The Underground Railroad eBook

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

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This party arrived from Sussex county.  John was about thirty years of age, ordinary size, full black and clear-headed.  In physical appearance he would have readily passed for a superior laborer.  The keenness of his eyes and quickness of his perception, however, would doubtless have rendered him an object of suspicion in some parts of the South.  The truth was that the love of liberty was clearly indicated in his expressive countenance.  William S. Phillips, a farmer, had been “sucking” John’s blood, and keeping him poor and ignorant for the last eight years at least; before that, Phillips’ father had defrauded him of his hire.

Under the father and son John had found plenty of hard work and bad usage, severe and repeated floggings not excepted.  Old master and mistress and young master and mistress, including the entire family, belonged to what was known as the “Farmer church,” at Portsville.  Outwardly they were good Christians.  “Occasionally,” John said, “the old man would have family prayers,” and to use John’s own words, “in company he would try to moralize, but out of company was as great a rowdy as ever was.”  In further describing his old master, he said that he was a large man, with a red face and blunt nose, and was very quick and fiery in his temper; would drink and swear—­and even his wife, with all hands, would have to run when he was “raised.”

Of his young master he said:  “He was quite a long-bodied, thin-faced man, weighing over one hundred and fifty pounds.  In temper just like his father, though he did not drink—­that is all the good quality that I can recommend in him.”  John said also that his master, on one occasion, in a most terribly angry mood, threatened that he would “wade up to his knees in his (John’s) blood.”  It so happened that John’s blood was up pretty high just at that time; he gave his master to understand that he would rather go South (be sold) than submit to the scourging which was imminent.  John’s pluck probably had the effect of allaying the master’s fire; at any rate the storm subsided after awhile, and until the day that he took the Underground Rail Road car the servant managed to put up with his master.  As John’s wife was on the eve of being sold he was prompted to leave some time sooner than he otherwise would have done.


She was thirty-two years of age, of good physical proportions, and a promising-looking person, above the ordinary class of slaves belonging to Delaware.  She was owned by Jane Cooper, who lived near Laurel, in Sussex county.  She had been more accustomed to field labor than house-work; ploughing, fencing, driving team, grubbing, cutting wood, etc., were well understood by her.  During “feeding times” she had to assist in the house.  In this respect, she had harder times than the men.  Her mistress was also in the habit of hiring Elizabeth out by the day to wash.  On these occasions she was required to rise early enough to milk the cows, get breakfast, and feed the hogs before sunrise, so that she might be at her day’s washing in good time.

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