The Underground Railroad eBook

William Still
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,446 pages of information about The Underground Railroad.
still obliged to wear his barn-yard suit, and so on to the end.  Frequently have such passengers been thoroughly cleansed for the first time in their lives at the Philadelphia station.  Some needed practical lessons before they understood the thoroughness necessary to cleansing.  Before undertaking the operation, therefore, in order that they might be made to feel the benefit to be derived therefrom, they would need to have the matter brought home to them in a very gentle way, lest they might feign to fear taking cold, not having been used to it, etc.

It was customary to say to them:  “We want to give you some clean clothing, but you need washing before putting them on.  It will make you feel like a new man to have the dirt of slavery all washed off.  Nothing that could be done for you would make you feel better after the fatigue of travel than a thorough bath.  Probably you have not been allowed the opportunity of taking a good bath, and so have not enjoyed one since your mother bathed you.  Don’t be afraid of the water or soap—­the harder you rub yourself the better you will feel.  Shall we not wash your back and neck for you?  We want you to look well while traveling on the Underground Rail Road, and not forget from this time forth to try to take care of yourself,” &c., &c.  By this course the reluctance where it existed would be overcome and the proposition would be readily acceded to, if the water was not too cool; on the other hand, if cool, a slight shudder might be visible, sufficient to raise a hearty laugh.  Yet, when through, the candidate always expressed a hearty sense of satisfaction, and was truly thankful for this attention.

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The party whose narratives are here given brought grave charges against a backsliding member of the Society of Friends—­a renegade Quaker.

Doubtless rare instances may be found where men of the Quaker persuasion, emigrating from free and settling in slave States and among slaveholders, have deserted their freedom-loving principle and led captive by the force of bad examples, have linked hands with the oppressor against the oppressed.  It is probable, however, that this is the only case that may turn up in these records to the disgrace of this body of Christians in whom dwelt in such a signal degree large sympathy for the slave and the fleeing bondman.  Many fugitives were indebted to Friends who aided them in a quiet way, not allowing their left hand to know what their right hand did, and the result was that Underground Rail Road operations were always pretty safe and prosperous where the line of travel led through “Quaker settlements.”  We can speak with great confidence on this point especially with regard to Pennsylvania, where a goodly number might be named, if necessary, whose hearts, houses, horses, and money were always found ready and willing to assist the fugitive from the prison-house.  It is with no little regret that we feel that truth requires us to connect the so-called owner of Asbury, Ephraim, and Lydia with the Quakers.

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The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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