Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History

Record Detail

Record #59 from Abstracts from William Still's Underground Railroad

Traveler's Names Pete Matthews
Alias Samuel Sparrows
Origin- Town/City Oak Hall
Origin- County Accomack
Origin- State Virginia
Destination Canada
Slaveowner's Name
Chapter Title "Pete Matthews," alias Samuel Sparrow
Page Number 295-296
Other Travelers
Other Conductors
Additional Names
Method of Travel
Additional Resources
Items in Possession
Full Narrative " I MIGHT AS WELL BE IN THE PEKITENTIARY, &C." Up to the age of thirty-five " Pete " had worn the yoke steadily, if not patiently under William S. Matthews, of Oak Hall, near Temperanceville, in the State of Virginia. Pete said that his "master was not a hard man," but the man to whom he " was hired, George Matthews, was a very cruel man." " I might as well be in the penitentiary as in his hands," was his declaration. One day, a short while before Pete " took out," an ox broke into the truck patch, and helped himself to choice delicacies, to the full extent of his capacious stomach, making sad havoc with the vegetables generally. Peter's attention being directed to the ox, he turned him out, and gave him what he considered proper chastisement, according to the mischief he had done. At this liberty taken by Pete, the master became furious. " He got his gun and threatened to shoot him." " Open your mouth if you dare, and I will put the whole load into you," said the enraged master. " He took out a large dirk-knife, and attempted to stab me, but I kept out of his way," said Pete. Nevertheless the violence of the master did not abate until he had beaten Pete over the head and body till he was weary, inflicting severe injuries. A gat change was at once wrought in Pete's mind. He was now ready to adopt any plan that might hold out the least encouragement to escape. Having capital to the amount of four dollars only, he felt that he could not do much towards employing a conductor, but he had a good pair of legs, and a heart stout enough to whip two or three slave-catchers, with the help of a pistol. Happening to know a man who had a pistol for sale, he went to him and told him that he wished to purchase it. For one dollar the pistol became Pete' property. He had but three dollars left, but he was determined to make that amount answer his purposes under the circumstances. The last cruel beating mad- dened him almost to desperation, especially when he remembered how he had been compelled to work hard night and day, under Matthews. Then, too, Peter had a wife, whom his master prevented him from visiting; this was not among the least offences with which Pete charged his master. Fully bent on leaving, the following Sunday was fixed by him on which to commence his journey. The time arrived and Pete bade farewell to Slavery, resolved to follow the North Star, with his pistol in hand ready for action. After traveling about two hundred miles from home he unexpectedly had an opportunity of using his pistol. To his astonishment he suddenly came face to face with a former master, whom he had not seen for a long time. Pete desired no friendly intercourse with him whatever ; but he perceived that his old him and was bent upon stopping him. Pete held on to his pistol, but moved as fast as his wearied limbs would allow him, in an opposite direction. As he was running, Pete cautiously, cast his eye over his shoulder, to see what had become of his old master, when to his amazement, he found that a regular chase was being made after him. Need of redoubling his pace was quite obvious. In this hour of peril, Pete's legs saved him. After this signal leg-victory, Pete had more confidence in his " understandings," than he had in his old pistol, although he held on to it until he reached Philadelphia, where he left it in the possession of the Secretary of the Committee. Considering it worth saving simply as a relic of the Under-ground Rail Road, it was carefully laid aside. Pete was now christened Samuel Sparrows. Mr. Sparrows had the rust of Slavery washed off as clean as possible and the Committee furnishing him with clean clothes, a ticket, and letters of introduction, started him on Canada-ward, looking quite respectable. And doubtless he felt even more so than he looked; free air had a powerful effect "on such passengers as Samuel Sparrows. The unpleasantness which grew out of the mischief done by the ox on George Matthews' farm took place the first of October, 1855. Pete may be described as a man of unmixed blood, well-made, and intelligent.

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[Author (if known)], Abstracts from William Still's Underground Railroad, [Date (if known)], Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva’s Black History, Nabb Research Center, Salisbury University.