From his infancy up to the hour of his escape, not a breath of free air had he ever been permitted to breathe. He was first owned by Mrs. Caroline Johnson, “a stingy widow, the owner of about fifty slaves, and a member of Dr. Plummer’s church.” Elijah, at her death, was willed to her son, Major Johnson, who was in the United States service. Elijah spoke of him as a “favorable man,” but added, “I’d rather be free. I believe I can treat myself better than he can or anybody else.” For the last nineteen years he had been hired out, sometimes as waiter, sometimes in a tobacco factory, and for five years in the Coal Mines.
At the mines he was treated very brutally, but at Cornelius Hall’s Tobacco factory, the suffering he had to endure seems almost incredible. The poor fellow, with the scars upon his person and the unmistakable earnestness of his manner, only needed to be seen and heard to satisfy the most incredulous of the truth of his story. For refusing to be flogged, one time at Hall’s Factory, the overseer, in a rage, “took up a hickory club” and laid his head “open on each side.” Overpowered and wounded, he was stripped naked and compelled to receive THREE HUNDRED LASHES, by which he was literally excoriated from head to foot. For six months afterwards he was “laid up.” Last year he was hired out for “one hundred and eighty dollars,” out of which he “received but five dollars.” This year he brought “one hundred and ninety dollars.” Up to the time he escaped, he had received “two dollars,” and the promise of “more at Christmas.” Left brothers and sisters, all ignorant of his way of escape. The following pass brought away by Elijah speaks for itself, and will doubtless be interesting to some of our readers who are ignorant of what used to be Republican usages in the “land of the Free.”
RICHMOND, July 3d, 1857.
Permit the Bearer Elijah
to pass to and from my FACTORY, to
Frederick Williams, In the Vallie, for one month, untill 11
o’clock at night.
By A.B. Wells,
[PINE APPLE FACTORY.]
As usual, the Vigilance Committee tendered aid to Elijah, and forwarded him on to Canada, whence he wrote back as follows:
TORONTO, Canada West, July 28. Dear friend in due respect to your humanity and nobility I now take my pen in hand to inform you of my health. I am enjoying a reasonable proportion of health at this time and hope when these few lines come to hand they may find you and family the same dear Sir I am in Toronto and are working at my ole branch of business with meny of my friends. I want you to send those to toronto to Mr Tueharts on Edward St what I have been talking about is my Clothes I came from Richmond Va and expect my things to come to you. So when they come to you then you will send them to Jesse Tuehart Edward St no 43.
I must close by saying I have
no more at present. I still remain