HOW I BOUGHT MY SISTER FRANCES AND HOW THE LORD PAID THE DEBT.
It was in September, 1862. The Union soldiers were stationed all along the line, from Havre de Gras and Monkton, Md. My aunt, my mother's sister, lived about a mile and a half from Hereford, on the old homestead, where my grandmother lived and died. After the death of my mother there were six of us children at home with father. My aunt, who had been married about two years, wanted my father to let one of my sisters go with her to Maryland. She had but one child of her own at that time, and she wanted my sister to be company for her little child, and to look after him, as she worked out by the day very often. So my father gave her my sister Frances, who was then about ten years old. It was not very safe for colored people to pass up and down, but sometimes they could do it without being molested at all. My aunt used to come back and forth once a year to the camp meeting, as many of the colored people, round about did. The camp meeting was then called the old Baltimore Camp. It was held on Lowe's camp-ground. My sister was very anxious to go with my aunt. She promised to take very good care of her, so father was quite willing to have her go. She had been there about three years, I think; my aunt then had two children; and my sister took care of them while she would be away at work every day; of course things didn't always go on with children as they should, and then my aunt was very severe on Frances; several times she whipped her very severely, so that the neighbors interfered, and that made unpleasant feelings between the neighbors and my aunt. Word came to my father about it, but he could not go very well, nor did any of the rest feel that we could go; there was so much excitement about the war we did not like to risk it.
51After the war had begun, these soldiers were stationed, as I have said, and I had made up my mind that I would risk it, and go and see about my sister. Prior to this my aunt had written father that Frances had got very unruly, and when she would whip her she would run away, and that she had gone off somewhere, and he must come and see after her. I was living in Lancaster, Pa., with Col. H.S. McGraw's family. I got six dollars a month. I told Mrs. McGraw about my sister, and told her I thought it was safe for me to go now; that I would be safer under the protection of the Union soldiers. I got her to advance me fifty dollars and I started on my journey down to Monkton. I went to Little York, Pa., and from York to Monkton, Md. I got to my aunt's house about one o'clock in the afternoon. She was not at home. The children were there, and they told me Frances was living with Mr. Hutchinson. Well, I didn't know where Mr. Hutchinson lived, but by inquiring got on the right road. Finally, I came to the man who had been magistrate in that part of the country; I wanted to see him, for I had heard in that time my sister had been sold, so I went in to inquire what could be done. My sister was born free--born in Pennsylvania--and my father and mother were free, and I wanted to see what could be done. He told me that Frances had run off from my aunt and come to their house, and as he saw she had been very badly treated, and as she was very kind to the children, his wife thought they would keep her. She came to him for protection. Well, just at that time they were selling black people; every one they could pick up anywhere that could not prove they were free born, were sold for so much. My aunt was a little vexed, so she did not bother about Frances, and my father could not go and swear for her, consequently she was sold to Mr. Hutchinson for a term of ten years. He told me that all I could do was to see Mr. Hutchinson, and if he would consent to give her up, I could get her by paying him what he paid for her. He said there was nobody to come forward and swear for her, and he saw she was not kindly treated, but that was all he could do about it. He did not take much pains to give me satisfaction. Oh! those were times! However, after he told me what he did, I started for Mr. Hutchinson's. My! how I cried. How I thought of my dear mother. I was all alone. I walked and prayed. I had had nothing to eat all day. I was very hungry. I had passed several farm-houses, and wanted to go in and ask for a
52drink of water, but I was afraid. Finally I came to a very fine house, standing back from the road; beautiful grounds, green grass and trees, a beautiful white veranda, and an old lady in a white cap, sitting out on the veranda; there was a pump in the yard, with a nice bright tin cup hanging on it; but there was a large dog lying on the stoop, so I stood at the gate a moment; the old lady got up and walked to the end of the veranda, and I called out to her, "Madame, I'm very thirsty; will you please let me come in and get a drink of water?" She said "No, no; go on, go on." I nearly fainted for a moment, and I lifted my heart and said," "Now, Lord, help me, and take away the thirst;" and in an instant every bit of thirst and hunger left me; I had not a bit, no more than if I never had been thirsty. I walked on about a mile further in the sun; I got to Mr. Hutchinson's and saw my poor sister. I don't think I ever saw a heathen in Africa, that looked so much like a heathen as she did. I could hardly speak to her. She was busy at work, and seemed to be happy, but I was not. I told her I had come after her, and to see Mr. Hutchinson. Poor thing, she was so glad to see me!
I don't know how many black people Mr. Hutchinson owned; he was excited over the war; and while he was considered to be a very good man to his black people, yet he was rough when I told him what my errand was. When I told him my sister was freeborn, was not a slave and never had been, he simply said he had nothing to do with that; he had paid forty dollars for her, and he was not going to let her go for less. Well, I didn't know what to do. I cried, but he raved; he swore, and said Frances had not been of any use anyhow. At first he said he would not let her go at all. Then he went into the house. His wife was a very nice woman. How well I remember her. I cried, and cried, and could not stop. I was foolish, but I could not help it. She said something to him. He went into the house, and by and by he came back and said he was not going to let her go for less than forty dollars. Then my sister told me if I would go over to Mrs. Hutchinson's father's (I think his name was Matthews, and he was a Quaker), and see him, she thought he might help me. They were very nice people, and had always been kind to her. It was about a quarter of a mile across the fields. So I went over there and old Mr. Matthews told me I was to go on back, and next morning he would ride over. So, sure enough; next morning the
53old man came over. He pitied me, I saw, but he could not help me much. Mr. Hutchinson walked up and down and swore. I told Mr. Matthews that I had no money scarcely, and I did not know how to get back if I paid out the forty dollars. I would only have enough to get back to York, and how was I going to get from York to Lancaster, where I lived, and get my sister there besides? Well, Mr. Hutchinson said, he had nothing to do with that. So he told my sister she could get ready and go. I paid him the money. Then she got ready. She went to get her shawl, and he said to her she should not have anything but what she had on. They had given her a shawl, a dress and a pair of great big brogan shoes; and they let her take the dress (a blue cotton striped) she had on; madame had given her a gingham apron; that she was to leave. So we started; just what she stood up in, with one domestic dress under her arm, was all she had. He flourished the horse--whip around so I didn't know but we were both going to get a flogging before we left; but we got out without the flogging. But oh! wasn't he mad! I thanked the Lord for the old Quaker gentleman. But for him it would have been much worse. Then how I prayed the Lord would bless Mrs. Hutchinson. I believe she was good. There were a number of little black children around there, and Mr. Hutchinson was kind to them, and played with them, and put them on the horse and held them on to ride, and they seemed to be very fond of him. But then they were slaves. What a difference it made in his feelings toward them. My sister was free. He had not any business with her, and I had no right to pay him any money; and if I had had as much sense then as I have now, I would not have paid him a cent; I would have just waited till he went to bed, and taken the underground railroad plan. But it is all over now, and my poor sister has long since gone to her reward.
When I came back to Lancaster, to Mrs. McGraw's, she allowed me to bring my sister there, and she helped around with the work till I got her trained somewhat; for she had always worked in the field, and had very little idea about housework. Now I worked, as it were, for a dead horse; for I was in debt to Mrs. McGraw fifty dollars. She paid me my wages regularly, but there was this debt; and with Frances on my hands, I was not able to pay a cent of the fifty dollars. Oh! how it worried me. I hated to think of it; I hated so to have debt. But then I could not help it,
54and I had no one to help me. My sisters were all poor, and worked hard for themselves. Father was not able to help me. One day Mr. Robert McGraw, Col. McGraw's brother, came to spend some time with them in Lancaster. He was a man that had plenty of means, and was very generous. I was always very glad when Mr. Robert came to see them. I was always sure of two dollars and fifty cents or five dollars when he went away. We dined at three o'clock in the afternoon; had breakfast at nine. Mr. Robert had had his breakfast and gone down town. He went into a bank to get a bill changed. He had four one hundred dollars bills rolled together. He went into the bank and got one bill changed as he went down in the morning. He came back at three o'clock to dinner. After dinner was over he always came out in the kitchen to light his cigar. Mrs. McGraw's son, Henry, a boy of about ten years of age, had a very fine dog, and thought a great deal of him. I was very particular about my kitchen, and they would come out into the kitchen and get to playing, and would sometimes make my kitchen look pretty well upset. Of course I didn't say anything, for Mr. Robert was kind; but I did not like it. Now, when he got the bill changed and went to put the three hundred dollars back in his pocket, instead of putting the money into his pocket, he slipped it inside his pants; and strange as it may seem, he had come all the way home and it was not lost on the street. But while he was playing in the kitchen with little Henry after dinner it slipped down and dropped on the floor. It just looked like a piece of paper he had twisted up to light his cigar. I saw it lying there, but did not bother to pick it up at first. He had gone away down street. It was a little rainy. After awhile the dog came running in to go upstairs after Henry. The middle door was shut and he could not get upstairs. As he came back past me I went to give him a send off with my foot, and kicked this roll of paper that lay there. Something seemed to whisper to me, "You had better pick that up and look at it. It might be a twenty dollar bank note." So I picked it up; and Oh, my! in all my born days did I ever have such a surprise. Three hundred dollars! Three one hundred dollar bills on the Baltimore bank! My! But I said, "This is Mr. Robert McGraw's." Mrs. McGraw was very kind, but I knew if I gave it to her that I would not get more than a dollar; but if I kept it and gave it to Mr. Robert I was sure he would give me five dollars. There was no one in the kitchen but
55myself. The other two servants were upstairs. So I said to myself, "Mr. Robert will be here in a few minutes." This was between half past four and five o'clock in the afternoon. I said nothing to any one. Mr. Robert did not come till along about six or seven o'clock in the evening. I had not said a word to anybody. The suggestion came to me, "Now this is a good chance for you to get out of debt to Mrs. McGraw. None of these bills are marked, and you can take it to the bank and give it to somebody and you can get that money." I let all these thoughts play through my mind, and then I said, "Now, Mr. Devil, you lie. I don't mean to get into any trouble about that money at all." After a while I heard some one coming, talking, and I saw two or three persons. Mr. Robert did not come in at the front door; he came around through the yard and came in at the side door. Two boys were with him, and they had lanterns, and they had looked all along the street for this money.
This is the way he missed it. He went into a barber shop to get shaved. After he was shaved he put his hand into his pocket to get the money to pay for it, and found that he had only the money that he had got changed. The other bills were gone. He was very jolly, and said, "I have lost three or four hundred dollars; I don't know which. I will give fifty dollars if I can find it." And of course they were all out looking for it. So he came into the yard.
"What is the matter, Mr. Robert?"
"Amanda," he replied, "I have lost three or four hundred dollars," and then saying a word with two d's in it, he said he didn't know which, and continued looking about with the boys. I said, "My, Mr. Robert, three hundred dollars?"
"Yes, three or four, I don't know which. I will give fifty dollars if I can find it."
As soon as he said, "I will give fifty dollars if I can find it," I said "Mr. Robert, what did you say?"
"I said I will give fifty dollars if I can find it." Then he looked up at me through his glasses, and I said, "I wonder if I can find it," and at the same time reached way down in my pocket.
"Amanda," he said, "did you find it?"
"Hold on; wait till I see." And making a desperate effort I hauled it out. There were the three one hundred dollars bills. My! weren't the boys surprised! He turned right around to the
56flour chest that stood in the kitchen and counted me out fifty dollars in ten dollar bills.
I got down on my knees right there and then and thanked the Lord, and Mr. Robert said, "Oh, Amanda, it's all right, it's all right; you are welcome to it."
And that is the way the Lord got me out of that debt. "In some way or other the Lord will provide." Amen. Amen.