He continued to work on and save his money until he had actually come within one hundred dollars of paying two thousand. At this point instead of getting his free papers, as he firmly believed that he should, to his surprise one day he saw a notorious trader approaching the shop where he was at work. The errand of the trader was soon made known. Hezekiah simply requested time to go back to the other end of the shop to get his coat, which he seized and ran. He was pursued but not captured. This occurrence took place in Petersburg, Va., about the first of December, 1854. On the night of the same day of his escape from the trader, Hezekiah walked to Richmond and was there secreted under a floor by a friend. He was a tall man, of powerful muscular strength, about thirty years of age just in the prime of his manhood with enough pluck for two men.
A heavy reward was offered for him, but the hunters failed to find him in this hiding-place under the floor. He strongly hoped to get away soon; on several occasions he made efforts, but only to be disappointed. At different times at least two captains had consented to afford him a private passage to Philadelphia, but like the impotent man at the pool, some one always got ahead of him. Two or three times he even managed to reach the boat upon the river, but had to return to his horrible place under the floor. Some were under the impression that he was an exceedingly unlucky man, and for a time captains feared to bring him. But his courage sustained him unwaveringly.
Finally at the expiration of thirteen months, a private passage was procured for him on the steamship Pennsylvania, and with a little slave boy, seven years of age, (the son of the man who had secreted him) though placed in a very hard berth, he came safely to Philadelphia, greatly to the astonishment of the Vigilance Committee, who had waited for him so long that they had despaired of his ever coming.
The joy that filled Hezekiah’s bosom may be imagined but never described. None but one who had been in similar straits could enter into his feelings.
He had left his wife Louisa, and two little boys, Henry and Manuel. His passage cost one hundred dollars.
Hezekiah being a noted character, a number of the true friends were invited to take him by the hand and to rejoice with him over his noble struggles and his triumph; needing rest and recruiting, he was made welcome to stay, at the expense of the committee, as long as he might feel disposed so to do. He remained several days, and then went on to Canada rejoicing. After arriving there he returned his acknowledgment for favors received, &c., in the following letter:
TORONTO Jan 24th 1856.