers in Virginia used the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The narratives on the exploits of Captain Fountain, which will be the subject of upcoming posts, require a closer look to see the connection with the C&D Canal.
A number of logical reasons would lead schooner captains with hidden passengers to favor sailing north in the Chesapeake Bay and through the canal rather than choosing to sail the Atlantic. Fountain had routinely used the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to reach Philadelphia, with Wilmington, Delaware a secondary stop along the way. In 1850, Captain Fountain’s homeport was in Baltimore, and he hauled grain and other freight on the schooner Eliza S. for H. Kelsey and Company. In 1853, Captain Fountain sailed the schooner Millsville for two Baltimore and Philadelphia packet companies. He carried freight for Brown and Son’s Canal Line in Baltimore and Hand’s Canal Line in Philadelphia, the company names referring to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
Experienced Chesapeake Bay schooner captains like Baylis and Fountain knew the ports, channels and local pilots, and were familiar with the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at the northern end. They knew the advantages of sailing north on the Chesapeake Bay, going through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and entering the Delaware River to reach Wilmington and Philadelphia over venturing into the Atlantic Ocean and entering the Delaware Bay to reach those two Delaware River ports. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal’s main advantage was the shortened distance and sailing time between Chesapeake Bay ports and Philadelphia. Although the distance and time savings was greater for ports in the upper Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal route did reduce the distance between Norfolk and Philadelphia by twenty-four nautical miles. This savings subtracted several hours of travel time in unpredictable weather for a schooner laden with passengers and cargo. A second advantage the Chesapeake Bay route offered was the multiple stops that a captain could make on the way north to deliver and receive cargo, and take on provisions. Ports like Cambridge, Washington, DC, Alexandria, Baltimore, Havre de Grace, Port Deposit, and Elkton could make a trip more profitable than the paucity of ports on the Atlantic and Delaware Bay side of the Delmarva Peninsula. As previously noted, Still had explained a third advantage important to captains transporting freedom seekers from Virginia and North Carolina. Captains remaining in the Chesapeake Bay and sailing northward could present a bill of lading for any of these slave state ports north of Norfolk, raising less suspicion than identifying Philadelphia as the next port of call. A fourth advantage was greater safety and relative comfort offered by the sheltered inland route. This advantage was particularly important for a captain responsible for a large number of passengers, in some cases more than a score, crowded below deck. If the dark clouds of a storm appeared, or if strong winds threatened to blow the ship off course, the bay offered a captain many inlets and protected harbors. Calmer waves in the bay were less punishing for the ship and the passengers than turbulent ocean waters. For example, in late fall of 1855, Captain Fountain would crowd twenty-one freedom seekers below decks before leaving Norfolk. Visualize a voyage in the ocean under those circumstances; the rocking of a schooner in the rough seas, the malodorous air in an unventilated space overcrowded with twenty-one bodies cramped together for hours, and the inexperience of at least some of those passengers to sea voyages and ocean waves. The unpleasantness of seasickness and the sight, smell, and sound of vomiting for the other passengers may seem like one of the smaller problems in an escape, but an experienced seaman would understand it as another practical reason for choosing the gentler Chesapeake Bay route.
 “Shipping,” [Baltimore] American & Commercial Daily Advertiser, August 13, 1850; “Shipping,” [Baltimore] American & Commercial Daily Advertiser, May 2, 1853; “Shipping,” [Philadelphia] The North American, July 29, 1853.
 US Dept. of Commerce, Distances
 Still, The Underground Railroad, 77
Freedom Seekers and Freedom Stealers along the Mason - Dixon Line
Milt Diggins, M. ed., an independent scholar, author, public historian, and public speaker.