With simple faith they entered the skiff; two of them took the oars, manfully to face uncertain dangers from the waves. But they remained steadfast, oft as they felt that they were making the last stroke with their oars, on the verge of being overwhelmed with the waves. At every new stage of danger they summoned courage by remembering that they were escaping for their lives.
Late on Sunday afternoon, the following day, they reached their much desired haven, the Jersey shore. The relief and joy were unspeakably great, yet they were strangers in a strange land. They knew not which way to steer. True, they knew that New Jersey bore the name of being a Free State; but they had reason to fear that they were in danger. In this dilemma they were discovered by the captain of an oyster boat whose sense of humanity was so strongly appealed to by their appearance that he engaged to pilot them to Philadelphia. The following account of them was recorded:
William Thomas was a yellow man, twenty-four years of age, and possessing a vigorous constitution. He accused Shepherd P. Houston of having restrained him of his liberty, and testified that said Houston was a very bad man. His vocation was that of a farmer, on a small scale; as a slave-holder he was numbered with the “small fry.” Both master and mistress were members of the Methodist Church. According to William Thomas’ testimony his mistress as well as his master was very hard on the slaves in various ways, especially in the matter of food and clothing. It would require a great deal of hard preaching to convince him that such Christianity was other than spurious.
John stated that David Henry Houston, a farmer, took it upon himself to exercise authority over him. Said John, “If you didn’t do the work right, he got contrary, and wouldn’t give you anything to eat for a whole day at a time; he said a ‘nigger and a mule hadn’t any feeling.’” He described his stature and circumstances somewhat thus: “Houston is a very small man; for some time his affairs had been in a bad way; he had been broke, some say he had bad luck for killing my brother. My brother was sick, but master said he wasn’t sick, and he took a chunk, and beat on him, and he died a few days after.” John firmly believed that his brother had been the victim of a monstrous outrage, and that he too was liable to the same treatment.
John was only nineteen years of age, spare built, chestnut color, and represented the rising mind of the slaves of the South.
Henry was what might be termed a very smart young man, considering that he had been deprived of a knowledge of reading. He was a brother of John, and said that he also had been wrongfully enslaved by David Houston, alluded to above. He fully corroborated the statement of his brother, and declared, moreover, that his sister had not long since been sold South, and that he had heard enough to fully convince him that he and his brother were to be put up for sale soon.