While William Henry was debarred from learning letters under his brutal overseer, he nevertheless learned how to plan ways and means by which to escape his bondage. He left his old mother and two brothers wholly ignorant of his movements.
John Henry Moore, another one of the Arlington party, was about twenty-four years of age, a dark, spare-built man. He named David Mitchell, of Havre-de-Grace, as the individual above all others who had kept his foot on his neck. Without undertaking to give John Henry’s description of Mitchell in full, suffice it to give the following facts: “Mitchell would go off and get drunk, and come home, and if the slaves had not as much work done as he had tasked them with, he would go to beating them with clubs or anything he could get in his hand. He was a tall, spare-built man, with sandy hair. He had a wife and family, but his wife was no better than he was.” When charges or statements were made by fugitives against those from whom they escaped, particular pains were taken to find out if such statements could be verified; if the explanation appeared valid, the facts as given were entered on the books.
John Henry could not read, but greatly desired to learn, and he looked as though he had a good head for so doing. Before he left there had been some talk of selling him South. This rumor had a marked effect upon John Henry’s nervous system; it also expanded his idea touching traveling, the Underground Rail Road, etc. As he had brothers and sisters who had been sold to Georgia he made up his mind that his master was not to be trusted for a single day; he was therefore one of the most willing-hearted passengers in the party.
George Hill, also a fellow-passenger, was about twenty-four years of age, quite black, medium size, and of fair, natural mother wit. In looking back upon his days of bondage, his mind reverted to Dr. Savington, of Harford county, as the person who owed him for years of hard and unrequited toil, and at the same time was his so-called owner.
The Doctor, it seemed, had failed to treat George well, for he declared that he had never received enough to eat the whole time that he was with him. “The clothes I have on I got by overwork of nights. When I started I hadn’t a shoe on my foot, these were given to me. He was an old man, but a very wicked man, and drank very hard.”
George had been taught field work pretty thoroughly, but nothing in the way of reading and writing.
George explained why he left as follows: “I left because I had got along with him as well as I could. Last Saturday a week he was in a great rage and drunk. He shot at me. He never went away but what he would come home drunk, and if any body made him angry out from home, he would come home and take his spite out of his people.”
He owned three grown men, two women and six children. Thus hating Slavery heartily, George was enthusiastically in favor of Canada.