MARY FRANCES MELVIN, ELIZA HENDERSON, AND NANCY GRANTHAM.
Mary Frances hailed from Norfolk; she had been in servitude under Mrs. Chapman, a widow lady, against whom she had no complaint to make; indeed, she testified that her mistress was very kind, although fully allied to slavery. She said that she left, not on account of bad treatment, but simply because she wanted her freedom. Her calling as a slave had been that of a dress-maker and house servant. Mary Frances was about twenty-three years of age, of mixed blood, refined in her manners and somewhat cultivated.
Eliza Henderson, who happened at the station at the same time that Frances was on hand, escaped from Richmond. She was twenty-eight years of age, medium size, quite dark color, and of pleasant countenance. Eliza alleged that one William Waverton had been wronging her by keeping her down-trodden and withholding her hire. Also, that this same Waverton had, on a late occasion, brought his heavy fist violently against her “jaws,” which visitation, however “kindly” intended by her chivalrous master, produced such an unfavorable impression on the mind of Eliza that she at once determined not to yield submission to him a day longer than she could find an Underground Rail Road conductor who would take her North.
The blow that she had thus received made her almost frantic; she had however thought seriously on the question of her rights before this outrage.
In Waverton’s household Eliza had become a fixture as it were, especially with regard to his children; she had won their affections completely, and she was under the impression that in some instances their influence had saved her from severe punishment; and for them she manifested kindly feelings. In speaking of her mistress she said that she was “only tolerable.”
It would be useless to attempt a description of the great satisfaction and delight evinced by Eliza on reaching the Committee in Philadelphia.
Nancy Grantham also fled from near Richmond, and was fortunate in that she escaped from the prison-house at the age of nineteen. She possessed a countenance peculiarly mild, and was good-looking and interesting, and although evidently a slave her father belonged strictly to the white man’s party, for she was fully half white. She was moved to escape simply to shun her master’s evil designs; his brutal purposes were only frustrated by the utmost resolution. This chivalric gentleman was a husband, the father of nine children, and the owner of three hundred slaves. He belonged to a family bearing the name of Christian, and was said to be an M.D. “He was an old man, but very cruel to all his slaves.” It was said that Nancy’s sister was the object of his lust, but she resisted, and the result was that she was sold to New Orleans. The auction-block was not the only punishment she was called upon to endure for her fidelity to her womanhood, for resistance to her master, but before being sold she was cruelly scourged.