The rest of the article is on Blogging Delaware History.
In a ceremony held on Nov. 2, 2015 in the courtroom of Dover, Del.’s Old State House, Gov. Jack Markell issued a pardon of Samuel D. Burris, a free black man from the Willow Grove area of Kent County, Del., who was convicted on Nov. 2, 1847 of aiding slaves escaping from their owners. The ceremony took place in the very location where Burris was convicted 168 years ago.
The rest of the article is on Blogging Delaware History.
In his newspapers, Frederick Douglass would occasionally place narratives about the horrors of slavery under the heading Running away from Happiness to mock the Southern image of the “happy slave.” Defenders of slavery insisted their slaves were well-treated, well-feed, clothed, and, sheltered. They lived better than free blacks in the North, claimed slavery’s apologists. What more could they possibly want? Anyone that providing an answer to that question was quickly accused of being a troublemaking abolitionist. The enslaved wanted what anyone wanted—control over their own lives, respect, human dignity, freedom.
William Still’s narratives provided many examples of the cruelty, brutality, and dehumanization that drove men and women take the risk of escaping, and a good number of those examples have been noted in this blog. The story of Perry Johnson of Elkton provides yet another example.
Underground Railroad, William Still, 64
PERRY JOHNSON, OF ELKTON, MARYLAND
EYE KNOCKED OUT, ETC.
Perry's exit was in November, 1853. He was owned by Charles Johnson, who lived at Elkton. The infliction of a severe "flogging" from the hand of his master awakened Perry to consider the importance of the U. G. R. R. Perry had the misfortune to let a "load of fodder upset," about which his master became exasperated, and in his agitated state of mind he succeeded in affixing a number of very ugly stationary marks on Perry's back. However, this was no new thing. Indeed he had suffered at the hands of his mistress even far more keenly than from these "ugly marks."
He had but one eye; the other he had been deprived of by a terrible stroke with a cowhide in the "hand of his mistress." This lady he pronounced to be a "perfect savage," and added that "she was in the habit of cowhiding any of her slaves whenever she felt like it, which was quite often." Perry was about twenty-eight years of age and a man of promise. The Committee attended to his wants and forwarded him on North.
Underground Railroad, William Still, 503-504
ARRIVAL FROM VIRGINIA, 1859
JAMES TAYLOR, ALBERT GROSS AND JOHN GRINAGE.
To see mere lads, not twenty-one years of age, smart enough to outwit the very shrewdest and wisest slave-holders of Virginia was very gratifying. The young men composing this arrival were of this keen-sighted order.
JAMES was only a little turned of twenty, of a yellow complexion, and intelligent. A trader, by the name of George Ailer, professed to own James.
He said that he had been used tolerable well, not so bad as many had been used. James was learning the carpenter trade; but he was anxious to obtain his freedom, and finding his two companions true on the main question, in conjunction with them he contrived a plan of escape, and 'took out.'
His father and mother, Harrison and Jane Taylor, were left at Fredericksburg to mourn the absence of their son.
Up to this point the title fits the description, and a reader would expect the next two entries, his companions, lived close to Fredericksburg, or judging by the subtitle, somewhere in Virginia. But that is where the entry becomes perplexing. Still explicitly states the other two are from Cecil County, Maryland.
ALBERT was in his twentieth year, the picture of good health, not homely by any means, although not of a fashionable color. He was under the patriarchal protection of a man by the name of William Price, who carried on farming in Cecil County, Maryland. Albert testified that he was a bad man.
JOHN GRINAGE was only twenty, a sprightly, active young man, of a brown color. He came from Middle Neck, Cecil County, where he had served under William Flintham, a farmer.
So according to Still, all three escaped together from Virginia, and yet two came from Maryland. The only fact that hints at an explanation is the fact that Ailes is a trader. Were the two Maryland men purchased by Ailes for resale in the Deep South? That could have brought the three men together. But no other information from Still suggested that was the case, and the absence of additional clues leaves the reader wondering about the answer to this riddle. There was a George Ailes living in Washington, D.C. at that time, but I could not confirm this was the same man mentioned in the narrative.
ADDING LOCAL INFORMATION:
The properties of William Flintham of Middle Neck appear on the 1858 Martinet map of Cecil County, and are located near the Maryland-Delaware border. A property of a William Price also appears on the map, nearby and to the south of the Flintham properties. But under what circumstances Grinage and Gross arrived with Taylor in an escape from Virginia is unexplained and unknown.
Freedom Seeker Samuel Slater, alias Patterson Smith, Arrives in Philadelphia from the Bohemia Manor Area
Underground Railroad, William Still, 227
SAMUEL SLATER, alias PATTERSON SMITH, came from a place called Power Bridge, Md. He gave a satisfactory account of himself, and was commended for having wisely left his master, William Martin, to earn his bread by the sweat of his own brow. Martin had held up the vision of the auction-block before Sam; this was enough. Sam saw that it was time for him to be getting out of danger's way without delay, so he presumed, if others could manage to escape, he could too. And he succeeded. He was a stout man, about twenty-nine years of age, of dark complexion. No particular mention of ill treatment is found on the Records.
After arriving in Canada, his heart turned with deep interest and affection to those left in the prison-house, as the following letter indicates.
ST. CATHRINES Oct 29th.
MY DEAR FRIEND : yours of the 15th came to hand and I was glad to hear from you and your dear family were well and the reason that I did not write sooner I expected get a letter from my brother in pennsylvania but I have not received any as yet when I wrote last I directed my letter to philip scott minister of the asbury church baltimore and that was the reason that I thought it strange I did not get an answer but I did not put my brother name to it I made arrangements before I left home with a family of smiths that I was to write to and the letter that I enclose in this I want you to direct it to D Philip scott in his care for mrs cassey Jackson Duke Jacksons wife and she will give to Priana smith or Sarah Jane Smith those are the persons I wish to write to I wish you to write on as quick as you can and let them know that there is a lady coming on by the name of mrs Holonsworth and she will call and see you and you will find her a very interesting and inteligent person one worthy of respect and esteem and a high reputation I must now bring my letter to a close no more at present but remain your humble servant
In my letters I did not write to my friends how they shall write to me but in the letter that you write you will please to tell them how they shall write to me.
ADDING LOCAL INFORMATION:
William Still recorded that Patterson Smith made his escape from Power Bridge, Maryland. Actually, the village is called Pivot Bridge, named for the movable span over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The Martinet Map of Cecil County, 1858, shows William Martin had property about four miles southwest of Pivot Bridge, and north of Hudson’s Corner.
Smith made curious reference to a “Mrs. Holonsworth” in his letter to Still. The Hollingsworths were a prominent family in the region. Originally Quakers, many Hollingsworths south of the Mason-Dixon Line abandoned their Quaker beliefs and enslaved other people. The Mrs. Hollingsworth that Smith refers to may have been from the Quaker branch of the family. If she was from the proslavery branch, then see was acting contrary to the prevailing family attitude. A third possibility is that she was African American and retained the last name of the family that enslaved hers.
Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland - Basics about the Book
Who was Thomas McCreary?
• In the eyes of Pennsylvanians, including two governors, and some Marylanders, and Delawareans, McCreary was a villainous kidnapper. To his supporters, including two Maryland governors, McCreary was a heroic slave catcher.
• He exploited the ambiguity resulting from the argument over the difference between slave catching and kidnapping, and was unconcerned about the distinction, just as long as he made a profit and stayed out of jail.
• McCreary lived in Elkton, the county seat of Cecil County, located at the Mason-Dixon Line in the northeast corner of Maryland. Elkton was midway between Philadelphia, a refuge and way station for freedom seekers breaking free of slavery, and Baltimore, a thriving slave market. The location was ideal for a slave catcher … or a kidnapper.
How does this book differ from other books that examine the slave catching and kidnapping issue?
• The other books tend to either broadly survey the issue, or focus on a specific event or topic related to the issue.
• This book is the first to use a slave catcher and his community as the framework to develop the larger story.
• The book also closely examines the alliance between slave catchers and proslavery politicians.
How does this book add insight into the slave catching issue?
• This close up view offers an increased understanding of why this issue was a contributing cause of the Civil War.
• The story expands outward into the region and encompasses multiple perspectives and individual stories. The Philadelphia-Wilmington-Baltimore corridor contained a toxic mix of opposing views and special interests, actions and reactions.
• Fifteen African Americans, including an infant, had their freedom threatened by McCreary or by slaveholders from McCreary’s home county. Some were born free, some had been legally freed, some had seized the freedom they had been denied. All their stories are told. So are reactions of other African Americans in Pennsylvania and Delaware who felt threatened by McCreary and others like him.
• Communities found themselves affected by the aggressions of McCreary and other slave catchers, and their reactions are important to the story.
• Significant to the story is McCreary political connections. As his reputation for slave catching grew, his value to Maryland politicians increased, and the state went to great lengths to protect him.
• McCreary became especially important to Maryland after he abducted two young sisters in Pennsylvania. Whereas McCreary and his community provide the framework of the book, the story of the Parker sisters and their community provide the heart of the story.
• The debate over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the aftermath of the Christiana Resistance, and subsequent treason trial that ended in December, 1851, and McCreary's kidnapping of the Parker sisters that same month intertwined in several ways. Historians have noted one connection in the mysterious death of the main witness against McCreary, but other significant connections previously overlooked are presented in this book.
William Still Underground Railroad, Still, 486-7
ARRIVAL FROM CECIL COUNTY, 1858.
ROBERT JOHNS AND HIS WIFE "SUE ANN."
Fortunately, in this instance, man and wife succeeded in making their way out of Slavery together. Robert was a man of small stature, and the farthest shade from white. In appearance and intellect he represented the ordinary Maryland slave, raised on a farm, surrounded with no refining influences or sympathy. He stated that a man by the name of William Cassey had claimed the right to his labor, and that he had been kept in bondage on his farm.
For a year or more before setting out for freedom, Robert had watched his master pretty closely, and came to the conclusion, that he was "a monstrous blustery kind of a man; one of the old time fellows, very hard and rash not fit to own a dog." He owned twelve slaves; Robert resolved that he would make one less in a short while. He laid the matter before his wife, "Sue," who was said to be the property of Susan Flinthrew, wife of John Flinthrew, of Cecil County, Maryland. "Sue" having suffered severely, first from one and then another, sometimes from floggings, and at other times from hunger, and again from not being half clothed in cold weather, was prepared to consider any scheme that looked in the direction of speedy deliverance. The way that they were to travel, and the various points of danger to be passed on the road were fully considered; but Robert and Sue were united and agreed that they could not fare much worse than they had fared, should they be captured and carried back. In this state of mind, as in the case of thousands of others, they set out for a free State, and in due time reached Pennsylvania and the Vigilance Committee, to whom they made known the facts here recorded, and received aid and comfort in return.
SUE was a young woman of twenty-three, of a brown color, and somewhat under medium size.
ADDING LOCAL INFORMATION:
The 1858 Martinet map of Cecil County did not show the farm of William Cassey. But the map did show two properties owned by John Flintham, and presumably Cassey’s farm was near one Flinthrew. Both of the Flinthrew properties were located on roads leading to Warwick, near the Maryland-Delaware border, and Middletown, Delaware.
Freedom Seekers and Freedom Stealers along the Mason - Dixon Line
Milt Diggins, M. ed., an independent scholar, author, public historian, and public speaker.