Peter was only twenty-one years of age, composed of equal parts of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-African blood—rather a model-looking “article,” with a fair share of intelligence. As a slave, he had fared pretty well—he had neither been abused nor stinted of food or clothing, as many others had been. His duties had been to attend upon his master (and reputed father), Elias Heines, Esq., a lawyer by profession in North Carolina.
No charges whatever appear to have been made against Mr. Heines, according to the record book; but Peter seemed filled with great delight at the prospects ahead, as well as with the success that had attended his efforts thus far in striking for freedom.
James was twenty-seven years of age. His experience had been quite different from that of Peter’s. The heel of a woman, by the name of Mrs. Ann McCourt, had been on James’s neck, and she had caused him to suffer severely. As James recounted his grievances, while under the rule, he by no means gave her a very flattering character, but, on the contrary, he plainly stated, that she was a “desperate woman”—that he had “never known any good of her,” and that he was moved to escape to get rid of her. In other words she had threatened to sell him; this well nigh produced frenzy in James’s mind, for too well did he remember, that he had already been sold three times, and in different stages of his bondage had been treated quite cruelly. In the change of masters he was positive in saying, that he had not found a good one, and, besides, he entertained the belief that such personages were very rare.
Those of the Committee who listened to James were not a little amazed at his fluency, intelligence and earnestness, and acknowledged that he dealt unusually telling blows against the Patriarchal Institution.
Matthew was twenty-three years of age, very stout—no fool—a man of decided resolution, and of the very best black complexion produced in the South. Matthew had a very serious bill of complaints against Samuel Simmons, who professed to own him (Matthew), both body and mind, while in this world at least. Among these complaints was the charge of ill-treatment. Nevertheless Matthew’s joy and pleasure were matchless over his Underground Rail Road triumph, and the prospect of being so soon out of the land and reach of Slavery, and in a land where he could enjoy his freedom as others enjoyed theirs. Indeed the entire band evinced similar feelings. Matthew left a brother in Martin county.
Further sketches of this interesting company were not entered on the book at the time, perhaps on account of the great press of Underground Rail Road business which engaged the attention of the acting Committee. However, they were all duly cared for, and counselled to go to Canada, where their rights would be protected by a strong and powerful government, and they could enjoy all the rights of citizenship in common with “all the world and the rest of mankind.”