Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
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People of the Underground Railroad in Maryland

Use the links below to quick jump to a particular person:
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper | Dr. Bartholomew Fussell | Phoebe Myers
Ann Matthews | Samuel Green

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born in Baltimore of free black parents. She attended the school run by her uncle, William Watkins, until the age of thirteen. As an adult, she lived in Ohio and later Pennsylvania, where she taught African American children. She wrote several books of poetry and a novel. She was an active speaker in favor of abolition and also women's rights. She was a generous donor to the Underground Railroad. She frequently sent money to William Still to help him pay for clothes, food, and transportation for needy fugitives.

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Dr. Bartholomew Fussell, a Quaker who grew up in Chester County in southern Pennsylvania, came to Baltimore to study medicine. While he lived in the city, he worked closely with a local anti-slavery leader, Elisha Tyson. In Baltimore, Fussell opened a Sabbath school for African American students. He taught as many as 90 students at a time. When he returned to Pennsylvania to practice medicine, he made his home a station on the Underground Railroad. Slaves escaping through northeastern Maryland could find food, shelter and a place to rest there. William Still estimated that about 2000 escaping slaves passed through Fussell's home. On occasion, some of his former pupils from Baltimore stopped there.

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Born free in Maryland circa 1803. Married to Henry Myers. One known child, Ellenora (b. circa 1842).

Phoebe Myers was a free African American citizen of Queen Anne's County. A spinner by trade, the brown complexioned woman, who stood 5' 6" tall, was illiterate. She had never been "bound out." She lived with her young daughter, Ellenora, and may have been "married" to a still-enslaved man. In 1850, blacks outnumbered whites in Queen Anne's County, and, among blacks themselves, slaves outnumbered the free by less than one thousand. Allegedly, Phoebe Meyers assisted two enslaved families in a failed escape effort. The two slave families, the Johnsons and the Tildens, were the human chattel property of Richard Bennett Carmichael, a politician from the Corsica District in Queen Anne's County. Authorities caught them in the act. As a result, Lucy, William, and Maria Johnson, along with Robert, Charles, and Hester Tilden, and Hester's infant child, were returned to Carmichael, and Meyers was arrested. On December 5, 1855 Phoebe Myers was found guilty on seven indictments of harboring runaway slaves. At fifty-two years old, Meyers received a sentence of six years and six months on the first charge and six years for each of the other charges - a total of 42 yrs., 6 mos. in all. She began her sentence at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore on December 20, 1855, and was not due to be released from prison until 1898. In response to a petition from prominent members of the community, including Richard Carmichael, Governor Thomas Watkins Ligon granted Ms. Myers a pardon on May 6, 1856.

Though she was known to be religious, she was not known to be affiliated with any formalized anti-slavery effort. We do not know that she was in coordination with any members of, say, the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. Are we to presume then that this was her first and only effort to assist folk on the run? In other words, was she or was she not a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad? Her story was not famous, she left no memoirs, her cause received no great publicity. She has existed in ignominy in death as in life.

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Born Ann Hatzell in Pennsylvania in 1805. Married with one daughter, Ann Jane. Arrived in Baltimore City with her husband no earlier than the 1830s. Resided on Light Street, then Hill Street, then 130 Lee Street, then South Howard Street, Baltimore. Died December, 1851. In the 1850s, Ann Matthews was a middle-aged white woman who lived in a neighborhood filled with racial tension and suspicion. She lived not far from a Society of Friends Meeting house and the Sharp Street Methodist Church. In 1848, she was charged in with enticing "Margaret," a twenty-three-year-old slave belonging to a local brick maker named Washington Rider, to run away and also to steal on October 12, 1847. Ann and Mr. Rider were neighbors; her address at the time was130 Lee Street and his was 118 Lee Street, Baltimore.

Ann's case was brought before a jury of the Baltimore City Court in the September Term of 1848. The jury felt compelled to convict her under the law even though Margaret did not in fact run away. Ann was sentenced to serve ten years in the Maryland penitentiary, but the jury as well as a group of fellow citizens petitioned Governor Philip Francis Thomas recommending her pardon due to her advanced age and widowhood. A second petition to the governor signed by sixteen of Ann's fellow citizens asked for pardon "by every consideration of humanity and of public justice." A third petition signed by 59 people requested a pardon because Ann was "far advanced in age and her incarceration in prison would be an act of great hardship if not barbarism."

At the same time, however, Mr. Rider and 27 other citizens signed yet another petition to the governor saying that Ann was one of "the very worst characters and is a terror to her neighbors." Governor Thomas chose to listen to the more favorable petitions and issued a pardon on November 2, 1848. His handwritten note states that she was "pardoned on condition of keeping the peace for 12 months and giving security thereto." The Secretary of State's Pardon Record states that the reason for her pardon was that, because of her advanced age and poor health, "her life would be endanger by incarceration in the Penitentiary." On December tenth 1851, Ann Matthews wrote her last will and testament, stating that she was ill and wished to settle her affairs. Leaving her house on South Howard Street to her daughter Ann Jane, she passed away by the end of the month at the age of 46.

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Samuel Green, a Dorchester County Maryland free man of color, was arrested and jailed for possession of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe. His case explores freedom of speech and of the press in a slave state during the 1850s.

Samuel Green was born into slavery in East New Market, Maryland, around 1802. He worked as a farm slave in the fields of Dorchester County. He married a slave woman, Catherine ("Kitty"), with whom he later had two children, Samuel, Jr. (b. 1829) and Susan (b. 1832). Green's owner died in 1831, bequeathing Green his freedom five years later. During the next year, Green earned enough money to pay off his remaining four years of service. He then proceeded to purchase the freedom of his wife Kitty. Although Samuel and Kitty were free, their children remained slaves, becoming the property of Dr. James Muse around 1847. Samuel, Jr. successfully escaped to Canada in 1854. As a result of Samuel's escape, Muse sold Susan to an owner in Missouri, separating her from her family.

Unlike many blacks of the time period, Green received an education. He worked as a lay minister in the local Methodist Episcopal church, and became a prominent man in the growing free black community. He may have taught his children some basic reading and writing skills, as evidenced by letters Samuel, Jr. sent from his new home in Canada. However, these letters would prove to be a detriment to his father. One letter, written in 1854, named two slaves Samuel, Jr. wished would join him up North. Both of these men escaped to Canada by 1857. During the winter of 1856-1857, Samuel visited his son in Canada. Upon his return to Maryland, he began making plans for he and Kitty to relocate there.

Suspicion regarding Samuel Green and any role he may have had in aiding slaves began to build in the community. Upon his return from Canada, the sheriff conducted a search of Green's home. Among the items found were Samuel, Jr.'s letters, a map and other items pertaining to his trip, and at least one volume of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Samuel Green was arrested on April 4, 1857, and charged with "knowingly having in his possession a certain abolition pamphlet called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' of an inflammatory character and calculated to create discontent amongst the colored population of this State" and "knowingly having in his possession certain abolition papers and pictorial representation of an inflammatory character calculated to create discontent amongst the colored population of this State." Green was later acquitted of the second charge. After a two week trial, Green was found guilty of the first charge. Under Acts of 1841, Chapter 272, Green was guilty of a felony and sentenced to the minimum ten years at the Maryland Penitentiary.

Word of Green's case soon spread throughout the country, and many could not believe that the events had actually occurred. Support for Green began to build and letters arrived at Governor Thomas Watkins Ligon's door in favor of pardon. Letters from Dorchester County slave holders also arrived, stating that Green should remain behind bars, and that he was to blame for many slave runaways in the area. The barrage of petitions continued while Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks, a native of Dorchester County, took office. Hicks, a firm believer in the right of citizens to own slaves, had a strong distaste for abolitionists, and declared that Green would remain in jail as long as he was Governor. Hicks kept his promise. Hicks' successor, Augustus W. Bradford, granted Green a conditional pardon in March 1962, stating that Green had to leave the State within sixty days. Samuel and Kitty left to join their son in Canada.

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