Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
Underground Railroad Library
about the underground railroad
following the footsteps
eyewitness to history
figure it out
mapping it out
secrets: language, signs and symbols
create a quilt block
living history
underground railroad library
You are here!
 
People Museums/
Historical Sites
Events Primary Source Documents


Primary Source Documents

Use the links below to quick jump to a particular person:
Documents Home | William Still | Phoebe Myers | Ann Matthews | Samuel Green


Perry Johnson, of Elkton, Maryland (Still, p. 64)

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 mistresss." 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.

The Mother of Twelve Children (Still, p. 394)

Old Jane Davis Fled to Escape the Auction-Block, 1857
Jane did not know how old she was. She was probably sixty or seventy. She fled to keep from being sold. She had been "whipt right smart," poorly fed, and poorly clothed, by a certain Roger McZant, of the New Market District, Eastern Shore of Maryland. His wife was a "bad woman too." Just before escaping, Jane got a whisper that her "master" was about to sell her; on asking him if the rumor was true, he was silent. He had been asking "one hundred dollars" for her.

Remembering that four of her children had been snatched away from her and sold South, and she herself was threatened with the same fate, she was willing to suffer hunger, sleep in the woods for nights and days, wandering towards Canada, rather than trust herself any longer under the protection of her "kind" owner. Before reaching a place of repose she was three weeks in the woods, almost wholly without nourishment.

Jane, doubtless, represented thousands of old slave mothers, who, after having been worn out under the yoke, were frequently either offered for sale for a trifle, turned off to die, or compelled to eke out their existence on the most stinted allowance.

Arrival from Unionville, 1857: Caroline Aldridge and JohnWood (Still, p. 401)

Caroline was a stout, light-complexioned, healthy-looking young woman of twenty-three years of age. She fled from Thornton Poole, of Unionville, Md. She gave her master the character of being a "very mean man; with a wife meaner still." "I consider them mean in every respect," said Caroline. No great while before she escaped, one of her brothers and a sister had been sent to the Southern market. Recently she had been apprized that herself and a younger brother would have to go to the same dreadful road. She therefore consulted with the brother and a particular young friend, to whom she was "engaged," which resulted in the departure of all three of them�.

Since the sale of Caroline's brother and sister, just referred to, her mother and three children had made good their exit to Canada, having been evidently prompted by said sale. Long before that time, however, three other brothers fled on the Underground Rail Road. They were encouraged to hope to meet each other in Canada.

John Wood. John was about twenty-eight years of age, of agreeable manners, intelligent, and gave evidence of a strong appreciation of liberty. Times with John had "not been very rough," until within the last year of his bondage. By the removal of his old master by death, a change for the worse followed. The executors of the estate - one of whom owed him an old grudge - made him acquainted with the fact, that amongst certain others, he would have to be sold. Judge Birch (one of the executors), "itching" to see him "broke in," "took particular pains" to speak to a notorious tyrant by the name of Boldin, to buy him�.The chief food allowed the slaves on the plantation consisted of the pot liquor in which the pork was boiled, with Indian-meal bread. The merest glance at what he experienced during his brief stay on the plantation must suffice. In the field where John, with a number of others was working, stood a hill, up which they were repeatedly obliged to ascend, with loads on their backs, and the overseer at their heels, with lash in hand, occasionally slashing at first one and then another�.

So after serving at this only a few days, John made his last solemn vow to be free or die; and off he started to Canada.

Account of the Samuel Burris auction, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. (Still, p. 747.)

When the hour arrived, the doomed man was placed on the auction-block. Two traders from Baltimore were known to be present; how many others the friends of Burris knew not. The usual opportunity was given to traders and speculators to thoroughly examine the property on the block, and most skillfully was Burris examined from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head; legs, arms and body, being handled as horse-jockeys treat horses. Flint watched the ways of the traders and followed for effect their example. The auctioneer began and soon had a bid of five hundred dollars. A Baltimore trader was now in the lead, when Flint, if we mistake not, bought off the trader for one hundred dollars. The bids were suddenly checked, and Burris was knocked down to Isaac S. Flint�.But a few moments were allowed to pass ere Flint had the bill of sale for his property, and the joyful news was whispered in the ear of Burris that all was right; that he had been bought with abolition gold to save him from going south. Once more Burris found himself in Philadelphia with his wife and children and friends, a stronger opponent than ever of Slavery. Having thus escaped by the skin of his teeth, he never again ventured South.

back to top

classroom resourcesscreensaverfor parentsabout this sitethinkport home
©2014 Maryland Public Television. All Rights Reserved.