The situations of Jeremiah and Julia Smith, however, were not considered very hard, indeed they had fared rather better than most slaves in Virginia, nevertheless it will be seen that they desired to better their condition, to keep off of the auction-block at least. Jeremiah could claim to have no mixture in his blood, as his color was of such a pure black; but with the way of the world, in respect to shrewdness and intelligence, he had evidently been actively conversant. He was about twenty-six years of age, and in stature only medium, with poor health.
The name of James Kinnard, whom he was obliged to call master and serve, was disgusting to him. Kinnard, he said, was a “close and severe man.” At the same time he was not considered by the community “a hard man.” From the age of fifteen years Jeremiah had been hired out, for which his owner had received from $50 to $130 per annum. In consequence of his master’s custom of thus letting out Jeremiah, the master had avoided doctors’ bills, &c. For the last two years prior to his escape, however, Jeremiah’s health had been very treacherous, in consequence of which the master had been compelled to receive only $50 a year, sick or well. About one month before Jeremiah left, he was to have been taken on his master’s farm, with the hope that he could be made more profitable there than he was in being hired out.
His owner had thought once of selling him, perhaps fearing that Jeremiah might unluckily die on his hands. So he put him in prison and advertised; but as he had the asthma pretty badly at that time, he was not saleable, the traders even declined to buy him.
While these troubles were presenting themselves to Jeremiah, Julia, his wife, was still more seriously involved, which added to Jeremiah’s perplexities, of course.
Julia was of a dark brown color, of medium size, and thirty years of age. Fourteen years she had been the slave of A. Judson Crane, and under him she had performed the duties of nurse, chamber-maid, etc., “faithfully and satisfactorily,” as the certificate furnished her by this owner witnessed. She actually possessing a certificate, which he, Crane, gave her to enable her to find a new master, as she was then about to be sold. Her master had experienced a failure in business. This was the reason why she was to be sold.