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

Record Detail

Record #66 from Abstracts from William Still's Underground Railroad

Traveler's Names Harriet Shephard
Origin- Town/City Chestertown
Origin- County Kent Co
Origin- State Maryland
Destination Canada
Slaveowner's Name
Chapter Title Escaping with master's horses and carriages
Page Number 302-303
Other Travelers Harriet Shephard and her children Anna Maria, Edwin, Eliza Jane, Mary Anne and John Henry
Other Conductors Thomas Garrett
Additional Names
Method of Travel Horses and carriages
Additional Resources picture on page 302 Letter from Miss G. A. Lewis
Items in Possession
Full Narrative HARRIET SHEPHARD, AND HER FIVE CHILDREN, WITH FIVE OTHER PASSENGERS. One morning about the first of November, in 1855, the sleepy, slaveholding neighborhood of Chestertown, Maryland,was doubtless deeply excited on learning that eleven head of slaves, four head of horses, and two carriages were missing. It is but reasonable to suppose that the first report must have produced a shock, scarcely less stunning than an earthquake. Abolitionists, emissaries, and incendiaries were farther below par than ever. It may be supposed that cursings and threatenings were breathed out by a deeply agitated community for days in succession. Harriet Shephard, the mother of five children, for whom she felt of course a mother's love, could not bear the thought of having her off-spring compelled to wear the miserable yoke of Slavery, as she had been compelled to do. By her own personal experience, Harriet could very well judge what their fate would be when reaching man and womanhood. She declared that she had never received "kind treatment." It was not on this account, however, that she was prompted to escape. She was actuated by a more disinterested motive than this. ? She was chiefly induced to make the bold effort to save her children from having to drag the chains of Slavery as she herself had done. Anna Maria, Edwin, Eliza Jane, Mary Ann, and John Henry were the names of the children for whom she was willing to make any sacrifice. They were young, and unable to walk, and she was penniless, and unable to hire a conveyance, even if she had known any one who would have been willing to risk the law in taking them a night's journey. So there was no hope in these directions. Her rude intellect being considered, she was entitled to a great deal of credit for seizing the horses and carriages belonging to her master, as she did it for the liberation of her children. Knowing others at the same time, who were wanting to visit Canada, she consulted with five of this class, males and females, and they mutually decided to travel together. It is not likely that they knew much about the roads, nevertheless they reached Wilmington, Delaware, pretty direct, and ventured up into the heart of the town in carriages, looking as innocent as if they were going to meeting to hear an old fashioned Southern sermon ? " Servants, obey your masters." Of course, the distinguished travelers were immediately reported to the noted Thomas Garrett, who was accustomed to transact the affairs of the Underground Rail Road in a cool masterly way. But, on this occasion, there was but little time for deliberation, but much need of haste to meet the emergency. He at once decided, that they must immediately be separated from the horses and carriages, and got out of Wilmington as quickly as possible. With the courage and skill, so characteristic of Garrett, the fugitives, under escort, were soon on their way to Kennett Square (a hot-bed of abolitionists and stock-holders of the Underground Rail Road), which place they reached safely. It so happened, that they reached Long Wood meeting-house in the evening, at which place a fair circle had convened. Being invited, they stayed awhile in the meeting, then, after remaining all night with one of the Kennett friends, they were brought to Downingtown early in the morning and thence, by daylight, within a short distance of Kimberton, and found succor with friend Lewis, at the old headquarters of the fugitives. LETTER FROM MISS G. A. LEWIS (u. G. R. R. DEPOT). KIMBERTON, October 28th, 1855. ESTEEMED FRIEND ; ? This evening a company of eleven friends reached here, having left their homes on the night of the 26th inst. They came into Wilmington, about ten o'clock on the morning of the 27th, and left there, in the town, their two carriages, drawn by two horses. They went to Thomas Garrett's by open day-light and from thence were sent hastily onward for fear of pursuit. They reached Longwood meeting-house in the evening, at which place a Fair Circle had convened, and stayed a while in the meeting, then, after remaining all night with one of the Kennet friends, they were brought to Downingtown early in the morning, and from thence, by daylight, to within a short distance of this place. They come from New Chestertown, within five miles of the place from which the nine lately forwarded came, and left behind them a colored woman who knew of their intended flight and of their intention of passing through Wilmington and leaving their horses and carriages there. I have been thus particular in my statement, because the case seems to us one of un- usual danger. We have separated the company for the present, sending a mother and five children, two of them quite small, in one direction, and a husband and wife and three lads in another, until I could write to you and get advice if you have any to give, as to the best method of forwarding them, and assistance pecuniarily, in getting them to Canada. The mother and children we have sent off of the usual route, and to a place where I do not think they can remain many days. We shall await hearing from you. H. Kimber will be in the city on third day the 30th and any thing left at 408 Green Street directed to his care, will meet with prompt attention. Piease give me again the direction of Hiram Wilson and the friend in Elmira Mr. Jones, I think. If you have heard from any of the nine since their safe arrival, please let us know when you write. Very Respectfully, G. A. LEWIS.

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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.

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