|CHAPTER III. -- SOME OF THE REMEMBRANCES OF MY GIRLHOOD DAYS--HELPING RUNAWAYS--MY MOTHER AROUSED--A NARROW ESCAPE--A TOUCHING STORY.|
The name of my father's landlord was John Lowe, he was a wealthy farmer, lived between New Market and Shrewsburg, Pa. Pretty much all the farmers round about in those days were anti--slavery men; Joseph Hendricks, Clark Lowe, and a number of others. My father worked a great deal for Isaac Hendricks, who used to keep the Blueball Tavern. I and the children have gathered many a basket of apples out of the orchard, and many a pail of milk I have helped to carry to the house, and often at John Lowe's as well; I used to help them churn often. And then old Thomas Wantlen, who used to keep the store; how well I remember him. John Lowe would allow my father to do what the could in secreting the poor slaves that would get away and come to him for protection. At one time he was Magistrate, and of course did not hunt down poor slaves, and would support the law whenever things were brought before him in a proper way, but my father and mother were level headed and had good broad common sense, so they never brought him into any trouble. Our house was one of the main stations of the Under Ground Railroad. My father took the "Baltimore Weekly Sun" newspaper; that always had advertisements of runaway slaves. After giving the cut of the poor fugitive, with a little bundle on his back, going with his face northward, the advertisement would read something like this: Three thousand dollars reward! Ran away from Anerandell County, Maryland, such a date, so many feet high, scar on the right side of the forehead or some other part of the body,--belonging to Mr. A. or B. So sometimes the excitement was so high we
I have known him to lead in the harvest field from fifteen to twenty men--he was a great cradler and mower in those days--and after working all day in the harvest field, he would come home at night, sleep about two hours, then start at midnight and walk fifteen or twenty miles and carry a poor slave to a place of security; sometimes a mother and child, sometimes a man and wife, other times a man or more, then get home just before day. Perhaps he could sleep an hour then go to work, and so many times baffled suspicion. Never but once was there a poor slave taken that my father ever got his hand on, and if that man had told the truth he would have been saved, but he was afraid.
There was a beautiful woods a mile from New Market on the Baltimore and York Turnpike; it was called Lowe's Camp Ground. It was about three quarters of a mile from our house. My mother was a splendid cook, so we arranged to keep a boarding house during the camp meeting time. We had melons, and pies and cakes and such like, as well. Father was very busy and had not noticed the papers for a week or two, so did not know there was any advertisement of runaways. There were living in New Market certain white men that made their living by catching runaway slaves and getting the reward. A man named Turner, who kept the post office at New Market, Ben Crout, who kept a regular Southern blood--hound for that purpose, and John Hunt. These men all lived in New Market. Then there was a Luther Amos, Jake Hedrick, Abe Samson and Luther Samson, his son. I knew them all well. Samson had a number of grey--hounds. So these fellows used to watch our house closely, trying every way to catch my father. One night during camp meeting, between twelve and one o'clock, we children were all on the pallet on the floor. It was warm weather, and father and mother slept in the bed. A man came and knocked at the door. Father asked who was there? He said "A friend. I hear you keep a boarding house and I want to get something to eat."
Father told him to come in. He had everything but not coffee--so he went to work and got the coffee ready. Father talked with him. The man was well dressed. He had changed his clothes, he said, as he had been traveling, and it was dusty, and he was on his way to the camp meeting. This is what he said
"I am not harboring anybody," father said. Then they began to curse and swear and rushed upon him. The man jumped and ran up stairs. My mother had a small baby. Of course she was frightened and jumped up, and they were beating father and tramping all over us children on the floor. We were screaming. There stood in the middle of the floor an old fashioned ten plate stove. There was no fire in it, of course, and as my poor frightened mother ran by it trying to defend father, she caught her wrapper in the door, just as a man cut at her with a spring dirk knife; it glanced on the door instead of on mother. I have thanked God many a time for that stove door. But for it my poor mother would have been killed that night. The poor man jumped out of the window up stairs and ran about two hundred yards, when Ben Crout's blood--hound caught him and held him till they came. When they found the man was gone, they left off beating father and went for the man. That was the first and last darkey they ever got out of Sam Berry's clutches. It put a new spirit in my mother. She cried bitterly, but O, when it was all over how she had gathered courage and strength. The good white people all over the neighborhood were aroused, but he was so close to the Maryland line they had him in Baltimore a few hours from then. And, poor fellow, we never heard of him afterwards.
Some time, about three or four months after this, along in the fall, we were sleeping upstairs. One night about twelve o'clock a knock came on the fence. My father answered and went down and opened the door. Mother listened and heard them say "runaway nigger." She sprang up, and as she ran downstairs she snatched down father's cane, which had a small dirk in it; she went up and threw open the door, pushed father aside, but he got hold of her, but O, when she got through with those men! They fell back and tried to apologize, but she would hear nothing.
"I can't go to my bed and sleep at night without being hounded by you devils," she said.
Next morning father went off to work, but mother dressed herself and went to New Market; as she went she told everybody she met how she had been hounded by these men. Told all their names right out, and all the rich respectable people cried shame, and backed her up. Dr. Bell, the leading doctor in New Market, who himself owned three or four slaves, stood by my mother and told her to speak of it publicly; so she stood on the stepping stone at Dr. Bell's right in front of the largest Tavern in the place. There were a lot of these men sitting out reading the news. The morning was a beautiful Fall morning, and she opened her mouth and for one hour declared unto them all the words in her heart. Not a word was said against her, but as the spectators and others looked on and listened the cry of "Shame! Shame! " could be heard; and the men skulked away here and there. By the time she got through there was not one to be seen of this tribe. That morning, as mother went to New Market, this same blood--hound of Ben Crout's was lying on the sidewalk, and as mother went on a lady she used to work for, a Mrs. Rutlidge, saw the dog and saw mother coming. She threw up her hand to indicate to her the dangerous animal. They generally kept her fastened up, but this morning she was not. Mother paid no attention but went on. Mrs. R. clasped her hands and turned her back expecting every moment to hear mother scream out. She looked around and mother was close by the dog and stepped right over her. She was so frightened she said: "O, Mary, how did you get by that dreadful dog of Ben Crout's?"
Mother was wrothy, and said, "I didn't stop to think about that dog," and passed on. And this was the wonder to everybody around. It was the great talk of the day all about the country,
About two years or more after this, the papers were full of notices of a very valuable slave who had run away. A heavy reward was offered. He had by God's mercy got to us, and by moving the poor fellow from place to place he had been kept safe for about two weeks, as there was no possible chance for father or any one to get him away, so closely were we watched. My father was a very early riser, always up and out about day dawn. Our house stood in the valley between two hills, so that the moment you struck the top of the hill, either way coming or going, you could see every move around our house. Just on the opposite side of the road there used to stand two large chestnut trees, but these had been blown down by a great storm some time before, so there was no screen to hide the house from full view. This morning, while out in the yard feeding the pigs, he saw four men coming on horseback. He knew they were strangers. He could not get in the house to tell mother, so he called to her and said: "Mother, I see four men coming; do the best you can."
She must act in a moment without being able to say a word more to father. The poor slave man was upstairs. She brought him down and put him between the cords and straw tick. As it was early in the morning her bed was not made up. In the old--fashioned houses in the country we did not have parlors. The front room downstairs was often used as the bed--room. My little brother, two years old, slept in the foot of the bed. The men rode up and spoke to my father. He was a very polite man. "Good morning, gentlemen, good morning, you are out quite early this morning."
"Yes, we are looking for a runaway nigger." Just then my father recognized the high sheriff as Mr. E., who was formerly his young master. "Why, is this is not Mr. E.?"
"Yes, Sam, didn't you know me?"
My father made a wonderful time over him, laughed heartily and said: "What in the world is up?"
"Do you know anything about this runaway?"
Another spoke up and said: "We have a search warrant and
"Well," father said, "if I tell you I have not, you won't believe me; if I tell you I have, it will not satisfy you, so come in and look."
He didn't know a bit what mother had done, but he knew she had a head on her, and he could trust her in an emergency. The men hesitated and said: "It is no use for us to go in, if you will just tell us if you have him or know anything about him." And father said: "You come in, gentlemen, and look."
They said, "We have heard your wife is the devil," and then, speaking very nicely, "You know, Sam, we don't want any trouble with her, you can tell us just as well."
"No, gentlemen, you will be better satisfied if you go in and see for yourselves."
Just then mother, in the most dignified and polite manner, threw open the door and said: "Good morning, gentlemen, come right in." So they laughed heartily. Two dismounted and came in, went upstairs, looked all about while one looked in the kitchen behind the chimney, in the pot closet; and my mother went to the bed and threw back the cover (she knew what cover to throw back, of course), there lay my little brother. She said: "Look everywhere, maybe this is he?"
"My! Sam, one of them said, "here is a darkey, what will you take for him?"
"No, you have not money enough to buy him," father said. Then mother said: "Now, gentlemen, look under the bed as well; you haven't examined everything here," and they laughed and ran out and said: "Well, Sam, we see you haven't got him."
And father said: "Well, now you are better satisfied after you have looked yourselves." So he didn't tell any lie, but he had the darkey hid just the same!
They mounted their horses and went off full tilt to York. We children were sharp enough never to show any sign of alarm. Poor me, my eyes felt like young moons. The man was safe. After they had got away, mother got the poor fellow out, and he was so weak he could scarcely stand. He trembled from head to foot, and cried like a child. Poor fellow, he thought he was gone, and but for my noble mother he would have been. We soon got him off to Canada, where, I trust, he lived to thank and praise God, who delivered him from the hand of his masters.
I can't tell just how long it was after this occurrence, but it was in harvest time. My father had got home from work and was sitting out in the front yard resting himself; it was just beginning to get dusk. We children were all around playing. A tall, well--built man came up to the fence. Father said: "Good evening, my friend." The poor man trembled, and said: "I don't know if you are a friend or a foe, but I am at your mercy."
"Don't fear," said father, "you are safe." Then he sat on the fence a while and began to tell his sad story. His feet had become so sore he could not travel. He had come away from New Orleans. He said his master owned a large sugar plantation and he was one of the head molasses boilers. His master was a very passionate man, and had threatened several times to sell him because he was a Christian and would pray, but he was a valuable man and so he held on; but he had committed a great offense this time. He said he was very tired, and, something he never did in his life before, he fell asleep from sheer weariness, and so burnt many hogsheads of molasses, and this so enraged his master that he determined to sell him. He had a wife and three children, if I remember correctly. His master had him handcuffed and put in the cellar under the house, till the Georgia traders came. When the money was paid they generally had a great time drinking and gambling. He said he could not get to see his wife. O, how he prayed all day and all night. His young mistress, whom he had often nursed when she was a little child and whom he used often to carry about from place to place, was very much attached to him, as was frequently the case. She had been away North to school and was a Christian, and that may explain what followed. She was home from school just at this time, and like Queen Esther, when pleading for her people, she was made queen just in time. The evening before the morning he was to be taken away they were having a good jollification time. She waited till they were all full of excitement, and being a great favorite of her father's she managed to get the keys of the cellar and went in and unlocked his handcuffs and made him swear to her on his knees that if they ever caught him he would never betray her. Then she told him which way to go, to follow the North Star, which most of the slaves seemed to understand and travel by. She gave him a little money and something to eat. He prayed for God's blessing on her, and told her he would die if he was taken, but would never