The Underground Railroad eBook

William Still
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,446 pages of information about The Underground Railroad.

ZECHARIAH MEAD, alias John Williams.  This traveler had been in the house of bondage in Maryland, doing service for Charles C. Owens, to whom he belonged.  According to Zechariah’s statement, his mistress had been very unfortunate with her slave property, having lost fifteen head out of twenty in a similar manner to that by which she lost Zechariah.  Thus she had been considerably reduced in circumstances.  But Zechariah had no compassion on her whatever, but insisted that she was a hard mistress.  Doubtless Zechariah was prompted to flee by the “bad” example of others who had succeeded in making good their escape, before he had made up his mind to leave.  He was not yet quite twenty-one, but was wide-awake, and it appeared from his conversation, that he had done some close thinking before he started for freedom.  He left his father, mother, and three brothers, all slaves except his father.

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James was a tiller of the soil under the yoke of Joshua Hitch, who lived on a farm about seventeen miles from Baltimore.  James spoke rather favorably of him; indeed, it was through a direct act of kindness on the part of his master that he procured the opportunity to make good his escape.  It appeared from his story, that his master’s affairs had become particularly embarrassed, and the Sheriff was making frequent visits to his house.  This sign was interpreted to mean that James, if not others, would have to be sold before long.  The master was much puzzled to decide which way to turn.  He owned but three other adult slaves besides James, and they were females.  One of them was his chief housekeeper, and with them all his social relations were of such a nature as to lead James and others to think and say that they “were all his wives.”  Or to use James’s own language, “he had three slave women; two were sisters, and he lived with them all as his wives; two of them he was very fond of,” and desired to keep them from being sold if possible.  The third, he concluded he could not save, she would have to be sold.  In this dilemma, he was good enough to allow James a few days’ holiday, for the purpose of finding him a good master.  Expressing his satisfaction and gratification, James, armed with full authority from his master to select a choice specimen, started for Baltimore.

On reaching Baltimore, however, James carefully steered clear of all slave-holders, and shrewdly turned his attention to the matter of getting an Underground Rail Road ticket for Canada.  After making as much inquiry as he felt was safe, he came to the conclusion to walk of nights for a long distance.  He examined his feet and legs, found that they were in good order, and his faith and hope strong enough to remove a mountain.  Besides several days still remained in which he was permitted to look for a new master, and these he decided could be profitably spent in making his way towards Canada.  So off he started, at no doubt a very diligent pace, for at the end of the first night’s journey, he had made much headway, but at the expense of his feet.

Project Gutenberg
The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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