Notwithstanding all the kindness that James had received, he hated Slavery, and took a deep interest in the Underground Rail Road, and used his intelligence and shrewdness to good purpose in acting as an Underground Rail Road agent for a time. James was a young man, about twenty-five years of age, well made, and of a yellow complexion.
Although none of this party experienced brutal treatment personally, they had seen the “elephant” quite to their satisfaction in Norfolk and vicinity.
* * * * *
JOHN ALEXANDER BUTLER, WILLIAM HENRY HIPKINS, JOHN HENRY MOORE AND GEORGE HILL.
This party made, at first sight, a favorable impression; they represented the bone and sinew of the slave class of Arlington, and upon investigation the Committee felt assured that they would carry with them to Canada industry and determination such as would tell well for the race.
John Alexander Butler was about twenty-nine years of age, well made, dark color, and intelligent. He assured the Committee that he had been hampered by Slavery from his birth, and that in consequence thereof he had suffered serious hardships. He said that a man by the name of Wm. Ford, belonging to the Methodist Church at Arlington, had defrauded him of his just rights, and had compelled him to work on his farm for nothing; also had deprived him of an education, and had kept him in poverty and ignorance all his life.
In going over the manner in which he had been treated, he added that not only was his master a hard man, but that his wife and children partook of the same evil spirit; “they were all hard.” True, they had but three slaves to oppress, but these they spared not.
John was a married man, and spoke affectionately of his wife and children, whom he had to leave behind at Cross-Roads.
William Henry, who was heart and soul in earnest with regard to reaching Canada, and was one of this party, was twenty-three years of age, and was a stout, yellow man with a remarkably large head, and looked as if he was capable of enjoying Canada and caring for himself.
In speaking of the fettered condition from which he had escaped, the name of Ephraim Swart, “a gambler and spree’r” was mentioned as the individual who had wronged him of his liberty most grievously.
Against Swart he expressed himself with much manly feeling, and judging from his manner he appeared to be a dangerous customer for master Swart to encounter north of Mason and Dixon’s line.
William complained that Swart “would come home late at night drunk, and if he did not find us awake he would not attempt to wake us, but would begin cutting and slashing with a cowhide. He treated his wife very bad too; sometimes when she would stand up for the servants he would knock her down. Many times at midnight she would have to leave the house and go to her mother’s for safety; she was a very nice woman, but he was the very old Satan himself.”