Owen was about thirty-one years of age, but had experienced a deal of trouble. He had been married twice, and both wives were believed to be living. The first one, with their little child, had been sold in the Baltimore market, about three years before, the mother was sent to Louisiana, the child to South Carolina. Father, mother, and child, parted with no hope of ever seeing each other again in this world. After Owen’s wife was sent South, he sent her his likeness and a dress; the latter was received, and she was greatly delighted with it, but he never heard of her having received his likeness. He likewise wrote to her, but he was not sure that she received his letters. Finally, he came to the conclusion that as she was forever dead to him, he would do well to marry again. Accordingly he took to himself another partner, the one who now accompanied him on the Underground Rail Road.
Omitting other interesting incidents, a reference to his handiwork will suffice to show the ability of Owen. Owen was a born mechanic, and his master practically tested his skill in various ways; sometimes in the blacksmith shop—at other times as a wheelwright—again at making brushes and brooms, and at leisure times he would try his hand in all these crafts. This Jack-of-all-trades was, of course, very valuable to his master. Indeed his place was hard to fill.
Henry Fiery, a farmer, “about sixty-four years of age, a stout, crusty old fellow,” was the owner of Owen and his two brothers. Besides slaves, the old man was in possession of a wife, whose name was Martha, and seven children, who were pretty well grown up. One of the sons owned Owen’s wife and two children. Owen declared, that they had been worked hard, while few privileges had been allowed them. Clothing of the poorest texture was only sparingly furnished. Nothing like Sunday raiment was ever given them; for these comforts they were compelled to do over-work of nights. For a long time the idea of escape had been uppermost in the minds of this party. The first of January, past, was the time “solemnly” fixed upon to “took out,” but for some reason or other (not found on the record book), their strategical minds did not see the way altogether clear, and they deferred starting until Easter Sunday.
On that memorable evening, the men boldly harnessed two of Mr. Fiery’s steeds and placing their wives and children in the carriage, started off via Hagerstown, in a direct line for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, at a rate that allowed no grass to grow under the horses’ feet. In this manner they made good time, reached Chambersburg safely, and ventured up to a hotel where they put up their horses. Here they bade their faithful beasts good-bye and “took out” for Harrisburg by another mode of travel, the cars. On their arrival they naturally fell into the hands of the Committee, who hurried them off to Philadelphia, apprising the Committee there of their approach by a dispatch sent ahead. Probably they had scarcely reached Philadelphia ere the Fierys were in hot haste after them, as far as Harrisburg, if not farther.